Column on Myths Are Born This Way

Myths Are Born This Way

Tibor R. Machan

Education is filled with more or less accurate accounts of what is what,
including human (American) history. Various champions of systems of ideas
eagerly work to capture for themselves the stories that bolster their
doctrines. This is one reason so many prominent statists are relentlessly
spreading the lie that our current economic fiasco is the result of market
forces—of the free market, capitalism, free enterprise, the unregulated
market place, and so forth.

If they are successful in spreading this rank distortion, they secure for
themselves and their ideological brethren a greater chance of ascension to
political power, which is what statist desire most.

Defenders of the free society haven’t any political power at stake in the
debate about how the fiasco was produced because in no case are they going
to gain, for among other matters they do not want, political power. What
such folks are after is the truth and the reason is that with the truth
comes, in this instance, a more prosperous and more just political
economy.

Yes, defenders of the market are also quite self-interested in this matter
for they know that everyone’s lot has a better chance of improving when
freedom reigns in a society. No, there is no guarantee that freedom will
make us all happy and successful in life. That utopian dream is only
peddled among the dishonest promoters of statism since with the state’s
rise to economic power we are all supposed to do well. All one needs to
verify this is to listen to the likes of Barack Obama, Paul Krugman,
Robert Kutner, et al. They are all advocates of greater government power
over the economy for the purpose of solving our economic problems,
problems that stand in the way of the country’s flourishing. With
sufficiently huge stimuli plucked out of thin air and dumped into the
American, indeed, world economy at various points, everyone will be happy
and, especially, equal justice will be served big time.

Free market advocates cannot make this promise because they know that none
has the power to deliver such a result to millions and millions of human
beings in a highly complex and uncertain economic environment. Sure, free
market advocates do argue that free men and women are more prone to
prosper since they are, naturally, free to turn their careful attention to
their economic prospects. But that has never been a guarantee of triumph
over unforeseen obstacles; it is merely the best chance of overcoming them.

So what is one to make of a letter such as this one in the International
Herald Tribune (3/14-15/09): “David Brooks gives Republicans sensible
advice. But for all of Brooks’s honesty, we could wait forever and neither
he nor the Republicans will own up to how they overestimated the power of
market forces”? We can tell that it is a clear illustration of the attempt
to distort history. After all, there have been hardly any genuine, bona
fide market forces at work in the American economy for decades now, not
since the federal government basically seized the reigns of American
finance back when the Federal Reserve Bank was established, since the
dollar was destroyed as a sound currency, and since all those alphabet
soup federal agencies began to intervene with the decisions of market
agents in every nook and cranny of the economy. Ours, as well as those of
all Western societies’ economic systems are mixed ones, plain and simple,
with huge doses of socialism and fascism operating within corrupted
markets.

So however well or badly “the power of market forces” would do, such
forces haven’t been in evidence for honest students of economics to study
and track. Instead economic history has been a history of substantially
and predominantly statist forces, as they have been throughout human
history with but bits and pieces of exceptions in small regions of the
world. Sure, prospective market agents will naturally try to turn all of
it to their advantage—that’s their job just as most of us attempt to do
well in our commercial endeavors—mostly, however, in the messy arena of
markets-cum-politics. Yes, the exceptions have most likely produced
economic wonders that are denied only by statists who just cannot credit
economic freedom for anything good anywhere—such freedom leaves them with
nothing much to do! But because of the massive doses of state intervention
at every turn, no clear record of how the market is doing can be gleaned
from taking some time slice such as the recent fiasco and reporting on it.

There haven’t been clean, undisturbed market forces at work for us to tell
just from the record of events what their impact has been on our lives.
For that it is necessary to do some very honest and detailed theoretical
and historical research. Instead, of course, the statists just keep
asserting that the free market is responsible for every economic problem
we have which, if believed by enough, will help them gain and keep
political power. What free market are they talking about?

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