By Ben Cohen: Those who define themselves as Libertarians, Tea Partiers, and Free Market Capitalists have one primary objective: To get rid of government and let markets reign supreme. Unfortunately, none of them seem to have thought through the consequences of a country with no functioning government – if they did (or could) they would probably leave America for communist loving Europe.
To the market fundamentalist, government can do no good when it comes to economics – it is a hindrance to the efficiencies of a free market and must be cut at all costs. The profit motive makes private companies inherently more efficient because in a market system, those who do not produce get thrown aside, and the producers get rewarded. It is a simple system where work is rewarded, and laziness punished. This philosophy can be translated into every aspect of our lives and should in theory create a perfectly functioning society.
Except of course, it doesn’t.
Envisioning a modern industrialized country with little to no central regulation is virtually impossible given in every instance, they were created through central planning and heavy government regulation and protection (if anyone doubts this, please read Cambridge economist Ha Joon Changs book ‘Bad Samaritans‘ – a comprehensive study on how successful industrialized nations built their economic power through protectionism and central planning).
Taking apart the institution that built the country we live in would be disastrous on all fronts – industries would collapse at the first sniff of recession due to fear (just imagine what would have happened if the federal government hadn’t bailed out the banks in ’08), the environment would suffer unimaginably if polluters got the chance to regulate themselves (they wouldn’t because there’s no short term profit in it), the education system would splinter into pieces; amazing schools for the wealthy, and nothing for anyone else (poor children would go straight to work in order to maximize their market efficiency), the medical insurance industry would hike their rates and get rid of any liabilities by refusing to cover sick people, and there would be no money to repair roads or build infrastructure (roads would be for the rich only). Inefficient people would be reliant on the charity of the efficient and left to die if unable to attract a wealthy benefactor.
Taken to its logical extreme, a free market economy would result in a society so complicated and inhuman it would collapse almost instantaneously. A society built on the principle of maximizing profit through self interest would be about as great a place to live as North Korea. Why? Because selfishness is only one aspect of human nature, and when thinking about building a society, it is about the last attribute that should be encouraged. You only have to think about it for a second to realize how inefficient it would be – human beings are social creatures that have always existed in cohesive groups, and rebelling against it would be rebelling against our own nature. We have literally evolved to cooperate with each other, and our society should (and does to varying degrees) reflect that. This isn’t to say that humans are not capable of selfish, greedy behavior – it is clearly as much a part of our nature as being loving and kind is. It’s just not an aspect that needs amplifying.
Tea Partiers, Libertarians and Free Market Capitalists believe in a utopia that reflects their own view of humanity – an irrational, fear based belief system that says more about them than their critique of the current status quo.
A utopia based on a free market isn’t really worth thinking about – it isn’t actually possible, and even if it were, no one would have anything to do with it.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.