Free Market Fallacy

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Kevin Hartranft – kevin@nomoreextremes.com

There are those on the right wing that espouse a belief in the free market bordering on that of a cults blind faith in its misguided leader. They feel the corporation is far more trustworthy than the government. They distrust big government and seek to dismantle it. I would love to say at that point that I disagree with everything they say. I do not. I also distrust big government. In fact I distrust all entities that count among their goals power and control. However, there is a fatal flaw in believing that corporations can and should be trusted to self govern.

Those on the right espousing the belief in corporations over government would tell you that the free market is self regulating. They believe that the free market is controlled by consumers. Those consumers manipulate the free market by purchasing only products that are good and produced in ways not detrimental to the world and its occupants. They further believe that, a corporation confronted with  disapproval by the consumer base will fix whatever is in disarray or perish. What they believe is all people are good and act in the best interest of one another. They believe in these things and then have the temerity to accuse left wing people of living in a fantasy world.

H.L. Mencken once said,

“Don’t overestimate the decency of the human race.”

Which sums it up nicely but, if I may, leaves out a few things. One of those things is that government and corporations are inextricably tied together. Politicians have no interest in reigning in corporations because those corporations line their pockets. Corporations have all the interest in the world in supporting those politicians as they make the legislation that lets them thrive.

tacomic-private-contractors-free-market-alternative-well-fundedThe only real difference between these two influence peddling entities is one is elected by the people while the other is an entity born directly from big money. This sounds, on paper, like a major difference, but in reality the elected ones are elected by people that work for those corporations. Anyone foolish enough to believe that the people who sign the checks of the voters have no influence on their vote is naive indeed.

Another aspect of the free market one must question is what drives this decency and good will mythology? All one needs to know about a corporation to know it has no interest in its customers well being is what a cost benefit analysis really is. The corporation will sell you a product they know kills you. They will assess the product in terms like, does it cost us more to fix the issue than it does to pay the victims and survivors of the products flaws. Basically Profit VS Human Life is the bottom line.

If we were talking about a few accidental deaths I think all would understand. Not everything in the world is perfectly safe. Not every attempted use can be predicted. But look at the tobacco industry. They pedal a product they have known kills you for centuries. They did this while denying at all cost that there was a problem.

4228211I was born in 1962, before warnings on the side of cigarette packs in 1966. I recall as a child my parents both smoked. They did so in cars and the house and everywhere around me as did many other adults. I also recall being in school at this young age when a fireman visited our classroom. One of his warnings I am certain we were meant to heed was, “if the room is full of smoke, get down on all fours and crawl from the room as more people die from smoke inhalation than fire.” Even my young brain put that together. I lived in an environment of constant smoke inhalation, how could this not be bad for me, and for the smokers?

So, am I to believe a 6 year old, after one talk from a fireman, was more on point than a corporation with herds or trained scientists and medical professionals regarding the dangers of smoking? Or am I to believe it was in the best financial interest of the tobacco corporations to lie and destroy the health of the humans using its products without so much as a warning. In fact with the knowledge of the issues and a clear conspiracy to deny them and mitigate them time and again.

This is one group of corporations, with one product. The list is endless. The insurance industry does not profit by paying claims which makes its stated purpose of being your safety net a lie. The pharmaceutical industry does not profit from curing you but rather from addicting you. Their motto is do your job well, but not too well. Recently enough we have seen a collapse of the American economy largely over deregulation of banks and other financial institutions because they drove short term profits and greed over the good of customers. The savings and loan fiascos in the late 90’s ealry 2000’s come to mind, as does the BP oil spill.

A shrimp boat is used to collect oil with booms in the waters of Chandeleur Sound, La., Wednesday, May 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) Original Filename: AP100505022655.jpg

A shrimp boat is used to collect oil with booms in the waters of Chandeleur Sound, La., Wednesday, May 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The BP oil spill in the gulf is a fine example in fact. BP, through negligence or accident, or probably a little of one and a lot of the other, had an oil rig explode and spill oil into the gulf of Mexico. This was a massive spill effecting marine life and human life in and along the coast for many years, and many to come. BP paid, or is paying, a settlement of 18.7 billion dollars to business, civilian, and government entities effected by the spill. They also paid millions in clean up costs and more in other claims. They then end up on my TV in commercials telling me of their saint like efforts to keep the world and its creatures pristine. They tout their efforts as if these were something they decided to do on their own. They speak of billions of dollars in monies spent by themselves to do the right thing. They make not one mention of their concerted effort to do the wrong thing, or the large settlement imposed on them binding them to do this right thing they lay claim to.

A brown pelican covered in oil sits on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast on Thursday, June 3, 2010. Oil from the Deepwater Horizon has affected wildlife throughout the Gulf of Mexico. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

A brown pelican covered in oil sits on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast on Thursday, June 3, 2010. Oil from the Deepwater Horizon has affected wildlife throughout the Gulf of Mexico. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Corporations are greed personified. We need to have regulations guarding us from this greed. Unfortunately the regulators are a large part of the greed machine. Capitalism is the engine driving this greed machine. I am not for the end of capitalism but rather for some form of checks and balances. It is painfully obvious that decency and humans and profit do not mix well. I do not know all the answers but I certainly know that the free market, left unchecked, kills, but profits nicely from it.

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