In the classic Russian film, Alexander Nevsky, the merchant princes of Novgorod think they can buy their freedom by paying tribute to the advancing forces of the Teutonic Knights. Turns out, they can’t, and the rest of the film is about Alexander Nevsky leading the stout-hearted Russians in defense of what they held dear: land, family, and community.
In professional terms, that’s what economists call a market failure – and what free-market ideologues say can’t exist. That’s the problem with ideology: it blinds a person to the truth. This morning, I saw a news piece about how the military is finding it difficult to get enough healthy recruits. The blame for this national defense problem belongs to the unregulated markets that allow people to shove just about anything they’re addicted to into their bodies. Food, alcohol, tobacco: it’s all a mess.
I find it ironic that the biggest boosters for national defense are also the biggest proponents for not regulating diddly squat. Seems like you can’t have both. It’s further ironic that this lesson is brought home quite effectively in a 1938 Soviet Union propaganda piece. The problem with unregulated capitalism and free markets is that anything can be bought or sold, including poisons that destroy the youth of a nation and leave it unfit to defend itself.
Greed is not good: it undermines the soul of a nation. Forced collectivization is a horror, as well: nations must resist the extremes of any ideology if they wish to survive, let alone prosper. Markets have failed, are failing now, and will fail in the future. It is the role of a just government to address those failures with appropriate legislation.