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
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
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
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
dot.com 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