We all live in a world that stunts our imagination. Before Steve Jobs put out an iPad, few of us imagined how something like that could impact our lives. Now iPads are everywhere, being integrated into both our lives and our businesses in ways Jobs himself could never have imagined.
Similarly, now that the government cares for the poor, few of us can imagine how civil society handled such matters a century ago. Down the memory hole go the vast array of voluntary organizations that handled problems of health, insurance, and unemployment for the poor and did so until they were no longer needed because the government "took care of that." And now we can't conceive of it being done without government. To oppose federal programs for the poor is now assumed tantamount to wishing the poor were dead. [For those interested in this history of voluntarism, see historian David Beito's From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890-1967
And of course a huge regulatory apparatus is needed in the financial center. How could people handle the complexities of finance and assess risk without ratings agencies deemed safe by government regulators, without wise federal overseers to protect them?
I thought of this on coming upon:
[HT to economist/historian Jeffrey Hummel]
Do not read this to think I believe this one link solves ALL financial problems. Merely that one financial problem is solvable in a way that does not involve the government and that no one conceived of, until someone conceived of it. Further, this post is not meant to recommend this particular solution, merely to point out how people spontaneously offer solutions in the market, oft times, as with Wikipedia, on a voluntary non-profit no-charge basis. Much like the fraternal societies of yore...