Friday, 15 May 2009

Wisdom Dawns on the Importance of Market Liquidity

I've been crying myself hoarse for years about the need for liquid (i.e., competitive) markets. A free market does not mean a laissez-faire market. It means a market that is guaranteed to be liquid, with plenty of buyers and sellers, and with no player large enough to influence prices through its actions alone.

The recent noises emanating from the Obama administration are a welcome indication that this lesson has been learnt. The world has paid - is continuing to pay - a very heavy price for the state of market illiquidity that has resulting in some players becoming too big to fail.

Someone rightly said that if a company is too big to fail, it's too big to exist.

We need aggressive antitrust, not just in the interests of fairness, but in the interests of our very survival. I hate to argue by pandering to practicality over principle, but that seems to be the only argument that works. Monopolistic and oligopolistic markets are unfair, but that doesn't seem to bother people. Monopolistic and oligopolistic markets can lead to systemic collapses that end in a deep recession - that probably gets more people to take notice and act.

The European Union recently acted boldly in fining Intel over a billion Euros for abusing its monopoly in computer chips. We need more such action against all monopolies, not only other IT monopolies like Microsoft but its counterparts in every industry.

By keeping markets liquid, we keep them healthy and our livelihoods safe.

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