Free Market - Criticisms


Two prominent Canadian authors (both very hostile to the "Chicago School" philosophy) argue that government at times has to intervene to ensure competition in large and important industries. Naomi Klein illustrates this roughly in her work The Shock Doctrine and John Ralston Saul more humorously illustrates this through various examples in The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World. While its supporters argue that only a free market can create healthy competition and therefore more business and reasonable prices, opponents say that a free market in its purest form may result in the opposite. According to Klein and Ralston, the merging of companies into giant corporations or the privatization of government-run industry and national assets often result in monopolies (or oligopolies) requiring government intervention to force competition and reasonable prices.

Critics dispute the claim that in practice free markets create perfect competition, or even increase market competition over the long run. Whether the marketplace should be or is free is disputed; many assert that government intervention is necessary to remedy market failure that is held to be an inevitable result of absolute adherence to free market principles. These failures range from military services to roads, and some would argue, to health care. This is the central argument of those who argue for a mixed market, free at the base, but with government oversight to control social problems.

Critics of laissez-faire since Adam Smith variously see the unregulated market as an impractical ideal or as a rhetorical device that puts the concepts of freedom and anti-protectionism at the service of vested wealthy interests, allowing them to attack labor laws and other protections of the working classes.

Because no national economy in existence fully manifests the ideal of a free market as theorized by economists, some critics of the concept consider it to be a fantasy – outside of the bounds of reality in a complex system with opposing interests and different distributions of wealth.

These critics range from those who reject markets entirely, in favour of a planned economy, such as that advocated by various Marxists, to those who wish to see market failures regulated to various degrees or supplemented by government interventions. For example, Keynesians support a role for government in providing corrective measures, such as use of fiscal policy for economy stimulus, when decisions in the private sector are believed to lead to suboptimal economic outcomes, such as depression or recession, which manifest in widespread hardship. Business cycle theory is used by Keynes to explain 'liquidity traps' by which underconsumption occurs, to argue for government intervention with central banking. Free market economists consider this credit-expansion as the cause of the business cycle in refutation of this Keynesian criticism.

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