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As Long as We Remember...

November 18, 2011

Free Market Foolishness

Patrick Kjellberg

Free market capitalism, the champion for the conservatives. It’s the notion so dear to the hearts of conservatism – that the free market cures all ills.


No argument that the free market is the best for production of goods and service. Yet, is that the end-all goal? I say not. I can think of dozens of goals that I would put ahead of the ultimate end-all-be-all of the conservatives – the growth of our economy.


To start here are a few things that I think are important for a society that are not provided by the free market. Let’s start with Clean Air. Every major metropolitan area has dozens of days where it is unsafe to go outside and breathe. Some cities have days with temperatures in the 100s where it is hazardous to one’s health to go outside.


Secondly there’s Clean Water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 33% of Maryland residents are served by contaminated water systems.


Oh, I’m sorry, did that statistic break your concentration?


Then let me refocus your attention. Have you ever heard of Chromium 6? How about Erin Brockovich? Chromium 6, often referred to as the Erin Brockovich chemical, is a known carcinogen. Rest easy, though; it’s only in 89% of the U.S drinking water supply. (This would have been another great place for that sarcasms font.)


Next comes an Educated Populous. Thomas Jefferson was a big proponent of public education. Very little of America’s education is provided by the free market; in fact, it is hard to find an educational institution that is not supported by state or federal funding in one way or another.


Yet, even with the non-free market contribution to education, our literacy rate falls below the Republic of Georgia, Cuba, Slovenia, Ukraine, and Armenia, just to name a few. Even with the non-market produced education, we still have huge crime problems in this country. So it’s not surprising that 70% of convicted felons have a below fourth grade reading level.


Fourth is Public Safety. It’s clear that the lack of education leads to crime, but that is not the only aspect of safety that is not provided by the free market.


We kill more than 30,000 of our citizens on our roads every year. The failed transportation system has been prompted by the free market auto industry, corrupt auto industries way back when, bribing officials to scrap the rail system in favor of the automobile. Now commuters into Washington face up to several hours a day in solitary confinement.


The list of short comings of the free market goes on and on, yet our disdain for Europe continues to lead us blindly into the future following the production possibility curve while our quality of life continues to be sacrificed at every free market turn.


If you are wondering what brought on this rant, a look to my biography on this web site will help yield an answers. Working as a general manager of a Big Box retailer, I have witnessed the free market quash the quality of life for so many. Both the retailer and the consumer loose. This year, as a reaction to competing forces, we will be open at 12 A.M. Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). Instead of sharing a warm Thanksgiving with friends and family, many will be sleeping in anticipation of a 20-hour work day. Consumers will be cutting their celebrations short so they can hope to scarf up some savings.


If there was an increase in consumption, it could possibly stir some economic activity and lift our economy and produce some much-needed income for our troubled families.


However, studies show that regardless of how early the doors open, the amount of business does not increase proportionately. As a result, the retailer is forced to open earlier and earlier just to preserve the same market share it had last year. As soon as a few major players react to the dynamic retail environment, and compete harder by providing longer buying hours for consumers, we begin a slide down a very slippery slope. At the bottom of this hill is a deterioration of the celebration of friends, family, and freedom.


So, what’s one to do? Shop and spend in the hope that all this sacrifice may raise the economic boat for those in need.


Happy Thanksgiving!


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