Breaking news: President Obama is a strong believer in free markets. Yesterday, in an address to the Business Roundtable, Obama mounted a vigorous defense of the free market and private enterprise, explaining his basic approach to economics and regulation.
In his own words, Obama has “always been a strong believer in the power of the free market. It has been and will remain the very engine of America’s progress – the source of a prosperity that has gone unmatched in human history. I believe that jobs are best created not by government, but by businesses and entrepreneurs like you who are willing to take risks on a good idea. And I believe that our role as lawmakers is not to disparage wealth, but to expand its reach; not to stifle the market, but to strengthen its ability to unleash the creativity and innovation that still makes this nation the envy of the world.”
In his response to the first questioner, Obama immediately and emphatically reiterated his approach: “As I said before, I am a strong believer in the ability of the free market to generate wealth and prosperity that’s shared across the board. I think there are times where sometimes our economy gets out of balance. This is obviously one of those times. And so government has to intervene in a crisis. But the goals should always be to right the ship and let private enterprise do its magic.”
According to the President, he seeks not to undermine or destroy the free market system that has created America’s prosperity, but to establish temporary spending and regulatory programs to restore the conditions that will allow the free market to flourish. If the President is to be believed, he does not aspire to move America away from a free market economy, but back towards it, eventually.
We’ve heard this message before, of course. For instance, FDR famously argued that continued dependence on government relief destroys the human spirit and is a violation of the traditions of America. It’s easy to pay lip service to traditional American principles such as economic freedom, but much harder to follow through. President Obama has declared that his intentions are to temporarily depart from free market ideas to save free markets and private enterprise. However, if he is truly serious about letting private enterprise do its magic, at some point he’s going to have to give back the wand. That would be real change, rather than more of the same.