A letter concerning economic reality

As a response to this bloomberg.com article, which declares and celebrates the end of laissez-faire economic influence, I shared with my mother (who forwarded the article to me) thoughts so relevant to the economic discussion in America today, they are worth repeating here:

This article, besides unpardonably confounding economic liberty with imperial oppression and brutal dictatorhip, grossly neglects theoretical argument, so the ignorant reader is to accept its conclusion without understanding it.  This negligence of thought is a necessary means to an unreasoned end.  So far from being worthy of publication, this article would be expensive at any price, and is not worth the time spent reading it.  By equivocating much, it says nothing.

The idea that Barack Obama will “referee the laissez-faire versus free-market debate” is laughable; as referee in that non-existent contest (laissez-faire and free-market are inseparable allies), Obama would probably sabotage both competitors and declare an interventionist victory.

I will present a few points ignored by this article that, if attended to, would render a very different image.

First, it has been over a century since we have had a free market for goods and services and private control of production and consumption.  Therefore we have not had capitalism, and it is irrational to blame economic woes on a system that does not exist; it is as reasonable to blame Martians.

Secondly, and most importantly, government fostered the economic crisis.  Behold artificially low interest rates during the tech bust of 2001-02.  The only way to keep rates so low is by printing money out of thin air.  This government-created free money combined with implicit government guarantees of new loans via Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac generated a housing bubble and subsequent financial bubble large enough to threaten the existence of the global financial system.  Because that system is naturally undeserving of its legitimacy, its collapse may be a good thing, but only if governments practice humility in the aftermath.  Governments should understand that the maximization of individual freedom is their purpose, both politically and economically.  Governments should come to know that the evils of paper money cannot be overstated.  Governments should not allow interested monopolies to control monetary bases.  Governments should focus on destroying monopolies, not turning them into unavoidable institutions.  Inexplicably, we must now rest our hopes of economic salvation upon the imminent Representative Barney Frank and Senator Christopher Dodd, both of whom promoted bad loan practices and free money policies for years, and neither of whom saw the economic crisis coming.  This is a sure case of the inmates running the asylum.

On this point, note that at least one House Representative did accurately predict the events that led to the financial bust.  In a speech to the House in 2001, he said “despite the long-term damage to the economy inflicted by the government’s interference in the housing market, the government’s policies of diverting capital to other uses creates a short-term boom in housing. Like all artificially-created bubbles, the boom in housing prices cannot last forever. When housing prices fall, homeowners will experience difficulty as their equity is wiped out. Furthermore, the holders of the mortgage debt will also have a loss. These losses will be greater than they would have otherwise been had government policy not actively encouraged over-investment in housing.” That Representative was ignored by almost everyone, and probably laughed at by the interventionist economists that this article aggrandizes.  That Congressman was Dr. Ron Paul, who continues to be widely ignored by popular economists, his colleagues, and our media.

Thirdly, most true free-market economists follow the “Austrian” theories of Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, and Friedrich A. von Hayek.  Free marketeers typically place more value on each of these three than Milton Friedman because their work was much more thorough, more laissez-faire, and more conclusive.  Few if any contemporary proponents of laissez-faire economics hail from the University of Chicago.

Economic science and history inform us that there will eventually be a final and all-destructive economic downturn: the fiat currency bust, which in the United States will be the destruction of the dollar.  The nature of this destruction will likely be hyperinflationary, like Germany’s post-WWI Mark or the ancient Roman denari (severe dilution of silver content in coins was the ancient “paper” money, and is still practiced).  I hope this will be followed by a return to sound asset-backed currencies and the elimination of fraudulent banking institutions, whose theft brings so much hardship to the unaware, unoffending, humble human.