A lot of people say that the free market would fix most of our problems if it wasn’t restricted. So let’s deregulate it and see how it looks. I think it was Adam Smith who said that competition would make everything come out right for everybody, calling it an invisible hand, or something. Here’s my vision of it.
If the market is COMPLETELY free, that would mean fraudulent products would be expected, and not punished. A market in which anyone can sell ANYTHING, and anyone can buy, as long as they can afford the product. Would you like your neighbor to have an atomic weapon, or a chemical/biological one? If he can afford it, it’s just a matter of time. How would you defend yourself if he decides to use such a weapon against you? That’s your problem.
Of course, most of your neighbors won’t be able to afford such things, fortunately or not. One thing they WILL be able to afford is drugs. In a truly free market, none of those will be illegal anymore, nor will you need a prescription to get them. You’ll be able to buy them over the counter, and use them any way you please. You may not want to buy them yourself, but you won’t be able to stop anyone else from doing it.
And in a really free market, anything is permissable that makes a profit. Pollution is just a side-effect of business, and if you use up resources that might be scarce it’ll be a problem only if you don’t make a profit out of it. In a truly free market you won’t be liable for ANYTHING.
Since profit is the measuring stick, you can make or grow anything that’s profitable, and why waste your time on something only marginally profitable? Do something to make yourself BIG profits. Whatever the market will bear.
Since there won’t be any restriction on what you can buy or sell, you may have to make an effort to keep your children out of the hands of kidnappers. Don’t assume they won’t be kidnapped just because you can’t afford to pay a ransom. Without restrictions, slavery will be back in, and your son or daughter might make some owner very happy, depending on how he or she defines happiness.
You can avoid that problem, of course, if you can afford your own armed guard (or guards), assuming that they’re trustworthy (which may be a function of how much you pay them). What may be more difficult is preventing your children from buying or selling drugs. Of course you may not be concerned about that.
Since there won’t be any government agencies mandating quality control, you’ll have to be aware who the trustworthy producers are, and be willing to pay more for their services. There will be more products to choose from, but their quality may vary widely.
And when it comes to food, if you don’t grow your own, you’d better be sure you can trust the people you buy from.
The same for medical care. If you don’t know the people you’re dealing with, you’re likely to find yourself overcharged and underserved. Unless you can find trustworthy insurance, a really bad illness can destroy you financially. On the other hand, you’ll have a lot more treatments and drugs to choose from, since none will be illegal. But many may be ineffective too. There may well be more illness too. Since pollution is no longer illegal, there will be even more than there is now. What’s going on in West Virginia at this moment will have spread around the entire country. Clean water will be an increasingly rare resource. It would have been anyway, but pollution will make it even more so. Maybe people will decide that selling clean air will be a profitable business too.
The totally free market won’t have tort law, so you won’t be able to sue anyone you think didn’t treat you right. That’s when a private army might come in handy. If you can’t afford that, you might find that being in one is a good way to make a living. There are likely to be a lot of job opportunities in that field.
Of course there will probably be a lot of booms and busts. Manipulating the stock market won’t be illegal either, so you’d better buy stock only if you’re very sure you know what you’re doing. That’s another field likely to have job opportunities.
Being a policeman, fireman or school teacher may be profitable, too, on a lower scale. Wealthy people will be likely to pay well, if you’re competent. If that’s not your strength, you may be able to make a living from poor people, who will also have to pay for services. But since they can’t afford much, they won’t exactly get the best.
There will certainly still be a military, but it probably won’t be run by any elected government. The probability will be a private contractor, who will be allowed to charge quite a bit for the service provided. The question will be just who he’s going to charge. That service alone could keep most people in the country in debt.
And that may be another area where there will be job opportunities. Not that they’re likely to pay very well. The really high-paying jobs in the field will go to those who satisfy the criteria of private armies, who can afford to pay for the best. Some may be able to work up from the national army, of course.
Keeping the nation’s highways in shape is another thing likely to keep the average citizen in debt. Maybe most roads will become toll roads. Maybe more people will start walking to work.
There are likely to be fewer people, though. Since there won’t be welfare, social security, medicare or medicaid, a lot of people will be unable to survive, but there are too many people now anyway. Get rid of the less useful, and there will be more for those left.
Immigration may possibly go in a different direction than it’s been going since this country began. Maybe Mexico, Canada or other further removed countries will get the poor this country has historically gotten. How that will work out remains to be seen, though. Maybe those other countries will benefit. But it will take awhile to get a correct perspective.
There will probably continue to be a lot of people in prison, though. Such a profitable business can’t be allowed to shut down, even if the justice system is smaller and weaker than before. Prisoners are still needed to keep the profits rolling, so prison sentences may get harsher. Torture may also come back in as a form of public entertainment, from which further profits can be made.
For some reason, I see a really free market as dystopic. In a lot of people’s eyes, that would make me a Communist, or something. But I’m not a fan of Communism either, as it has been manifested in the past century. Something in between the extremes of Communism and Capitalism seems to me to be suitable, when you’re talking political systems. That middle ground would probably be socialism, which is usually a dirty word in this country, at least to a lot of people.
But another point of view would be that no political or economic system will perform well unless people in general become better. That was the point (or one of the points) of the Pharisees trying to discredit Jesus by asking him if people should pay taxes. Rome and its taxes were much hated, but Jesus doesn’t seem to have been worried about which government was in power. He was talking about things much more immediate,over which individuals had some control:: their own behavior. Enough attention was paid to begin a new religion, but not enough to prevent the Jewish people from two rebellions that did little but kill a lot of people.
Since we’re unlikely to get a new religion that will make much difference, and Christianity is unlikely to repudiate the bargain it has generally made with the free enterprise system, I think the above is a possible future. I’d just as soon be wrong, but we’ll see.