“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist…”
– Charles Baudelaire.
What we’re told the Free Market is…
The great God, Capitalism! Best system in the world and you’d be a fool and a communist to say otherwise. We’re told capitalist markets are free. The myth we’re fed is that the Free Market works on natural law, like God and football. That it lets failure die, that it encourages thriving competition and abhors government aid or monopolies. The winners “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.” If you believe this, I have some WMDs made by Libyan slaves for cheap!
While middle America has seen jobs evaporate in the millions, food lines and loss of employer paid health insurance, ghouls have sucked the blood of the United States Treasury again. But guess what? Capitalism is getting bailed out…again! The Free Market, but apparently not free to the American taxpayer. Plundering and pillaging the pockets of said taxpayer, it seems these geniuses missed the day they taught about demand side economics in business school.
As the latest stock fracas proved, nothing could be further from the myth. A Reddit subgroup played the same legal game that hedge fund managers and Wall Street have been playing for decades and breaking no laws. Soon as John Q. Public figured it out, day trading apps like Robin Hood and TD Ameritrade shut them out. Meanwhile, “traditional” traders were able to buy and sell without interruption, while begging for congressional oversight. This was on GameStock. The mainstream press was loaded with whiny billionaires, crying foul, and they’ll get a bailout, just watch.
Foxes in the henhouse
Myth: The Fed is independent of Wall Street
Newly minted Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, has taken over $7 million from the tech giants and Wall Street for “speaking fees.” This is a nice, kosher way to bribe people. Politicians like AOC and Liz Warren were “concerned,” each calling for an investigation. Of course, there will never be an investigation of the housing crash of 2008. We all know what will happen; the poor will get nailed while the rich get bailed…out! This is capitalism.
Because of the cronyism of Dodd Frank, after the 2008 crash, a vote in Congress to put money into banks was no longer required. The fourth quarter of 2019 alone saw the Fed drop over $1 trillion into Wall Street simply by adding zeros to their accounts.
Before the passage of the recent trough refill, the Fed was dumping one trillion dollars a day into Wall Street. Moreover, under Trump, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said it will continue to do so, while Biden has shown no sign of slowing down. Congress didn’t have to vote on the banking money, it was dumped with the push of a button by the Fed. However, after earmarking handouts to every other industry and two-bit dictator, Wall Street got in line…and got the most money. What else is new?
Myth: Capitalists do not need the state – they pull themselves up by their own bootstraps
According to Dr. Richard Wolff, capitalism must be bailed out every four to seven years. This has been more frequent since COVID. Let’s talk about Capitalism! It failed. Again. Our eggshell thin “economy” has been hollowed out by bad trade deals, labor deals and by allowing entire industries to bet the house and then, being too big to fail, get salvaged by the American taxpayers with executive bonuses intact. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “It’s socialism for the wealthy and rugged individualism for the rest of us.”
What do prisons have to do with a free market? Actually, they’re a more egregious example of business feeding at the trough of the taxpayer for little return. For example, Management and Training Corporation (MTC), has contracts with the state of Arizona. The beds are paid for by the state, regardless of whether they’re filled or not! So, if I own a hotel, and the beds aren’t filled, does that mean I get paid anyway, while the guy across the street doesn’t? Doesn’t sound like a free market to me.
When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, the U.S. prison population (state AND fed) was 300,000. By 1992, it was 700,000. Bill Clinton passed the Joe Biden Crime Bill in 1994. This increased spending for police and prisons, allowing for private prisons and making crack a schedule one narcotic over powder cocaine (schedule three, nothing racist there). The prison population shot through the roof and now, we have three million people in prison. Half of these people are in for non-violent, non-trafficking drug possession. Not exactly el Chapo, most of these are pot violations. Even the more severe narco-possession charges (coke, heroin, etc.) require treatment, not prison. If they hurt no one, why are they in prison?
Well, McDonald’s, AT&T, Victoria’s Secret, Starbucks, Microsoft, Boeing, the U.S. Military, various manufacturing and call fulfillment centers use prisoners for their production. It’s free labor when a person on the street is worth zero dollars free but $70,000 to MTC. So yeah, fuck the 13th Amendment, or just make “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,” more profitable. That line is in the 13th, by the way.
When U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris was the Attorney General, she used prison labor to fight the siege of California’s wildfires. State inmates were trained, tested, and fought fires for $2/hour with no disability or death benefit to their families. Of course, the carrot was early release, etc. However, when these trained paramedics and firefighters got out of prison, they couldn’t get a job because of prior felonies.
Prison recidivism in the U.S. is 80%, the highest in the world, which is good if your labor force is prisoners! Can’t get a job because of a puritanical, system rife with hypocrisy? No problem! Do crime to feed the family…and go back to jail. Probably why Harris was able to boost California’s incarceration rate by 40%, putting away 100,000 people during her time as top cop. Half of whom, wait for it, were non-violent drug violators. Slave labor? Capitalism’s big wet kiss.
Attorney General Harris was sued twice by the U.S. Federal Government for her violations of prison overcrowding. Her argument in court was “that some non-violent offenders needed to stay incarcerated or else the prison system would lose a source of cheap labor.”
So, when I hear that it was tried in Russia and wherever…no, it wasn’t. They had state run capitalism just like we do! Only difference was the state owned the whole deal. Yeah, I didn’t use the word socialism. You did.
Myth: The free-market champions competition
The idea of a free market is to have competition. Alas, capitalists don’t want competition, they want monopoly. That’s how many of the “regulatory” agencies got started in the early 1900s; enough rules bar a competitive market. While titans of industry publicly rail against government and its bureaucracies (it plays well to the cheap seats), they bribed this system into existence. Kind of like Al Capone saying prohibition was a good idea. Let that sink in.
Myth: Free markets let failures die
Remember Compaq Computer? Big Texas outfit, they took the world by storm in 1982. Then without so much as a whimper, poof! They were swallowed up by Hewlett Packard in 2011. They were gone. As it should be when you screw up. That’s as close to a free market as we’ll see.
Moving on, a real free market lets failure die. The joke’s on us; modern “capitalism” is for us rubes who dream that one day we’ll be Jeff Bezos. The banks, defense contractors, telecom and the pharma industry? Airlines? They get socialism. The internet, voice recognition, GPS, touch screens and a lot more, were military inventions, which were paid for by the taxpayer. Why do ISPs, like Verizon get to sell it back to us at top dollar? The taxpayer funds research and development to Big Pharma by way of grants ($1 TRILLION since the mid-1930s). Why do they get to sell us a $2 pill for $300? Who competes against that? Where’s the free market and my subsidy to compete with Pfizer?
Capitalism can still be profitable with some state ownership
The stated purpose of capitalism is to increase profit. This means to increase profitable activity. So, while many businesses thrive in places like Sweden and Denmark, many are utilities. Oil, banking, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, the prison industry (which is its own oxymoron) doesn’t need to be a business. Who does it help? Especially in the U.S. where none of these businesses are owned by any one founder. They’re corporate boards, glorified employees, and CEOs like Jamie Dimon, bribing the U.S. and other governments to get their way and, in some cases, crash the economy.
Still think you’re a “capitalist?” Ok…