We use the term “free market” as if it were a system that functioned like a jungle, in which the fittest survive or the most meritorious rise to the top. But on looking more closely, it becomes obvious that the market consists of rules. There are rules for writing contracts. There are rules for settling disagreements. There are rules for bankruptcy. There are rules for property ownership. There are rules for buying and selling. These rules give it structure that it could not exist without.
Government makes and enforces these rules. Ideally, they provide a level playing field so that two individuals willing to work equally hard and follow the rules will have similar success. That is the premise our country is built on.
Clearly, that is not what has come to pass. Back in the 50s and 60s, it was the norm for a one-income family to be able to buy a house, have two cars and raise children in comfort and dignity. No more. Now, a family breadwinner often needs to have two or more jobs to make it. Chief executive officers of large corporations back then earned an average of 20 times the pay of their typical worker. Now it’s more than 200 times.
Over the past 30 years, that inequality has increased. The more money you make, the more power you have to influence the making of the rules so that they benefit you.
Why are our drug prices so high? Why does the pharmaceutical industry spend so much money on lobbying? Because they want rules that will make them winners.
Some say we have too many regulations. They say government is too big. But you only hear that when the regulations they are talking about are not in their financial interest.
Tyler Adams, in a letter to the editor (The CV, March 21, 2019), says the government should not interfere in picking winners and losers. But the government is already doing that.
I support the Louisa County Board of Supervisors using my tax money to help local businesses get a start; a small leg up in their attempt to compete with the big corporations, who have had so much help from the government.
I want to live in a county where our children have as good a shot to having a successful business in Louisa County as the owner of Dollar General; as good a chance of having a restaurant as the owners of Sheetz and McDonalds.
Editor’s Note: This originally appeared in the March 28th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been reposted here with the author’s permission.
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