Journal: News & Comment

Friday, November 09, 2001
# 8:45:00 AM:

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The oddities of a "free" market

Many of those who benefit from our economy -- which, even in these tougher times, is most of us -- heap praise upon "free markets" as the reason things are good.

However, market capitalism is never truly free, because to be so would require:

  1. that everyone be able to get at all the information about the economy all the time.
  2. that those government regulations in place (minimal ones, in the ideal free-market case) not be politicized.

Since those two things are rarely true -- and they are necessary for people to make intelligent decisions about what to do with their money and time -- you get things like this:

  • A miniscule lumber donation to a women's trade-training group leads to huge tariffs on lumber entering the United States from Canada.
  • A huge and supposedly vastly profitable company hides the true nature of the very core of its business -- until it starts losing billions of dollars.
  • People are encouraged to spend (to "keep the country strong"), even when their jobs are at risk and their debts are too high.
  • Sports stadiums that make no economic sense get built at taxpayer expense.
  • A company is found in court to have hurt customers and competitors routinely, but not much happens because it has lots and lots of money.

People complain about the billions "wasted" in government spending on social programs, megaprojects, and so on -- but how many more billions are squandered by the "free" markets that are only free for those in the know and in the loop?


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