Oh Yes, Economic Insanity! That'll Do!
It was the mystical dogma of Bentham and Adam Smith and the rest, that some of the worst of human passions would turn out to be all for the best. It was the mysterious doctrine that selfishness would do the work of unselfishness.”
The day and age of prudence and sanity is long gone, if in fact it ever did exist. We live in a time where money gurus babble on about how the most radical deregulation will mysteriously perform the functions of regulation, how an absolutely unfettered economy will bring about order, and how “the virtue of selfishness” (as Madame Rand was fond of calling it) would result in nothing short of the economic Utopia finding its home in the wildest fantasies of men like Mises and Bastiat. To be quite frank, the entire ordeal is a tad bit overwhelming for those who, like me, have a sensitive gag reflex.
I wish these were the musings of a madman who hasn’t the slightest clue of things as they really are, the ravings of things far-fetched. Unfortunately, one has only to fetch the remote. Market mystics are commonplace, and like a bad case of herpes they show up in predictable places at just the worst times. Hucksters in tight suits and cheap cologne spouting off what Betty Crocker would consider a sure recipe for economic disaster.
The problem isn’t so much their being large in number as it is their being professional ear-ticklers! They know the game, and they play it like champs. The masses are assured that if they just allow their cookies to crumble, then even bigger, better tasting cookie will appear from the heaped remains they let tumble to the floor.
It all sounds so simple! It sounds almost too good to be true. Like a good, old fashion pyramid scheme or bottle of snake oil. If only this bit of irony was any bit ironic.
What a pity to realize that we haven’t overcome our susceptibility to the charlatans of old. We should know better by now. Then again, there must be a reason why the adage “we rarely, if ever, learn from history” has stood the test of time. If only there were a generation that had the kind of moral resolve and intellectual fortitude to put that precedent out of commission. If only…
This was originally posted on Jan. 4, 2009.