Letters to the Editor
Readers write about whether the US economy will do better if its left alone, and why Africa needs property rights laws as well as enterprise.
Will the US economy right itself if left alone?
Regarding the Feb. 9 Opinion piece, "Instead of stimulus, do nothing – seriously": Permit me to respectfully respond to author Robert Higgs's commentary. Child labor laws, unemployment insurance, Social Security, safe working conditions, and Medicare have all contributed to the economic security of this country and the well-being of its citizens. Not only does Mr. Higgs offer a strange reading of American history, he more unfortunately displays a high tolerance for other people's pain. Overall, Higgs adds little to a credible and pertinent discussion of the economic problem facing us and Congress.
Robert Higgs's analysis demonstrates a disconnect with the reality of our economy's collapse. The high-stakes gambling of banks and investment companies, the home foreclosures, and the millions of job losses are the direct result of the aggressive deregulation of the markets. When even Alan Greenspan acknowledged that the free market system has failed to regulate itself, Mr. Higgs's argument loses any semblance of credibility.
This commentary describes well a solid approach to managing the economic problems we face. The "do nothing" approach is based on capitalism and freedom, which have made the United States the strongest nation in the world. Along with a quick tax reduction, this approach would allow a huge number of people and businesses to do the best thing for themselves, which translates into quick nationwide benefits.
Robert Higgs's prescription for economic policy sensibly follows that of the Hippocratic oath, "Do no harm," for a very fundamental reason. Both the human body and the economy are enormously complex systems. In dealing with very complex systems, the results of interventions, especially massive interventions, are very hard to foresee.
It is sometimes said of medical interventions that "the cure is worse than the disease," and that could very possibly be the case with hurriedly considered, hastily administered, trillion-dollar stimulus packages, advocated by inexperienced, panicked leaders. Our economy has multiple interlocking systems whose long-term history is one of growth and prosperity. Let us not be misled by "fools who rush in where angels fear to tread."
Africa needs property rights
In regard to the Feb. 9 Opinion piece, "More than aid money, Africa needs enterprise": Authors Jakaya Kikwete and Anders Fogh Rasmussen are definitely on the right track. But far more than simple enterprise and development, Africa desperately needs a system of property rights, one that can be upheld and protected by an objective law enforcement agency. Without such rights, potential producers cannot be reasonably sure that their investments will be protected. While a market can always be risky, these are calculable risks. When force is introduced into the picture – something that Africa is inundated with – then all rational predictability disappears. No one is willing to take a risk like that, and the quest for enterprise will be futile until the issue of property rights has been properly addressed.
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