Free Markets versus Free Markets

It appears that many people are still living in the world of the old debate between “the free market” and “socialism”.

…all societies have always had market economies.

The question is: what SORT of market economy?

The modern market economy with which we are familiar, and for which many argue so hysterically, did not come into existence because of the magical thing called “the free market”.

Rather, the kind of free market with which we are familiar and which we admire so much arose in Reformation countries (as distinct from market economies in other times and places, in which markets simply reinforced entirely unjust hierarchical social relations).

Why did the sort of “market economies” arise in Reformation countries and not in other societies?

Because Reformation countries forefronted the rule of law (in other words, treated the rulers as well as the ruled as equal before the law), because they had a view of individuals as neither autonomous nor subject to society but related to and responsible for society, because they had a high view of ethics and diversity and work and living within one’s means, and so on.

In other words, it is not “free markets” that provided for prosperity, peace and freedom, it was a spiritual revolution (the Reformation) that created the environment within which markets of the right sort could be built over time.

from Renaissance: Insights for Action in Today’s World