A frustration with many books about Christian economics is their bland statements about what markets do and do not do. "The market does not produce enough health care". "The market does not... " These statements show that the authors do not really understand the nature of markets.

A market is not a moral entity that can be judged as right or wrong. A market cannot make decisions or take actions. A market is simply a place for information sharing. People provide information (including the price) of things they have for sale. Other people can look at what is offered and choose to buy if it is what they want and the price is right. A market can take many forms. At a farmers market, sellers offer information by displaying what they have for sale. On eBay, people display photographs and textual information about what they are selling. Whatever the market, a sale is only completed, if both the buyer and the seller agree to the price.

There are three groups of moral actors involved in a market. First, there are the owners of the market. They set the rules under which the market operates. If their rules allow cheating or coercion, they are immoral. If people are not forced to sell on their market, then the price they charge cannot be immoral, because no one has to pay it.

The second group of moral actors are the sellers. They are morally wrong, if they sell stolen goods, or they lie about the quality of what they are selling. The third group of moral actors is the purchasers. They are acting immorally if they pay for goods with counterfeit money, or if they use physical force to someone to sell at a cheaper price. However, if both buyer and seller freely agree on the price, then nothing immoral has occurred. If someone who wants a good decides the price is too expensive, this is their privilege. The seller has not done anything wrong. The market itself is not a moral actor, because it does not act or make decisions.

Therefore to claim that the market has not done something that it should is a nonsense statement. Markets cannot do anything. What the critic is really saying is the people have not done what they believe they should have done. The statement that the market does not produce enough health care, is really a statement that people do not purchase enough health care. The statement that the market does not produce enough jobs is really a claim that people (either individually or acting together in corporations) do not produce enough jobs. The market does not decide the number of jobs that will be offered. The market cannot decide the volume of health care that will be purchased. People decide these things.

The common term for these perceived problems is "market failure", but this is a misnomer. Markets cannot fail, because they cannot decide and they cannot act. What is called market failure is really "people failure". Those who talk about market failure are really describing people failure. They are saying they do not like the outcome of the decisions made by the various people participating freely in markets. (They are generally not criticising stealing or dishonesty by market participants, which is evil, not failure).

Blaming markets justifies interesting solutions, because if markets fail, governments must do something to correct them. A little thinking exposes the nature of the solution. If the problem is "people failure", then the critics of the market are really saying that they want to force people to make better decisions. For example, the solution to inadequate health care is to force people to purchase more healthcare, or to force other people to pay for health care for those who chose not to buy it for themselves. If people do not produce the right number of jobs, force them to invest their money in projects that will produce more jobs.

The advocates of the market failure doctrine do not like the decisions that people make. They believe that they can make better decisions on their behalf, so they want to force people to do what they believe is the right thing. So the market failure doctrine is really just a clever way of slipping in a process for the wise to force the unwise to make better decisions.

In a fallen world, people failure will be normal. People will often make poor decisions. They will sometimes make decisions that other people do not like. People might not produce everything that other people want.

If I need a silk-lined yak-fibre woven hat, I might not find one. I have three options. I could go without. I could make one myself. Or I could try and force someone else to make one for me. The market failure crowd prefer the last option, because they know best what is best.

They believe that they can eliminate "people failure", but it does not occur to them that they could be the people failing.