Bailout marks Karl Marx's comeback
Read it and weep.
Marx’s Proposal Number Five seems to be the leading motivation for those backing the Wall Street bailout
By Martin Masse
In his Communist Manifesto, published in 1848, Karl Marx proposed 10 measures to be implemented after the proletariat takes power, with the aim of centralizing all instruments of production in the hands of the state. Proposal Number Five was to bring about the “centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.”
If he were to rise from the dead today, Marx might be delighted to discover that most economists and financial commentators, including many who claim to favour the free market, agree with him.
Indeed, analysts at the Heritage and Cato Institute, and commentators in The Wall Street Journal and on this very page, have made declarations in favour of the massive “injection of liquidities” engineered by central banks in recent months, the government takeover of giant financial institutions, as well as the still stalled US$700-billion bailout package. Some of the same voices were calling for similar interventions following the burst of the dot-com bubble in 2001.
“Whatever happened to the modern followers of my free-market opponents?” Marx would likely wonder.
At first glance, anyone who understands economics can see that there is something wrong with this picture. The taxes that will need to be levied to finance this package may keep some firms alive, but they will siphon off capital, kill jobs and make businesses less productive elsewhere. Increasing the money supply is no different. It is an invisible tax that redistributes resources to debtors and those who made unwise investments.
So why throw this sound free-market analysis overboard as soon as there is some downturn in the markets?
The rationale for intervening always seems to centre on the fear of reliving the Great Depression. If we let too many institutions fail because of insolvency, we are being told, there is a risk of a general collapse of financial markets, with the subsequent drying up of credit and the catastrophic effects this would have on all sectors of production. This opinion, shared by Ben Bernanke, Henry Paulson and most of the right-wing political and financial establishments, is based on Milton Friedman’s thesis that the Fed aggravated the Depression by not pumping enough money into the financial system following the market crash of 1929.
It sounds libertarian enough. The misguided policies of the Fed, a government creature, and bad government regulation are held responsible for the crisis. The need to respond to this emergency and keep markets running overrides concerns about taxing and inflating the money supply. This is supposed to contrast with the left-wing Keynesian approach, whose solutions are strangely very similar despite a different view of the causes.
But there is another approach that doesn’t compromise with free-market principles and coherently explains why we constantly get into these bubble situations followed by a crash. It is centered on Marx’s Proposal Number Five: government control of capital