George W. Bush, a terrible president in nearly every respect, continues his assault on free markets. As Patrick Buchanan notes and others have verified, Bush told CNN in defense of auto bailouts, “I’ve abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system.”
But Bush never had any free-market principles to abandon. He’s been one of the more statist presidents, though lagging behind the likes of Hoover and FDR, dramatically expanding the scope and power of the federal government.
Bush’s statement is pragmatism on steroids: it is not merely the view that principles are unnecessary, but that they should be actively violated.
But liberty cannot be saved by violating liberty. To the degree that free-market principles are abandoned, the free-market system no longer exists. Free markets are free from the initiation of force and fraud. Free markets exist when government limits its activities to protecting people’s rights to life and property. When the government forcibly takes wealth from some to redistribute to others, that is not a free market, it is a politically-controlled one.
Bush might as well say that he’s committing theft to protect property or assault to protect the integrity of the victim. He might as well say he’s drinking vodka to stave off drunkenness, cheating to preserve fairness, or lying to protect the truth.
The primary reason that American auto manufacturers are in trouble is that they do not function in a free-market system. They function in a system of federal manipulation of the money supply, federal manipulation of the housing supply (which has generally mucked up the economy), federal manipulation of auto production, and federal manipulation of associations.
There is only one way to save the free-market system, and that is to reinstate the principles of free markets, the principles of liberty, the principles of individual rights. By trampling free-market principles, Bush is helping to destroy the free-market system.