We continue to be mired in a persistent economic recession. Record numbers are still out of work. Wall Street is bouncing back (and its executives are reaping big bonuses) but Main Street hasn’t felt a recovery. After all that, do we still believe the free market economy is the best system on which to base the future of our country?
Just as freedom itself is a core American value, belief in the wisdom of free markets is also a core value. Over 70% of Americans in each of the four polls I took in 2009 and 2010—bad times in our economy—agreed that the free market economy is best for our future. This is a strongly and widely shared value.
Free market ideology is intertwined with other core values we’ve discussed: freedom and liberty, individualism, achievement, and equality.
Free market ideology is so ingrained in our psyche that it’s almost un-American to speak against it. “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself,” said Nobel laureate Milton Friedman. To question the wisdom of free markets is to question the core value of freedom itself. And to do that is to be tagged a “socialist.” There’s a strong argument to be made that markets work best when properly regulated, but the ideological and rhetorical tide is against it.
But there may be a crack in support of free markets. Only half young adults (ages 18-34) in my surveys believe we should base our future on free markets. Levels of support are much higher for all other age groups. It makes sense that young adults are not avid supporters of free markets. They see a dim economic future for their lives. If prognostication comes true, they will continue to question the wisdom of free markets.
Today rounds out our two-week tour of some core American values.
Which value intrigues you most?
Which value might be misunderstood?
Are any of these values likely to change?
Please Comment below.
(Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.)