"People use "free market" to mean "unregulated", but in fact a free market that operates the way people assume a free market should requires regulation, particularly of information. "
I'm having one of those 'where are my mod points when I need them' moments - this is such an important principle that gets lost in so many discussions of 'free markets' and such. How can customers 'vote with their dollars' (or their attention/market share) f they don't know what they're voting for? Food labeling is a big victim of this kind of non-transparency. E.g., you can't label a product as containing GMO anything, because customers might not want it! How in the bloody hell is that 'free market'? The whole point is to enable customers to buy from and reward the firms they like, and not to buy from and reward the firms they find, for lack of a better word, evil.
But no - the only metric any customer (did I say customer? I meant 'consumer' - barf!) is supposed to use to evaluate any and all transactions is the bottom line in dollars and cents (euros, rubles, renminbi, what have you). Other information is being stripped away from the transaction, and the result is crap products, slave labor, grotesque pollution, etc., usw.