“The Freer the Markets, the Freer the People”

Libertarianism and communism are theoretical opposites with a lot in common. Both theories originate from a system of ethics, both involve massive societal change, and the only way either of them work is if they are more important than the people they’re meant to serve. Despite it’s status as an extreme political view, libertarianism has been recently connecting with a larger voting base than the usual fringe group.

When the Tea Party is referred to in the media what they’re talking about are a series of protests that have been held since 2009 over several different issues by communities across the US. Since then, the movement has gained traction and Tea Party support was a considered factor in America’s recent elections.

From the Tea Party Patriots statement on their website “Our mission is to attract, educate, organize, and mobilize our fellow citizens to secure public policy consistent with our three core values of Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government and Free Markets.” This is a simplified version of what you’ll find on any libertarian party mandate, including the Canadian one.

Libertarianism holds as its ethical centre the individuals’ right to choose any action which doesn’t harm any other individual. It seems to exist simultaneously on the far right and far left of the traditional political scale. There is a sense that it is the common ground which will at last unite the political spectrum. That you are a libertarian if you believe in social liberties (ex. free speech, legalizing marijuana, human rights, etc.) but are also in favour of balancing the budget and keeping national debt under control. The problem is the method advocated for as the one which would solve all our problems if only we would give it a chance.

The method is capitalism, the only ultimate impartial adjudicator and a better solution than government. Those who are moral (who work hard) are guaranteed entrance into paradise (material wealth and happiness), those who are inherently bad (those who refuse to work) will be removed by the invisible hand of the free market. It argues that we are morally obligated to free the market because placing restrictions, regulations, on capitalism hampers our ability to solve the problems facing us as we move into the future. Those infatuated by this romantic ideology have a tendency to gloss over the probable realities that would face the majority of people while the market began to regulate itself.

Regulation against selling potentially dangerous products is an imperfect solution when compared with having all applicable research available to every consumer, but only when every consumer can be reasonably expected to use that information to protect themselves. Without a universal education system (paid for with taxes) to ensure citizens have a chance to understand the research methods used, and the scientific method in general, the ability to protect ourselves would quickly become the ability to choose the best insurance company.

Because this is a question of ethics those arguing for freeing the market aren’t particularly sympathetic to the political moderate’s disinterest in continually vetting and monitoring these insurance companies to ensure they will actually pay up if the worst were to happen. The majority of people would rather live their lives than endure constant litigation, but it’s because they’ve given in to mediocrity. It’s not that this isn’t plainly visible; the moderate is blind whereas the radical can see.

As the skilled and intelligent rose to the top through their navigation of the market there would inevitably be those who try to take that which they can’t earn by force. The application of force is usually seen as one of the few appropriate uses for government. They would be caught, in the name of public protection and exiled from the trading arena; sent to jail. Prisoners would be unlikely to cooperate with the expectation that they fund their own incarceration; the prisons would become labour camps used as a deterrent to subdue the population into behaving morally.

Without taxation to fund rehabilitation in the form of education, mental/physical healthcare and some kind of work placement program for these people the labour camps would eventually overflow. Libertarianism and communism both share the us versus them mentality which provides their members with a compelling argument for the death penalty – We are good/moral/human, they are bad/criminals/monsters. Free choice becomes a moral imperative more important than human life, as equality has been valued in communism in the past.

Our current (regulated and taxed) capitalistic society is based on the idea that regardless of the circumstances of our birth we should all have the opportunity to create something using our skills with which to fund our continued existence and happiness. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we’ve come up with so far and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Libertarianism is the philosophy of maximum freedom but in the name of a moral precept it campaigns against legislation that’s actually working to provide freedom from fear, hunger and disease. Refining, updating and maintaining this legislation should be news, not arguments stemming from whether taxation is theft or not.

At the heart of what Ayn Rand pointed out, when she loudly championed capitalism in her books and essays, was very simply that people don’t like to be oppressed. The wealthy make sacrifices to get where they are, pay their share of the taxes and are unanimously regarded to be greedy jerks by a large number of people while at the same time being expected to behave as pillars of society. The eventual submission to the idea that government is stealing their money to pay for its inefficient bureaucracies and line the pockets of corrupt politicians is unsurprising. It’s just not any more correct than the assertion that because private property is often fought and killed over that private property shouldn’t exist.

Libertarianism pretends to be the hard truth we’re all just not ready to hear. The opposite of an authoritarian, oppressive government isn’t the free market, it’s government capable of articulate debate, problem solving, and rational compromise.

1 Comment on "“The Freer the Markets, the Freer the People”"

  1. The fundamental flaw in the push for unfettered markets is the fact that this has led to a fettered market on its own. Antitrust law prevents one or a few companies from getting into a position in which they can set prices for the entire industry. In some sectors, especially agriculture, small-scale entrepreneurs have little chance of breaking even under the current conditions.

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