The Free Market at Work?
Contrary to those who say that the financial crisis demonstrates a failure of capitalism, writes Matthew Parris in the Spectator (UK), the current mess demonstrates that the system is working. An excerpt:
The bubble that has just burst was based, worldwide, on financial services. Financial services are a product. It is true they are a product critical to the efficient functioning of the market (so is electricity, so is oil) but that just makes them an unusually important product. From time to time products fail in any market. They may fail through force majeure—droughts, floods, pestilence. They may fail due to inherent flaws—airships, Thalidomide, blue asbestos. Or they may fail through ignorance, trickery or the credulity of human beings—Madoff, the property bubble, the repackaging of sub-prime debt.
The present financial crash has been precipitated by product failure of the third kind. Trade in financial instruments too opaque for even those who traded in them to assess them properly, and bonus incentive schemes that acted against the interests of the companies offering them, fuelled a banking bubble that has now burst.
But ask: what pricked it? Did politicians rumble the trade? Did governments, or international forums or symposiums, provide the sharp instrument? Did academic research and expertise expose the dodgy product? Did statutory regulators apply the pin? No, the free market wised up and pricked this bubble. Politicians and finance ministers (if they had had the power) would have tried to keep it inflated. The market puffed itself up, and then, without intervention—despite intervention—the market let itself down. The speed with which this has happened has been awful, but however inconvenient for many or catastrophic for a few, correction is not a failure of the market, but a success.