The news you're not supposed to know...

An Introduction to Austrian Economics: Understand Economics, Understand Everything
The Century of the Self: The Untold History of Controlling the Masses Through the Manipulation of Unconscious Desires
The Disappearing Male: From Virility to Sterility

The Obama Deception: The Mask Comes Off
Operation Gladio: The Hidden History of U.S. Sponsored False Flag Terrorism in EuropeThe New American Century: The Untold History of The Project for the New American Century
Article posted Jun 01 2011, 7:02 PM Category: Commentary Source: Kevin Carson Print

If This Is the Free Market, Why Do I Feel So Unfree?

by Kevin Carson

It’s remarkable, considering how frequently our politicians and cable news commentariat remind us of the “free market” we live in, just how existentially unfree things seem down here where the rubber meets the road.  We constantly see the Washington Consensus and the neoliberal order equated to “our free market system.”  But as I always understood it, a free market was simply a system of free exchange.  So why does this so-called “free market system” seem to require, for its survival, a regime of totalitarian lockdown that resembles Verhoeven’s take on “Starship Troopers”?

Never mind stuff like the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex, and the United States government’s perpetual wars to make the world safe for corporate domination.  What I’m more interested in is the forms of authoritarianism we encounter on a daily basis, as a direct adjunct of maintaining what the neoliberals consider a “free market” as such.  We see increasingly draconian restrictions on the most basic rights of free speech, an upward ratcheting of the surveillance state, and all sorts of other forms of authoritarian intrusion we’d normally associate with something like the old communist regimes of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union — and all in the name of “our free market system.”

Take, for example, “intellectual property” — a state-granted monopoly which is central to the corporate neoliberal order falsely called “the free market,” but which has precious little to do with anything remotely resembling an actual free market.  Your internet service provider isn’t a business firm that performs a service for you — the paying customer — so much as an adjunct of the RIAA and MPAA and their lackies in government.  Your ISP spies on you on behalf of Big Content to make sure you’re not making any big torrent downloads.

Ever get a threatening phone call from your ISP?  You might as well be hired by them, rather than the reverse.  Ever get a DMCA takedown notice?  Ever have a website taken down by your host in response to a mere unsubstantiated complaint?  Welcome to “our free market system.”

Remember the Pinkertons, the uniformed private thugs the bosses used to hire to bust union organizers’ heads?  Now Monstanto hires them to snoop around private farms, testing the DNA of farmers’ crops to see if they contain any genetic material from genetically engineered seeds under patent.  For example the Runyons, an Indiana farm family, were invaded in 2008 by Monsanto’s hired goons in response to an “anonymous tip” that their farm hosted Roundup-ready soybeans.  Sounds almost like — ahem — the Drug War, doesn’t it?  Never mind that the Runyons never planted Monsanto’s seed.  Never mind that their crops were contaminated — very much against their will — by GMO pollen blowing over from a neighbor’s farm.  You might think it was the Runyons who had a cause of action for the contamination of their crops with frankenfood DNA.  But not in our so-called “free market system.”  In this thing the neoliberals call a “free market,” being contaminated by Monsanto DNA — even against your will — is prima facie evidence of “piracy.”  You’re innocent until proven guilty.

Orwell once observed that after 1914, the states of the 20th century were resurrecting forms of torture and atrocity that had been largely unknown since the Inquisition.  Likewise, under “our free market system,” we’re seeing a resurgence of — believe it or not — debtors’ prison.  In the “old days” — as recently as the 1990s — creditors would attempt to collect debts in-house, and then write them off.  Now debt collection agencies buy up debts for pennies on the dollar.  After serving process at an address where you lived three moves ago, they get you declared in contempt in absentia and jailed.  Or you might just find your bank account cleaned out by your bank in collusion with the creditors, without any warning.

And then there’s “food libel laws” and FDA restrictions on commercial speech.  If you label your milk rBGH-free, you can expect to be muscled by Monsanto’s lawyers.  The very act of informing your customers your milk lacks rBGH constitutes disparagement of the frankenmilk from those factory dairies, you see.  If you advertise that you inspect your meat for Mad Cow Disease more frequently than the USDA requires, you’re disparaging your competitors by implying that simply meeting the regulatory standard — a standard based on SOUND SCIENCE! — is somehow inadequate.  And somebody’s feelings might get hurt.

Never mind all the rhetoric you hear about “our free market system” on CNBC or read on the WSJ editorial page.  If it requires the kind of statist authoritarianism we used to associate with the Soviet Union, it’s not a free market.
C4SS Research Associate Kevin Carson is a contemporary mutualist author and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: An Individualist Anarchist Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. Carson has also written for such print publications as The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty and a variety of internet-based journals and blogs, including Just Things, The Art of the Possible, the P2P Foundation and his own Mutualist Blog.

Latest Commentary
- The War on Drugs Was Born 100 Years Ago
- What America Wannabe?
- Judicial Deference to the Torturers
- Ross Ulbricht Should Be Freed in a Fair Trial
- Government Save Us From "Overpriced" Chinese Food
- I Love Loosies and the People Who Sell Them
- Obama's Plan for Better Policing: The Good, the Bad, and the Body Cameras
- Statism: The Most Dangerous Religion (feat. Larken Rose)

No Comments Posted Add Comment

Add Comment


Verification *
Please Enter the Verification Code Seen Below

Please see our About Page, our Disclaimer, and our Comments Policy.

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which in some cases has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available for the purposes of news reporting, education, research, comment, and criticism, which constitutes a 'fair use' of such copyrighted material in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. It is our policy to respond to notices of alleged infringement that comply with the DMCA and other applicable intellectual property laws. It is our policy to remove material from public view that we believe in good faith to be copyrighted material that has been illegally copied and distributed by any of our members or users.

About Us - Disclaimer - Privacy Policy

Advanced Search


Remember Me
Forgot Password?

A Peace Officer Defies the "Blue Tribe": The Exile of Officer Cariol Horne - 12/19Baby Clings to Life After Flash-Bang Grenade Lands in His Crib - 12/20Cop Stops Fellow Cop From Choking a Handcuffed Man, She Was Then Beaten and Fired - 12/18For Punitive Populists, "Comply or Die" IS The "Law" - 12/19Thieves Yell "Police" Before Invading Home, Shooting and Robbing Resident - 12/18Psychotic Vegas Cop Filmed Beating Man For Filming In Viral Video Queitly Hired By Another Dept. - 12/17Cops Called For Wellness Check Beat Innocent Man, Pile On False Charges; Jury Exonerates, Twice - 12/17Ignorance Is No Excuse for Wrongdoing, Unless You're a Cop - 12/17

Rialto, CA Police Made to Wear Cameras, Use of Force Drops by Over Two-ThirdsCop Who Karate Chopped NY Judge In Throat Gets Off Scot-FreeFlorida Cop Smashes Compliant Woman's Face Into Car -- "Maybe Now You Can Understand Simple Instructions"VIDEO: Lapel Cam Reveals A Day In The Life Of A U.S. Police Officer (Tasing, Beating, Breaking & Entering, Stomping On Heads... and Laughing About It)Caught On Tape: Officer Sucker Punches Inmate In Face, Files Report Claiming 'Self Defense'Insult Person On Twitter, Go To JailSWAT Team Brings TV Crew To Film Raid Against Threatening Internet Critic -- Raids Innocent Grandma InsteadCop Karate Chops NY Judge In The Throat