For those of you who don’t know, I listen to some pretty salty radio. Specifically, I listen to both Howard Stern and Bubba the Love Sponge on Sirius Satellite radio and, while I can’t specifically recommend shock radio for everyone, I can say that both shows have, in addition to a lot of material many would find objectionable, a healthy amount of intelligent dialogue. Both shock jocks have gotten increasingly more political over the last handful of years as both were targeted by George Bush’s FCC chairman Michael Powell with the largest fines in radio history. Having both found their home on sensor free satellite radio, they now both routinely comment on the absurdity of the “War on Terror” as well as favoring Barrack Obama in the Presidential race.
Having been so financially touched by the latest administration, politics has become personal issue for them. I find the politics of the Bubba show particularly interesting as he is not a traditional Democrat but rather someone like myself who has developed a Democratic sympathy out of utter dislike for the policies of the Republican party. Yesterday on the Bubba show, the topic of the housing crisis came up. Specifically they were discussing John McCain’s recent proposal that the government simply buy up all of the troubled mortgage’s and have the government renegotiate better terms with the home owners so as to keep everyone in their homes. Brent, the producer, pointed out that he had reread Ron Paul’s A Foreign Policy of Freedom and that the book had predicted both the housing crisis as well as the government’s bailout of it. Bubba then went on to say words to the effect that:
If they want to stabilize housing prices here’s what they need to do. Stop all this bailout <stuff> and just lower the price. Eventually, the price will get lower to those of us that have some spare change will go out and buy the house as an investment property and fix it up. Crisis solved.
This reinforced in my mind the utter simplicity of classical economic theory because Bubba, who did not even go to college, was doing a wonderful job as describing the effects of Say’s Law. Jean-Baptist Say (1767-1832) was a French economist who attacked the Mercantilist notion that recessions were caused by a shortage of money. Instead, Say argues that money is merely a medium of exchange and one can not actually buy anything without first supplying something else (i.e. a worker must first supply his labor in order to get its money’s worth to then buy goods) that it is not money that is in short supply but other goods. According to Say, a generalized over-production was simply not possible, while a specific overproduction of one given good certainly was. Thus Say’s solution was to allow the markets of goods and services to find their own clearing price and that that would quickly bring an economy back to stability and further help orient the markets production of goods and services towards what the society actually valued.
Say’s law was attacked by Keynes who theorized that a generalized over-production was not only possible, but that it would tend to be persistent unless the government took action. It is Keynesian theory that lies behind John McCain’s plan, but Keynesians will quickly admit that if Say’s law is correct, that all of Keynes’s theories will fall apart. William Hutt’s A Rehabilitation of Say’s Law points out the how Keynes seemingly intentionally misstated Say’s Law in order that he might then attack it and how Keynes’s misstatement still seems to be accepted by most modern economists as the law itself when it, in fact, is not.
Say’s law is obvious. So much so that it was unintentionally state by Bubba when describing the John McCain’s housing plan. To allow the economy to quickly realign itself with the actual wants and needs of society, we need to allow the value of housing, bank stocks, and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) to find their own price rather than have the government move in to buy these products. Do not believe the argument that the “credit markets are frozen” and that no one will buy CDOs at any price. That is simple nonsense. I guarantee that if CDOs are allowed to fall enough in price, eventually they will find a market clearly price and the market will unfreeze itself. The problem is that this market clearing price is probably far below where the banks have it marked on their balance sheets. So you see, the problem is a political one, not a defect of the market itself.
All in all, I think we would do well to follow the simple logic of Bubba and his crew. Allow the market to find it’s own market clearing price, and let the chips fall where they may.