Sunday, April 25, 2010

RIP "Too Big to Fail"

I'm not a believer in the concept of government bailouts of private industry.  For one thing, as someone who has been self-employed for nearly 20 years, I have an acute understanding of the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship -- if you want to pursue a business strategy you think could yield greater profits for your wallet, you also take the inherent risk that your strategy might fail and instead leave you broke.  To paraphrase Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own, there's no crying in business.  Second, it's been my empirical observation that bailouts of soon-to-be-failed companies tend to benefit the largest equity stakeholders the most -- typically, the institutional investors and the executive team.  So the picture that leaves me is one of the average U.S. taxpayers pitching a few nickels into a hat in order to keep the wealthiest among us from suffering a major hit to their private balance sheets, something that offends my left-leaning sensibilities.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Changing Image of America

My family just returned from a wonderful vacation in Australia.  It was a terrific trip and included a number of really special memories made at places like Darling Harbor in Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef.  We like to travel abroad about once a year in order to experience other cultures, see new things and challenge our perspectives.  There is, of course, a great big world out there beyond the borders of the USA.

One thing that I was struck by on this recent trip, however, was the dramatic change in perceptions of the United States government -- and our president in particular -- among "local" residents in the country we were visiting.  In recent years, I've had surprising conversations with waiters, taxi drivers and train passengers in countries such as France, Spain, Italy and England . . . conversations that have left me a bit disheartened about how people in those countries viewed our government as reckless and imperialist.  So it was shocking and altogether encouraging to hear quite different comments from average working folks in Australia, all of whom expressed confidence in our current president as a man of diplomacy and restraint (and a sense of admiration for America that we elected someone as our chief executive who would not have been allowed to use the same Mississippi drinking fountain as me just two generations ago).

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Our Country Ought to be Lovely

Edmund Burke, the great 18th century British philosopher, wrote that "there ought to be a system of manners which a well-formed mind would be disposed to relish. To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely."

Although Burke was thinking about his own country at that time, his words have been recited by lovers of democracy for the past two centuries and celebrated as a standard that all free societies should seek in their public discourse.