Why I Don't "Believe in" Free Markets

When I was in middle school, one of my friends told me, "My family doesn't believe in microwaves."

Though I myself also have never bought and owned my own microwave, I still think my friend's choice of wording is wrong. "I don't like microwaves," or "I choose not to use microwaves because I think it's gross to eat reheated leftovers" are both acceptable expressions, but "I don't believe in microwaves" seem to imply either that (1) microwaves do not actually exist or (2) microwaves are falsely rumored to have deity-like properties.

So, when I say, "I don't believe in free markets," I don't mean that I deny their existance. I mean that I want to deny that free markets have numinous god-like attributes. 

Free markets are generally a good idea, but they are nothing more than a fallible system. Free markets are not God or god. Free markets will not save us from our excesses.  Free markets do not guarantee good results or a stable economy.

Free markets should be our servant, not our master.

Stanley Fish has a great article about neoliberalism here. Neoliberalism can be defined as a quasi-religious belief in free markets.

Let me put it clearly: I believe in God. I believe in love. I believe in the bright future of the human race.  But do I "believe in" free markets?


Let those who worship free markets be the first to see the image of Baal fall flat on his face.


  1. The microwave example, besides being humorous, shows how important it is to choose our words carefully and define them when necessary. And to believe in free markets, as you pointed out, does seem to imply that free markets have some divine attributes, something that makes them always good and infallible. Believing in free markets, therefore, could lead one to overlook the fallible or weak areas where regulations would benefit and preserve freedom in the log run. And when those areas are overlooked, the system becomes flawed....

  2. Esther, you got exactly what I was saying and you said it 10x better. Blind belief in unregulated markets is dangerous.

  3. Blind belief in government intervention into private affairs is proven by history to be by far one of the most dangerous fallacies of human logic ever to have been perpetrated.

  4. Jake, Really? I think the coin has two sides. Blind belief in general is bad. Neither the private nor the public sector are perfect. Also, "blind belief" is dangerous but it's not a logical fallacy last time I checked.