Thomas Sowell

To people who think the government should "do something" -- and this includes most of the media -- it would never occur to them to compare the actual track record of what happens when the government does something and what happens when it lets the market adjust by itself.

Back in 1971, President Richard Nixon responded to widespread demands that he "do something" about rising prices by imposing wage and price controls that got him re-elected in a landslide. Moreover, the later damage to the economy was seldom blamed on those price controls.

Recently, Professor N. Gregory Mankiw of Harvard, a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, noted that people in Congress and the White House were wondering what they should do about the current economic situation. His suggestion: "Absolutely nothing."

It is not just free market economists who think the government can do more harm than good when they intervene in the economy. It was none other than Karl Marx who referred to "crackbrained meddling by the authorities" that can "aggravate an existing crisis."

Ronald Reagan and Karl Marx did not have much in common, except that they had both studied economics.

After the departure of Senator Phil Gramm and House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Congress has been an economics-free zone. There is not one economist among the 535 members of Congress.

But, in an election year, that is not a political handicap. Santa Claus has won far more elections than any economist.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate