Tibor R. Machan
Anytime I run across some piece of writing that contains the
assertions that the world, especially the United States, has been in the
grips of market fundamentalism or the doctrine of laissez-faire
capitalism, I tend to drop everything and pen a firm response. It’s a
lie, nothing less. Take the case of Ryan Blitstein who has written, in
the course of a review of a book in the Miller-McCune.com magazine, that
"America now faces the blowback from 40 years of political dominance by
right-wing market utopians, who championed extreme industry deregulation
only to increase government’s size and power." Mr. Blitstein blames this
on the late Professor Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize winning economist
who did, indeed, champion the free market capitalist economic system.
But Friedman was anything but very influential in his efforts.
Indeed, over the years that he has argued for freedom as against
government planning and direction of the economy–through the various ways
that is done and advocated by believers of the wisdom and virtue of
government officials–the various political groups that have governed have
been less and less committed to free market capitalism. And Blitstein
acknowledges this but then still insists that what is at fault is the free
market. Never mind that he himself admits that no such things has existed
since the New Deal at least, if not since the establishment of the Federal
Reserve system around the turn of the century.
Blitstein keeps talking about hypocrisy but the only hypocrisy that he
can identify occurred among politicians and champions of greater and
greater scope for government involvement in the market place. Friedman and
other supporters of the free market, such as Ludwig von Mises, F. A.
Hayek, James Buchanan, and even Alan Greenspan–who has always supported
the free market but was willing to try to work with the politically more
palatable mixed economy–never endorsed big government, certainly not a
government with the humongous scope of authority that most politicians
champion. All the free market advocates I have run across over my 45
years of interest in political economy have been severely critical of the
provisions of the welfare state and the impossible mixture of capitalism
and socialism. They have repeatedly warned about what will happen in time
if this kind of public policy is continued.
Of course, there are ways to postpone the inevitable, mostly by
printing money and placing the burden of the nation’s debt on yet unborn
future generations (who are not here to protest and to vote their
interest). But in time one simply cannot get blood out of a turnip, nor
even fake to be able to do so. Politicians, of course, keep promising
that they will do just that because that is how they gain office, by
fooling their constituents into thinking that they are magicians. With
more and more government involvement which produces worse and worse public
policies and economic consequences, the politicians and their cheerleaders
simply postpone the fiasco that we are now experiencing. But, sadly, most
voters keep thinking, these politicians can perform miracles just by
wishing to do so.
One group in society that hasn’t faced up to its systematic
malpractice is the liars who keep blaming the mess on human liberty–if
you do not treat people like children are treated by their nannies, they
will cause havoc. Well, some will, and there will be some havoc. But if
you leave it all for government to fix, the havoc will be of fare greater
scope than anything that market failures, so called, tend to create.
Markets are, in fact, self-correcting pretty soon after the mistakes made
in them come to light. Enron is a good example of this. But when the
market is undermined and politicians pretend to be able to square the
circle, then all hell breaks loose.
People like Bryan Blitstein are the ones who are mostly responsible
for Americans failure to learn economic realities. But they will not fess
up to this, not unless they are repeatedly called on their intellectual