In 2004, Stanford economist Paul Romersaid that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. His statement was later repeated by Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff. Emanuel then said, “And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” Advocates of the free market should take the opposite position: A noncrisis is a terrible thing to waste.
A crisis is a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger. In a crisis, the attainment and retention of values is threatened. In many instances, immediate and dramatic action is necessary to eliminate or reduce the threat. Statists use a crisis, whether real or imaginary, to call for an expansion of government controls and regulations.
In a noncrisis, there is no immediate threat to values. Indeed, the attainment and retention of values, while not guaranteed, is possible if one takes the appropriate actions. A noncrisis is a time marked by the absence of turmoil or uncertainty. We might say that a noncrisis is a time when things are “normal.”
Just as statists use a crisis to advance their agenda, advocates of the free market should use a noncrisis to advance our cause.
Examples of noncrisis abound. We don’t have a crisis regarding computers, cell phones, televisions, or countless other products. Supply chain problems aside, we don’t have a crisis regarding pasta, cheese, milk, or other foodstuffs. We don’t have a crisis in regard to sports, music, literature, or other forms of entertainment. When individuals are free to produce and trade, producers offer consumers a wide range of products and services from which to choose.
Advocates of the free market should use these noncrises to to our advantage. Statists focus on negatives, such as low wages or the unaffordability of housing. Advocates of the free market should focus on the positive. Statists claim that they can solve the current crisis that was caused by their “solutions” to previous crises. Advocates of the free market should respond that, when the market is free, crisis are rare.
Statists believe that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Advocates of individual liberty would do well to remember that a noncrisis is a terrible thing to waste.