I write this before the market opens on Friday, following a disastrous Thursday on Wall Street and more bloodletting overnight abroad. We are watching our pension funds and nest eggs vanish before our eyes, and there is nothing we can do about it. Mutual fund investors are cashing out in droves, and that compels the funds to sell large blocks of their holdings, usually at the end of the day, which causes prices to plummet, thereby prompting even more investors to cash out the next day. This is the vortex of fear that Franklin Roosevelt so memorably warned us against.
I've been thinking of FDR a lot lately. His administration put into place safeguards against another Great Depression. But a new generation of economists and politicians inspired Congress to dismantle these brakes and firewalls. They are a tenacious bunch, these Chicago Schoolers, but their case for laissez faire has been considerably weakened. FDR will have the last word, I hope, as we recognize that the greedy assault by these "masters of the universe" is a tyrannical attack on human rights..."everywhere in the world."
Here are FDR's words:
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want--which, translated into universal terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear--which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor--anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb."
— Franklin D. Roosevelt, excerpted from the Annual Message to the Congress, January 6, 1941