Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Bob Franken Headshot

The Free Market Subterfuge

Posted: Updated:


They are the free marketeers, those who advocate that corporations should be free-to- cheat-and-harm and-do-whatever-the-hell-they-
want. They are the ones who wring their hands in op-eds and on cable news, easy "gets" for the bookers and editors who need to fill time or column inches or their own pages on Facebook and their own fund raising blogs.

Sad to say it's hard to refute one of their main propaganda points: Regulation doesn't work. It doesn't but it should. We don't need to look very far to see the mortal danger of uninhibited commerce. We can compile a long list of examples from the news...a list of companies where any concern for the lives and welfare of everyone else has been overridden by careless and shameless greed..

It includes, of course, British Petroleum, Toyota, Johnson and Johnson, and it's subsidiary that makes CHILDREN'S health care products.

Let's not forget the bankers and other money changers, the health insurance companies, at least one coal company.

They are all regulated to some degree, at least theoretically. The problem is that in practice, the agencies that are supposed to oversee them have been often paralyzed, compromised by a culture that condones slothfulness and even corruption. We can easily come up with a list here with initials: MMS, which stands for Minerals Management Service, but we know its really MISmanagement. And there's NHTSA...the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, where the "T" obviously did NOT mean "Toyota" safety.

They are easy marks for the industries that want to avoid any controls, particularly when their bought-and-paid-for politicians create laws with loopholes big enough for an 80 year old running back.

Those who contend regulation is ineffective are often right on the money. Unfortunately, it's our money.

What do we do? Boycott the miscreants? That would be worth considering but it won't work. There are so many of them we wouldn't be able to buy what's necessary to live in today's world. They have metastasized through our entire system.

There is only one solution. We need to get smarter. We must reject all the shop worn arguments that reasonable protections by government are un-American in one way or another. It's important that we pay attention to who's doing what in all those back room deals and demand a full and public accounting by our public officials.

We must constantly monitor those we pay to monitor and be responsible for industry. It's not too much to insist they are competent and do their job. We can't let them get so burrowed into their workforce they can't be pried out or shielded by impenetrable walls of bureaucracy.

And we have to pass laws that truly punish those who steal from us. Unfortunately, dangerous and negligent fraud is not always a crime. It should be.

Contrary to the apologists, the unfetteredly free markets they defend with their platitudes is anything but free. We are paying a huge price.