Success and failure off the free market

Inspired by the thread on private prisons. That is something the free market fails miserably at. The computer industry on the other hand, is a perfect example of free markets working for the benefit of all parties. What are other examples where the free market is either massively successful, or fails horribly? I think when the goal is to rely on captive markets, it breaks down.

In what way is the prison market a free market? I feel like Winston Smith all of a sudden.

There were many from the rational, skeptic groups and from the left that did feel like Winston Smith a long time ago.

The reality is that the ones that owe those jails did promise and talked about the free market as the framework where the jails would work. Or course it is silly to talk as if the prisoners could choose, the choosing is done by the local governments supposedly with the jailers competing for the contracts, or by competing for inmates from other counties or even states.


Gotcha. When a lobbyist uses free market rhetoric in order to gain a government granted monopoly in prison operation, the actual free market is to blame.

There literally cannot be a free-market in locking people up against their will.

No. I don’t think it is the failure of a free market. The prisoners aren’t customers. The state is.

However, in our nation we have laws that govern how we should treat people. Are you suggesting that the state is following the law with regards to human rights in prison? I’d say no the state does not. The state is responsible for the lack of security and conditions in the prisons. That includes privately run prisons or state run prisons.

Violence, drugs, murder, abuse, rape are tolerated in many state run institutions. That is a failure of the state and the people. We tolerate and condone abuse of prisoners. That’s a failure of us.

Like I said, what you say is silly. Again, if the free marketers were not there to lobbie for that this would not had taken place. And again the free market refers to what was promised, competition from several private prisons to lower prices and deliver good service to the state in this case.

It did not happen.

Obviously the free market does not do well with environmental issues: if pollution doesn’t cost anything then companies will pollute if it is cheaper than non-polluting.

Natural monopolies are a big issue of concern. It is not clear when these should be operated by the government (post office) or private industry (cable TV/internet).

Health insurance is a horrible mess in the U.S. We have the highest price system in the world, millions lack coverage, and the health care results are only average among the industrialized countries.

Private industry works well for the vast majority of things–as long as there is adequate environmental, social, safety… regulation.

Getting back on topic, I don’t see the computer industry as a good example of the free market at work; quite the opposite. The history of the computer industry is the story of how Microsoft established a de facto monopoly. If a government agency had done the same thing to computers that Microsoft had, people would rightfully be denouncing it as the worst sort of suppression of the free market.

In my opinion, health care should be treated like education or the police; as a public service provided by the government not as a free market for private companies.

In between the simplistic positions of markets are super awesome and markets suck is the economics which generally includes the concept of market failures. From the wiki article on market failures

That’s a whole list of categories of market failures that could have examples under each. There’s also the concept of government failures. Just because government intervenes to try and correct a market failure doesn’t mean it gets it right. It may produce worse results than the market without correction even when failures are present. Government intervention can also produce failures when the motivation is a perceived failure because the efficient (or at least less inefficient) outcome is perceived as unfair or undesirable.

I was actually thinking of PC hardware when I said the computer industry. The story of that industry is how IBM designed computers to use interchangeable parts, and then the market exploded with various manufacturers. The ensuing competition lead to massive innovation.

The computer industry is an excellent example of the interaction of government and the free market. The transistor got invented at a regulated monopoly, which used its monopoly earnings for research. The internet itself came out of government funded projects. The TI development of the integrated circuit came out of their defense division, and the military was a big early customer of ICs.
PCs were quite late - and in any case by the late 1980s there was worry that they were stalling out due to lack of applications (the famous you can store recipes on one, what else.) The web fixed that problem. And the web came out of a government funded research institution also.

I tend to think of the software as the important half of the computer industry. The hardware is just a means of delivering the software.

You can’t really have a free market when there’s only one customer, though. That’s called a monopsony, and it’s not free in the same way a monopoly is; with just one customer, the customer can unilaterally dictate terms to the supplier. The buyer has choice, but the seller doesn’t.

What does “lobbie” mean? I can’t find it in any dictionary.

My bad, that was supposed to be lobby.

Actually I’m agreeing with this, it required a lot of magical thinking for the proponents of private prisons to get going. Magic was going to get us efficient jails thanks to privatization and some free market.

Well, there you go again…

You’ve made some typos yourself, if memory serves. You denied it, once, and challenged us to prove it…which we rather easily did. Glass houses and bricks.

And Microsoft is in the process of losing that monopoly. Chances are your smart phone runs Android, not Windows Phone.

:smack: By this logic, I suppose chicken farms are not part of a “free market” if the chickens are held involuntarily.