The End of Libertarianism? – Jacob Weisberg, Lame Journalist

Wednesday, October 29, 2008
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This article in Slate is amateurish, and it reminds me of why Slate is becoming less interesting over time. I’ll start off by quoting his opener:

A source of mild entertainment amid the financial carnage has been watching libertarians scurrying to explain how the global financial crisis is the result of too much government intervention rather than too little. One line of argument casts as villain the Community Reinvestment Act, which prevents banks from “redlining” minority neighborhoods as not creditworthy. Another theory blames Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for causing the trouble by subsidizing and securitizing mortgages with an implicit government guarantee. An alternative thesis is that past bailouts encouraged investors to behave recklessly in anticipation of a taxpayer rescue.

And? Does he really believe these things are not a cause of the “financial carnage?” He draws a blank on Freddie and Fannie, in spite of the fact that they both had to be taken over by the government or face shutdown. A little bit later, he says, “Had the advocates of prudent regulation been more effective, there’s an excellent chance that the subprime debacle would not have turned into a runaway financial inferno.” Knowing the very definition of “subprime,” how does he think these billions in loans ended up with people who were not financially able to make the payments? Perhaps that is a worthy point for investigation? Is it a creation of our imaginations that America is teeming with foreclosures? And this might possibly be because borrowers are not making their mortgage payments? Weisberg ignores the trail of bread crumbs because he thinks he smells libertarian blood.

He says the blame lies with three people. Three. Greenspan, Phil Gramm, and Christopher Cox. He accuses Gramm and Cox of being “in the pocket of the securities industry,” but I suppose no one else in Washington is in the “pockets” of anyone else? Surely, the ex-Goldman Sachs folks who run the Treasury, and all of the other ex-Wall Street executives in government, are not in the “pocket” of Wall Street? He lays blame on Greenspan because Greenspan is “libertarian,” (!!) not because Greenspan was at the helm of the Fed and controlled monetary policy, something that libertarians oppose unequivocally. Essentially, government is not the problem to Weisberg. It’s three guys. Three guys who need to be replaced by someone better. It’s the age-old argument that the wrong people are in the right jobs making the wrong decisions. So we just have to get the right people in the right jobs in Washington. Then the right things will be done. That’s how this whole mess could have been averted!

Lastly, he accuses libertarians of being Randian, immature, and having a “heroic view of capitalism.” First, very few leading voices (or pens) of libertarianism are Randians. He also doesn’t mention that libertarians are the only ones taking a vocal stand against the corporatist state.

The best thing you can say about this article is that it’s shoddy. In the end, there is no substance to back the glamorous but inappropriate title. It’s poorly reasoned, and Weisberg seems to be comfortable bringing up opinions and leaving them to hang, without further interpretation. But then again, in dedication to the short attention span, this is what many professional journalists do.

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