The Natural State of Free(d) Markets

Column by Alex R. Knight III.

Exclusive to STR

Mankind are a part of nature. So as to avoid the risk of being branded pedagogic, I’ll add that the most widely accepted cosmological theory to date is that we are all comprised of stardust – the ultimate Mother Nature. Things in this universe, so far as we know or can tell, just don’t get more natural than that.

Economics are a purely human invention – the mother of which, Ben Franklin once remarked, is necessity. Remove human beings from the picture, and markets and their associated systems of exchange (money) become not only unnecessary, but nonexistent. Enter homo sapiens onto the scene once again, and economics become essential. The alternative is plunder, chaos, destitution, and death – largely in that order. In fact, order itself, and all forms of actual progress, depend and rely almost exclusively on market forces. There is, as Jim Davies has stated repeatedly, simply no rational alternative.

But humans engaging in market transactions, I’m willing to wager, didn’t come about historically as the exclusive result of deep contemplation on the subject. Rather, I’m guessing it was demonstrated over time -- through much bloodshed, trial, and error – that voluntary exchange was preferable to perpetual conquest, looting, plunder, and costly battle. The peace and stability that honest trade brings enables both greater productivity and lower levels of life loss. A win-win situation. Hence, the birth of Capitalism (in its original laissez-faire incarnation; mercantilist protectionism came later).

In fact, as others – like Rand Eastwood – have pointed out, Capitalism, unlike all other economic models, isn’t a system per se: It’s just something that happens when free people interact with one another non-violently. People produce things. People buy things. People sell things. People barter and trade. They invest in things they think might increase their supply of capital. None of these things are the result of some cabal marshaling people around with police, troops, and code enforcers, under the auspices of “fairness” or “social justice” or any other economically ignorant political buzzwords which in truth serve as mere excuses for the non-productive in society to leech off the producers to the maximum degree possible. They come as the result of people just living life, going about their day to day business, each seeking an improvement in his or her condition by honest means.

And what could be more natural? What could be more in-synch with human desire? And what other forms of human interaction have ever produced the same bounty, coupled with the same level of individual freedom and non-aggression? Socialism? Communism? Fascism? None of them have even come close.

Of course, people should always be free to voluntarily experiment with non-capitalistic arrangements of any stripe, provided that no one who chooses not to participate is ever forced to do so – hence the term freed rather than just free markets. In fact, marketplaces of all kinds should be open proving grounds for a maximum degree of social experimentation – a concept expounded upon at some length in this excellent volume of essays.

But observe again how all of this, absent the coercive violence and neanderthalistic mentality of the “it’s for your own good!” State, thrives in the realm of human affairs like the growth of vegetation, or water running downhill, or lightning seeking ground. Again, markets are things that just happen. They threaten and harm precisely no one (except, seemingly, parasite bureaucrats). In fact, they have been responsible for dramatically raising the standard of living in all societies in which they have ever been permitted to function in even the most hobbled fashion. What does that say about their effectiveness and resilience? Why not let them operate to their fullest natural capacity?

Markets are, in the realm of human conduct, quite natural forces. All government intrusion upon them and attempts to modify them run counter to this. This is why, in the end, no matter how violently they are suppressed, markets always win. That’s the good news.

The bad is that certain individuals continue to try messing around with nature, to the detriment of all but a few governmental and corporate elites. In other words, there is a State of Nature, and then there is the State.

And it’s never nice to mess with Mother Nature, is it?

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Alex R. Knight III's picture
Columns on STR: 135

Alex R. Knight III is the author of numerous horror, science-fiction, and fantasy tales.  He has also written and published poetry, non-fiction articles, reviews, and essays for a variety of venues.  He currently lives and writes in rural southern Vermont where he holds a B.A. in Literature & Writing from Union Institute & University.  Alex's Amazon page can be found here, and his work may also be found at both Smashwords and Barnes & Noble.  His Facebook page can be found here.  Receive Alex's occasional Tweets here.


Paul's picture

As Thoreau nicely put it, "Trade and commerce, if they were not made of India rubber, would never manage to bounce over the obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and, if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions, and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads."

It's hard to imagine the human race without markets. I suppose it is in our genes...