Global Capitalism: the Myth of a Free Market Economy

This past week marked a milestone of some political significance for Iraqis with their referendum on the proposed constitution. While that was happening, on the other side of the globe, in California , another milestone was being erected- this time in ladies’ golf. The latter involving a just-turned-16 phenom, Michele Wie, turning professional and challenging from day one the names at the very top of that sport- an irrelevant sport to many, no doubt… but bringing a message apropos to our theme.

Young Michele became a multi-millionaire overnight at the guided stroke of a pen as Nike, the footwear and athletic gear corporate giant, was placing a promotional bet on the future success of yet another sports’ ingénue. And while that signing was taking place, Samsung, the mammoth multi-national electronics firm, and sponsor of the week’s ladies’ golf event, was being rebuked and “heavily” fined in the US for its world-wide price-fixing practices.

On the same weekend, we became spectators to both the workings of democracy and the market economy in which it operates. Well… perhaps not the democracy or the market economy we would prefer to see. After all, can democracy take root under the protection of a self-imposed, powerful occupier? Or, is the marketplace as free as it needs to be, particularly in a global economy? Questions both that we shall answer later; but first…

In our reach for lofty causes and universal truth, we are often predisposed to accept or adopt a system with ideas which, at times, may not mix well… needing a measure of hope for solubility. Democracy may be such case in point, for it has certainly captured the minds and hearts of people even though it might not wear well as a uniform, or come ideologically-equipped in one size fits all.

For most established Western democracies there are four cardinal points in their compass that point to the essence of democracy… perhaps as much a way of life as a political, and a social system. These four points, which could be easily parlayed into a dozen or more conceptual subdivisions, involve the core concepts of individual rights, popular sovereignty, rule of law and participative society. The needle in the compass, as one would expect, always pointing north… to individual rights.

But it isn’t the compass’ face and its four directions that define Western democracy, not in its entirety. For this democratic compass to work, it must rely upon the marketplace’s economic field to obtain its directive force. This free market economy, democracy’s magnetic field, has been [and continues to be] judged as synonymous with capitalism. But the capitalism we experience is definitely not the economic system supposedly characterized by freedom of the market, as evidenced in both the national and global stages. A dilemma of sorts as either we fail to operate within the framework of capitalism, or capitalism needs a new description, a new definition of what it really is.

The latter appears to make a lot more sense. A free market economy is really the workings of free enterprise. Capitalism is not so much an economic system but a behavioral pattern leading to capital accumulation, something which could take place under many economic and political systems; in free and slave societies; in nations which promote social welfare and in those which give primacy to individual success. By this definition, free enterprise becomes the magnetic field where Western democracies aspire to operate, not capitalism. However, aspirations aside, the reality we live is that of global capitalism.

Few democratic nations have as many laws in their books to keep the marketplace free, or claim such relentless commitment to their enforcement, as does the United States . But for all the laws and presumed enforcement, the marketplace is a horizon away from being free… whether in pharmaceuticals, energy products, or myriad other industries and services. The existing symbiotic relationship in the US between politicians [of both parties] and big business is an accepted, and in your face, fact of life. To believe in the existence of a truly free marketplace in America requires not only dedicated mental selectivity but a copious amount of naïveté.

And the scenario of the marketplace in the US is duplicated in most other democracies.

To expect the global marketplace to be a free and open economic system, while acknowledging the deficiencies at national or regional levels, is just wishful thinking in anyone’s part. Imperfections in the parts can hardly be followed by perfection for the whole. Yet, that is exactly what the globalist elite is intent to have the world believe.

Back to Nike… and Samsung… and our two earlier questions.

As for the referendum and possible advent of democracy for Iraqis, the world wishes them well; however, democracy, just like sovereignty, is not something gifted to people, but something which only they can claim for themselves.

For Nike, “free enterprise” expectations took at least a short-term setback as Ms. Wie was disqualified in her pro-debut, showing unexpected amateurish traits for a pro. As for Samsung… we came to learn that global capitalism, no matter how corrupt or predatory, has little to fear when caught breaking the rules… in this case a $300 million fine for price-fixing practices which have cost the consumer billions. Almost like paying post-facto an insurance premium for a catastrophe which already has occurred.

The myth of a free and open economic system, where the market works for everyone’s benefit, is alive and well. The reality is quite different; for the market is neither free, nor open, nor working for the common good… just an unregulated evolutionary bazaar allowing the capital-fittest to survive and thrive.