Markets are social institutions. We humans make the rules, and the rules can change over time. How we choose to trade with each other is a reflection of our values and our priorities.
All human marketplaces have rules about who can participate, what can be exchanged, and how transactions are made. Some of these rules are unspoken assumptions and cultural norms and some are documented in formal legal systems. There is no such thing as a “free market.” What we call “free trade” agreements consist of hundreds, or even thousands, of pages of rules.
The important debate isn’t whether or not markets have rules; it’s what values and priorities those rules represent. What kind of future will those rules create for the next generation?
The economic system of the 20th century prioritized short-term profits and returns to investors over long-term impact on our health, our families, our communities, and our environment. This is not sustainable.
Fortunately, there are people and organizations around the world choosing to operate according to a new set of rules and making daily choices that prioritize people and the planet.