Friday, November 27, 2009

Failure of the free market system?

I'm reading a lot about how the free markets have failed and how we need to change this or that. In order to arrive at that conclusion you'd have to be either intellectually dishonest, ignorant, or possibly both. It's convenient to blame the current economic struggle on the failure of the "free market", however the market we have is neither free nor would it be a failure for a truly free market to experience periods of economic contraction. First of all a free market implies that there is an absence of external manipulation; with Congressional bailouts and the Federal Reserve tinkering with interest rates our market is anything but free. In fact it is the very actions of Congress and the Federal Reserve that led to the economic crisis we are now suffering. Second, in a free market excesses and malinvestment are corrected through a cleansing that comes with a contraction in the economic cycle, any attempt to intervene only postpones and increases the severity of the correction. Third, it is asinine to assume a system as complex as the US economy could be manipulated without unforseen consequences which may be more detrimental than those initially feared.

It's interesting (at least to me) that our grandparents are regarded as the "Greatest Generation"; largely because of their sacrifice during WW2 as well as the subsequent prosperity our nation enjoyed following their victorious return. They also experienced first hand the calamitous consequences of the Great Depression and responsibly saved and skimped for the remainder of their lives in preparation for the next round should it ever occur. Simply put: they experienced adversity, learned from it, and as a result were better prepared than previous generations.

It's understandable to avoid adversity and protect loved ones from the same, one possible concern being that experience is an excellent educator and as a nation we have been skipping classes for two generations. It is precisely this tendency for present day Americans to avoid hardship, demand assistance, and willfully acquiesce liberty that resulted in an economy built on consumer spending and consumption rather than saving and production. Throw in a fiat currency and a government that is willing and able to pass laws to "protect" it's citizens and you have the recipe for an economic time bomb.

Perhaps it's a bit conspiratorial, but I think the chaps in Washington don't want self sufficient citizens, the kind who can't be bribed with handouts in exchange for votes; its better for them to have a bunch of ignorant simpletons who need entitlements to survive. How else would you explain an unlimited annual tax deduction on mortgage interest and an annual cap of $5000 on retirement savings?

Would you rather be and ignorant simpleton or a thinking citizen?

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