Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Is the Free Market a Nonexistent Fantasy?

The market is not "free" in pretty much every economic sector around the globe. Interventionism by government of one sort or another thoroughly dominates (obviously, this says nothing about the merits of government interventionism; slavery was once a dominant institution as well, but it was wrong on both utilitarian and moral grounds, and, happily, has been almost entirely eradicated).

Does this mean the free market is non-existent, some Utopian, impossible goal? Of course not. The market exists in the real world, but trampled upon and beaten down by violations of property rights. The largest offender by far is the state. To the degree property rights are upheld, the market functions and accomplishes amazing things (See "I Pencil" by Leonard Read, where the author unveils the wonders of what seems to be one of the most trivial things: the production of a pencil).

To the degree private property rights are not upheld, the market is hampered, and the intended and unintended consequences of interventionism by the government wreaks havoc. Unfortunately, interventionist ideologues blame these problems on the market and call for more interventionism. This process continues endlessly. It reaches a point where no one understands what the market is or how it works, and many dismiss the notion of free markets as a fantasy. That's where we are today.

Yet, the market is still there. Trammeled, but not completely, and to the degree it isn't, working wonders, and waiting for people to wake up and take the burdens of interventionism off its back. Why haven't we done this? The people are ignorant, and the rent-seekers- rich, poor, and middle class- are busy trying "to live at the expense of everyone else", as Bastiat put it.

This is the task of the liberty movement: changing the ideology of the people. It is the only thing standing between us and the free market. And there are reasons to be optimistic that the next generation is going to be less hostile to the market.

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