in so far as the countries of advanced capitalism are ‘business civilisations’, permeated by a business culture and a business ethos, business itself has played a crucial role in making them so.
The power of an ideology is that it presents a view of the world as the ‘truth’ and in particular as the moral truth. In the past religion has provided the moral truth. Today the moral truth presented by economics is just as compelling as that offered by traditional religions. The ideology of the ‘free market’ derives from neoclassical economics but it is a simplified and reduced version that actually distorts and exaggerates neoclassical economic theories. Corporate executives who drive the market and know how it really works, and how it varies from the ideology, nevertheless preach the free market gospel because it suits their political purposes.
Free enterprise has become the prevailing idea of our times, an idea without serious rival although not without critics. It is an idea that equates business interests with the public interest and gives corporations increasing freedom to invest, produce and trade without government interference despite the social, cultural and environmental consequences that are accumulating. The facilitation of market transactions increasingly takes priority over democratic process and social and environmental decisions are increasingly left to the market. Corporations are able to go about their business, increasingly free from democratic controls.
The ‘free market’ has become the dominant ideal and is given priority over democratic ideals whenever they are in conflict. Free enterprise propaganda has deprived its victims of the rationale to oppose it, credible alternatives to rival it, and the mechanisms to control it.