Op-Ed on Access to Markets
HOW PRIVATIZATION THREATENS FREE MARKETS
Nowadays, THE FREE MARKET gets a lot of credit for things going right. And there is no doubt that competition is a wonderful thing in providing goods and services at reasonable prices -- to the masses.
What surprises me is how little attention is paid to the definition of a free market, and what underlies it.
In order to be free, it must be OPEN to all potential buyers and sellers. No one can be excluded from the competition for -- nor the provision of -- goods and services. As soon as competition is restricted, the law of supply and demand tilts in favor of whoever is NOT restricted. Unearned excess profits accrue in a small number of hands at the expense of the consumers. If the extreme of this situation is allowed to exist long enough, the haves and the have-nots are widely divided; and the free market has been effectively thwarted.
Free market economists complain bitterly about government protectionism, as well they should. But the government is not the only source of anti-free-market access-privileges in the world.
In a traditional marketplace, public thoroughfare must exist, via streets and roads, to connect together all the private homes, shops, and factories -- to ensure open access to all comers. The "market-place," in other words, is a huge interface of private locations with public access in between.
We take this openness for granted in the USA, for many reasons. And we ASSUME that the marketplace of cyberspace will follow the same model of private sites connected together by public access.
But in a place like Guatemala, where a patrone may own every square inch of land for miles around, and he is willing to defend it with violence, the free market can not take hold. Wide extremes of poverty and wealth are found. Some defenders of the free market claim that it is because of political injustice that this situation exists. But in fact, it is due to the absolute privatization of land -- and the constriction of the public interface, with disastrous consequences for the common people.
Privatization of the land (or other access nodes) which are needed by people to gain market access are anathema to a free market.
It surprises me that anyone advocating the benefits of a free market would also advocate the privatization of common ground. But that is too often the case.
Al Date is employed as a UNIX database manager in Silicon Valley, but has eclectic intellectual interests, including philosophy and economics. He runs several e-mail debate-forums and invites honest criticism. He can be reached at email@example.com
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