"The state should be the partner of the market, not the owner or manipulator of the market," he writes. "Governments should not pick economic winners and losers. The state may be back, but the politicians should be modest."
Modesty, unfortunately, is not the dominant character trait of a president who predicted that his election would be seen as "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."
But facts are stubborn things. The fact that the private sector economy has not responded as administration economists expected and confidently predicted should be a wake-up call.
It shows the limits of expert knowledge and the ability of political actors to make optimal economic choices.
The intellectual firepower of this administration may be high. But so was the intellectual firepower of the postwar British Labour governments that nationalized steel, auto companies and the railroads.
That didn't turn out so well, and for decades, the British economy lagged behind those of America and its European neighbors. State capitalism has been tried before. It didn't work.
Market capitalism works better because it doesn't depend on one set of actors to make all the choices. Entrepreneurs with a vision for the future can take their chances, and most may fail. But some will turn out to be Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, who change our world in ways that 99 percent of economic experts were unable to predict.
In the meantime, American voters seem prepared to return a negative verdict on the Obama Democrats' version of state capitalism. Bailout favoritism and crony capitalism, it turns out, are not vote-winners.
The open question is whether Republicans will present and advance public policies that leave the way open for market capitalism to find its way to a new sustainable pattern of production, as it has done before. Let's hope for that kind of change.
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