Monday, January 21, 2008

With 'free markets" like this, who needs socialism?

Jeffrey Tucker on the not really free market everyone seems to blame for everything.
So, the first assumption that we live in a free-market world is simply not true. In fact, it is sheer fantasy. How is it that journalists can continually get away with asserting that the fantasy is true? How can informed writers continue to fob off on us the idea that we live in a laissez-faire world that can only be improved by just a bit of public tinkering?

The reason is that most of our daily experience in life is not with the Department of Labor or Interior or Education or Justice. It is with Home Depot, McDonald's, Kroger, and Pizza Hut. Our lives are spent dealing with the commercial sector mostly, because it is visible and accessible, whereas the depredations of the state are mostly abstract, and its destructive effects mostly unseen. We don't see the inventions left on the shelf, the products not imported due to quotas, the people not working because of minimum wage laws, etc.

Because of this, we are tempted to believe the unbelievable, namely that government serves the function only of a night watchman. And only by believing in such a fantasy can we possibly believe the second assumption, which is that the problems of our society are due the to the market economy, not to the government that has intervened in the market economy.

Consider the housing crisis. The money machine called the Federal Reserve cranks out the credit as a subsidy to the banking business, the bond dealers, and the big-spending politicians who would prefer to borrow than tax. It is this alchemic temple that distorts the reality that credit must be rationed in a way that accords with economic reality.

The Federal Reserve embarked on a wild credit ride in the late 1990s that has dumped some $4 trillion in new money via the credit markets, making expansion of the loan sector both inevitable and unsustainable. At the same time, the federal bureaus that manage and guarantee the bulk of mortgages have ballooned beyond belief. The popularity of subprime mortgages are the tip of a massive but buried debt mountain — all in the name of achieving the "American dream" of home ownership through massive government intervention.

Say what you want to about this system, but it is not the free market at work. Indeed, the very existence of central banking is contrary to the capitalist ideal, in which money would be no different from any other good: produced and supplied by the market in accord with the moral law against theft and fraud. For the government to authorize a counterfeiter-in-chief is a direct attack on the sound money system of a market economy.

Read it all. How can you say you are free in a land where the government tells you how much water you are allowed to flush? Try to come up with something, anything, in your life that isn't regulated. Well, that's not how the free market works, so it isn't working.

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