Views on politics and current events

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Free Market Economy

Much has been made within conservative and libertarian economic philosophies about free markets. That if all regulations of commerce, goods and services are done away with, that the economy will regulate itself. That not only the cost of goods and services will be determined by demand, but also wages will be determined by demand. That somehow all of this self-regulation will result in a more stable economy, true competition, lower consumer costs and realistic wages.

As with much conservative thought, the past is looked upon as a guide for the future. A return to the economic past is a panacea for the economic ills of the present. Perhaps if there was an historical example of a true free market, I could agree. But as there isn't, I must conclude that the free market idea is but a theory.

If we go by the economic past, what passes for a free market always involved actions by business to gain exclusive control over goods and services. Three industries in the 19th century, steel, railroads and petroleum were controlled by three men; Morgan, Carnegie and Rockefeller. This was an age of no government regulations, no safety regulations, long workdays at low pay, no worker's compensation, very little job security. Are these the good ol' days and the type of free market this country wants to go back to? Where a handful of the rich control every aspect of a commodity or service, that stifles competition and has no regard for the consumer or the worker?

That is what will happen in a 'free market'. Not a free market as conservatives think of it, for that is but a pipedream. Without any controls or regulations in the marketplace the inequality of the haves versus the have nots will increase. Capitalism itself guarantees that. When earning the greatest profit by any means remains the sole criterion of capitalism, there must be some sort of regulation to even come close to a market that is not 'free', but that is 'fair'.

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