Aaron Ross Powell explains what libertarians mean when they defend ‘the free market.’

Aaron Ross Powell
Director and Editor

Aaron Ross Powell is Director and Editor of Lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org, a project of the Cato Institute. Lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org presents introductory material as well as new scholarship related to libertarian philosophy, theory, and history. He is also co‐​host of Libertarianism.org’s popular podcast, Free Thoughts. His writing has appeared in Liberty and The Cato Journal. He earned a JD from the University of Denver.

Markets are much more than multinational corporations, banking firms, and stock brokerages on Wall Street, though all of those things are the result of a market system.

Sound economies, from the biggest multinational banks to a child’s sidewalk lemonade stand, operate on the principles of private property and exchange. These concepts are the building blocks of free societies, and it is the system of countless small trades, taken as a whole, that we call “the market.”

It is important to note that these trades are positive sum (win‐​win) situations: each party agrees to a trade because they value what they’re getting more than what they’re giving up.

And when those trades are voluntary–when nothing is preventing people from making trades or forcing people to make trades–that results in a free market, which makes everyone healthier, wealthier, more peaceful, and more technologically advanced.

That’s what libertarians mean when they defend the free market.

Produced by Evan Banks and Aaron Ross Powell.