Parenting is a tough job. One has to find a balance between letting kids learn life’s lessons through painful experience (natural consequences), and keeping them safe. The parental path through the child-raising wilderness is not always well-marked.
Fire is hot. Should we let little Janey touch a flame so she learns that it’s dangerous? Guns can kill people. Do we teach little Johnny how to handle them so he doesn’t make a fatal mistake through ignorance?
Life’s perils are endless: marbles don’t belong in noses, mulch is not nutritious, humans don’t have gills… I’m continually amazed by how many children actually make it to adulthood.
All of this has been playing through my mind as I’ve contemplated the massive intervention being proposed for the economy. And I’m not the only one using life analogies. Paul Krugman writes:
Maybe we can let Wall Street implode and Main Street would escape largely unscathed. But that’s not a chance we want to take.
So the grown-up thing is to do something to rescue the financial system. The big question is, are there any grown-ups around — and will they be able to take charge?
But is that really the grown-up thing to do?
Without the bail-out, are we looking at the equivalent of a Mack truck barreling through a crowd of people milling about in the street, leaving death and severed limbs in its wake? Or is this more like a failing grade late in high school, that will keep the US out of a top university?
Certainly something’s going to happen. But what? The general consensus seems to be that no matter what the government does, there’s going to be a painful economic contraction. It may very well be more like blowing one’s GPA so badly that there’s no chance for college at all, and the goals will be reset for the next generation.
But even if that’s the case, is the looming economic problem terminal? Or is it a life-changing event that will affect decision-making for decades to come?
I think it’s probably the latter.
Painful? Yes. Preventable? Possibly… but only for awhile, because rescuing the financial system and increasing regulation won’t keep everybody from playing in the street if they’re really determined.
Bailing everybody out is like saying that if you play with fire, you get burned. Fire is hot. Keep your hands out. But inside, grown-ups know that painful lessons aren’t truly learned until there’s a scar.
I think we should pass on the bail-out.
(Cross-posted to The Moderate Voice.)