2013-08-01

A Necessary Integration

One of the reasons I started blogging is that, beyond the fact that I have an opinion on a wide variety of topics, I feel that my opinions integrate. I may be wrong, but I at least entertain the delusion that mine is an all-encompassing philosophy in which the concepts I discuss today relate to the concepts I discussed yesterday in important, fundamental, systematic, and consistent ways. In turn, the things I discuss tomorrow will also relate to the things I discussed today and yesterday. (Indeed, I am writing this blog post two days in advance of its publication!)

When I wrote about the justification for the institution of property rights, that blog post had context. The "first layer of the contextual onion" was Kevin Vallier's post at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, but the longer-range context was an earlier post I wrote here on Stationary Waves about the changing arguments for market intervention. In that post, I offered the conjecture that perhaps one of the reasons why people who believe in market intervention hold this belief is because they feel more comfortable participating in the political process than in the market process.

Consider that conjecture in light of my post about property rights. There, I made the case that any transfer of property ownership must occur either by force or by trade. The parallel here is that "force" corresponds to the political process while "trade" obviously corresponds to the market process.

The ideas I'm conveying across multiple blog posts integrate together. One who feels more comfortable agreeing by committee that a particular course of action is the one we will all follow from here on out will naturally resist the concept of allowing people the freedom to trade to the point that many of us wind up with a disproportionately small allocation of property.

Look at it from the other side, though: Someone who feels uncomfortable in the market process, with all its inherent risks and challenges will feel he would be better off eliminating the risks and challenges by deferring to committee vote. In fact, the more impotent one feels in the face of free market trade, the more one will feel inclined to circumvent that market using an appeal to the political process.

These ideas further integrate into my rules-versus-merit framework. The market process is based almost entirely on merit. One may only gain my possessions by offering something meritorious in exchange. If I recognize the merits of what you're offering, I'll accept the deal.

Those who excel in the marketplace are the entrepreneurs, those clever people who have a knack for seeing value where others do not. People who are uncomfortable in the marketplace inevitably feel as though the entrepreneurs somehow take advantage of or exploit people. The argument is that if the entrepreneurs see $100 of value in an item being sold for $50, then the entrepreneur is morally obligated to pay the full $100. We can imagine an old woman clearing out her attic at a yard sale, unaware of the true value of her son's mint-condition vintage toy collection. Are the buyers exploiting the old woman's ignorance, or merely availing themselves of a speculative opportunity?

On the other hand, those who feel more comfortable in the marketplace find entrepreneurs thrilling and highly admirable. Indeed, they aim to be entrepreneurs themselves, locating a great bargain and reaping the profits of arbitrage. To them, this magical process we call the marketplace is an exciting and grand game; they sense the thrill of the hunt, their hearts beat rapidly when they discover a profit-making opportunity. They don't understand why anyone would want to draft rules that stultify this wonderful free market; rather than making rules, why not join in the fun? You might not always make a profit, but the risk is part of the fun.

Force is clearly unpleasant, but so is loss. It is not at all clear to me that political rules are a superior means for correcting disparity than the meritocratic marketplace. But as to that point, I have some further integration work to do.