I’m no economist, but I can recognize silly economic philosophies when I see them. One that I keep running into is that of market fundamentalism, which in the current crazy climate, seems to be frequently rearing its head.
Market fundamentalism is the notion that the free market, unfettered by regulation or other interference, is the only way to go to solve all of our problems, economic or otherwise.
I actually didn’t realize they even had a name for it when I ran into Utah State Representative Carl Wimmer last year. At the time, he was successfully pushing his bill which was trying to make sure that Utahns wouldn’t benefit from federal health care reform legislation.
I was doing my first (and only) official lobbying at the state capitol building, when who did I somehow run into but Carl Wimmer, the guy who had put forth the bill we were complaining about (namely that the Utah legislature would have to approve implementation of federal health care reform – ha ha). He was kind enough to engage in a discussion that revealed his market fundamentalism, it went something like this:
Me: “So your website says you think deregulation of the health insurance market will solve our health care problems, is that right?”
CW: “Yes, and if we could just sell insurance across state lines, that would really help things.”
Me: “But what about my patients with preexisting conditions, don’t you think some regulation that mandates fair policies for them is necessary, otherwise they’re uninsurable!”
CW: “Well, no one ever died from lack of insurance, all they have to do is go to the ER and they’ll get care.”
Me: “Oh, yes they do die from lack of insurance, if they don’t get the preventive care they need, they may show up at the ER, but often they do so while dying. I’ve got a lady who only ever shows up at the ER, near death, luckily not yet dead, but she wouldn’t be showing up there if she’d come in for regular visits and labs and treatment, but she doesn’t show up for fear of the costs of these things.”
CW: “Well that’s the beauty of a market based solution, once we deregulate and sell insurance across state lines, some enterprising insurance executive is going to be the one to say to himself ‘I’ll tap into that huge pool of sick patients’”.
Me: “What insurance company executive would be dumb enough to try to insure patients who are already sick, if they could avoid it? Why offer an affordable policy to someone who may cost your business tens of thousands of dollars per year in medical care?”
CW: “Well, maybe you have a point on preexisting conditions.”
Me: Proceed to explain how the rest of HCR falls into place from that..blah blah blah.
CW: “Gotta go” gives speech, passes bill.
As you can see from above, it’s hard to defend this silly ideology, but it does provide a framework to give politicians policy ideas that can be quite deadly, if implemented.
What is quite frightening is that several figures who may soon be in control of future federal policy as potential US Senators have the same silly, deadly, ideology:
The bottom line is: I’m not an expert, so don’t give me the power in Washington to be making rules,” Paul said at a recent campaign stop in response to questions about April’s deadly mining explosion in West Virginia…”You live here, and you have to work in the mines. You’d try to make good rules to protect your people here. If you don’t, I’m thinking that no one will apply for those jobs.
To a market fundamentalist, the unfettered market will take care of things, if coal owners and local officials make sloppy rules that don’t really protect workers (as they did when thousands of miners per year died) then the market will ensure that less miners will apply for those jobs, and everything will be fine. If a few thousand die because they can’t find other jobs, it will be worth it, these fundamentalists might even consider them “defenders of liberty”.
QUESTION: You have been in support of onshore drilling in the United States as well as offshore drilling, are you rethinking that policy with what is going on in Louisiana?
ANGLE: No. I think that what happened in Louisiana was an accident. They’re cleaning it up. We need to go forward and talk about prevention and not about whether we keep it out all together. We know that lot of the problems that have been caused for us with foreign policy and even with our own gas prices here domestically going up is our dependence upon foreign oil.
We have oil reserves and petroleum reserves that we should tap into. And that’s a policy that we really need to look at as a nation. How do we deregulate enough to invite our industries to come back into the United States and quit outsourcing their business?
Of course, in the wake of a deadly and environmentally disastrous oil spill, where deregulation has been implicated as a causal factor, more deregulation is the answer when you’re a market fundamentalist.
But yeah — ultimately, we’ve got to transition out of the Social Security arrangement and go into more of a privatization.
The market will make for better retirements for everyone. It doesn’t make sense to have a retirement insurance plan that is independent from the all-knowing, never failing, free market. Why did we come up with this plan in the first place? Well, at least if we all had private retirement plans they’d be safer than some socialistic government scheme, since the market never falters.
Unfortunately, of course, this season has brought many other market fundamentalists out of the woodwork and near to power: Marco Rubio, Ken Buck, Christine O’Donnell, Jim Toomey, and Utah’s own Mike Lee to name a few.
I think that any fundamentalist ideology (if defined as strict adherence to principles even in the presence of contrary evidence) is inherently dangerous, and why humans hold to fundamentalist views is a very interesting discussion meriting another diary. I just hope these current market fundamentalists are exposed enough to be voted down by rational voters.