By Robert Higgs
After several days of violent fluctuations, the world’s stock markets registered a massive increase in share prices on Thursday afternoon and on Friday, September 18 and 19, 2008. Why? As the Associated Press put it, “investors stormed back into the market, relieved that the government plans to restore calm to the financial system by rescuing banks from billions of dollars in bad debt. The Dow Jones industrials rose about 365 points, giving them a massive gain of about 775 over two days.”
The impending measures come close on the heels of a series of wrong-headed actions undertaken by the government, including the bailout/takeover of Fannie, Freddie, and AIG; massive injections of new credit by the Fed and other major central banks; and the SEC’s prohibition of short-selling for almost 800 financial-company stocks. If, as anticipated, the Treasury moves next to assume the rotten paper currently being held by banks and other lenders (presumably mortgages and related securities, for the most part), then it is fair to conclude that the government has given up entirely on the free market and has decided to occupy the wasteland where outright socialism and economic fascism meet.