Då det är tio år sedan finanskrisen 2008 vill jag tipsa denna artikel av ekonomen George Reisman, “The Myth that Laissez Faire Is Responsible for Our Financial Crisis”. Jag håller inte med om allt, men jag håller med om det väsentliga:
The news media are in the process of creating a great new historical myth. This is the myth that our present financial crisis is the result of economic freedom and laissez-faire capitalism.
The attempt to place the blame on laissez faire is readily confirmed by a Google search under the terms “crisis + laissez faire.” On the first page of the results that come up, or in the web entries to which those results refer, statements of the following kind appear:
“The mortgage crisis is laissez-faire gone wrong.”
“Sarkozy [Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France] said `laissez-faire’ economics, `self-regulation’ and the view that `the all-powerful market’ always knows best are finished.”
“`America’s laissez-faire ideology, as practiced during the subprime crisis, was as simplistic as it was dangerous,’ chipped in Peer Steinbrück, the German finance minister.”
“Paulson brings laissez-faire approach on financial crisis….”
“It’s au revoir to the days of laissez faire.”
Recent articles in The New York Times provide further confirmation. Thus one article declares, “The United States has a culture that celebrates laissez-faire capitalism as the economic ideal….” Another article tells us, “For 30 years, the nation’s political system has been tilted in favor of business deregulation and against new rules.” In a third article, a pair of reporters assert, “Since 1997, Mr. Brown [the British Prime Minister] has been a powerful voice behind the Labor Party’s embrace of an American-style economic philosophy that was light on regulation. The laissez-faire approach encouraged the country’s banks to expand internationally and chase returns in areas far afield of their core mission of attracting deposits.” Thus even Great Britain is described as having a “laissez-faire approach.”
The mentality displayed in these statements is so completely and utterly at odds with the actual meaning of laissez faire that it would be capable of describing the economic policy of the old Soviet Union as one of laissez faire in its last decades. By its logic, that is how it would have to describe the policy of Brezhnev and his successors of allowing workers on collective farms to cultivate plots of land of up to one acre in size on their own account and sell the produce in farmers’ markets in Soviet cities. According to the logic of the media, that too would be “laissez faire”—at least compared to the time of Stalin.
Laissez-faire capitalism has a definite meaning, which is totally ignored, contradicted, and downright defiled by such statements as those quoted above. Laissez-faire capitalism is a politico-economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and in which the powers of the state are limited to the protection of the individual’s rights against the initiation of physical force. This protection applies to the initiation of physical force by other private individuals, by foreign governments, and, most importantly, by the individual’s own government. This last is accomplished by such means as a written constitution, a system of division of powers and checks and balances, an explicit bill of rights, and eternal vigilance on the part of a citizenry with the right to keep and bear arms. Under laissez-faire capitalism, the state consists essentially just of a police force, law courts, and a national defense establishment, which deter and combat those who initiate the use of physical force. And nothing more.
The utter absurdity of statements claiming that the present political-economic environment of the United States in some sense represents laissez-faire capitalism becomes as glaringly obvious as anything can be when one keeps in mind the extremely limited role of government under laissez-faire and then considers the following facts about the present-day United States.
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