The Retirement Blog: A Scary Sense of Place

"It isn't the free market that succeeds or fails; it's individuals acting within the free markets that succeed or fail."

A simple phrase worth repeating: “It isn’t the free market that succeeds or fails; it’s individuals acting within the free markets that succeed or fail.”

In a speech at the close of FPA Denver 2010, speaker Ian Bremmer essentially told us to prepare for our Chinese overlords. The geopolitical strategist and author recalled a conversation with a highly-placed Chinese diplomat. The diplomat began by asking, “Now that the free market has failed, what should be the role of the state?”

Bremmer mentioned it almost as a non-sequitur in support of his latest book, The End of the Free Market, about the resurgence of the state in response to the global crisis, and he then quickly moved on. But it reminded me of the old socialist adage; the one about how socialists love individuals, just in groups of a million or more.  

The notion that none succeed unless all succeed is bunk, but one increasingly accepted in certain so-called “capitalist” countries. Bremmer noted the G7 worked because member nations believed in essentially the same free market principles. Not so with the G20, which is increasingly headed towards United Nations-style dysfunction.

“If the G7 was like herding cats, the G20 is like herding cats and animals that don’t like cats,” Bremmer noted.

What the Chinese diplomat, and too many in the Obama administration, fail to realize (or willfully ignore) is that the free market acted exactly as it should. Part of that freedom is the freedom to fail. Any attempt to mitigate this most basic right in a do-good attempt to insulate ourselves will not only make the markets less free, but the individuals acting within it. It’s not a trade off I’m willing to make.

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