Sheldon Richman eloquently describes the tendency of people to believe that “markets” are unregulated absent government action, and why that tendency is misguided.
The dry, economic response to that tendency is “All demand curves slope down.” Meaning: as a good’s price increases, fewer people buy it. Richman uses a $100 dollar apple as a version of this statement. Sure, we are all free to try and sell apples for a hundred dollars apiece. No one would buy them, because there are plenty of substitutes to apples and others willing to sell apples for much less.
People are not satisfied with “All demand curves slope down,” even though there is a lot of mystery packed inside the statement. Pathways and routines emerge in a society of cooperative individuals, criss-crossing and branching out, much like ice crystals do in slowly freezing water. That’s a pretty image, but it isn’t quite right; as water turns to ice, it approaches equilibrium, stasis. Society is just finding its legs as its component members begin to cooperate. Stasis for human society is a shimmering pattern of change. As patterns and pathways of action emerge between people, the society of individuals begins to cohere into a larger productive unit. We aren’t frozen, caught with our demand curves sloping down. We adjust our behaviors as we interact with each other. Theoretically speaking, we shift our demand curves, and our supply curves, constantly. We are sentient beings interacting with the scarcity and inequality of the universe. We are free sentient beings.