Framing Markets, Part 2: Who Decides? What Do We Want?

How should progressives respond to the extreme conservative mantra,  Let the market decide!?

This slogan comes from the inaccurate view that markets justly mete rewards and punishments like the fundamentalist, strict-father version of God.

As noted before, from a progressive perspective, markets are tools to be used by Us the People for our benefit. If we were to let markets make important policy decisions for us, we would be like Don Quixote on his first sally. Seeking adventure, the would-be knight rode out of town and then let his horse decide where to go. The horse returned him to his barn, of course!

But at least his horse got him safely home. If we abandon ourselves to the judgment of “markets” without clear, consistently-enforced expectations for fair play and fair treatment of workers, customers, communities, animals, and the planet, the corporations that tend to dominate markets could be far crueler.

The effect of letting the market decide too often means that the two or three (sometimes only one) companies that dominate an industry decide for us what our options are. Insisting that the government, as the people’s servant, set rules to structure markets for our benefit, increases confidence in business and helps markets function in our interest.

Therefore, when extreme conservatives say to let “the market” decide, progressives should reply,What do we want markets to do for us?

But what do you think?

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2 thoughts on “Framing Markets, Part 2: Who Decides? What Do We Want?”

  1. The strict father says to his children, “I’ve told you what’s right. Now if you get in trouble it’s your own fault.” This logic justifies all kinds of cruelty, and it’s rightly called Neo-Darwinism (never mind that Darwin was more nuanced than this). The loving father says, “We’re all in this together; here’s a helping hand.” Sometimes the market (whatever that is) needs tweaking for the benefit of people.

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