Free Market - Overview

Overview

In the marketplace, the price of a good or service helps communicate consumer demand to producers and thus directs the allocation of resources toward satisfaction of consumers as well as investors. In a free market, the system of prices is the emergent result of a vast number of voluntary transactions, rather than of political decrees as in a controlled market. The freer the market, the more prices will reflect consumer habits and demands, and the more valuable the information in these prices are to all players in the economy. Through free competition between vendors for the provision of products and services, prices tend to decrease, and quality tends to increase.

The meaning of "free market" has varied over time and between economists, the ambiguous term "free" facilitating a diversity of uses. To illustrate the ambiguity: classical economists such as Adam Smith believed that an economy should be free of monopoly rents, while proponents of laissez faire believe that people should be free to form monopolies. In this article "free market" is largely identified with laissez faire, and competitive markets, though alternative senses are discussed in this section and in criticism. The identification of the "free market" with "laissez faire" was notably used in the 1962 Capitalism and Freedom, by economist Milton Friedman, which is credited with popularizing this usage.

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