Does the free market mean that you can make transactions of human life freely? Does it mean that one can sell anything anyone wants, regardless of its implications to the world, planet, society, without any limitations? Does it mean arms can be sold and bought “freely”? And in some sense, should it mean “insecticides, pesticides” that destroy groundwater can be transacted freely? Does it mean nuclear missiles can be transacted freely? Does it mean that coal projects that endanger the sheer existence of this planet should be transacted with freedom?
In our world today, it is free to transact in coal, thermal projects, electricity generated from coal; that is actively brewing climate crisis. But it is not free to transact in Marijuana for instance that actively makes people mildly high. It is free to transact with plastic yielding more than a quarter-billion tonnes a year and 8 billion cumulative, but it’s for instance not free for a woman in large parts of the world, to say, charge an audience for an erotic dance performance.
Freedom is not 1 or 0. Freedom of a complex system like a market is many many many decimals between 0 and 1. Shape, size, design of Markets is a function of so MANY parameters. Talking pro or anti “free market” without getting into the details of parameters and cases is absolute reductive thinking. So reductive and simplistic that it almost loses all meaning of right, wrong, or fact to nonsense.
I am talking about this in the context of the prevalent farmer's bill debate and protest. In fact, one category that hasn’t come wholly enthusiastically in support of farmers is the entrepreneurs and traditional businessmen, economists, technologists, and many other actors of the economy, which is shared by tech, industry, and agriculture. In fact, every time when I speak for farmers comes a random comment; "but aren’t you a free market capitalist". 😒🤦🏻♀️
Reductive thinking in fact is one of the biggest failures of Global policy, political, entrepreneurial, social ecosystem. Left vs right? But how is $1 billion funding of Adani Coal mine by a taxpayer-funded government-owned state bank NOT left? That is as opposite of the free-market as it gets. That’s literally government, bank, industrialist orgy of the most leftist kind.
And then demands of a fair minimum prize guarantee in a high-risk market that has a history of yielding extremely unfair outcomes to the individual economic actor is left? Like that is a free market with a fair design as it gets ??
Reductive thinking is that we assign labels of left and right, socialist and capitalist, pro this and anti that without much consideration of logic and complete dismal of the shades of greys of reality. Reducing government ownership of companies is a free market, capitalist, and right. But selling those assets in the middle of a pandemic, economic recession, for "not nearly" fair prize is just STUPID. And agreed that the previous government, congress, in this case, has argued for minimization of government exposure on various public company cap tables; and this is “right, free market, capitalist” policy. Selling a bulky long term asset (that you have decided to sell in past) in the middle of a recession when you are likely to get a much lower value for it, is just STUPID, DUMB, and maybe evil, but definitely not “free market”
Funny though Congress is labeled “left”. Though the 1993 liberalization policies were and probably to this date ARE “THE MOST free market, capitalist, right” policies ever. But Congress and Manmohan Singh are both labeled “left”. Congress and Manmohan Singh; did bring MNREGA, the largest employment guarantee scheme for poor households in India, a “left”’social welfare policy. I don’t know how the labeling of the government and minister is done when they bring both left and right policies. Is it like the average? Or it is just reductive thinking, propaganda, random flavor of the month labeling. Btw, it was MNREGA and UIDAI, both initiated by the left congress government that is major instrumentation of assistance to the most vulnerable populations of India in the 2020 Covid crisis under the “RIGHT” government.
The reason, I am delving so deep into this whole left and right, free market and regulation overload, socialist and capitalist definitions are because; stupid is stupid and wrong is wrong. Often when people engage in excess reductive thinking and do not understand jackshit about shit; they start to brand things like “Ooo farmers are mind washed, they are against the free market, they are addicted to socialist policies of the past government, this policy will unleash the free-market potential of India” and other similar exemplary pieces of fine crap.
In fact, this left and right creates a divide in the population where there shouldn’t be. The protest of farmers in Punjab and residents in Goa stems from the same issue. Bad policies with maligned intentions. Not free market or socialist policies.
Good governments implement all kinds of policies, with varying degrees of liberalism, conservatism, free market, capitalism, social welfare, pro-freedom of expression, against misutilization of expression. And everything must be looked at objectively, contextually, with adequate assignments of weightage. Like same-sex marriage: mildly progressive. Love jihad bans and nonsense - NOT CONSERVATIVE, just batshit crazy. But often with reductive thinking when people are assigning this or that, x or y, black or white, left or right, liberal or conservative; they wrongly assign what is in fact stupid, crazy, dumb, evil. Calling the farm bills “free market” is the wrong assignment. An assignment that insults “free market” principles. An assignment that should be either dumb or evil or unethical.
Now one of the biggest drawbacks and the shtick free markets get is that they create inequality as a bad side effect. Inequality of varying degrees and varying desirability. But laws that purposefully create inequality or advance inequality are not “pro-free markets” but just “poor, dumb, AND UNETHICAL market design”
Entrepreneurs operate in all kinds of markets, often they change the overall market; even create new markets, and often these newly created markets have limited regulations because limited people understand them, and limited time and use cases emerge to set up ground rules of regulations.
In fact, often innovative exploration and enterprise into absolutely new categories do require a birthing system with limited regulations. Take a case of a young child, if brandished all the time, and overloaded with excessive instructions, they would hardly be able to do potential exploration with their growth, games, subjects, bodies, etc. Like if the fear of failing or doing something wrong is overwhelming to a young person, they are likely to not even attempt it. Hence innovators, are always advocating for lesser regulations, lesser taxation, lesser government, or external intervention.
Innovation often opens up a whole new market and that is economic growth of the highest volume, largest size. For instance, consider Apple’s innovation, the latest M1 processors, iPhones, user experience, and compare to what existed similar to these products prior to Apple. And hence, Apple’s market capitalization is at $2 trillion is reaching almost India's national GDP at $2.5 trillion. About 7x larger than India’s entire agriculture sector which is at approximately $280 billion. And to think, the government wants to "unleash" the free-market potential of the 0.15 Apple-sized agricultural sector with the latest farm bills, like bro, maybe you should study AI and Software and instead unleash some 7x Apples from there.
Transposing an early-stage industry's demands of low regulation, low taxation, "more" free-market structure to multi-billion $ industries' lobbying against fair play is a mishandling of “free market” concepts. Free-market in the context of an emerging industry like AI, AR/VR, Edtech, Space-Tech, Electric Vehicles, is a whole another ball game compared to free-market in the context of 100-year-old industries like Coal, Agriculture, etc. Not only can these older industries no longer yield high economic growth, free or unfree market; they also have eventually ended with this set of regulations via logical precursor to various historical incidents. In short, these laws and regulations were often instated in the first place for a reason. For instance Minimum Support Law in Agriculture and Environmental restrictions on Coal Industry. And free market can't turn a bad apple into a good one, def can't viagra an old industry into a jock.
Long story short, when presented with conflicts and protests around laws and policies - CAA, 370- Kashmir, Farm Bills, Coal Block Allocation, EPA, etc etc - read, discuss, read more, open your brains and let information flow in, and focus on “doing the right thing”. Not on whether you are left or right or the bill is left or right. And think beyond your immediate group. How it affects you or not. The intention of policy matters, the design matters, the degree of measures aimed at various goals matter. A pure reduction to pro-India or anti-India, pro economy or anti economy, is as good as pure nonsense without looking at the whole picture. And once you start to look at the whole picture, you would find yourself much closer to farmers, students, engineers, professors, regular working professionals, daily wage workers, cleaners, lawyers, strippers, chefs, artists, athletes, humans.
Not left or right, not socialist or capitalist. But humans. Balanced. Both. Striving to do the right thing, to do better, to mínimize bad, prevent wrong wrong, to maximize growth while minimizing inequality, to balance.