Monday, May 01, 2006

The fruits of 'faith' in markets . . .

This op-ed by Jay Bartlett, a student at Loyola College reveals how many Americans perceive the redistribution of wealth.

Economic liberty is undeniably at the bedrock of America, but having a few programs that help the less fortunate among us is certainly not "the road to serfdom."

The claim that any governmental impediment to a free market is a form of enslavement by the state seems kind of ridiculous. We are a democratic society in which the laws of the land reflect the will of the people - "a government of the people, by the people..."

So this means that any laws we pass that put some restriction on the functioning of the market are acts self-inflicted slavery; that we have enslaved ourselves…this is like saying you imprison yourself when you lock your door at night.

It really comes down to a question of priorities -- viewing the market as some sort of sacrosanct Holy Grail not to be sullied with any form of restraint just seems myopic. Using resources for the benefit of as many people as possible, so that everyone has the opportunity to go to school, not be stricken by poverty in old age, and simply to eat to survive appears more logical in my eyes. Isn't this more important than building skyscrapers or protecting a software company's bottom line?

Just because I don't get sexually aroused talking about free markets doesn't mean I'm a socialist. It simply means that I think there's more to life than maximizing the return on shareholder investment.

That I recognize shortcomings of unfettered capitalism does not reflect an antipathy towards liberty, it instead evinces a different understanding of freedom, one that holds that all people should have a realistic opportunity to thrive as a member of society.
“Economic liberty” means the freedom to keep the fruits of one’s productive endeavors by virtue of creation, which Bartlett concedes is the “bedrock of America.” So why then does a simple majority get to usurp that liberty, and how is that not tyranny? Bartlett gives us a hint when he calls the market a “Holy Grail,” i.e. an article of faith. That’s the effect of the conservatives, who justify freedom not as a rationally provable requirement for man’s prosperity, but simply as a gift from God. So on one hand, we have the moral basis of the market reduced to faith, yet on the other hand, we have the keenly palpable needs of the sick, lame and lazy. Which do you think is going to win out over the other? Which do you think is going to give voice to a "different understanding of freedom"? I read this essay and I see a student in need of a rational understanding of freedom. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were more voices to offer the arguments for such an understanding?

No comments: