Commentary | Sir, the free market gives you no options

Hyde Park

“Because in a free market, untainted by bureaucratic decision-making, what you want is what you get.” This is how Timothy Mak gloriously ends his McGill Tribune article, “You Had An Option, Sir: A strange way to hate the arts,” (September 16) where he defends the Conservative’s cuts to the arts. The government has no business in helping aspiring independent artists because the free market will take care of it.

One only has to look at the sorry state of our present commercialized arts and culture to see what free market really brings to the fields. Now, Mak and his Tory friends will defend that this is what the people want. If the people want garbage like Britney Spears then garbage is what they’ll get.

Freedom of choice and free competition! This is the rallying cry Tories use to justify their policies of cutting social programs. Well, let us look how this freedom fares when we bring it down from its heavenly pedestal to the world we are living in.

We are living in an unequal society. Some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouth; they have more opportunities than most people. Working hard brings you nowhere if you don’t have the opportunity. Would Bill Gates have been able to launch Microsoft if his parents were making eight dollars an hour? Not a chance. Most likely, he would have ended up in the same eight-dollar-an-hour job. This is the reality of life.

People have been fighting for the creation of social programs – not only education and health care, but also funding for aspiring entrepreneurs – so that every individual has the opportunity to explore their talents. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best given the circumstances.

The whole era of “if you work hard you will succeed” ended decades ago. Two hundred years ago, when capitalism just emerged out of the decaying corpse of feudalism, the market was truly free and not dominated by the monopolies and oligopolies we see now. Rising merchants and entrepreneurs had relatively equal opportunities to compete against each other, and those who were more creative and efficient were rewarded. By doing so they pushed society forward. But at the same time, this free market favours concentration of capital and monopolies – in other words, less competition.

I’ve seen so many very talented musicians receding into oblivion because they don’t have the opportunity to air their songs on radio and TV, while big record companies with billion-dollar advertising budgets push their artists on the media. There is no more fair competition between artists. And this is true for everything under capitalism.

This is not about a smaller government as Mak would like us to believe. When the Tories speak of having a smaller government, what they mean is they want free reign in their way of doing business. This includes, but is not limited to, relaxed labour codes, environmental standards, and working conditions. Of course, as the recent $500-billion bailout in U.S. banking shows, they would like a big government to give them a big handout when they are in deep trouble.

Mak, you have no option, only an illusion of choice. Because in today’s free market – the one controlled by corporate bureaucrats in cahoots with their lackeys in the government, the Tories and the Liberals – you don’t usually get what you want.

Ted Sprague is a Master’s II Chemistry student. He totally loves unregulated economic systems.


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