Maybe the Economy Should Wait

Human Events | Dennis Byrne | Sep. 24, 2008

Never has the United States had to make such a momentous decision so quickly, except on more memorable dates such as December 7, 1941 or September 11, 2001. Is this really that urgent?

Our betters tell us that the “financial meltdown” leaves us only two choices: Either put this nation in hock in unspeakable amounts to who-knows-whom for how long. Or bring on another Depression. And we must pick our poison right now — no looking for reasonable alternatives. All the key players agree that we’ve got no time to spare; all us bit players can’t fully understand why.

If it were up to me, and, thankfully, it’s not, I’d rather ride out the storm instead of selling myself and my country to the lowest bidder. I’d rather count on the reliability of economic cycles (minimally managed) to bring us out the other side of the storm than to turn an entire free market economy — or at least a good chunk of it — over to the management of one person, the American government in general, or to the government of whatever country or countries decide to bail us out. (Somehow, France is nowhere to be found. They’re always there when they need us.)

How appropriate is the term “bail out” as applied to the present crisis. A bailout doesn’t look beyond the immediate concern of keeping the boat we’re all riding in afloat. Bailing out the boat might save it and its occupants — providing we can bail faster than the water that’s rushing in — for the time being, but it doesn’t necessarily repair the leak, make the boat ship-shape to resume its intended course or guarantee its passage to its next port.

We have to realize that we are on the brink of a fundamental change in our economy and system of governance, and we’re going into it with our eyes closed. Not just us, but the entire world. What our government does in this global economy will be felt way beyond our borders, with the significance for global free markets uncertain at best. If it’s fair to consider the consequences of “doing nothing,” it should also be fair, if not necessary, to consider the longer-term consequences of “doing something,” especially when that something amounts to economic jury-rigging. Truth is, we’re being jammed up by panicky Wall Street traders and other assorted practitioners of financial voodoo, as well as politicians who are running like crazy from any implication that they’re letting all those poor sub-prime borrowers descend into financial hell.

Perhaps the wisest thing I’ve heard anyone say about this mess came from my son-in-law, George: “A character from a movie once said liberty dies with thunderous applause. The government has acted (and will continue to act) as a public insurer of risk. It will grow even worse as the stakes in this economic game of chicken grow further. The government will most likely have no choice but to further destroy the U.S. dollar. Absurdly, at least 50 percent of America will welcome it. An unenlightened electorate was Thomas Jefferson’s fear. It was probably the primary reason the founding fathers established us as a democratic republic rather than, contrary to current popular belief, a pure democracy.”

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