The national ideological tilt has shifted fast, away from libertarianism and toward broad support for interventions like the new federal "pay czar," who will oversee banker compensation for bailout recipients. Such a sudden and dramatic reversal suggests that ideology has not been moored to steady principles. Instead, we have grasped too quickly at ephemeral data points and permitted our worldview to be shaped by panic. In this haze of hyperbole, we have an obligation to discern the more modulated truth.
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. Two essentially opposite viewpoints dominate today’s debate.