The Koch brother billionaires, David and Charles, are big on what they call the “free market,” a term that has great appeal in Kansas. We take pride in a certain rugged individualism, the notion that man is largely responsible for his own making. Government has no place in a free market, the story goes, and many people swear by it, especially in an election year.
The “free market” has been a myth for decades. In agriculture, where claims of fierce independence ring loudly, five companies – ADM, Bunge, Cargill, Glencore and Dreyfus – grip the world market like a vice, set its prices, determine its supply, manipulate its behavior. And few, if any, farms or ranches survive without government subsidies.
The Arabs still set the price and supply of oil, the Fed, Deutchebank and the Bank of China manage the price and cost of money, and Big Pharma controls medicine, and the NCAA and ESPN have a lock on much of the entertainment industry. The list is longer but there’s the point. Little or nothing is free in a free market.
What the Kochs and their favorite politicians are pushing is not a free market, but control of laissez-faire capitalism, with powerful corporations, starting with their own, free to manipulate markets; they exploit competition, consumers and the environment while avoiding all social responsibility.
“Free market” is a malapropism, a cover for protectionist policy, hidden beneath the old claim that “the market” will hold them accountable because consumers won’t stand for maltreatment. This only works when there is competition, and in KochWorld there is no competition. They own everything.
A free market – one without subsidies, preferential regulations, loopholes and tax exemptions, among other luxuries – doesn’t exist. The Kochs and other magnates support free markets only when open to their own best interest.
When a billionaire, or one of his pet politicians, starts talking “free market,” ask them how much it will cost us. This time.
– JOHN MARSHALL