I realize that am opening myself up to many of the criticisms that are typically hurled toward progressives when speaking on this subject, but still, I persist. Even though my final conclusion on this matter may hearken to Churchill’s words about democracy, or free market capitalisms is the worst form of economy, except for all the others. In fact, there may be no other option that works well in tandem with democracy, but that is fodder for another post. I have truly mixed feelings and thoughts on this matter.
What I have been thinking about recently, and what discussions on the topic inevitably come down to is human nature. There was a time when I felt very different than I do now, but as it stands, I have very little faith that the masses are capable of making rational decisions regarding their own welfare outside of what is immediately in front of them. I believe foresight is often forgotten over years of just subsisting. So it isn’t that people (and I am primarily talking about the 80% of the global population that isn’t in the middle or upper-classes) are stupid (although I won’t discount the place ignorance plays), but more that they aren’t afforded the luxury of thinking about how their decisions today will effect their lives and the lives of their families for years to come.
Many of the problem’s with free markets, proponents and detractors alike will point out, stem from the fact that there really has never been anything close to a free market on a large scale. Interests are there to be protected and where the meek of the world hesitate the wealthy and powerful, seize every opportunity they can to gain, and maintain advantage. This has been the case with powerful warlords, mighty kings and emperors, wealthy land-barons, multi-national conglomerates, and super-powered governments like the United States. At every turn, the free market is sabotaged by tariffs, protections, monopolies, illegal activities, and ultimately by greed.
I have often heard it said that capitalism requires the masses of poor for the wealthy to maintain their wealth.
There is a pattern of inequality caused by the powerful subjugating the poor and keeping them dependent. Outside influence is often a large factor and access to trade and resources is the usual cause. It is often asked why the people of these countries do not stand up for themselves. In most cases when they do, they face incredible and often violent oppression from their ruling elites and from outsiders who see their national interests threatened. [GlobalIssues.org]
Such sentiments are spoken, even heralded, by powerful governments like the U.S. as in this quote from, then head of U.S. State Department Policy Planning:
We have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population.…In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity.…To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives.…We should cease to talk about vague and… unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.
Though these statements were from 1948, the ideas are still very much alive and well in the rhetoric of the neo-conservatives currently making policy in our government.
Until people begin to value the free aspect more than the market one, free markets are doomed to fail; stifled by those who believe in them only for their own benefit, but only as far as that.
Like I said in my intro, get your liberal elite flamethrowers ready as this post may smack of it to some. But hey I can take it. As a *great* President once said, “Bring it on”.