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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata slogan of the day

All I advocate is that the free market is the only known method of solving the calculational problem of allocating work to those talents that can engage in it most productively. The free market means in practice comfort, prosperity and abundance for all economically as well as maximising the sphere of personal autonomy within which we can enjoy our liberty and prosperity. Attempts to find other solutions to this key social problem have always been failures, practically and conceptually.
Paul Coulam

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20 comments to Samizdata slogan of the day

  • zack mollusc

    At the risk of disclosing my woeful ignorance, is there an example of this free market anywhere that can be examined?

  • Charles Copeland

    As slogans go, that’s a pretty lengthy one. But never mind.

    Paul Coulam writes:

    “The free market means in practice comfort, prosperity and abundance for all …”

    It doesn’t. It means that talented and industrious people will do very well while others will not do all that well and some will even ‘fall by the wayside’. Perhaps that’s what they deserve. At any rate, whether they deserve it or not, it’s what they’ll get.

    Surely it’s possible to support free markets without making the ridiculous claim that everybody will live the life of Riley once the minimal state has been ushered in? Paul Coulam may be a brilliant libertarian philosopher but he occasionally goes over the top and becomes an embarrassment to the cause.

    Or is this perhaps a troll slogan?

  • toolkien

    Surely it’s possible to support free markets without making the ridiculous claim that everybody will live the life of Riley once the minimal state has been ushered in?

    I agree with this. I find it a failure in most attempts to advocate one system over another and is the broad brushed conclusion any supporter of any system touts. Personally I shy away from making such statements, I merely point out that human interaction with the world that surrounds them involves value judgements (i.e. the mental process of turning pre-existing material into property) and that a system which maximizes individual value judgements, and individual property ownership, versus collective value judgements (and ultimately the value systems of the leadership cartel) is likely to maximize liberty. I make no assurances about the actual outcome of an individual’s behavior based on their value judgements, or that ‘society’ will be maximally benefited. That process in itself requires a value judgement about which there will be endless debate, and I go so far as to categorize such broad assessments as quasi-theocratic.

  • Dave in LA

    In answer to the first post, there are no societies that are totally consistent with hard-libertarian principles. There will probably never be, but that’s not the point. The most important part of Paul’s assertion is this: … the free market is the only know method of solving the calculational problem of allocating work to those talents that can engage in it most productively.

    The “life of riley” isn’t guaranteed by any economic system. Varying degrees of economic freedom produce tradeoffs between the average well-being of a society and the equality of distribution of the fruits of labor and risk-taking.

  • toolkien

    The free market means in practice comfort, prosperity and abundance for all economically as well as maximising the sphere of personal autonomy within which we can enjoy our liberty and prosperity.

    -Paul Coulam

    The most important part of Paul’s assertion is this: … the free market is the only know method of solving the calculational problem of allocating work to those talents that can engage in it most productively.

    The “life of riley” isn’t guaranteed by any economic system.

    -Dave in LA

    To your point that is what I am also saying, but, regarding the original post, note the first part of the above quote (in bold), that seems to be a pretty broad statement and is the one under criticism. I do agree with the second part, which I was also attempting to convey, but hesitate on connecting it with the first part. In fact I stated that it seems necessary to convey the first part to legitimize the second, when the second can, and should, stand alone as a proper objective, without selling a rather broad, and ultimately subjective, outcome. To me it is ‘guaranteeing’ an outcome is the root of Statism. My system of beliefs that leads me to Right Libertarianism isn’t designed to comment on likely outcomes of social systems based on minarchical government and individualism. At best I can entertain the notion that, in aggregate, every system will produce the same net positives and negatives, it is merely a matter of who and what. So simply reduces to liberty as a desired trait for its ownsake, allowing the individual to flourish or fail based on their value judgements versus judgements of others. Where this maximizes is in my confidence I will flourish under my system of value judgements. I can’t comment for others or society as a whole, whereas “The free market means in practice comfort, prosperity and abundance for all economically…” certainly seems to. Perhaps it is the use of the word ‘all’ that taints and might be somewhat remedied by using ‘most’ or ‘many’, but still seeks to comment on outcomes that will be subjectively analyzed at some point in the future.

  • Zathras

    I agree that’s a poor excuse for a slogan. Just try fitting it onto a bumper sticker; anyone who tried to read it would cause an accident by the middle of the second sentence.

    The free market is the most efficient model from that standpoint of creating wealth, period. Two points about this: first, it is a model only. A pure free market cannot exist in any society where anyone has political power, which is to say in any society. It can still serve as the baseline for a limited and responsible state, which leads to the second point. This is that “other solutions” encompassing rejection of market economics (e.g. Communism) are different in kind from solutions that aim to address the needs of people who are unable to create wealth under the freest of markets. Anti-market solutions have absolutely failed as Coulam says, but the others are part and parcel of the lives of every person in every market economy on the face of the earth.

  • Ken

    “It doesn’t. It means that talented and industrious people will do very well while others will not do all that well and some will even ‘fall by the wayside’. Perhaps that’s what they deserve. At any rate, whether they deserve it or not, it’s what they’ll get.”

    Actually, it means that talented and industrious people will do very well indeed, while everyone else also keeps doing better and better as time goes on, although admittedly they never catch up to the talented and industrious who are themselves busy improving their own lot and pulling away.

    “Surely it’s possible to support free markets without making the ridiculous claim that everybody will live the life of Riley once the minimal state has been ushered in?”

    But that’s exactly what free markets do give us. They reward the talented and industrious for coming up with better ways to make more of everything that people want, and the average Joe ends up living a life that any king in history would have envied.

    (Except the ones that keep getting shot at. But the free market has enriched their lives as well, and the thugs that torment them cannot be fairly blamed on the market. In fact, a lot of criminal activity is produced by ill-advised attempts to limit the market and forbid buyers and sellers from exchanging certain items).

  • zack mollusc

    This is probably yet another display of my woeful ignorance, but I would say that “talented and industrious people may or may not do very well while untalented and lazy people may or may not do very well and some of both groups will even ‘fall by the wayside’. Whether they deserve it or not, it’s what they’ll get.”

    Hard work does not mean you are rewarded for it.
    “So work hard for someone who will reward you!” is the reply. Fine and dandy, but how do you know who to trust? And what if the reward doesn’t materialise? Is it because of your own laziness? Or do we class all failures as lazy after the event?

  • Claiming that the free market means comfort, prosperity and abundance for _all_ is certainly a bold conjecture, timid claims are more or less intellectually pointless, it is therefore not inconceivible that one might be able to imagine some person so catastrophically talentless and useless that he is unable to find anyone, anywhere to pay him for some work. However this will be a peculiar rarity, there will not be large swathes of people falling by the wayside as Charles Copeland thinks. Non market ideas about creating wealth are just delusions born of ignorance be they the egregious fantasy of socialism or the peculiar absurdity of insisting the state subsidise ‘high IQ’ women to have more babies.

  • zack mollusc

    At the risk of repeatedly disclosing my woeful ignorance, is there an example of this free market anywhere that can be examined?

  • Jacob

    mollusc,
    “At the risk of repeatedly disclosing my woeful ignorance, is there an example of this free market anywhere that can be examined?”

    Is there an example of pure water anywhere that can be examined?

    Pure water doesn’t exist anywhere on earth, except maybe in some laboratory. Still you can imagine what it is. You can also distinguish between the purity of a mountain stream, the Thames, or a sewage canal, neither of which is totaly pure.

  • zack mollusc

    Very true, Jacob, but does it give one the right to say water cures all ills? Pure water may be less toxic, but it won’t cure anything (apart from lack of water). The Free market is not a panacea, it will not make everyone better off, it will not even make most people better off. Claiming that Jerusalem could be ours if only the state didn’t poke its nose in is just not true. No, I am not a Lefty Pinko. No, I do not like the growth of the state apparatus in the UK.

  • Well, Paul, you tempted me out again with that suspiciously pointed reference to high IQ. Not sure where you got the bit about state subsidy from, but never mind.

    You see, nature demands babies of women. Yes, the modern girl can choose her career over her biology. She can buy the whole sexual liberation thing and have sex with any passing pair of trousers. But this isn’t really “personal choice”, as most of these women come to realise soon enough. It certainly isn’t freedom. It is, as I posted on another thread here today, suggestibility. It is living in the ownership of received ideas, political and social fashion. It is the losing of that most precious female commodity, the years of fertility. It is a personal tragedy.

    In biological terms the notions responsible for this state of affairs were dreamt up just this morning after breakfast – around the same time, in fact, that Murray, Ayn, Karl and the rest cried mama. In real Life, you see, our greatest endeavour is not to be free (or equal), nor to be prosperous (or just). It is to secure the continuity of our genes. I am sure you don’t really believe that buying goodies in the mall is a fair trade. So why can’t you believe like me that it would be natural and vivifying if women, be they high IQ or not, were freed to be more truly themselves. Of course, this brings us on to the nuclear family, marriage and its sanctity. But we’ve been there before, too.

    Incidentally, I like to ask a genuine question of you. Can the free market effect change to human nature?

  • Jacob

    Guessedworker
    You have very ambitious social projects: to improve mankind, to perpetuate genes, to change human nature (or not to) etc.
    Paul has a far more modest ambition: to let people alone, to let them do whatever they whish.
    You ask: “do free markets improve human nature?”
    Wrong question. All we want is to free people from “human nature improving schemes” imposed on them by force.

  • Jacob, what are you saying? Me seek to change improve mankind! Change human nature!!

    Of course the question is a large one. What’s worse, I’m looking for a precision answer, not vague generalities … perhaps something along the lines of changing not nature but lives. Since Paul is an extremely precise thinker there’s a good chance of a useful outcome. Of course, he may smell a rat and shy away from the question altogether, which would be a pity. But I wouldn’t blame him. He trolled for me with his last comment, after all. He can’t expect to treated any differently.

  • Guessedworker,

    The only smell I can detect in your last contribution is that of your philosophical ineptitude. You seem to be given over to some incoherent idea of nature worship, in this you have a lot in common with the equally wrongheaded ‘Greens’

    Nature is merely a given, the set of facts about the world around which we have to work. Nature makes no ‘demands’ about anything whatsoever. You, however, make lots of demands and delude yourself that they are really those of nature. Nature does not go in for normative moralising so if you want to make an argument about the demands on women (or anyone else) you will have to do it without pretending that ‘nature’ has filled in the prescription for you.

    Most of your other errors stem from your equivocations on various concepts. Your declaration that “buying the whole sexual liberation thing” “certainly isn’t freedom” is another irrelevance. It is clear that I am am referring to interpersonal human liberty when I speak of freedom, and sexual liberation is certainly a constituent part of that. You can stipulatively define ‘freedom’ as some form of nature worship if you want but simply trying on the ‘no true Scotsman’ move is not an impressive criticism of my arguments.

    As for all these ‘personal tragedies’ you keep alluding to, where they are not merely figments of your imagination, I think that the assessments of any tragedies can safely be left to the persons involved.

    You are fond of telling me things about ‘real life’, a common trait among the more amateur bar room casuists. This time the bit of obvious ‘common sense’ that I am allegedly overlooking is that “our greatest endeavour ….. is to secure the continuity of our genes.” There are many people who have no interest in securing the continuity of any such thing and few indeed who would identify it as a collective endeavour, most delusions about alleged collective endeavours centre on the proselytization of some religious dogma, by contrast you seem to have elevated some of the recent discoveries in biology to moral imperatives and pretend that they are the commands of nature. I wonder how you think you know all this, perhaps you were issued these orders by a dryad dwelling in an oak tree you were passing the last time you took a walk in the enchanted forest.

    If you think you have a special insight that will benefit women ‘to be more truly themselves’ then feel free to set up some sort of counselling service but don’t try to pass off this quackery as a political philosophy. I’m content to let the women in question decide to order their own lives themselves, I don’t presume to have any particular good advice worth offering them.

    “Can the free market effect change to human nature?” I don’t know, its not a claim I make for the market.

  • You know, Paul, if you could just try to adopt a consciously constructive approach to another point of view, and allow for the intellectual lowliness and poverty of expression of your interlocutor, you might find a few, unexpected grains of truth on offer. But even without that, surely there is greater satisfaction in extending a kindness than in delivering yet another withering, Coulam tirade? I don’t understand why you would publically sully yourself so.

    Anyway, apparently you do not know that you belong to Nature. In what sense, then, is your sexual drive “a fact about the world with which we have to work”? For myself, I can reveal that I have certainly not received the call of the priesthood. And you’re a bookseller. So neither of us has to confront our carnal desires with a quivering if perpetually failing detachment. And, of course, neither of us does. Think for one moment, then, what is being expressed through you here – and who’s the boss.

    I wonder if you are merely stuck on the worn out meme that dumping repressive sexual mores makes you free. I would be astounded if that is really so because it is a crude assumption and not the intellectually sharp Paul Coulam we all know. Take it from a crazed sociobiolost, we are NEVER free in sex. We are merely expressive. As you must know, there is a vast body of biomedical and psychological work underpinning this screamingly obvious fact.

    You leave no doubt, however, that you cleave to the belief that sex is just another field for the exercise of “interpersonal human liberty” (a tautology, surely). And let’s not forget “sexual liberation” – life’s one welcome gift for octagenarians (so I’m told). And Paul, Paul … are you really not endeavouring to pass on your genes? I am sure you must be – not collectively, of course (I don’t know where you got that from). The odds on success might be a little long. But that’s the only difference. So there you are: equality through sociobiology. Quelle surprise.

    So this is the order of things. First comes adaptivity to general domain, taken across the total historical period of mankind to the present. Second comes our individual lives in exposure to specific, local influences. The political notions that we encounter have to fit in there somewhere. If they don’t try to kill us they aren’t that important, as things go. If they do, or if they just wreck lives, they are open, I think, to a degree of criticism.

    I do criticise political notions – some of them libertarian or at least liberal – that wreck lives. I’m a practical man. I’m interested in practicalities – what you dismiss as a “common trait among the more amateur bar room casuists.” Well, rather than see this put-down as a criticism of my admittedly coarse and philosophically inept mind, I prefer to see it is as a condemnation of you, Paul. You seem to feel not the slightest compassion for the millions of our people whose lives have been “ordered”, as you put it, by your precious liberal social agenda.

    I hope we have the opportunity to explore all this in greater depth as the months roll by. Nice, clean reply to the wrong question, BTW. Getcha next time, perhaps.

  • Cydonia

    Guessedworker:

    I hold many views which I imagine others would describe as socially conservative. I deprecate many of the attitudes and lifestyles I observe around me.

    However:

    1. I have no desire to see the State try to model society the way I would like it to be. If others are not persuaded that my views on (for example) the upbringing of children are correct, more fool them. But it is not for me to try and force them.

    2. I see the State as being largely responsiblel for the social disasters I observe. Thus do my social conservatism and libertarianism meld. The only solution to social problems that I urge is the reduction and eventual dismantling of the State.

    I do not pretend that all social problems have their roots in the excesses of the State. But I am pretty sure that most of them do.

    Where do you stand on these issues?

  • Hello Cydonia,

    I think that we must be very close in philosophy. I, too, am not an apologist for state intervention in any aspect of our lives. Neither am I an authoritarian conservative seeking to reimpose the social rigidities of the past (despite what Paul and the Samizdata leadership might suppose).

    As my pseudonym implies I have jumped in early with a root answer to the problem of social instability – and had to because for at least a few more months, and maybe longer, the scientific underpinning won’t be available. In this respect and as far as I am aware, I stand at the head of an army of one (albeit sometimes alongside the always entertaining Charles Copeland). The chances are I’m a complete whacko, but what the heck.

    Broadly, I hold a Durkheimian view which I take to be supported by certain aspects of human bio-diversity. No, I’ll invert that. Let’s say that over time our distant ancestors adapted biologically to the physical European environment. Within this process some behavioural strategies proved more successful than others, leading through natural selection to a certain specificity of the European psyche. We modern Europeans have not come to favour a high investment in child care and monogamous marriage just because the Church demands it. It’s in our blood.

    You can see where I’m heading, Cydonia. Since the mid-sixties we’ve been acting against our own evolutionary strategy. Perhaps it’s just the pill, feminism, cultural marxism, social liberalism … and the state’s no doubt in there somewhere. Perhaps it’s also a reflection of man’s conquest of nature. In any event the result has been much needless tragic instability at societal and personal levels. And that’s what I wish it were possible to reverse.

    Libertarians such as Paul think personal liberty is the solution. We must not invade another’s sovereignty. Their lives are their own. This is a dereliction of the duty of love. This is a recipe for more of the same since it ignores the grave suggestibility of the average person. In other words, choice is not properly available.

    I want, therefore, to see change in the common view of what is and is not common sense. I want ordinary people to have the possibility not to be slaves to political, cultural and sexual fashion. I want them to comprehend these things and to act, if they so choose, in accordance with their true natures. I believe that libertarianism is ONLY possible with that truth.

  • Cydonia

    Guessworker:

    “Libertarians such as Paul think personal liberty is the solution. We must not invade another’s sovereignty. Their lives are their own. This is a dereliction of the duty of love. This is a recipe for more of the same since it ignores the grave suggestibility of the average person. In other words, choice is not properly available.”

    This sounds alarmingly close to being a justification for State intervention and social engineering. If “not” invading the sovereignty of others is a “derelection of the duty of love”, it would seem to follow that society (for which, read the State) has a duty to invade the sovereignty of others in order to perform the “duty of love”.