How Lehman Brothers’ Crash Five Years Ago Made Me Appreciate Markets

Five years ago this coming Sunday, Lehman Brothers failed and with it the Great Recession accelerated. For me it had been the start of something wonderful! I have discovered my passion for ideas. In 2007/2008 I did not understand what was happening. I could not find any convincing arguments as to how the crisis happened. Blaming greed or capitalism in itself seemed too simplistic to me.

Thus, I started researching financial deregulation, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, fair-housing policies, mortgage-backed securities, and the role of central banks. Eventually, I stumbled across the business cycles theory of the economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek. Their body of work made sense to me and gave me a whole new perspective. I have not stopped studying markets and governments since.

According to Mises and Hayek, when central banks artificially lower interest rates it leads to increased liquidity in the banking system, which is meant to increase the availability of loans. With lower interest rates more investments become realizable. Projects get started, workers get hired, consumption and taxes are rising. The economy is doing well, so what is the problem?

The problem is that all the investment projects depend on real savings; on goods and services available within the economy. A mere increase in paper money cannot replace a lack of savings. At some point investors realize that their projects cannot be finished since there are not enough savings in the economy, prices will go up, and investments become unprofitable. The bubble bursts. This is what happened in the last financial crisis and during many other periods of financial distress. Artificially low interest rates fueled a boom, millions of unneeded houses were built, and the phony wealth disappeared. Admittedly, there are many facets to a crisis and no theory can explain it all. However, the briefly outlined business cycle theory by economists associated with the Austrian School has a lot of merit and explanatory power.

Opponents of the “free market” are correct when arguing that deregulation and some inventions within the financial system contributed to the crisis. However, what they often fail to recognize is the interwoven nature of the system of modern day “capitalism.”

Deregulation of these financial assets was being tackled under the pretext of giving every American the chance of owning his or her own home. That these policies also benefitted powerful interests in finance made it the perfect policy storm.

In and amongst the crash, Lehman Brothers failed. It was supposed to fail. There should have been more bankruptcies. These were prevented by the interlinked nature of big finance and big government. The results were bailouts, regulation and an economy that after five years is still very slowly recuperating. What are the underlying problems that led up to this situation? Is it the greed of bankers or the political power? Most people nowadays want to see tighter controls on markets, capital controls, and more regulation. Bigger government is the proposed solution to big business. What no one has explained to me so far is how big business can be refrained from capturing this regulatory process once again. Many of the presented answers are piecemeal approaches that lead, if thought through, to a spiral of interventionism to make the fixes air-tight.

What a prosperous society needs is a system that rewards behavior which benefits the whole and punishes undesired actions. Of course, no feedback system is perfect, since human beings are imperfect. However, the profit and loss system is a beneficial feedback system which has enabled us to live in a world with laundry machines, with phones that are more powerful than older computers, and a world in which pencils are being created even though no single person has all the knowledge needed to build one.

Within politics we do not have such a feedback mechanism. The people crafting fair housing policies did not pay for their mistakes. Maybe some got replaced by other politicians but where do we see changes? Interest rates have been at 0.25% for four years. Banks are even bigger now than they used to be. Politically connected businesses make huge profits. Unemployment is only going down because more and more people are exiting the labor force and economic growth is lagging behind.

These are the results of a system that gives few people power to steer a complex society. The Pretense of Knowledge to believe that society can be molded via the swift hand of the regulatory pen into any shape desired is a mirage. Studying markets and ideas have made me more humble in terms what politicians can achieve and more excited about what peaceful cooperating individuals can accomplish under the stability of the rule of law and a non-invasive government. The collapse of Lehman Brothers opened up a whole new world to me. For this I am thankful and I hope that more people start questioning the status quo without having another major crisis.

If you’d like to speak with or book Wolf or any of our other Advocates, please contact Young Voices now.

Young Voices Advocate Radha Gordon Writes About Immigration for the Daily Caller

On September 11th Young Voices Advocate Radha Gordon got published in the Daily Caller, stating that “Young people understand amnesty is a right, and a benefit.”

On Monday Caroline May reported that the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers opposes amnesty because it will lead to greater numbers of people immigrating to the U.S., both documented and undocumented.

The story quotes NAFBPO chairman Zach Taylor extensively, who complains that immigration laws are not being enforced aggressively enough. Perhaps that’s because the web of laws and procedures surrounding legal immigration are arcane, unreasonable, and unworkable.

Read the rest here.

What Growing Up in Post-9/11 New York Taught Me

The years before 9/11 were most of my early childhood. Like most elementary school students I was concerned with things fairly trivial in nature and largely apathetic to the world around me. But ever since, I haven’t been able to ignore the police state that erected itself after that day. It was intended to protect the people who supported it, but it’s become clear that it has consequences for everyone. The current state of liberty is grim in New York, especially with a population more pre-occupied with their safety rather than their freedom, but it is even worse for the poor and weakest among us.

The morning began like every other, but eventually digressed into an odd set of events which I’ll never forget, even in my old age. We were walking towards lunch when I first looked at the televisions that day. There was a small television located in the janitor’s office, that they were all glued to, watching. I couldn’t make out what was happening, none of the children knew anything specific, nothing more than what the principal told us—“your parents might be late from work if they do so in New York City.”

Once home, things became clear as I had access to a television. However, I became largely disinterested in the media hysteria that was evolving around the event. Repeatedly seeing the planes crash into the towers became not so much disgusting as it just felt redundant and unnecessary. The news stations largely seized the opportunity to prey on everyone’s fears, speaking of a large-scale war against Afghanistan. The news became less about reporting the event, and more about hypothetical situations and contemplation on the event.

The subway stations filled with militarized police officers, covered in Kevlar and donning automatic rifles. The NYPD and government at large became more aggressive in all their efforts, constantly touting their future accomplishments in stopping future terrorists attacks, and applauded for such, despite the illegal methods employed to do so. The Patriot Act loosened many of the constitutional requirements required for search and seizures, and the state of New York has taken great advantage of it.

The right to privacy largely is illusory unless you’re part of a certain socio-economic class in New York, and even then can be revoked at any instance. Illegal use of search dogs has become commonplace to the point where most citizens are more amused by the dog itself rather than the illegality of the matter. The NYPD has become increasingly militarized in both their appearance and method of “protecting” the people. Yet it’s said constantly that we’re more safe today because of these measures.

Before the terrorists it was the Soviets, and countless military conflicts were endorsed and engaged to stop them. They were purportedly evil, disagreed with our lifestyle, and similarly to the pro-Al Qaeda leaders in the Middle East, committed human rights abuses on their people. We constantly overthrew or endorsed the ousting of these individuals, and in the case of the Mujahedeen, aided and abetted them against the Soviets. The Mujahedeen were led by Osama bin Laden, who would eventually use these same weapons against the United States in the decades following.

History often repeats itself, alluding to the fact that human nature does not change despite how many centuries pass. Until people are willing to realize the consequence of their actions, accept the fate that there are simply evil people in the world, and not tolerate being harassed by the police officers they employ, there is nothing short of a militarized police state waiting for everyone.

The morning after 9/11 we were confronted with school psychologists, long lectures, and, most disappointing, a very poor explanation of the events. “They hate us because we’re free,” they said constantly. Every day ended with patriotic music, and anyone who was seen not standing for the pledge of allegiance was threatened with detention.

Becoming more ignorant of the world was one end of the spectrum of reactions. Someone Pakistani was called a “terrorist” by my peers, leading many of the Sikh children to be wrongly discriminated against. Of course, children are expected to be children, and these things were not endorsed by the school administration. Despite the difference in age, the discrimination and manner in which it was carried were both the same, which speaks to the power of the state and propaganda.

The great threat to the future of liberty of New York, or my generation, is that there is little incentive to care for most people, especially the wealthier citizens. The general consensus is that it’s a minor inconvenience to many people to be searched, not be able to board an airplane without being scanned, and to have a military and government who endorses the policing of the world at large to protect its citizens while murdering countless people around the world.
Like the children in my school who became hateful and scared, this diminished freedom has been compounded by racist and prejudiced ideas spread over their airwaves and through the presses. The only “get out of jail free” card in the future will be the size of your checking account and buying the status of someone who isn’t a suspected terrorist. Sadly, most people can’t afford that.

If you’d like to speak with or book Taweh or any of our other Advocates, please contact Young Voices now.