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Free Markets And The Women Who Love Them

Do Americans really support Free Markets? Or is it the fact that someone got to coin the term, adding the all powerful, all lovable word - 'free', before anyone else could think to think about it. A recent poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) finds that there is a wide consensus across nations that free markets are the best way forward for the future.

Not drastically surprising for the US, however China is an interesting one according to the authors:

"Ironically, the country that showed the highest level of support for the free enterprise system was China, with 74% agreeing that it is the best system."

I don't know if i find that extremely ironic, since the steam of communism in China dulled some time ago, much to our designs - real or imagined.

A few Google searches later and I had arrived, not surprisingly, at the man himself commenting on the subject...which by the way saves me the time of doing my own rant. (one thing degrees in social sciences will teach you is the ability to rant on either side of any issue - I'm no exception to this rule and anyone who says they aren't are still in denial - after a while, thankfully, you pick the one you actually believe...which you later debunk yourself, and so it goes).

Without further ado, Mr. Chomsky on the subject:

Noam Chomsky: The poll was interesting, but one has to look at it carefully. First, just to mention the conclusions, the major ones were:

(1) "a striking global consensus that the free market economic system is best"

(2) "an even greater consensus in favor of more government regulation of large companies."

(3) Large majorities agree that "Large companies have too much influence over our national government." In the US, 85% agree, 59% strongly.

So the respondents are calling for more government regulation of large businesses, which undermine democracy. And are also calling for a "free market," that is, one with no government regulation of businesses.

That raises the question what people mean by "free market." They can't possibly mean what exists in the US, or anywhere else in the world (except impoverished countries subject to structural adjustment and neoliberal rules instituted by force, as in Haiti, for example). Just to take the US, departure from free market principles is extreme. Just take what you and I are now using: computers and the internet. Like most of the "new economy," they largely derive from the state sector of the economy. And that's just the beginning.

Presumably people mean something like the economies of the rich industrial countries, that is, some kind of state capitalist economy, which developed by radical violation of free market principles for centuries. Counter to doctrine, to be sure, but perfectly familiar to economic historians. And when they say that's what they prefer, in comparison to what? Very likely, in comparison to the statist economies of the Soviet sphere -- which, awful as they were, raised third world countries to the "second world" of developed societies. It's unlikely that respondents know enough recent history to be aware of the great growth period of the modern world: from World War II to the mid-1970s, the period of import substitution and state intervention in much of the South, and of capital controls and regulated currencies in the industrial world. Few would be aware that the partial imposition of "free market" principles in the "neoliberal" period that followed led to decline in standard macroeconomic indices and other negative effects, more extreme to the extent that countries followed the rules (e.g., Latin America), while growth took place, sometimes spectacular growth, in countries that ignored the rules, as in East Asia.


Read the entire piece on Mr. Chomsky's blog at: http://blogs.zmag.org/node/3022