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Public Theology: George Will Promotes Ideology Not Policy
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George Will Promotes Ideology Not Policy
Leading columnist preaches Milton Friedman dogma; better to recall John Kennth Galbraith.

At last journalists are focusing on corporate wrong-doing. The current scandals have been coming on for years. Finally articles and news programs on corporate behavior are everywhere.

I began to wonder what is being said by those who have over the last years supported the deregulation of corporations. So I went to look to see what George Will, for one, has been writing about this issue.

In the last two months he has not written anything on the corporate scandals. But on July 14, just as the stock market continues to plunge downward and Harvey Pitt, chairman of the SEC, announces a major investigation of Halliburton, the company run by Dick Cheney, Will writes a column praising Milton Friedman as an "intellectual dynamo" whose economic philosophy, he wants to believe, dominates the culture.

George Will likes the Friedman philosophy to the effect that if companies are allowed to do whatever they want then the best results will obtain for the whole community. It is just this free market philosophy, raised to a level of religious belief within business culture, which has encouraged the moral climate leading to current scandals and greater economic injustice as the rich get richer and the poor poorer.

But Will doesn't say anything about what economic policies might be best; he just lauds an ideology. Not very good thinking for a time that deserves better from a person calling himself a philosopher.

If you want to know what economist is having the most influence these days don't read Milton Friedman, watch what Paul Krugman is saying. His latest article, July 12, in my paper titled "It's a rigged game, and Bush was a player," details how people believing in deregulation have been installed in the government positions by which George Bush was able to avoid punishment for his enrichment through Harken Energy. Jouralists are reading Krugman to find out what's actually going on, not George Will who is merely rehashing the party line of the extreme right.

George Will lives within an illusion. It is this. In his article he writes about the Friedman philosophy as resurgent and revolutionary, opposed to establishment "leftists". Will writes as if he is outside the system, as if free market philosophy is still trying to assert itself within the larger community. But this was years and years ago. The fact is now that economic corporations have grown to the point of being able to command dominating power within the society. Representatives of corporations promoting free market philosophy have been appointed or elected to major power positions within all three branches of government. They are not on the outside, anti-government people are now inside the government.

And because this is so we are now faced with the terrible results of these the policies and decisions made by these people to deregulate corporate behavior and allow business leaders to enrich themselves and damage economic institutions to the point of creating immense uncertainty for the livelihood of millions of people.

George Will is not a philosopher carefully trying to think things through. He is a preacher of a religious-type faith trying to sustain and encourage powerful insiders at a time when their actions have been exposed.

What we need is not ideology or commitment to abstract economic dogmas but good policies promoting a flourishing of economic life while also protecting the quality of life for the larger community. I recall reading books by the economist John Kenneth Galbraith and his notion of counter-vailing power, that government needs to be strong enough to offset the vast power of economic institutions on behalf of the good of the larger community. Not much has been heard about Galbraith in the last years; it may be worth taking a look at his work again.

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Date Added: 7/15/2002 Date Revised: 7/15/2002

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