In Defense of Free Markets
Winston Churchill, a favorite of mine, said, “… democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” I contend the same about free-market capitalism.
It has its flaws, most egregiously the tendency to become too successful at some transactional enthusiasm or another, creating bubbles, which burst with hugely destructive consequences. It’s also true that some winners and some losers find themselves in their circumstances through little fault of their own. In other words, life isn’t always fair, and free enterprise does little to disabuse one of that fundamental truth.
But what’s better? It’s interesting to me that those who loath and condemn corporations are willing to invest so much power in central governments, which are in many way the biggest corporations in the world, with the least in the way of built-in controls. Organizations of all size have a Darwinian impulse to protect their survival, and preserve their continuance, at all costs. The bigger they get, the greater the resources they can commit to that survival strategy. So why do Progressives have a greater fear of Exxon Mobil than they do of the US Federal Bureaucracy, which is many orders of magnitude the larger?
It’s not that difficult to assess the relative success of other economic models. If you put unbridled capitalism on the right side of the graph, and totalitarian communism on the left, you have Cuba and North Korea (now that the other extreme communist regimes have self-immolated) holding down one end (how’re things going for them?) and not a single economy on the extreme right. You have to move into the scale a bit to start adding balance, but when you do, you’ll account for the biggest economic success stories in history, most of whom are still the most robust even in this dark time.
To me, the lesson is that free-market capitalism needs to have intelligent regulation and goal-tending by a central authority, but controls ought to be dealt out with a light hand, and be ready to adjust quickly to rapidly changing circumstances. An even playing field is important, since the possibility always exists that too much success or lucky circumstances will favor a segment of the economy so much that it will destroy the ability of others to compete, thus ruining the whole idea. But this is a very tricky, and politically dangerous, realm to play in. I prefer those who have the principles of free enterprise in their hearts to be the regulators, versus those who possess a bias the other way – those who possess a collectivist impulse impervious to all the evidence that collectivism is a failed concept.