Address economy's systemic issues
If you have been following the various GOP presidential hopefuls, who have been steadily appearing in the public more and more as the 2012 election comes looms closer on the horizon, you may have noticed some trends in the ideals that many of them are espousing. One of this year's most prominent narratives is that social issues are inextricably intertwined with economic issues. The argument goes that economic crises — such as the meltdown of 2008 — often result from social crises. So, people like Bob Vander Plaats make comments such as "if you think all it is over here on the economic side while you want all this other stuff to erode, you're dealing with a house of cards." Essentially, people who parrot this kind of rhetoric like to blame the American moral climate for the economic meltdown. It wasn't the system's fault, they say — it was greedy, immoral business people who have fallen away from the core values of the nation.
While there is a grain of truth in all of this, this sort of narrative conveniently glosses over one of the major motivating factors of modern capitalistic business practices — namely, the emphasis on increasing profits, no matter what it takes. A case can be made that such an emphasis on profit, often at the expense of people, is a greedy, immoral emphasis, but the fact of the matter remains that this emphasis did not merely spring up as a result of the social climate. Sure, it may have been socially motivated to some extent, but, at this point, it has been deeply embedded in the economic system. You have to recognize that, from this perspective, it is a systemic issue, which needs to be addressed.
Another problem with this narrative lies in the fact that it often points to social practices, which have little to no impact on the economic field. Two of the GOP's favorite targets when it comes to the supposed decline of American morality are abortion and gay marriage. If someone could explain to us how letting gays marry and giving women the right to choose impacts the economy in any way, shape or form, we would be incredibly grateful — because, as of now, we find every attempt to link these things to the economy as laughable at best and disturbingly backward at worst.
Trying to solve the problems with the economy through changing the social climate seems to be missing the point. If the problems are systemic, as we have argued, then the first step to fixing the economy is overhauling the financial system. Trying to throw morality at the economy will fix nothing unless we address the system's issues first.