Since the financial meltdown, article after article has talked about the future of the “free market system” or “free market economics”. None of these articles seems to recognize that a “free market” is the same as a “free people”. What is a free market except people freely doing what they want to do?
To the extent people engage in economic transactions, which is to say, people interacting with other people every day, they are the free market. So when people talk about replacing the free market with something else, they are talking about replacing free people with non-free people.
It’s easy to understand why socialists use the term “free market” because it disguises the fact that they want to take freedom away from people. It’s less easy to understand why conservatives let socialists get away with this verbal slight-of-hand.