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Acton Institute is so threatened by anything that doesn’t promote Capitalism, so they attacked the Really Really Free Market in Grand Rapids

April 29, 2021

The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which is a far right think tank dedicated to defending free market Capitalism, engaged in some extremely petty commentary recently.

On April 21st, Dan Hugger, who is a research associate with the Acton Institute, posted an article on the Acton blog entitled, The free market vs the Really Really Free Market.

Early on in the article, the Acton writer states:

“I am the last person in the world to critique people’s impulses for generosity and acts of charity. But the characterization of this as a “market” strikes me as a bit odd. Markets are traditionally understood as places where individuals, in the words of Adam Smith, “truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another.” Free markets are not free not from prices but from constraints, regulations, and other hindrances to human action … rather than free in the sense of, say, “free beer.” Markets are the hubs of networks of specialization and trade where people voluntarily exchange their own unique time, talents, knowledge, and services with others for their own gifts, creating value for themselves and their communities. They serve a coordinating function to generate both individual and social well-being.”

Hugger saw the poorly written article on MLive, about the Really Really Free Market, which is what he was basing his response on. Despite the Acton Institute’s condescending tone about what markets are, he fails to completely miss the point about what the Really Really Free Market is all about. His lack of understanding about the RRFM is compounded by the use of a Salvation Army image for the article, which confirms his belief that the RRFM is nothing more than charity.

The Really Really Free Market (RRFM) has its origins during the early years of the anti-globalization movement and is part of the DIY & anarchist growth of the period that began in the 1990s. The RRFM is inherently an anti-Capitalist activity where people bring items that they no longer want/need to a designated location, where anyone who comes may take what people have brought. The idea is that we can share resources with each other to get some of the things we need, without having to participate in the larger consumption-driven Capitalist Culture. Sprout Distro has a really good zine that explains what the Really Really Free Market is all about.

The Acton writer thinks that the Really Really Free market is charity, which is not the case at all. The RRFM is one way that people can support each other, but it is also a way of expanding people’s radical imagination to say, “maybe there are other ways we can take care of ourselves that don’t rely on this thing called the free market,” which is certainly not free. 

The Capitalist free market is harsh, with all sorts of negative consequences, like labor exploitation, environmental degradation, and the growth of the wealth gap. Millions of people are in debt under the free market system and millions more have died at an early age because of a lack of regulation, over work, exposure to toxins, etc. This is exactly why it’s called the Really Really Free Market, because it’s free. There is no monetary cost to participate and the external costs are minimal – people driving to the location. 

However, the far right think tank known as the Acton Institute, which holds international conferences and has access to power – state, private and religious power, felt it necessary to reject and criticize one of the few activities that DOES NOT rely on free market Capitalism. Was the Acton Institute writer threatened by the RRFM or did they just not have a clue as to what it is? It’s hard to say for sure, but we do know that the Acton Institute has been a staunch defender of Capitalism since its founding in the early 1990s and they will do anything to suppress any alternatives to the free market, especially in Grand Rapids where the members of the Capitalist Class are praised constantly. 

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