Diagnosing the Market:
Fundamentalism as Cure,
Fundamentalism as Disease
Despite the credit crunch, there are still arguments being put forward in support of the unregulated free market by some economists. Their line is that the market must be left free to correct itself (the notion of the ‘invisible hand’),1 and that eventually it will do so, regardless of how bad the crisis appears to be at present, leaving the market a leaner and more efficient organism than it was before: the ‘survival of the fittest’ in publicly visible operation. The market will cure itself of any disease that may arise. It is accepted by such thinkers that some companies which have overstretched themselves will go under, especially if this has led to them being dramatically overvalued in terms of their share price. The dictum that the stock market can go up as well as down is taken very seriously by neoliberal economists, who see it as simply part of the natural order of things that there are cycles of boom and bust, and that the human cost of the latter just has to be borne, much like other natural phenomena such as the weather. We have no alternative but to respect the autonomy of the market and adapt ourselves to its patterns as best we can: first and foremost we are Homo economicus, so that is our destiny.
From this perspective, for governments to intervene in the market is to corrupt the mechanism of the invisible hand and, by providing a safety net, to encourage recklessness on the part of both corporations and investors – the condition known as ‘moral