Time and again, America is lectured by Republicans about how the widsom of the marketplace is the solution to practically every problem we have. Schools are too underfunded to teach our kids? Implement a marketplace solution, they say. People can’t afford the medicine they need to stay alive? Implement a marketplace solution, they say. Women want to use the Morning After Pill avoid having unwanted children and prevent the need for abortions later in pregnancy? Um, don’t implement a market based solution. Like I said, the Republicans promote marketplace solutions for practically every problem we have. When it comes to matters of citizen privacy, Republicans suddenly switch tack and promote big government regulation.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s accept the motivation of Republican market groupies at face values and presume that they really do believe that market based solutions are always that best way to deal with controversy and crisis. That’s still quite a claim that they have to support. How well do their ideas stand up to reality?
Not very well, it turns out. Consider just one example: Travel. Currently, our national transportation system is constructed in alignment with market forces, and the result doesn’t create a positive impression of the supposed wisdom of the marketplace.
Right now, I’m sitting in the airport in Ithaca trying to fly to Los Angeles. Outside, the skies are sunny. The runways are melted clear and dry. Yet, my flight is delayed because of the weather. The weather problem isn’t here, of course. It’s to the east of me.
Quick geography quiz: Is Los Angeles to the east of Ithaca, New York? Go on and look it up on Google’s map search.
The rational mind sees that there is no bad weather at all between Ithaca and Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the collective mind of the marketplace is anything but rational. The wisdom of the marketplace dictates that, if I want to get to Los Angeles from Ithaca, I have to fly east, into the snowstorm.
The marketplace groupies say that this counter-rational approach to travel is necessary if airline corporations are to make profits. The thing is, though, that the airline corporations are not making profits – not even after implementing their weird, supposedly efficient, travel route.
The market based system for air travel is, in fact, so irrational and inefficient that it has required immense welfare payments from the federal government. That’s more marketplace wisdom for you – taxpayers who don’t even fly on airplanes are paying money to keep airlines from going bankrupt. Even with such welfare assistance, airline corporations are still going bankrupt.
That’s the wisdom of the marketplace, huh? Thanks, but no thanks. It seems that I forgot to read the labels carefully enough. It turns out that the marketplace actually has no wisdom. It has Wizdom – a corporate trademark for a processed logic product.