Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Free Market Succubus

For those with a taste for learned discussion on economics, we offer this essay on the free market as a legacy of Enlightenment Utopian thinking. An excerpt:
In the United States free markets have contributed to social breakdown on a scale unknown in any other developed country. Families are weaker in America than in any other country. At the same time, social order has been propped up by a policy of mass incarceration. No other advanced industrial country, aside from post-communist Russia, uses imprisonment as a means of social control on the scale of the United States. Free markets, the desolation of families and communities and the use of the sanctions of criminal law as a last recourse against social collapse go in tandem.

Free markets have also weakened or destroyed other institutions on which social cohesion depends in the US. They have generated a long economic boom from which the majority of Americans has hardly benefited. Levels of inequality in the United States resemble those of Latin American countries more than those of any European society. Yet such direct consequences of the free market have not weakened support for it. It remains the scared cow of American politics and has become identified with America's claim to be a model for a universal civilization. The Enlightenment project and the free market have become fatefully intertwined.
Ideology in conflict with reality will ultimately reap the whirlwind.

The author, John Gray:
John Gray is Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics. Prior to this he was Professor of Politics at Oxford University and Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford. He is a former supporter of the New Right, but has since revised his views, and now believes that the conventional political solutions of conservatism and social democracy are no longer viable. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement and is the author of many books on political theory. He is married and lives in Oxford.
The entire article is worth the read.

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