“Free markets?! What? Like the invisible hand? Really?
“You’re wrong! I’m sorry. There’s still hope for you if you read the right books. But you’re wrong!
“We need more regulations!”
This exchange happened after I finished showing an older gentleman at a coffeeshop how to “friend” people on Facebook.
No good deed goes unpu-…
OK. We admit… the rise in blood pressure was our doing. We brought up politics in a place where people are supposed to talk about polite things.
(But, hey, isn’t that part of the fun?)
For reasons of the election season, we’ve been on a mission lately to talk to as many strangers who hate capitalism as possible.
And in Baltimore, it’s no large feat at all. We may as well be trying to find Mormons in Salt Lake City.
Talking to anti-capitalists might seem like an odd pursuit, but hear us out…
The point of the exercise isn’t to convince anyone of the merits of free markets. (Though we do put our opinions on display for them to consider.)
It’s more of an exercise in selfishness — a free lesson inside the disagreeing mind.
[We encourage it, actually. It’s good to probe your own ideas — and consider counter-ideas firsthand through the “opposition.” To hear the opinions through vocal cords and see them through facial expressions. It adds depth.]
In this respect, over the past couple of weeks, we’ve heard a wild variety of opinions.
For example, we’ve listened to “Occupiers” talk about the glory days in Zuccotti Park. And, shortly after, all the reasons one should denounce capitalism.
And then, they swerved off in a strange direction…
All we really need, they said, is a hyper-aware artificial intelligence computer to fulfill every want and desire our fleshy bodies might quiver at in interest. (See: Zeitgeist)
Same old story. Central planning can work as long as it’s smart enough. And everything can be free!
More recently, to spice it up a bit, we’ve gone on dates with feminists and critical theory advocates. (AKA the “Social Justice Warriors.”)
We’ve listened as they talk about cultural appropriation as if it were a subject as scientifically clear-cut as physics. Almost as if Einstein himself discovered it in a dream while being carried through the desert on a throne.
But we’d be lying if we said we didn’t learn anything.
First and foremost: Most of us, no matter what speck on the spectrum we identify with, want basically the same things. At root, we want equality, justice, freedom and dignity for all human beings.
Our methods for bringing these things into fruition, though, differ. Often dramatically so. (Some think, for example, that wealth is a fixed pie that needs baked into balance. We disagree.)
We learned other (admittedly, less useful) things, too…
We discovered (from a critical theorist) that wearing kimonos, if you’re not Japanese, is terribly offensive. And should probably be illegal.
Whether or not this offends Japanese people is, oddly enough, irrelevant.
Also, we learned that yoga studios in America are the epitome of white imperialism. One need only do a downward dog inside one of these dens of despotism to see precisely why this country is on a downward slope.
Looking back on all of these interactions, though, we’re now beginning to detect a subtle trend.
One we didn’t fully appreciate before.
It seems there’s a single golden thread that connects all of these people — right down their spines.
They all have this common core belief that markets, big and small, are inherently immoral.
People interacting freely and without artificial constraints, they say, can only end in catastrophe. Entrepreneurs who make things we need and want to buy — and help elevate our standards of living — are clearly anti-semitic spawns of Satan in sheep’s clothing. Consumers who make mistakes and discover, over time, who they can trust and what’s best for them, will end up making some of the worst decisions ever made by human beings in history.
The free interactions of individuals, therefore, needs a strong and smart whip to keep them in line.
In other words, the individual — the smallest minority — cannot be trusted to shape his or her own life. And it’s often OK for that individual to be threatened at gunpoint to do things he or she might vehemently disagree with.
Case in point: When asked what best serves the public good, free markets or Big Government, many immediately pounce for Big Government.
(And, no surprise, Big Government pounces back good and hard.)
The big question: Why all this distrust in unfettered markets?
Well, that’s what we’re sussing out through our Conversations With Strangers Who Hate Capitalism.
Tomorrow, we’ll go into what we tell these strangers in return.
Though the conversations vary depending on who we’re talking to, our conclusion remains the same: Free markets aren’t just the right choice. They’re the only moral choice on the menu.
[Ed. note: Talk to any strangers who hate capitalism lately? Tell us about it: Chris@lfb.org.]
Managing editor, Laissez Faire Today
P.S. Have something to say? Say it! Chris@lfb.org.