Commentary: There Is No Free

Economics is the science that deals with the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. Adam Smith (1723-1790) was an Eighteen Century British philosopher renowned as the father of modern economics. There are generally four accepted economic systems. 

A ‘traditional’ system, which is generally found in third world countries, often use barter systems of exchange and lack modern technology.

The second system is a ‘command’ economic system.  In the command system, a large part of the economy is controlled by the government.  The former USSR used the ‘command’ system and it was the core of the communist philosophy.  

The third system is the ‘market’ economic system, which is often called capitalism.  In a capitalist system, firms and individuals acts in self-interest how their resources are allocated, what goods get produced and who buys the goods.  

The fourth system is the ‘mixed’ economic system, which is a combination of a market economy and the command economy.  France and India use a mixed system.  One characteristic every system has is that ‘free does not exist.’  Someone is always paying the bill.  Free doesn’t exist, but many people fail to understand that fundamental principle. 

Two points:

First, there is a deficit of the study of economics.  Fewer young people are exposed to the most basic of economic study. In 2014, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) surveyed 1,098 colleges and found only 3.3 percent required an economics class to be granted a degree.  That accounts for why Bernie Sanders can pack out venues with young people promising ‘free stuff,’ which doesn’t exist in any economic system. 
Sanders describes himself as a Democrat Socialist.  His critics call him a Communist. The difference is a matter of degrees.  Under Communism, most property and economic resources are owned and controlled by the government and not individual citizens.  Under Democrat socialism, all citizens share equally in economic resources as allocated by the government.  In both systems, getting ahead is hard to do.

Second, the free market system is not perfect, but it does reward those who take risks and work hard.  To most people that is appealing, but to those who want to sponge off others, it isn’t.  In a capitalism system, there can be a wide disparity is the distribution of wealth.  Sanders is right about the wealth disparity in the US widening in recent years, but that has been caused by government interference into the system, not the system itself. 
In recent years, America has moved closer to the ‘mixed’ economic system.  The Affordable Care Act has the government controlling healthcare, which is over one sixth of the nation’s economy. Tax cuts with no cut in spending  has resulted in an increasing national debt.   

French economic writer Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) described the difference between a bad economist and a good one: “the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.”

America’s economic policy the last 30 years has been reactive, short term, and not proactive.  Government should get out of the regulation business and allowing the free market to work.  But always remember-there is no free.    

Note: Steve Fair is Chairman of the Fourth Congressional District for Oklahoma Republican Party. His commentaries often appear on CapitolBeatOK, an independent news website. He can be reached by email at His blog is