A third marker: Where does the government -- any government -- get the competence to figure out the future: What will work, what won't and why? It was the French government, one mustn't forget, that came up with the priceless notion of defending the motherland by erecting an impenetrable line of forts, which the Nazis overwhelmed by simply outflanking them. Risk-takers, not deskbound bureaucrats, understand and sway the future.
If men were angels, James Madison noted, we wouldn't need government. Well, men aren't angels. Charlatans and sharpers, not to mention fools, walk among us. The laissez-faire approach to economics, however commendable as pure economics (and it's pretty commendable in that sense), won't work in a world populated by the descendants of Adam and Eve. By people, in other words. Five minutes after the most idealistic spirits in the world instituted economic and political anarchy, we'd all be cutting each other's throats.
So: government, yes. But no more of it than we absolutely have to have to get by. The best formula for moving the economy back on track and keeping it there in this challenging time is one that celebrates freedom and innovation and the taking of risks and the reaping of rewards, as opposed to a formula that celebrates bureaucratic suffocation and stultification.
Don't you agree, Sen. Obama? Sen. Clinton? Ah, you don't entirely? Well, maybe that's the "conversation" we all should be having right now, at top volume.