Over and over instruments of power in social relationships try to make us believe that some abstraction they call "free market" can work without some form of instrument, which they pretend to be against, called government.
If one wishes to think for oneself, it's imperative to deconstruct tautologies, because tautologies cannot help us to think things through:
government is virtually always coercive since....
the free market is always non-coercive since....
Well, what is government? Without a negative dialectic we are left with nothing but positivist declarations, and we can only apply truth values to such declarations.. So how about a little negative space around the positive declaration to give it some definition, like the space between notes in a jazz piece so that you know it's music not just some endless noise: "Government" is not a thing in itself. It is first of all a word, one that applies to an abstract set of rules implying organization, rules humans imagine in relationship with each other to achieve some sense of orderliness amongst themselves. And we do that because... why? Don't jump to an answer. At the very least we all together do that to achieve an order of some kind.
Is it not fair to assume that kind of agreement has always existed in some form amongst the social beings we know ourselves to be, whether written down or in the very daily set of relationships that are part of the very cooperative small hunter gathering groups that our great-great ancestors devised for daily survival? Today that set of relationships has become vastly more complex. One can maybe recognize that in doing so it has achieved vast and complex sets of rules, many codified as "law" to accommodate the many more people alive now compared to a hundred thousand year ago. Those rules, whether written down or not, are always an instrument to be put in play by the actors in society. They are nothing without actors. They couldn't be imagined without imaginers.
When that set of relationships we call "government" fails to work for everyone, then people are free -- if they realize it -- to change the abstract rules of their relationships.
This is a fact because it is something that can actually take place. Thus, there can be no nature or god dictated fact of rules, like an Old Testament or Bible, or even a Constitution, that says the ones who have managed to get all the toys in their little sandbox get to keep them. People all have to agree to that. It takes actual, get up in the morning, put on your clothes agreement for that to happen. The 1% get to keep theirs only if everyone agrees to play by the rules. And there are only a few ways the powerful can get everyone to agree to this arrangement. One of those ways is: people are said to agree when the lie that we are a voting democracy legitimizing this relationship is generally accepted as what is taking place. Everybody agrees and everyone just goes along.
The 1% own and control 90% everything and the rest have about 10% of what's left is believed to be the way of things. It's natural because it's "obvious" the 1% ______ed it. Put in whatever operative logic you want. An important instrument in maintaining that belief is the power to control ideas, otherwise known in the Twentieth Century as "public relations" or, we can use the other word, not so pretty, propaganda, which comes in many flavors and varieties.
When that "belief" in those abstract ideas that maintain control suddenly disappears, which can happen very suddenly, like when the rent of mortgage payment can't be made, the food can't be bought, the gas for the car can't be purchased, and people rise up in revolt, then the other end of the management logic spectrum comes into play and those who are the organized enforcement instruments for keeping this social fiction going can invoke systems of logic that wield the technology of force. Again, individual human beings must do any of this, a policeman must willingly perform as a machine of enforcement in the institutional system of logic that involves keeping the order. A policeman must do his job, there's no cpu, there's no software, a human being does this. Exactly how no one has yet been able to say with absolute certainty. And without that certainty, we ought to be respectful of each other and what we do.
It's helpful to keep these contradictory assumptions in perspective by the conscious recognition that this enforcement instrument includes the highly developed institutional force that has evolved into modern day police and military technological instruments. These are all part of social evolutionary principles involving technology.
Technology, and a society that is now fundamentally technological in its very organization, is not a one person invention. Technology comes out of a milieu of culture. The languages we take for granted are part of this phenomenon. No individual invents their own language they learn to use by the time they are three years of age. Nor can any individual even use the technology them without language. No individual proclaim to the world that they own a piece of property without language. And technology, which is now our medium of existence, cannot exist without all the parts of that milieu organizing in a constant process, most of which takes place through the agreement in actions of individuals.
Someone has to perform any act for the sake of governing -- that is, making sure things stay in some sort of order. The governed as well as the enforcers of rules must act. No governing instrument, whether a corporation of a state government, happens on its own. Is that not obvious? And that brings up the question of power. And the question of power brings up the question of what exactly we are perceiving in this growing phenomenon we are now calling OWS. And everyone is stumbling over each other to try to control that phenomenon, which implies disorder, and disorder implies fear of the unknown, with ideas, word, labels.
A "free market" as a fact cannot possibly exist outside a social and cultural system of some kind. Which of course brings about a question: what does the word "free" mean? Yet the phrase is tossed around as if it's a reference to some technological instrument of its own, not just a logical line written in a piece of software. That may be the mistake of trying to make sense of things in an utterly rational fashion, and if you read Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations you may notice that he too was struggling with the contradiction of his own logical device, the creation of the concept: "free market".
We have inherited that struggle and we are experiencing its inevitable creation: cognitive dissonance. Because a market is merely a the sum of actions, a living and ongoing process, essentially the relationships between people within a common set, and consciously or unconsciously, depending on the awareness and intelligence of those involved, it is an agreed upon set of relationships between human beings.