(Page 2 of 2)
Wolfe is right to be concerned about “the highly organized and concentrated forms taken by capitalism in the contemporary world.” That system does indeed undermine autonomy and equality. Where he goes wrong is in equating the “capitalist” economy with the free market. Thus he is guilty of what Kevin Carson calls “vulgar liberalism” and Roderick Long calls “left-conflationism”: attributing the evils of corporatism to its antithesis, the freed market. (It’s the mirror image of the view that defends business conduct in the corporate state on the grounds that the free market wouldn’t permit such conduct if it did not efficiently serve consumers.)
Contrary to Wolfe, fully “removing government from the marketplace”—that is, abolishing privileges as well as regulations—would not foster dependency. Rather, it would eliminate the myriad government-maintained barriers to competition from worker-managed firms, partnerships, and self-employment. Those barriers increase people’s dependency on the arbitrary will of others. Freeing the market would end the monetary manipulation and bailout authority that encourage banks and other firms to take undue risks that subject workers to business cycles and prolonged unemployment. In sum, a freed market would mean the end to all the privileges that produce the evils to which Wolfe rightly objects but misattributes to market forces.
“Man in any complex society,” F. A. Hayek wrote in “Individualism: True and False,” “can have no choice but between adjusting himself to what to him must seem the blind forces of the social process and obeying the orders of a superior. So long as he knows only the hard discipline of the market, he may well think the direction by some other intelligent human brain preferable; but, when he tries it, he soon discovers that the former still leaves him at least some choice, while the latter leaves him none, and that it is better to have a choice between unpleasant alternatives than being coerced into one.”
If the alternative we face is between grappling with market forces and trusting a ruling elite to orchestrate just social outcomes, anyone concerned with autonomy and equality should choose the market. A benevolent, peaceful state is not on the menu.
This article originally appeared at The Freeman.