Washington Post says that capitalism is not dead

Well, if WaPo says that capitalism isn't dead, it must be true, right?

Actually, this editorial gets it right - mostly:

IS THIS the end of American capitalism? As financial panic spread across the globe and governments scrambled to contain the damage, reality seemed to announce the doom of U.S.-style free markets and President Bush's ideology. But this is wrong in two ways. The deregulation of U.S. financial markets did not reflect only the narrow ideology of a particular party or administration. And the problem with the U.S. economy, more than lack of regulation, has been government's failure to control systemic risks that government itself helped to create. We are not witnessing a crisis of the free market but a crisis of distorted markets.

It's true that the Bush administration has stood for light regulation of capital markets. But it did not invent this approach. By the middle of the last decade, experts across the spectrum believed that U.S. financial institutions faced outmoded restraints on their ability to innovate. Thus, the Clinton administration, supported by then-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, refused to tighten regulations on financial derivatives, memorably dubbed "financial weapons of mass destruction" by Warren Buffett. The 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, a Depression-era law separating commercial banking and investment banking, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

We'll never know how this newly liberated financial sector might have performed on a playing field designed by Adam Smith. That's because government interventions of all kinds, from the defense budget to farm supports, shaped the business environment. No subsidy would prove more fateful than the massive federal commitment to residential real estate -- from the mortgage interest tax deduction to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the Federal Reserve's low interest rates under Mr. Greenspan. Unregulated derivatives known as credit-default swaps did accentuate the boom in mortgage-based investments, by allowing investors to transfer risk rather than setting aside cash reserves. But government helped make mortgages a purportedly sure thing in the first place. Home prices seemed to stand on a solid floor built by Washington.

Government has its fingers in so many sectors of the economy (just look at health care to see how government has skewed that market) that changes in government policy can cost industries billions of dollars. That's a lot of power for any government in a free society to have and it is one of the reasons that lobbyists have proliferated over the last couple of decades. Relief from the hand of government is a huge business in and of itself. And there is no sign that the lobbying industry will be shrinking in an Obama administration.









Well, if WaPo says that capitalism isn't dead, it must be true, right?

Actually, this editorial gets it right - mostly:

IS THIS the end of American capitalism? As financial panic spread across the globe and governments scrambled to contain the damage, reality seemed to announce the doom of U.S.-style free markets and President Bush's ideology. But this is wrong in two ways. The deregulation of U.S. financial markets did not reflect only the narrow ideology of a particular party or administration. And the problem with the U.S. economy, more than lack of regulation, has been government's failure to control systemic risks that government itself helped to create. We are not witnessing a crisis of the free market but a crisis of distorted markets.

It's true that the Bush administration has stood for light regulation of capital markets. But it did not invent this approach. By the middle of the last decade, experts across the spectrum believed that U.S. financial institutions faced outmoded restraints on their ability to innovate. Thus, the Clinton administration, supported by then-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, refused to tighten regulations on financial derivatives, memorably dubbed "financial weapons of mass destruction" by Warren Buffett. The 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, a Depression-era law separating commercial banking and investment banking, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

We'll never know how this newly liberated financial sector might have performed on a playing field designed by Adam Smith. That's because government interventions of all kinds, from the defense budget to farm supports, shaped the business environment. No subsidy would prove more fateful than the massive federal commitment to residential real estate -- from the mortgage interest tax deduction to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the Federal Reserve's low interest rates under Mr. Greenspan. Unregulated derivatives known as credit-default swaps did accentuate the boom in mortgage-based investments, by allowing investors to transfer risk rather than setting aside cash reserves. But government helped make mortgages a purportedly sure thing in the first place. Home prices seemed to stand on a solid floor built by Washington.

Government has its fingers in so many sectors of the economy (just look at health care to see how government has skewed that market) that changes in government policy can cost industries billions of dollars. That's a lot of power for any government in a free society to have and it is one of the reasons that lobbyists have proliferated over the last couple of decades. Relief from the hand of government is a huge business in and of itself. And there is no sign that the lobbying industry will be shrinking in an Obama administration.