So the left wants me to admit that the current meltdown means that we need oodles more financial regulation, and maybe the death penalty for being a rich idiot. The right wants me to admit that if we don't allow warrantless wiretapping, it will be harder to catch terrorists.

In the case of the latter, I concede that possibly they are right, as I am certainly no expert. But the purpose of catching terrorists is to make Americans better off. I am suspicious of the notion that we make Americans better off by giving the government broader spying powers.

In the case of the former, I also concede that a regulator might have prevented this--though take a long, hard look at government pension funds and their penchant for taking fliers in the derivatives market before you posit an all-wise regulator. But the regulator that would have stopped this would almost certainly have done so by being very, very conservative about new transactions--which would have stopped this, and a lot of things we like, like higher economic growth. There is no free lunch in regulation.

These two things are essentially flip sides of the same coin for me. Government powers come only at enormous cost: to liberty, to community, to the economy, and of course, the financial burden of paying for them. In some cases they are necessary. But pointing to a problem and noting that it exists is not an automatic warrant for me to smash it with the hammer of the state.