Free markets don’t have to mean the particular incarnation of corporate world dominance we see all around us today. For an entire tradition, an individualist anarchism that once blossomed in the United States, free markets meant simply voluntary exchange between sovereign individuals with equal rights and liberties. If consistently adhered to, such a system would, these anarchists argued, distribute wealth and property more evenly and equitably, effectively ending the exploitation of the working poor.
Many of today’s free market libertarians continue in this tradition, arguing that libertarianism shouldn’t be either a defense of corporate capitalism or its euphemistic rhetorical substitute. For us, free markets are a system whereby individuals are left free to do whatever they might within the boundaries set by equal freedom — that is, all individuals stand on equal footing as free agents who might start their own businesses, homestead property or sell their work or wares.
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