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Society must stop being a simple stakeholder of the positive and negative derivatives of the free market and become a player in the free market.

The word economy comes from the ancient Greek word “οἰκονομία” (οἶκος + νεμομαι), which means management/ administration of the home. It is generally the set of conscious and systematic actions of people, who live in a society, with the aim of a more harmonious, fairer and more effective management of society with the ultimate goal of collective well-being.

Free markets and the invisible hand of Adam Smith, the considered father of capitalism, aimed to achieve the economy, i.e. the optimal management of society and its needs. Through the free exchange of goods and services, Adam Smith believed that we would always reach a state of equilibrium which would prove favourable to the entire population. He was largely right. Free markets, in addition to the efficiency they offer, also create the conditions for free and creative citizens. At least in theory. So, experiencing today absolute neoliberalism and markets in their most globalized form, let’s try to understand why societies are not experiencing themselves the absolute coverage of their needs.

Despite Adam Smith’s good intentions, free markets are nothing more than a game of financial gain. And if at the beginning, through this game, seemed that the goal was to meet the needs of society, it quickly became apparent that only those who manage to accumulate capital are actually able to participate as players in the free markets. To be a player of this game you must be a capitalist. And in this game, you will either be a player or a resource (human resource). As in any game, for your interests to be represented and promoted you must be a player. And of course, capital has one and only interest and purpose: profitability and the accumulation of further capital. The welfare of society was not and will never be the goal of capital and this was recognized by the father of capitalism himself.

Societies and citizens also have their own interests and needs. They translate into well-being, health, mental development, social relationships, safety, healthy natural environment. Everyone recognizes them, but they are not represented and promoted systemically and organically through the free markets, simply because we are not players of the game. Fortunately, however, the players of the game, on the basis of their good will, do everything in their power to satisfy our needs through corporate social responsibility actions (provided of course that these do not reduce but on the contrary often increase their profits) and charities. Also, good governments with selfless politicians try to fill the gap in society’s presence in free markets by trying to redistribute some of the players’ profits to public works and public benefits. But in the end, as long as the citizens are not players of the game, we will always be considered an “externality” of the system and beggars of the players and the governments that try to play on our behalf.

The need for social assertiveness in free markets

In conclusion, free markets are by many, with whom I agree, better than centrally planned markets. They achieve this because they harness the participation and wisdom of many. But they fail to be the ideal model for an optimal economy today because society itself does not participate as a player. For this reason, I believe that as a society we must consciously claim to become a strong player in free markets! How; By aiming to become co-owners of the capital that exists in our local community and cultivating the culture of social partnership. Only then will the economic, social and environmental profits we claim as a society be able to become systemic goals of free markets. Only when we understand all that is happening around us as an interdependent system and decide to intervene in the real causes of the problems that plague societies today, such as inequality, rising cost of living, corruption, ecological destruction, even this rise of rhetoric of hatred and the extreme right, and not simply lining up superficial political solutions. The first citizen company we created in Limassol (COCO Limassol) aims and works on exactly this.

PS1: The reference to capitalists is not done in a negative mood. The negativity lies in the fact that man easily confuses his human nature and becomes one with the lifeless capital and its only goal: economic profit.

PS2: In today’s free markets it is becoming more and more difficult to become a player since you need to accumulate more and more capital in order for your interests to be represented. With global capital accumulating dangerously, most people end up being mere resources to the needs of big capital for financial gain, albeit well-paid resources.

George Ioulianos