The reason why I don’t like market forces

I think I finally figured out why I’m not a fan of “the free market” or “market forces.” In a capitalist society, the market and its forces are built around what people want, not what people need. You don’t need a free market to tell you what people need. Competition isn’t a driving force behind the fact that I need air, food, water, and shelter. Competition and markets are built entirely to serve the desires of people. If markets are driven around demand, then how could they address the needs of people? It’s kind of a forgone conclusion that as a living human being I need food to eat or that I’ll get sick and require some form of healthcare. Saying “the demand for food” or “the demand for water” seems like a rather redundant thing to say.

Our desire for convenience gave rise to the massive amount of plastic refuse floating around in the ocean right now. Is there really a human need for disposable plastic bags or bottles? No, of course not. Obviously, plastic does have practical uses. However, the market has taken plastic and used it fulfill a desire, one that directly conflicts with our interests when it comes to the ecosystems that sustain us. Because if there’s one thing we can depend on, it’s that what people desire often conflicts with that they need.



10 thoughts on “The reason why I don’t like market forces

  1. I think pro-market anti-capitalist political philosophers (like Benjamin Tucker and Kevin Carson) would be quick to say those two concepts don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.

    People’s wants for things that they believe will improve their lives are inextricably tied to their need for the freedom to think and to act, no? From a reductionist point of view, I agree that human beings, at least on a biological level, don’t need MacBooks or 4G cell phones. Humans existed without them and presumably would still. But human beings are unique in that they possess the faculty of reason, so if they are to fully express their humanity they need to be free to think and to act on the judgments of their mind (while leaving others free to do the same, obviously).

    1. It’s tempting to say that people should essentially be free to act against their own interests if they truly want to “express their humanity” as you eloquently put it. That argument, however, leaves a somewhat sour taste on my philosophical palate. Especially in this day and age, it seems almost impossible to do something that doesn’t have an effect upon someone else. As the world population and technology expand, people are increasingly interconnected. So sure, I guess one could make the argument that if one truly wants to be “free” they should be able to do whatever they want, even if it’s a detriment to themselves. But at what point does one’s individual freedom start to trump the freedoms of everyone else in society?

      1. That’s all well and fine intellectually. But as a practical matter, how does one account for the idea that exercising one’s freedom may negatively impact others?

      2. I think I understand your concern. You’re right that there are costs. Perfection is not a realistic standard, either.

        If we were free, the benefits we would receive, materially and psychologically, by engaging in the fabric of social cooperation (which a freed market is a component of) would vastly outweigh the relative inconveniences of people’s poor, but nonetheless rights-respecting, choices. To the extent it is left unhampered, social cooperation removes the antagonism of biological competition (survival of the fittest), and places members in a common venture that allows them to enjoy more luxurious lives in a single day than could produce for themselves in several lifetimes.

  2. I see your point, but who gets to decide what people need? Is there a formula? Do we give absolute power to the government to do so? We all know how benevolent and humble politicians are, right? They just want to serve and do the public good and can do no wrong.

    Seriously, why should anyone else impose upon me what they think I need or don’t need? Where are my freedoms and my right to decide what’s best for me and my family?

    Yes, we only need essentials like food, water and shelter. But even if so, should we treat our fellow man like nothing more than an animal or a pet? That’s the problem. We’re not pets and we’re not animals that serve an existence to the government or the collective.

    Yes, competition and markets are built entirely to serve the desires of people, but that provides an incentive to do great things, excel and progress as a society and community.

    Free markets can address the needs of the people by providing access to the things they need. And the market works when it’s allowed to thrive. Right now it could be better in certain areas, like healthcare, but government control has blocked any real, meaningful progress. Right now our society isn’t interested in improving things like healthcare; it’s more interested in government control of our lives. And I take issue with that. People need freedom, just as much as they need food, shelter, clean air and water.

    Yes, people want more than what they need, but we don’t need other humans controlling us and limiting what we have. Communist societies have tried that, and we find them repulsive. Such societies kill the human spirit. Even though some people are wealthy beyond belief, I don’t begrudge them for flying around in private jets and yachts. They’ve made their fortune, and they’re entitled to do with their money as they please. That’s none of my business. I just worry about myself and do the best I can with the life God has given me. I don’t worry about controlling what others do with their money.

    I think one of the keys is that we don’t bring harm to others. But if we have a strong judicial system, then we can punish those who abuse their freedoms and hurt others. I agree with Justin that perfection is not a realistic standard. And we need to allow some room for that.

    1. I’m definitely not trying to dictate what people need specifically. I wish to merely point out that there’s a gap somewhere in this philosophy or system. I don’t have an answer or a solution, nor am I sure one even exists. I do agree wholeheartedly, however, that people should try to do no harm to others.

      1. It’s not a perfect system, but no system is. However, I think free market capitalism is the best system anyone has ever tried. When put in practice, we have economic growth, low unemployment, and a healthy, vibrant country. It’s when government interferes needlessly that we have problems. Laws and regulations are good in moderation, but when the government gets carried away with legislation, then that inhibits our freedoms and stifles us.

  3. As a capitalist, I will of course say that it is not perfect. You mention demand but I didn’t read much about the supply side. Couldn’t you argue that Apple’s enticing marketing practices brought in a lot of demand? “(Triumphant music in the back ground). I introduce to all of you….the….. ipod….no where else can you get an mp3 player like ours!” Nobody needs a macbook pro. Nobody really needs a gaming desktop either. But you see, Ryan, if it weren’t for free trade, there really would hardly be any options. What if Apple and Windows didn’t have competition? Would we all be stuck with the apple computer of the 1990’s? Who knows. Now, we not only have Apple or Windows but we also have other platforms like Android and Chromebook that are thriving right now…and much cheaper than Apple products.
    The point is, it’s much better than other systems. Our economy is mixed, however. That is for certain. You mention you have no solution? Nobody does either.
    However many attempts to “fix” capitalism usually ends in borderline failure and government’s have to free up the markets again.
    I certainly agree with Mr. Silcox pretty much every thing he said, by the way.
    If you take a look of most countries that practice other means than capitalism….they’re not doing so hot. Worse, actually.
    Even Sweden had to privatize many parts of their economy because they were running out of tax dollars…

    One of you mentioned something about liberty. These go hand-in-hand with free trade. Economic liberty is another word. Your goal is to provide something for someone else, in exchange for something. Since you can’t pay someone with a loaf of bread in exchange for some horseshoes, we have to use money. (I think I already explained that). Now if consumer wants something, but it’s not available, what do they do?
    What if nobody “needs” something but it’s available in excessive numbers?
    These are questions that government forces have a hard time figuring too. One thing is for sure…if there’s a niche in that so-called market place, it usually gets filled eventually. At least much faster than the government can do it. Unless it’s infrastructure. That is usually so expensive that the market usually can’t simply afford. Although it’s forced to in tax dollars. (which is ok, right?)

    Now imagine that consumer and producer being dictated by the government? Or their tax dollars spent on things they could have used? Much can be said about Canada and the NHS healthcare systems. It’s controlled by a lot of government sources. You can easily get your free birth control and get checked out for a cold no problem. Cancer treatment waiting lines? No so much….

  4. On a similar note, Russia is excellent example of the worst of both worlds. They attempted free trade with lower tax rates and reduced tax spending but the people were not used to such a system. The country is still desperately trying to become more prominent in the global economy but their government stifles growth and spends money where it shouldn’t. An example is the recent Olympics. Many banners and flags shown with communist symbols….the hotels with poor infrastructure, poor water quality….all of these are what many Russians go through. Sad story and all thanks to the belief against free trade and freedom in the first place.

    Other examples include Ivory Coast vs Ghana when they both gained their independence. One started out with more wealth and higher incomes, but chose a centrally planned route. The other started out with less of everything and took a different route: free trade…with their poor being richer than the other country’s middle class. Then their economies flip flopped…. and well you probably know the outcome.

    It’s not perfect. Sure. Absolutely. How can there be a gap if nobody knows what it is, Ryan? Only time can tell what imperfections are found later (hindsight?). When it comes to this idea of liberty, that includes free trade, the only gaps that exist are things not found yet. And since entrepreneurship is helping families all around the world and uplifting them out of poverty, I would say I would keep it. Usually these gaps are about ideas that have not been thought of and it most likely leads to improving or creating technology. I know we like green energy but how well has the government done to improve it? You can argue Germany’s government helped quite a bit. But who really paid for that? Remember, tax dollars are needed to fund government……

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