A Davos Speech: Been There, Done That, Doesn’t Work

By January 29, 2009Economy, Trade

From Jay Nordlinger’s Davos Journal in National Review Online, excerpts from a speech by a leader of a major European power (with Jay’s parenthetical comments):

Although additional protectionism will prove inevitable during the crisis, all of us must display a sense of proportion. Excessive intervention in economic activity and blind faith in the state’s omnipotence is another possible mistake. [He has already mentioned others.] True, the state’s increased role in times of crisis is a natural reaction to market setbacks. [But,] instead of streamlining market mechanisms, some are tempted to expand state economic intervention to the greatest possible extent. The concentration of surplus assets in the hands of the state is a negative aspect of anti-crisis measures in virtually every nation.

In the 20th century, the Soviet Union made the state’s role absolute. In the long run, this made the Soviet economy totally uncompetitive. This lesson cost us dearly. I am sure nobody wants to see it repeated.

Nor should we turn a blind eye to the fact that the spirit of free enterprise, including the principle of personal responsibility of businesspeople, investors, and shareholders for their decisions, is being eroded in the last few months. There is no reason to believe that we can achieve better results by shifting responsibility onto the state.

And one more point: Anti-crisis measures should not escalate into financial populism and a refusal to implement responsible macroeconomic policies. The unjustified swelling of the budgetary deficit and the accumulation of public debts are just as destructive as adventurous stock-jobbing.

Vladimir Putin.

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