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Case Closed

September 23rd, 2008

I’ll admit that the world of stock markets, investment banks and the like has never made a lick of sense to me. I struggled fitfully through the couple of finance classes I was obliged to take for my Bachelor’s degree. So, in one sense it’s heartening to know that a whole lot of allegedly smart people don’t get it either.

I do not pretend to understand the current crisis well enough to offer an informed opinion about the proposed bailout plan. I don’t know whether it’s terrible but necessary, or just plain terrible.

However, I do feel confident in saying that the events of the last week appear to put the lie to the central tenets of conservatism: government is bad; regulation is bad; an unfettered free market produces the optimal result.

Look, I’m not one of those who believes that big business is inevitably out to rape the little guy. Large corporations can produce great opportunities and amazing things. I don’t even have a grudge against Wal-Mart.

But many existing (and no-longer-existing) regulations were put there for a reason. And I’ve yet to see anyone–Democrat, Republican or other–out there making the case that this financial meltdown would’ve been averted if only we’d had a little less regulation.

I find it ironic that the suggested solutions to this mess involve heaping helpings of big government. Some require more intervention than others, but none that I’ve heard involve the unfettered free market using its invisible hand to stoke the fires of industry. Or some similar horseshit.

I’ve long felt that government–however flawed, foolish, bureaucratic, wasteful or corrupt–remains the only means of getting certain things done. Meat inspection? Public libraries? Traffic lights? The invisible hand won’t make those happen. You need an organization that has the authority, the tax dollars and the mandate to work in the public interest. On a good day, it’s a flawed ideal, but on a bad day, it just may be all you’ve got.

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