Hegal supposedly said that the only thing we learn from history is that no one learns anything from history.
When I was in law school, some twenty years ago, the Berlin Wall fell. The elder President Bush crowed that communism had come to crashing end. The capitalist system had been vindicated. And Bush continued, with his successors, Reagan’s work of removing the business regulations that had been in place since the 1930’s.
As the Italian philosopher Vico said, “Course and recourse.” Now we’re in a quite different situation. Capitalism as we know it has come to a screeching halt. Many businesses are in ruins, and the middle class is in danger of disappearing. And while people at the top of the economic chain still live in luxury, huge numbers struggle to pay their bills.
This, of course, is not the first time over the last century that capitalism has become seriously endangered. After the crash of 1929, the question was seriously posed as to whether capitalism would soon be replaced by another system. In fact, the only economy in the world that was then working well was Stalin’s communist enterprise.
But it did not succeed in the long haul. The Soviet Union and eastern Europe suffered years of economic stagnation. Even England, which had initiated socialism under Clement Atlee’s Labor Party, experienced decades of recession.
Today President Obama has been accused of favoring Socialism. Communism in its pure form may constitute the most noble economic system. It appeals to what is best in us. It demands that everything be shared, and that poverty be eliminated.
But neither communism nor socialism work better than unbridled capitalism. For humanity as it now exists does not create a climate favorable to either. A certain level of competition is needed for there to be a general prosperity. And governmental leaders of east and west alike have shown a poor understanding of the market forces that make up economics.
Between the extremes of socialism and unrestrained capitalism lies a third approach. This was taken in President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This patrician was widely hated. He was considered by the right wing as a dangerous liberal, a traitor to his class.
Yet it was Roosevelt who saved capitalism. He did this through the imposition of regulations on trade and business. These regulations were in effect from the 1930’s through the 1970’s, which was also the time of America’s greatest prosperity.
In October of 1987, after Reagan had begun the deregulation of trading, the market suffered a considerable crash. This set the economy back for a few years, and should have served as a warning against deregulation.
Now we have economic wreckage of a larger scale. It’s time we learned something.
Those who oppose the building of a mosque near Ground Zero do the nation a disservice. The destruction of the World Trade Center was an abomination. It was an attack of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. Those who perpetrated these crimes should be hunted down.
But the building of a mosque near the site is a quite different matter. It involves freedom of religion. Moslems have the right under our laws to build the mosque.
These rights are not abated because a cause may be unpopular. Rather, it is under such circumstances that our laws are tested. A mosque in lower Manhattan would stand as proof of American tolerance.