Here’s some truth about the “Free-Market.” First of all, the Free Market isn’t really free at all. From what we’ve been told about the Free Market, you would think that it is an invisible cobweb of prosperity that rains milk and honey (or cell phones and ipads) from the heavens.
Think again. The American Neo-Liberal Economic machine is a highly militant empire that enforces its policies at gunpoint and employs the labor of one of the world’s least free super powers – China.
If the Free Market was this wonderful system that everyone in the world wanted, why does America need a military base in almost every country around the world? Why are we launching drone attacks in Central Asia and Africa? Why are we using the long arm of the IMF and the World Bank to shake down countries like Jamaica that we’ve thrown into crushing debt via exploitative economic policies? The Story of how Free Trade is destroying Jamaica.
Also, if the Free Market was this great system that brought wealth and prosperity to all, then why is the world experiencing the greatest economic inequality that history has ever seen? Even the Roman Emperors and Egyptian Pharaohs received a smaller percentage of the overall public wealth than today’s corporate billionaires. Today, less than 1 percent of the population controls over 50% of the public wealth. A handful of Walmart Heirs controls more wealth than the bottom 40% of the U.S. population (Think Progress).
However, don’t think of the Free Market as this entity that was once healthy and got sick randomly. Don’t think of today’s recession as a minor hiccup in a gleaming machine. Think of today’s system as a rotting corpse on life support – a corpse that we should have buried long ago.
The 19th century was the era of history in which Capitalism and the Free Market encroached the world on a massive scale. For the first time in history, more of the workforce was in factories than farms. Wealthy industrialists did more or less as they pleased and the government stayed out of the way. Basic standards such as factory safety, food standards, health benefits, retirement, holidays and working hour limits were non-existent. If a factory worker lost a finger in a meat grinder, they were simply fired and replaced with someone who would work twice their hours for half the price.
Yet this system didn’t last for long before cracks began to erode the surface. Many major socialist and communist movements began to emerge in the late 19th century. There were massive strikes against the system and angry workers ready to revolt. However, this was all interrupted by World War I.
After World War I there was a brief period of prosperity in the 1920’s before the whole Capitalist System crashed and burned in the Great Depression of the 1930’s. As capitalist America failed to pull itself out of the Depression, National Socialist Germany by contrast was doing quite well. By 1937, unemployment in National Socialist Germany lowered from six million to one million. Many people even began to consider National Socialism as an alternative economic model.
In no way is this endorsing the genocidal policies of Nazi Germany. Rather, this is merely highlighting the fact that National Socialist Germany had successful economic policies.
But then World War II happened and Germany was devastated by a war on two fronts. Since many of the European Industrial centers had been left in a heap of rubble, America had a clear economic advantage at the end of World War II. Between the 1950’s and 1970’s America experienced a surge of prosperity.
Many conservatives like to have wet dreams about this time in history – calling it a time of good solid American values. However, one thing they would not like to admit is that this was a time period in American History with intensive government intervention. Unions enforced the 8 hour work day, the 40 hour work week, retirement, benefits and a living wage. This was also a time of SKY HIGH TAXES. If you care to look at this chart on the Tax Foundation’s website, America’s wealthiest citizens were paying tax rates at 90%! Compare that to today where the highest tax rate is 40%.
Much of this prosperity began to change with the Neo-Conservative economics ushered in by the Reagan era of the 1980’s. What were the results? A recession and the destruction of America’s commitment to environmental safety.
Yet once again, it was war that saved our dying system. When the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990’s via the death of another toxic system – Communism – America was allowed a respite of prosperity. However, this would not last long before the economy took a nose dive in the financial crisis of 2007.
Now the politicians tell us that we are going through a “recovery” – that the free market is doing “just fine.” But if this were true, why is the federal reserve pumping 80 billion a month into the economy? Why is the government continuing to give corporate welfare to Wall Street and Big Banks? This isn’t a free market at all, it’s welfare for the rich and austerity for the poor.
The truth is that the Free Market isn’t in recovery, we’re in denial. If we look at the nations around the world today that are successful, like Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Canada, etc… they have a healthy hybrid of socialism and government controlled capitalism in their own economies.
It’s time to bury the dead corpse of “The Free Market” and contemplate radical new systems.