“Free” Market Capitalism Always Ends In Monopoly
There’s a far better way to structure the global economy
There’s a far better way to structure the global economy
If you’re like me, you’re one of those few remaining people who still believe in the antiquated notion that words have actual meanings.
McDonald’s doesn’t understand what “value” means.
Burger King doesn’t understand what “artisan” means.
Nothing at Subway is “fresh.”
Nothing at Chipotle is “hand-crafted.”
And don’t get me started on Arby’s understanding of “meat.”
Words matter, and their use and misuse have real-world consequences.
The oldest and most accurate definition of a free market is “an economic system based on supply and demand with no government control.”
Let’s break it down:
Free = no government or democratic rules
Market = humanity — buyers, sellers, wealth creators (active contributing labor), and corporatists (those with the power to passively flay profit off the time, talent, and efforts of active workers)
Capitalism = private ownership
Economy = global system of trade
When you understand what a true free-market capitalist economy looks like, you quake that anyone could be in favor of it:
It is a survival-of-the-fittest economy in which private interests eventually commodify land (check), labor (check), sex (check), water (check), education (check), healthcare (check), shelter (check), and everything else, before using financialization to monopolize entire industries until one winner takes all. And what of the masses? They suffer and perish.
Free-market capitalism is economic anarchy.
In praise of rules
It’s important to understand that economics is a game. Free-marketeers advocate for a game with no rules.
Imagine if two teams played football with zero rules. One team could bring a hundred players to the field, while the other could bring knives.
No football will get played because it will be a bloodbath.
This is exactly what has happened wherever free-market capitalism conquered a new market — the invasion of North America and the decimation of First Nations, the invasion of the African tribes for antebellum slave labor, the invasion of the Middle East for oil, the economic invasion of Southeast Asia for cheap labor, the resource invasion and endless coups of South American governments for their lumber, beef, sugar, and palm oil.
When a game doesn’t have rules, only the strongest survive.
Run the thought experiment:
If there are no rules, is the average money-seeking corporatist more or less likely to care for the environment sustainably?
If there are no rules, is the average money-seeking corporatist more or less likely to pay his workers more or less?
If there are no rules, is the average money-seeking corporatist more or less likely to provide better or worse working conditions for his laborers?
If there are no rules, is the average money-seeking corporatist more or less likely to pay or avoid taxation?
If there are no rules, is the average money-seeking corporatist more or less likely to lobby-bribe politicians to enact pro-private legislation at public expense?
Do we really want these outcomes for our society?
The need for regulation
True free-market capitalism is free from all government intervention, including regulation, privileges, imperialism, tariffs, subsidies, and taxes.
Under this horrid scheme, prices are determined by “what the market can bear.” But what the market can bear and what the people can bear are two different things entirely. (Take skyrocketing shelter prices, for instance, or the way Big Pharma keeps AIDS medication out of the hands of most poor Africans.)
Under this horrid scheme, children still work in coal mines, we all work fourteen-hour days, there are no safety guidelines, no collective bargaining, no paid rest, and no minimum wages.
Under this horrid scheme, America can sell RBST-loaded milk, China can sell toxic plastic products, and Britain can ship lead-painted children’s toys.
Under this horrid scheme, only those who can afford price-fixed vaccine prices can protect their families from Covid-19 and help end the deadliest pandemic in a century.
And without taxation, who will pay for the costs of educating labor, keeping them healthy, paving the roads that get them to work, or funding the police and military that maintain order and ensure a stable economy?
Certainly not the proponents of “free” market capitalism.
The free market myth
Much to the chagrin of predator-billionaire libertarians like Peter Thiel (who ironically makes his money by surveilling the masses on behalf of governments) no country on earth currently operates under true free-market capitalism.
In fact, most hyper-elites don’t actually want true free-market capitalism anymore — they want rigged corporatism. And they’re getting it, rapidly:
Multinationals climb the ladder and cut off the rungs below them.
Companies like Uber spend tens of millions to fight against worker rights.
A local shop can’t compete with Amazon’s prices, because Amazon doesn’t pay proportional taxes.
Apple uses its size to get tax breaks.
Coca-Cola bullies and takes over suppliers and competitors.
It’s not a fair playing field whatsoever.
And what happens when a game doesn’t have rules? People cheat — and only the financially-strongest survive.
Amazon swallows Whole Foods and MGM.
Coca-Cola swallows 400 competing drink companies.
LVHM swallows 70 of its competitors.
Airbnb swallows the residential housing market.
Blackrock grows to $9 trillion and rising.
Corporations subsume the Democrat and Republican parties.
The winner eventually takes all.
And so we see that the free market capitalist is an oxymoron; an impossibility; an anti-social creature who wrongly assumes that an anti-democratic, private-interest economy will somehow lead to widest-spread wellbeing, broadest global democracy, and the sustainable flourishing of all living creatures. It is deluded, magical, wrongheaded, selfish, hellish thinking.
The game’s objective
Games need rules, and we must decide on the game’s objective before we start.
What free-marketeers suggest is that the objective of the game of economics is to amass as much private wealth as possible. This current global economic system has failed to deliver ecological sustainability, economic fairness, and democratic enfranchisement. It does exactly the opposite and it’s getting worse each year.
The objective of our global game should be widest-spread wellbeing. Democratic socioenviroeconomic sustainability for the longest-term flourishing of all living things.
This, of course, stands in direct opposition to the goal of free-marketeers — economic extremists who love private profit at public expense stand in direct opposition to widest-spread wellbeing, which strongly suggests free-market capitalism surely cannot be the greatest economic system of all time.
Pump the brakes, Gen Z!
To be clear, I am not a socialist or a communist —these are the radical left’s bafflingly stupid answers to the radical right’s free-market economics. The last thing we need is an overcorrection that vests all ownership back into the hands of governments. (What’s ironic is that if our current oligarchy remains unchecked, we’ll end with a dictatorial corporate government anyway.)
I’ve been to North Korea and have witnessed the last of the fully-planned command economies. It is a disaster. Then there is China, Russia, and the Islamic Kingdoms. Still far too much government control. Then we whip all the way to America and Britain, where there is so much corporate automy that monopolists have taken over the government and commodified every aspect of human life. And the people are suffering for it.
The extremist right wants your life to be ruled by private corporations.
The extremist left wants your life to be ruled by governments of their making.
Brock’s Rule: When given two bad options, choose neither.
There is an obvious and proven benefit to some market autonomy, but not too much, and not too little. I believe in private ownership and the public good. We need to hold the tension of both: Widest-spread wellbeing, and deep care for the individual.
From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
All for one and one for all.
The golden middle
What is the best way to solve ecological degradation, democratic destruction, and economic unfairness? Those who shout “more free-market capitalism” are off their rocker. We need a middle ground between government control and corporate control.
The global economy needs rules. Two, really:
Biology should dictate sustainability.
Aggressively tax everything unsustainable and planet-degrading, and greatly reward everything organic, soil-positive, and non-polluting.
Democracy should dictate fairness.
This is the ultimate head-spinner for libertarians: Isn’t direct democracy the ultimate free market?
If the free-marketeer’s ideas are really so great, why don’t they be good democratic boys and let all eight billion of us vote on it?
Because they think they know better than the masses; because their ideas don’t hold water with the exploited classes; because they know they’ll end up with far less personal power and wealth and would rather continue to profit from people and planetary suffering.
If free-marketeers were actually honest, they’d let all eight billion of us decide how the royal and sovereign We want the global economy to function. As it stands, less than 0.0001% of the population write the global economic rules. Do libertarians want a genuinely free market? Let democracy define economic fairness.
It’s important to remember that “the market” is not real. There is no invisible hand. “The market” is not efficient, or right, or moral, or good… because it is comprised of billions of money-loving people. The market is us. Do we really want to entrust the wellbeing of our species to the most powerful and self-interested private forces on earth?
Direct democracy won’t be perfect. We will collectively get things wrong. But we’ll get things less wrong than with elite private interests in charge. There are those who suggest it will lead to mob rule and demagoguery, which then tend to lead to oligarchy and dictatorship, but don’t we already have elite rule, far too much demagoguery, an oligarchy that’s eaten the economy, and a corporate dictatorship currently building strength? The reality is that every single human being is selfish — but at least with direct democracy, everyone gets to be equally selfish. We all get to decide, instead of elites deciding for us.
I honestly don’t know how free-marketeers can deny the stats: The more democracy a nation has, the better and more widespread the wellbeing.
An economic system where people fight for private gain without rules is called anarchy. We don’t need anarchy — we need family. We’re a global family, sharing a finite planet, so we need to work together to protect both.
We’ve set up a dog-eat-dog world that’s killing the weak and wrecking the kennel, too.
One for all or winner take all. The choice is ours.