It is? You can choose what power company you use? You can choose what garbage company picks up your trash? You can freely choose which company you work for (in this jobless economy)? You can choose which company opens a megastore next door to your house? In theory, what you say is true. One of the misleading features of free-market ideology is that it looks sound in theory, but in practice there are a number of very real and very telling flaws. To provide a segue to the next topic, you can choose which health insurance your employer offers?
Originally Posted by gcoll
In theory, you are correct. In reality, very few Americans can freely choose to take their health insurance business elsewhere, as you must know. And judging by the 60% of bankruptcies caused by medical costs, virtually nobody can afford to go without health insurance. Philab did a fine job addressing this sub-topic, so I'll leave it at that.
If my health insurance is not to my liking, I can take my business elsewhere. If none of the companies deliver a product I want, then I can choose not to have health insurance.
And, since I am willing to pay for health insurance, there is an incentive to deliver me the product I want.
I am glad we agree on this much. Does government have a role in environmentally regulating businesses to prevent the pollution in the first place as well, or only in dealing with the aftermath? I ask because of the high percentage of Superfund sites that were created by now-defunct businesses. The corporate owners got their profit, polluted freely, and got out, sticking us all with the cleanup bills in these cases. Moreover, large corporations are constantly pointing out that environmental regulations infringe on their free-market prerogatives and impact their bottom lines. Are they wrong?
The toxic waste dump would be an example of an externality. Pollution is an externality where I think government has a role. The actions of the company that put the toxic waste dump next to my house have harmed me, a third party who did not agree to anything.
In theory, you're right. In reality, people choose to work for companies that violate existing governmental standards and do so willingly because they do not actually have better options. On the ground, people knowingly work for companies that openly violate labor laws, safety laws, and environmental laws. They do so because, in reality, the marketplace is not a level-playing-field utopia. Jobs are hard to find, particularly in places like Raleigh County West Virginia, where Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine disaster killed 29 miners. That is reality. In the ivory tower world of free market theory, those miners, who knew all about Massey's decades-long history of safety violations, could have gone to find some other job. In reality, they would have been very hard pressed to do so, and were left with the option of unemployment or risking their lives for their corporate masters' profit margins (subsequently spent in part to influence the political system).
As far as safety standards. If the work is too dangerous, you don't have to work there. This is another example of competition in the marketplace serving the needs of those interested.
In reality, people also work for those who violate labor and employment laws. I've worked with multiple people who were never paid overtime during years of 60 or 70-hour weeks. They did so because, in reality, not everyone is the perfect-knowledge, rational, market free agent that theories assume. If they were, we wouldn't need such things as minimum wage laws, or overtime laws, or child labor laws, or environmental regulations, or food safety laws, or even a prohibition against slavery. In free market theory, people should all be able to avoid those problems on their own. In reality, as demonstrated by history, they can't and they don't.
Last edited by Labgrownmangoat; 02-15-2011 at 11:29 AM.
"As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems or, for that matter, to any problems." -- Pope Francis