Letter: What is a free market economy?

Published 8:30 pm Friday, October 8, 2021

Recently, Brad Kramer wrote a column expressing the Republican point of view. After attacking the Democrats as “socialists” or “Marxists,” he wrote, “We [Republicans] are free market capitalists ….”

Huh? Multiple sources (from Wikipedia to thefreedictionary.com) state that a free-market economy is one in which supply and demand are not regulated, and government regulations such as labor laws, minimum wage laws or even age restrictions in buying alcohol are thought to be barriers to a free market. In such a system, get rid of government regulations: no child labor laws, no more meat inspections, no more regulations to ensure cars and appliances are safe, corporations would be free to dump any toxic substance in our lakes and streams and dirty our water supplies. Yikes!

Thankfully, the United States, by all accounts, is a mixed economy. We Americans learned our lessons in the 1920s and 1930s when the market failed, resulting in the Great Depression. Many American people were unemployed, homeless and felt helpless and hopeless. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president, he proposed a number of New Deal programs (i.e. banking regulations, public works programs, child labor laws and the Social Security system). He famously said at the time that the monopolies and reckless bankers of the time hated him, and he welcomed their hatred. The Republicans over the years have worked hard to dismantle the New Deal programs, even efforts to privatize our Social Security program.

Today, we again face crises brought on by the pandemic and rampant inequality in our country. President Biden has for weeks been pushing forward necessary bold measures — an infrastructure bill and a Build Back Better Bill to help everyday Americans do better. There are provisions to continue the child tax credit (which has lifted millions of children out of poverty), to enact a $15 minimum wage, to begin incentives to develop clean energy technology to help us deal with climate change, to help families with college costs, and other programs to help ordinary citizens, not corporations or the rich.

So, getting back to the discussion of free market economies, I believe most Americans do not want to put their full trust in corporations. We know that corporations are driven by profit. Remember the tobacco companies? These corporate leaders knowingly lied to Americans for years, peddling dirty, poisonous products to my family, to all of us — for profit. This is the essential point. We Democrats know we need to rely on our government and its agencies to protect us and our families from profit driven corporations. We have the power of the vote and the ability to petition our government for the changes we want.

When Republicans throw around words like “socialism” or “Marxism” to scare us, they are only providing a cover for the rich and the powerful. That is not brave, that is not smart. It is weak and dishonest.

 

Mary Hinnenkamp

Albert Lea