Friday, February 12, 2010


On a regular basis I get comments about what I have written or said in public forums or in the media. Some of it is good. Some times it's bad for what it reveals about America's future. Other times it just makes you laugh because of what it tells us about the crazies that are out there. I especially enjoyed this diatribe directed at me after I wrote to a Tea Party crazy conservative that the "Fairytopia market world" they believe in doesn't exist.

 Mark your vast knowledge of fairies would lead one to believe that you belong to that low life, scum sucking, bottom dwelling, dingy smelling group of nefarious would be communist Marxist who are by some twisted fate, members of that disgraceful group known as the Barney Frank, act alike, Democrats. If I were you, I would hide myself in shame and ... See Morerealize you really are not American at heart or of mind. But most definitely are an accumulation from some oderferious, decayed part of the world, like the bottom of a human waste pit. Consider yourself properly vetted and cast out of membership with any real American patriot. "WE THE PEOPLE" shall overcome the likes of detrimental ilk, such as you. I will pray for you, but not very much!

I know, pretty ugly. But you have to admit, it's kind of funny. Entertaining too.

Most of the time, though, I get genuinely good comments. Yesterday, for example, I gave a talk at the university for the 60+ Club. The group is made up mostly of retirees who support the mission of the university, and attend presentations given by faculty members because they're interested in the world around them.

One of the comments yesterday dealt with the specific definition of "mark-to-market" accounting. In a few words mark-to-market accounting in our post-meltdown world allows market players to reprice collapsed financial products upward. Apparently I didn't make it clear enough that mark-to-market accounting has been turned on it's head since the bailout, and is really just another way for market players to avoid taking responsibility for the stupid decisions they made. This is one of the reasons many accountants refer to the concept as "mark-to-make-believe" (which I should have noted yesterday).

In all cases, these comments demonstrate you've got an audience that's done their homework, and makes presentations fun. This is good.

Then I get comments from people who aren't looking for clarification. Nor are they foaming at the mouth Tea Party diatribes (like from the guy mentioned above). Instead, they're ideological rants that the writer believes are bold statements of fact, when they are really little more than emotionally-charged opinions. For example, a couple of days ago I received these comments on the blog site I have for my book, The Myth of the Free Market: The Role of the State in a Capitalist Economy.

The free market did not write a 60,000+ page tax code that punishes work, rewards sloth and buys the votes of special interest groups, the government did.

The free market did not destroy our public school system and graduate (or fail to graduate) generations of civically and financially illiterate citizens, the government did.

The free market did not drive our jobs overseas and kill our entrepreneurial spirit with over-taxation, over-regulation and frivolous lawsuits, the government did.

The free market did not ban drilling for oil, vilify coal and block the building of nuclear power plants in the United States, thereby transferring hundred of billions of dollars of American wealth and many thousands of energy-industry jobs to foreign countries, the government did.

This crisis is the result of a giant social engineering experiment and vote-buying scheme gone tragically wrong.

The free market does not try to engineer society or buy votes, the government does.

The government caused this crisis, the free market did not.

The government cannot fix the crisis, the free market can.

What's clear is that - like my Tea Partying friend noted above - this individual has a utopian view of how markets work. In a few words, the state creates the conditions under which wealth is created. I can't emphasize enough how silly it is to believe that market players in a market setting without rules suddenly become virtuous and ethical. The pursuit of profit does ugly things to people who might otherwise be decent people (then again, many of them are unhinged sociopaths).

What's interesting, though, is that I shouldn't have to write any of this.

James Madison and the Founding Fathers made it clear that what was behind the activities tearing the country apart, especially after winning our independence from Britain, were the conflicts and "factions" driven by people in the pursuit of wealth. Without going into a long history lesson here (read my book), it needs to be said that our Constitution includes Art. I, Section 8 (and other sections) precisely because the Framers understood that market players don't always do the right thing, and needed guidance. Indeed, the patron saint of captalism, Adam Smith, wrote that government action to protect consumers and citizens from market players was necessary. There's a reason why he wrote this (it's tied to collusion and favorable legislation), but this post is already long enough. Click on the labels below for more.

The point is, believing in market fairytopias is intellectually lazy and, quite frankly, reveals a penchant for embracing myths that's dangerous because they work against our understanding of reality. This is bad for the country because it prevents us from developing policies that deal with real world problems.

At the end of the day, market players in the pursuit of profit don't alway do the right thing. People in the state of nature aren't angels either. Believing otherwise is sweet. But it's also delusional.

- Mark

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