In practical terms, though, there is little difference between completely unregulated capitalism and being held hostage by private firms.
The whole reason this dicussion involves the content it does is because the political culture that is currently present on this forum, many others, and I dare say the American culture at large, is one that's increasingly influenced by die-hard anti-regulators who think that the only true capitalism is a competely unregulated one, and that wanting the federal government to oversee damn near any business/commerce/finance/etc.. is tantamount to socialism.
Just look at the Tea Party.
Hostage-taking can be helped by the government, too, look at what's going on with prescription drugs. There's a difference between "regulation" and the right regulation...
-Carefully taking sips from the Fire Hose of Knowledge
"Had to" was debatable. Initial word from the government at the onset of the recession was "this will hurt us a little but we'll be mostly alright". When the USA got hit as hard as they did the media and opposition political parties went on a frenzy on the conservative (minority-governing) party for being laissez-faire about the whole thing. The conservatives eventually gave in and released their own stimulus package.
While I have no particular ties to the conservative party, I do think they played their cards well. They read the economic future properly and only buckled when forced by the others. If they hadn't eventually gave in, the other parties would've dragged the country into elections at a very poor time to do so, and likely to no resulting change in power, only result being a lot of wasted effort.