25 November 2008

Free-Market v Pro-Business

One of the great misconceptions I've noticed is the conflation of "free-market" ideals with "pro-business" methods.
One of the greatest ninnies in the history of American politics (the man who once said of the US budget that there's nothing left to cut) put tax incentives into a spending bill to entice oil companies to explore and drill for oil. Which is kinda what oil companies are supposed to do anyway. It's akin to providing incentives for McDonalds to find and harvest cattle and potatoes, but I wouldn't be surprised if the government doesn't do that as well.
A lot of this nonsense is put forward by Republicans under the guise of promoting the "free-market" which is absolutely, positively nothing of the sort.
Free-markets are free of government regulation that help specific firms gain an unfair advantage. People also claim that lobbyists perform a vital function in the protection of free-markets. They do nothing of the sort.
They carry out the right of corporations to assemble and petition the government, but as Adam Smith once said:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary

The last clause is as important as the first, especially to a libertarian. Government intervention in free-markets necessitates tradesmen to assemble to protect their rights and interests. This quickly devolves into chicken or egg argument as to which came first, but it doesn't matter.

Anyway, here is a great piece written by Roderick Long that looks objectively as to whether believers of free-market are apologists for corporations.


Claudio said...

where for art a free market? i don't think any exist.

SeanEBoy said...

Tell me about it. Would that it were tried, I think people would be pleasantly surprised.

Claudio said...

maybe the tulip trade of the 17th century ;)