Liberty vs economy: How far can we go?

Freedom. Economics. The two are interconnected on a basic level. Neither
can exist while the other languishes.

This is the basic philosophy of libertarianism or “classical
liberalism,” as some put it. Supporters of the Libertarian Party and
its relations vary in their interpretation of this philosophy. Some – in
fact, from what I have seen, a good many – wish for total absence of
government in the field of the economy. That seems to me to be fallacy.

While the government should not have a strong hand in the economic
affairs of its citizens, it should not have no hand at all. Inevitably
the government will make mistakes, but that is the nature of human
things – we make mistakes, and nothing can change that. The
government’s hand in the economy is necessary to protect against other
human mistakes. While the wisdom of the majority is questionable at
times, the process necessary to alter a machine on the scale of the
federal government is slow. This allows for “testing periods” that
might otherwise be rendered too short by an overzealous legislative
process, as is the case in a direct democracy. The rule of the economy
by large financial entities – such as corporations – can thus be
tempered in its fickle nature by the relatively stable hand of the
government.

By the same token, though, we must be watchful that the government does
not take too large an interest in the affairs of business. It is far too
easy for large tariffs, taxes, or bureaucratic procedures to stifle
innovation or competition which might otherwise be beneficial to the
health of our nation’s economy.

When pressed for a vote on a particular example of this clash of liberty
versus economy, one must always, without fail, closely examine as many
of the major consequences as is feasible before making a determination.
Voting on party lines or by rhetoric alone – be it libertarian,
neoconservative, or liberal – is to invite disaster on an epic scale.
Such, I fear, is the case with our current financial situation in the
United States. I imagine that the collapse of the subprime market, the
increase in the price of gasoline and its attendant effects, and the
subsequent slowing of the American economy can be traced to poor
decisions in the balancing act of liberty and economy.

Sometimes, the liberty of business needs to take a back seat to
governmental interference in the machine – and sometimes, the reverse is
true.