Continuing on the theme of Red Toryism, ED writes:
It’s true, the free market is a system sans morality, a system of personal choices and determinations, and our political leaders should do their utmost to make sure that all the players within it are playing by the rules. But the notion that markets are “amoral” and thus not to be trusted is nonsense. Blond’s distrust of markets is entirely misplaced, and would be better served by a distrust of the state’s distortion of those markets.
Br. Kain then proceeds to correctly point to all manner of state-activity inducing monpolies. On that point I agree with him, particularly in his critique of Philip Blond’s over-valorization of all things local (which themselves can become monopolistic) to the larger scale.
That said, I think there’s something missing from this view of things. Yes political leaders as (more or less) representing the values of the people should try to hold market players in check. I’m not sure they realistically can do so in a globalized capital system, but that’s a controversial point that I’ll leave others to decide. Assuming they can, they should.
But what if the rules are wrongly written or non-existent?
Free market practice may be a system of personal choice and determinations but personal choices can have meta-personal (i.e. social, environmental) consequences. The school of thought I hold on this point says that these extra-personal elements, these “externalities” are definitionally not internalized to our legal structure. They are not seen and therefore not protected nor evaluated.
In other words, it’s not so much that markets are amoral as that they are not bound within a rule set that forces the system to account for its inherent weaknesses instead of off-loading them (i.e. describing them as “externalities”). Someone or something always pays the price for “externalization.” And not in the someone’s trash is another man’s treasure kinda way.
As a very basic way of stating it, there is no mechanism within capitalism (as practiced to date, going on 300 years at least now) to deal with the following:
1. equitable (not equal) distribution of the wealth created by capitalism. (Since capitalism is the to date most efficient form of human transaction and wealth creation this is a central issue).
2. calculating the environmental impact of production/consumption.
These lacunae are only compounded by the dominance of an economics that is overly quantitative to the large exclusion/neglect of qualitative measures. (A charge laid at the feet of both Neo-Keynesian and more libertarian/free market economic points of view.) e.g. The GDP/GNP (Gross National/Domestic Product) only factors in aggregate stuff. It doesn’t distinguish between said stuff. More=better. Even if the “more” in question would typically be considered extremely negative–e.g. more people getting sick and therefore consuming more care. Metrics such as the Genuine Progress Index seek to offer a better alternative (though they are generally not without their own probleems).
Nevertheless something like the GPI can’t really get at points one or two. Points one and two have been dealth with–to the degree they have–in post-industrial societies largely through the mechanism of state power (whether local, regional, or federal in nature). Various regulatory frameworks are set up which often, as ED points out, end up favoring or essentially subsidizing various companies or business entities over others.
Since the various legal regimes are haphazard, often mutual contradictory, or unequally enforced, then this creates all kinds of negative outcomes, what ED calls “state distortions of the market.” Hayek & others bulit entire careers/theories from pointing out the way in which the state (or any individual) can not predict all the various outcomes of any intervention in the market.
But that the state is (generally but not entirely speaking) the wrong entity to be dealing with problems #1 and #2 does not mean problems 1 and 2 do not exist.
I have this crazy notion that there is a point where Red Toryism and the kind of libertarian ideas ED is promoting could work together. I don’t think they ever will honestly, but were they to, here’s how Peter Barnes imagines it taking place in the context of land reform. He’s later applied this basic thinking to the air (i.e. climate/carbon policy). The key is public property and its defense.
The corporation as it is currently legally defined and enacted is considered a private entity (note ED’s language of “personal choices and determinations”) but it is a private entity who has social/public effects. The bigger the corporation the bigger the effects.
The state in Western countries has tried to deal problems 1 and 2 (but mostly one) through the redistribution of income. The question of the success/failure of that topic is one unto itself–a particularly politicized one. But trying to veer away from that landmine, it can be said that whatever one’s determination of such redistributive policies, they are unsustainable. As unsustainable as the current form of capitalism (since both come from the same era’s thinking and practice).
Again just because the responses to problems 1 and 2 have been mistaken in many regards, does not mean the market will solve problems 1 and 2. The market will continue to create problems 1 and 2. They are in the DNA of the market. It is, if you like, a design flaw. Or if not a design flaw, then a social political flaw that we do not have the market properly bound within a contained space–a point on which Adam Smith was adamant by the way.
Instead of just trying to overturn “bigness” by the creating localized monoplies–a point on which I am entirely in agreement with ED versus Blond–Red Toryism should focus instead on the creation of this third leg to the social, economic, political stool: the commons. Public property. It would be more true to Red Toryism’s roots in distributism.
It’s emphasis on property should appeal to libertarians (notice that Peter Barnes’ idea comes from John Stuart Mill).
Or as the kiddies would say:
Red and blue makes purple.