In their usual projective way, Leftist psychologists, sociologists etc. have been trying for over 50 years to portray conservatives as mentally ill in some way. The article below refers to the latest such attempt. I have myself written at great length in the academic journals on claims of this sort (e.g. here and here) but the article below does such a good job of ridiculing the Leftist jerk-offs concerned that I will say no more
Last weekend, Harvard University sponsored a conference called (I am not making this up) "The Free Market Mindset: History, Psychology, and Consequences." Its purpose was to try to figure out why, since everyone knows the current crisis amounts to a failure of the market economy, the stupid rubes continue to believe in it. The promotional literature for the conference opened with That Quotation from Alan Greenspan - the one in which he suggested that there was, after all, a "flaw" in the free market he hadn't noticed before.
Well, that does it, then! If our Soviet commissar in charge of money and interest rates says the free market doesn't work, who are you to disagree? The promotional material continues:
If the current state of the U.S. economy makes clear that former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's faith in free markets was misplaced, the question remains: what was it about free markets that proved - and still continues to prove - so alluring to economists, scholars, and policy-makers alike?
Because, of course, if there's one guiding principle behind the largest government in world history, it's free markets. Ahem. This conference, we were told,
brings together leading scholars in law, economics, social psychology, and social cognition to present and discuss their research regarding the historical origins, psychological antecedents, and policy consequences of the free market mindset. Their work illustrates that the magic of the marketplace is partially an illusion based on faulty assumptions and outmoded approaches.
The speakers then spent the day, I am sure, laying out their own faulty assumptions and outmoded approaches, and studiously ignoring the Austrian School of economics.
In short, the conference was about this: Why do people still think the interaction of free individuals is a superior economic system to one directed by Harvard Ph.D.s like us? I mean, apart from the failure of central planning in every case in which it's been tried, a failure so staggering that only a blockhead could miss it, why would people cling to the idea that being herded into a collective run by the experts isn't the best way to live?
So by assuming from the outset the very thing that needs to be proven - namely, that the current state of the economy just occurred spontaneously, as the result of wicked market forces - our betters relieve themselves of the need to consider that central banking, a government-established institution, just might have had, you know, a little something to do with what happened.
George Reisman has already demonstrated the absurdity of referring to our present system as a "free-market" one. Naturally, of course, none of the participants bothered to notice that a Soviet commissar in charge of money and interest rates amounts to something like the opposite of the free market, or that the economic distortions he causes cannot, therefore, be the fault of the free market. This is exactly why, in my book Meltdown, I call the Fed "the elephant in the living room." We're not supposed to notice it, and we're supposed to pretend the damage it causes is the result of wildcat capitalism, unfettered free markets, or whatever other juvenile phrase is currently in vogue to describe the usual bogeyman.
Now I don't want to list all the paper topics at this conference, since it'd be a shame to make all of you feel stupid for having frittered away your weekend when you could have listened to, say, Stephen Marglin's paper on "How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community." Now there's a topic I haven't heard quite enough platitudes about. (If you must, you can view the whole schedule here.) You could also have heard a bunch of totally conventional polemics about how the market economy allows for "too much" pollution, when in fact a genuine free market - which, I need hardly point out, is not actually considered in any of these alleged papers - would punish polluters and bring about the internalization of so-called externalities. Murray Rothbard dealt with this matter in an extremely important article none of the participants had read.
I wonder if anyone at the conference asked questions like these:
* When Greenspan flooded the economy with newly created money and brought interest rates down to destructively low levels, thereby distorting entrepreneurial calculation as well as consumers' home-purchasing decisions, was that the fault of the free market?
* Do you think the Fed's creation of cheap credit out of thin air makes market participants more careful or less careful in how they allocate borrowed funds?
* When Alan Greenspan bailed out Long Term Capital Management in 1998, was that a "free market" phenomenon? Do you think he thereby encouraged more or less risk taking among other major market actors?
* The Financial Times spoke in 2000, in the wake of the dot-com boom, of an increasing concern that the so-called "Greenspan put" was injecting into the economy "a destructive tendency toward excessively risky investment supported by hopes that the Fed will help if things go bad." "All the insane dot-com investment we've seen, all this destruction of capital, all the crazy excesses of the past few years wouldn't have happened without the easy credit accommodated by the Fed," added financial consultant Michael Belkin. Did the free market cause that?
* Do lending standards decline for no particular reason, or could this phenomenon have a teensy weensy bit to do with (a) government regulation aimed at increasing "homeownership" and (b) loose monetary policy by the Fed? (When the banks get the additional reserves the Fed creates, they naturally want to lend it out - and in order to do so, they wind up lending it to people they either have or would have rejected previously. As I show in Meltdown, the phenomenon of lax lending standards in the wake of an inflationary boom by a central bank is traceable all the way to the 19th century. There is nothing even slightly unexpected - or market-driven - about it.)
Questions like these could go on and on. Not one, you can be certain, was raised at this conference.
Now if you really wanted to sponsor an event whose purpose was to try to understand why people believe inane things that have been falsified by reality, you'd do much better to hold a conference on socialism, or on Keynes and his school. It would be fascinating to learn the psychological motivation behind the persistence of Keynesian economics, whose popular version is a nonfalsifiable, ersatz religion....
People who believe in the market economy support a social order in which free individuals make voluntary contracts with each other, and no one can initiate physical force against anyone else. Is that vision so obviously unattractive that we have to refer its supporters for psychological evaluation?
We might instead wonder at the psychological condition of those who would denounce such a system: might they be motivated, for all their noble talk, by nothing but base envy of those with more material wealth than they, or by a pathological desire to dominate other people? I'm sure that will be covered at next year's conference.
Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here
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