I was about to write a critical analysis of the theory known as “free market economics” when I saw the front page of the Arizona Daily Sun. The picture of the dark money hired hands, lolling about, taunting Flagstaff, crystallized for me the main flaw of free market economics.
In reality, nothing about this market really is free. You can buy anything, even elections. If you raise enough money without embarrassing your sensitive donors, you can swamp the democratic process with glowering faces telling horrific lies. You can run TV ads that hint at wild radicals afoot in Arizona. You can create alternate worlds to scare voters into voting against their self interest. This, by the way, is not supposed to happen in free market theory.
In theory, the free market is characterized by rational choice exercised by every day human beings. Each person makes every decision after a careful process, weighing each choice based on what maximizes one’s advantages and minimizes one’s disadvantages. Hence, a free market empowers each individual to make his most advantageous decision logically. That’s the theory.
In short, my original topic fits nicely into a critique of the free market theory: if a political decision can be influenced by enough money to flood media, then voters are not rational but emotional. They are influenced by lurid images and scary voices. And money can buy those influences. There’s a market all right; it ain’t free. It costs the average American a chance at electing officials who will reflect the will of the people instead of the plutocrats who pay for the media. The people of Flagstaff have already demonstrated that they will not tolerate out of state money buying our votes. We really are free.