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In economics, a free market is an economic system in which the prices of goods and services are determined by supply and demand expressed by sellers and buyers. Such markets, as modeled, operate without the intervention of government or any other external authority. Proponents of the free market as a normative ideal contrast it with a regulated market, in which a government intervenes in supply and demand by means of various methods such as taxes or regulations. In an idealized free market economy, prices for goods and services are set solely by the bids and offers of the participants.
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Scholars contrast the concept of a free market with the concept of a coordinated market in fields of study such as political economy, new institutional economics, economic sociology and political science. All of these fields emphasize the importance in currently existing market systems of rule-making institutions external to the simple forces of supply and demand which create space for those forces to operate to control productive output and distribution. Although free markets are commonly associated with capitalism in contemporary usage and popular culture, free markets have also been components in some forms of market socialism.
Historically, free market has also been used synonymously with other economic policies. For instance proponents of laissez-faire capitalism may refer to it as free market capitalism because they claim it achieves the most economic freedom. In practice, governments usually intervene to reduce externalities such as greenhouse gas emissions; although they may use markets to do so, such as carbon emission trading.
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