Why Market Purists Should Vote Progressive

So you want a free market?  Over the past 50 years free market principles have come disguised as tax breaks for the rich and deregulation for mega corporations while doing little to advance market principles and benefits to the majority of Americans.  Our current leadership’s economic policy could be labeled unstable at best, creating a real bind for market purists on election day. But hope is not lost, by voting for progressive candidates market purists make a choice to begin the work of creating truly free markets.   The progressive alternative is markets that are more free, more competitive, and more open to more people than any other available option.

Free Market Principles

Advocates of free market principles are typically labeled Conservatives, but followers of Neoliberal philosophy also advocate for them.   Over the last 50 years, Republicans and Democrats have repeatedly implemented policies to remove oversight from industrial verticals. The historical results have consistently concentrated wealth upwards and caused market busts that result in considerable damage to many American families.  

Each crash further sends the United States farther away from free-market principles.  By definition, a free market requires low barriers to entry [1]. The byproduct of the concentration of wealth is that more people struggle to access the resources needed to enter a market as a producer.  Decreasing competition translates to less innovation, market stagnation, and rent-seeking monopolies that become machines of financialization.  

A truly free market is one where supply and demand dictate innovation and progress.  The idea is that our needs inspire our imagination, driving the productive agenda of society.  But our present market arrangements are organized in such a way where over the past 40 years productivity has increased by 77% compared to wage growth of only 12.4%.  A genuinely free market depends on able consumers; this cannot happen if people do not have access to the means necessary to acquire or participate in innovation.  

There are also free-market principles that can never manifest into reality under the present market organization.   Concepts like spontaneous order and perfect competition claim that unregulated markets will maximize economic benefits for all parties. It is ignoring the fact that this cannot exist in a world without government influence to enforce laws of property and contract.  As discussed earlier, history shows us that unregulated markets typically cause real damage to the American majority.   

This criticism of present-day market arrangements is not a criticism of the concept or potential of markets to create innovation.  Both the market purist and the progressive understand that empowering the individual to develop and innovate in their own direction is a recipe for success personally and globally.  The truth we must embrace is that free-market principles can never reach their idealized potential under the present arrangements.

Pursuing Progressive Markets

Pulling from lessons learned through my personal experience as the founder of two organizations, rigid adherence to established beliefs is almost always a recipe for failure.  It’s a lesson that many of us can relate to regardless of professional or personal experience, but one reinforced by our very existence in a causal universe. Change changes.  

Market purists should vote for progressive candidates because they’re the only leaders who genuinely embrace change.  As discussed, our current arrangements are both unsustainable and failing to meet the intended objectives as described by market purists themselves.  Our tasks now turn to explore how progressives can design better markets by addressing their shortcomings and maximizing their innovative potential.

Central to the problem of markets realizing their fullest potential is the high cost of failure of new entrants.  In a world of increasing wealth inequality, it becomes consistently less feasible for someone to take a risk on an innovative idea and business.  If the market purist believes that markets are the best path to innovation, we would imagine that they would want as many people entering markets as possible.  

Starting a business and failing can have devastating financial consequences.  The economical price of failure makes the risk of innovation out of reach for the majority of Americans.  Not because they’re concerned with their ability to succeed, but because if they fail, it is unlikely they will be able to provide for their families.  Here we demonstrate a market ideal that does not align with the real.

The progressive seeks to lessen the burden of failure for market risk-takers.  It’s important not to confuse the prior statement with a proposal to guarantee success, quite the opposite!  Progressive market arrangements would make markets more competitive than our present structure. What progressives recognize is that we are stifling our total innovative potential by only allowing those with the network and capital to absorb failure, attempt to innovate.

Progressives across the nation are working towards a more robust suite of social protections, a project that when realized, will allow for the freest markets the world has ever known.  For the sake of our argument, we’ll classify these protections as food/water, shelter, healthcare, education, transportation, information, and communication. Investments and efforts to expand every American’s access to these protections create the foundation for a market where failure has significantly less risk.  Compared to present arrangements, this solution better adheres to market purist principles by allowing more people to innovate and experiment.  

Critical market purists might exclaim that expanding human rights would mean more government intervention, actions that deliberately go against free-market principles.  In reality, even market purists agree that government is designed to protect human rights. If we the people democratically choose to extend our human rights given the circumstances of the present, then these protections directly align with the market purist’s vision of freedom.  

To illustrate the example, we can compare our present market arrangements and those who participate in them to the proposed progressive vision.  

Today a person’s birth lottery is the most significant determinant of their educational opportunities.  We can extend this statement to access to shelter, food and water, and transportation opportunities. Those who are born well-to-do have a significant advantage in their ability to enter into markets to experiment and innovate.   Because so many Americans are trapped in a permanent loop of struggle, fighting to meet basic needs, their innovative potential is squandered. Despite being a small minority, the very wealthy bear no such burdens, ensuring that our markets are only genuinely open to those with the existing resources to participate.

Under the progressive example provided above, every individual reaches a deeper level of self-actualization.  Without the struggle for food, shelter, and high-quality education, a person can exist beyond the primary struggle of survival and take risks without the fear of significant devastation.  Their ability to observe and participate in the world changes dramatically. It’s a near mathematical certainty that if more people are finding more problems, we will create more innovation.  Here the market purists satisfy their demand for open market access, throwing open the doors to so many who would alternatively have no option to participate.

The progressive approach also allows for the loosening of government regulations.  Here the progressive and the market purist align in their beliefs, strong monopolies limit innovation and creativity.   The question then becomes, How do we loosen government restrictions on markets while simultaneously preventing history from repeating itself in the form of oppressive market monopolies?

To answer this question, we recognize the reality that by empowering monopolies our present arrangements contradict market purist ideals.  Instead, we embrace the alternative structure that I’ll title a Veggie Burger Market.

Source:  John Kernick (Burger) 

The top and bottom buns represent the democratized market economy in action.  The bottom bun consists of socialized market verticals chosen by the American majority.  We can imagine Medicare for All as an example, but also extend this category to include internet access, education, energy production and distribution, and housing, among others.  These are the core suite of protections we spoke about earlier, industries that have become vital to the prosperity of the average American. In many respects, the bottom bun represents modern necessities for people to have a genuine opportunity to innovate within market arrangements.

In the middle, we find our delicious veggie burger with all the fixings.  Here we have the hyper-competitive market economy. Because everyone has a deep suite of protections to rely on, the price of experimental failure and market disruption now costs less.  Market purists and progressives can coalesce around the added benefit of less government intervention into the market.    

For example, the only semi-viable argument against an immediate and mass mobilization towards green energy infrastructure is that many people will lose their ability to survive in the process.  Under the Veggie Burger Market model, we eliminate a significant aspect of this concern. Technological disruption no longer threatens Americans with the loss of their essential dignities and security.  Combined with a deeper educational investment beyond primary education, people can now choose to work for the new innovator or change the direction of their lives.   

Less government intervention also translates into a commitment to not bailing out industries and organizations that fail.  Now the purists and progressives must wrestle with the question of how we reconcile our objective of free markets with institutions that become deeply ingrained into the fabric of society.  The solution resides in the top bun of our Veggie Burger Market.

Institutions that reach a threshold of market monopolization open themselves up to degrees of socialization.  The degree of social responsibility required will depend on variables such as what verticals they reside in and the width of their reach.   We don’t have to limit ourselves to pure wealth extraction either. Socialization can mean extending access to people, process, and technologies to upstart innovators and developing continuing education programs for the public within their mastery.  

Market purists may scoff at the above idea, but let us consider the reality of our situation.  In the quest to develop a perfect market adhering to purist principles, we must address our the failures of our existing market.  Once a company innovates its way to monopoly, it’s common to transition to rent-seeking. Rent-seeking does nothing to tie finance to the real economy and only serves a tiny minority of our population who can afford to own a stake in the operations.

If we want to remain faithful to the commonly accepted market principles outlined earlier, we must address the failures of monopoly within the current structure.  The progressive proposal offers a tangible solution that will only impact a tiny fraction of total companies and allows founders to create institutionalized benefit for society.  They become wealthy in both capital and social merit by the time they have exceeded the thresholds.

In essence, the progressive seeks to build a market where more people can compete, more innovation can occur, and society can benefit as a whole.  What we sacrifice in immediate expenditures for the social safety nets, we gain back in multiples from the expansion of our experimental potential.  More people are competing more freely with less government regulation, the best ideas rising to the top more quickly than ever before. Upon reaching their pinnacle, organizations in democratically chosen verticals become powers for social good, freeing their innovators to remain onboard or begin the process of innovation in a new direction.  It’s a market purists dream made real by the progressive.

Purists Should Vote Progressive

Bringing it back to the present day, most market purists believe that their only voting option is the conservative Republican party.  But in the Donald Trump era of extreme tax cuts for the uber-wealthy, low investment in Americans, and no infrastructure projects to stimulate economic growth, we can conclude that market purists will only find deeper restrictions on markets soon.  

The theme of the argument is that change changes and market purists who believe in the power of free markets need to adapt.  Republican efforts in the past have failed to present a viable option to satisfy the demands of market purist philosophy. Today they back the banner of Trump, an amateur authoritarian whose vision of a properly functioning economy is closer to Putin’s than Adam Smith’s.  Trump and the party that backs him offer no hope for market purists.  

Progressive isn’t a political party; it’s a way of thinking about change.  Good, progressive ideas can come from all Americans, including those who strongly believe in markets as a vehicle for innovation.  But before we can realize this vision of free markets, we must first lay the foundation to build upon. Only progressives present a genuine pathway to more free and open markets.  That is why every market purist should vote progressive.

[1] Free Market Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_market#Perfect_competition_and_market_failure

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