The Free Market Isn’t God. Those five words, strung together, seem obvious, right? Except they are the opposite of what the 1% have taught you and me for the last 40 years.
The 1%, the Koch Brothers and their stooges teach us that the “free market” is God – or at least god-like: wise, efficient, unsentimental, cruel. There are so many things you don’t get to do and so many problems we don’t get to solve, because the “free market” won’t bear it. We can’t make companies pay more per hour, because the free market should decide the rates. We shouldn’t have nationally organized health care, because the free market will provide all we need. We can’t create more jobs unless the free market creates them. We can’t even give our unemployment neighbors cash for food because it robs them of their free market incentives – if these people want to eat, they have to take the sustenance that the market – alone – decides they get.
All of those ideas are manufactured, shellacked and sold like any other magic potion. The free market isn’t God. The free market doesn’t know everything, see everything or fix everything. The “free market” is really just the way we humans plot our activities, often for profit. It would be fantastic if each of us were a contained business unit that competed for customers for all the cash and shelter we need. Except long ago, when we left the jungle and started working together to make life livable, we figured out that me against you against me against him against them is often a waste of time and energy.
We created a formula to get together, share and trade food, land, crops, weapons and time. First, we build a platform made up of roads over dirt, bridges over rivers, houses over sand, laws over loss, justice over crime, and community over solitude. Then, we stand on that platform and compete with each other for profit, ideas and glory. That platform is the “free” market. It is built by human cooperation, hunger and common sense, but it isn’t God. It was created and shaped by humans and it can be shaped and repaired by humans. We do not need to continue to live at its mercy. But first, you have to see that you and every other human you know and don’t know have the right, the obligation and the ability to shape the world.