Monday, December 22, 2008

The Forecast for the Free-Market: Stormy

My first guest blogger this week (while I'm on vacation) is Stephen Smith, caretaker of the Beginner's Guide To Freedom blog. (One of his earlier posts, which Stephen wrote shortly after his run as a Libertarian for the Texas State Senate, is the best thing I've ever read on the relationship between money, The Mommy and Daddy Party, and elections.)

In the following essay about the possible end of the Free Market that has done so much for us during the lastt two centuries, Stephen makes an unlikely analogy between The Chairman and unh...me. I'm not Frank, Dean-0, Sammy, or even the Joey Bishop of the local libertarians. I'm merely the Shawn Levy, doing his best to write down what is happening.
Here's Stephen:

This writing under a deadline stuff is hard. Unlike the author of The Whited Sepulchre, I’m not accustomed to writing on a daily basis. Usually I just wait for some item in the news to strike me in the right way, and I knock out a page or two whenever the mood is right. But, hey - when Frank Sinatra calls up Peter Lawford to open for him in Vegas, Peter doesn’t complain that he’s not “feeling it” that day. Peter just shows up and tries not to disappoint Frankie. So I’m happy to play Peter Lawford to The Whited Sepulchre’s Frank Sinatra today.

The topic this week is, “Whiter Libertarianism?” or something to that effect. I’ve been searching diligently for an optimistic angle here, but sadly I have found none. As I scan the economic landscape, all I see are dark clouds. As I write these words, the federal government is in full panic mode, desperate to print more money and nationalize ever-larger sectors of the American economy.

One of the big stories in the news this week involves Bernard Madoff, a Wall Street financier accused of defrauding investors of $50 billion. The Securities and Exchange Commission is describing Mr. Madoff’s activities as “the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.” Apparently the SEC has never heard of Social Security or Medicare. The SEC has also admitted to ignoring Mr. Madoff’s malfeasance for over a decade. In true Washington fashion, the SEC’s admitted incompetence is being used to justify increasing its budget and power. Maybe I should try that at my office. “Sorry, boss, but I just haven’t felt like doing much work these last few months. Guess that means I’m due for a promotion and a raise, huh?” It must sound better when pitched to a Congressional committee.

I don’t mean to make light of the Madoff story. If he is indeed guilty of fraud, then he should be prosecuted accordingly. But I find it fascinating that the press makes so much of a $50 billion private scandal while it enthusiastically cheers the $8 trillion public scandal being perpetrated by the federal government in the form of bailouts and outright takeovers of private sector enterprises. I’m no journalist, of course, but it seems to me that some basic questions simply aren’t being asked. Like, “Hey, Bernanke! Where are you getting the $8 trillion, exactly?” Or perhaps that question has already been answered now that the Fed has cut the federal funds rate to zero.

These issues do not bode well for us free-market types. As French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, “Laissez-faire is finished.” No doubt he is correct in his summation, but laissez-faire capitalism has been dead for nigh on a century. The idea that the current Keynesian nightmare threatening to plunge the planet into an even Greater Depression is somehow the result of free-market capitalism is patently ridiculous. The seeds of the crisis date back to at least the New Deal, and what we’re witnessing today is a perfect storm of decades of government intervention in the marketplace. The fact that President Bush has “abandoned free market principles to save the free market system” (just as he abandoned Constitutional principles of individual liberty to protect freedom) is simply one more nail in capitalism’s coffin. Since Barack Obama never had any free market principles to abandon, I suspect things will get even worse in the years to come.

As I have often said, libertarianism is for those of us who would rather be right than popular. The recent economic headlines have only confirmed that viewpoint. So it looks like we’re going to be even less popular over the next few years than we have been up to this point (if you can imagine such a thing). Nevertheless, we will continue to be right. We may have to work harder to make ourselves heard, but individual liberty and the free market go hand in hand - one cannot survive without the other. It will be up to us to defend both. No one else will.

That's what you get when you read "A Beginner's Guide To Freedom". Great, great stuff. Thank you, Stephen Smith !

5 comments:

Browncoat Libertarian said...

I second that "great stuff"! Nice job, Mr. Smith :^)

fembuttx said...

I have guest bloggers too...

http://thewhitedsepulchres.blogspot.com/

Dr Ralph said...

Stephen: you'd rather be right than popular?

What that says to me is that you have no interest in actually getting your hands dirty by coming up with a practical solution. It's much easier to kibitz from the safety of the sidelines without ever being held accountable.

Stephen M. Smith said...

Actually, I feel that I'm very much engaged in both the debate and the process. I'm just not terribly optimistic.

Browncoat and WS both know me personally. Since I'm hardly objective when it comes to me, I'll defer to them as to whether I'm getting my hands dirty enough or not offering real-world solutions.

Isaac Yassar said...

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