However, as the recent Wall Street meltdown revealed, a left-alone market also will provide opportunities for the greedy to play fast and loose with other people's money. If not restrained by some form of regulation, the greedy may lose that money and crash the economy.
When this happened, the U.S. and foreign governments stepped in to rescue the system that had done so many people wrong. It worked. Today, some banks and financial institutions that received large sums to save their hides have put their houses in order and, in a few cases, are paying the money back.
This repayment is in no small way due to the fact that those institutions want to escape government supervision. Of course, that supervision has forced them to do what was right for their customers and focus less on profits and executive bonuses.
As President Obama pointed out when he met recently with banking executives — to whom the government has given so much — it is time for them to quit putting their money in other large projects and begin using it to stimulate the economy. That's especially true with loans to struggling small businesses. The banks were less than enthusiastic at the president's request.
Realizing this reluctance, U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, earlier this month introduced the "Main Street Survival Act," a bill that will establish a "$1 billion revolving loan fund for small and midsized businesses who are struggling to obtain credit in the aftermath of the recession."
The money would come from dividends left from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and would be available to companies that employ less than 1,000 workers and "whose current financial condition makes it likely that they will have to make layoffs."
Some will argue that this money should go to banks in the private sector, or that there's no need for another bailout. However, the private sector is composed of the institutions that got the economy into this mess, which have been bailed out, and which are not using that federal money to help enough of these companies.
If they had, businesses such as Meadowcraft in Selma and New Era Cap Co. in the southwestern part of Alabama might not be closing and laying off hundreds of workers.
When the market won't do what is needed, it is the legitimate role of government to step in and do it.
That is what the Davis bill proposes. If the banks do not act quickly enough, this is what should be done.