The free market wasn't even in the state that day!

And besides, it acted in self-defense.

I was reminded of this gag about an attorney trying to exonerate his client along several fronts while listening to libertarians both:

1) Attribute everything good that has happened in history to the free market; and
2) Deflecting all attacks on the market for creating monopolies, inequality, pollution, and so on by noting that a true free market has never existed.

So which is it, folks?

17 comments:

  1. To be honest, it isn't much different from your argument for the state by inevitability. They're both bullshit arguments that mix the positive with the normative.

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    1. Joe, if I may suggest a better way to look at it: ought implies can. In other words, with regard to "the state" (I prefer to say "government", but that's just me), there is always a type of law and that that is what libertarians ought to be focusing on since the philosophy's definition of "the state" is too idiosyncratic.

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  2. A term needs to be coined for this phenomenon wherein people's heads are stuck in a market bubble and can only see market interactions. I'd call it "economism", but a more specific one is needed in cases like these. "Marketism" maybe? How about "marketitis"?

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    1. How about we just call it libertarianism?

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  3. That's funny Joe, because I have never made any such argument!

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  4. So which is it, folks?

    Both.

    There has never been a society with a completely free market. However, some societies have come closer than others, and some areas within a given society are closer than others. So I don't see any contradiction with attributing good things to the free market while attributing bad things to deviations from it.

    By way of analogy, Christians have done a lot of good in the world over the last 2,000 years, and also a lot of evil. The good has largely been in keeping with the ideals of Christianity and, in many cases (I would argue) is even due to the fact the people in question were Christians. On the other hand, the evil done by Christians has been (largely) done contrary to the ideals of the religion.

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  5. So which is it, folks?

    Both.

    There has never been a society with a completely free market. However, some societies have come closer than others, and some areas within a given society are closer than others. So I don't see any contradiction with attributing good things to the free market while attributing bad things to deviations from it.

    By way of analogy, Christians have done a lot of good in the world over the last 2,000 years, and also a lot of evil. The good has largely been in keeping with the ideals of Christianity and, in many cases (I would argue) is even due to the fact the people in question were Christians. On the other hand, the evil done by Christians has been (largely) done contrary to the ideals of the religion.

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  6. What's wrong with saying, to the extant that good things have happened, it's due to the limited amount of economic freedom we've had, and to the extent that bad things have happened, it's due to the extent to which economic freedom is limited? That may be incorrect, but isn't it at least consistent?

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    1. Problem for you, chap: Treating "economic freedom" as if it were a coherent category.

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  7. Josiah and MathMan, OK, but is there a reason other than sheer assertion to say that? If we look at the actual evidence, all very wealthy countries ever have governments in the range of 20% - 50% of the economy, while all countries near 0% or near 100% have been very poor indeed. So doesn't the actual evidence weigh a ton more heavily towards a Goldilocks explanation: we need the "just right" mix of markets and regulation?

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    1. Well, you can throw the whole spectrum you just posited off kilter by affirming the claim that the definition given to markets is done with regulation.

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    2. Most countries that have large public sectors only moved in that direction AFTER they became wealthy. There have been a host of studies on the optimal size of government relative to growth rates, and a wide range of results, but on average they find somewhere in the 20%-ish range.

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    3. "Most countries that have large public sectors only moved in that direction AFTER they became wealthy."

      AFTER which they usually became even wealthier.

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    4. "AFTER which they usually became even wealthier."

      But at a slower rate.

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    5. "But at a slower rate."

      I just browsed US GDP growth statistics and don't see it. 1881-1891 was fantastic, but 1950-2000 beats any 50 year stretch of the 19th century.

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  8. If you push the "good things are due to the market, bad things are due to government intervention" line of thinking too far, it does become quite implausible. All I'm saying is that there is nothing contradictory about the position.

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