Efforts to Regulate ‘Wild West’ Markets are Long Overdue

A Christian Science Monitor article Efforts to regulate ‘Wild West’ markets are long overdue contains a number of misstatements.

For one thing, characterization of the American West as “wild” in the sense that mayhem prevailed, and that life and property were not safe, is not correct. An article in the Journal of Libertarian Studies titled An American Experiment in Anarcho-Capitalism: The Not So Wild, Wild West tell us this:

The West during this time often is perceived as a place of great chaos, with little respect for property or life. Our research indicates that this was not the case; property rights were protected and civil order prevailed. Private agencies provided the necessary basis for an orderly society in which property was protected and conflicts were resolved. These agencies often did not qualify as governments because they did not have a legal monopoly on “keeping order.” They soon discovered that “warfare” was a costly way of resolving disputes and lower cost methods of settlement (arbitration, courts, etc.) resulted. In summary, this paper argues that a characterization of the American West as chaotic would appear to be incorrect.

The article quotes E.J. Dionne as saying “A well-functioning capitalist system relies on clear rules.” Very true, but there are two rules that anyone can understand that are in danger of being overturned. First, if you borrow money, make sure you understand the terms of the loan and are prepared to repay the loan as required. Second, if an institution such as a pension fund buys repackaged securities (like subprime loans) without understanding the risks, they shouldn’t expect others to make good their losses. These two clear principles or rules are in danger of being overturned.

If they are overturned, then we might ask Mr. Dionne just what rules can be trusted to be clear?

This article also states: “The oddity of today is that a Republican administration is pushing an expansion of government regulation.” If the author of this article did a little research, he would learn that regulation has increased rapidly in recent years. According to the Heritage Foundation” “Despite the claims of critics — and some supporters — of the Bush Administration, net regulatory burdens have increased in the years since George W. Bush assumed the presidency. Since 2001, the federal government has imposed almost $30 billion in new regulatory costs on Americans. About $11 billion was imposed in fiscal year (FY) 2007 alone.”

If we look at the root causes of this crises, we would understand that excessive government control in the form of the Federal Reserve is largely responsible for this crisis, such that it is. Now government calls for even more power to solve the problem that it created. These extra powers, pitched to the public as necessary to deal with some current emergency, rarely disappear after the emergency has passed. Instead, they live on as a permanent part of expanded government.

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