Thursday, May 26, 2011

Myth of a Free Market

Joel Bowman writes:

One of the more pervasive myths, perpetuated – either ignorantly or maliciously – by the mainstream media, is that the market tumult witnessed over the past few years is somehow a result of the free market having “run wild.”

The argument, as you are surely familiar with it, goes something like this…

Until recent and heroic intervention by the Feds, the world had been aimlessly bobbing about on a sea of unregulated, laissez-faire capitalism. Adrift in the cold, harsh, dog-eat-dog seascape, where rules were callously discarded and government vigilance eschewed, we clueless individuals simply made our way as best we could. Of course, it wasn’t long before we lost sight of the horizon. Then, the clouds of capitalist deceit obscured our view of the stars, by which we had previously been navigating our way across the perilous oceans. Sensing our vulnerability, the greedy capitalists stealthily moved in under the cover of “free market anarchism” to rock the markets and capsize our tiny, unguarded vessel.

What followed – around 2007-08 – was the painful aftermath of a great era of free market irresponsibility. Lessons were to be learned. Regulators, it was said, had failed to protect us (mostly from ourselves). The markets had been allowed to “run wild,” fleecing all and sundry of their earthly wares. The whole system was in danger of collapsing under the weight of its own free reigns and pundits from every corner of the boat were soon crying out for some form of central guidance, some direction, some calm. This, we were told, and not without a wag of the finger, is what happens to modern, mixed-market economies when they become adulterated by the blinding whims of free market capitalism.

And it would be a nice story, with a presumably easy remedy…if only it were true. Alas…

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