Getting Closer to the Prize!
Last month I gave myself a week and a half to write a blog post for Notes on Liberty building off of Ross Emmett’s FEE article “What’s Right with Malthus” for the Thorpe-Freeman blog contest.
Yesterday, the contest judges posted their findings.
Congratulations to contest winner Adam Millsap on his piece on the gradual reemergence of the ordered chaos of city life.
And I am happy to announce that my post was mentioned as a runner-up! Not bad, if I do say so myself. With Brandon’s victory for the May contest, that makes for two recent mentions of Notes on Liberty by The Freeman‘s website.
Also mentioned was Babatunde Onabajo’s essay, also on Malthus, which I do recommend. In it, he describes why the business cycle, that is, prosperity interrupted by recession, could be considered a good thing. Endless wealth and growth might keep those driving it in good shape, but it can erode their character and leave those few who are unable to be a part of it to fend entirely for themselves. If those with the most to share (freely, not stolen from them through fraud or force, of course) are unable to sympathize with the less fortunate, what reason would they ever have to help them?
Getting Closer to Utopia!
I found Onabajo’s arguments compelling, but I would like to offer two critiques. One slight, and one very slight. To be fair, the author was only permitted 1,000 words for his essay, so he could not have really gone into these points, even if he wanted to.
The first is that the business cycle needn’t always include what we think of as painful recessions and depressions. Ups and downs, sure; the market isn’t perfect. But nothing along the lines of 1907, 1920, 1929, 1973, 2000, or 2007. These were all the result of central banking and/or state interventionism. In a free market, gone global and unhindered by trade barriers, recessions (if you could even call them that) would tend to be far less severe. Depressions would probably be nonexistent. Using Onabajo’s arguments, this could eventually lead to moral decline. Endless prosperity for which fewer and fewer have any skin in the game (indirectly proportionate to the increase of the rate of growth) destroys character. From the ensuing ethical and intellectual decay, I would imagine that the result would be more calls for state-intervention, leading, in time, to more severe recessions. (Interestingly, there is a cycle even in what I just described. But it may be more akin to a modern-day anacyclosis than it is to the business cycle. I am not well versed in Public Choice Theory, but I would be surprised if it didn’t have some good insights into this matter.)
The other critique I have is that under ideal free market circumstances, the need for charity for those simply down on their luck (as opposed to the defenseless and the handicapped) would decrease due to an approximately equitable distribution of not just the bare necessities, but of basic comforts and common frivolities. Coupled with milder and milder recessions, this would mean that not only would there be fewer to sympathize and fewer to be sympathized with, but also far less need to sympathize. (That is, until moral degradation sets in, giving special interests the opportunity to call for state-intervention, leading to severe recessions and depressions.)