The terror and triumph of free markets

wsj-top-25-companies-700The Wall Street Journal featured this awesome chart yesterday. Only 8 of top global 25 companies in 1999 are still in top 25 in 2009, and some of them have shed a lot of market cap.  One reaction is that free markets are very scary if you were an employee or shareholder of one of the 1999 companies that crashed. OK this kind of destruction scares ALL of us.

Another reaction is that creative destruction is one of the triumphs of the market. The consumer is king: in 2009, the consumer wants iPhones in their Xmas stocking and not whatever Worldcom had been pretending to be producing. The radical uncertainty of how to please consumers is an argument FOR free markets:

It is because every individual knows so little and… because we rarely know which of us knows best that we trust the independent and competitive efforts of many to induce the emergence of what we shall want when we see it. (Friedrich Hayek)