The free market is not a popular idea, from The Grumbling Hive of commerce that embraces the vices as a necessary condition for prosperity, to the Creative Destruction that brings about a positive change in society through economic evolution.
Yet, even with all of its harshest critics, none have been able to deny that the market is the most efficient means of production. Likewise, in the words of economist Milton Friedman, “the operation of the free market is so essential, not only to promote productive efficiency but even more, to foster harmony and peace among the peoples of the world.”
Still, it is through fierce debate that we establish the rules by which our economic freedoms can reside. The problems that are established with these rules of law are abhorrent to the process of dynamic markets because law and government, as they should be, are relatively constant.
As new laws are cast into the dynamic light of market processes, the shadows cast can very often leave many in the dark. As institutions age, the bureaucracy of government strangles their ability to adapt, yet a streamlined government is a threat to liberty itself.
The well-intentioned men and women responsible for these outcomes more often than not seek to remove the perceptual nature of the stultifying effects of labor on the human spirit. Despite being seemingly moral in their actions, they generally destroy the incentive for men to seek out commerce and innovation.
A society without the tangible and intangible rights of man alike cannot operate as an effective marketplace.
As with the poem The Grumbling Hive, by Bernard de Mandeville, the restoration of man’s view of virtue may be accompanied by poverty and primitive conditions. I’ve heard many conversations on campus, which reflect the desire for a return to their perception of heaven on earth, but very often these actions create the most hellish conditions.
Though the market isn’t entirely free, and never will be, the liberalization of global marketplaces has lifted more people out of poverty in the past decade than in any point in human history. The perceived demise of America hasn’t been due to the passing of U.S. industry due to comparative advantages of foreign nations, rather it has been due to the failure of U.S. institutional structures.
Education and the withering middle class nearly go in tandem. The fact is that our education system has been so static in its teachings that is has been unable to adapt to the market demands. Meanwhile, many of our industries have become unwilling to innovate because the long-standing tradition is comfortable, and our education system merely encourages its continuation.
So, while it is easy to blame our lack of adaptive abilities on the market, it is very often our static institutions and laws which hamper the ability for human intuition to fuel innovation and establish the creative destruction that is needed for economic evolution. So, if you will, pardon my French, but laissez-faire.