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The Free Market: Everybody Wants It, Everybody Hates It

I am suggesting that the free market and competition can often bring desired results, and the consumer in many cases yield a lot more power than the masses seem willing to admit.

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By FritzCast | United States

Over the course of the past two weeks (and if we want to get technical, even longer than that), two major subjects have taken the national spotlight, both of which are heavily involved in the marketplace.

One was a Supreme Court Decision in a case of one man and his bakery refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex couple for their wedding; the other was regarding the end of Net Neutrality regulations of the President Obama era.

It was odd, to me, that both subjects take on such heated, passionate debate. Many were upset over the Supreme Court’s narrow 7-2 decision in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop; some will even argue that the court essentially voted that it is ok to discriminate against the LGBTQIA community, but there are ways I humbly disagree with such a sentiment.

First, and foremost, it should be noted that this case, in particular, went to the Supreme Court in a battle against not the same-sex couple, but the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips felt as though that Commission was inappropriately hostile toward him, his first amendment freedom of expression and his freedom of religious practice; including statements from a representative of the commission who stated that freedom of religion was often used as a basis for discrimination and also directly stated “it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use” (See this good Op-Ed considering Justice Kennedy on the matter).

Regardless of the statements and the situation as a whole, I always wondered what was wrong with the free market approach to the problem. In this case, let me present my argument:

I do not believe Jack Phillips or Masterpiece Cakeshop discriminated against a same-sex couple solely on the basis of them being a same-sex couple; on the contrary, as I argued in my latest FritzCast Podcast episode “Survey Says,” that the same-sex couple could probably frequent the cake shop on a regular basis buying deserts all the time, like delicious blueberry muffins, for example. Masterpiece Cakeshop only refused the service when the same-sex couple requested a cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony (meaning that if a straight person had wanted to come in and solicit Masterpiece Cakeshop to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony, they too would have been declined).

That being said, that does not mean I agree with Mr. Phillips reasoning, nor would I be willing to support his business with my dollars. I merely mean to say I would not, at Government Gunpoint more or less, make him bake a cake for a ceremony that he did not wish to participate in. I imagine the same-sex couple, even if they had frequented Mr. Phillips shop and bought delicious desserts every day, probably would wish to no longer support him either (there is, however, a distinct possibility that same-sex couple may just love the blueberry muffins so much, they keep going for them). Mr. Phillips then faces the market force, and if you want a highlight of that, just Google Masterpiece Cakeshop…their overall rating has plummeted from consumer response, some of which are strictly reviews from people who have never even been to the shop and experienced the product. And that is fine.

I would probably feel differently, for example, if Mr. Phillips refused to serve any LGBTQIA people solely on the basis that they are LGBTQIA people, however the same concept applies: A private establishment can make a set of rules it states it will follow, and the market force, in turn, can respond to whether or not they support that establishment. I once heard Austin Petersen, former Libertarian Presidential Candidate and current Missouri Senate Candidate, say in the Libertarian Debate “let the bigots out themselves. Who wants to buy a cake from someone who hates them?”

Now, for Net Neutrality, first we must look at the fact that the subject itself is not a simplistic topic. Net Neutrality, though first initially spoken of and declared in 2005, is heavily an Obama-Era regulation of the internet (our most prized commodity), which generally seemed to argue that there needs to be some amount of Government Regulation to ensure the Internet remains open, and that all data be treated the same so that a service provider (such as Comcast, or Verizon) couldn’t block, filter, or “throttle” internet speeds and services.

On the surface, the intentions seem vital and noble, and arguably they are. We all love the internet, most all of us even have mobile devices that remain linked to the World Wide Web. Is access really that equal though? Geographically speaking, some of us are stuck with a sole provider, one-speed options, while others may have multiple companies they could solicit. Back when I lived in my Apartment circa 2012, I had Verizon FiOS, a nice bundled package with really fast upload/download speed on a fiber optic network.

The neighborhood where I bought my house? Verizon isn’t there. No, there is only one internet provider outside of satellite service from DISH, and that is Comcast. Even the higher data plan that I have purchased doesn’t really scratch at what I used to have with Verizon, and the price definitely is skewed, paying a lot more for less than I had with Verizon.

By free market standards, as there is no legitimate other option, the only thing I can do (and often do), is solicit Verizon and those in my neighborhood to make the endeavor worthwhile for Verizon to speed up their process, set up the hardware in my neighborhood and buy services from them.

We can take it a step further, however. Let us say Verizon was in my neighborhood, and they could directly compete with Comcast. Maybe Verizon packages a “streamers internet deal” for people who stream video games, use Netflix and Hulu, and that was some bundle thrown together for $30/mo. So they broke down some of the internet services…maybe that is all I want? Maybe they have an “all-inclusive” package that encompasses every last bit of internet access. Is it THAT horrible an idea?

I’m not suggesting it is the best idea, but I am suggesting that the free market and competition can often bring desired results, and the consumer in both of these cases yield a lot more power than the masses seem willing to admit. In the 21st century, it isn’t the consumer that buckles to “big business,” it’s big business that has to justify to the consumer why its the best product or best provider.

That is the free market: it’s a lot less of a gamble than you think it is.


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