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George Will: A Priest in the Church of the Market

May 14, 2009

A George Will editorial today at the Washington Post laments the actions of Obama and his administration in moving to shore up the national economy. According to Will, Obama’s actions are designed to foster dependency on the federal government and that significant portions of the Obama recovery plan are illegal.

The Obama administration’s agenda of maximizing dependency involves political favoritism cloaked in the raiment of “economic planning” and “social justice” that somehow produce results superior to what markets produce when freedom allows merit to manifest itself, and incompetence to fail.

Will’s assertion, that markets produce superior results “when freedom allows merit to manifest itself and incompetence to fail” is interesting in that the same sentiment is commonly used by dogmatic defenders of the free market, regardless of the overall conditions the markets create. When the economy is good, it is because the market has weeded out the weak and rewarded knowledgeable and creative risk takers. When the economy is bad, it is because the government has somehow interfered with the working of the market, allowing the inefficient and cumbersome to survive when the free market should have killed them off. For a mind as knowledgeable and clever as Will’s to so, well, willfully disregard the accumulating evidence of the market’s own failures must reflect either purposeful ignorance or actual deception. When executives at failing investment banks are given millions of dollars in bonuses, that is not allowing “incompetence to fail”; when mortgage brokers and their bosses reaped the rewards of sub-prime lending to unqualified homeowners–and the investors that bought those mortgages saw their stock prices increase–that was not the manifestation of merit. It takes dogmatic blinders to see the market as infallible and government as incapable of success in the economic realm. But Will’s refusal to remove those blinders even under these darkest of financial times is not the mere stubbornness of the true believer, but is more akin to the maliciousness of the false prophet.

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