August 11, 2011 by David K. Sutton
False Equivalence Of Free
President Obama is leading the most “anti-business” and “anti-American” administration in his lifetime says Jim DeMint , Republican U.S. Senator from South Carolina. Nevermind the over-the-top rhetoric that has come to be expected from DeMint, the bigger issue with his statement is that it speaks to many who subscribe to the ideology of a completely unregulated free market. The common theme of this ideology is that regulations are anti-American because they impose restrictions on business. Those restrictions on business are equated to loss of freedom. This loss of freedom for business is then equated to loss of freedom for citizens. It is supposed to make the average citizen feel they too are losing freedom whenever government tries to regulate anything.
The problem with the way this free market ideology is sold is the false equivalency of free. Or in other words, it’s using the term ‘free’ from one context, capitalism, to cause an emotional reaction to a completely different context, individual freedoms. In the context of free market, the term ‘free’ means an unabashed view of capitalism. It means capitalism works best when unregulated. In the other context the term ‘free’ means the freedom and liberty that each citizen enjoys in our democracy. By linking the two contexts, the free market ideology causes people to have an emotional reaction to government regulation. It no longer matters that the goal of any government regulation of capitalism is to add protections for citizens and consumers. Instead, government is seen as a force that can do no good and is only restricting our freedoms with each new regulation passed.
It is this emotional reaction that leads people to believe that government can never be a solution to problems but instead government is the problem itself, as former President Ronald Reagan famously said. This emotional reaction also leads people to vote against their very own economic interests in favor of the interests of the wealthy and powerful. Taken to an extreme this free market ideology may lead us down the path to oligarchy rule, if we aren’t there already, which will threaten the very democracy and freedom many think they are trying to protect.