Being a staunch free-market guy, I’m having considerable trouble defending the Bear Stearns bailout by the Federal Reserve (all right, technically it’s a “guarantee”). I really want to slam-dunk the sanctimonious e-mails I’m getting from my more regulatory-minded friends, but I’ve got nothing (notice the subtle cry for help). I understand the higher purpose of the deal, to protect against a larger market meltdown. But the discount window is now open and as the Wall Street Journal reports, “credit markets have calmed considerably.” I can’t, in good conscience, argue against a Congressional stimulus package to help homeowners and then argue for a bailout of Wall Street firms. I realize it’s a bit of an apples-oranges comparison, but each took a risk and lost. Other investors bet the opposite and won. As I’ve said many times before, when government seeks to redefine the reward, we all lose in the end.