Opinion: The Myth of The Free Market


Another year has passed, as they do, faster and faster it seems, the older I get. Another year older and deeper in debt, the song says; not so for Yours Truly, I mean I’m older of course, but I’m only about as indebted now as I was this time last year, which I suppose has to count as a victory of sorts. But it is certainly true for the nation as a whole. Our national debt – the Government bit of it – continues to balloon, up by seven percentage points from 2009 levels to 27.5% of GDP, and forecast to hit 29% by the end of this financial year. Factor in personal debt, and the amount New Zealanders owe – primarily to foreigners – soars past 90% of everything we will earn or create this year.

Our level of indebtedness has actually grown by the staggering factor of eleven-fold since the “reforms” of Rogernomics were instigated in 1984. In fact a very great deal has gone wrong in this island paradise of ours since those heady days. The Fortress that was Muldoon’s command economy was torn down and replaced by a very leaky building indeed, one that let in the debt while the wealth drained away. New Zealand was once ranked third from the top of the OECD’s standard of living tables; today we are ranked third from the bottom. In the meantime we have sold off the family silver in the form of State assets, opened the doors to foreign ownership of our property, farmland, and businesses (and to hoards of non-English speaking foreigners of dubious worth), dismantled the civil service, emasculated the Armed Forces, and privatised the great State employers of the past. The Post Office is gone, replaced by the American-owned Telecom and the Australian-owned Postbank subsumed into ANZ, with only New Zealand Post left to sell; the Railways are back, gutted, asset-stripped, and reduced to a shadow of their former selves; the Ministry of Works lives on in its yellow livery only, its assets and knowledge base scattered to the winds amongst a multitude of private contractors.

Apprenticeships are gone, Home Economics is gone, corporal punishment is gone, even compulsory swimming lessons are gone. The accumulated wisdom of a century and a half of colonisation in New Zealand has been swept away by a tide of misplaced ideology, political correctness, and Governmental ineptitude, the lessons of history forgotten, the realities of human nature pushed aside and the behavior of nations disregarded. Amongst the more ghastly follies of the last twenty years has been the dissolution of both the Forest Service and the Department of Lands and Survey, and the creation in their place of that dreadful abomination known as the Department of Conservation. Never before in the history of Government Departments has a more overtly PC, and hopelessly politicised institution, little more than a dumping ground for eco-activists and the enemies of farming and hunting, had life breathed into it, than that misbegotten organisation. DOC appears hell-bent on empire-building, re-writing history, and redefining this country’s landscape. It can’t manage the full third of New Zealand’s land mass which it currently has in its clutches (including 40% of the entire South Island), but it continually clamours and grasps for ever more. It can’t control possums, stoats, or even wasps, but it wages expensive and pointless war on poor innocent wilding pine trees; it dumps tonnes of the horribly toxic chemical sodium monofluoroacetate – otherwise known as 1080, and banned in most of the world apart from New Zealand, which consumes some 90% of its annual global production – and other noxious poisons, onto game animals, pet dogs, and into waterways, and it seemingly abhors all introduced plant species, despite the fact that the entirety of New Zealand’s agriculture, and 70% of our economy, are based on them.

But I digress. As usual. This month’s column is not about having a crack at the neo-Native revisionist, iwi-wannabe, Gaia-fundamentalist idiots of the Department of Conservation, though God knows they desperately need it. Another time, perhaps. No, this month I am decrying the very citadel of Rogernomics insanity itself, that oft-cited, little understood, poorly described, and completely unjustified instrument of stupidity known as the Free Market.

Nearly three decades on from the first knife thrusts of the Lange-Douglas Government’s treacherous sell-out of New Zealand’s sovereignty, we are still being told that this mythical Shangri-La of economic salvation, the creation of thieves, charlatans, and evil-minded traitors, is a Good Thing.

Why? Why, I ask, in the name of everything good and sacred, should the “Market” – whatever that actually is – be free to set its own rules or to operate entirely without them? I ask because nothing else in the construction or organisation of human civilisations is permitted to determine the laws, or lack of them, which regulate its own function. We have legislation, we have boundaries, we have rules and conventions and edicts and laws which govern every last aspect and facet of society, and the activities and interactions of individuals and institutions.

No-one can drive a vehicle on the road without submitting and adhering to a multitude of laws and regulations. No-one may even build the road in the first place without doing the same. No person or organisation may practice medicine, sell or manufacture foodstuffs, operate machinery, fly a plane, build a house, a shed, or a factory, dig a ditch, lay a cable, fire a gun, or even own a dog, unless they first agree to society’s requirements for the doing thereof.

But the “Market” wants to be free. Well this writer, for one, asks the question, just who the hell do they think they are?

We have rules governing the things people do because those things have the potential to impact upon the lives of others. The material and economic safety of everyone in society is reliant on mutual respect for the conventions by which we all agree to behave reasonably and obey the same laws. The Police, the Courts, the Government itself, must follow the rules and respect the supremacy of the will of the People. And the Market wants to be free of such restraints? I say rubbish. By what right or authority do they demand the freedom to behave howsoever they choose, regardless of what effect that might have on society or its members? The unfettered ability to buy and sell whatever they want, to whomever they want, wherever and whenever they desire, to extract and manufacture and transport and trade anything and everything at all, without regard to any of society’s customs or values, and with no responsibility to that society or for the consequences of such activity? The utter gall of such an attitude is pestilential in its arrogance and nauseating in its capriciousness, and your favourite commentator believes it is high time we said enough is enough. We are the Market’s hosts and providers, and it owes us fealty, obeisance, obedience, and tax, in such manner and such measure as we choose to demand.

They speak of the fabled Level Playing Field as if such a thing were possible in the natural world. In reality the playing field can only be level if it is made artificially so, by laws well crafted and sternly enforced. Without such intervention the playing field is governed by the laws of the jungle rather than the laws of civilised humans, tilted by definition in favour of the largest, the strongest, the hungriest and the most rapacious.

People’s lives and livelihoods are dependent on their industries and incomes, and these absolutely need to be protected from the malevolent and the opportunistic, every bit as much as the nation itself must be defended against invaders or enemies from within or without. Tariffs and duties where necessary, import quotas, like-for-like deals negotiated bilaterally at Ministerial level on a case-by-case basis as necessity demands; these are the tools with which Government can, should, and must protect the interests of our businesses and the nation. To do otherwise is the ultimate abdication of Governmental responsibility. So-called Free Trade is never anything like free in reality, and is most certainly never fair.

They claim that our dollar must be free to be traded as the market demands, lest our foreign investors should disappear and our economy falter. Absolute rubbish. The sky will not fall if either the Markets or the money traders have to do as they are told for a change. The people who buy and sell our money – the 10th most traded currency in the world – are not investors anyway, they are speculators. The successful amongst them, our Prime Minister included, create nothing of value and contribute nothing to society as a whole, but can make enormous profits for themselves. All credit to them for that, but it is naïve and wrong to ascribe such people the knowledge and abilities of economic gurus on the basis of it, or to pretend that their activities are of any benefit to the economy. Buying low and selling high is the aim of any trader, and there are those who through gift or training are better at it than others, but in essence they are all gamblers, and some are luckier than the rest. The volatility which such free-floating trade creates, however, has serious negative repercussions for New Zealand itself, for exporters and consumers alike, and we would do well to adopt the Singaporean practice of controlling our exchange rate through a managed float regime. Like the promoters of the Free Market, the only people proclaiming the supposed benefits of the prevailing system are those making a personal profit from it, and that they are doing entirely at our expense.

The inane and misdirected experiment with free market economics we have suffered under these past 28 years has gone on for 28 years too long, and it is time it was bashed, burned, and buried.

We must go back to an age of responsibility in order to go forward into a sustainable future; not to the diktats of communism or as far as the exchange controls of Fortress Muldoon, but to its commands and its ability to direct where necessary, to a sensible middle ground where enterprise is encouraged, fostered, and rewarded, where trade is fair and equitable, and where control of our economy, our Banking system, and indeed our currency itself, are firmly in the hands of the People via the mechanism of the Parliament.

The very last thing the Market should ever be allowed to be is Free, and this writer for one cannot comprehend why anyone in their right mind would ever have suggested that it should be.

Richard Prosser’s commentaries appear in each issue of INVESTIGATE digital and INVESTIGATE HIS HERS magazine


  1. Eyes right? More like eyes left. The political right is about less government and it’s regulatory intervention into it’s citizens lives (1791 USA). It believes in it’s citizens to be able to make thier own decisions – freedom of choice. Sometimes people will get things wrong and fail, let them. Sometimes people will succeed, let them.
    The political left is about making government bigger through regulation because they think it’s citizens don’t know what is good or bad for them so government has to choose it’s citizens choices so no one dies, so no one is poor, so no one can get hurt. This goes by the name of socialism, communsim, state capitalism.
    Then there are people who are confused who think they are on the right but believe in big government to regulate every part of our lives (Bush admin and Mr Prosser).
    How about trusting people. Yes we will make wrong decisions but eventually we will learn. It’s the only way to learn as in the situation where a teenager who has been told what not to do, does it anyway, gets hurt and then says ‘maybe I should have listened’.
    The benefits of a free market:
    freedom to choose local MP and political party.
    freedom to practice religon of choice.
    freedom to buy fast food.
    freedom to change channels on tv…..the list can go on for quite a while.
    Go and see what life was like under communist rule. But I hate communism you say, I just want a bit more regulation thats all, to help people.
    The question is, when does it stop? The western world has been getting more and more socialised with each passing decade. This will be it’s downfall, as those in the West won’t know how to fend for themselves because with regulation they always got paid, didn’t have to fight for freedom, government was always there to turn to in need and they gave people more rights then those that come from God.
    The benefit of a free market, the freedom to express an opinion!

  2. The free market is really free people…politically free…as in free from the iniation of force and fraud. No free market experiment happened in NZ in the 80′,,,what we got was a reshuffle of the State with a little liberty leaking through the authoritarian gaps. In a free market the state plays NO part in the economy…none. Its role is to remain on the sideline and blow the whistle and issue penalties when the very simple rules against commint force and fraud are breached. It should be obvious from this discription that NZ has no free market but instead a “mixed economy”…where free enterprise tries to work while stiffled by levels of state red tape,tax and regulation.

    If NZ did have a free market the new wealth and properity that would eventuate would be enormous and would end most of our problems….which have been caused by Government.

  3. The author is an uninformed economoic illiterate which shows all too clearly in his almost zero grasp of facts on this subject. Maybe he should return to school to get a sembalance of an educaton before commenting so poorly on issues he fails to grasp at their most basic.

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