I am going to make this short, because Robert Reich has already said what needs to be said in this space (here).
My role here is to punctuate the obvious.
Let's start with what people believe.
The "Free Market"
The formal definition of a free market goes something like this:
A market system in which the prices for goods and services are set freely by consent between sellers and consumers, in which the laws and forces of supply and demand are free from any intervention by a government, price-setting monopoly, or other authority.
A free market economy is a market-based economy in which prices (for goods and services) are set freely by the forces of supply and demand and gravitate to their point of equilibrium without intervention by government policy. It typically entails support for highly competitive markets and private ownership of productive enterprises.
Free markets are also often associated with capitalism. However, the concept has been championed by anarchists, advocates of cooperatives and socialists.
Sounds Good To Me. (What is Your Problem, Buddy?)
I agree. It sounds wonderful and fanciful. And it is exactly that.
Apart from the assumptions that are made in the definition of free market, which do not exist in any country on Earth, people in societies that embrace free market capitalism also assume that the "free market" is natural, not man-made, inevitable and not influenced by the government.
This means that the outcomes of the "free market", i.e. inequality, poverty, insecurity, famine, war, etc, is beyond our control.
This is all fiction.
At the core, the “free market” is a set of rules that specify:
The rules defined above are a mere subset of the complete set that go into creating a "free market".
These rules do not exist in nature. They are creations of the minds of men (and women).
Markets are not “free” of rules. The rules define them.
As citizens of a democratic society, we have a say in the "free market".
We help define the rules in a number of ways, including voting governments into power,
Government help to organize and maintain the rules that create the "free market".
Let me repeat this for emphasis: Governments don’t “intrude” on free markets. They facilitate free markets.
But? But? But?
Ask yourself why there is no longer a (public) market for African slaves, why young children are not delicacies at your favorite restaurant, why urine-inspired beverages are not all the rage at your local watering spot or why your water supply is not filled with faeces and bacteria.
Now, own your part in creating and evolving our "free market".
Now, realize that you are responsible for the consequences of the "free market" (as it exists today). Yes, you share responsibility for inequality, poverty, crime, homelessness, etc.
Let that sink in.
Now, do something positive about it.
Dr Tyrone Grandison
Executive. Technologist. Change Agent. Computer Scientist. Data Nerd. Privacy and Security Geek.