A free market economy is one where the market itself decides what is bought and sold. There is no control whatsoever- the people who comprise the market are the ones who make the decisions. Each seller and each buyer are free to chose, and this means that it is possible for each person to succeed or fail based upon the results of this decision.
By distributing the decisions, the power, and the wealth amongst all of the people in the economy, freedoms are maximized. A pure market economy means however, that people will fail because of poor decisions. The enemies of a free market will point to these failures as examples of the general failures of the market economy itself.
The problem with Socialism and Communism is this: they are centrally planned economies where legislators decide what is bought and sold, as well as who does the buying and selling. At its most extreme, the entire population falls under central control. That is the point of a centrally controlled economy: control.
The problem with a controlled economy is not just about the control and the lack of freedom that results. Those who are in charge of a centrally planned economy inevitably use that power and control to route more power, money, and control to their own personal benefit.
The problem is that people will find ways to circumvent that control, and there will always be some sort of free market present. Even in the old Soviet Union, there was a robust black market. To sell on the black market was to sell “on the left” or “nalyevo.” These black marketeers were by definition criminals under Soviet rule, becoming quite rich in the process. The fall of the Soviet government removed what little constraints were placed upon them, and these black market free marketeers became powerful criminal syndicates. They are the ones who are now raping the computer systems of American companies through ransomware.
Of course the US has become more and more of a controlled economy as time has gone on, and this process has been accelerating ever since the Civil War. Antebellum, the Union was exactly that- a union of states, each of which maintaining its identity. People in the Union would, when asked where they were from, would reply, “I am a Virginian,” or perhaps “I am a Pennsylvanian.” The war changed all of that. Once the war was over, the states lost most of their power and a new, powerful Federal government took its place. People began to say “I am an American.”
The robber barons of the railroad industry demanded that the newly powerful Federal government step in and protect them from States’ attempts to restrain their powers and profits. So in 1887, the Interstate Commerce Commission was established, becoming the first Federal agency to control economic activity. The US began taking steps towards central control of the economy. The old saying goes, “When legislation decides what is to be bought and sold, the first thing that is bought and sold are the legislators.”
As interstate and international businesses became more and more wealthy, they became more powerful. (The golden rule of history is that the ones with the gold make the rules.) A never ending stream of government regulations is passed at the behest of the people and businesses that have the money and power, and this is used to rig the game. People don’t control their businesses, the government does.
The irony here is that the game being rigged is then pointed to by Socialists as the reason why the economy needs more regulation, more control, and less of a free market. This is how suckers push for Socialism.
That’s where we are. People are dissatisfied that they are being kept from success. Some because they are lazy and want success handed to them. Others because they see regulation and larger competitors are set against them. So one group pushes for more power to be granted to the very people who caused the problem in the first place, because they have been promised handouts that are impossible to deliver.
The two groups cannot be reconciled. At its heart, our current problems began in the 1860s. Many people falsely believe that the Civil War was about slavery. That is hogwash. Slavery was about the northern businesses, mostly centered around manufacturing and based in large cities, attempting to control the businesses in the south, centered around agriculture and smaller cities.
Less than fifty years after the war ended, the government got all of the power it needed when it was granted the power to tax income.
It’s hard to pinpoint when the nation that was envisioned by the founders died. Perhaps it was in 1860, or even 1865. Perhaps it was in 1913, with the passage of the 16th Amendment that authorized an income tax. Perhaps it was later that year, with the passage of the 17th Amendment, which eliminated the states from having a voice in the National government.
I sometimes wonder where historians of the future will decide to place the death of the union. Maybe they won’t remember it at all, perhaps our nation will just be a footnote or a single paragraph in some history books 250 years from now, and even then only to mention our greatest achievement, landing a man on the moon. I won’t be here to see it, and neither will this nation.