Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Interference or guidance?

That's what many free-market radicals — like the ones you see all over the Fox (Might Contain Actual) News Channel — are asking themselves today.

After Bear Stearns (and its new parent, J.P. Morgan) got bailed out by a government agency for the "greater good" of the economy, it should be evident to all that our economic engine is not a true free market. Nor should it be.

Part of the problems we face now is certainly attributable to the laissez-faire attitude with which recent presidential administrations have taken in regards to regulation. Stuck to the attitude that government is bad in all manifestations, they have loosened restrictions on everything from market transactions to environmental protection to food safety. So it should be no surprise that financial markets now are reaping the whirlwind of terrible loans packaged so that not even guru investors (you know, the CEOs making seven- or eight-figure incomes) really knew what they were getting into.

You're not crazy if you hear echoes of the loose and free credit market that led to the 1929 stock market crash.

Our recent financial marketplace was a total crapshoot, and now that the big boys have rolled snake eyes, the government's finally stepping in. And that's a good thing. We don't want a market collapse, even if it means bailing out the scoundrels who got us into the mess in the first place.

But let it be a lesson that government oversight is not an evil to be avoided. When judiciously and wisely used, it can actially save us much grief. Not to mention money.

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