The Austrian school of economics is in a permanent “We told you so” mode these days. In this very readable post, Roderick Long gives the Austrian economist viewpoint of the current financial meltdown. After offering a detailed explanation of why it is regulation that got us into this mess (most of his points I agree with, some I am skeptical), he asks the million dollar question:
Okay, some will say, maybe it was government, not laissez-faire, that got us into the mess; but now that we’re in it, don’t we need government to get us out?
His answer is that the government cannot get us out.
There’s just not much the government can do that will help (apart from repealing the laws, regulations, and subsidies that first created and then perpetuate the mess – but that would be less a doing than a ceasing-to-do, and anyway given the incentives acting on government decision-makers there’s no realistic chance of that happening). The bailout is just diverting resources from the productive poor and middle-class to the failed rich, which doesn’t seem like a very good idea one either ethical or economic grounds. The only good effect such a bailout could possibly have (at least if you prefer costly boondoggles without piles of dead bodies to costly boondoggles with them) is if it convinced the warmongers that they just can’t afford a global war on terror right now – but there’s no sign that they’re being convinced of anything of the sort.
So what should the government do? Nothing, is his answer.
I don’t know if I agree with him. Even if he is right on the economics, there are political consequences to doing nothing, and not all of them are good for freedom or economic health. Furthermore, not beng a trained economist, I cannot fully measure the accuracy of his claims or pass a judgement on whether the Austrian approach to money is superior to, say, that of the more mainstream Chicago school of economics. The fact that the Austrian economists have — unlike everyone else — always used verbal, imprecise and non-mathematical arguments, does not exactly inspire scientific confidence.
However, I do recommend that you read the whole thing.