Thursday, September 18, 2008

Market Fundamentalism

Can we all just admit now that the libertarians and fiscal conservatives and other market fundamentalists are just plain wrong about the magical hand of the "free" market? Have the failed and flailing deregulation experiments of the "Washington Consensus" given us enough data to say, collectively, "The market isn't always the answer?"

I am a socialist, but I am also a market agnostic and a pragmatist. I don't think that we need to automagically abolish all market activity in favor of strict central planning -- my socialism is based primarily on a moral argument for extending democracy to economics, not on any particular system. When we're subject to totalitarian politics we fight it and call it a dictatorship; when we're subject to totalitarian workplaces we acquiesce, do as we're told, and call our rulers "management." Whether economic democracy entails a decentralized planning scheme or merely democratic control of investment and workplaces embedded in a market for goods and services is an empirical question: which will be the best for those involved?

What is clear, however, is that the "free" market strips from most people the freedom to live the kinds of lives they want to live by denying them a voice as well as denying them their fair share of the wealth they create. When you create a system designed for cutthroat brutality in the pursuit of profit, you can't be surprised when the results are brutal.

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