Bull Run

Spitzer, Eliot; Celli Jr., Andrew G.
March 2004
New Republic;3/22/2004, Vol. 230 Issue 10, p18
The article offers a look at the role of the government in a free market. We are told we live in the New Economy, an economy of computers and fiber-optic cables, capital without borders, and competition on a global scale. This is mature market capitalism, and its promise for human advancement--when combined with democracy and individual freedom--is rightly touted at every turn. But, if our economy is a creature of the twenty-first century, our thinking about government's role in the economy is mired in the nineteenth. The government's role is to put the brakes on capitalism and to protect the public from market forces through its power to tax and regulate. If there is one lesson that can be gleaned from the New Economy, it is that the government's proper role is neither that of passive spectator nor lion tamer. The connection between administration policy and interest-group politics is direct and explicit: The shift in the Clean Air Act's interpretation--undertaken to protect Midwestern polluters from having to make expensive upgrades--grew directly out of Vice President Dick Cheney's industry-dominated Energy Task Force, through which energy producers effectively dictated the very policies that are supposed to regulate them. Our belief in the importance of equal opportunity and nondiscrimination is too often forgotten when it comes to the debate over whether and how to police the market for home mortgages.


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