Somewhere along the way, America’s confidence in itself was shaken to the core. Instead of abiding by its intrinsic instinct to risk failure for the option of great success, America suddenly flinched. Now every government policy, law or regulation is justified by how many people it will protect from failure, or from feeling the sting of their poor decisions. But protecting people from failure means that their freedom must necessarily be limited.
The Dodd-Frank financial reform bill was sold as a means to protect investors (and especially the little guy) from another financial crisis and the risk of losing their money. At 2,300 hundred pages long, the Wall Street Journal called it “the biggest expansion of government power over banking and markets since the Depression.” Such a pronouncement should send a chill down the spine of any capitalist.
One of the big selling points for the bill is getting rid of the “too big to fail” bailouts that were so odious to taxpayers during the Wall Street bailout. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner pronounced, “These reforms will benefit the prudent and constrain the imprudent.” (Interestingly, the bill doesn’t constrain the powers of the imprudent government that pushed the risky loans almost guaranteed to fail.)
Despite the claims of its proponents, the bill doesn’t actually address any of the problems that led to the financial meltdown. In explaining their opposition, many Republicans pointed out a glaring absence of any reforms for the two institutions at the center of the market crisis—Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Instead, it empowers unelected bureaucrats at 10 regulatory agencies to institute their own rules—estimated to be hundreds of new regulations that will be established over the next several years.
No wonder the market is so skittish these days—Wall Street can’t even read the laws that will govern it until regulators make up their minds at some point in the future. Government predictably fosters market stability.
And while the financial reform bill is supposed to protect average citizens from financial panics in the future, the new regulations will actually make it more difficult for businesses and consumers to get loans. The very people the bill was designed to aid will actually find their opportunities restricted. That’s a complete immunization against failure—never even having the opportunity to succeed or fail.
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