bookWhat is most troubling to me about the current situation in the financial markets is the global backlash against the "free" market and what is perceived as capitalism in general. Your average person is so angry right now, and it seems almost inevitable that anything related to the financial markets is going to be torn down and rebuilt in a nationalized or internationalized shell of its former self. Forget the amount of damage that has been done in dollar terms during this decline (easier said then done for some including myself); the real damage is that the image of America's version of market based economies may have been tarnished beyond repair. I hope this is an overly pessimistic view of where we are headed. I have a six month old that I would like to see prosper as she grows; I just can't help but wonder what damage will be wrought by the powers that be with the backing of an angry mob.

I found the below passage from The Road to Serfdom particularly relevant to the $700 billion package handed to Paulson and the Treasury Dept:

What is promised to us as the Road to Freedom is in fact the Highroad to Servitude. For it is not difficult to see what must be the consequences when democracy embarks upon a course of planning. The goal of the planning will be described by some such vague term as "the general welfare." There will be no real agreement as to the ends to be attained, and the effect of the people's agreeing that there must be central planning, without agreeing on the ends, will be rather as if a group of people were to commit themselves to take a journey together without agreeing where they want to go: with the result that they may all have to make a journey which most of them do not want at all.

Democratic assemblies cannot function as planning agencies. They cannot produce agreement on everything — the whole direction of the resources of the nation-for the number of possible courses of action will be legion. Even if a congress could, by proceeding step by step and compromising at each point, agree on some scheme, it would certainly in the end satisfy nobody.

To draw up an economic plan in this fashion is even less possible than, for instance, successfully to plan a military campaign by democratic procedure. As in strategy it would become inevitable to delegate the task to experts. And even if, by this expedient, a democracy should succeed in planning every sector of economic activity, it would still have to face the problem of integrating these separate plans into a unitary whole. There will be a stronger and stronger demand that some board or some single individual should be given power to act on their own responsibility. The cry for an economic dictator is a characteristic stage in the movement toward planning. Thus the legislative body will be reduced to choosing the persons who are to have practically absolute power. The whole system will tend toward that kind of dictatorship in which the head of the government is position by popular vote, but where he has all the powers at his command to make certain that the vote will go in the direction he desires. Planning leads to dictatorship because dictatorship is the most effective instrument of coercion and, as such, essential if central planning on a large scale is to be possible. There is no justification for the widespread belief that, so long as power is conferred by democratic procedure, it cannot be arbitrary; it is not the source of power which prevents it from being arbitrary; to be free from dictatorial qualities, the power must also be limited. A true "dictatorship of the proletariat," even if democratic in form, if it undertook centrally to direct the economic system, would probably destroy personal freedom as completely as any autocracy has ever done.

Source: Illustrated Road to Serfdom.

Bill Rafter adds:

"I see the Fed, the Treasury, the SEC, long ranks of the new oppressors who have risen on the destruction of the old, perishing by this retributive instrument, before it shall cease out of its present use. I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out."

My apologies to Charles Dickens (Tale of Two Cities, last chapter, spoken by Sidney Carton)





Speak your mind


Resources & Links