Walter E. Williams

Most of the great problems we face are caused by politicians creating solutions to problems they created in the first place. Politicians and a large percentage of the public lose sight of the unavoidable fact that for every created benefit, there's also a created cost or, as Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman put it, "There's no free lunch." While the person who receives the benefit might not pay or even be aware of the cost, but as sure as night follows day, there is a cost borne by someone. Let's look at a couple of congressionally created problems.

The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, whose provisions were strengthened during the Clinton and Bush administrations, is a federal law that mandates or intimidates lenders to offer credit throughout their entire market and discourages them from restricting their credit services to high-income markets, a practice known as redlining. The Community Reinvestment Act encouraged banks and thrifts to make so-called "no doc" and "liar" loans to customers who had no realistic ability to pay them back. A decade of monetary expansion by the Federal Reserve Bank, contributing to the housing bubble, encouraged lending institutions to take risks they otherwise would not have taken. Government actions created the subprime crisis and now government-proposed "solutions," such as foreclosure holidays, bailouts and further regulation of financial institutions, to the problems they created will create more problems.

Congress, doing the bidding of environmental extremists, created our energy supply problem. Oil and gas exploration in a tiny portion of the coastal plain of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would, according to a 2002 U.S. Geological Survey's estimate, increase our proven domestic oil reserves by approximately 50 percent. The Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and eastern Gulf of Mexico offshore areas have enormous reserves of oil and natural gas. These energy sources of oil have also been placed off limits by Congress. Because of onerous regulations, it has been 30-plus years since a new refinery has been built. Similar regulations also explain why the U.S. nuclear energy production is a fraction of what it might be.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Walter Williams' column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.