The Twists and Turns of a Free Market
As often as the word “freedom” is thrown around, the phrase “free market economy” is equally tossed about. Free market: it sounds like it should be an economy in which participants have a degree of freedom, or are generally liberated. Yet looking at the idea of free markets, we can see that maybe they don’t provide the ability to easily move about on the social ladder that they often are thought to give. The degree of freedom that they do provide may actually be quite limited. First off, leaving the market is almost impossible; if you live on the grid, you have to participate in the market. You cannot live in a neighborhood, city, or town and not be involved in the market. (However, you could go live in the woods and forage for food, but for most, that is not ideal.) So, in that very initial sense, people are not free from the pressures of the market- whether in a free market or a command economy.
Once in the market though, you still may not have the opportunities that give you the chance to move up or down the socio-economic ladder. A pure free market economy can restrict it participants because of the lack of intervention and redistribution of wealth among the people. As people are saying all over the world today, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer— and this isn’t even in a pure free market economy as no economy today can be described as “pure”. Having the chance to move up on the social ladder is heavily impacted by not just hard work and motivation, but it depends on where you live, where you went to school, what you home or family life is like and many other social factors. Where you live can determine what jobs are available, what the education is like, and what resources- social or geographical- are at your disposal.
For example, if you grow up in a tiny farming village with one remote and limited school, you probably will not receive the same education as someone living on the Upper Eastside, New York City going to a private school. Of course, some people in the farming village will do very well and some in a private school will not do well. Yet, generally, I would say that the student attending the small village school with less opportunities and resources does not have the same chance to move up the social ladder as the other. I would like to point out that I am in no way promoting money and a high social standing as something to necessarily strive for in life, yet free market capitalism itself does push forth this notion of success. Additionally, the idea of social mobility and not being chained down to your current social standing is promoted as one of the benefits of a free market, yet we see that there are other factors that come into play. Perhaps a different type of economy would actually promote more freedom in the sense of social mobility. If so, there would be aspects of a free market that we would have to give up, such as limited government interference. When thinking about freedoms, we always have to realize that there is no perfect solution; gaining a certain freedom will most likely deteriorate or eliminate a different freedom. With that being said, stay free folks!