What is a “Free” Market?

In the Albuquerque Journal’s Business section this Monday, columnist Winthrop Quigley made the following statement to start out his column: “Now that Congress and President Obama have decided they want a privately-run, free-market health care system….”

The rest of the column dealt with the lack of information that consumers have regarding their health care and Quigley even made the excellent point that if consumers don’t pay for their care (and insurance companies do), they have no access or reason to access this information. But I was still stuck back on the “free market” point. What was Quigley thinking?

So I emailed him and he was nice enough to email me back. He said in part that ObamaCare “leaves health care delivery to the private sector and preserves the private insurance industry….” therefore it is a “free market.” I beg to differ.

Even before ObamaCare takes effect, governments pay more than half the costs of Americans’ health care. Then there are literally thousands of restrictions and tax provisions — from the FDA which restricts access to new medication to the third-party-payment system that is created by Congrees’ tax exemption for employer-purchased car — that restrict our care and therefore restrict the “free market” aspects of US health care.

While a truly and completely “free market” is probably not on the table in today’s political climate and with the dozens of layers of regulations that have been piled on over the years, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey laid out a way that we can capture many of the benefits of the free market by making some common-sense reforms.

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2 Replies to “What is a “Free” Market?”

  1. Winthrop Quigley doesn’t understand the fascism-socialism distinction that Fredrick Hayek explained. That is, fascism is the system of the state allowing the owner to keep title to property but the state regulates every feature of behavior–as in Obamacare. Socialism is the system of the state actually taking title to property and then running the system. In fact, both systems are socialist or “statist” as Hayek said. Neither is free market.

    Ayn Rand called Quigley’s error a failure to think in essentials.

    This is the essential: the free market is the system that allows the owner the unfettered right to use his property as he chooses. Holding title is not the essential feature.

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