American Mantra: Free Market Capitalism

by Peter Phillips

Sonoma County Peace Press, Feb/Mar 2001


Free Market Capitalism has become the dominant American ideological truth. The decline of communism opened the door for unrepentant free marketers to boldly espouse market competition as the final solution for global harmony. According to the American mantra, if given the opportunity to freely develop, the marketplace will solve all evils. We will enjoy economic expansion, individual freedom, and unlimited bliss by fully deregulating and privatizing society's socio-economic institutions.

The recent selection of G.W. Bush as the U.S. President has placed into power the party that is the strongest supporter of this American mantra. The business/government revolving door cabinet will be comprised of more corporate CEO's than any presidency in recent history. The new government elite will work to see that the American mantra remains safe, globalized, and unchallenged.

Pesky socialist or nationalist-leaning governments will be undermined, pressured into compliance or even invaded if they dare to resist the American mantra. The full force of U.S. dominated global institutions-the WTO, World Bank, IMF, NAFTA and the new FTAA-will focus on maximizing free market circumstances and corporate access to every region of the world. Economic safety nets. environmental regulations, labor unions and human rights, become second place to the free flow of capital and investments. Indigenous resisters face overt repression, disappearance, or imprisonment by governments fully armed and supported by the American dominated New World Order.

So what is the underlying rationale for this American mantra? Are its dogmatic beliefs based on specific socio-economic facts? Are free market forces clearly the best mechanism for human betterment? Do these mechanisms work cross-culturally, and are they efficient under all circumstances?

A closer examination of the American mantra reveals that "free market" essentially means constant international U.S. government intervention on behalf of American corporations. A public-private partnership that utilizes U.S. embassies, the CIA, FBI, NSA, U.S. Military, Department of Commerce, USAID, and every other U.S government institution to protect, sustain, and directly support our vital interest-U.S. business.

This public-private partnership means that the government of Guatemala is pressured to withdraw laws that forbid Gerber foods from marketing their chubby baby image on infant formula. Peasants see the baby and believe that formula will make their infants healthy and chubby as well. Yet breastfeeding is considerably healthier in a country where unsafe water mixed with formula results in high infant mortality.

The American mantra claims that prices will reach their lowest levels and consumers will benefit from free market competition. Yet living essentials, food, water, housing, health care, all have the international tendency to increase in cost more rapidly than products that are non-essential. Even in the U.S we can get a great deal on a computer, but try buying emergency health care on a middle income paycheck. Americans are often amazed to find out that prescription drugs are significantly cheaper in other countries, a fact that discredits the benefits of an unregulated market.

American mantra institutions push market deregulation that transforms foreign economies for the benefit of U.S. businesses. Post-NAFTA Mexicans are now importing U.S. grown corn for their tortillas, as millions of formerly subsidized peasant farmers leave the land to seek minimum wage work in the cities of United States. Los Angeles has become the center for new American sweatshops, as "illegals" compete for poverty jobs that citizens cannot afford to accept.

Government-assisted foreign market penetration by U.S firms often results in the buying out of successful indigenous companies and the competitive overwhelming of others. This situation leaves U.S. multinationals in dominant positions in foreign domestic markets and creates windfall profit taking opportunities. The free market mantra carries with it shock treatment policies of lowering public expectations, forced austerity measures, and dismantled human services. A privately run water system is deemed superior to a public system because the profit motive will create maximum efficiency. Yet there is absolutely no research that systematically compares public versus private efficiency levels, only the dogmatic assertion that this is so.

The American mantra affects the U.S. population as well. We are still riding on the betterments from the first three/quarters of the 20th century, and have not faced the full impacts of the economic bifurcation that has occurred the past 25 years. Poverty levels are rising, the working poor expanding and homelessness is one pay check away for many. In the last quarter century the bottom 60 million Americans have economically declined, and most of the next 100 million have barely held their own, while the generation elites have socked away fortunes.

It is time to re-examine the American mantra and speak for global humanity. We must establish business socio-economic accountability standards and reacquaint our government with its responsibility for maintaining the common good.


Peter Phillips is an associate professor of sociology at Sonoma State University and director of Project Censored - a media research group.

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