Obama signed an Executive Order (EO) on Friday that affects American businesses and the free market (what’s left of it, anyway).

Obama has ordered the FCC to open up set-top cable boxes to competition, and he more broadly ordered executive agencies to search for ways that they can ensure competition among free market businesses and corporations.

The set-top box order centers on the way that cable companies lease these boxes to consumers, charging a monthly fee for their use.  Harkening back to the days when people had to rent phones from the telephone company, the order intends to correct the problem as was done in telephone case.

The White House writes:

That’s why today the President announced that his Administration is calling on the FCC to open up set-top cable boxes to competition. This will allow for companies to create new, innovative, higher-quality, lower-cost products. Instead of spending nearly $1,000 over four years to lease a set of behind-the-times boxes, American families will have options to own a device for much less money that will integrate everything they want — including their cable or satellite content, as well as online streaming apps — in one, easier-to-use gadget.

On its face, this doesn’t seem to be a problem and may even be a good idea for those still using cable, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The White House goes on to announce further, broader action following a 60-day executive agency investigation into ways each agency can enforce competition in the free market.

But we’re not stopping there. In many ways, the set-top box is the mascot for a new initiative we’re launching today. That box is a stand-in for what happens when you don’t have the choice to go elsewhere—for all the parts of our economy where competition could do more.

Across our economy, too many consumers are dealing with inferior or overpriced products, too many workers aren’t getting the wage increases they deserve, too many entrepreneurs and small businesses are getting squeezed out unfairly by their bigger competitors, and overall we are not seeing the level of innovative growth we would like to see. And a big piece of why that happens is anti-competitive behavior—companies stacking the deck against their competitors and their workers. We’ve got to fix that, by doing everything we can to make sure that consumers, middle-class and working families, and entrepreneurs are getting a fair deal.

That’s why today, the President announced a broader new initiative through an Executive Order that calls on departments and agencies to make further progress through specific, pro-competition executive actions that empower and inform consumers, workers, and entrepreneurs. In 60 days, agencies will report back on specific areas where we can make additional progress.

Competition and the free market are not the only goals; Obama is also interested in advancing his agenda, including health care.

The text of the EO states that “competitive markets also help advance national priorities, such as the delivery of affordable health care, energy independence, and improved access to fast and affordable broadband. Competitive markets also promote economic growth, which creates opportunity for American workers and encourages entrepreneurs to start innovative companies that create jobs.”

According to The Blaze, Josh Earnest rambled incoherently about the EO saying:

“The question here is less about more regulation and less regulation, and more about what can we do to provide the market with an incentive to pursue more competition and more innovation and more savings for consumers and more economic expansion,” Earnest said Friday. “In some cases, that does mean responsible decisions about reducing of regulations. That’s not always the case, but it often is. But, again, I don’t want to pre-judge what the conclusions of the agencies review might be.”

Watch Obama explain his rationale for ordering the federal government to manage competition in the free market:

Yahoo News reports on the above video from their site:

“Competition is good for consumers,” Obama told Yahoo Finance in an interview at the White House on Thursday. “And ultimately it’s good for business. That’s the way the free market works. The more competition we have, the more products, services, innovation takes place.”

. . . . “The idea is that whether we’re talking about financial services, whether we’re talking about products like the box on your cable TV — across the board if we have more players who can potentially participate, fewer barriers to entry, the rules aren’t rigged, then you get more people trying to get your business and you get better products at cheaper prices,” he said.

“I think the general theme is that American business is the cornerstone of our economy,” Obama said. “Our private sector thrives and innovation is the hallmark of the United States. That’s our big comparative advantage with other countries. But it starts to become less effective, and reduces both what consumers get and the kind of innovation we generate if we get closed systems or if people are gaming the system.”

As the Blaze notes, however, this sort of federal government meddling in the free market, particularly from such an ideological president, opens the door for cronyism.

However, free market competition is not something that can be imposed by the federal government, said Clyde Wayne Crews, CEI’s vice president for policy and author of the think tank’s study comparing regulations under Bush and Obama.

“The implication is that government action compels more competition in the private sector, but when government action only restrains and interference reduces competition,” Crews told TheBlaze, “an executive order to compel competition will attract cronyism.”

Crews explained that customer decisions and market pressures drive competition, innovation and ultimately lower consumer prices.

Given the bizarre DOJ raid on Gibson Guitar in 2011, the NLRB going after Boeing that same year, the multi-agency raid on Lumber Liquidators, and the IRS’s targeting of thousands of small businesses owned by conservatives, there may be more to worry about here than cronyism.