Monday, April 19, 2010

That Jingle Mail is Good Mail

In Milton Friedman's day, it was still convenient to glibertarian fancies to draw a sharp and clear line between corporations and moral entities:

[T]he doctrine of "social responsibility" taken seriously would extend the scope of the political mechanism to every human activity. It does not differ in philosophy from the most explicitly collectivist doctrine. It differs only by professing to believe that collectivist ends can be attained without collectivist means. That is why, in my book Capitalism and Freedom, I have called it a "fundamentally subversive doctrine" in a free society, and have said that in such a society, "there is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud."
In his book Capitalism and Freedom, that is, Friedman was at pains to expose the rat-infested gulag lurking behind every mingling of 'being good' and 'conducting business.'

Time and circumstance have brought sweeping change to the convenience of glibertarian fancies, notably underscored in the recent Supreme Court ruling that equated corporations with rights-bearing persons. Only a few nay-sayers openly disagree, and no one likes them anyway. (Michael Moore is fat!!!)

Dean Baker is willing to upset the tender balance of glibertarian fancy not by denying its terms but by extending them to actual human persons:
We did calculations recently that showed that homeowners who bought near the peak in many bubble markets could easily save themselves more than $1,000 a month by renting equivalent units. This means that these underwater homeowners could be throwing out more than $12,000 a year in a desperate effort to keep up on their mortgages. Since most of these homeowners will never have any equity in their home, the mortgage check they send to the bank is money thrown in the garbage ... Not only would it benefit millions of homeowners to send the keys back to the bank, it would also benefit the economy. The money that homeowners save by not paying their mortgage is money that could instead be used to support consumption and boost the economy. If 5 million underwater homeowners saved an average of $10,000 each by becoming renters, this would free up $50bn a year for additional spending. This would have the same impact on the economy as a $50bn tax cut. If we assume a multiplier of 1.5 on these savings, the 5 million walk-aways will generate close to 750,000 jobs.
If persons are entitled, let alone required, to direct their attention solely to the bottom-line, and if this focus will most efficaciously and directly promote the public good, then underwater homeowners should be sending in their jingle mail as early as possible.

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