About That Free Market

Something I’ve been tossing around the last couple of days while not ranting or stressing is that it has occurred to me there are differing conceptions of the free market. To me, when I say the free market, I think of people being able to freely and openly share their wares, to purchase what they want and need, and with some degree of happiness on both the buyer and seller’s end.

It seems to me, though, that the folks who most discuss the free market and are the biggest free market advocates just don’t see things that way. They sort of view things much like the “pain caucus,” who seem to be unable of thinking a policy is acceptable unless a majority of the nation eats shit in the name of patriotism and fiscal responsibility. Instead of viewing the “free market” as I have described it, their vision of the free market is an economy in which those with power are able to freely fuck over everyone else. The free market needs energy, so those of you living in towns with your water polluted by mine runoff can fuck off and die, because any government intervention messes up the “free market.” The market demands oil, so Allah forbid we get in the way of oil spills that might ruin the Gulf forever- witness the freakout over a mild cessation in deep sea drilling by “free market” advocates. The free market advocates that there be Randian geniuses who vacation at the Hamptons after fleecing people who tried to do the right thing investing.

In short, it has become obvious to me (belatedly), that when a lot of free market advocates talk about the free market, what they mean is the right to fuck people over with no recourse. Hey- you should have invested better! Hey- you should have known those Iowa eggs were shit! It seems as if in their minds (and I’m thinking of total shitheads like Welch, Gillespie, and McMegan), there simply can not be a free market unless someone is getting screwed, which is completely contrary to my understanding of the “free market.” In my understanding of the free market, things are a win/win scenario, not a tilted table with a win/lose situation where the winner is predetermined by influence and power and connections and societal standing.

It’s just crazy and a really warped way of thinking, and it turns everything on its head. Maybe this is why there is such a resurgence in buy local- you deal with your producers, and know what you are getting. I dunno.

Like I said, just babbling.






153 replies
  1. 1
    El Cid says:

    People throughout much of South America in the 1970, particularly writers and editors, found themselves in some pretty dark prisons or falling out of airplanes for saying pretty similar things. In such tough times, thoughts like these were seen as seditiously communist.

  2. 2
    clone12 says:

    Speaking as a bleeding-heart liberal with an altar dedicated to John Maynard Keynes, how the #&$%@& were you ever a Republican?

  3. 3
    Quaker in a Basement says:

    I’ll add that the free marketeers you describe are often the same people who are interested in “tort reform.”

    How is their vision of a free market supposed to work if the law limits the liability of companies to be penalized for their bad actions?

  4. 4
    ItAintEazy says:

    Like I said, just babbling.

    Rather read your babbling than the useless maundering by those said columnists the “free market” demands should be paid for what they spew.

  5. 5

    John Cole +3, and an extra shot of righteous indignation. The free market is also referring to PayPal’s right to completely fuck over their customers and in response to their dissatisfaction, just tells the public to STFU and deal. Free Market means no corporate accountability, and the chutzpah to fingerfuck your revenue stream all the while.

  6. 6
    James E. Powell says:

    Seriously, you are just getting this? That when they say “free market,” it’s just like when they say “Christian” or “democracy.”

    These are the people who insist that “free enterprise” built America with a straight face, willfully disregarding the genocide, the land grabs, the slavery, the land giveaways, the railroad, the protectionist tariffs, the national guard and police used to suppress labor movements, and a host of government policies and expenditures that were necessary to the accumulation of wealth.

    And you are just getting this now?

  7. 7
    IronyAbounds says:

    In short, it has become obvious to me (belatedly), that when a lot of free market advocates talk about the free market, what they mean is the right to fuck people over with no recourse.

    Nail head meet hammer.

  8. 8

    @El Cid:

    It is not really communist, you know.

    It is the despair that sometimes leads people to consider other ways of organizing our commerce.

    And when people start to think, who knows what it can leat do?

  9. 9
    The Dangerman says:

    The free market needs energy, so those of you living in towns with your water polluted by mine runoff can fuck off and die…

    No, no, a thousand times NO!

    Those living in towns with water polluted by mine runoff can, indeed, fuck off…

    …but not die; who would be alive to work in unregulated dangerous conditions in the mine…

    …let alone cook the meals for just enough pay that maybe they can shop at Walmart?

  10. 10
    Bill Murray says:

    I think John, you mostly just described a market, which are generally good and rarely worse than benign. Free markets are primarily sky cake (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55h1FO8V_3w) for the rich and selfish. Semi-reasonable babble founded on impossible to prove assumptions that support what one wants to believe so one can feel better about themselves. Woo Hoo

  11. 11

    What’s with the moderation Nazi? We can talk about communism without going into moderation but we cannot mention soshulism?

    What the hey?

  12. 12
    The Dangerman says:

    Soc1alism.

  13. 13
    Anne Laurie says:

    It’s the glibertarian version of Voltaire’s quote:

    “It is not enough that I win; my enemies other people must lose.”
    __
    “(And I must be given a public forum to make fun of them luzers, too also, or you libs are restricting my free speech rights.)”

  14. 14
    Kristine says:

    In short, it has become obvious to me (belatedly), that when a lot of free market advocates talk about the free market, what they mean is the right to fuck people over with no recourse.

    They’re the economic side of the present-day conservative coin. On the moral/social side, there are the folks who are not happy unless someone somewhere is paying a price for Being Bad. In both cases, other peoples’ suffering somehow justifies their feeling that they are the Chosen. They’re a cruel bunch, and they feed off the pain of others. It still boggles me that many of these people have the nerve to call themselves Christians.

  15. 15

    @Linda Featheringill:

    Sockalism contains the brand name for the hardon pill with the ppl in the bathtubs. It’s in the spam filter and referenced in the Lexicon.

  16. 16

    @Linda Featheringill: It has the boner pill in it. So you can also not say spec ia list or anything like that.

    Cole, you hit the nail on the head. It’s the same with everything else on the platform, really. Rights for me, but not for thee. To expand, the right and free-market proponents of the type you describe believe in a zero-sum game. If someone is up, someone else has to be down. If gays can marry, then my marriage is worth less. If there is a not-a-mosque at not-Ground-Zero, it impinges on my freedom of worship just because. I don’t understand it.

  17. 17

    @James E. Powell: I know “This” is getting old, but “This.”

    The douchebags licking the invisible hand of the free market started with the belief that the little guy should take it up the ass sans astroglide and a nice dinner beforehand. Then they looked around for something that could be said to fit that belief. Some use capitalism (but can still scream Too Big To Fail), others conservatism (but somehow it means the cops should get to kick in my bedroom door), still others found Christianity (without the boring hippy-trippy do unto others and mind your own business stuff).

    They don’t care about any of that, they just want to see people suffer.

  18. 18
    El Cid says:

    @Linda Featheringill: It’s not about it ‘being’ communist. It’s about regimes not wanting there to be any questioning of their ruling scheme.

    You didn’t overthrow a mild reformist president of Guatemala like Jacobo Arbenz because anyone ‘really’ or ‘mistakenly’ thought he was a communist.

    It’s just what I said. In different times and places, when the power’s more brute and more paranoid, the sorts of thoughts we might see as sane, mildly reformist, etc., got people called communist and then tortured or killed.

    It didn’t help any of them to try and patiently explain that they weren’t really Soviet stooges, that they just thought that maybe the local plant shouldn’t poison the water, and maybe the government ought to protect the locals.

    There was no guarantee going in that the kinds of forces pushing for the reforms which ended up as the New Deal would win over the screaming reactionaries calling any reforms, any sanity, as Bolshevism.

    People don’t have to scream at you that you’re Communist or anti-American or whatever because they think you are — it’s enough that they want enough people to wonder so that if you don’t shut up, no one will listen.

  19. 19
    gex says:

    Yes. Many people mistake the “free” in free market to mean “do whatever you want” and not “relatively free for people to participate without barriers to entry/information”.

    This is why free marketers will, for instance, object to menu labeling requiring the calories for items at restaurants. Forcing the owners to do that curtails their freedom. While the rest of us are free to hire a lab to test the items for us so we can have the information. Everyone is free! There’s no power imbalance there.

  20. 20
    Brachiator says:

    Like I said, just babbling.

    To the contrary, you are on a cranky roll. Well said.

    Rave on, John Cole.

  21. 21
    Capn America says:

    The Randroids and Reasonoids believe in a free market where things like negative externalities, monopolies, imperfect information, and other factors that lead to market failure don’t exist.
    If we had free markets where all of the above were taken into consideration, and every single cost and benefit was accounted for, I’d be totally pro free market. The only problem is, we will never achieve such a state, not to mention the fact that even if we could, humanity prevents us from letting certain transactions occur, e.g. letting people die of disease just because they can’t afford health care due to unwise investment decisions.

  22. 22
    Jager says:

    When I started in my business, broadcasting in the early 70’s the FCC rule was one AM, one FM in a maximum of 7 markets with no cross ownership of newspapers and TV with a few “grandfathered exceptions, ABC, CBS, etc abided by those rules. Radio and TV were attuned to the local community, involved in the local community and when you drove across the country you noticed radio in Boston was different from the radio in NY or Clevelend or Charlotte or LA. Since the “free market deregulation” of broadcasting, we have radio and TV that is the same everywhere…its MacDonalds. You have full coverage FM stations doing a format that won’t “hurt” the companies “big” station in the market, rather than an innovative format. You have radio markets where two companies own all of the facilities and do absolutely nothing for the community of license. Local ownership was good for broadcasting, good for citizens and now the Clear Channels, Citadels and Cumulus have just about destroyed a unique and completely American business, local, responsive radio and TV…disgusting.

  23. 23
    General Stuck says:

    I think those people who misuse the term Free Market, are really saying it is my gawd given right to get rich, and you fuckers with yer rules don’t have the right to stop me. It is the general dog eat dog mindset that our wingnuts make their determinations, not only on what a “Free Market” means in a free country, but on virtually every other issue. It is a predatory world view, that doesn’t go any further than “stop me if you can” and the always relevant “I got mine, now go fuck yourself losers”.

    These people despite other beliefs about this or that issue, really only see this country’s value as a way to gain personal wealth. And whatever freedom exists is to that end. They have no real sense of country, community, or common good. They and their immediate families are not part of a country, so much as little sovereign countries in and of themselves, always at war with everyone, including their fellow American, especially their fellow Americans.

    And all of it to make a buck, or a lot of bucks. Somehow they seem to have convinced themselves that getting rich by any and all means will give them some fantasy notion of immortality. I have seen this with the wingers in my own family, and even the hardest core of them, when close to the end or experiencing personal tragedy or sickness, begin to realize no one here gets out alive, and some even become less wingnutty and more liberal and caring for their fellow man.

  24. 24
    The Dangerman says:

    Completely free markets might work if there were things such as 100% employment (I know, I’ve just violated the free market in assuring employment for all); then, when the mines were shown to be dangerous, you could tell the owners to go DIAF. In tough times, people have to do whatever it takes to make it (which, of course, is why the free marketers want to do away with the minimum wage, which, once again, might work in a condition where employment is assured).

  25. 25
    Martin says:

    Yeah, I’ve run into these differing definitions. Mine is quite different from what most Republicans describe.

    To me a free market satisfies a few basic criteria:

    1) In any market segment, the barrier to entry for new participants is sufficiently low that new players periodically arrive. The market is also tolerant of non-profits.
    2) In any market segment, the sudden elimination of a participant will have minimal impact on the market.
    3) Consumers have reasonable portability of vendors (they can stop being a customer of one company and become customers of another) and the ability to opt out altogether.
    4) Companies have no more rights than their customers or employees and companies have no more power than the aggregate power of their customer base.
    5) Customers and employees have reasonable assurances of safety from the behavior of companies.
    6) The government won’t interfere with companies other than to ensure the above items are preserved, however the government does have an interest to ensure that the nation retains the necessary skills and equipment and access to resources to ensure national security.
    7) All of these rules apply regardless of the size of the market.

    ‘Free markets’ isn’t a synonym for full-bore libertarianism. A fully unregulated market routinely becomes an unfree market. Government has a responsibility to ensure that markets are fluid and that the relationship between markets and citizens is fluid.

  26. 26
    IronyAbounds says:

    Conceptually, capitalism and free markets provide incentives for creating the most efficient means for matching overall supply to overall demand, and when done most efficiently, everyone as a whole is better off because of the efficiency. Unfortunately, as your post suggests, we have developed a somewhat perverted form of capitalism where one part of the supply side, the capital providers screws the labor segment of the supply side so that the capital providers get a disproportionately large piece of the pie and the pie as a whole is smaller because the labor segment, which comprises the largest portion of the demand side, is getting rear-ended without any lubricant.

  27. 27
    MattR says:

    @Capn America: Well said. You saved me the time of writing something similar.

  28. 28
    El Cid says:

    Don’t worry, I’m sure someone will soon unveil a dick drug with letters contained inside “communism” — Munis! Commu! Unism! No, wait…

  29. 29
    kt says:

    There’s a really simple fix for all this corruption, at least in theory. Ban interest. With no way to make millions or billions without working, the rich would have to actually invest their principal. This principal investing would quickly redistribute the wealth back into society.

    Sure, many of the very rich would entrench, but there are some who have a conscience and would put their money to work doing real things for real people.

  30. 30
    Lolis says:

    Since right wingers love to say freedom isn’t free, maybe we should start saying free markets aren’t free.

  31. 31
    MattR says:

    @The Dangerman: 100% employment would lead to massive inflation as there would be constant increases in salary as companies competed for employees.

    @El Cid: I vote for “Ommuni”

  32. 32
    Martin says:

    I should add that my mom leans in the ‘free market’ direction. She is infinitely more trusting of a corporate overlord than a governmental one. My best take on it is that this crowd expects to have a powerful authoritarian hand in the economic welfare of the nation, but has bought into the zombie Reagan ‘government is the problem’ meme so strongly that they’d prefer an authoritarian hand that is openly biased by money and power but has no citizen oversight than one that is secretly biased by money and power but does have citizen oversight.

    They aren’t as interested in supporting small business or entrepreneurs that they claim. Rather, they’re looking for a counterbalance to a government track that they disagree with that doesn’t involve Democracy, and ironically doesn’t include the corporate-run media. Their personal influence on this counterbalance comes from the financial markets, which is admittedly much more direct and rewarding than voting is. But because this is where they see their power originates from, they’re really only interested in large corporations as effective counterbalances to government. Small business doesn’t give them the input they want and they don’t have the authority they seek.

  33. 33
    Bob Loblaw says:

    I struggle to believe you’ve never heard of the term ‘social darwinism’ before, John…

  34. 34
    sven says:

    @El Cid: It’s amazing how universal this impulse can be. I’m always struck by the sheer venom with which the conservative catholic leadership speaks of liberation theology. It’s amazing how quickly any threat to the existing power structure is identified as a bunch of immoral communists…

  35. 35
    Sentient Puddle says:

    Me, the formulation I’ve always had is that it’s just a way to shirk responsibility. You don’t like that we don’t vaccinate our chickens against salmonella? Well we’re still selling a shitton of them, so clearly a lot of people have no problem with it, and thus we’re not doing anything wrong! And such.

    I never really thought of it as being evil so much as lazy. I know people with seemingly good intentions who honestly believed that BP was perfectly rational not installing a blowout preventer because nobody was demanding that they not leak an entire well into the gulf and so, hey, lesson learned for the demand side. After shit like this, I really have to reevaluate that whole “good intentions” vibe, but more than anything, the sense I get really is lazy.

  36. 36
    El Cruzado says:

    The part they don’t tell you when defending free markets is that Econ 101 perfect free markets suck balls for producers (and long term for consumers too) since no one makes a decent profit anywhere.

    To make a decent profit, the market needs to be less than perfect. There’s good ways to go about it (innovate your way past the competition, for example) and there’s what free marketeers like (screwing up other people, taking their moolah and hearing the laments of their women).

  37. 37
    El Cruzado says:

    @kt: Incidentally it would also be the Christian thing to do.

  38. 38
    chrismealy says:

    John’s absolutely on to something. A lot of it is a side-effect of taking econ 101. You learn all these little parables of selfishness, stuff like the deadweight loss of Christmas, and the overall theme that emerges is that being an asshole about everything is the way to go. So young glibertarian goes forth into the world, forgetting all the details, but retaining the part about being an asshole about everything.

    I think a lot of those TNR/Slate classic counter-intuitive capers come out econ 101 anxieties about unintended consequences.

  39. 39
    The Dangerman says:

    @MattR:

    100% employment would lead to massive inflation…

    True, which is why capitalism “requires” unemployment, so that the working class has to take it up the ass dry. Also, capitalism “requires” being able to fuck the working class as much as possible (see goods made in China under effective slave conditions, let alone the slavery of the agrarian Confederacy).

  40. 40
    LanceThruster says:

    I think the win-win in the mind of the crooks is that you are free to get screwed by them and pay to learn the valuable lesson from it as they already have your money.

  41. 41
    Ian says:

    Yeah…I’ve seen a distinction there too. I tend to call myself a “pro-capitalism” or “pro-free markets” liberal, but I’ve realized it’s a very different “pro” then your typical conservative. I believe capitalism is the best way to distribute resources and effort, both in terms of overall efficiency for the economy and even in terms of fairness and maximizing individual happiness. Not perfect, but better than other systems that have been tried both in practice and in theory. So I’m pro free market because it’s a means to an end that I value, not because I think there’s some higher moral value to the concept of “freedom” in the marketplace. And I think that’s a real distinction that manifests itself in the “all government regulation is bad always” attitude that is so prevalent among conservatives. To them if doesn’t matter if we’re all collectively made worse off by pollution or stock market crashes or monopolies, it’s still better to keep the government out of the regulation business simply because it’s a moral value. I worked hard to buy that arsenic and anthrax factory and now I should be able to do what I want with it.

    I think the net neutrality fight is a perfect example. The neutral net has dramatically lowered barriers to entry into all sorts of marketplaces, increasing competition and market efficiency. Net commerce won’t cease when net neutrality is gone, but it will be one more way to let large market players squash their competition without producing better or cheaper widgets, which is essentially the antithesis of what free markets are supposed to do. So I’d argue I’m for net neutrality precisely because I’m for free markets. And the teabaggers are against net neutrality because Dick Armey told them to ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H because scrapping it is good for a few key network backbone operators.

  42. 42
    Mogden says:

    I am an unabashed supporter of the free market, and I absolutely do not believe that it means “the right to fuck people over with no recourse.” That sounds like a very poorly operating market indeed.

  43. 43
    Kat says:

    >> …their vision of the free market is an economy in which those with power are able to freely fuck over everyone else.

    Case in point:

    The New Yorker: Billionaire Brothers Charles & David Koch…

    As DemocracyNow’s intro says:

    An article in the latest issue of The New Yorker magazine by Jane Mayer profiles billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, two of the richest men in America who have quietly given more than a hundred million dollars to right-wing causes. Mayer writes, “The [Koch] brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.”

  44. 44
    sjcumbuco says:

    In When Corporations Rule the World, David Korten talks a lot about the way that corporations externalize costs. It’s in a corporation’s interest to externalize costs (i.e., pass them on to someone else) to the greatest degree possible, whether it is logging companies getting their roads built by the government or a corporate polluter avoiding costs associated with regulations (pollution prevention), clean-up, or other forms of financial liability related to polluting and the costs it imposes on the people affected.

    In fact we have nothing like a free market, but rather one where corporations are heavily subsidized. This occurs in countless ways: through direct subsidies, by allowing corporations to avoid taxation, and by failing to require corporations to pay for the use and degradation of the commons.

    A lot of “pro-business” people like to ignore these issues of externalized costs, maybe because many think the costs to society result in some kind of net economic benefit (i.e., job creation). Anyway, I think the progressive community could do a better job of framing issues with these concepts in mind.

  45. 45

    @Mogden:

    I am an unabashed supporter of the free market, and I absolutely do not believe that it means “the right to fuck people over with no recourse.” That sounds like a very poorly operating market indeed.

    LOLwut? Please tell us where this planet is of which you speak? We come in peace!

  46. 46
    El Cid says:

    I don’t think there’s anywhere near the amount of evidence that capitalism are markets are the best, most efficient ways of allocating resources. We’re only looking at a couple hundred years at most.

    You may prefer it more to other proposed alternatives, but I just don’t see that human civilization did all it needed to do as far as basic organizing principles and thus has more or less topped out after a couple hundred years of industrial production and markets.

  47. 47
    Mogden says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    I would love to, if I understood what you were saying.

  48. 48

    @Mogden:
    Okay, try this on for size: There is NO SUCH THING as a free market. All markets are regulated. Many markets are subject to tariffs, price controls, wage controls, government subsidies, etc. Show me a free market before you start telling me how you believe in one.

    And re: “being able to fuck people over,” we’ve already been there, done that. Free markets is a bullshit term for a bullshit economic philosophy.

  49. 49
    gex says:

    @kt: Why, you could even probably find some Biblical justification for that!

  50. 50
    El Cid says:

    The Koch family’s entrepreneurial free market sponsor, Josef Stalin.

    The Tea Party movement’s dirty little secret is that its chief financial backers owe their family fortune to the granddaddy of all their hatred: Stalin’s godless empire of the USSR.
    __
    The secretive oil billionaires of the Koch family, the main supporters of the right-wing groups that orchestrated the Tea Party movement, would not have the means to bankroll their favorite causes had it not been for the pile of money the family made working for the Bolsheviks in the late 1920s and early 1930s, building refineries, training Communist engineers and laying down the foundation of Soviet oil infrastructure
    __
    …Stalin’s first Five-Year Plan was just kicking into action a nation-wide industrialization effort, and Soviet planners needed smart, industrious college grads like Fred Koch. The Soviet Union was desperately trying to increase its oil refining capacity, so oil engineers were especially in high demand — and well paid, too.
    __
    “We are the world’s greatest market, and we are prepared to order a large amount of goods and pay for them,” Joseph Stalin told an American journalist in 1932. Stalin wasn’t kidding. From 1926 to 1929, the Soviet oil industry bought $20 million worth of equipment. And Koch was about to get in on the action.
    __
    In 1929, after hosting a delegation of Soviet planners in Wichita, Kansas, Winkler and Koch signed a $5 million contract to build 15 refineries in the Soviet Union. According to Oil of Russia, a Russian oil industry trade magazine, the deal made Winkler-Koch into Comrade Stalin’s number-one refinery builder. It provided equipment and oversaw construction:

    After making his big shitload of dough with the Stalinists for a generation, Koch got really pissed in the 1950s and launched and funded TeaTards 2.0 (1.0 being 1930s Liberty Leaguers) as the John Birch Society.

  51. 51
    shecky says:

    In my understanding of the free market, things are a win/win scenario, not a tilted table with a win/lose situation where the winner is predetermined by influence and power and connections and societal standing.

    Welcome to the world, John. In what universe have power, connections and social standing not virtually predetermined much of our fate?

    Seriously, John. You seem a bit crazy these days. Back in the old days, I found you unreadable because you were blinded by the drive to punch hippies. I chalked it up to the general mood that held much of the country at the time. But at some point, you came to, and turned 180 degrees, a welcomed return to reality. Now, you’re heading off in another crazy direction. It’s as if you’ve completely lost your bearings and can only respond by lashing out in bitter snark. Were you like this before the internet? At this rate, I expect you to be adopting the “Obama is history’s greatest monster!” line by October. Even littlegreenfootballs is mellower than the general mood here. Something isn’t right.

  52. 52
    Ailuridae says:

    @chrismealy:

    James Kwak has hit that drum in the past as well.

  53. 53
    Mogden says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    Yeah, market interactions take place in a legal framework, and there are many different restrictions that may be present. When I say I believe in the free market, that just means that I think that typically things work best when the legal framework remains a way to ensure honesty, transparency, and accountability. I don’t like to see regulations on prices, or that favor special constituencies, or prevent people from doing mutually agreeable trades.

  54. 54
    Nylund says:

    From an economics perspective, all the grand proofs that show the awesomeness of perfect competition rely on a whole set of assumptions. Those of rest of us that live in the real world realize that sometimes they don’t and sometimes market intervention is needed.

    Examples include a lack of perfect information (eg. knowing whether or not eggs are contaminated), externalities (eg. pollution), or recognizing that the tragedy of the commons is a real thing and that we should do our best to prevent it.

    Free Market proponents either love the beauty of the theory so much that they delude themselves into thinking that these assumptions are always true, or are people that fully realize that they don’t, but whatever market imperfection that exists is to their benefit and thus fight to prevent the corrections. Or, in short, its yet another example of crazy (Tea Party), stupid (Megan McArdle), or evil (Fox News).

  55. 55
    El Cid says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: Look. Soshullism is interesting in concept but impossible in the real world. If, however, you’ll grant me my fantasy scheme of free markets the way I’d like to define them under a number of not possible assumptions, I think you’ll see that it is most preferable.

  56. 56
    Suffern ACE says:

    So you have this Conservative movement, which basically developed as a defense of the privilege of the nobility and clergy in Europe against the assertions of power by the bourgeoisie and you wonder why the new nobles think of “markets” as their dominions, preventing any other interested parties from interfering? We’ve been doing many things for the past 500 years, but the outcome certainly doesn’t look like a market. It looks kind of like a countryside full of manor houses looking for market share and guaranteed rents. Of course, they could always just come right out and say, “fuck yourselves, I’m the lord of the manor, I’ve got mine”, but then they’d probably piss a lot of people off, including themselves.

    I feel like going and finding depressing Weber quotes, but expecting the outcome will look anything like a marketplace that we might enjoy is one of the beliefs that keeps us from seeing what might actually be developing.

  57. 57
    gex says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: The most basic of regulations being that consumers can’t just take products without compensating the producer of those products. Beyond protecting the wealth of those who already have it, the government should stand back and allow the law of the jungle to take over. Right after all the weak little weenie babies (Galt babies) have the power of the state to protect them from those they screw over.

  58. 58
    El Cid says:

    @sven: Fuck — organizing for black people to vote in the 1960s South was “communism”. It’s always the god-damned same.

  59. 59
    Alwhite says:

    @Capn America:
    Agreed. These people believe that the market will solve all the problems – if you sell tainted eggs people won’t buy your eggs so you will go out of business. If you mistreat your workers people will work for someone else and you will go out of business. If you make a product that is unsafe and kills people nobody will buy it and you will go out of business.

    That is obviously a dream world that hardly existed when all commerce was very local & is impossible today. Like the whole Randian ideal it is infantile and unmoored from reality. The fantasy is promoted only because it helps the masters of the universe stay in power and increase their share of the wealth.

  60. 60

    @El Cid: Love. it. You are brilliant, FH#3. This comment exemplifies why I fake-married you (that, and the night of binge-drinking, but we shall not speak of that).

    It always amazes me that the same people who decry sockulism as being untenable can’t offer any proof a free market works any better.

    @Mogden: Then you are essentially saying the same thing because most people will do what they can to fuck other people over–which is why we have regulations.

  61. 61
    Violet says:

    How were you ever a Republican? Welcome to the commie pinko soshulist world, you dirty fucking hippie.

  62. 62

    @Mogden:

    I don’t like to see regulations on prices, or that favor special constituencies, or prevent people from doing mutually agreeable trades.

    Wall Street – specifically derivatives trading – would like to have a word with you.

  63. 63
    Mogden says:

    @asiangrrlMN:

    Then you are essentially saying the same thing because most people will do what they can to fuck other people over—which is why we have regulations.

    I don’t think so, at least in many common cases. An example law that is anti-free-market which I oppose is the ethanol subsidy. To me, that is clearly an example of politicians intervening in the market to buy off a favored constituency, probably in return for bribes / contributions.

  64. 64
    MattR says:

    @The Dangerman:

    True, which is why capitalism “requires” unemployment, so that the working class has to take it up the ass dry.

    I disagree. I would argue that capitalism requires unemployment to prevent the working class from taking it up the ass, which is what massive inflation would do.

  65. 65
    Mogden says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    and what would they say? Sorry, I must be kind of dense.

  66. 66

    @Mogden:

    An example law that is anti-free-market which I oppose is the ethanol subsidy. To me, that is clearly an example of politicians intervening in the market to buy off a favored constituency, probably in return for bribes / contributions.

    That is not an example of your “free market” system. That is a counter-example. We can play “what if” all you’d like, but here in the real world, we deal with real issues.

    Because there ARE NO FREE MARKETS! Everybody plays the house to get the best deal they can. Show me a truly free market, dude (outside of Somalia), or concede the point.

  67. 67

    @Mogden: So, out of curiosity, are you against subsidies for Big Ag and Big Pharma and Big Oil, too?

  68. 68
    Chad N Freude says:

    @gex: Let’s not forget the Muslim concept of riba. (Google is your friend.)

  69. 69

    FYWP

    @Mogden: So, are you against subsidies for BigAg, BigPharma, and BigOil as well? What about truth in advertising? Do you think adverts and companies should have to be truthful about their products?

    Gah. I hate WP. Just so you know.

  70. 70

    @Mogden:
    They would say – haha, we played you suckas. We packaged your asses and rode a market that was not regulated to wreck the entire world economy while we lounge on our Hampton beaches, bitchez! We didn’t know what the fuck we were packaging, didn’t know whether it was shit or shinola, but hey, we got our vig, right? So suck on it, taxpayers. We own you.

    There’s your free market, Mogden. Welcome to it.

  71. 71
    Mogden says:

    @asiangrrlMN:

    Definitely. I oppose almost all subsidies, whether to “Big” or to “Small”.

  72. 72
    El Cid says:

    @asiangrrlMN: Hot. I’ll start taking Ommunis (TM) right now just in case.

  73. 73
    Petorado says:

    As others have mentioned, the term “free market” has become a synonym for doing business without any form of conscience.

    To break new ground, free market capitalism, for these new Randians in our midst, means the ability to take a cut of any business process without adding any value to it and doing no actual work. It’s the Rick Santelli vision of the world: drive up the price of commodities so a cut can be taken by profiteers who will go to their deathbed ranting that any impediment to this opportunistic system is communism. Their wages are a capitalism tax, if you will, on the lives of others too stupid not to be involved in it themselves.

  74. 74
    Mogden says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    My response to that would be that they would all be bankrupt now except that for some not-so-mysterious reason our political class bailed them out.

  75. 75
    Chad N Freude says:

    I always thought that a free market required complete equality and full knowledge between buyers and sellers, employers and employees, producers and consumers, and any other pairings of transaction participants. Any inequality results in a market that is not “free”. Where am I mistaken?

  76. 76
    Mogden says:

    @asiangrrlMN:

    On the truth in advertising / labeling, I have no problem with that kind of law – I think it may well be a good idea, because it increases transparency.

  77. 77
    rpmjr says:

    Sorry go full nerd on ya. But you just discussed the difference between Potential Efficiency and Pareto Efficiency (or Pareto Optimal).

  78. 78
    Mnemosyne says:

    @El Cid:

    A lot of early black Civil Rights leaders actually were members of the Communist Party because in the 1930s, the Communist Party was the only one that even paid lip service to the idea of racial equality. Bayard Rustin, MLK’s close advisor, is probably the best-known example. The Democrats and Republicans wouldn’t touch the idea of racial equality with a 50-foot pole.

    But, as people have said above, fighting for one’s rights has been denigrated as “Communism” for at least 100 years now.

  79. 79

    @Mogden:

    My response to that would be that they would all be bankrupt now except that for some not-so-mysterious reason our political class bailed them out.

    Um, still no “free markets” there, Mogden (e.g., gov’t bailouts != free markets). Also, the bankstas didn’t pay shit, and if the cos. had went under, they still got their vig.

    I’m still waiting for your example of the free market in action.

  80. 80
    Mogden says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    Yes, you are absolutely right. Bailing out the banksters is definitely against the free market, and I absolutely oppose that policy.

  81. 81

    @Mogden: So you believe in a true free market, which we don’t have and most likely never will.

    @El Cid: Excellent! I like your new boner pill. Now that you have the name, the product will most certainly follow!

    @arguingwithsignposts: S/he’s saying s/he’s a proponent of them–not that we have one. I’m for it, too, in theory. It will never happen.

  82. 82
    El Cid says:

    @Mnemosyne: I know. But the important thing about that fact is that it’s incidental to the rhetorical theme of accusing civil / voting rights support as ‘communist’. On the one hand, Communists were enormously important to many civil and labor rights struggles. On the other hand, they weren’t being shot at and beaten and killed because they were or had associated with actual Communists, but because organizing for voting rights itself was lumped in as ‘Communist’.

    The reality of actual Communists aiding and organizing CR / VR rights work was a pretext for calling CR / VR organizers communists, not the cause.

  83. 83
    Mogden says:

    @asiangrrlMN:

    So you believe in a true free market, which we don’t have and most likely never will.

    It’s a spectrum, and I’d like to see us getting more to the free side of the spectrum rather than the tightly regulated / politicized side.

  84. 84
    roshan says:

    What country has the highest exports in the world today?
    It’s the country with the highest wage rate and union restrictions!
    GERMANY!

    Since the start of the recession, the number of unemployed in the U.S. has doubled. Those who are fortunate enough to still have jobs are often working longer hours for less pay, with the ever-present threat of losing being laid off. But even before the recession, American workers were already clocking in the most hours in the West. Compared to our German cousins across the pond, we work 1,804 hours versus their 1,436 hours – the equivalent of nine extra 40-hour workweeks per year. The Protestant work ethic may have begun in Germany, but it has since evolved to become the American way of life.

    In comparison to the U.S., the Germans live in a socialist idyll. They have six weeks of federally mandated vacation, free university tuition, nursing care, and childcare. In an attempt to make Germany more like the U.S., Angela Merkel has proposed deregulation and tax cuts only to be met with fury on the left.

  85. 85
    El Cid says:

    @asiangrrlMN: Ommunis (TM): If your erection lasts longer than a 5 year plan, please consult your Central Committee.

  86. 86
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Mogden: A spectrum. At one end,

    tightly regulated / politicized

    At the other

    the free side

    which doesn’t seem to be as well-defined. This strikes me as a glib way to avoid addressing the issues raised by talking about a “free market” vs. a “tightly regulated market”.

  87. 87
    Ailuridae says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    Online gambling. Get back to me on that, k?

  88. 88
    TuiMel says:

    @Capn America:

    The Randroids and Reasonoids believe in a free market where things like negative externalities, monopolies, imperfect information, and other factors that lead to market failure don’t exist.

    This is so true, and I have often felt astonishment at the willingness to abandon all semblance of critical thought in obeisance to this fantasy. If a person has imperfect information, then he or she is a chump and deserving of exploitation. They seem willing to hold this view even as they themselves are playing the role of chump.

  89. 89
    Mogden says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    yeah, I guess my biases are showing there!

  90. 90
    Mogden says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    I agree that there is no perfect free market system in existence. Why is that necessary to generally be in favor of free market policies in specific instances?

  91. 91

    @asiangrrlMN:

    S/he’s saying s/he’s a proponent of them—not that we have one. I’m for it, too, in theory. It will never happen.

    But that’s the thing, I’m not even for them in *theory,* because they will *never* exist in real life. That’s like saying “I’m in favor of unicorns in theory. Even though they don’t exist.”

    “Free Markets” are *never* free. And the only close examples we’ve had of them show that the corporatists will fuck over the consumer any chance they get.

  92. 92
    TuiMel says:

    @Petorado:

    To break new ground, free market capitalism, for these new Randians in our midst, means the ability to take a cut of any business process without adding any value to it and doing no actual work.

    I think this is an important aspect of the philosophy of the IGMFU crowd.

  93. 93

    @Mogden:

    I agree that there is no perfect free market system in existence. Why is that necessary to generally be in favor of free market policies in specific instances?

    I agree that there is no perfect perpetual motion machine in existence. Why is that necessary to generally be in favor of perpetual motion machines in specific instances?

    Do you see how silly that sounds?

  94. 94
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Mogden: I’m always up for a serious discussion on this blog, but I really can’t tell if you’re being serious or snarky/dismissive/sarcastic. I’m serious, dude (dudette?). Tell me which way to swing on this.

  95. 95
    Mogden says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    Yes, it does sound very silly! You are essentially saying that since I cannot be perfectly happy, it would be mistaken to advocate policies that increase happiness.

  96. 96

    @Chad N Freude: Why do you have to choose? It’s perfectly OK to swing both ways.

    @El Cid: That’s some funny shit right there!

    @TuiMel: I really think it’s part of the dig-your-heels in and clap a little louder. I mean, what else do they have if they don’t have their illusions?

    aws, wait a minute. You’re telling me that there are no unicorns? Noooooooo! #Shakes fist#

  97. 97
    Chad N Freude says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: I would not have said “silly”. I would have asked for reality-based examples of “specific instances” where free market policies (would/could) work, and what the policies might be.

  98. 98
    Chad N Freude says:

    @asiangrrlMN: Y’know, I’ve thought about that …

  99. 99

    @Mogden:

    Yes, it does sound very silly! You are essentially saying that since I cannot be perfectly happy, it would be mistaken to advocate policies that increase happiness.

    No, I’m saying you are advocating policies that have demonstrably worked against increasing happiness, and that don’t exist in the real world we live in. Show me *one instance* in which a move toward a “free market” has increased worker happiness?

    The problem is you’re assuming something I don’t assume, that “free markets” are going to make things “better,” when everything I’ve seen, read and heard says they do no such thing.

    Prove me wrong.

  100. 100

    @Chad N Freude:
    see my comment below where I think I clarified that.

  101. 101

    @Chad N Freude: Take it from me. It’s not a bad way to be.

    @arguingwithsignposts: For me, because people are shits and situations never occur as planned, there is no way a perfectly free market can work. Then again, I tend to fall on the end of the spectrum that favors better (which usually means more stringent) regulation, and I support subsidies to worthy products–and yes, I know that gets into the whole moral issue.

  102. 102
    Ailuridae says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    Well, wait. If the claim is that workers in a protected industry have to benefit from that market growing more “free” that seems plainly absurd. But as a society, there are some pretty obvious examples to this. Eliminating large brewery capture of brewing means that Americans almost everywhere I able to access higher quality beer for instance.

  103. 103
    Chad N Freude says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: I think our concurring posts crossed. Damn real time!

  104. 104
    Chad N Freude says:

    @asiangrrlMN: You’re not one of Lisbeth Salander’s alter egos, are you?

  105. 105

    @asiangrrlMN:
    You know, it’s funny, because people always think that the DFH view is that people are inherently good. Perhaps this is just my latent calvinism coming through, but I believe that “free markets” will lead to the evil that are in the hearts of people coming right out on display.

    There’s an element of glibertarianism that is very “unicorn pony” in its ideal of the wisdom of markets, and that shit pisses me off. Mainly because people are not numbers. People are people. And while a regulatory “glitch” may be a rounding error to a pundit, it’s a human life to someone’s kid, parents, or spouse.

  106. 106
    Mogden says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    There are numerous examples that convince me, but I am not sure what would convince you, because we probably come to the table with different assumptions. Some examples I would point to would be deregulation of gasoline price controls in the 1970s, or removal of restrictions on truck routes, or the repeal of the national speed limit law, or the elimination of the draft.

  107. 107
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Ailuridae:

    Eliminating large brewery capture of brewing means that Americans almost everywhere I able to access higher quality beer for instance.

    I not able to access what you mean by this.

  108. 108

    @Ailuridae:
    Can’t tell if that’s snark-fu or not, but my non-snark-fu response would be: if nobody can buy the non-captured brewing capacity, then what’s the diff.? Mad Dogs on the house!

  109. 109

    @Chad N Freude: You’re going to make me Google, aren’t you?

    Damn. I have to read that book. I have to find it, though. Many people have recommended it to me, and yeah, I probably am one of her alter egos.

    @arguingwithsignposts: I agree with you. I think people are shitty in general, and we do need to safeguard against the very shittiest of them. And, yes, libertarians have a very rosy view of humans in general. I never got that.

  110. 110
    Chad N Freude says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: I apologize in advance, but I can’t resist:

    Who knows what evil LURKS in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows. Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha. [Cue organ music].

  111. 111
    Mogden says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    There’s an element of glibertarianism that is very “unicorn pony” in its ideal of the wisdom of markets, and that shit pisses me off. Mainly because people are not numbers. People are people. And while a regulatory “glitch” may be a rounding error to a pundit, it’s a human life to someone’s kid, parents, or spouse.

    I would say the exact same thing, but just substitute “regulation” or “government oversight” for “markets”.

  112. 112
    Chad N Freude says:

    @asiangrrlMN: You mean “those books”. They are so clunkily written and so unputdownable. If you do nothing els with the rest of your life, read Stieg Larsson’s Girl Who novels. See the films too, but only after you’ve read the novels.

  113. 113
    Ailuridae says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    Sorry, figured it would be taken as obvious snark or ED’s really poorly thought out front page post re home brewing.

  114. 114

    @Mogden:

    Some examples I would point to would be deregulation of gasoline price controls in the 1970s, or removal of restrictions on truck routes, or the repeal of the national speed limit law, or the elimination of the draft.

    The examples you give have nothing to do with free markets. (hint: there are still regulations on the trucking industry, people still have to register for the draft, and taxes are still levied on gasoline and OPEC still controls oil output, and the repeal of the national speed limit law actually increased traffic accidents and decreased gas efficiency).

    While those markets may have moved farther down the scale to “free,” they are *far* from free.

  115. 115

    @Chad N Freude: Yes, those books, but I only have the first one. I want to see the movies, so of course I will have to read the books first. Damn. Where is that book? Now I haz a mission….

  116. 116
    MattR says:

    @Mogden: I agree with both of you which makes it impossible to argue with a conservative because they can’t even fathom the idea that those concepts are not mutually exclusive.

  117. 117
    Bill Murray says:

    @Ailuridae: can you prove that is a result of a more free market? Sure some aspects may have worked in that direction but likely others didn’t, and likely depends on definitions. Another question I have is, “Is reducing regulatory capture a free market practice?”

  118. 118

    @Ailuridae:
    Sorry, didn’t see your unlicensed hair professional badge in the mirror. ;)

  119. 119
    Mogden says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    While those markets may have moved farther down the scale to “free,” they are far from free.

    I agree with you there. I’m just saying that these are examples of what would fairly be called “free market policies” even though the end results are not completely perfect free markets. It’s a spectrum.

  120. 120
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Mogden: I doubt that anyone believes in regulation with the same fervor as the believers in the “Free Market”. I view the difference as the same as the difference between classical (every party has perfect knowledge and behaves perfectly rationally) economics and behavioral (people do not act rationally in economic situations) economics. One is essentially religious, the other is essentially reality-based.

  121. 121
    Bill Murray says:

    @Mogden: or really replacing any possibility of accountability with it’s just business.

  122. 122
    Mogden says:

    @MattR:

    Good, then you are becoming sufficiently skeptical :)

  123. 123

    Notes from a political economy lecture I attended this year:

    Sources of market failure / the limits to free market economics:

    1. Public Goods: The need for government to provide public goods has always been recognised. Examples: defense, fire services, libraries, parks. Then health and education?

    2. Externalities: Markets fail to sort out the proper price. This is pervasive, e.g. if education is private, it is priced too high because it focuses on the benefit to the individual, not country. Also, motoring: pollution, pedestrian hazards, etc. Role for government to intervene to make sure the market prices take these externalities into account. Reducing price of education and increasing the price of motoring is closer to the social ideal.

    3. Distributional Equity: Efficiency is not synonymous with equity. May be the opposite. Therefore, a role for government to redistribute income.

    4. Instability: Economy can be like a ball in bowl. Some oscillations might be very damaging for society. The visible hand of government needed to stabilise economy rather than the invisible hand of the market.

    5. Imperfect Competition: Makes outcomes deviate from the perfectly competitive ideal. So role for government to stop wastes etc.

    So that’s 5 serious ways that free market purity fails!

  124. 124
    Bill Murray says:

    @Bill Murray: dang, I knew I shut my snark-o-meter down to early tonight. But I think the questions still hold for anyone wanting to show the magic of free markets

  125. 125
    Mogden says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    Really? It seems very parallel to me. There is a very common unquestioned assumption that if there is a problem with the operation of the markets, that regulation will be an improvement on the situation. This assumption ignores all the problems of public choice theory (the corruption of politicians and regulators).

  126. 126
    MattR says:

    @Mogden: Nah. I’m just an economics major who lived in the real world both before and afterwards.

  127. 127
    Chad N Freude says:

    @asiangrrlMN: In the second book (“The Girl Who Played With Fire”), there is a relationship that you might find interesting. But you need the first book to provide the proper context. (You have no idea how much fun it is to toy with you, but I am not giving you false info.)

  128. 128
    Mogden says:

    I must bid you a fond farewell, as it is time for my slumbers to commence, so that I may arise on the morn fully refreshed and ready for my Galtean labors.

  129. 129
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Mogden: Your comment doesn’t seem to address what I said. I was talking about the difference between classical assumptions about rationality of economic behavior and current empirical analyses of irrational actual economic behavior.

  130. 130

    @Mogden:

    There is a very common unquestioned assumption that if there is a problem with the operation of the markets,

    a. It’s not unquestioned (Niall Ferguson, Mankiw and the GOP). b. the problem is pretty widely recognized (Paul Krugman and others).

  131. 131
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Mogden: Wait! We’re not finished!

  132. 132

    @Chad N Freude:
    That’s what she said too. ;)

  133. 133

    @Chad N Freude: I was just about to give up and buy another copy of the first book when I found it approximately where I thought it should be, but I happened to overlook it the first time. And, oh, how you tease me!

    P.S. I also found a bunch of other books I haven’t read yet. Oops.

  134. 134
    Nathanael Nerode says:

    You are of course 100% right, John. This has been known by some since at least the Reagan era.

    I have to agree with one commentator — how the heck were you ever a Republican? Were you just not paying attention?

  135. 135
    Dave says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: Now you are just being retarded. Actually you and asiangrrlTwinCities have been this entire thread.

    Airline deregulation – The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 ended government control over the setting of routes and fares while also making it the barriers to entry significantly lower for new airlines. By 1990, paid fares had declined 30% in inflation-adjusted terms, while at the same time, passenger loads rose. In other words, as a consequence of airline deregulation, significantly more people were able to fly at significantly lower cost. That’s more average Joes and Janes being able to visit friends and family, take vacations across the country, and increase their job mobility.

    So yeah, you had a market that went from less free to more free and happiness increased.

  136. 136
    Chad N Freude says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: I had a friend many years ago who interjected “That’s what the actress said to the bishop” or “That’s what the bishop said to the actress”, as appropriate, after virtually every sentence someone spoke to him.

  137. 137
    MattR says:

    @Chad N Freude: One of my economics professors told us of a study that showed that economists (and those who studied economics) were more likely to act in the way that economics predicts/expects than the public at large.

  138. 138
    Chad N Freude says:

    @MattR: I recommend the work of Dan Ariely. Fascinating stuff, and apparently firmly rooted in studies of real-world behavior.

  139. 139

    @Dave: Seriously? You’re going with the airline industry? That’s really fucking weaksauce. Good god. Another intellectual powerhouse with none of the charm of Mogden.

  140. 140

    @Dave:

    By 1990, paid fares had declined 30% in inflation-adjusted terms, while at the same time, passenger loads rose. In other words, as a consequence of airline deregulation, significantly more people were able to fly at significantly lower cost.

    And that was in 1990. What is it today with multiple baggage charges, security theatre and pilots who are run like dogs? Should I get out my foam finger?

    ETA: I note that you only mention the advantage to passengers, but not to the people who have to *work* those flights. What a great country we live in!

  141. 141
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Dave: Airline deregulation = Happiness increasing without limit.

    If you’re being sarcastic (a strong possibility here) I apologize, but you really sound serious.

  142. 142

    @arguingwithsignposts: In the Twin Cities, we paid roughly thirty percent more for the ‘privilege’ of being a hub city for NW. And, yeah, fees, restrictions on flights, really fucking crappy customer service, not to mention poor working conditions. It’s a haven, it is!

  143. 143
    just some guy says:

    Well, that’s what the Reagan Revolution was all about: making people think of themselves as “capitalists” (hint: all you suckers who are in debt or are not earning 6 figures, you’re not capitalists), and conflating “free enterprise” with “free market”. Since they both start with “free” USians are sure to be easily confused.

    As for me I’m just an anti-capitalist (ie I dislike rich people and the institutions that support them like banks and wall street), anti-free market (ie businesses should not be “free” to screw people over) but pro-free enterprise (people should have the opportunity to create businesses in whatever ways appeal to them) citizen.

  144. 144
    dadanarchist says:

    John, you need to read Giovanni Arrighi’s The Long Twentieth Century.

    Essentially, he argues that there is a difference between “capitalism” (which he defined as monopolistic financial control of government with an eye to jiggering the rules to favor the rich and well-connected) and “the market” (the free exchange of goods and services).

    He is critical of “capitalism” but, despite his Marxism, thinks “markets” are useful.

    A long book but it explains what we are going through now, as an economy, in a longer viewpoint/cycle.

  145. 145
    Jayackroyd says:

    I wrote about this a while ago.

    Since the hopey changey thing, this profoundly dishonest characterization has become even more widely disseminated.

  146. 146
    BrYan says:

    Can the free market create a rock larger than it can lift?

    That seem what it boils down to. To a lot of people, it’s just like the Old Man in the Sky. A free market magically makes things better. At least that;s what they were taught and that’s what they believe.

  147. 147
    zzyzx says:

    The main problem with the free market is that it requires regulations to make it work. Without a safety net, you have people kidnapping business leaders, which makes them scared to go to work. Without laws preventing onerous contracts, you have companies able to write terrifying things in making people nervous to agree to anything without having lawyers present. Without government property, there’s no such thing as free speech or a right to assemble.

    A libertarian society would be massively less free than what we have now and yet people promote it in the name of freedom.

  148. 148
    lambaste says:

    The only free markets in this country exist in garage driveways. All other markets are rigged for fuckage.

  149. 149
    steve says:

    I think this is spot-on, and it neatly summarizes why I can’t communicate with conservatives anymore. Essentially, their attitude is that you can’t fix any problem in society without fucking people over. Cut off unemployment benefits, get rid of the minimum wage, fire public school teachers, etc. etc. etc.; the list is endless. Of course, they’re opposed to anything that might muss the hair of mighty, wealth-creating John Galts.

  150. 150
    mattt says:

    Just babbling? It reads more like a moment of clarity.

    Great post. There has to be a sub-headline in there somewhere.

  151. 151
    ciotog says:

    Interviewer: Ms. ciotog, how do you feel about the free market?

    Ms. ciotog: I think it would be a good idea.

  152. 152
    TimWhitley says:

    It seems as if in their minds (and I’m thinking of total shitheads like Welch, Gillespie, and McMegan), there simply can not be a free market unless someone is getting screwed, which is completely contrary to my understanding of the “free market.” In my understanding of the free market, things are a win/win scenario, not a tilted table with a win/lose situation where the winner is predetermined by influence and power and connections and societal standing.

    I have always felt that the basis of a ‘market’ is the transaction, and the basis of a free market is the mutually-beneficial transaction. Customers trade money with vendors in order to gain the extra benefits of the vendors’ goods/services above their dollar-value price. Customers expect the goods/services to be worth more to them than the amount of money they trade, while the vendors value the money more than the continued possession or use of the goods/services. Thus, each ‘wins’ in the transaction. That is the dynamic that keeps customers and vendors coming back to the market at the price determined by the intersection of supply/demand curves. If I keep getting screwed by a given market, I’ll find some other way to supply my needs or sell my product.

    Sure the ‘dollars transferred’ are a zero-sum game, but that’s not because the customer is a sap, it’s because the dollars don’t satisfy the equivalent need of the goods/services. I buy hamburgers, because I can’t eat dollars. I buy shoes, because I can’t wear dollars on my feet. The vendor sells these things, because they can’t pay their vendors or employees with laundry soap or cat food.

    In recent years the corporate pendulum seems to have swung away from the central concept of providing quality goods/services proactively. The attitude seems to have shifted to an aggressive ‘Caveat emptor!’ where the customer has full responsibility of looking out for his ‘value’ in a product. The customer seems hardly to be on many corporations’ list of stakeholders.

    I have a choice of where to spend my money, so if you want to collect it, you’d better pay some attention to the value I derive from your product! If I don’t get the value I expect, in the long run I’ll figure that out and buy elsewhere. [It’s always in the long run, sadly.]

  153. 153
    Alex says:

    Perhaps I am not well enough informed, because I have not yet read any reputable believer in “free markets” who supports “an economy in which those with power are able to freely fuck over everyone else”. Perhaps I naively take it as a mutually understood given that all activity in a free society is preconditioned by the rule that it can not violate the rights of others. One can not advocate any action or ideology if a byproduct is the death of an innocent person or the spoiling of our drinking water, for example.

    However, I keep reading left leaning or center pundits assert a “screw anyone to make money without interference” definition. “Free market” actually means free from government control and interference to engage in PEACEFUL PRODUCTION AND TRADE. To define, stop, and punish that which is non-peaceful (crime) is the responsibility of government, even when such crime is committed by rich, influential corporations.

    Free market by definition means people choose where and on what to spend their money, which makes it difficult for a corporation to screw them and still make money. Perhaps that is why many thousands of corporations in the US that do not in general obtain significant government favors have one core focus that drives their entire business, and that is to increase value for their customers. Value is defined by customers voluntarily voting with their pocketbooks to keep buying a particular corporation’s product and thereby keeping a corporation in business. It takes government complicity to pervert this process.

    Corporations can not obtain unearned privileges, government favors, freedom from criminal punishment, etc. without government complicity. Only government can enable “corporatism”, for example, and take your taxes, which are involuntarily, give it to a foreign country as “aid” and have that aid be used to purchase services from Halliburton, for example. That is the only way to force people to channel their money into corporations. Don’t blame government failures and shortcomings on a moral political ideal, such as “free markets”.

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