Fundamental to the functioning of a free market economy is that individual members work assiduously to preserve its solvency. But regardless of the genesis of the 2008 collapse, we now know that both financial institutions and the free market's invisible hand nearly pushed the global economy toward an extraordinary free-fall into insolvency.

Only government intervention prevented an economic Dark Age. But even the government held out faith in the free market, allowing Lehman Brothers to fail before coming to terms with the enormity of the crisis. In part due to the events of the past three years and my own pessimism, I believe that despite an abundance of extraordinary people, only a few individuals work diligently while keeping future predictions in mind. This especially seems to be the case with financial institutions.

It is human nature to prefer the present to the future. However, good government by nature exists to maintain posterity for future generations. Because of this thankless responsibility, governments around the world bailed out private actors that had been responsible for bringing the global economy to its knees.

Without the widely unpopular government bailouts and massive monetary easing, global markets would have undoubtedly crashed and most banks would have failed. The consequences of inaction would have made the current recession look pleasant.

If this is the case, why can't the free market extend a proportionate level of confidence in government as it has upon private actors in the economy? More worrisome, as opinions from even the staunchest of free market advocates have changed in response to recent events, why do a growing number of Americans—whose lives are most affected by free market economics—continue to preach less regulation?

Now that we have had two years to reflect on the events of 2008, what have we learned? Unfortunately, I would argue that we have learned very little.

I raise these questions not to exonerate free markets. To the contrary, I agree with Alan Greenspan's cynical comments in response to the developments of the past two years: "The question isn't if free markets function efficiently. They do not. Regrettably, there is nothing better."

Crisis will undoubtedly recur to varying levels, and in response to the events of 2008, governments will enact new regulatory measures to mitigate future crises. However, before any federal regulation can have meaning, confidence in government must be restored. As evident with the lack of regulation in financial institutions, too little government has very real consequences.

Restoration of confidence in government is essential because it will allow the government to deal with the inefficiencies of free markets. This is the biggest lesson of the financial crises, but politicians and popular sentiment have been overwhelmingly skeptical of government despite the fact that government efforts saved the global economy. In this environment of hostility toward government, I am afraid that the lessons of the past two years will be short-lived.

Unfortunately, the greatest failure of this economic crisis may be that it may take an even larger one to sincerely change the minds of politicians and the greater public. If the events of 2008 really do occur once in a century, I just hope I am not around for the next day of economic reckoning.

J.B. Chun is a member of the Class of 2011.