I was just thinking the other day about “liberals” vs. “conservatives,” and came to the realization that they both are kind of silly when taken too seriously.

Think about this: Conservatism, to some degree, can be boiled down to “let the market work it out.” In other words, they have a lot of trust in Big Business, but distrust Big Government. Liberals, on the other hand, have a lot of trust for Big Government, but distrust Big Business.

The obvious internal contraction of these positions seems to slip by most everyone.

If you can trust Big Government, why are you so distrustful of Big Business? And vice-versa? A big, faceless Entity that is run by a whole lot of People You Don’t Know; trusting either one of them too far seems the height of folly to me.

Take global warming, for example. The impression that I get from conservatives is that they would like the Invisible Hand of the market to deal with it. The thinking being (I guess) that eventually it would become more economical to do something about global warming than ignoring it, and the companies would switch to more environmentally sound policies. (Or alternatively, customers would stop buying environmentally damaging products, forcing producers to come out with environmentally sound products.)

I don’t believe it, however. If watching the auto industry fight tooth and nail against any government-mandated innovation–including seatbelts, for crying out loud!–is an reasonable example, my belief is that, say, energy companies would continue to burn coal and oil and whatever else in as polluting a way as possible until they ran out of coal and oil. At which point they would demand government subsidies for alternative energy research, and start selling home and personal filtration systems to prevent folks from getting sick on all the gunk in the air.

But, you know, I’m a cynic.

On the flip side, the believers in government would have the government crack down on everyone in the industry. The natural follow-on to that–that business will become so inefficient that it will die or jack up the price to the stratosphere–seems to escape some folks. So they will squawk when their gas rises to $7 a gallon and their monthly heating bill rises to $1000. And then they’ll want government to do something about that.

These are extremes, obviously. I’m exaggerating for effect. But the point is, you have to have a balance. There are some thing business is better at (goods and services at low cost–how many stories have you read about overbudget government projects?), and there are other things (worker safety and watching the environment being a big pair) that Big Business has a proven track record–hundreds of years, baby!–of sucking at.

So let the radicals at either end rail on–there wouldn’t be any progress without pushing the boundaries. But let’s not go overboard, because Big Anything taken at its word is dangerous, it seems to me.

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