There Is No Such Thing as a Free Market
Stop it with the right wing, free market, deregulation talking points!!! The “free market” is a political designation only. All markets are regulated in some way. What I found interesting about this article is that, at one point, in US history, restricting child labor was thought of as against “free market” principles.
The “market” is not empathetic to the human condition. It has one master…profits. And sometimes profiteering does not serve the greater good.
Stop worshipping at the alter of the “free market”…for the love of money is the root of all evil.
In 1819 new legislation to regulate child labour, the Cotton Facto- ries Regulation Act, was tabled in the British Parliament. The proposed regulation was incredibly ‘light touch’ by modern standards. It would ban the employment of young children – that is, those under the age of nine. Older children (aged between ten and sixteen) would still be allowed to work, but with their work- ing hours restricted to twelve per day (yes, they were really going soft on those kids). The new rules applied only to cotton factories, which were recognized to be exceptionally hazardous to workers’ health.
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The proposal caused huge controversy. Opponents saw it as undermining the sanctity of freedom of contract and thus destroying the very foundation of the free market. In debating this legislation, some members of the House of Lords objected to it on the grounds that ‘labour ought to be free’. Their argument said: the children want (and need) to work, and the factory owners want to employ them; what is the problem?
Today, even the most ardent free-market proponents in Brit- ain or other rich countries would not think of bringing child labour back as part of the market liberalization package that they so want. However, until the late nineteenth or the early twentieth century, when the first serious child labour regulations were introduced in Europe and North America, many respectable people judged child labour regulation to be against the principles of the free market.
Thus seen, the ‘freedom’ of a market is, like beauty, in the eyes of the beholder. If you believe that the right of children not to have to work is more important than the right of factory owners to be able to hire whoever they find most profitable, you will not see a ban on child labour as an infringement on the freedom of the labour market. If you believe the opposite, you will see an ‘unfree’ market, shackled by a misguided government regulation.