One of the most deceptive ideas continuously sounded by the Right (and its fathomless think tanks and media outlets) is that the “free market” is natural and inevitable, existing outside and beyond government. So whatever inequality or insecurity it generates is beyond our control. And whatever ways we might seek to reduce inequality or insecurity — to make the economy work for us — are unwarranted constraints on the market’s freedom, and will inevitably go wrong.
By this view, if some people aren’t paid enough to live on, the market has determined they aren’t worth enough. If others rake in billions, they must be worth it. If millions of Americans remain unemployed or their paychecks are shrinking or they work two or three part-time jobs with no idea what they’ll earn next month or next week, that’s too bad; it’s just the outcome of the market.
In reality, the “free market” is a bunch of rules about (1) what can be owned and traded (the genome? slaves? nuclear materials? babies? votes?); (2) on what terms (equal access to the internet? the right to organize unions? corporate monopolies? the length of patent protections? ); (3) under what conditions (poisonous drugs? unsafe foods? deceptive Ponzi schemes? uninsured derivatives? dangerous workplaces?) (4) what’s private and what’s public (police? roads? clean air and clean water? healthcare? good schools? parks and playgrounds?); (5) how to pay for what (taxes, user fees, individual pricing?). And so on….
Instead, the rules are being made mainly by those with the power and resources to buy the politicians, regulatory heads, and even the courts (and the lawyers who appear before them). As income and wealth have concentrated at the top, so has political clout. And the most important clout is determining the rules of the game…
If we want to reduce the savage inequalities and insecurities that are now undermining our economy and democracy, we shouldn’t be deterred by the myth of the “free market.” We can make the economy work for us, rather than for only a few at the top. But in order to change the rules, we must exert the power that is supposed to be ours.
2 thoughts on “The Myth of the Free Market…”
You know what are the most tightly constrained markets in the world? The stock exchanges themselves. If free markets were so perfect, you’d think the very heart of the market could be a free-for-all.
We all know that there’s no such thing as free markets. Mr. Robert knew there were no free markets the entire time he was pretending that there were to placate his boss neo-liberal Bill Clinton. But, the Left has had a few good weeks lately. First the Left teamed up with the Libertarian Right to prevent the neo-liberals (Hillary’s interventionist warmongers) from dragging us into a war with Syria. Then the Left sank Larry Summers. That was another defeat for Hillary’s neo-liberals. Now if the Left can break the back of the NSA and its police state we might begin to right this sinking ship. Reich is a neo-liberal interventionist in sheeps clothing.
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