Ralph Klein has gone and it is time to retire Ralph's World. Thanks to all of you who have supported this venture by contributing material and through your comments. It has been fun.

Should we get another blog underway? Let me know your thoughts by e-mailing me at johnnyslow@gmail.com.

John Slow
January 1, 2007

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Is the Free Market the Answer to Everything? 

So what about Alberta and the free market? The Progressive Conservative mantra seems to be that the market takes care of most everything. In some areas this can be true, and I have to applaud the government for privatization of services, like liquor stores and vehicle registries, which seem to be positive steps. Few people would argue that less government involvement in the daily life of most Albertans is a healthy thing.

But any student in grade 9 social studies will be able to tell you that the market economy doesn’t necessarily take care of everyone, and that, at times, the market can be quite brutal on those it serves. A strong argument can be made that with an "inner city" in every urban center in North America, that the market economy doesn’t always serve everyone. I know the old response that says, “ these people should get jobs.” Hmmm…sounds like an easy solution…I’m sure that’s why there still exists an "inner city" in every city. What about when free market forces run companies out of business due to a shift in the global market? What about when those at the top of corporations are corrupt, and all of the shareholders go bankrupt?

If this is the case, do we really want the market to take care of health, education and transportation? There have been repeated looks at privatizing these key areas of our province…. I know, I know, “The market will take care of it, and it will be profitable.” But as we see, the market doesn’t take care of everything, and doesn’t always discriminate between what we need and what it dictates. The goal of a market economy is to create wealth. Wealth is good, but when I go to the doctor, I want him thinking of my health, not how many patients he can see so he can afford a new Lexus.

What about education? Should I have to pay privately for my child’s quality education? If the main goal of schools is to create wealth, then are they focusing on my child’s education, or how many dollars, (oops!) I mean kids, they can get through a program?

What about transportation? Private roadways provide government with an opportunity to get out of spending our tax money on building the road, but aren’t roads in the interest of everyone? What if the owner of the road decides he wants to make unaffordable increases? Don’t I have a right to movement under the constitution?

The simple fact is that when you have governments investing tax dollars in key areas, it is supposed to be in the interest of all citizens, and allows our public servants to directly control the things we value, like education, like healthcare, like transportation. If we leave it to the market, we lose direct control and our focus becomes money, which isn’t in all cases in the best interests of all people.

The fundamental question is, how much control do we wish to give up to the free market? When it comes to the basics of what keep our population healthy, educated, and moving, we need to be careful how far we go.

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