Donald Trump’s payback for his now infamous remarks about Mexicans showcases the power of the free market. In a June speech, Trump, speaking on the topic of immigration, called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “killers” without so much as a qualifying remark. To paint an entire class of persons with such a broad, racist brush is detestable. Trump is now paying the price for his indiscretion.
Univision and Macy’s were the first to cancel their contracts with Trump. On July 9th, the PGA Tour announced it would also withdraw its planned event at Trump’s golf course. EPSN and NASCAR are among the other latest Trump casualties. His disastrous remarks have hit him where it counts most – his wallet. This is precisely how discrimination deserves to be handled, by the harshest of all regulators: the consumer. As the Center for a Stateless Society’s James Wilson recently said, “Resistance to bigotry should take place in the realm of public opinion in the form of boycotts, denunciations, shaming, and educational outreach.” That is precisely what has happened in Trump’s case.
As Trump gets his just deserts, both the left and the right would do well to recognize that, like it or not, this is the free market in action. Misconceptions regarding what constitutes a free market abound across the political spectrum. Trump’s spanking serves as a wonderful opportunity to clarify free market principles.
As expected, a good number on the right are complaining about Trump’s punishment. Americans are too politically correct, they say. Right wing defenders of Trump believe he spoke nothing but hard truth and feel his reprimand is unwarranted. Little do they realize Trump’s penalty emanates directly from the free market, which they pay tremendous lip service to but fail mightily to comprehend. Recognition of this is likely to be a bitter pill for many on the right to swallow.
How is Trump’s punishment an act of the invisible hand, you ask? When you consider that the free market is only an abstraction – one that pervades all human action (not just economic transactions) – it’s quite easy to see. Many self-styled free market devotees fail to see market forces at play beyond the context of textbook economic exchange. This too-narrow view of free markets misses the point.
Markets are nothing more than indicators of everyone’s collective actions, preferences, beliefs, etc. They are the sum total of these things, reflections of “the will of the people.” And when markets are free, they most accurately represent this communal will. It’s sometimes helpful to think of free markets as democracy in its purest form, with every human being casting a vote, consciously or not. In the Trump saga, several of his contracts were cancelled because the marketplace voted. In other words, the companies backing out of their contracts with Trump appreciate that a significant portion of their consumer base find Trump’s remarks despicable. So despicable, in fact, that the companies fear economic reprisal should their relationships with Trump to continue.
Those consumers, every day people, are so far ahead of their elected leaders in terms of cultural enlightenment that no heavy-handed government action need be considered to combat Trump’s racism. By voicing their disgust with Trump, the people prevailed with little overt action or coordinated effort required. This was similarly seen when the South Carolina state legislature caved to the groundswell of protest from their voter base over the Confederate flag issue.
The pressure Donald Trump is experiencing is equally as inconvenient for those on the left who conflate American capitalism and free markets. They would stop at nothing to deny that a small dose of free markets have led to Trump’s beating. Instead of viewing free markets as mutual, voluntary interactions between people, this sect of leftists imagines things like TARP, TPP, the XL Pipeline, and Halliburton’s no-bid Iraq contracts are products of a free market. What aspects of these state-corporate partnerships fit the “free” part of free markets, we leave to these confused leftists to explain. But if true free markets are nothing more than voluntary, mutual exchange, then it logically follows that freedom of association is a major free market component. It’s a shame the mainstream left can’t make the connection between civil liberties like freedom of association and free markets.
Market actors freely associating (or disassociating) as they see fit are often able to collectively bring about such triumphs as the downing of the Confederate flag and the smackdown of Donald Trump. Their brand of retribution is far more effective than that of the lousy government do-gooders.