The word freedom is often used in an arbitrary and misunderstood manner. I.e., the assertion that more social programs for the less affluent creates freedom and prosperity for that particular group, or some other policy that benefits one group at the expense of another. When did people become so callous towards the wishes of others? To me, simply put, by definition freedom is the negation of coercion; it is incorrect, and morally reprehensible to coerce an individual. In other words we are talking about negative rights when we refer to freedom. To do so would be to subjugate one man to the will of another.

If we accept the doctrine that all men have the same moral parity, then we must reject the state, democracy, and all of the state’s programs, for it gives the majority authority over the will of the minority. This is one key reason I am for free and open markets.

Some will argue “externalities!” and “greedy people!” as empty justifications for government intervention. They forget, or are otherwise unaware, central authorities introduce externalities in the first place, and do so with its every action. In a market transaction, both parties are better off, or no transaction occurs. In a compulsorily transaction (typically every transaction done by the state) one party benefits at the expense of the other, or it would not have to be forced. It’s possible within markets for things to happen which benefit one party at another’s expense, but through market reactions and adaptation it can A) prevent this in the first place by making them expensive, and b) to compensate the victims of externalities at the expense of those who create them. So a question to be asked to those who advocate the state and its programs is how could an organization (the government) minimize externalities relevant to this, when it’s only means of action at all involves creating externalities?

It may sound redundant, but the first consideration is ethics. That is neither to prove that free markets are the best, nor to concede that they are not, but to put forth this charge: free markets are the only ethical means of even attempting to address externalities. And the ethics I refer to are not some deontological edicts from above (wherever that may be), but logical evaluations of – to put it in somewhat vulgar terms – “works” best in human interaction when the system is too dynamic to even theoretically calculate. Not only are rights something that should never be violated, but no one should ever tolerate the violation of them. Even if (and I’m not conceding that), unilaterally imposed authority could be more effective economically, there is no reason why I should put that above my own self-interest, and no reason I should tolerate such an imposition.

As to economics, ethics argues that free markets should be the most effective way, even if oversimplified mathematical equations suggest otherwise. It says that if our calculations show otherwise, we are probably missing something, or oversimplifying, or not taking into account all the dynamic interactions in their full measure.

So, as you can see, it is not just about ethics, but also economics. I think addressing the economic sophisms is just as significant, if even more so. I stress on economics with individuals because as it stands, I think it’s the best tool we’ve got for advancing liberty, by showing individuals that their favorite violent solutions don’t actually produce their favorite results. Leftists want control from the state to solve these problems which as libertarians we will never agree on means. I find moral arguments, while significant, inferior to economic arguments. I for one was impervious to moral arguments until I realized (via economics) that freedom could “work”. This seems to be true of absolutely everybody else as well. If I thought freedom would result in mass poverty or rampaging gangs of looters and rapists, I would never have come around. In terms of effectiveness, then, I think yes: economics arguments > moral arguments. Once I realized through economics that it could “work” I was more amenable to the idea that there might be some underlying moral principles involved. People don’t really seem to respond well to “Everybody will starve to death, but at least it’s not immoral!” Gotta address the economic fallacies first. The average Joe doesn’t think he/she cares about economic theory, but the same individual won’t hesitate to tell you all about the consequences of a given policy change. Most people have most of the same goals in terms of economic policy – we want fewer poor people, we want the remaining poor to be better off, and so on. We only disagree about means, and that’s what economics is for. People only support, i.e., social welfare programs because they erroneously believe, according to flawed economic theories they probably don’t even realize they’re using, that those are the best or only ways the poor and disadvantaged can be helped.

The tragedy of statism is that knowledge cannot be centralized, a Washington bureaucrat has no clue what the preferences of people are in Texas, Oklahoma, or even right down the street. It would be fairly absurd for me to spend my roommates money and expect to make the same decisions he would have, it is far more absurd to expect a bureaucrat in DC to know all the preferences of everyone in America, and then make a one size fit all solution to a problem.

Opponents of the free market will defend their stance by arguing that libertarians want to force this system onto them. To clarify, the free market is not a system, to assume so is to think like a technocrat. There’s no control, that’s the whole point. There is no direction it’s moving either. It’s nothing but billions and billions of individuals performing billions of billions of interactions with each other at any given instant for their own sake.

They perform interactions which are mutually beneficial to each other, and the continuously modify their surroundings for their own good. The summation of these interactions is what we call the free market. It doesn’t self-destruct because there is nothing for it to self- destruct on. It doesn’t move in the most efficient manner for most people, because there is no such thing as the ‘most efficient manner for most people’.

The market is sentient humans all making decisions based on individual motivation; based on intricate systems of values and needs which is unique to that individual. No central planning body or select handful of people can ever anticipate or plan for the needs and wants of every individual, as only they can know what gives them happiness, what they value, and what they wish to achieve. In this way, it is infinitely better to have millions of individuals that are working voluntarily through markets to satisfy their wants and needs.

It’s strange so many individuals trust government decisions to direct resources, but not the market. The market is the nexus of exchanges by humans, humans with rational thoughts about means and ends. To put trust in a politician and not the market is just a nonsensical statement.

In conclusion, the question, ‘How does a free market do X?’ is misguided. A free market doesn’t do anything; a free market is a tool for doing things. Among other things, a free market is a fitness function that weeds out poor innovations and promotes effective ones by limiting resources available to the former and making more available to the latter.

Rather than ask how a free market can do it, ask, “What would I do about it if I was without recourse to centrally imposed authority?” Then try to roughly calculate the dynamic interactions that would result, like thinking ahead in a chess game. How would the other guy respond? How would I respond to that? What alternatives does each of us have at each stage that reduces the costs of pursuing our own values? If this path on the decision tree leads to violent conflict, what choice could either of us have made earlier to put in on a path that does not?

The only thing we can show is that a free market is capable of resolving them in a way that is not abnormal- does not lead to things spinning out of control and to see that the true realization that the goal is not to create a utopia, but to allow individuals to build their own utopias.

In Liberty,

Jeff Peterson II

We the Individuals