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It's all about the Benjamins

One of the very odd things about the Free Market is that people who ostensibly believe in the Free Market have so much difficulty following through with that belief when they don’t like the results. I mean, yes, that’s not all that difficult to understand, people being people; lots of us who ostensibly believe in Democracy find it difficult to support the election of terrible people by an electorate that appears (to us smart people) to be dupes, ignoramuses and frivollers. But the thing about Free Market ideology is that it is so rigorous and cold that it seems to compel consistency. Or so it seems to me. I haven’t believed in the Free Market since I was nine.

But people seem to be all whatsit about the story that Rush Limbaugh [was] dropped from bid for St. Louis Rams. Now, I don’t give two shits about the St. Louis Rams, or about the NFL generally. Nor do I think that Rush Limbaugh is lacking for investment opportunities. I wouldn’t have been broken up about Mr. Limbaugh buying a stake in an NFL team, or even a MLB team, if it came to that. I think it’s despicable for Mr. Limbaugh to make his living in a part of the entertainment industry that encourages hatred and resentment, but then, that’s the free market for you. He made a lot of money at it, and now he has the money to invest.

Now, here’s the thing: the various people involved in the system have their own market interests. The guy who is selling the team, the guy who is putting together the cartel to buy the team, the owners of the other teams who have to be in business with any NFL owners, the employees. And it seemed like enough of those people thought that Mr. Limbaugh would be bad for the bottom line (or any other line) that they decided they didn’t want his money. That’s the free market for you.

A fair number of prominent Conservatives, people who have talked about the free market in the past as providing solutions to such problems as health care, education and the environment, seem to think that in this case, they should be outraged. Outraged? By an entertainment industry making a decision about their future profits? Yes, they may be wrong, they may be letting their bias blind themselves to their interests, but surely the whole point of the free market, if you believe in it, is that they will pay for that in the end? So let ’em. Right? It’s their money.

I mean, I don’t believe in the free market, myself. It was John Kenneth Galbreath, I think, who committed several chapters of a book I read to the idea that a fool and his money are just as often rewarded as parted. If it were up to me, I’d completely nationalize health care, and outlaw privately-owned hospitals altogether. At least see how that worked. I don’t have any problem with imposing regulations from outside the system to prevent the market from coming to conclusions I don’t like. I mean, there are practical problems with particular regulations, but I don’t have any ideological problem with some sort of step-in to prevent a trust (such as the NFL or the lending industry or the health insurance companies) blackballing people they don’t like. Although, I must say, the entertainment industry does seem like a place you could let have a little more free rein on the theory that the prejudices of the owners are more likely to accurately reflect the prejudices of the viewing public, and that efforts to combat those would just lead to a show that nobody wanted to watch. I’m not absolutely convinced (I would expect that the owners, being owners, are likely to be part of an elite that has its own separate prejudices and biases), but there’s an argument there.

What I don’t see is an argument that says that somebody putting together an investment group is obliged to include somebody who he thinks would have an adverse affect on the profitability of that investment. You can argue that the fellow is wrong—but again, surely the point of believing in the free market is that the money guy already has the highest possible incentive for making the correct judgment. If you think that the money guy has not done the requisite research, or that he has been duped by clever but dishonest demogogues, or that he has caved to social pressure, well, then, you don’t believe in the free market, do you?

Now that we’re in agreement about that, let me tell you about some other things I learned about when I was nine years old…

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Well, keep in mind that Free Market Ideologues are not the same as Conservatives, and in particular the Conservatives who have been in power in Congress and the Presidency for most of the decade are not Free Market Ideologues, at least in the sense that they do generally bother following very many Free Market principles. I don't listen to Rush Limbaugh, so I don't know whether his sort of Conservatism is more about markets or more about social issues or what, but my impression is that he's mostly known for being a racist homophobic chauvinist, which aren't traits that have anything to do with Free Market Ideology, other than perhaps some correlatory tendencies.

Anyway, all that by way of saying that I suspect a lot of outrage is coming from racist homophobic chauvinists who call themselves Conservatives but are not in fact particularly interested in the Free Market. I bet the Cato Institute and Reason aren't outraged in the slightest.

Heck, the Conservatives who get positions of authority in the Republican Party and the Conservatives who get the ratings and book sales aren't even Conservatives, let alone Free Market Ideologues in any reality-based sense. But they mouth the Free Market cant (singing the love of capitalism and the hatred of socialism) the loudest of anybody.

And there's the added annoyance of somebody who is willing to swallow problems in health care distribution or the education of children or the ongoing adaptability of human life on the planet, just to think of a few things off the top of the proverbial, as the inevitable shortcomings of otherwise healthy market systems getting all maudlin when one rich guy won't take another rich guy's investment. Which is presumably also annoying to those Free Market Ideologues who attempt to be a bit more consistent.


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