Free Market

Updated on January 29, 2024
Article bySusmita Pathak
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Free Market Definition 

A free market refers to an economic system free from government interventions and controlled by privately owned businesses. Market participants fully control supply and demand, decide production variables, and determine the prices of products and services. Also, sellers can sell any items at affordable prices in this self-regulated economy.

Individuals or private entities define parameters based on changing client preferences and market conditions in a pure market economy. Producers also have the freedom to trade contracts with one another by adopting strategies and encouraging voluntary exchanges in a given economic systemEconomic SystemThere are four prominent types of economic systems in the world based on their characteristics. It includes traditional economy, command economy, market economy and mixed economy. read more at a given time. The minimal to no government interference forces businesses to provide quality offerings in response to consumer demand.

Regulated vs Free Market

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Key Takeaways

  • A free market is an economic system in which private business owners get complete control over production, allocation, consumption, pricing, labor supply, and the purchase and sale of products and services without any governmental interference.
  • In a pure market arrangement, buyers and sellers engage in economic transactions of tangible or nontangible commodities and services as part of a voluntary agreement.
  • In free market capitalism, each business owner decides what to make, sell, and buy and remains concerned with maximizing profits in whatever way feasible.
  • Private business ownership, some degree of monopoly, fair play, customer-centric approach, supply-demand balance, innovation, co-operation, etc., are some of the self-regulated market economy features.

How Does Free Market Economy Work?

A free market system is one in which market forces determine demand and supply and set prices rather than government economic interventions. Furthermore, buyers and sellers engage in the exchange of tangible or nontangible commodities under a voluntary agreement. Participants in a self-regulated market decide market strategies and resources to meet the expectations of their target marketTarget MarketA target market consists of different groups of individuals, households, and organizations towards which a company aims to offer its products and services.read more.

Free Market Working

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Private enterprises try different strategies to stay in the market and dominate it, from enhancing product quality to lowering pricing. As a result, they draw an increasing number of customers to their brands, resulting in a monopoly. Businesses in a pure market arrangement only focus on maximizing profits in any way possible. However, to achieve their goal, they lower costs and offer significant discounts.

Besides minimal to no taxes, tariffs, and quality regulations, there are no conditioned or forced transactions. However, much like a regulated market, a free market economy is not necessarily free from government regulations. For example, different countries levyLevyA levy is a lawful process where the debtor's property is seized when the debtor cannot pay the outstanding debts. It is different from liens, as a lien is only a claim against a property, whereas a levy is an actual property takeover to fulfill the obligation.read more import duties and impose legal restrictions on the consumption of certain products.

The unrestricted competition characterizes a free market. But its inclination to keep product prices below the cost of production prevents sellers from generating excessive profits. Voluntary economic activity continues until central authorities control it.

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Free Market Scenario

Consider the following scenario to understand how the free market works:

Andrew decided to convert his home into a shop and sell mechanical tools in his neighborhood. As he looked forward to targeting the locals, he kept the production low. To his surprise, his tools were well received in the community.

The positive response encouraged him to provide his tools across the city. There, he discovered many competitors doing exceptionally well. As a result, he concentrated on growing his customer base first by offering discounts. He, thus, removed some of his competitors from the market.

Andrew, who was wealthy enough by the time, bought out the remaining competitors. He established his monopolyMonopolyMonopoly is the “one-&-only” seller of a good or service in the market & it faces no competition from any other entity. Generally, it is controlled or monitored by the Government to safeguard the customers’ interests. read more, which extended over the country in a few years. Andrew started building his public image simultaneously by donating to charities. He also cultivated relationships with government officials, whom he could use for favors whenever an outside brand attempted to import similar products.

Despite his efforts, human rights activists found out that he was paying below-average wages to his workers. Andrew was also found taking advantage of government employees for his gain. These allegations drove him to the court of law, where he was found guilty and given the option of serving 15 years in prison or paying a fine of $50 million. He was set free after paying the fine.

Free Market vs Capitalism

In a pure market economy, privately-owned businesses do not share their profits with anybody else. As there is essentially no government interference, these business owners became sole controllers of their brands and are free to define their sales guidelines. These self-regulated markets commonly exist in countries that support capitalism and individual and private property rights.

CapitalismCapitalismCapitalism is an economic system consisting of businesses, resources, capital goods, and labour. Private entities own it, and the income is derived by the level of production of these factors. Because of the private hands, these entities can be operated efficiently and maximize their production activity also.read more is typically a profit-driven economic system based on private ownership of production assets. Its critical components include capital accumulationCapital AccumulationCapital Accumulation is the increase in the value of an investment or a financial asset, whether it is tangible or intangible. Interest, royalties, rent, dividend, capital gains are the most common examples of capital accumulation.read more, pricing, competitive markets, property rights, wage labor, and voluntary exchange. While the competition determines product prices and distribution, private business owners make investment-related decisions.

Given the definition above, it is clear that capitalism is nothing more than an example of a free market. There is a close association between the free market and capitalism. A market in which a single business owner decides what to create, sell, and buy may be considered free market capitalism.

Andrew’s decision to lower pricing to attract more buyers had a direct impact on worker wages. Also, it portrays how a private company exploited workers for its benefit. It is what free market capitalism is all about.


Let us take a look at a couple of free market economy examples:

Example #1

Sarah opened a cafe with no competitors and managed to garner interest from people around. The positive response encouraged her to open multiple branches across the city, making her a wealthier businessperson.

Sam, who observed the lack of places to hang out in the neighborhood, opened another café. As a result, it divided the clients and harmed Sarah’s sales results for that branch. To ensure that she is the only brand in the area, Sarah offered Sam a fair price for the brand. She also suggested him trying his luck downtown, which might work.

Her competition agreed, and Sam sold his brand to Sarah, who continued to operate it under his name. With this voluntary exchange, she was able to keep her clients while also acquiring Sam’s and profiting from both brands.

Example #2

Amazon.com, Inc. began offering online buying services in 1995. Back then, people were unsure of how online stores work and whether they should trust them. Despite the risk of failure, the company began its journey with a 30-day return policy to ensure that clients were no longer unsure about their purchases.

It gradually began to offer other services, such as internet streaming, warehouses and logistics, and so on. The brand, thus, thrived in a free market and became a self-sufficient service provider around the globe.

In 2015, the e-commerce behemoth declined to sell Google Chromecast and Apple TV. It was because these technological giants did not support Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service. It shows how operating in free market capitalism without government intervention can have an impact on the economy. Amazon.com, Inc. retained its customers and competed with rivals directly without competing on price or quality.


Here are the characteristics of a free market that can easily be derived based on the explanation above:

Characteristics of Free Market

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a free market?

A free market is an unregulated market economy in which privately-owned enterprises control the demand and supply, provide quality offerings, decide production variables, and set prices. Market participants implement strategies and facilitate voluntary exchanges in a given economy at a particular point in time. These markets are devoid of taxes, tariffs, quality regulations, and conditioned or forced transactions due to minimal or no government interference.

What are free market economy advantages and disadvantages?

– Customer-centric approach
– Innovative strategies
– No governmental or external interference
– Solely profit-oriented
– Threatens standard business ethics
– Higher risks of market failures

Is the free market the same as capitalism?

In a free market, privately-owned businesses do not share their profits with anybody else. Moreover, these businesses remain sole controllers of their brands, are free to adopt their sales guidelines, and decide what to create, sell, and buy. Since there is no profit sharing with the government in such an economy, capitalism is merely a free market example.

This has been a guide to Free Market and its definition. Here we discuss how the free market economy works along with the examples and characteristics. You can learn more from the following articles –

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