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A market in Râmnicu Vâlcea by Amedeo Preziosi

A market is one of many varieties of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations and infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange


  • Having created the conditions that make markets possible, democracy must do all the things that markets undo or cannot do.
  • Markets are social organizations, structured and regulated by more or less well-defined social rule systems.
    • Tom R. Burns et al. (1987) The shaping of social organization p. 125
  • Markets are interested in profits and profits only; service, quality, and general affluence are different functions altogether. The universal, democratic prosperity that Americans now look back to with such nostalgia was achieved only by a colossal reigning in of markets, by the gargantuan effort of mass, popular organizations like labor unions and of the people themselves, working through a series of democratically elected governments not daunted by the myths of the market.
  • Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.
  • If an exchange between two parties is voluntary, it will not take place unless both believe they will benefit from it. Most economic fallacies derive from the neglect of this simple insight, from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.
  • The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
  • If by free market one means a market that is autonomous and spontaneous, free from political controls, then there is no such thing as a free market at all. It is simply a myth.
  • I believe that one ought to have only as much market efficiency as one needs, because everything that we value in human life is within the realm of inefficiency — love, family, attachment, community, culture, old habits, comfortable old shoes.
  • If a Martian were asked to pick the most efficient and humane economic systems on earth, it would certainly not choose the countries which rely most on markets. The United States is a stagnant economy in which real wages have been constant for more than a decade and the real income of the bottom 40 percent of the population declined. It is an inhumane society in which 11.5 percent of the population, some 32 million people, including 20 percent of all children, live in absolute poverty. It is the oldest democracy on earth but also one with the lowest voting rates among democracies and the highest per capita prison population in the world. The fastest developing countries in the world today are among those where the state pursues active industrial and trade policies; the few countries in the world in which almost no one is poor today are those in which the state has been engaged in massive social welfare and labor market policies.
    • Adam Przeworski, in "In Defense of Neoliberalism" in Journal of Democracy, Vol. 3, Issue 3 (1992), p. 46
  • The collapse of the global marketplace would be a traumatic event with unimaginable consequences. Yet I find it easier to imagine than the continuation of the present regime.
    • George Soros in Soros on Soros : Staying Ahead of the Curve (1995), p. 194
  • In what sphere of life, if any, do you think it most important to limit the influence of market forces?
    Milton Friedman: Self-ownership of human beings.
    Clive W.J. Granger: Original research in mathematics and science.
    Lawrence R. Klein: It is well known that there have been many market failures and corrupt behavior under the market system unless there is strong political oversight and leadership. The effects of such excesses are fairly evident in many respects, but the most serious is in the resulting skewness of the income and wealth distributions both within and among national economies.
    Harry M. Markowitz: Pollution.
    John F. Nash Jr.: The code-speak phrase "limit the influence of market forces" really means to arrange things OTHERWISE by leaving everything to free-market equilibration. A simple illustration is where a state wishes simply to defend its existence. This may call for various concepts of national self-sufficiency so that, for example, Japan may choose not to become entirely an importer of rice!
    William F. Sharpe: Extreme concentration of economic and political power.
    Vernon L. Smith: None, because "markets" are about recognizing that information is dispersed in all social systems, and that the problem of society is to find, devise and discover institutions that incentivize and enable people to make the right decisions without anyone having to tell them what to do. The idea that market forces should be limited stems from a fundamental error in beliefs about markets. This is the wrong question.
    Robert M. Solow: In the advanced economies, I would say: To avoid mass unemployment, poverty and widening inequality.
    Joseph E. Stiglitz: Economists' usual list begins with distribution of income. There is no reason to believe that the distribution of income that emerges out of market processes is desirable or acceptable. Unbridled market forces without any role of government might lead to a large number of people living under subsistence. This is an area for government to do something. We know that unbridled economic forces can lead to big booms and big recessions. We need to do something about that. We know that a market can lead to pollution -- and there's an important role for government there. We know that there will be under-investment in public goods. As we think about the innovation economy, we should remember that most of the innovation in the private sector is based on research financed by the government, such as its role in developing the Internet.
    • "Nobel Laureates Offer Views on the Economy", Wall Street Journal (Sept. 3, 2004)

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