The Free Market is Failing Us?

You’ve got to be kidding!  We haven’t had a free market in more than 100 years!  Let’s start with the money supply.  State banks were prohibited from issuing their own notes (currency) in August 1866.

The Sherman Anti-Trust Act limited the formation of trusts.   Couched in laudable terms such as “to protect the process of competition for the benefit of consumers, making sure there are strong incentives for businesses to operate efficiently, keep prices down, and keep quality up.”  Unfortunately, anyone who has observed government regulation can see that governments can’t do any of those things.  Furthermore, in the long-term, limiting the size of U.S. companies in the face of unfettered foreign competition can create a long-term disadvantage for U.S. firms. 

The Fed was established in 1914 to manipulate the money supply and interest rates.  No one else is allowed to legally print currency (compete).  Ever since, it has distorted the money markets and interest rates and supplied the U.S. government with the funds it needs to pursue wasteful social programs and wars.

Congress established the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in 1913 to collect taxes.  Are we free not to pay?  No.  To the extent that we must pay taxes (to a wasteful government), we are not free to pursue our own investments, businesses, and lives.  Instead, governments waste and misallocate our scarce resources, thus limiting what can be spent in the markets.  The same is true for state and local governments.

The National Labor Relations Board was established in 1935 to regulate labor relations, thus putting labor relations outside the purview of the courts. No longer could employers negotiate directly with their employees if a union was voted in. Once a union was voted in, employees were no longer free to offer their services without joining the union…no right to work.

The U.S. Postal Service has a monopoly on first class mail delivery.  Even the Pony Express is prohibited from competing with it.

Banking is strictly regulated.  Glass Steagal, Dodd-Frank, and the Bank Secrecy Act of 1972 (which eliminated bank secrecy) have all proscribed the way banks may behave.  By the way, when you deposit “your” money in “your” bank account, the money becomes an asset of the bank.  It’s not yours any longer.  They receive legal title and you merely have a claim against the bank (and the bank now has a liability owed to you—which is why they say a deposit was credited to your account).  Better hope your bank doesn’t fail.  But then, the FDIC will bail you out, assuming you have less than $250,000.00 in your account and the FDIC doesn’t go bankrupt first.

Starting at the age of 65, Medicare takes over as the primary insurance provider.  Insurance companies aren’t allowed to compete with Medicare…not that they would want to…Medicare is subsidized by the government.

When the draft is in effect, you’re not free to do as you please.  You may have to participate in a government war or public service—you are not allowed to participate in the free market with your labor.

Sanctions against various countries may prevent individuals from doing business with other countries…See Marc Rich and the Huawei employee currently being held in Canada for violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Many foreign stocks must be purchased through American Depository Receipts (ADR).  Americans are not free to purchase foreign stocks outside the U.S.

Holding money outside the country without reporting it to the IRS can result in fines, confiscation and possibly jail time.

Speed limits limit ones freedom to go beyond a certain speed.  Of course, this limitation is done in the name of safety.  In my case, that limits how fast I can get to work and be productive.

Some stocks (especially start-ups) require that you be a qualified investor, i.e., have more than a million dollars in assets or hundreds of thousands in income per year.

Tariffs prevent consumers from paying the lowest possible price for goods.

Discrimination on the basis of age, color, religion, national origin, sex, and disabilities is prohibited, even though President Trump is trying to figure out a way to keep Muslims out of the country.  Perhaps there are times when discrimination is appropriate?

If you attend public schools and you play hooky, someone will come after you.  If you home school your kids, and you don’t follow the guidelines established for home schooling by your local school board, you may find yourself in a protracted legal battle.

Licensing limits one’s freedom to drive, fly, practice law or medicine, dentistry, architecture, engineering, or appraise real property, to name but a few areas where licenses are required. Oh, let’s not forget hair dressers and barbers.  Thus, competition is limited and the free market restricted.

Buying health insurance (Obamacare), or paying a tax if you fail to buy health insurance, limits my freedom to buy the insurance I want at a reasonable price.

While age discrimination is prohibited, employers are limited when it comes to employing children.  Young people are not free to work before a certain age.  Again, competition is limited.

I’m limited in what drugs I can buy without the permission of a doctor.  Even then, there are laws against the purchase of everything from marijuana to heroin.  Ironic that the U.S. has an opioid epidemic.

Alcohol is also heavily regulated (now that Prohibition is no longer in effect).  In Pennsylvania, only state owned stores are allowed to sell hard liquor.  Just recently some stores have been permitted to sell wine and beer.  Liquor licenses are still required if you want to sell liquor in a restaurant, or establish a winery or brewery.

Gun laws restrict who can own a gun, where he/she can carry it, and what types of guns are allowed to be owned.

Zoning limits my ability to build what I want, even if it’s on my own property.  The use of my property may also be limited; for example, if I want to fill in a swampy patch of ground next to my building so my customers have a convenient place to park, I may be fined for doing so unless I work with authorities to create swamplands elsewhere to "replace" those I have filled in.

From 1934 until 1975, U.S. citizens were prohibited from owning gold.  Owning gold was punishable with fines and jail time.  No free market in gold ownership!

Many places limit my choice of utilities.  In Grove City, PA, for example, I must purchase my electricity, water, sewer, and garbage service through the Borough government.  No freedom of choice there.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg!  There are so many other restrictions on our freedoms today that it is hard to imagine anyone thinking that we have a free market, let alone that the free market has failed us.  If anyone has failed, it is our politicians and bureaucrats who have eviscerated our free market system, tying the hands of the people at every turn, and then pointing their fingers at the free market's "failures," saying, "We need more government oversight. More government is the answer."

Robert F. Sennholz

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