Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Let Go and Let the Market

About 5 years ago I wrote an essay, "Let Go and Let the Market," articulating a philosophy that relies completely on market action, with no resort to natural rights or any specific ethical system. This essay had very limited distribution, but a week ago I stumbled upon a Web site that not only had an electronic copy of my effort, but an extensive critique, Market Driven Government. There is also a link to my original document, Let Go and Let the Market.

Interestingly, my critic seems to have understood my arguments quite well - something that encourages me in the sense that what I write is comprehensible. His primary argument against my view is that it does not include God - specifically a Christian God. The reality is that if people found that "Christ and His Way" supplied the moral directive that led to their greatest happiness it would become the ethical system of a free society. If not, only its imposition on an unwilling populace will make it a reality.

Dr. Ashier ignores the fact that Christian Europe had endless wars and cruelty until the rise of commerce. Voltaire and others noticed that trade reduced religious passions and that Christians (of all stripes), Jews and Moslems could all meet peacefully in the marketplace. Their interest in improving their living conditions and increasing their wealth quenched their thirst for the blood the infidels with whom they dealt.

One thing that I want to clarify, if someone reads the critique in order to make the decision to read my essay, is that identity chips are only a possible, and optional, method by which we might raise confidence that the person we are dealing with is who he says he is (biometrics might be a preferred method). In The Evolution of Cooperation, by Robert Axelrod, the length of expected interactions increases the chance of cooperation in the Prisoners' Dilemma game. Ensuring identity tends to expand the length of those interactions by allowing a potential consumer or producer to access an individual's history of cooperation with others.

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Jon said...

This really didn't make any sense to me. If the market is whatever people say property is then wouldn't modern governments just be a product of the market?

The same argument made against universal ethics seems to be the same argument one could make against the market as proposed in your paper, i.e., a lion isn't going to recognize that you own yourself.

Brian J. Gladish said...

@Jon... Thanks for reading "Let Go and Let the Market" - you are probably one of just a couple of dozen people who have. It was an early, more naive version of what I believe now, although I wouldn't consider it inconsistent.

I think of the unmodified market as the result of all actions - voluntary or not, human or not - and that it embodies an evolutionary system that operates in a scientific manner - not institutionally, with peer review journals and academic societies, but as a process. Just as science sometimes generates a bad theory (phlogistin, the aether, Lamarkian evolution, etc.), the market can generate a bad theory. Modern government is such a bad theory.

Now, just as science does not prohibit a bad theory, neither does the market. In the market, bad theories last as long as people generally perceive them as serving their interests. An advantage of the free market is that profit is a clear indicator of a success to do so, while loss is a clear indicator of failure.

Let me know if you still have questions, and I'll do my best to respond.