The term “free market” is misleading. It sounds like good old American liberty, but what it really means is a market without any rules, regulations, or consumer protections. It’s like a highway system with no speed limits, no lane markings, and no laws against running over pedestrians and bicyclists. Hey, it’s a free highway: if you got run over, it’s your own fault for being in the wrong place.
“Free,” in this context, means the biggest, most heavily-armored vehicles can drive however they like without regard for how much damage they do to everyone else. Kind of like how the too-big-to-fail banks caused a catastrophic economic crisis under George W. Bush, and were “punished” by having to haul away billions of taxpayer dollars in bailout money. But it’s not a perfect analogy. For the free highway to be more like the free market, the really big road monsters would have to get free armor and fuel at taxpayer expense, so they could continue to dominate the highways (and any territory in between the highways, if it happened to be a convenient shortcut).
“Free markets” aren’t free. Someone is paying for them, either directly in the form of government subsidies and bailouts, or indirectly, in the form of the burdens imposed on the general public by the fiscal irresponsibility of the free market profiteers. It is, in fact, the exact opposite of the ideals of what “American liberty” is supposed to represent.
So you’ll forgive me if I’m unimpressed by the supposedly magical powers a “free” market is supposed to have. Highway safety laws not only protect drivers from each other, they also make it more efficient to get from one place to another, precisely because the restrictions help prevent drivers from plowing into each other and causing traffic-snarling pileups. Just like the economy runs better when financial regulations prevent greedy bankers from causing economic collapse for personal gain.