Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Free Market Faith?

Reader Wade asked about my faith in the free market. His post can be read in the comment section of my last entry entitled "Racist Demands".

My first thought on the viability of free markets is that it has nothing whatsoever to do with faith. I advocate for free markets because of what I have learned through study and experience. There is so much evidence available that demonstrates over and over again that free markets perform better than government controlled markets.

But free markets appear to be on somewhat shakier ground when it comes to providing for demographics that are small in size, such as handicapped people, or people with size 24 shoes? Would Walgreens have handicapped parking if it were not mandated by government? Perhaps not. I own a retail store and I sometimes carry shoes, but I will not carry size 24 shoes. Should the government mandate that I carry size 24 shoes? Am I discriminating against people with extremely large feet? You bet I am.

I suspect that if handicapped parking spaces were not a mandated , many if not most stores would not have them. But I also suspect that this would present an opportunity for entrepreneurs in a free market. Some businesses could profit by specializing in meeting the needs of the handicapped.

Now government can only mandate that which is possible. Would it make any difference if the government of Bangledesh mandated handicapped parking spaces, gently sloped entrances, etc...? No, because there is not the money available to meet even more basic needs like food and shelter, forget about cars and parking spaces. Only in wealthy countries can the government succeed in providing parking spaces for the handicapped. And let us remember that the money taken by our government is available because free individuals create far more wealth than does government enterprise. In countries with less economic freedom, there is less money for the government to take. Thus it is our not-completely-free-market which is, in a roundabout way, providing the handicapped parking spaces at Walgreens.

Of course free markets are not perfect, but then perfection is not an option. The question is whether economic freedom produces greater results than other forms of economic organization. The evidence suggests that it does.

One final thought. There could be some very ugly results if a completely free market were the norm. Perhaps the handicapped would be neglected and the elderly would be left to die of starvation amidst our plenty. A free market is great at creating wealth, but not so good at redistributing it to the needy. But must the government perform this function? When the government takes over this job, we are then absolved of our responsibility to others. Perhaps it would be best if the government did not perform these functions. We would have to come face to face with the problems in our community. It would be the responsibility of individuals or groups to address these needs. This is the way it used to be. Have you ever wondered why there are so many old Catholic hospitals?

5 comments:

Wade said...

Denis,
Excellent response, and quick too. You clearly have no compassion and hate the poor and less fortunate. Just kidding.

Wade said...

By "excellent" I meant I agree.
Also, when people have more money, they give more money to charitable organizations that provide services to the needy.

wade said...

One could argue that a free market is better for smaller demographics, as I think you have. This may not apply to all situations, but what does. The internet is a pretty good example of a free market, not completely, but it is certainly less shackled than other forms industry. Through the internet one can purchase nearly any service or fringe product of which one can think. You can even get a bright red t-shirt with an imprint of Ronald Reagan's face on it. And certainly size 24 shoes are available.

Denis Navratil said...

Now why would anyone want a bright red Ronald Reagan T-shirt? Noam Chomsky maybe.

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