The devastating crisis in world financial markets today is very much the result of America’s advocacy for “free market” thinking. Apparently the belief was that left to itself the free market would make the few filthy rich, sustain the middle class in their position, and help lift the poor by at least giving them hope for upward mobility. To achieve this so the theory seems to have been the governments of the world must keep their hands off the market and no kinds of restraint and no regulations must be imposed upon the market.
The end of course is the current effort to bailout the free fall Wall Street has caused around the world. What seems to be missing in this is any discussion of ethics. What is the morality of profit? Where is the discussion of the ethics of global free market thinking? The only ethics seems to be that profit is always the highest good and can therefore never be doubted let alone questioned. There seems to be no ethics involved, at least according to the politicians who advocate the free market, regarding how much wealth the few CEOs carry away even when everyone else experiences financial failure and crisis. Third World development will come to the grinding halt of poverty, and millions will suffer not because of the bad decisions they made, but because a few Wall Street executives were not guided by any morality except greed. To steal a phrase: if it weren’t for bad morality, they’d have no morality at all.
Millions will suffer because of the greedy decisions of the few; no matter what happens these few will walk away with millions. And no one will hold them or their cheerleading investors accountable. It is the free market after all, and accountability would put regulation on it – put on cost on those who profit most from the free market. And that, in this theory, is unthinkable, as are the consequences of said greed.
And why do political parties, especially those which love to make character and ethics a major issue, never want to address the ethics of the economy? Why is it that when it comes to money – to greed aka “profits” – Americans do not want to hear about morality?
Are we to believe that there is no correction to the free market system and that we must simply all enjoy prosperity when it comes and then bail out the wealthy when they fail the rest of us? Are we to believe that regulation is always bad, and bailout is the only response to failure? Between unregulated and totally regulated, there sure seems to be plenty of gradations to be used.
And strangest of all, how is the American government going to pay for this huge bail out? By borrowing more money. By vastly increasing the national debt we will bail out Wall Street – we will pay for the billions they supposedly were creating for the country’s wealth but were not in reality. Especially we will be paying for the incredibly greedy salaries of CEOs and those who caused the debacle in the first place. We will borrow hundreds of millions of dollars so that a few can continue to get wealthier, and we will ask nothing of them. I suppose one could say that the US government indeed is Christian – they are going to give expecting nothing in return.
Maybe the “free” in the Free Market is going to be the hundreds of millions the US government will have to give to keep the system afloat. Fortunately, all they have to do is print more – nobody has to pay for that, right? If ethics don’t apply, you can do anything you want in economics, can’t you? The free market won’t cost anybody anything, it is all about profit. What could go wrong when profit is your guiding virtue?
Besides, its an election year, they won’t let anything really bad happen. Or are there forces we really don’t control? Perhaps the free in “free market” has really become “free” of our control – we attained what we had never imagined!
See also my The Profit of War, “In God we Trust”: Especially When Money is our God, If Greed is Profit, the Cause of Problems Disappears.