Conservatives would have us believe that this country suffers from an excess of government regulation, bureaucracy, and restrictions on free enterprise.
Not true, as evidenced by how successful the German auto industry is. High profits. High wages. High involvement of the government in corporate affairs.
In 2010, over 5.5 million cars were produced in Germany, twice the 2.7 million built in the United States. Average compensation (a figure including wages and employer-paid benefits) for autoworkers in Germany was 48.97 Euros per hour ($67.14 US), while compensation for auto work in the United States averaged $33.77 per hour, or about half as much as in Germany, all according to 2007 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For Germany-based auto producers, the U.S. is a low-wage country.
Despite German companies’ relatively high labor costs in their home markets, these firms are quite profitable.
...Workers in the German auto industry maintain high wages and good working conditions through two overlapping sets of institutions. First, in the auto industry, virtually all workers are unionized members of IG Metall, the German autoworkers’ union. With such union density, workers have considerable power to keep wages high.
...In addition to high trade union density supporting the power of German autoworkers’ wages, the German constitution itself includes a second mechanism for keeping employees involved in the decisions of the firm for which they work. The Works Constitution Act provides for the creation of Works Councils in each factory.
This morning I came across a more philosophical argument in favor of bureaucracies and regulations. Here's an excerpt from Bruce Robbins' essay, "Enchantment? No, thank you!" in The Joy of Secularism, a book I'm enjoying a lot.
Robbins notes that Max Weber recognized the power of "rationalization" to demoralize. But he says:
I, too, agree. The question is not whether it would demoralize us if it were the case; the question is whether it is the case -- in other words, how well the concept of rationalization does in the competition of many rival concepts to decide which best describes the world. I don't think it comes close to winning.
The paradigmatic institution of rationalization is bureaucracy. In the midst of a financial and economic crisis that is extraordinarily severe but historically far from unique, hearing news every day about the sufferings it has caused, we are reminded very forcibly of two things that we ought to have known before: that capitalism has more to do with the shape of our world than bureaucracy does, and that although capitalism also uses numbers, it is not a force for rationalization, but a force for chaos.
Faced with such wild, irresponsible, number-based imaginings as the derivative, bureaucratic regulation is very emphatically not a useful name for what's wrong with our world. It is something that we needed much, much more of.
Hopefully voters will keep this in mind next November, when they face a choice between electing Republicans and returning us to the unfettered craziness of Wall Street that got us into our current economic mess, or endorsing a balanced Democratic approach of regulated capitalism.