Thursday, December 25, 2008

Fair Weather Friends of the Market (Bob Higgs)

Bob Higgs has something to say to those supporters of a "free-market" that have gone over to the dark side:

It’s hardly a news flash that many people who are widely regarded as lions of the pro-market side have gone over to the dark side in recent months. I am not going to name any names; if you are one of the guilty parties, you know who you are; and the rest of us know, too, owing to your public expressions of anti-market sentiment in newspapers and on the World Wide Web. Why have so many notable economists and others jumped ship?

Many, it appears, have simply panicked. Starting late last summer, the financial markets began to exhibit tremendous volatility, officials at the Fed and the Treasury began to act as if imminent disaster loomed, and media commentators and reporters completely lost their composure. Even people who should have known better began to talk and to act as if the economy stood on the brink of complete collapse unless the government took unprecedented actions immediately. When one extraordinary action failed to calm the waters at once, another extraordinary action was taken, then another, and another.

We now look back on four months littered with ad hoc bailouts, new regulations, institutional takeovers, a gigantic bail-out statute, massive lending, asset exchanges, and loan guarantees never before made by the Fed and the Treasury – all on a scale that no one foresaw six months ago. We might understand that the big bankers and other financial masters of the universe who had got themselves and their mega-institutions into such deep trouble would have worked hard to create a sense of crisis and to exploit it as a pretext for cushioning their slide from the financial pinnacles — peaks so high that the air is thin and the brain does not function effectively, so that even such workaday necessities as due diligence are overlooked. Blessed with friends in high places, these financial titans snatched loot by the hundreds of billions while the snatching was good.

But why have free-market economists and other commentators expressed approval of this blatant piracy?

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