Government a player in free markets game

-A A +A

Column by Jim Flynn

During our endless election season the expression “free markets” never wears out. Some politicians believe and preach that free market is a national value worthy of inclusion with patriotism, motherhood, apple pie and baseball. The problem is there ain’t no free markets.
The term “free market” as used by today’s politicians is a misnomer. Politicians use it a lot because it sounds righteous.
The idea of buying and selling things free from interference or control began with a guy named Adam Smith back in the 18th century, around the time America was becoming a nation. His timing was good. Our colonists were irritated by the king of England sticking his nose into how they did business and trying to tax what they bought and sold. So they declared their independence and told the king to get lost.
Free market based on supply and demand received a new boost from economist Milton Friedman in 1962 and has been a rallying cry of libertarians and conservatives ever since. Republicans can’t say the words often enough, as if mumbling “free market” is some sort of mystical mantra.
The phony part of the free market baloney is zillions of dollars of government subsidies, tax preferences, and laws that allow bad-boy businessmen to stay out of jail free, as evidenced by the corrupt manipulations which caused our current recession.
In addition to volumes of controls, regulations, enticements, and all sorts of corporate welfare, government has become a major investor in the markets for non-military goods and services. Recent examples have been the Obama administration’s spending millions just in time to help a green energy company go bankrupt, and offering tax subsidies to manipulate development of electric cars which will be sold to a few adventurous citizens at exorbitant prices.
Hold on there! Isn’t the Obama guy a Democrat? Sure, but everybody in Washington plays the free markets game – even liberals. Gaining and keeping political power is the real name of the game.
Re-quoting what we wrote on another occasion, free market evangelizing is power politics dressed up in a patriotic term intended to disguise government connivance in every aspect of our economy.
Free market preaching by business is sanctimonious sounding cover-up of their solicitations for subsidies and tax credits, as well as manipulation of legitimate government functions, such as public safety and protection of citizens against economic abuse.
Former President George W. Bush suggested that consumers’ primary freedom and most important contribution to the nation’s economy is to shop and spend. Free marketers are in complete agreement.
In addition to our freedom to spend, we have a periodic freedom to turn out of office those politicians who continue to blow all that free-market smoke in our ears. Free markets are as extinct as a free lunch.