A “free market” refers to an economic system in which the prices for goods and services are determined by the forces of supply and demand, without government intervention or regulation. In a free market, individuals and businesses interact with each other voluntarily, and transactions occur based on mutual agreement between buyers and sellers.

Key characteristics of a free market include:

1. **Private Ownership:** In a free market, individuals and private entities have the right to own, control, and dispose of property, including resources, businesses, and capital.

2. **Voluntary Exchange:** Economic transactions are voluntary and based on the choices of buyers and sellers. Participants engage in trade because they believe it will benefit them.

3. **Competition:** Free markets thrive on competition. Multiple buyers and sellers compete with each other to obtain the best prices, quality, and conditions for goods and services.

4. **Profit Motive:** Participants in a free market are motivated by the pursuit of profit. Businesses seek to maximize profits, while consumers seek the best value for their money.

5. **Minimal Government Intervention:** In a true free market, there is minimal government involvement. Governments may play a role in enforcing contracts and protecting property rights, but they do not typically set prices, control production, or heavily regulate economic activities.

6. **Price Determination:** Prices are determined by the interaction of supply and demand. When demand for a good or service exceeds its supply, prices tend to rise, and when supply exceeds demand, prices tend to fall.

7. **Flexibility and Innovation:** Free markets are known for their adaptability and capacity for innovation. Businesses can respond quickly to changes in consumer preferences, technological advancements, and market conditions.

It’s important to note that while the concept of a free market represents an idealized economic system, pure free markets are rare in practice. Most economies have some degree of government intervention or regulation to address market failures, protect consumers, ensure fair competition, and provide public goods and services.

Various economic systems exist along a spectrum, ranging from free-market capitalism to mixed economies, where elements of both free markets and government intervention coexist. The balance between free-market principles and government intervention can vary based on the economic and political philosophies of a particular country or region.