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Bailouts are bad because failure is good

Posted: November 8, 2011 at 2:00 pm   /   by

Okay, so that title sounds a bit paradoxical. And really, failure isn’t so much good as it is a necessary part of life.

From the digest:

Failure, though stigmatized by modern society as something to avoid at all cost, plays an irreplaceable role in the functioning of effective and efficient markets.  When we refuse to allow failure to happen, or we cushion its blow, we ultimately harm not only the person who failed but also all of society by denying ourselves a key way to learn how best to allocate resources.  Without failure there’s no economic growth or improved human wellbeing, say Steven Horwitz and Jack Knych, of St. Lawrence University.

[ . . .]

The modern Keynesian state, however, has greatly disrupted the process of information sharing by limiting the ability to fail.  Contemporary economists and politicians institute policies with the ultimate goal of failure prevention.  For example, farm subsidies allow American agriculture to stay afloat artificially, preventing its failure and limiting market access of new actors who might be able to identify farming methods that would not require government support.  The bailouts of Chrysler and General Motors had a similar effect, locking workers into jobs that are not efficient.  Through these policies and many others, the federal government undermines the social value of failure, say Horwitz and Knych.

Read the full paper here.

Christopher Cook

Christopher Cook

Managing Editor at Western Free Press
Christopher Cook is a writer, editor, and political commentator. He is the president of Castleraine, Inc., a consulting firm providing a diverse array of services to corporate, public policy, and not-for-profit clients.

Ardently devoted to the cause of human freedom, he has worked at the confluence of politics, activism, and public policy for more than a decade. He co-wrote a ten-part series of video shorts on economics, and has film credits as a researcher on 11 political documentaries, including Citizens United's notorious film on Hillary Clinton that became the subject of a landmark Supreme Court decision. He is the founder of several activist endeavors, including (now a part of Western Free Press) and He is currently the managing editor of and principal contributor to
Christopher Cook