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Liberals' Wall Street pirouette

By Thomas E. Brewton
web posted March 24, 2008

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. blames capitalism for the Wall Street meltdown that led to the collapse of Bear Stearns and its acquisition by J. P. Morgan Chase with financial support by the Federal Reserve.  Needless to say, Mr. Dionne uses his analysis to praise collectivist government intervention in the style of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal alphabet agencies.

He writes:

I don't fault Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, for being so interventionist in trying to save the economy. On the contrary, Bernanke deserves credit for ignoring all the extreme free-market bloviation.

Undeniably, there was gross imprudence in the fantastic degree of leveraging by investment banks to underwrite structured investment vehicles and, in Bear Stearns's case, to carry the riskiest tranches thereof for a seasoning period before dumping them into the secondary market.

In the same fashion, there was gross imprudence among the baseball players who used steroids, but that is no reason to condemn the game of baseball.

The real villain in this set of events in the Federal Reserve itself.  See "Federal Intervention Always Has Negative Results".

Human beings, from the wage-earning homeowner to the Wall Street tycoon, will always find ways to use huge amounts of money when the economy is awash in liquidity created by the Fed's deliberate policies (what Fed chairman Bernanke laughably called, a few months ago, "a worldwide glut of savings"). 

The Fed's rampant expansion of the money supply gave false signals to the entire economy, leading individuals to go on a spending binge, buying automobiles, gizmos, and homes on credit.  The New York Times reported:

...personal debt in the United States is $13.8 trillion, including mortgage debt, slightly less than the country’s $14 trillion G.D.P.

In other words, a huge part of everything produced in the United States has been bought, not out of real saving, but on credit. 

Equally damaging has been the misallocation of the economy's scarce resources induced by inflationary expansion of the money supply.  In the traditional capitalist economy based on savings rather than on credit, without lenders thrusting home mortgages and credit cards into the hands of non-creditworthy borrowers, the huge overproduction of housing would not have occurred.

That credit would not have existed had the Fed not flooded the market with excess money.  The Fed played the role of the man who gives matches to small children and tells them to set the woods afire so that shiny red fire trucks will appear, with wailing sirens and clanging bells.

Capitalism is the precise opposite of this mindless splurging. 

Capitalism is a system in which individuals are free to save or to spend what they get in return for their labors.  Only when they save (i.e., abstain from consumption) and invest their savings in more productive or innovative enterprises can the economy add jobs, pay higher wages out of the increased productivity, and increase the supply of desirable goods and services available to producers and consumers.

The capital in capitalism is savings invested in productive activity.  It is the opposite of spending phony money created on the books of account at the Federal Reserve. ESR

Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets. His weblog is The View From 1776. Email comments to viewfrom1776@thomasbrewton.com.


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