Government regulation of the market economy arose during the New Deal out of a desire to save capitalism rather than destroy it.

by Ben Hoffman

Since the collapse happened on the watch of President George W. Bush at the end of two full terms in office, many in the Democratic Party were only too eager to blame his administration. Yet while Bush did nothing to remedy the problem, and his response was to simply reward the culprits, the roots of this disaster go back much further, to the free-market propaganda of the Reagan years and, most damagingly, to the bipartisan deregulation of the banking industry undertaken with the full support of “liberal” President Clinton. Yes, Clinton. And if this debacle needs a name, it should most properly be called “the Clinton bubble,” as difficult as it may be to accept for those of us who voted for him.

[…]

Clinton betrayed the wisdom of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms that capitalism needed to be saved from its own excess in order to survive, that the free market would remain free only if it was properly regulated in the public interest. The great and terrible irony of capitalism is that if left unfettered, it inexorably engineers its own demise, through either revolution or economic collapse. The guardians of capitalism’s survival are thus not the self-proclaimed free-marketers, who, in defiance of the pragmatic Adam Smith himself, want to chop away at all government restraints on corporate actions, but rather liberals, at least those in the mode of FDR, who seek to harness its awesome power while keeping its workings palatable to a civilized and progressive society.

Government regulation of the market economy arose during the New Deal out of a desire to save capitalism rather than destroy it. Whether it was child labor in dark coal mines, the exploitation of racially segregated human beings to pick cotton, or the unfathomable devastation of the Great Depression, the brutal creativity of the pure profit motive has always posed a stark challenge to our belief that we are moral creatures. The modern bureaucratic governments of the developed world were built, unconsciously, as a bulwark, something big enough to occasionally stand up to the power of uncontrolled market forces, much as a referee must show the yellow card to a young headstrong athlete.

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