“This is some rescue. When you came in here didn’t you have a plan for getting out?”
– Princess Leia, Star Wars (1978)
And what a rescue it is. What started as a three-page plan to buy troubled assets has grown to a 451 page mess that includes everything from Indian Employment Credits to adding a Seven-Year Cost Recovery Period for Motorsports Racing Track Facility. I guess in the future we know how to get recalcitrant Republican Congressman to reverse course- include more pork. We should all remember for future reference that the government rides to our rescue by way of hurriedly passing a bill no one had a chance to read that includes more spending of money they don’t have.
I’m not sure if this was the kind of rescue that the American people were counting on, but given how they were reacting to this plan (about 90 to 1 against judging from people calling in), it was probably the one that they were expecting. And the thing that no one seems to want to being up is that the government caused this problem to begin with. If not for the government created entities of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, we would not have had so extreme a credit explosion in the housing market. If not for the government created entity of the Federal Reserve and it’s nasty habit of keeping interest rates low and solving every problem by throwing more fiat paper at it we would not have had this orgy of credit and speculation to begin with.
Each of these entities was created by the government to rescue the free market:
– the Federal Reserve was created by the government in response to the Panic of 1907 and the desire to have a “lender of last resort” with an “elastic currency” that could bailout any troubled bank.
– Fannie Mae was created by the Roosevelt Administration in an effort to provide credit to the housing market to stimulate the economy. Except that now that had created a government sponsored monopoly of sorts. So in order to fix the situation, they created yet another entity, Freddie Mac, in 1970.
And here we are, now having to create more programs in order to save our would-be rescuers. Can there be any doubt of the wisdom of Ludwig von Mises in his Critique of Interventionism where he argues that all government interference in the operations of the free market will merely lead to bigger problems later, which the government must then solve with even more interference. According to Mises, all attempts at intervention lead to the same place, Socialism. And here we are. Watching the Republicans, the champions of the “free market”, back the biggest interventionist step ever proposed.
Life is full of ironies, but not greater than the ironies of the public sphere. Some hypocrisies are to be expected. After all, this is politics. But I’m sure that the Japanese, who were advised by the Americans to just let the chips fall where they may when their crisis hit, are noticing that we don’t take out own advice very well. But for me it goes beyond irony and hypocrisy that the Republicans continually berate the Democrat’s for being Socialist as they aggressively expand the size and scope of the federal government. To me it proves that the American people have lost the political will to force their politicians to own up to their promises. Thus we are left with people’s perceptions of their government and its actions determined not by the actions themselves but rather what the politicians tell the people their actions mean. According to the Republicans, bailing out a failure caused by three government created entities is merely what must be done to save the “free market” from itself.
I started this piece with a quote from Star Wars. As a science fiction person I would like to close it with a quote from another piece of SciFi, George Orwell’s 1984. Orwell, like Mises, foresaw the government’s continual encroachment into our lives, just as he foresaw that the government would shape people’s perceptions by telling them that something was it’s opposite. And so I want you to keep in mind our “free market” Republicans, their “War on Terror”, and their often trumpeted habit of being fiscally responsible when you hear that:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH