If markets don't work, what will?
The following seemingly unconnected events of the past 24 hours all have a big thing in common:
a) the chancellor of the exchequer warning big banks that he fears they may be overcharging companies for credit and withholding vital loans from credit-worthy borrowers;
b) the Commodities Futures Trading Commission in the US raising serious concerns that gyrations in the oil price do not reflect actual or perceived changes in fundamental supply and demand, but are the consequence of financial speculation (see today's Wall Street Journal);
c) the media regulator, Ofcom, pointing out that internet service providers systematically overstate the speed of their broadband services (to which my colleague Rory Cellan-Jones would probably say "duh!", in that he has been banging on about this for months).
Well, these are all examples of public authorities - regulators or elected politicians - claiming that markets aren't working properly.
In other words - if these state authorities are correct - the market clearing price for small business loans, or energy or broadband are not the "right" prices. They are not the prices that would be set if there was healthy competition and if buyers and sellers had relevant information.
Which, in these cases, means that customers are being overcharged. And also that decisions on how and where to invest - how to allocate capital - are probably being taken in an inefficient way, with negative implications for growth and prosperity.
We're going to see a good deal more of the state interfering in markets - largely because we're enduring a painful recession caused by what many would see as the most serious market failure since the late 1920's.
In that more grave case, what happened was that banks and other financial institutions systematically under-priced loans - or, to use the jargon, mis-priced risk - for the reasons I've been boring on about here for a couple of years (defective risk-control systems in banks and regulators, judgements distorted by self interest in firms, finance ministries, and central banks, and so on).
So we seem to be moving away from the Anglo-American political consensus of the past 20 years that the markets are normally right, reversing the Thatcherite/Reaganite movement of rolling back the state and expanding the domain of the private sector (to be pretentious for a moment).
But what we are heading towards?
If markets are routinely wrong, what does that mean for how we organise our economies?
The influential chairman of HSBC, Stephen Green - in his new book, Good Value - defends market-based economies as simply the least bad of the available options.
And that may well turn out to be the view of the majority.
But, many would say, it's not a very inspiring view of how we live now.
Does it mean, inevitably, that the role of the regulator, the public inspector, will inevitably become more and more powerful?
What about our attitudes to wealth creators, how will they change?
Right now, it's become almost an article of faith among the current generation of regulators and central bankers that markets almost always overshoot (replacing the previous religious conviction of market perfection).
Behavioural economics, a hybrid of psychology, is in. The efficient market hypothesis is widely viewed as an embarrassing example of primitive fundamentalism.
According to the new ideology, participants in markets who accumulate the biggest personal fortunes are merely those most adept at predicting the irrational behaviour of the herd.
Which probably shouldn't be seen as any more noble or as a more socially useful form of wealth creation than betting on the 3.30 at Kempton Park.
And yet we have a tax system, introduced by this government, that disproportionately rewards capital gains generated in financial markets.
So the differential rates of income tax and capital gains tax probably aren't sustainable.
There is a much more fundamental dilemma for this government and the next one.
Which is that public faith in markets and the private sector is being tested at a time when many would argue that the relative size of the public sector has grown disproportionately.
The public sector is heading towards a size - not far off 50% of our economic output or GDP - we haven't seen since the 1970's.
To state the bloomin' obvious, unless the private sector expands to create jobs and generate tax revenues, we're going to be considerably poorer for years.
But how on earth can that happen if the state has to employ a growing army of officials to prevent the private sector ripping us off?
And if we've fallen out of love with unfettered markets, does that mean the end of privatisation and the abandonment of the attempt to introduce market structures into public services.
Interestingly the Tories have work in progress on this in their fledgling policies for what they call the "post bureaucratic" society.
Broadly, this is about providing households with as much relevant information as possible via the internet to make informed choices about which financial services to buy or which state school to choose.
The theory is that Google-style algorithmic data sorting replaces state-funded watchdogs and nannies.
A worthwhile ambition? Most would probably say so.
But implementation won't be cheap and would take years and years to touch even a slim majority of the population.