A while ago I was bothered by the troubling realization that, fairly regularly, I was finding myself supporting government intervention, especially with regard to financial regulation. Not out loud, usually, but I’d read someone’s facebook status, or some similar such thing, and think to myself something akin to, “That’s retarded. More regulation is obviously better.” Which would be closely followed by, “That’s weird. I’m usually the libertarian nut job that people hate for being so callous and cooky.”
I don’t consider myself in any way qualified to speak authoritatively on the current economic situation, or the recent collapse, because I don’t know enough and I think it is probably way more complicated than general news coverage would lead one to believe, but I have listened when it has been discussed on the programs I subscribe to so I have developed some opinions. Yeah… how do you like that sentence?
What I’ve come to believe is that my opinions are pretty much unchanged, but the arguments on the subject have shifted a lot. I’m still largely libertarian. In general the government tries to expand it’s power and in general that expansion is bad for citizens and ill conceived. Concurrently, I think in general a free market leads to efficiency and effectiveness. So why do I think we need some regulation if I’m pro free market?
A free market does not only mean an unregulated market. How free would our society be if we had no rules or means of enforcement? It would revert to the strongest beating up the weakest and rights and liberties would be meaningless. The same can happen with markets, and it did. What we had leading up to the market collapse, and still have, is so unregulated as to closer to anarchy than free. We need some effective rules, and some effective police in the system, in order to make the markets free… or more free anyway.
The arguments related to the economy have been twisted by politics to a ridiculous extent. The Republicans, now committed to the “oppose Obama in everything no matter what” tactic, have managed to convince people that any new regulation Obama suggests is socialism. This is a simple redefinition of a word and has no relation to reality.
The Democrats, in order to counteract the political maneuvering of the Republicans, have taken to picking on a few cases, like Goldman Sachs, and just bashing on them to garner support. This may be effective, but it also somewhat dangerous. For one, if you hang your whole argument on a single case, then if that case goes against you somehow, you can lose the argument, even if the underlying principles of your case are sound. Basically they leave themselves open to a hasty generalization, which though a fallacy, is non-the-less likely to be an effective argument in the political sphere.
A second potential problem with the Democrat’s tact is they may get distracted, pay too much attention to their chosen tree and forget the forest. Any legislation they pass without considering the forest will be ineffectual, and possibly destructive, so they can’t allow the political debate to focus solely on Goldman Sachs.
In conclusion, I think that I have stayed in place while the political landscape shifted around me, and many of my “peers” and “compatriots” moved along with the landscape, influenced as they are by FOX News and their parents. 😛 Lawlessness does not lead to freedom, in the markets or in reality, so some regulation is a necessary function of a good government. And I can say that, cause I’m a libertarian leaning individual, not an anarchist.