Where is the free market?

by A. Autino

With the end of the industrial age, of the social classes and of the great ideologies that were expression of such classes, the libertarian thought, in its different variants, acquired a much more important position, coming out of the number of the utopias considered impracticable, and standing more and more as a social model, and as an ideological paradigm, compatible with the structural characteristics of the electronics age and of the globalized society. 

Some concepts (with great bewilderment of sclerotic people of any political latitude) left the safe ideological moorings, inhabited for more than a century, to sail to foreign lands. It is the case of the idea of free market, considered inalienable principle, or rather inalienable right, by the libertarian overseas thought. The network has upset walls and screens, the warm and passionate water of the chatholic-community culture of latin countries are getting mixed with the colder and more rational ones of the calvinistic culture countries. For the ones who like to listen to it, a very powerful reverse-song comes from pre-industrial countries, but not devoid of first-rate minds, as India and Bangladesh. In a similar predicament obviously we should learn to unite ideological paradigms at first sight incohomprensible and absurd (just think if, ten years ago, you could say to anybody a word like “anarchic-capitalist”!). But, from this maelstrom, slowly a great and majestic thought can take shape, provided we don't get scared by the new. Verified the unreality of political plans (here we limit ourselves to consider the well meant ones) aimed to the abolition of the free market - they revealed themselves a remedy worse than evil - those who use their's own judgement have begun to think that a free market could be quite good…if it exists. If it could be global, even better: also the outside market, the outcasters of Sen and of Yunus,  will have more chances to get in it.

The discussion about free market obviously can open itself very much, touching philosophical, economic, political and anthropological themes. What freedom are we speaking about? Of political liberty, of the social one, the economic one, of the freedom from need, of the freedom from pains? And in what social contexts? Beginning from what conditions and requirements? I would limit myself, here, verifing some general questions, to bring up the subjet and the research, that we will try to develop on this pages during 2001.

According to the old liberal industrialist ideology, free market was the solution of all problems of politics and democracy. They claimed it holded some own intrinsic ethics, based on natural models of behaviour (how it is possible to unite natural behaviours - i.e. fierce - and ethics it is a more and more unknowable mystery). Even, if free from any rule, the free market could allow to get over the politics, as need of mediation between economy and social. The trend of the real market shows, nevertheless, quite the opposite. At least in a case, the one of Microsoft (only a case, it’s true, but not a bagatelle!) it is proved that the market itself – or at least the market nowadays really existing – tends to merger and monopoles, suppressing and engulfing the smaller in the bigger and powerful tradings. We could also mention the italian case of FIAT, that, during some decades, step by step sweeped up every else automotive firm, but here the interlacement and the profit-sharing with the governments that have followed one upon the other from post-II-world-war period don’t allow the same clearness of perspective.

Also in more recent cases the Italian Government, thanks to the perhaps most impressive in the whole planet guilty conscience, has showed the most complete inability in front of rampant monopolies, in the TV segment. In a more realistic way, surely also Bill Gates has supports in the US government, but they did not win, at least by now. The MS story itself shows besides that, left to itself, hardly the market rewards the most deserving: very often it rewards the most artful, most arrogant and sure of their right to snatch. In other articles, on these pages, we analyze how the informatic-culture of entertainment and of communications are on the way of putting out the culture of real-time deterministic systems (necessary to human survival and development). Thus, the state itself, the necessity of which is denyied by the free marketers, often is called in defense of the free market. Or: the free market is not hindered and impeded (even if they do their part) only by the governments, eager for taxes, and by bureaucracies with their many snares. The heavyest menace for the free market, at least in the mentioned cases, are its supposed “champions”, the ones that, in the free market, had most success. Please don’t misunderstand me: I didn’t suddenly turned to be a supporter of the state: it is and remains a bureaucratic oppressive power, valiant defensor of economical barriers erected to leave out of the market the small and micro rising enterprises. However, if the state holds its own guilties, it doesn’t mean that automatically the claimed “antagonists” of the state should be acquitted and applauded as the champions and best advocates of the market freedom.  Thus let us begin to mark the necessary differences, vs. the sectarian and chauvinist ideologies of past, and also vs. the confused laissez-faire aspirations of today. The new-humanism adopts the principles theorized by Muhammad Yunus and by Amartya Sen, for a really free market, i.e. completely open, without barriers against the ones who tray the entry by the narrow door of poverty.

In the information society, was also said (by Anthony Giddens, considered the Tony Blair’s ideologist) that the opinion movements count, nowadays, for more than governments and courts. The contestants of globalization, using the network, mobilized themselves by thousands, in few days. Can we rely on informatic communication-technology to demolish the commercial barriers and to break the privileges? The supporters of social models based on self-government hopes so, and their thougth, as I said in the beginning, have today many more concrete chances than in the past. The free market, in this perspective, appears for sure more a goal to achieve than something to keep (as the old liberal industrialist creed claimed). And, in my opinion, the evolution of democracy towards self-government – very practicable thanks to communication-technologies – doesn’t mean at all an overcoming of politics: maybe the liberation of the politics from bureaucratic fetters and from the bribery to which our society appears accustomed and inable to react.

Also the comparison with natural models here finds its right light. The nature has made humans slave, like all the other animals, of the planetary biological clock (birth-> evolution -> extinction) and of the law of survival of the strongest. It’s only by their own intelligence and will, that men and women can break the natural chains, and be finally free. For a society with more than six billions people, this is at last an exact condition of survival: humanity is the only animal holding means for not to become extinct on its cradle-planet, and to expand the borders of its market well far out the planetary borders. The market in facts is going to be really free only if it will be growing (and only the space option opens this perspective), or fatally it will fall again in the jungle’s law. But now, also the strongest would be convict to extinction, all the planetary evolution-laws now being finished. Humanity has only one chance: to change gear, choosing the law of the cleverest and of the most ethical. In spite of naturists, thus, the free market of third millennium doesn’t look like at all a natural law or a right, in front of which it was enough to take away the impediments, in order it can flourish.

Free market and, at last, the concept of liberty itself, in our new time-country, are closely bound to the will and to the intelligence, and are not at all obvious and natural. They have to be built, rather, using politics, to clean the way and to hasten evrybody’s help. Carefully connecting personal and individual ethics, technologies, science and freedom, in a rigorously counterfactual logic (according to A. Sen, the counterfactual method is the one to continuously check services, products, laws and governments: if they help me to make what I choose to make, to enhance my capacities, informations and means, they are tools of freedom, otherwise they are tools of oppression).

You are reading the first article of a series, by which we aim to search the free market. Sometimes we’ll give data, sometimes we will simply give questions, hoping to answer later, and sometimes we’ll dare some answers. Let’s start with some free-wheel comments, about the free entry in the market. The access to European research-funds, is a clear case of few freedom: the funds are allocated, in the greatest majority of cases, to big firms wich have the means for its own permanent staff in Bruxelles, to exercise lobbyism on the examining body. Thus the help goes to whom doesn’t need it, while thousands of small enterprises -- often holding very good ideas — cannot develop them. The responsibility of this situation is clear enough: on one hand the bureaucracy, very willing to be flattered and bought, on the other hand the lack of morality of people which allways encumbers the scene, paying attention only to their interests, even if their safety is very redundant. The small entrepreneurs, having no time to personally follow the cases, appeal to other vampires: the agencies, that, generally at least in Italy – where the Venture Capital is still science-fiction – they want to be payed in any case, whatever the end of the case. So often they renounce. Similar reflections could be done about the sharing in big tenders, or about the entry of a small firm in the vendor list of Space Agencies or big Space market Companies. In such cases too, a small entrepreneur can usually trust only in luck. The purchase departements are elephantine, the procedures to enter the vendor lists seem to be never ending stories: if a company doesn’t have its own commercial structure, that follows procedures during mounths and years without sticking it out, it must resign. The small enterprise generally has no marketing structures, so often it is in front of the fork: working or marketing. Sometimes we would be attempted to wish some external objective examination, to get a mark for the firm. Such mark will allow then, who has good marks, to move quicker and spending less energies to get committments. But it is sudden clear how this though is deceptive: we would have created another bureaucratic structure, obviously not impartial! Paradoxically quite the Space market, that is so important for us astro-humanist, maybe is one of the less free sectors, for the small enterprises, having no means to speak loudly. In this case, peculiarly, some already analized factors play also a key role: for instance the inclination to self-preservation of a caste named Space Community that, in order to maintain its own privileges, keeps artificially high the development costs of the space technologies, very over the reasonable cost, expecially considering then the results (please see our editorials in the archive). But this is an other discussion, that for sure we are going to take again.

 [AA – TDF 1/2001 – 18/01/2001]