In recent years, the neoconservatives, or neocons have had Big Ideas, and have insinuated them into the popular mind through co-opting the opinion leaders, and by repetition. People hear the same thing over and over from those deemed to know about such stuff, and eventually it becomes a "fact". Or something like a fact - possibly a meme (Wikipedia). It's one of those things that "everyone knows", even if it's not true.

Consider this Big Idea: the value of anything is how much money it will make. Cars, beer, diapers, drugs (prescription, over-the-counter, or recreational), etc. are made to sell. If they don't sell, they die.

What does it take to stop sales of a consumable? Well, clearly of it's not profitable, it won't be made or sold any longer. That's an absolute with which no one would quibble. Are there other criteria for taking something off the market? You can look around and see many examples of stuff that has been pulled from stores because it kills people directly and pretty quickly: tainted people- and pet-food tend to make the most headlines. Airplanes that come apart while flying. Cars (and trucks) that explode in accidents.

What about cigarettes? The link between cigarette smoking and cancer (among other diseases leading to early graves) is no longer in dispute, even by tobacco companies. Yet almost anyone but the very young can buy and consume as many cigarettes as they wish because cigarettes are profitable. Cigarettes are available for sale because the profit they make for their manufacturers is so great that the manufacturers can effectively stop any attempt to restrict their sale.

What about alcohol? While somewhat more regulated than tobacco, alcohol-based beverages are freely for sale, without limits, while some consumers of same effectively kill themselves and others, if you think about DWI, spousal abuse and bar room brawls. Because alcoholic beverages are profitable. And their profit keep the regulators away through our political process.

You will think of other examples that are more insidious in their function, but still harmful to society at large. For some, it will be SUVs. For others, high-fructose corn syrup. Or prescription drugs that are marginally better at what they purport to do, but significantly increase the users' risks of heart attack, stroke, of other catastrophic "adverse event".

The point is, that the Big Idea that the value of something is measured by its profitability is applied pretty universally, and only in extreme circumstances do we see profitable stuff removed from the market.

I had an idea some years ago that I think has the potential for being a Big Idea: The right and duty of society to regulate goods or services bears a direct relation to the societal impact of the good or service. There is some spotty implementation of this principle than can be seen in state laws.

A case in point is container deposit laws. In many states when you buy a soft drink or other beverage, you will pay an extra few cents above the cost of the goods - the deposit - to encourage you to return the container and get your money back. Why do we have these "bottle bills"? Because some people believe they reduce litter on highways - considered socially undesirable - so those interested in clean highways overcame the howls of protest by the beverage manufacturers and enacted bottle bills. (Parenthetically, North Carolina does not have a bottle bill. And every major highway in the state looks like a low-density garbage dump.)

OK, what's my point? Simply this: The Big Idea that the Repugs have managed to implant in our collective consciousness is biased in favor of their big-business sponsors. It tells only part of the story, and ignores the categorical imperative of Immanuel Kant:

"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law."

In other words, you should take (or sanction) only those actions that would be appropriate in any circumstances. Clearly, the assumption that the free market will solve all our problems is simplistic, even ridiculous when applied to our society.

The free market has not addressed the need for police protection, for national defense (although the Bushies tryed to outsource it to Blackwater), for water and sewer treatment.

We were sold a bill of goods about how competition would lower the cost of energy. Ask Californians about their Enron experience!

Cable and telecom companies have done all they can to prevent the competition they said would bring improved services and reduced prices. And on and on.

Next time someone tries to tell you about the Next Big Idea, you should think about it. And remember our old friend Immanuel Kant - he had some good ideas!