Is Further Intervention a Cure for Prior Intervention?
by Percy L. Greaves, Jr.
January 13, 2012
All varieties of (government) interference with the market phenomena not only fail to achieve the ends aimed at by their authors and supporters, but bring about a state of affairs which — from the point of view of the authors’ and advocates’ valuations — is less desirable than the previous state of affairs which they were designed to alter. If one wants to correct their manifest unsuitableness and preposterousness by supplementing the first acts of intervention with more and more of such acts, one must go farther and farther until the market economy has been entirely destroyed and socialism has been substituted for it. (Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, p. 854)
The mass myopia of our age has been a reactionary reverence for government intervention. When anything goes wrong, from a train wreck to a change in stock market prices, the craven crowds always clamor for just one more law. Throughout the world there is a spirit of egalitarianism and trust in government omnipotence that blinds people to the inevitable and undesirable consequences of the very intervention they currently advocate. There can be little question that the great majority of our fellow men believe that governmental action is the best answer to every economic problem of poverty or prosperity.
This general trend toward government intervention has been spurred on by the thought that majorities can continue to take by legal force from the rich and give to the poor to the perpetual benefit of society as a whole. Government intervention is therefore considered a moral and economic weapon to be used for the welfare of all the “have-nots.” The crusade for creature comforts is no longer considered to be a struggle against the niggardliness of nature. Instead, it is dreamily idealized as a campaign for the political allotment of each group’s “fair share” of the wealth produced by others.
The most astonishing phase of this development has been the rapidity with which more and more of the despoiled “haves” are joining the interventionists’ cult, formed for the express purpose of leveling down their supposedly unearned wealth. Every day new groups of “haves” are joining the pressure groups who feel that “there ought to be a law” to end their troubles by protecting them from the operations of a free market. Seldom do they ask for a repeal of the laws which are so often the root of their troubles. In accordance with the religion of the day, they ask for new legal restrictions which they think will protect them from the ills produced by the interventional laws already on the statute books.