Market Shmarket

If I hear, one more time, someone speak of the wonders of the “free market,” I’m going to do something desperate.  Why aren’t these cretinous martinets ever asked to explain what, in heaven’s name, they mean?  The reality has gotten so far removed from the homilies that some explanation is in order.  In an offensively clueless but nonetheless front-paged article in todays NYT, David Leonhardt has a laughably contrived “Q & A ,” which supposedly explains the healthcare “debate” to what he must assume are pretty dumb readers.  In it, he solemnly states the demented notion that the Obama’s bill, sadly, “leans left,” and offers that it might therefore be improved by  favoring even more slavishly than it does  some tired old Republican “principles” like “the market.”   What market, you blithering idiot?

Leonhardt’s drivel actually transcends the usual rote stenography of treating something flat-out bonkers a Republican said as though it weren’t entirely false and unfit to print, as it were, and ups the ante a bit.   Like Tom Friedman embracing the American Imperium before him, Leonhardt boldly steps above the partisan fray to personally declare that the least popular and most demonstrably misguided political party in American history is absolutely right, once again, although the opposite was of course true then as now.   As we’ve seen all too often of late, arithmetic isn’t the Grey Lady’s strong suit.  The recent 39% rate hike that WellPoint sneeringly slapped on its California customers was to boost its profits from 5% to 7%, a figure which is of course after the expense of corporate jets, executive salaries, advertising, lobbying, and lawyering et al, bringing this lovely organization to a overhead rate well in the thirties.  Medicare’s overhead is under 5%.  Isn’t anyone at the NYT aware of this?    ”Markets” are what currently produces the costliest and least effective medical care in the developed world; “government takeovers” are the only proven way to provide health care at an affordable cost to all citizens, but if you wasted two bucks on a New York Times you might not know that.

What is touted, and what we actually get, from the “free market” is the elephant in the room that simply cannot be mentioned in the mainstream media, of which the Times is unfortunately one of the least embarrassing members.  We get higher prices for poorer products, less innovation, colossal waste, corrupt politicians, environmental destruction, fewer jobs, and gross extremes of wealth and poverty.  Period.  This has been amply proven throughout human history, but especially in 20th century America.  After aggressive government intervention created a national transportation network and a robust financial system in the latter half of the 1800′s, the economy rapidly turned into the sort of monopolized and corrupt mess we see today, with the same results.  Aggressive moves in the other direction like progressive taxation, antitrust laws, and heavy investment in infrastructure and education briefly corrected the imbalance and produced a more broadly prosperous society, just the one that has relentlessly been swept away over the last thirty years as we’ve been blindly but eagerly led  back to the “market,” despite the fact that every time we went there before we got robbed.

Right down the line, we see every day the disgusting excesses and outright theft that Corporate America commits, whether they be our cable providers, agribusiness, retailers, utilities, banks, or military contractors…   None of them would survive five minutes in a “free market.”  But unlike the constantly reviled government, they get to keep their records secret, they seem increasingly unbounded by any laws, and they are worshipped not just on FOX Business Channel but even on the front page of the commie New York Times.  Worse, they run to the government at every turn for protection from real competition and absolution from even the flimsiest of penalties for misconduct, and they win almost every time, too, and that was before the Supreme Court gave them a new and improved version of humanity.

It’s time to stop saying that the “free market” is so successful, and come up with an example.  Just one.


  1. retzilian says:

    As with most myths about the “free market”, there is a strong aversion to juxtapose the ideals of democracy, free enterprise, and technological progress with the realities of a plutocracy that prolongs stagnation, poor working conditions and unaffordable medical treatments that ultimately undermine the economic and physical health of this country.

    This health care debate would not be possible without the tacit indifference of insurance companies, financers and politicians to the value of individual life. IOW, they don’t give a rat’s azz about people.

    Meanwhile, companies close, banks go belly-up, personal fortunes are lost, and unemployment skyrockets, casting a pall of bitter disillusionment on Washington. Yet, it continues.

    Anyone who reads anything besides USA Today knows that the ‘free market’ does not exist. Don’t even get me started again on all the job losses in the “rust belt” thanks to NAFTA, etc.

    • cocktailhag says:

      The whole point of the “free market” myth is that it must never be compared side by side with the actual world. Like American Exceptionalism, Global Warming Denialism, et at, it likes to steer clear of the facts.

  2. Billy Holiday said it best:

    Them that’s got shall have,Them that’s not shall lose,So the Bible says, and it still is news,

    Poppa may have,Momma may have,But God bless the childThat’s got his own.

    The Free Market is just a way of making sure that the wrong people don’t get any. It seems to me that there’s also a proverb — I seem to remember seeing it first in Portuguese, so maybe it’s Brazilian, that goes: If money were shit, the poor would be born without assholes.

  3. retzilian says:

    Ahh yes. Great song. Even Blood, Sweat & Tears did a good cover of it. It’s on my funeral playlist.

  4. retzilian says:

    Since I didn’t get any good music at my 2 weddings (heh), I insist on having a playlist for my funeral. It’s morbid, but kind of funny, too. You’d have to know that I’m a musician, so it’s very important that the right music is played at my funeral. I have a couple friends who know about it, but I really should get better organized.

    Hey, I’m in the death business. I never assume I’m going to live forever.

  5. timothy3 says:

    Speaking of death and funerals, there was a post today at C&L about a study about job loss and morbidity

    A growing body of research suggests that layoffs can have profound health consequences. One 2006 study by a group of epidemiologists at Yale found that layoffs more than doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke among older workers. Another paper, published last year by Kate W. Strully, a sociology professor at the State University of New York at Albany, found that a person who lost a job had an 83 percent greater chance of developing a stress-related health problem, like diabetes, arthritis or psychiatric issues.

    Can’t speak to the accuracy of this regarding causality but it’s interesting nevertheless.

    • cocktailhag says:

      There was a big article in today’s NYT about that, and I hardly found it surprising. In that story, there was a spate of fatal heart attacks after a plant closing in upstate NY. Thanks, globaloney. The world is indeed flat when you’re pushing up daisies.

  6. nailheadtom says:

    The Healthcare Job Tsunami [Jonah Goldberg]

    I keep hearing variations of this bit (video) from Nancy Pelosi about how if we only provided healthcare for everyone, businesses would be unshackled from unfair constraints. The “entrepreneurial spirit,” in Pelosi’s words, would be unleashed creating 400,000 jobs almost immediately and a total of 4 million jobs soon thereafter.

    Really? As one looks around the world at advanced industrialized nations, is there one — just one! — that provides universal healthcare that has anything close to America’s entrepreneurial record? Pick a country — any country — over the last 40 years that has equaled the American record of job creation, growth and innovation. Sure some countries, Japan for example, have had great runs. But does Nancy Pelosi honestly believe Japan Inc.’s now-fading successes were attributable to its health-care policies?

    • cocktailhag says:

      Funny, but there was no net job creation for the last ten years, maybe ol’ Jonah ought to be let in on that little secret. Every advanced country provides universal health care, except us, so the comparison is especially meaningless, even if it were true.

  7. Casual Observer says:

    It’s time to stop saying that the “free market” is so successful, and come up with an example. Just one.

    My little town doesn’t have a market. That’s how small it is. No post office neither. There’s a Super S about 7 miles away or so, but they’re not free. And by the smell of their meat, they’re damn sure not successful either.

    The canned goods aren’t bad though, and the swelled cans are even half-price. That’s not free, as you specified, but it is a pretty good deal.

  8. The 2010 economic stimulus package aims at incenting more physician to adopt electronic medical records. The act promises incentive payments to those who adopt and use “certified EMRs” and, eventually, reducing Medicare payments to those who do not use electronic health records.