The Three “Isms” of the Free Market
Sitting in a lecture on economic systems in relation to anthropology, class discussion around the merits and detriments of free market capitalism became heated. One economics major seized this opportunity to defend the free market. He asserted that while complete deregulation of the market may pose social and environmental challenges, it is the only way that third world countries can break free of their poverty on a path towards economic stability that will benefit everyone within that country. Embedded in this defense of the free market are three “isms,” each as potent and destructive as racism and sexism. The budding economist’s argument was reliant upon nationalism, colonialism, and capitalism: three problematic ideals that resonate throughout American society. This argument for deregulation of the market is useful as an anecdote, as it is a condensed expression of the ideas that support American economic ideology in our society today. I will elaborate on this argument for free market capitalism and then break this argument down into the three detrimental “isms” to show that our society must reject the free market in order to truly be free of division, domination, and oppression.
The young economist began his argument admitting that a complete removal of restriction of business interactions does foster conditions in which businesses will abuse the environment and employee human rights. However, he argued, these costs pale in comparison to the gains to be had by all in a free market economy. He claimed that regulated capitalism cannot support the economic boom necessary for underprivileged countries to break free of their third world status, and as such, deregulation is necessary for any country to climb the ladder to success bringing prosperity to all of its citizens. While this economic boom will abuse people as well as the environment, the student asserted that the market would in time come to regulate itself and eliminate any injustices. Thus, the free market is the only way in which countries can come to be successful like the United States, and create a competitive and prosperous environment for everyone.
Firstly, this argument is nationalistic. It functions on an assumption of the division of people along arbitrary lines into different countries, and then the classification of those countries into classes, such as “first world” or “third world”. When divided, competition and the oppression of some groups to promote the success of others becomes the norm. The economist emphasizes that deregulation of the market is the only way that third world countries can one day become first world. This phrase makes it evident that the economist failed to recognize that though the economic system predicated upon competition between divided parties to climb the ladder to success does currently exist, it mustn’t necessarily exist. If, hypothetically, there were no imaginary lines and no division of people, the young economist’s argument would not hold because it would then be possible for everyone to work together towards a universal success without facilitating the systematic failure of others. Therefore, deregulation of the market is not the only way in which success can be attained; rather it is a single method among many, and a flawed one at that. Thus, because the economist is assuming that the existing model is the only model for economic success, he concludes that the free market is the only way to reach that level of success. Under the existing ”ladder” model of economics promoted by the divisive nature of nationalism, this is true. However, this model is not the only structure that can yield economic success and therefore the free market is not a necessity.
Second, the young economist’s defense is ideologically colonialist. It stems from a false sense of American superiority and self-righteousness, assuming that the United States is the pinnacle of what societies should strive to be, and attempting to ensure that this assumption is a reality. From there, the argument suggests the idea that everyone should and does want to be like the United States, seeking to overshadow and colonialize other economic strategies with the one that primarily benefits and worships those at the top of the social ladder: the U.S. Not only is this argument introspectively egocentric; but it attempts to discount the economic ideological diversity among cultures to make the U.S. center-stage. This overshadowing of other potentially successful economic ideologies breeds ignorance of other possibilities, forcing the listener into compliance with the aforementioned “only” method of success. The economist’s argument is an attempt to ideologically colonize, or dominate and push out of existence other ideologies that may be successful to make the United States the primary beneficiary of economic success.
Thirdly, the argument is itself capitalist. The young economist makes a philosophical assumption about human nature, claiming that it is ingrained in humans to desire to compete against others. This, however, is not necessarily true. Because humans are rational people, we have in some ways transcended our “hardwired” animalistic traits through conscious reasoning. Therefore, it cannot be said that humans are necessarily natural capitalists, so the economist’s argument is revealed as logically circular and thus fallacious. Additionally, capitalism is competition for financial success. Without restrictions upon it, this means that any act is acceptable, as long as it brings about success for the individual. In a capitalist system, it is in the best interest of privileged groups, namely white, upper-class males, to perpetuate their position of success by any means necessary. One of the most effective strategies to ensure the success of an individual is to ensure that other individuals cannot obtain success for themselves. Therefore, constructing a system that oppresses and marginalizes specific groups of people to ensure that they cannot be successful is effective and prized by unrestricted capitalism. As such, racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and other marginalization is fostered by these systems, oppressing a vast majority of society, while ensuring the success of a select few.
This defense of the free market claims that the free market would regulate itself. Why would a system that is predicated upon, and is perpetuated by nationalism (division), colonialism (domination), and capitalism (oppression) regulate the very traits that are necessary for its own existence? Each element of this defense of the free market is predicated on questionable assumptions, and serves to harm many, and helps only a few. As such, it is crucial that our society rejects the free market and restricts the divisive, dominative, and oppressive powers ingrained within it. Instead, we must look to adopt a more moderate ideology that serves to promote a more “true” form of freedom within a market economy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
REESE HALLER is considered one of the youngest award-winning authors in America. He has published six books: four in the Fred the Mouse™ book series, 101 Success Tips for Kids, and The Watch Keeper.
In addition to writing, Reese travelled around the United States encouraging kids to pursue their aspirations and inspiring them to write with his eight steps to writing in his lecture entitled Catching the Writing Bug: From One Kid to Another. He spread his message in schools and conferences, as well as on radio and television spots like the Martha Stewart Show where he appeared live in 2007.
Through his involvement in the literary community, Reese was appointed the Ambassador of Literacy to the Youth of Michigan by then governor of Michigan Jennifer Grandholm.
Currently, Reese is eighteen years old and a sophomore at Michigan State University majoring in the Residential College of Arts and Humanities, and philosophy.