In case anyone asks

In case anyone asks you to explain what a liberal is, I am posting a better rant in its entirety from Stayin’ Alive, a Blog of Note, and often a refreshing ascerbic [sharp; piquant; pointed; acidic; stinging] read:

Faith of our Fathers

Liberalism began as a movement to affirm individual freedom against the hereditary caste system of European aristocracy.

The so-called Founding Fathers of the United States, quite naturally in the context of their times, saw government as the essential threat to liberty. They feared kings and earls, and so designed a government that would be weak and divided. Their rhetoric was universalist, but in fact they were of and for merchants and plantation owners, the rising economic elites of their times whose rivalry with the aristocracy defined European politics and who were the new ruling class in aristocracy-free America. That slaves were not free was troubling to some of them, and we ultimately fought a civil war over it. Economic inequality was not troubling to them. While obviously the poor enjoyed less liberty than the wealthy, their circumstances were responsible, not any identifiable oppressor. And there was always free land to the west for those who were impecunious but ambitious.

Then came the industrial revolution.

The yeoman farmer and entrepeneurial artisan became a proletarian. The immediate and obvious threat to the liberty of the masses was not government, but ever greater industrial corporations that made wage slaves of people and dictated their hours of work, their housing, the tasks they would do.

Mechanization of agriculture started to drive small farmers from the land. In the new class struggle of the industrial age, workers organized against capitalists using a rhetoric of freedom, asserting a political philosophy in which government would become the instrument of the common people against the rapacious class of owners.

Reformers moved to save capitalism against revolution by imposing some restraints on business corporations during the Reform Era early in the 20th Century, but a new version of liberalism emerged fully after the Great Depression proved that the game of capitalism required rules and a referee.

A new role for government was born.

Now, liberalism no longer saw government as the enemy, but as an essential ally. Only government could defend liberty against commanding private interests. This was a bargain the smart capitalists accepted, because they knew their survival depended on it.

By providing some protections for workers and the professional classes, a liberal government in the new sense could assure social peace. At the same time, it was obvious to most capitalists that the laissez faire philosophy, that prosperity was assured if the government stayed out of the economy, had failed.

And yet that rhetoric of “free markets” kept creeping back.

During the Cold War, “free enterprise” and “free markets” were supposed to be what distinguished our side from the evil commies. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, “neo-liberalism” promised to bring the blessings of free markets to the all the world, and conservatives, of course, had never really given up on laissez faire and the dream of unbridled capitalism.

But reality strikes back.

There is no such thing as a “free market.”

Nothing resembling a free market has ever existed, or ever can. It is a mythological and impossible beast.

Markets are social constructions. In complex, post-industrial society, they depend for their very existence on continual, sustained, government intervention.

Government creates money, the very lifeblood of markets, and sets its supply and cost by fiat.

Government enforces contracts, and at least enough transparency in business dealings to make them possible.

Government provides essential economic infrastructure that entrepreneurs will never create, because the structure of markets does not reward them or impedes their creation — things like roads, bridges, airports, civil order, educated workers.

Government regulates use of the commons, so that entrepreneurs upstream cannot, for example, utterly deprive those downstream of use of the river.

Government suppresses negative externalities that might destroy even the wealthy and their children, such as air and water pollution. I could go on.

The question is not whether markets are “free.” The question is how they are regulated, and on whose behalf.

Markets have nothing to do with freedom. The freedom a market gives to one, it takes from another. If I sell you a gun, we both may benefit, until you point it at me and take your money back, or you get it home and find it doesn’t work.

Liberty can never come from markets. It can only be defended by the community, acting through government institutions.

So let us stop using this false and misleading phrase, “free market”. There is no such thing as a free market. Anyone who utters those words is lying.

David Rockefeller once said,
“The only human order is economic order.”

The Marketplace of Perceptions at Harvard Magazine asserts,

Economic Man has one fatal flaw: he does not exist.”

Like all revolutions
in thought, this one began with anomalies, strange facts, odd observations that the prevailing wisdom could not explain. Casino gamblers, for instance, are willing to keep betting even while expecting to lose. People say they want to save for retirement, eat better, start exercising, quit smoking—and they mean it—but they do no such things.