Free for all
Does the U.S. have a free market? Should it? These are some of the questions.

Free markets or fair markets?
I wish every politician was required to read your editorial every morning (“The myth of free markets,” March 18). My company is in textiles. You are probably aware that there are few textile and apparel companies left in the U.S. Our company alone closed some 25 plants, going from around 8,000 employees to less than 500. Why can’t our government see that manufacturing creates jobs, wealth, and R&D, increases our tax base, and advances technology? We can compete with FAIR trade, not FREE trade.

Wade T. Harte

I was disappointed in your editorial. You argue that governments can make businesses successful. Many of the points made are dead-on, but the conclusions are dangerous in how you left them hanging.

Government efforts to help businesses compete have many examples of failures and success across the globe. But John Hofmeister’s perspective is a little warped since he is primarily interested in big business. Big businesses sell governments on themselves because this can help their bottom line. Big business is not the rousing success that makes America competitive, merely part of it.

You touched on this issue but failed to draw the most important line. When governments pick winners and losers, industry sectors and companies fail. But when governments lower the cost of business by lowering taxes or cutting meaningless regulations and let the markets decide who wins and who loses, the free markets work.

The economic purists you cite do not exist. No one believes free markets are perfect. But many, including myself, believe that free markets are always better than government-planned systems. By not making this distinction, you blur important lines between the governments, our freedoms, and how they all affect success in both small and big business.

Joel Nichols

It is interesting that you should send this on the same day the World Trade Organization released a report that says the EU subsidized Airbus with $20 billion in preferential government loans under terms unavailable to any other organization on the planet: If their planes didn’t make money, Airbus didn’t have to pay back the money. Not exactly what you would call free-market economics. — Leland Teschler

Thanks for providing at least some hope for U.S. manufacturing jobs.

We were discussing this earlier today at work and none of us could see any way to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. in the face of such low labor costs and lack of regulations overseas and in Mexico. And engineering jobs are also moving out of the country at an increasing rate as companies try to strike deals to compete in the global market place.

Joe Buemi

In your editorial, you note Hoffmeister’s assertion that, “What (he has) seen in every country other than the U.S. is a determined effort by (foreign) governments to help manufacturers site, build, and operate new facilities (in foreign countries).” I would like to add that it is incredibly counterproductive for the U.S. tax code to reward U.S.-based multinationals that do the same thing.

Although it’s difficult enough for American workers to compete with industries in countries whose governments help industries, it only adds insult to injury when our government helps finance industries in foreign countries. Companies that incorporate offshore, by definition “in foreign countries” (Bermuda, for instance), to avoid U.S. taxes should be treated as what they are: foreign companies. They should be treated as such for all purposes and should not be afforded any of the privileges or protections given to U.S. companies. I would go so far as to say the same should apply to foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies.

Jon Roesler

Of course free markets are not a myth. However free markets are just mostly free. Industry does not pay for the education of its labor force, or for the cost of infrastructure or protection. We have government (with the permission of the people) to do that and so far it has worked well.

The free market has had to have government regulate it, police it, break monopolies, bail it out, and even prosecute it. So the free market behaves like a teenager. OK, the government is the parent and should act like a parent by helping the teenager.

Rich Rosenthal

Thorium fallout
I was always told that if something is too good to be true it usually is. The article (“Thinking Nuclear? Think Thorium,” March 18) points out so many advantages to the use of thorium that I can’t understand why we, as a nation, did not adopt this technology back in the 60s.

What am I missing? I can’t for the life of me figure why this technology wasn’t adopted long ago. Is there more to using thorium than the article points out, or was it due to political pressures? Please help me understand. Thanks.

Jim Vanden Eynden

Just as the great Space Race of the 1960s was about one-upping the Soviets and asserting U.S. dominance over space, the Atomic Energy Commission was much more concerned about military nuclear power than about peaceful uses for nuclear power. So it seems that government agency kicked thorium to the curb because it could not contribute bomb-making materials as uranium could.

So what other promising research has been stifled by government bureaucrats? If this research had been in private hands, we might be enjoying the benefits of this promising technology. When will we wake up to the fact that governments do not act for the benefit of all?

Ida Blasi

Timely correction
An item in a recent issue (Feb. 18, 2010) had an entry under 50 Years Ago that contained incorrect info. While the Comet was a Ford vehicle, it was not a Ford. It was built under the Mercury brand and was a sister vehicle to Ford’s Falcon. It was manufactured by Mercury in various forms through the 1960s and into the early 1970s, when the Falcon nameplate was retired in favor of the Maverick and other “compact” Ford cars. By the way, when Ford introduced the Maverick in 1970, it had a 170-in.3 in-line six-cylinder engine with a three-speed transmission, and was priced at $1,995.

Robert Herold

Thanks for the update, but where were you 50 years ago when most of that copy was written?

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