Wednesday, December 3, 2008


These are not my particular views, but I feel that it is an interesting alternative that must be considered. I want to propose a Nietzschian analysis of the economic bailout.
According to Friedrich Nietzsche, we are living in a slave like (think feudal and pre-civil war slavery, if you are now conformed to Kevin Bales’ definitions) society. Society was not always this way, but as the many slaves began to resent and outnumber their masters, a shift occurred (this is a very brief summary of Genealogy of Morals, if anyone is interested). This shift placed what was once “good,” being a powerful and controlling master, to “good” encompassing weakness and meekness of the slaves. What was once “good” was now considered “evil.” A premium was placed on the weakness of the slave because they were in majority. This shift also led to a sensation of a “herd mentality,” and the need to conform to society. Nietzsche despises these shifts because they are life-denying values, because the weak feel that they will be vindicated in another life (think Christianity), so they are resentful of this life. Nietzsche feels that this is completely unnatural, in a literal sense. In nature, it is know that the weak do not survive, something Nietzsche feels should translate into human existence. He also asserts that we have no responsibility to help the weak or the downtrodden, because it is not a naturalistic action, and is only sprung from such socially constructed emotions like compassion and sympathy.
That being said, why do we feel an obligation to endorse a government bailout, especially for companies like Ford, GMC and Chrysler? If they were a bad business, then, like in nature, they are simply not fit to survive in this world. An analogous situation that comes to mind is Wal-Mart. This company effective eliminated a large majority of competition like mom and pop stores, and continues to thrive. While some are critical of Wal-Mart’s “tyrannical” practices, the majority supports them buy buying there goods because they are at a low cost. They are successful because they eliminated competition and are still going strong. In a natural sense, they were the “most fit” species of retailers to see another day.
Nietzsche would assert that it is when feeble emotions delude our mind to feel sympathy and a need to help these people who have already failed. When the government bails them out, they are effectively saying, “this is how your business ought to be: successful and sustaining jobs for Americans.” Yet this denies the reality that they are failing, and therefore fundamentally should face elimination without sympathy from others, according to Nietzsche. Any sympathy or need to empathize with those that lose jobs or suffer from a non-bailout situation is considered weak and slavish. The bailout is already ideologically at odds with a pure form of capitalism, but also in contrast if you subscribe to a form of social Darwinism that Nietzsche endorses.
This ultimately begs the questions: should ethical standards be ascribed to economy at all? If yes, where do ethics come into play when dealing with an economy?


Ashley Ladd said...

I think that if emotion is not used in situations such as the "bail out" situation, there will be riot in the society. I agree with Cal when he says that companies learn nothing when they fail and are allowed to come right back into business. It is a bad system and will slowly create a more disobedient perspective of other companies. The problem is that if these companies were not given a get out of jail free card, more chaos would come out of it than if they were let out of their problems. There would be riots and there would be more conflict throughout the society than the government probably thinks it would be worth to better the economy.

Paul Bendor-Samuel said...

I do not think that ethical standards should be applied to the economy. Such weakness would corrupt the market and suppress its natural flow and checks and balances. There will always be disparities between differing social groups and some group will always come out on bottom. There is no sense freeing the slaves because then another group will turn out on bottom. Complete equality is not possible between people because human nature will not allow it.

ThomasJ said...

The American government feels the obligation to endorse a bailout plan for the big three American automakers because it fears the consequences of the market forcing major companies into extinction and the impact it may have on the nation. When considering a bailout plan, one can apply Nietzsche’s belief that human existence should operate in the same way as nature. This approach is similar to the French term “laissez-faire”, a system in which the government would not intervene. There is no doubt that this approach would have some positive effects on the economy, but the government officials in charge of making the plan should consider the impact non-intervention would have on the world around us.
If the economy functions in the same ways as nature, companies in the business world would be split into two categories: the strong and the weak. Only strong companies would survive. Although the economy could continue functioning properly, it would have detrimental effects on the environment and American society. A company like Wal-Mart can be considered a successful business because it is surviving in the present economy, but this survival does not mean it has a completely positive effect on the environment or on our nation. Wal-Mart has taken advantage of labor in countries where pollution is not regulated. It has not shown concern for the environment by continuing to pollute these areas. It also eliminates as many jobs it creates. Unlike Ford, GMC, or Chrysler, Wal-Mart does not create the products it sells. If these companies go under, the Americans who work there and the people who work in the companies that support them (for instance, companies who make car parts) will be out of jobs.
The government should feel obligated to support a bailout plan because it is obligated to protect its citizens. These three companies are at the heart of American manufacturing and should be protected because they are operated and owned by the American people. Ultimately, government intervention should be regulated and limited, but government has a duty to help if it can.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Thomas, bailout is not just to save the face of The American companies. Many other facets of the country will get affected if the BIG 3 go bankcrupt. My own speculation is some Japan auto maker (either Toyota or Nissan) will come in and take over one of the Big 3. It will shake out the weak without harming market because the auto workers can still maintain their job, only under the name of a different company. Still, it is interesting to wait and see how this bailout turns out to be.

Scarlett D'Anna said...

I have to agree with Thomas that the government is obligated to protect its citizens and must therefore do something. Most people are afraid of the bailout for the same reason the words “universal health care” frighten them: socialism. In America, calling someone a socialist is almost tantamount to calling them a terrorist. The word “socialism” is thrown into the communal pot of terms that are feared by American citizens, along with “communism,” “totalitarianism,” “dictatorship,” “Muslim,” “Nazi,” etc. If Americans could simply get past the word, there are a lot of good things about socialism. Unfortunately, as a system it has failed, and there are too many fresh horrors done under the name of socialism in the last century to be ignored. However, certain socialistic elements can work in a capitalist system, and (I think) can work even better than a purely capitalist system. Among these elements are social security, disability, food stamps, unemployment, universal health care, and in some dire situations, an economic bailout.