The worst traps are not those which opponents deliberately place in your path. No, the worse traps are those placed there by people who are unaware they are laying a trap. Can you spot the trap in the question blow? I was asked it on a forum while debating free markets with a mixed market enthusiast. My answer is also presented.

Please explain The actions of the robber barons and the dismal conditions of workers health standards not to mention child labor laws and more in the 19th century? Business had little regulation and did what they always do without outside regulation.

Free markets have no regulations. None. Zero. Zip. Nada. They are not slightly regulated, not kind of regulated, not less regulated, not absent regulation except for blah, blah, blah. They are completely free of government regulation.

More importantly, there is no political mechanism available in to free market government to create new regulation. That is an important ingredient because the power to create regulation influences industry to “do something” before regulators do.

So when you say, “Business had little regulation,” I assume you mean there was little regulation when compared to the amount of regulation there is in 2007. If instead, we compare the regulation in the 19th century with that of a free market where there is no regulation, we find there was a great deal of regulation on business. The 19th century was less regulated than the 20th century, but was still a mixed market economy, not a free market economy.

Your question implies a condemnation of the business and employment practices which resulted from this 19th century mixed market economy. We split in our use of this information. You use it as a foundation for more mixed economy solutions. I see it as another nail in the coffin of the search for the Magic Formula of mixed market economies.


The trap is in the possible answers I can give. I can give two main answers or I can avoid the question.

Answer 1 - I convince my opponent that lightly regulated, mixed market economies work just fine. I have not convinced him that unregulated, free markets are best. I win the battle, but lose the war.

Answer 2 - I fail to convince my opponent that lightly regulated, mixed market economies work. I lose the battle, but lose the war.

Answer 3 - I avoid the question. I don’t fight the battle and I don’t win the war.

With the first two answers, I am easily drawn into a conversation about each Robber Baron, not about free markets. As long as people ask questions about these distractions I cannot return to the topic at hand. The inalienable right to peacefully associate with others.