December 27, 2011
The market economy is the most successful mechanism for creating prosperity humanity knows. Allied to modern science, it has done more than transform the world economy; it has transformed the world. For the first time in history, the world’s principal states rely on the market economy to develop their economies. Almost as important, they rely on a global market economy. Contemporary states are destined to co-operate with one another if they are to prosper.
Yet the market economy is not as unchangeable as the laws of the Medes and the Persians in the book of Daniel. It is successful not because it stays the same, but because it does not. The driving force is the desire of all human beings to work for the betterment of themselves and their families. The mechanism is the equally natural search for a better deal. But institutional settings and relationships with political institutions have always been open to change. This very adaptability has ensured the survival of market economies.
Two centuries ago there was no limited liability, no personal bankruptcy, little central banking, no environmental regulation and no unemployment insurance. All these changes occurred in response to economic or political pressures. All brought with them new solutions and new challenges. At a time of ongoing financial shocks, this need for adaptation has not ended. On the contrary, it is as important as ever.