The free market is a mythical economy in which there is no interference by the government to regulate the market in any way and the government is required to create, preserve and promote free markets . This would theoretically result in allowing businesses to emit as much pollution including toxic waste as they wanted, gain complete monopolistic control of any sector of the economy they wished, charge whatever they can get, for whatever they can convince us we want, and avoid paying any Taxes. This is the conservative's wet dream.
Free markets are also supposed to have no barriers to entry or exit (whether from business or government), and perfect competition. Businesses have a tendency to try use coercion to manipulate supply and demand in order to monopolize markets for their outputs while maximizing competition to supply their inputs.
Don't believe them
So when conservatives and libertarians go on till their blue in the face about the wonders of a free market, don't believe them. They actually want the government to keep helping business at the expense of the consumer, worker, taxpayer and potential competitor. The dirty truth is, without government business would not get free roads, cheap Water and power, an educated workforce, or a safe and secure environment in which to do business. Free markets are only free to business, and increasingly they're only free to Big Business. Government spends horrendous piles of taxpayer cash to open new markets to Capital Investment, keep those markets open to investment, protect free movement, and protect that investment and the profits from that investment.
Free Markets may be relatively free to business and finance, but they're anything but free to the people and governments which must provide them. They may be the greatest redistribution of wealth scheme ever conceived.
Liberals prefer markets efficiently serving society
So, what do Liberals want? Liberals actually prefer Freer Markets serving society. The difference between Liberals and those on the far right, is that Liberals won't pretend that markets can be created or maintained for free, or quickly, or easily, and wont pretend that free markets are always the most efficient provider of goods and services. Sure, we could do what the right wingnuts recommend and eliminate all government provided protection for individuals and community interests and throw markets open to any behavior capitalists conceive. That's not the answer Liberals advocate. The answers Liberals advocate are more balanced. More balanced between common interests, personal freedom and business interests in the short-term. More committed to promoting competition, transparency, anti-corruption and an education and distribution system that enables individuals to compete in the short-term, in order to regain the advantages of a freer market economy in the long term.
"Power in the hands of great businessmen does not make me apprehensive, unless it springs out of advantages they have not created for themselves. Big business is not dangerous because it is big, but because it's bigness is an unwholesome inflation created by privileges and exemptions it ought not to enjoy. While competition cannot be created by statutory enactment, it can in large measure be revived by changing the laws and forbidding the practices that killed it, and by enacting laws which will give it heart and occasion again. We can arrest and prevent monopoly. It has assumed new shapes and adapted new processes in our time, but these are now being disclosed and can be dealt with."
1912 acceptance speech of Gov. Woodrow Wilson
Republicans are quick to condemn poor people for wanting food, housing and healthcare, but want the markets those same people pay for, fight and die for to be given to their rich businesses friends for Free. All people need food, housing and healthcare. When these things can be accessed by working, they need not be free. When, on the other hand, adequate food, housing and healthcare are not accessible to all, these things must be provided. If Republicans insist on a society which is unable to provide access to adequate food, housing and healthcare through employment, it is only proper that these things be provided to those in need.
Markets are in no way Free from cost, they must be opened and maintained with vast expenditures of gold and blood. Asking businesspeople to compensate the people who must create and maintain these markets by their good behavior and payment of part of their profits is in no way unjust or improper. If the system provided does not allow for universal access to food, housing and healthcare through employment, it is only just that those who most benefit from that system provide for those disadvantaged by it.
It is also worth pointing out that the lolbertarians who screech like street preachers about the "free market" are only actually referring to freedom for for-profit corporations, not for everyone else. A significant number of "free" marketeers oppose any rights relating to trade unions, and some actually agitate for their existence to be made illegal. Trade unions apparently "manipulate" the labour market, though apparently the existence of "corporate trade unions" like the CBI, NFIB, and USCC are, of course, completely different...
Conservative's lack of foresight
This is an example of the lack of foresight among conservatives. As conservative politicians seem perfectly prepared to sell out their charges in favour of corporate money, they cannot see that they are heading for a state of affairs in which elective officials will be irrelevant, as will the people they represent. A truly free market would lead to the rise of a single, incredibly resistant superpower which would pursue rash and harmful courses of action for the sake of avarice and profit (think British East India Company excesses that sparked the American revolution).
Corporate power, unlimited by government, would end government. Corporate control of Government of the people and by the people would end government for the people. But then, fiscal conservative politicians would much rather preach to the rest of us about the good they're doing while fondling the kickback in their pocket and getting a blowjob from beneath the podium.