When one doesn’t believe in the free market, you should become very wary. Only two situations are conceivable: either this person is woefully ignorant on economics (this is preferable) or this person is willfully ignorant on economics (and human nature!).
It’s true, economics is a tricky subject, and is easily one of the hardest social sciences to study. So please forgive the person woefully ignorant on economics, chances are, it’s is not even his fault. Public education hardly teaches this subject. In my experience, I took a basic economics class my junior year of high school as an elective. Let that sink in. Not to mention they did a rather poor job of teaching me any objective way of how humans interact in an economy. Higher education teaches those to be misinformed on the subject. The media propagates this misinformation and it spreads like a wildfire.
The latter group – those willfully ignorant on economics and human nature – are the ones deciding that economics should not be a vigorous subject of study in school. They are the political hacks, like Paul Krugman, who espouse different beliefs depending on the current administration’s political party. They are the group responsible for the wildfires. Yes, the latter group would consider themselves masters of economics whereas the first group would be more inclined to admit they don’t know the first thing on the subject. In other words, this latter group is ignorant of their own ignorance! In truth, neither know the first thing about economics.
Economics is all about choices. Do I want to pay for Netflix, and have access to all the great content Marvel is putting out through their shows, or do I want to pay for Hulu and have access to shows like Star Trek, or neither. Personally, I prefer the former, and you, as an individual, might prefer the latter. A free market leaves the choices to be made by the individual; any other system of a centrally planned economy, trusts a politician to impose his choices on everybody.
It’s true, the woefully ignorant person usually implicitly favors the free market without thinking about it much. The willfully ignorant, however, think they are either smart enough, persuasive enough, or charismatic enough to decide everyone’s choices. The smartest being in the universe could not even decide on what choices humans should or should not make – and I doubt that being is even a human!
F.A. Hayek beautifully put this idea into words when he said,
“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”
The free market is a system that let’s individual people be in charge of their individual choices. Rather than imposing certain choices on all individuals by the threat of force, the free market allows humans to be human.
They might make mistakes. They might suffer a psychic loss if they thought Hulu was preferable to Netflix only to find out that they would have liked Netflix better. This mistake couldn’t be easier to resolve, all one has to do is cancel his subscription to Hulu and buy a subscription to Netflix. Voilà!
But if a politician, in an attempt to centrally plan an economy, declares Hulu as a right to all its constituents, and outlaws the use of Netflix then a solution will become much more exasperating to attain. Voters will have to decide if Hulu really is a right, if Netflix is actually evil and should be outlawed, among a bunch of other nuanced questions before the discussion of a solution can even begin.
It’s infinitely better to just have individuals make choices for themselves, and if they make a mistake, then they can learn from it and fix it; rather than involving the aspiration of power in the realm of politics and letting highly unqualified politicians decide on what’s best for everyone.
Not understanding economics is forgivable, but not believing in the free market means you think you’re much smarter than you actually are. Nobody – and I mean nobody – is smart enough to run other people’s lives, and it’s no coincidence that everyone who has tried has miserably failed.