Barack Obama’s Support For Free Markets and Free Societies

In an op-ed in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Bret Stephens was shocked to see Barack Obama speak in favor of free markets before the Indian Parliament. He complimented Obama in writing, “The president gave a terrific speech. Not that it was particularly eloquent. But for all my cavilling, he stood up for free trade, free markets and free societies.”

If Stephens and other conservatives actually paid attention to what Obama has been saying all along, as opposed to spreading ridiculous memes that he is a Socialist, they would not be at all surprised. This is what Obama has been supporting all along. Not only Obama–support for free markets and free societies have long been liberal positions. Liberals do differ from those on the far right in recognizing that markets are creations of men and a certain amount of regulation is needed to ensure they work correctly. Even Adam Smith supported more regulation than many conservatives realize.

Jonathan Chait responded to Stephens:

I think many conservatives genuinely fail to understand that liberals can believe in free markets and free trade in general while also supporting limited government intervention to correct market failures like a recession-induced liquidity trap, adverse selection in health care, global warming, or skyrocketing inequality.

Buy-American provisions were in the stimulus because it’s designed to promote consumer demand in the United States. It was clearly not a signal of rolling back free trade. There is nothing in the Affordable Health Care Act that remotely resembles the central planning that once ruled India’s economy, unless you think that any kind of government regulation is like every other kind of government regulation. Come to think of it, Stephens probably does think that.

Modern liberalism is a continuation of classical liberalism, considering changing times and learning from past mistakes. Matthew Yglesias also disagrees with claims on the right that libertarians, as opposed to liberals, are the true heirs of the classical liberal tradition:

There’s a commonly held view that modern day American liberals aren’t “really” liberals and that the “real” heirs of the classical liberal tradition of Hume, Smith, and Mill are conservatives or libertarians. I think that’s honestly nonsense.

Karl Smith wonders if conservatives who claim to follow the beliefs of   Friedrich von Hayekhave actually read The Road to Serfdom. He points out that “obviously conservatism is very supportive of the permanent military state that classical liberals truly feared, and modern libertarianism often makes a fetish of taxation that is not supported by the original arguments.”

Update: Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, doesn’t sound like a socialist in explaining Obama administration economic plans.

Update 2:  If he’s out to destroy capitalism, Obama is not a very good at it. Bloomberg reports, “U.S. corporations are on track for the biggest earnings growth in 22 years and the stock market is headed for its best back-to- back annual gains since 2004.”


  1. 1
    Brett says:

    RT @RonChusid: Barack Obama's Support For Free Markets and Free Societies–What Conservatives Miss #p2 #p21 #topprog

  2. 2
    Addiction Analyst says:

    I am afraid that he has been one of their supporters from the beginning.  When you feel bad about your behaviors, you always assume that others are talking against you.  No, President Obama will ease your worries that he may increase production and not just profits.  It is we Democrats that are too thrilled with his speech or his trade policies.

  3. 3
    Addiction Analyst says:

    What started as one of the most exciting elections in my lifetime, after seeing losses by my heros time and again, is ending up as a resignation that this planet is for the wealthy only…everyone else, welcome to neo-serfdom.

  4. 4
    Charlie says:

    First and formost: Obama is a conservative…all of his policies and his governance have been conservative, not one liberal in his cabinet or administration. All of the narrative labeling Obama as a socialist is nothing more then right wing propaganda designed to move America further to the right, and it seems to be very effective. The feigning of surprise that Obama is a free market corporatist is absurd and any pundit or editorialist who engages in that subterfuge or narrative cannot be taken seriously.

  5. 5
    Don says:

    I am opposed to both legal and illegal immigration.  This country is overpopulated, and 21 million Americans are out of work.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Don, the positive economic benefits of immigration out weighs any problems from them taking jobs from Americans, especially as they frequently take jobs which most Americans do not want.

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