13 November 2008
Markets, Freedom and Failure
The President remains adamant in telling all who still listen to him that the present financial panic is not "a failure of the free market system." I would say he's kidding himself, or is trapped in a self-delusion, but his concept of a "free market" is probably so vague that he may be right at some level. Free enterprise, as such, didn't bring us to the present point. However, the "free market" as it exists in the United States and allied countries is so susceptible to abuse and so incapable of restraint that some form of systemic failure is obvious and was inevitable. To hint that government interference is to blame is only to repeat the scapegoating of poor debtors that went over so well during the late elections. No government compelled the "masters of the universe" to gamble as recklessly as they did, and it was not government but the market itself that urged people to borrow so that they could consume and contribute to global economic growth. Bush may be right to note that countries with stronger government regulation of markets are also suffering, but that only shows the risks of globalization once every country's economy is tied to one big one -- ours -- regardless of each country's laws. Our lame-duck-in-chief is in no position to lecture his people or anyone else on what not to do to clean the mess he helped make but won't help fix. His ideological fixation on "freedom" at the expense of all other virtues already has a hint of obsolescence to it, and the poor man still has two months of public irrelevance to go.