Myths and Realities of the Free Market
excerpted from the book
Against the Conventional Wisdom
by Douglas Dowd
U.S. Democracy, Ltd.
We live in the most capitalist of all societies. Naturally,
then, only an embattled minority has resisted what was earlier
called the commodification of everything. Nonetheless, this minority
has won many a battle since the 1930s, limited in scope and durability
though they may have been: battles to hold down and cushion unemployment
and poverty; to diminish repression and discrimination of all
sorts; to render work conditions safer; to provide health care,
pensions, paid vacations, and better housing and education for
many-though by no means all; to protect our health and our environment
from ecological recklessness; to enhance economic stability.
Though seldom seen as such by those of us in that embattled
minority, such battles were part of a larger war. The issue was
to identify the areas of daily existence that had to be exempted
from the "law of supply and demand" and protected from
the market, areas requiring sociopolitical interventions. If the
areas of human, economic, social, and environmental fragility
had not been exempted, the costs would have become intolerable-
as in many ways they long have been.
Over a period of about forty years some of that territory
was won, but never secured. Apart from a political moment now
and then, we lacked solidarity; we functioned too much as individualistic
groups. At our best we were tactically astute. But we always lacked
a strategy, there not being a unified movement that could develop
and sustain a strategy. That lack was an explicable outcome of
U.S. history, and virtually unique in the industrial capitalist
Since the 1960s, in part prompted by our successes, the economically
powerful and politically reactionary have steadily built an imposing
political force. They are supported by groups with diverse social,
political, and economic agendas; many of the members of those
groups are beneficiaries of the very achievements now under siege.
The movement to the right has already chipped away at many of
our gains; now relentlessly it tries to return our socio-economy
to the free market ideology and practices of a century ago, with
all their brutality and social foolhardiness.
Giant companies already dominated the industrial economy in
the 1920s, but they were small and weak and naive when compared
with the super TNCs of the present. The latter now dominate not
just industry but also the services (including finance, advertising,
and health care) and agriculture. More to the point, their concentrated
economic power is enhanced by their ability through the media
(also tightly owned and controlled) to "manage minds"
for both commercial and political purposes; and the generous sums
they pay lobbyists to initiate and prevent legislation are of
course tax deductible...
the Conventional Wisdom