Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Mises Manuever

These are only cursory reactions to a quick first reading of George Reisman's "The Myth that Laissez Faire Is Responsible for Our Present Crisis," at Mises.org.

In response to a request I recently made for a defense of free markets, someone generously provided this link. What I should have said was that I wanted to see who was defending business as usual, not necessarily free markets. The distinction is so obvious that it scarcely needs to be explained. What was educational to me about the incorrect language of my request is that publications like the Mises Daily and others exploit that conflation in an effort to equate regulation with socialism. This puts us in an awkward situation: the free marketers hate regulation, while socialists believe it ultimately fails and tends to make things worse because of the way it papers over fundamental structural inequalities.

If, as it seems, the entire premise of the article is to refute idiots like Nicolas Sarkozy and me who unthinkingly say this is a crisis of "Laissez Faire," then Reisman could have saved himself, and us, valuable time by simply pointing out the obvious. He would, and does, say the obvious is an otherwise sound market system corrupted by governmental intervention. We would say that such intervention, such "gaming" and horrendously bad social decisionmaking, either distorting or externalizing social costs and harms, is inevitable. That essential difference makes much of this particular article irrelevant. For while we agree that government intervention fails and makes things worse, Reisman's insistence on conflating socialism with liberalism merely indicates he is not ready to discuss any of this in good faith (the alternative, that he is unaware of the whole distorting conflation, would sacrifice his intellect to save his ethics). The critique of Keynesianism (specifically of the belief that consumer spending is key) is observant, but ignores the even sharper critique of Keynesianism from the socialists. In fact, the entire enterprise of criticizing government intervention and then attributing the philosophy of such intervention to the larger philosophy of socialism is just so clumsy and predictable. Not only has the "blame the Community Reinvestment Act" been exposed as a popular conservative lie; whatever truth can be attributed to the charge that left liberalism and government intervention fails is, at least, incidental to the sources of structural inequality and, at most, a further indictment of the entire enterprise of regulated capitalism. Same goes for the indictment of the Federal Reserve Board.

The article further: 1. Assumes, does not prove, that "government intervention" is always worse than the worst possibilities under a world with no government intervention; 2. Asserts (quite ignorantly) that Marx (and his seeming plethora of followers in media and education) believes "government" to be "rational" ; 3. Devotes several paragraphs to 1 and 2, often repetitively, never containing internal links or warrants; 4. Then conveniently asserts laissez-faire capitalism "does not exist in today's world"--in rejoinder to an argument that's never been made. Where does one begin with such work? Configurally, in ways untraceable to linear logic, I find Misesians to be like those who frequent medieval simulations, who can spout Tolkein from memory.

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