There is a never-ending debate between the supporters of a laissez-faire economy and proponents of government regulation. While government intervention may help provide equality and social stability, it puts restrictions on personal freedom and the market economy, which prompts many people to argue against it. This essay will address this problem, considering different perspectives to identify what is better – to be free or equal.
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One of the prominent advocates of the free market was American economist Milton Friedman. He condemned interventionist policies suggesting that they limit international and domestic free trade (Friedman & Friedman, 1990). Friedman believed that the market economy would eventually make more for combating poverty than government regulation by encouraging economic growth through voluntary association stimulation (Free to Choose Network, 2015). In fact, statistics suggest that global poverty has almost halved in recent decades (Free to Choose Network, 2015). While many factors were involved, it is possible to attribute these results to the expansion of the market economy.
However, there are several issues that cause debate. When individuals engage in competition, some win, and some lose, resulting in inequality (Free to Choose Network, 2015, 26:36-26:41). In many countries, from India to the USA, rich people have much more resources and political power than everyone else (Sachs, 2011). Friedman believed in equality of opportunity (Free to Choose Network, 2015). However, it is hardly feasible since many people would still have different starting positions: some children have richer parents, receive a better education, while others are born to dysfunctional families in poor neighborhoods. Therefore, many people argue that governments should step in redistributing wealth through taxes and welfare policies. Social security programs can lift many over the poverty line and even lower suicide rates (Rambotti, 2020). On the other hand, regulating competition may reduce motivation for risk-taking restricting innovation (Free to Choose Network, 2015). Moreover, in many countries, the growing proportion of older people may impede social security payments maintenance. Therefore, alternative ways should be sought.
To conclude, stimulating economic growth by allowing free trade can improve the living standards of many people around the globe. Moreover, many would prefer to be free if equality means disregard for their merits. However, there are still challenges associated with everyday inequality, especially visible during crises, justifying certain interventions. Overall, the views on that matter diverge depending on ones economic success and ideological beliefs.
Friedman, M., & Friedman, R. (1990). Free to choose: A personal statement. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Rambotti, S. (2020). Is there a relationship between welfare-state policies and suicide rates? Evidence from the US states, 2000–2015. Social Science & Medicine, 246. Web.
Sachs, J. D. (2011). Need versus greed. Project Syndicate. Web.
Free to Choose Network (2015). Free or equal – full video [Video]. YouTube. Web.