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Time for Emergency Freedom

Economic trouble should always lead to liberty: we have 70 years of failure taking the opposite tack.

by
Amit Ghate

Bio

December 23, 2011 - 12:00 am
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The nonstop spending, whether labeled “stimulus” or “quantitative easing” (a.k.a. inflation), has pushed the nation’s liabilities to unimagined levels and created an overarching long-term uncertainty. In the process, Obama has destroyed the country’s once pristine credit rating, spooked private investors and businessmen, drawn rebukes from foreign investors, and driven consumer confidence to 30-year lows.

The sum of all these interventionist policies has been to inculcate an atmosphere of fear, withdrawal, and uncertainty among private businessmen. No one wants to expand or hire new employees, given that they have no idea what Washington will do next. Hence the latest crisis that politicians now supposedly have to solve: chronically high unemployment.

For decades, the principle underlying our economic policies has been: in any crisis or quasi-crisis, let the government spend a little more of our money, control a few more of our choices, further regulate our businesses, and then all will be right with the world. This is unadulterated socialist theory, in which government intervention is a panacea for every ill.

Yet ever since the writings of Mises, Hayek, and Rand, we’ve known the nature and outcome of such intervention, economically, politically, and morally. Seventy more years of its practice, both here and abroad, has only served to confirm and reinforce that knowledge.

So rather than continuing a pattern by which every increase in power and every instance of intervention precipitates more calamities, why not break the cycle?

Let’s no longer accept the politicians’ claim: “We can’t just sit here, we have to do something.” (Where “doing” always means increasing the scope and size of government.) Instead, let’s do the opposite. Let’s restore liberty in general and in principle. In times of crisis, rather than imposing emergency controls we should enact emergency freedoms.

Given the past century of interventionist policies, we’re admittedly short of examples in implementing such freedoms — but that shouldn’t stop us. For even if we don’t know the exact form that government deregulation, repeals, or rollbacks should take in any given sector, we know their ultimate outcome (think West Germany vs. East Germany, or South Korea vs. North Korea). And while the transitions necessary to achieve long-term prosperity may cause short-term discomfort, we can use the lessons learned from each experience to make further transitions easier.

If we’re to finally solve — not exacerbate — our economic problems, we must replace our interventionist theories and mindset with pro-liberty principles and policies. We’ll know we’ve succeeded when our immediate reaction to any economic crisis is: “Time for emergency freedom!”
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[1] The frauds were properly prosecuted under pre-existing statutes, which were more than sufficient for the task.

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Amit Ghate began his career as a mechanical engineer but now trades stocks for a living. In his free time, when he’s not rock climbing or at the gym, he writes and maintains his blog Thrutch. He currently resides in Southern California.
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