Walter E. Williams

How about a bit of history? Between 1787 and 1930, our nation has seen both mild and severe economic downturns, sometimes called Panics, that have ranged from one to seven years. During that interval, there was no thought that Congress or the president should intervene in the economy to enact stimulus packages, jobs programs or massive corporate handouts. Probably, the reason that no one thought to do so was that there was no constitutional authority to do so. It took the Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt administrations to massively and unconstitutionally intervene in the economy and, with the help of a frightened, derelict U.S. Supreme Court, turn what might have been a two- or three-year sharp downturn into our longest depression.

Professor Hanke says that the lesson to be drawn from business cycle history is that, if left to run their natural course, severe downturns are followed by rapid snapbacks. The 1921 recession is a good example where wholesale prices, industrial production and manufacturing employment fell by 30 percent or more and reached their low in mid-1921. There was little government intervention, at least by today's standards, and the economy recovered naturally; and by early 1922, it had fully recovered and the nation was off to the Roaring Twenties.

The bottom line is that the idea that government bureaucrats have enough knowledge to manage an economy well is the height of conceit -- what Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek called the "fatal conceit."


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.'
 
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