For the vast majority of people in the world, the so called 'free' market has delivered little but poverty. The “free market” economy is meant to deliver investment, innovation, efficiency and a trickle down prosperity. In reality it has meant privatisation - where public services suffer under profit-led management and deregulation - leaving the banks and finance sector free to gamble national economies into debt and exploitation.
In the twenty first century we have faced increased prices, cuts to our living standards, long hours and insecurity both in work, and in retirement. Here, unions suffer the most restrictive laws in Western Europe. Prosperity is increasingly seen to be reserved for the unaccountable few, who face none of the pay restraints imposed on workers and none of the regulations and burdens placed on unions. Free market capitalism has been a social, economic and environmental failure.
What the left has to do is nail the lie of the 'free' market - which means deregulation and privatisation that only benefits the rich - as we have seen. What we need is a fair market which workers can benefit from without the fruits of their labour being expropriated by capitalists. The right have expounded simplistic bullshit - like the 'free' market - and got away with it because the left haven't exposed what a fraud it is. That must now change.
The 'free' market right have also always said that we couldn't afford to re-nationalise utilities, railways etc. Now, having seen the vast sums invested recently in propping up the banks, we all know that is not true. We need to show people that an alternative economy is not only possible but achievable. That alternative needs to be a mix of state ownership and mutualism - to give people a real stake in the economy and their future.
We need to begin by explaining the benefits of public ownership as a fair market alternative to free market capitalism. People understand they have been had. The events of the past year, and in particular the last few weeks have given us an opportunity to get that message across that we haven't had for at least a generation.
One consequence of all this is the beginning of the end of America as a dominant global economic and military force. The very people who wanted this to be the American Century - the neo-liberals - have brought their country down. This was very well summed up on an article by John Gray in the Observer. The geopolitical tectonic plates are shifting as I write this, and the American dream is becoming a nightmare.
Postscript: I have just read on the BBC that the House of Representatives has voted down the bail out plan which makes the crisis potentially all the more acute.