Sunday 18 February 2018

Marc Coleman: A year of strangeness is truly upon us

Political distortion of economies and big government have played a key role in the meltdown, writes Marc Coleman

Marc Coleman

Marc Coleman

'The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time". Edward Grey's warning in 1914 was echoed after the end of the Great War by Yeats warning of anarchy, blood-dimmed tides and revelations at hand. Earthquakes shake our houses. Strange lights fill our northern skies. To say a year of strangeness and destiny is upon us seems no exaggeration at all.

A stranger event still occurred in Trinity College Dublin last Monday. Anti-Lisbon Treaty campaigner and right-leaning Declan Ganley agreed with radical Green Europhile and former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer that not only must Europe and the euro be saved, but strengthened. President Higgins's call for a fundamental debate on where we are going was another sign of epoch-making times.

And he went on to show just how much we need one. Like Fischer on Monday, the President blamed "unrestrained markets" and "capitalism", the philosophy of Friedrich Hayek, for the current global crisis. But as two strident examples of what market capitalism is not about, the decision of presidents Carter in 1977 and Clinton in 1999 to force US banks to lend sub-prime mortgages to those who could not afford them are hard to beat. And that intervention is the root cause of almost all that went wrong. Likewise, the failure of Democrat and Republican politicians, who received generous campaign donations from Fannie Mae, to rein in its reckless lending in the US housing market. Nor would Hayek have had any sympathy for Anglo Irish bondholders: the decision -- taken by politicians -- to foist their losses on the shoulders of taxpayers was the very opposite of free market principles he espoused. Sure, the Taoiseach was right to note that greed played a role in the crisis. But politically motivated governments distorting economies with interventionist policies played an even bigger one.

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