Has Capitalism Failed?
Congressional Record—U.S. House of Representatives July 9, 2002
It is now commonplace and politically correct to blame what is referred to as the excesses of capitalism for the economic problems we face, and especially for the Wall Street fraud that dominates the business news. Politicians are having a field day with demagoguing the issue while, of course, failing to address the fraud and deceit found in the budgetary shenanigans of the federal government— for which they are directly responsible. Instead, it gives the Key- nesian crowd that runs the show a chance to attack free markets and ignore the issue of sound money.
So once again we hear the chant: “Capitalism has failed; we need more government controls over the entire financial market.” No one asks why the billions that have been spent and thousands of pages of regulations that have been written since the last major attack on capitalism in the 1930s didn’t prevent the fraud and deception of Enron, WorldCom, and Global Crossings. That failure surely couldn’t have come from a dearth of regulations.
What is distinctively absent is any mention that all financial bubbles are saturated with excesses in hype, speculation, debt, greed, fraud, gross errors in investment judgment, carelessness on the part of analysts and investors, huge paper profits, conviction that a new era economy has arrived and, above all else, pie-in-the- sky expectations.
When the bubble is inflating, there are no complaints. When it bursts, the blame game begins. This is especially true in the age of victimization, and is done on a grand scale. It quickly becomes a philosophic, partisan, class, generational, and even a racial issue. While avoiding the real cause, all the finger pointing makes it dif- ficult to resolve the crisis and further undermines the principles upon which freedom and prosperity rest.
Nixon was right—once—when he declared “We’re all Keynes- ians now.” All of Washington is in sync in declaring that too much capitalism has brought us to where we are today. The only deci- sion now before the central planners in Washington is whose spe- cial interests will continue to benefit from the coming pretense at reform. The various special interests will be lobbying heavily like the Wall Street investors, the corporations, the military-industrial complex, the banks, the workers, the unions, the farmers, the politicians, and everybody else.
But what is not discussed is the actual cause and perpetration of the excesses now unraveling at a frantic pace. This same response occurred in the 1930s in the United States as our policy- makers responded to the very similar excesses that developed and collapsed in 1929. Because of the failure to understand the problem then, the depression was prolonged. These mistakes allowed our current problems to develop to a much greater degree. Consider the failure to come to grips with the cause of the 1980s bubble, as Japan’s economy continues to linger at no-growth and recession level, with their stock market at approximately one-fourth of its peak 13 years ago. If we’re not careful—and so far we’ve not been—we will make the same errors that will prevent the correc- tion needed before economic growth can be resumed.
In the 1930s, it was quite popular to condemn the greed of cap- italism, the gold standard, lack of regulation, and a lack govern- ment insurance on bank deposits for the disaster. Businessmen became the scapegoat. Changes were made as a result, and the welfare/warfare state was institutionalized. Easy credit became the holy grail of monetary policy, especially under Alan Greenspan, “the ultimate Maestro.” Today, despite the presumed protection from these government programs built into the system, we find ourselves in a bigger mess than ever before. The bubble is bigger, the boom lasted longer, and the gold price has been delib- erately undermined as an economic signal. Monetary inflation continues at a rate never seen before in a frantic effort to prop up stock prices and continue the housing bubble, while avoiding the consequences that inevitably come from easy credit. This is all done because we are unwilling to acknowledge that current policy is only setting the stage for a huge drop in the value of the dollar. Everyone fears it, but no one wants to deal with it.
Ignorance, as well as disapproval for the natural restraints placed on market excesses that capitalism and sound markets impose, cause our present leaders to reject capitalism and blame it for all the problems we face. If this fallacy is not corrected and cap- italism is even further undermined, the prosperity that the free market generates will be destroyed.
Corruption and fraud in the accounting practices of many com- panies are coming to light. There are those who would have us believe this is an integral part of free-market capitalism. If we did have free-market capitalism, there would be no guarantees that some fraud wouldn’t occur. When it did, it would then be dealt with by local law-enforcement authority and not by the politicians in Congress, who had their chance to “prevent” such problems but chose instead to politicize the issue, while using the opportunity to promote more Keynesian useless regulations.
Capitalism should not be condemned, since we haven’t had capitalism. A system of capitalism presumes sound money, not fiat money manipulated by a central bank. Capitalism cherishes vol- untary contracts and interest rates that are determined by savings, not credit creation by a central bank. It’s not capitalism when the system is plagued with incomprehensible rules regarding mergers, acquisitions, and stock sales, along with wage controls, price con- trols, protectionism, corporate subsidies, international manage- ment of trade, complex and punishing corporate taxes, privileged government contracts to the military-industrial complex, and a foreign policy controlled by corporate interests and overseas investments. Add to this centralized federal mismanagement of farming, education, medicine, insurance, banking and welfare. This is not capitalism!