Markets Are The New Culture
I do love A Bit of Fry & Laurie. This is quite a brilliant sketch, whatever you make of its politics. Maybe not quite as good as their free-market-police bit, but right up there.
Of course, market forces really are a fiction. A mutually agreed upon one, to be sure, but only as tangible as we allow them to be. Markets are the new culture, that other mutually agreed upon fiction, and maybe an evolutionary step forward. Maybe just one step among many.
In my most idealistic moments, I’m something of a stateless-socialist. Devolve all that power down and implement some Utopian system of mutually-agreed-upon norms so that everyone can exist side by side in peace and harmony, prosperous and untainted by violence and power.
In my more sober moments I’m a utilitarian pragmatist who believes that power is as inevitable and inextinguishable as energy. Power is quicksilver and won’t soak properly into the earth. You pour it out of one cup and it fills up another. Best to spread it thin then, but how?
The trend toward more liberal forms of government has been a good one: power taken from the oppressive state and given to the people. But even then, markets can no more achieve power equality than governments can achieve income equality. We need winners and losers, after all.
So we seek to strike a balance, and all this talk of the private sector being the only place where “real” jobs are created is just propaganda, no more compelling than blaming The Corporations for every ungodly thing under the sun. If I generalize and stereotype it’s because generalizations and stereotypes are the currency of political discourse, and always have been.
I suppose we could look at government and markets as merely means to ends, disabuse ourselves of first principles altogether. Take the technocrat’s razor to all our problems and forget, briefly, the human flaws that will certainly poison even the most dispassionate batch of technocrats.
Of course, even if we somehow agreed upon the ends, agreeing upon the means is even trickier.
All of which, truth be told, is just a way of me saying we should laugh at ourselves and our business and political leaders and our systems of government and our institutions as loudly and as often as possible. Maybe nothing will ever change as much as we’d like it to, or stay the same as much as we wish it could. But that’s just the hard truth of society.
We left the wilds and came to the city and the fields, planted crops and built civilizations, and it’s this proximity that keeps us safe and drives us mad. Now that we’re here, the endless argument about how to live with one another will spin on ad infinitum.
In moments of political burn-out (such as this long rut I’ve been in) we can comfort ourselves that at least lately most of our political disagreements have been hammered out with words and scribbles instead of guns and bombs.