I love how Sheldon Richman titled this article “Workers of the World Unite for a Free Market.”
His piece is a wonderful reminder that the goals of well-meaning activists of all political stripes are the same: freedom from coercion by our fellow citizens. Left-leaning folks believe capitalism coerces people into second- and third-best choices in employment. Libertarians like Sheldon Richman feel the same way, because they know that capitalism is not synonymous with freedom. Me too. I believe–and have always believed–that what is called capitalism in the United States is most emphatically not the product of free association and mutually beneficial exchange but rather the logical outgrowth of two centuries of cooperation between big government and big business. Or as Sheldon says:
In fact, the economy we live in is far more the product of government-business collusion—going back to the beginning—than economic freedom.
To my meager credit, I repeatedly brought this idea to the attention of my AP history teacher in high school, and was repeatedly argued down as a reactionary or a wacko. I just wanted him to be consistent and call things like the taxes that led to the Whiskey Rebellion–taxes biased in favor of large whiskey distillers–as government intervention. He was more or less committed to the idea that such interventions are necessary to bring about social justice, even if they benefit one class at the expense of another. I had the temerity to challenge my teacher because I read things like the Freeman and Burt Folsom’s Myths of the Robber Barons. I knew that the true story was vastly different from what we were being taught.