Saturday, April 16, 2016

CRAIG EDWARD KELSO, The Market Anarchist

There is an inherent danger in definitions, in linguistic trickery. Sometimes thinkers can be bogged down by slavishly keeping to strict wording. The problem is, of course, words are our slaves and not our masters. 

I admire logical consistency, reason. Rational thinking is my passion. The struggle to keep a thought afloat, to weave a syllogism all the way through, especially when it runs for pages and pages, is brave and rewarding for both author and reader. I do not wish to discourage such. In fact, I want to extend logic in the course of all my writing.

The compounding irritation is that writing in this manner can be something akin to a wordy math problem. It isn't so much satisfying to read as it is headache inducing. 

I prefer writers who can both maintain a strict reasoning along side artistry. Victor Hugo straddles this line well, though admittedly he is more on the Romantic side. But he reaches deep into the reader's head, and yet can push the story arc along, keeping the plot in firm grasp all the while coloring with words.

It's a delicate endeavor.

A market, then, is really the sum total of various human interactions. Formal markets are easy to spot, especially in neighborhood grocery concerns and the growing trend of local boutique farmers gathering in parking lots. 

For sure those are markets.

Markets are also less formal, comprising everything from basic interchanges of language to even more abstract notions of swapping ideas.

In short, human life is a grand market.

Markets must always and everywhere be voluntarily chosen.

At no time does a market contain any form of coercion.

The two key ideas, markets are what make human interactions meaningful and, that such interactions, to be considered a market, must be free from compulsion, are fundamental to understand why preserving markets ought to be a primary goal among serious people.

Quibbles inevitably arise about all human interactions constituting a market. What might not be a considered market? Here we bump into the earlier warning. I wouldn't want to reduce my marriage, for example, to a market, or how a child's Christening in the Anglican Church constitutes market behavior. There seems to be wild generalization happening! 


All of these occurrences, however, exist within markets. They're largely emergent happenings, spontaneous, freely chosen, and so, loosely, of course, they too fit nicely within my above definition. 

Where most will trip up is in the definition of coercion and why that's part of a discussion about markets, much less a fundamental premise in my estimation. Yet without humans freely choosing to interact, a market cannot be said to exist. Forced interaction is prison, it's top-down, paternal. No real trade can happen due to the very point of trade: to exchange value.

Value itself is arrived at through the process of choice. Choice can only be made in the meaningful sense when the person involved believes herself to be free of undesired influences of the coercive variety. Sure, prisoners can indeed make markets within such an environment, but, there again, the defining characteristics will be evident ... though the participants are ultimately rats in a cage.

Markets are seemingly chaotic, random happenings that give way to order, to refinement, to progress. In the Smithian sense, markets arrive because of the necessity humans have to overcome their natural state: nudity, starvation, ignorance. 

Should anyone wish to avoid any of the three, she will have to find someone with whom to trade. One of the most intriguing, fulfilling curiosities about human societies is how not even the smartest person to have ever lived could survive for long alone. That Galtian persona could not possibly enjoy even a modicum of rudimentary modern life. There isn't enough time for him to learn, much less master, tasks from home building to plumbing to asphalt laying to erecting a combustible engine ... much less time to gather and cure food. Heck, it even takes two people to bring Galt into existence. 

The lesson is instructive. 

Humans depend upon one another, and as such we should want their very best. We want the smarties to have enough leisure time to pursue their passions. In order for this to happen, less smart, less capable, by only way of comparison within the various fields of human endeavor, are then tasked with innumerable ways to better life ... themselves extending far beyond their natural state.

Force interferes with this delicate process. Coercion creates resentment by those who are made to interact whereas they might not have otherwise. Force muddies clear market waters, causing distrust and cartel alliances.

There are many other problems philosophically with compulsion, but the case is relatively easy to make.

What likely happens is most folks won't consider artificial intervention within a market to be force. It's often hard to see. Politicians, themselves coercive actors who trade on bullying, are among the most grievous interlopers within peaceful market interactions. They extend themselves into a gathering, pitting parties against one another as management and labor, customer and proprietor, this group versus that group.

It is little wonder such disdain exists for simple, peaceful interaction. We're raised to believe humans are anything but noble, anything but moral, waiting to reach out and crush the other man at the slightest provocation. Without a Great Man, a politician, over-seeing human behavior, calling balls and strikes, picking winners and losers, society will implode seemingly over night.

That's a curious, and widely held, kind of unsupported cynicism. If most, or even a healthy percentage, of people were chomping at the bit to strike everyone else down, life as we know it simply could not exist. No market anywhere would function, much less basic order.

And empirically we know that's simply not the case. 

The truth is, humans are good, and are the only creatures capable of being good. The truth is, people work best when they're operating of their own accord, of their own volition. The truth is, the market of human choice is the engine of the world. Market anarchism, if you will, a freely occurring market, is the source of all beauty in our lives.

And I mean it.


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