There's a common theme pushed by Republicans and Libertarians alike: the notion that the Free Market (hallowed by thy name) will automatically correct itself when problems arise. If wages are too low, workers will switch jobs to companies that pay more. If a company puts out a bad product, engages in monopolistic tactics or uses environmentally unfriendly practices, companies with better standards will gain the advantage and edge out the offending business.
The problem, argue these Free Market proponents, is that the government intervenes before the market can correct itself. The government then imposes costly and impractical solutions rather than allowing the natural evolutionary process to complete. So we end up with businesses that lose money and productivity, showing more concern for appeasing the government than putting out good product.
It sounds very rational, doesn't it? Very compelling. The problem is that history doesn't support it. The world has had countless opportunities for pure market conditions to flourish, and in every instance it has created an environment that gave us the wisdom of caveat emptor: let the buyer beware.
"Not so!" cry the clerics of the Church of the Free Market. "There has never been a true free market! Government has always meddled!" Perhaps this is so. But how long do you allow an experiment in free market environments to continue before you declare it a failure and institute some controls? Is it akin to our Glorious Leader telling us Iraq will be a success in the next six months for four years in a row? Britain tried it, and was forced to institute controls. France and Germany tried it, and they had to impose government restrictions on business practices. Russia embraced capitalism as enthusiastically as anyone after the fall of the Soviet Union, and the subsequent abuses are practically the stuff of legend so they've been instituting government controls. China is the latest newcomer to the capitalist scene and our news is filled with all sorts of complaints about the life-threatening consequences of their corner-cutting practices, all hallmarks of a free market environment. Are we boycotting Chinese goods? Are Chinese businesses going to feel the heat and correct themselves? No, they're going to take their chances and push their profits until their government forces them to behave. That is what free markets do. They always have, and until human nature changes, they always will.
So Free Market religionists will complain about things like mandatory minimum wage increases and talk about individual responsibility. They'll predict doom and gloom for everyone because of minimum wage. But the evidence is against them; just ask Oregon how badly they're hurting because of minimum wage.