Fight for Rights, Not Deregulation?

 Posted by on 13 October 2008 at 12:10 pm  Activism, Business, Politics
Oct 132008

Ari Armstrong recently posted some thought-provoking comments on how to effectively argue for free markets. His reflections were prompted by the vice-presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. He writes:

Palin called for “government strict oversight,” implying that the problem was caused by a lack of such oversight, rather than the presence of foolish federal controls. …

Biden’s message is that the free market doesn’t work, deregulation equals the free market, deregulation has failed, and government controls are the alternative to deregulation.

Unfortunately, Republicans often have used the term “deregulation” because they don’t want to talk about the fundamental issue: individual rights. Because they don’t favor individual rights. As Bush II has proved, Republicans (in general, not in every particular) are enthusiastic about government controls and political power.

The problem is that the term “regulation” is a package deal. “Regulation” means to make regular. Well, we want things to be regular, don’t we, as opposed to irregular? For example, the Constitution grants to Congress the power “To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states…” Those of us of the individual-rights persuasion like to think of that clause as granting to Congress the ability to “make regular” trade; that is, to free it of state interference.

Government plays a crucial regulatory role. The proper role of government is to protect individual rights. In the sphere of economics, that means protecting property rights and the right to contract. It means fighting fraud. It means eliminating the initiation of force. In those functions, the government regulates — makes regular — the economy. Protecting individual rights is regulation.

But what Biden means by “regulation” is a host of federal controls that violate, rather than protect, individual rights. These rights-violating controls do not make the economy “regular;” they make it irregular and chaotic. For example, the federal controls that forced lenders to make risky loans are “regulations” of this sort. The mortgage crisis is a crisis not of the free market, not of the regulation of protecting individual rights, but of the “regulations” of government controls that violate rights of property and contract.

What we need is not some out-of-context “deregulation” or “regulation.” What we need is a government that protects individual rights rather than violates them. That is the very definition of the free market. That is what Joe Biden condemns, and what Sarah Palin cannot even conceive.


Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha