January 5, 2009

Free Market or bust

A recent Rasmussen poll indicates that,

As the incoming Obama administration and the Democratic congressional leadership scramble for ways to right the U.S. economy, 70% of U.S. voters say a free market is better
than one managed by the government.

Just 15% say a government-managed economy is best, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifteen percent (15%) are undecided.

But indicative of the mixed feelings that beset many of the nation’s leaders, a majority of voters (52%) also believe there is a need for more government regulation of big business, although 35% disagree. Thirteen percent (13%) aren’t sure. (Last month, just 26% of adults were at least somewhat confident that U.S. policymakers knew what they were doing with regards to the economy).

Two disturbing things show through in these numbers for me. Firstly, 15% of Americans are apparently socialists or communist or useful idiots for the other two categories. A government managed economy is best? As Jerry Seinfeld would say "Who are these people?" Secondly, and perhaps scarier, is the fact that 52% of the population believe there is a need for more regulation of big business.

The surest way to kill business is to over regulate it. You think the federal government isn't complicit in the problems facing America's automakers? Corporations shouldn't be getting away with fraudulent or otherwise criminal or unscrupulous behavior. But there are already laws on the books for these things. A better way to look at it is that perhaps the government needs to look not at more regulation but smarter regulation, or better enforcement of existing regulations.

How is it that so many people - in this case a plurality of Americans - do not understand that American greatness was created by free markets, with the role of government limited to ensuring public safety and compliance with laws to prevent unfair business practices that hurt competition or consumers? At 52% that means some conservatives feel that way too. When basic principles such as free market get so eroded, it's hard not to think apocalyptic thoughts about the future of America. Luckily there's enough intelligence and perseverance around to reverse the trend through education and dissemination of better ideas.

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