Is Free-Market Capitalism Impossible?

Tyler Durden's picture

In a genuinely free market, rich corporations people have both the resources and incentive to corrupt the government in order to make the market less free. In other words, Capitalism only works in a world in which people have integrity and are accountable to others and themselves - which is the weakest link. And so you end up with? America. In short: "there ain't no such thing as a free market" - which is not to say that we shouldn't try. The following clip points out that even seemingly pro-business legislation is not beneficial to society or businesses themselves broadly with the analogy that "what's good for GM may not be good for America after all"; which begs the question: do humans doom capitalism by default?


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Mercury's picture

In a genuinely free market, rich corporations people have both the resources and incentive to corrupt the government in order to make the market less free. In other words, Capitalism only works in a world in which people have integrity and are accountable to others and themselves - which is the weakest link.

No, you keep the size and scope of government limited so that there isn't that much to buy...

Biosci's picture

Who keeps the size and scope of government limited?  That is the whole point of the instability.  Power always attracts power.

Mercury's picture

For the very reason(s) you describe, it’s a what, not a who.

Dr Benway's picture

I guess free market capitalism is an ideal to aspire to. But what does that mean?


Can I have government healthcare, education and some sort of basic social security? Or does that make me a heretic?


If for nothing else, my suggestions are good for preventing the have-not masses from eventually murdering the haves.

Precious's picture

You can grow some vegetables maybe.  You can chop some firewood maybe.  But you should pretty much expect jack shit from the financial markets.

AnonymousAnarchist's picture

Free markets and government are mutually exclusive. You can have one or the other. Not both.

Mercury's picture

At one end of the scale is -liberty- on the other -security-

Different people may want to adjust the slider more toward the former, others the later but you pretty much get more of each at the expense of the other.

AnAnonymous's picture

At one end of the scale is -liberty- on the other -security-


But absolutely. What a statement. Will earn all the medals Captain Obvious can hand down.


On one end of the scale, there is liberty, on the other security.

US citizen societies give so many examples of them.

Rich people are either free or secure. They can not enjoy both.

People should not believe false reports that in a US citizen society, freedom and security go hand in hand.

One can even advocate I dunno a homeless to join a prison. When outside, the homeless is freer but much less secure. Once in a US citizen jail, the homeless is much less free but much more secure. And the less free the prison, the more secure.
No, no, US citizen jails are not a battlezone, with rapes, murders, racket, beating etc going on. They are a secure place.

Homeless of the world, remember, on one hand of the slider, liberty, on the other hand, security.

akak's picture


No, no, US citizen jails are not a battlezone, with rapes, murders, racket, beating etc going on. They are a secure place.

In contrast to Chinese prisons, of course, which are veritable vacation destinations of luxury and elegance.

akak's picture

Make me laugh!

Your entire posting history here is literally an endless string of non-sequiturs, interlaced of course with a liberal amount of blind anti-American hatred and more than a dollop of insanitation, sprinkled with a heavy dusting of blobbing-up and topped with a heaping helping of monolizing of the speeching means.

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

AnAnonymous sniffed his butt picking finger and said:

Non sequitur.

Yes, you're full of them. You've developed quite a reputation as a notorious public non sequiturbator.

Stackers's picture

Wasnt this the whole point of having a "small limited government" ? So there is no politician to bribe and collude with in the first place ?

Mercury's picture


The liberty<--->security trade-off is your deal with the government (or similar authority) and an agreement to submit to its rules in exchange for the benefits it can provide. 

One of the main reasons being wealthy is desireable is that it can provide (up to certain limits) both more liberty AND more security - you can side-step the whole trade-off thing.  If you are wealthy enough you can do things like take vacations whenever you want without sacrificing things like health insurance or a secure retirement.

If you're broke and have to move back home with your parents, you have more security than you would have living on the street BUT you have to adhere to their rules and are not at liberty to do whatever you want.

If you sign a five year employment contract you have a reasonable expectation of job security BUT you are not at liberty to pursue other oportunities without incuring serious penalties.

Liberty<---->Security  Got it?

A Nanny Moose's picture

Gimme or else? That how it works? In the real world, we call this extortion. It involves jail time unless you are called Government. How is this consistent, and how are people expected to teach their kids that theft is wrong, when it is in fact, institutionalized?

casey13's picture

It will not work long term because of the basic flaws in democracy and human nature. Everyone will do what is best for themselves personally and democracy is just another form of mob rule. Eventually the system gets corrupted as the politicians sell favors for power to both their electorate and their sponsors. There is no fix once it has gone too far just collapse.

A Nanny Moose's picture

/sigh. You're just full of all kinds of good news. I'll take another drink now.

Winston Smith 2009's picture

"For the very reason(s) you describe, it’s a what, not a who."


With the power to regulate business, government makes itself a juicy target for the purchase of special treatment by those who can afford it.

Without the power to regulate business, you end up with heroin in baby medications and cocaine in soft drinks, great for customer loyalty but not necessarily the customer, non-nutritional fillers in baby formula that kill babies, etc., etc. ad infinitum.

So,  pick your poison.

The only real fix is to regulate in a way that is beneficial to those the government is supposed to serve, the average Jane and Joe, and the only way to accomplish that is to get all money out of the election process and forbid any government regulator or politician from ever working in any sector he or she has regulated in any way.

Fedophile's picture

Without the power to regulate business, you end up with heroin in baby medications and cocaine in soft drinks, great for customer loyalty but not necessarily the customer, non-nutritional fillers in baby formula that kill babies, etc., etc. ad infinitum.

Bullshit; if people stoped buying those poor products those companies would go bankrupt if they didn't adapt. That's the whole point of a freemarket. Yeah some shit like you describe would happen, that's life, but once people found out they would sue and switch to a substitute.

Even with all the regulations this sort of shit happens all the time the point is that the freemarket, by nature, is it's own hyper-efficient regulator.

A Nanny Moose's picture

Without the power to regulate business, you end up with heroin in baby medications and cocaine in soft drinks, great for customer loyalty but not necessarily the customer, non-nutritional fillers in baby formula that kill babies, etc., etc. ad infinitum.

Instead of cocaine, we have lead, melamine, e.coli, and lysteria.


Fizzywig's picture

What happens when the what is cast aside or ignored outright?  Where is the accountability?  The Constitution is a piece of paper, a set of ideas.  True prosperity resides in the hearts and minds of the people.

I am beginning to think that a free-market is an impossibility.  Look at what the United States was and what it has become.  The Constitution could not hold it together.  The free-market broke down.  You can say "Well.......the Federal Reserve was the problem".  Who allowed the Federal Reserve to come into existence?  That is the true issue.  American citizens allowed it to happen (albeit shrouded in secrecy and lies).

A great enlightenment will not happen until the greater of the population begins to show respect and dignity for fellow humans and the environment.  Where basic needs are met for all so that everyone has a shot at doing great things for the good of the species.  We just have not figured out the proper societal architecture as of yet.  It won't be a question of "if" but a question of "when" will we figure out the right way to live sychronously with each other and our environment.

As much as I believe in the power of the free-market, I am starting to believe that even if we restore it to its original form, we will end up back in the same boat in a century or two.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

We keep the size and scope of government limited.

If we fail, if we expect others (particularly those others whose best interest is to lie and deceive us) to be responsible for our failure to be responsible, well.........this is what we get.

The buck stops here folks, with you and me.

Precious's picture

There is nothing even resembling a MARKET anymore.

It's a fucking magic show.  That's all.

Biosci's picture

I respect this ideal, but history argues (pretty conclusively, I might add) that these ideals have a limited shelf life.

sunaJ's picture

History (and mathematics) argues for collapse.  What comes after is up to the "us,"  Because if the moment is not seized, the "they" will just try to build something more able to control the "us."  This empirical collapse will be bigger than anything experienced in human history, and I imagine a lot of responses will be put into practice around the globe.  A good start in America will be to avoid any action bolstering a "Dear Leader."

Gene Parmesan's picture

The expiration of their practical applicability doesn't excuse the past or present efforts to try to shift/shun the obligation.

purplefrog's picture

But that means that we would actually have to stay INVOLVED!  But that takes work and time away from my fun.  Besides, what can I do?  You can't fight city hall.

(Makes me want to puke just writing it.)

Noktirnal's picture

I think the Declaration of Independence answers your question. The real problem is that enough of the general, non-politician, population has to have the integrity and courage to put a stop to the nonsense before it gets out of control. They also must be educated. By now, everyone should know where the road is leading well before we get to the end. History is the full of similar events happening over and over. Things get really bad, the population gets fed up. They solve their own problems. Things get better. Govt starts making promises, and implementing "helpful" policies. things start going downhill, and only get worse, then they get really bad. Rinse, repeat.

If there were little power in the federal government, and that power was severely restrained by law, and by a well educated, free, and fearless citizenry, those who would seek to hold office would most likely be of a different stripe.

It really is all just a failure of character, integrity, and morals of individuals. They in turn corrupt the institutions. Once that takes place, the corruption speads, takes hold, and becomes "law". The corrupt institutions will corrupt most anyone who enters. You have to be either corrupt, or have almost superhuman character to withstand becoming corrupted by it. Most people have lost integrity or were never taught to have it. It is a failure of parents and educators at the bottom, a failure of people to change behavior when they realize they are corrupt or are perpetuating corruption in the middle, and at the top failure of a government by promoting corrupt ideas, policies, legislation, and enforcement as if they are moral. All of these feed off of one another in a positive feedback loop until we get what we have today.

Is it even possible for a system as corrupt as what we have now to act in the country's best interest or that of its citizens, or will it continue down it's own path to protect the interests of the system and those of the people running it? How can we allow this corruption to purport to represent us around the world, and still think we are moral people ourselves? After so many people have allowed it to go on because they are benefitting in however large or small and amount, or believe they are going to benefit in the future, we should look in the mirror and know that collectively we have a system that does represent us as a whole, even if not as individuals. Will we decide that we are doing right, and continue down the same path, or will we decide we have acted wrongly and change?

I have decided to change. I know that the system will not change because of me. I also know that I cannot have integrity and support corruption at the same time, so I stopped. No more feeding this beast. No more allowing corrupt banks, companies, or government to use my labor to further the corruption. No more using corrupt money. No more voting for any candidates that don't have good character. Is this easy? Not at all. Is it right? For me, yes. We are not a collective voice. We are individuals. What makes us a group involuntarily? Imaginary lines. Lines that surround the land we call home. Any other groups we can join or leave as we please, for now. We do not choose where we are born. We can no longer choose our representatives. Maybe you can, but I have no choices. I can only choose from people who seek to be chosen, or choose to not participate. I have chosen non-participation. Am I trying to persuade others to do as I have done? Not exactly. I only want to persuade others to act morally, with integrity and principles. There only true solution is true freedom, and knowing the point where our liberty is infringing on our neighbors'. The people who run government must be people who know where their authority to act ends and the citizens' liberty begins. This means being responsible for ourselves and our posterity while teaching them to become responsible for themselves, and also by being accountable for our actions as well as our inactions, and finally by holding each other accountable when necessary.

Rynak's picture

This reply from someone who sweared to never login and post to ZH again, but who just was impressed enough by your post to "betray" his decision:

I don't know who you are. But i do know that it feels scary when someone writes like me, and even uses the same favorite terms as i do in private conversations.

Take care, and be careful about whom you trust.

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture


Take care, and be careful about whom you trust.

...and never apologize for having integrity. For the time being, the world is turned upside down, and like gold, integrity is tremendously undervalued. When the world rights itself, integrity will regain its rightful position.

Also, like gold, It has an inherent value, it takes time and work to acquire, and a careless mistake can see it disappear in a moment, so give it the protection it deserves.

Rynak's picture

Not biting the hook.

Actually, i pretty much unambigiously declared my opinion on this, on my "goodbye"-postspree.

Aaaand, back to the underground.... though, with a hint:

"Consciousness/awareness. There is no substitute for it. Whenever some con-man tries to sell you a supposed substitute - be it via a supposed perfect idea/machine, or via a material good, he is tricking you."

Consciousness/awareness cannot be replaced by ressources or skill (and both can be compromised culturally).

Ressources cannot be replaced by consciousness or skill (though, the former cannot be compromised without your acceptance)

Skill cannot be replaced by consciousness or ressources (though, the former cannot be compromised without your acceptance).

So in short: consciousness, ressources, skill. None of the three can replace any other - yet, only the first is, which you CAN totally control, if you're willing to invest the effort. And it is also the former, which can reveal corruption of the other two parts.

So even though none of those three aspecs can replace another, the reason why consciousness/awareness/integrity/truthfullness/selfhonesty plays such an important role, is because it is the only thing you can absolutely control, and which can invalidate candidates of the other two aspects.

The popular appeal, from all kinds of sides, to replace YOU, with ideas or things, is there to replace YOU. And when you stop doing the job that is YOU, you're open to be abused arbitrarily. Because YOU are the ultimate safeguard, in your life. Once that is gone, you're a toy.

JacksBalanceSheet's picture

or... if there is no government (or state).

TimmyB's picture

 As Karl Marx said...

"The capitalist system carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction."   

JimBowie1958's picture

Marx was right on some things, but wrong in manyothers as well.

But you quote him like an authority on something?

Capitalization does lower wages within specific industries, but the creation of new industries and new markets offers new opportunities to get into relatively low capitalized professions.

That people have enshrined Marx into some kind of 19th century economic godling of some kind is probably the worst thing that ever happened to that school of thought as it became calcified and rotted from the inside out.

JimBowie1958's picture

There must be a minimal level of government to have a free and FAIR market.

Who decides what standard units are to be used? The market makers? Oh, yeah, that really works.

Who enforces the laws when fraud and cheating occur? The principle of buer beware? And how many people have to lose their life savings before everyone can agree to stop the fraud in the bud?

As the Founding Fathers said, Government is a necesary evil. They said that for a reason and it wasnt the Koch brothers.

MachoMan's picture

Of course, that necessary evil also ensures collapse of the system...  practically speaking, management of the government function should yield a longer time between busts...  better than nothing.

JimBowie1958's picture

In an honest democratic system, *cough*, one wouldnt have to wait for things to collapse. One could simply change the government.

Of course it helps if the government isnt owned by the people causing the collapse....

Anusocracy's picture

Most people can only conceive of what they see. Others can think outside the box.


Gateway to an Altered Landscape: Law in a Free Nation

JimBowie1958's picture

You know thinking outside the box is great and all, but all things considered? Thinking INSIDE the box usually yeilds the quickest, surest and most reliable results.

The outside the box stuff should come only when the inside the box stuff is problematic or you have a black swan staring you in the face.

Panafrican Funktron Robot's picture

"No, you keep the size and scope of government limited so that there isn't that much to buy..."

Yeah, but you could just corrupt the small government, and turn it into a fucking gigantic government.  See:  America, United States of

Silver Bug's picture

A government that doesn't become purely corrupt is almost impossible.

T-roll's picture

It is impossible due to the nature of human beings. No system devised by man will ever work in the long term due to the imperfections of man. We will eventually screw ourselves ino extinction.

NewAmericaNow's picture

In a free market there are no corporations because there is only one law applicable to everyone and thus no separate corporate law. In a free society the governmnet does not control your actions. The people do not need permission from anyone to do anything. In a free society people discover the consequences of their actions have meaning and teach lessons and NO ONE is bailed out. In a free society there is charity but only to those that deserve it. Since a free society does not exert behavioral controls on a society, there is no system to unfairly, and for personal gain, control. In a free society, no monopoly can be granted. In a free society money is sound and is free of debt. In a free society competition breeds quality and competative prices. In a free society people are held responsible for their mistakes and praised for their foresight. In a free society hard work is rewarded while lazyness has it's consequences. In a free market, Capitalism is only a myth because capitalism is cronyism and can not function in a free market.

Raymond K Hessel's picture

You had me until the last sentence.

Cronyism = Corporatism = Fascism

GMadScientist's picture

On the Big Rock Candy Market...

shuckster's picture

The biggest lie about capitalism is that it is freedom. Capitalism and freedom have nothing to do with eachother. Freedom means the inability of one person(s) to impose upon another. Capitalism requires that the courts, the military, and the public services all allow trade to flow freely. The people still must pay for these services, but the businesses enjoy them, not the people who are paying for them. The military is important for safety, but not required. The courts are needed only when a business infringes on the rights of a person and that business needs protection from that person. The courts then protect the business from that person by ruling in favor of the business and making it illegal for the person to exact his revenge on that business. The public services insure that that business has roads to drive on and water to keep its facilities sanitary, however, these are not necessarily to the benefit of the people. For these reasons, capitalism is not freedom or vice versa, nor is it democracy - it is a style of government that protects a specific class - the business owner - similar to communism which protects the labor force. Both are inherently corrupt since they place one person above another

AnAnonymous's picture

Clap if you love because very fit 'Americans' by now.

'Americanism' or the art of saying one thing and the contrary in the same breath.

In a free society there is charity but only to those that deserve it. Since a free society does not exert behavioral controls on a society,

Powerful, big, tremendous, awesome.