Paul Krugman is my inspiration today with his editorial on what should be done about the current economic crisis. Mr. Krugman, who I had the pleasure of meeting here in Portland last year, is calling for a highly responsible, specifically “adult” crafting of a bailout. I embrace his analogy between good political leadership and adulthood.
I would take the analogy further: It’s childlike to demand immediate gratification and reject discipline. I’m sorry to say this, but that childlike approach to life has characterized both American consumers and their political leadership for years. We’ve tried to say that easy credit and overconsumption are actually success and prosperity. They are not success and prosperity: they are economic gluttony and undisciplined consumption, and these come back to hurt us in the same way that children allowed to play hooky for years wind up illiterate and poorly employed.
The good news, in my view, is that we can all become the adults in the room, i.e. behave with discipline and a sense of leadership. While Congress and the administration do need to craft a highly responsible bailout, we consume less, and more wisely, regardless of what they do or don’t do. My vision is that we can reclaim some of America’s earlier, long-lost ethic of self-discipline, some delayed gratification and (perish the thought) a down-sized, more sustainable economy.