If you listen to John McCain and a huge number of right-wing “free marketeers” lately, you might walk away with the idea that a capitalistic free market cannot exist with regulation of business practices. They think–or want “regular” people to think–that if you have agencies of the law telling business what it may and may not do, it is tantamount to communism at worst, and destroys the liberty of the free market at best. “The consumer will punish businesses that do bad things!” these right-wing types proclaim. “There’s no need for government to get involved!”
Besides being, all too often, entirely untrue, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of what a free market is really supposed to be.
The architects of the U.S. established that the people ought to have the ability to choose what they wanted, both in government and in commerce. They felt that if people were given the opportunity to make choices based on what political ideologies, candidates, parties, or–on the economic side–products were most valuable to them, this was the best system. I would agree. A representative democracy has worked for us for over 200 years, and a free market has allowed innovation and competition to flourish. But, just like our government is not “free” in the extreme sense of “anything goes,” because that would cause anarchy and then a totalitarian takeover, the system of commerce does not need to operate under “anything goes” either–and for the same reason. (Read more…)