I never met Hugh Slatery. I never spoke with him by phone, never had a one-on-one conversation with him in any format — just the occasional group chat in behind-the-scenes e-mails here at Wizbang and, of course, in the comments. So I really have nothing to offer about this man apart from our common role as bloggers here. So I will leave the more personal details to those who knew him better, and instead discuss my colleague, HughS.
To me, the highest praise I can give another blogger is “he made me think.” And HughS did that on a regular basis. He had a good eye for a story with “legs,” and was never timid about offering an opinion.
And quite a few times he beat me to a story I wanted to discuss. Sometimes, if I had something else to add, I would do my own piece; other times, I’d toss my planned post in the bit-bucket and mutter some unkind (and insincere) things.
HughS’ last piece, the one he published on Saturday, fell into a third category. It got me thinking about my own take on a matter that I had not considered before.
So, as a tribute to HughS, I’m going to bend Kevin’s declaration that this would be just a day to discuss Hugh, the man, and instead give him one last bit of linkage.
From one blogger to another, a parting 21-click salute.
Hugh’s last piece was on the growing signs of financial collapse of the European Union, and how it could serve as a harbinger for the United States under the Obama administration.
The issues of macroeconomics tends to trigger my MEGO reflex, but it got me thinking in another area: how does the economic travails of Greece and others in the European Union compare to other economic collapses in the United States? More specifically, the Enron scandal?
To my way of thinking, the EU mess is infinitely worse.
The similarities are unarguable: in both cases, there was tremendous fraud and deception and greed that led to a huge financial house of cards that finally collapsed under its own weight, leaving a lot of innocents — a LOT — screwed.
But there is a fundamental difference between the two that needs to be highlighted. Enron was a capitalistic scheme; Greece, a socialistic one.
With Enron, the con artists appealed to people’s greed. They were promised great returns on their investments, they manipulated business deals to screw over the other parties, they lied, they cheated, they browbeat, they did anything they could to pull off their deals.
In Greece, the con was based on people’s altruism. People’s money was taken for the noblest of professed intentions — “the greater good,” “the good of the masses.” And far more importantly, it was done through the coercive power of the government. While the government talked a nice game about how wonderful it was to give your “fair share” for the common good, it was always backed up by the iron fist of the law. And don’t even think of looking too closely at how they actually spend all that money.
In the end, scandals like Enron (or, if you prefer, Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme) are preferable to the problems of a socialist collapse like Greece. The victims are far less likely to have been forced into participating, and the consequences of the all-too-inevitable collapse are less catastrophic.
And, fundamentally, the Enron scandal has one redeeming feature over the Greece collapse: it’s honest. The Enron swine were all about greed, and didn’t hide behind pretensions of nobility and altruism.
Given a choice between the two, I’ll take a dozen Enrons over one Greece.
The way the Obama administration is running things, though, we just might get both options.