Has the public ‘soured’ on free markets?

There appears to be a conscious attempt underway to shift the grounds of the current American political debate in preparation for this fall’s presidential campaign.

Interestingly, this attempt to shift the goal lines (advancing the motionless Party of Big Government from their own 20 yard line to the other guy’s 20 by the simple expedient of moving the yard markers) comes from the political left, despite the fact that — if we’re to believe the bellowing leftist press of New York, Washington and Los Angeles — the socialists have nothing to worry about in November, since the nation is about to elevate the Most Liberal Senator in Washington to the presidency by acclamation — “The ‘Ayes’ have it! Now everybody go home!”

The problem with such predictions, of course, is that Republican John McCain seems perfectly capable of coming out of the gate come Labor Day, warning that Democrat Barack Obama plans to “solve all our problems” with higher taxes and bigger, more expensive government — a recipe that American voters have rejected in every presidential election for 30 years, INCLUDING the 1992 election, when voters rejected a Republican who had lied about “No new taxes” in favor of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, who claimed at the time to be moderate “New Democrats,” anxious to “end welfare as we know it.”

How to prevent this from happening? One strategy would be to convince Republicans to abandon this winning line of attack before they’ve even given it a try, by seeding the public discourse with seemingly uncoordinated declarations from “objective” sources that the public has “soured” on the notion that free markets are a good thing, that nowadays all manner of “experts” have instead decided bigger and more powerful government is the answer after all, “looking with favor at more, not less, government involvement in the economy.”

Republicans who fall for this line of crap would be rewarded by being called “moderate” and “reasonable.” Those who do not would be promptly branded “radical zealots’ and “inflexible ideologues” (as if that’s anything new.)

Thus, we get Thomas Frank, the Wall Street Journal’s new token Op-ed Leninist, declaring on July 16: “This, historians will someday say, was the snarling end of an era in which our leaders believed that markets represented the very will of the people; that to serve one was to serve the other.”

Thus it is that the Los Angeles Times on the very same date gives us their “economic” reporter, Peter Gosselin, declaring (in an analysis headlined “Americans may be losing faith in free markets”): “For a generation, most people accepted the idea that the core of what makes America tick was an economy governed by free markets … — certainly better than government meddling. No longer.

“Spurred by the continued housing crisis, turmoil in financial markets, spiking oil prices, disappearing jobs and shrinking retirement savings, the nation and its political leaders have begun to sour on the notion that the current market system is the key to a fair, stable and efficient society.”

“We’re at a hinge point,” William A. Galston, a senior fellow at the leftist Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. tells Mr. Gosselin. “The strong presumption in favor of markets, which has dominated public policy since the late 1970s, has been thrown very much into question.”

“Now,” this objective reporter from the L.A. Times declares, “to a degree not seen in years, politicians and outside experts are looking with favor at more, not less, government involvement in the economy.”

Why? Well, for one example, “In large part, the rise in house prices and the recent plunge grew out of an almost unregulated corner of the mortgage market — the one for riskier loans,” Mr, Gosselin reports.

And it’s the same with fuel prices, apparently, where “The message that Americans are getting is that something went wrong with the markets and you got hurt,” economist Robert E. Litan of the Brookings Institution tells Mr. Gosselin of the Times.


Why do the fans of big government have to do such heavy lifting to try and make this case? Because the advantages of freedom — and the disadvantages of government control — are so obvious.

You’ve got a lawn mower you don’t need any more. Your neighbor wants it. You agree on a price. Should someone go find a government regulator to issue a “permit” for the transaction, collecting taxes and fees and certifying the price is “within allowed government strictures and guidelines”? Should a policeman have the power to arrest you for selling your lawn mower without government permission? Don’t be ridiculous. You sell the thing; everybody’s happy.

If the public has “soured on the merits” of free “markets,” why is my Saturday paper still loaded with ads for unregulated yard sales?

Are things substantially different when you get to much larger markets? No. So long as there are courts to handle theft and fraud, free markets work fine. Their “efficiency” is unrivaled, since no nest of government regulators could possibly have enough information about local conditions to make all these decisions for us. (Look up the way the Soviet government used to set targets for ice cream production based on French per capita consumption statistics, some time — without considering they had no refrigerated transport capable of getting the stuff more than a few hours’ travel from Moscow.)

When Mr. Gosselin submits that “the current market system” is not “the key to a fair, stable and efficient society,” he’s using some very carefully chosen words. For what could be “fairer” than allowing each participant in any transaction the freedom to sell or not to sell; to buy or not to buy?

There is only one alternative to “free markets,” and that’s “coerced markets” — a system where armed government thugs threaten to arrest and jail anyone who tries to buy and sell without government permission, where some voluntary transactions are barred, and other transactions are required whether both participants like it or not.

Yet we’re told this would be “fairer.” “Fairer”!

Meantime, government economic “managers” have always promised greater “stability and efficiency.” Ask the people of Eastern Europe whether they want to go back to the massively “stable and efficient” economic system that prevailed there from 1918 to 1991. Ask the Italians whether they want to bring back Musolini’s economic system, dubbed “fascism” after the Roman symbol of a bundle of white birch rods bound up with an axe, the fasces. Heck, just ask Americans who lived through the gas lines and rationing of the late 1970s whether they’d like to go back to Nixon-Ford “wage and price controls.”

That’s what Mr. Frank and Mr. Gosselin are peddling — the kind of government control that always ends up requiring “just a little” coercion and slave labor to make things come out “fair, stable and efficient” — a phrase which interestingly shares not a single word nor aspiration with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

But cleverest of all is this assertion that what has now failed sufficiently to lose public confidence is “the current market system.”

Note the absence of the word “free.”

Yes, we’re in an inflationary economic doldrum. But note the sectors that are in worst shape are precisely those where our markets are currently LEAST free.

Inflation is galloping. Why was there virtually no inflation from 1789 to 1932? Because Congress did its assigned job, making sure the dollar was pegged at approximately three-quarters of an ounce of silver or one-twentieth of an ounce of gold. Since you could trade in your paper dollars for those quantities of metal at any time (and any banker without the metal to make good his bearer bills could be arrested for fraud), the number of greenbacks that could be printed was limited by the amount of gold and silver in the vaults; the value of the dollar remained constant.

To some extent since 1933 — and entirely since 1969 — that link is now gone, not thanks to any chicanery by “greedy speculators” in the free markets, but due to extraconstitutional government fiat. The government now prints unlimited Monopoly Money “dollars” that are worth less every month, stealing the value of any retirement savings denominated in these same so-called “dollars.”

Is there a “free market” in money that’s somehow failed? Try to get a government court to enforce a voluntary private contract calling for payment in gold. Try to open a bank that proudly proclaims “not insured by the FDIC — not part of the Fed — fractional reserve banking not practiced here,” issuing gold and silver certificates — or even one-ounce silver rounds — as more sound alternatives to those increasingly worthless Federal reserve greenbacks.

Not allowed.

Are banks with large mortgage holdings now collapsing because they were allowed “too much freedom” — or because the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 and other government regulations required them to make home loans previously considered too high a risk, assuring everyone, “Don’t worry, it’s all backed by Uncle Sam!”?

How has the “free market in banking” failed, if there hasn’t been one for 95 years?

And where can I get one of those “almost unregulated” mortgage loans Mr. Gosselin talks about, by the way?


Yes, many airlines are in trouble, too — though not the most innovative ones, like Southwest.

Because of the foolish decision to allow a free market in air travel, you say? Just try to issue stock and build your own airport, buy your own planes, launch your own airline — perhaps an all-smoking airline like the one German entrepreneur Alexander Schoppmann proposed recently, or my own proposed Air Ganja, one attracting passengers by promising “No TSA goons, no security checks, no smoke detectors, feel free to bring your firearms and smokes on board like you used to” — all without federal government licensing and permission. Not allowed, is it? None of it.

So how can the “free market” have failed, when there’s no free entry into any “free market” in air travel, at all?

It’s a pretty good trick: Set up a “mixed” system with too much wasteful, oppressive and counterproductive government command and control, call it a “market” (hoping no one will notice you dropped a word, failing to actually say “free market”), and then moan — when the interventions of government politicians and regulators mess everything up — that this “proves markets don’t work.”

Let’s put our eye back on the ball. The goal here is to inoculate Sen. Obama and this fall’s crop of Democratic congressional candidates against perfectly credible charges that they’re philosophically indistinguishable from a bunch of fascists, who want government to run the economy after the fashion of Messrs. Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Castro and Mugabe.

Now: why would anyone want to raise a hullaballoo in an attempt to discourage Republicans from making that charge — unless that charge is true?

2 Comments to “Has the public ‘soured’ on free markets?”

  1. Elizabeth Crum ("E") Says:

    Nice rant (whew)!

    I was also thinking about markets and commodities today; see the latest post on my blog for a look at how among Marxists Obama has himself become a marketplace commodity with tremendous exchange value (but, as we know, no intrinsic value).

  2. Charles Corry Says:

    The basic problem is with the so-called Republicans choice of presidential candidate. John McCain often appears more liberal than Obama. As of July 1, 2008, at least the following issues cloud the candidacy of Senator John McCain as the Republican nominee for president of the United States:
    • Finished in the bottom 1% of his class at the Naval Academy (594th out of a class of 599).
    • As a naval aviator the extraordinary number of five expensive jet aircraft were lost while he was piloting them.
    • As a prisoner of war he signed a number of propaganda statements for the North • Vietnamese. It is also stated that he made some propaganda videos for his captors.
    • McCain was one of five Senators involved in what has become known as the “Keating Five” scandal of influence peddling in the savings and loan debacles of the late 1980s. McCain took $100,000 in campaign contributions from Charles Keating to help him with problems resulting from the collapse of Lincoln Savings and Loan, of which Keating was CEO.
    • McCain’s cozy relationship with lobbyists continues to the present and scandals are regularly reported and his staffers let go as sacrificial goats in these scandals.
    • In a war-weary nation McCain flatly states he will continue the war in Iraq indefinitely and promises more wars, e.g,, with Iran.
    • In a nation whose economy is foundering, McCain has admitted he knows little or nothing about economics.
    • McCain has given every indication that he will continue the discredited neo-con policies of the Bush administration and support the military-industrial complex with the big government, big spending policies that are anathema to the conservative Republican base of voters.
    • His work on environmental issues have restricted exploration and production of domestic oil and gas have been a factor in the current energy crisis. He has stated ANWR is sacrosanct and won’t be touched.
    • McCain has long been an open-borders advocate in a nation flooded by 20-25 million illegal immigrants. His only solution involves giving illegals amnesty and citizenship, and inviting more in to the detriment of American citizens.
    • His alliances with liberal Democrats, e.g., McCain-Feingold election “reform” bill, are legend. Note that a portion of the McCain-Feingold bill was recently ruled unconstitutional.
    • His campaign is being outspent by the Democrats by a factor of roughly two-to-one. There is no indication he will be able to raise the necessary funds for his campaign to compete effectively against the Democrats.
    Also note that I am a Republican precinct chairman in one of the most conservative counties in the nation. If McCain can’t win in El Paso County, Colorado, how can he win anywhere?