The following is the fifth paragraph of Barry Germansky’s op-ed Tea Party Heroes Ron and Rand Paul Make for a Bitter Brew, from earlier this year, interspersed with my rebuttals from within the last few days.
BARRY GERMANSKY: Of course, nothing about the free market is “voluntary.”
HENRY MOORE: I don’t see what is so non-voluntary about a system in which, if we apply your narrow definition (though not your other arguments) of what it is, absolutely no one is forced to participate. Nor do I see it in a system in which most people, given the more accurate definition, choose to participate anyways, whether they fully recognize the fact or not.
Sure, maybe those that do not participate will starve, but that is more a proof of the free market’s necessity than it is one of its supposed despotism. Some might say, “of course they won’t starve; there is, after all, such a thing as mutual aid.” Well, it works just fine in small enough, homogenous enough, communities. And there’s nothing about a free market system that precludes their existence.
In fact, such alternative systems are merely market choices, like, get this, Coca-Cola, Staples, Barnes and Nobles, cable television, marijuana, Samsung, microwaves, Taco Bell, and going to the movies on Friday night. So you are right, in a sense, that a market system is not voluntary. But it is not because, as you suggest, anyone is forced to participate in a particular activity or within a particular set or range of activities, the exceptions being personal self-inhibition of violence and fraud. And this last point is no contradiction. They are the exceptions that prove the rule. For were violence and fraud to be permissible, that would be an even greater contradiction for a system based on voluntary choice. As would a prohibition on defense against these things.
So long as you are able to participate, you already are participating, even if you pretend you are not by going off into the middle of nowhere to play at being a collectivist/communitarian/egalitarian. Nothing short of squashing voluntary choice, within a given society or region or group, can alter this fact. The only way to not participate, then; rather than choosing not to, which is inherently impossible because it is a choice and this means participation; is for someone else, “the people” perhaps, to take choice away.
There are, of course, several layers. If someone takes away your choice in one area, you may have it still in another. But its removal from one sector will not be so clean and predictable as to not affect the other sectors. There is no amount of expertise in existence able to sanitize and predict all possible outcomes of a policy, let alone with time enough to prevent adverse consequences.
So we come to that old charge: technocracy. That is what in essence, in its worst possible form, you advocate. And No one denies that every field has its experts, or that those experts shouldn’t be the ones we look to when a solution to a problem is desired. But even experts, intelligent, credentialed, respected, are subject to the downsides of human nature, that is revealed at its worst when great power is involved
BARRY GERMANSKY: It functions by its own set of rules.
HENRY MOORE: And so, the only rules are that you can not dictate the rules to someone else. This is the Golden Rule, the non-aggression principle. This means, perhaps ironically, that you can not keep someone from allowing themselves to be dictated to if that is their choice, even if, unbeknownst to them, that choice is a detriment to themselves. Only where this detriment spills over to others, and there is no escape from it, is it in any way their concern.
BARRY GERMANSKY: The Pauls treat the free market as truly “free,” but are simply ignoring the fact that it is nothing more than another restrictive ideological construct.
HENRY MOORE: What are these restrictions? Restrictions against positive rights and entitlements! Be they blatant or subtle. Is this what you truly hate about a free market? That no one is entitled to what others may more properly make claim to because it is in their possession, was created by their faculties, or came to them first? The alternative is a also a restrictive ideological, where creators and earners and receivers of gifts, and even the “fortunate,” are the ones upon whom restrictions are placed.
BARRY GERMANSKY: They happen to prefer it to other theories, but that does not make the free market a universal fact of life.
HENRY MOORE: Universal as in “accepted everywhere,” or universal as in “natural?” If the former, there is no disagreement here, though I wonder why you even bring it up. No one is making such outlandish claims. And if the latter, I am tempted to say that there is something very natural about the underlying foundations of a choice-based system, though am not so presumptuous as to say everything to do with it is. And to the extent that it is not, I fail to recognize this as a automatically a problem. Is a stone preferable to a hammer when driving a nail?
BARRY GERMANSKY: But just watch how the Pauls, in their unique brand of economic collectivism, dismiss all non-economic concerns and aspects of human existence. One swipe of their wrists makes the public’s multi-faceted social concerns disappear from the political agenda.
HENRY MOORE: Again. Not true. What you are saying here is that they ignore everything that does not have something to do with economics. Elsewhere, you have made the case that the Pauls try to make every issue an economic one. This is a contradiction. You make two conflicting statements. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, neither one is entirely accurate.
The Pauls know that there is more to “the” (collectivize much?) public agenda than economics/economy how Barry Germansky narrowly, arbitrarily defines it. And they also know that the more literal definition of economics/economy is inherently broad. As I have said before, they both mean, “household customs.” Another word for economy/economics, catallaxy/catallactics, admittedly coined by self-proclaimed free marketeers, means, all at once, from the Greek, “to exchange,” “to admit in the community,” and “to make friends.”
I implore you to please tell me what human activity, the people’s multi-faceted social concerns made manifest, besides theft, murder, rape, and other violent crimes, falls outside of one of these definitions! In fact, even these, to some degree, might be considered to be contained within that definition, because “the people” as a collective entity have, at times, democratically decided these things are necessary means to noble ends, virtues even. No less so than individual tyrants or coteries of oligarchs have done much the same. Unfortunate in all cases.
No doubt that there is the issue of semantics to be resolved between the Pauls and you Barry, yet I would have thought that one such as yourself, one so concerned about abstractions and contradictions, one so highly intellectual and logical and educated, would at least learn how others define words that they use before you use your own faulty definition, apply it to their arguments, and then destroy the same. I will not even tell you what fallacy that is because its name has become so cliche.