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“Free Market” is not code for “Everything Good”

Posted by on June 16, 2011

I linked to this article on facebook a while back, and I maintain that it’s a great article that hits a lot of highlights. ┬áThere’s one big problem with it that I wanted to elaborate on though (even though I posted the link almost a month ago[sorry Veen!])

The brief, but offending, phrase is “technology becomes quickly outdated in a free market.” There’s a lot bundled up in the term “free market” whenever anyone uses it. People on the right side of the economic spectrum use it as code for economic policy they agree with and people on the left use it as code for corporatism or exploitation. What I think it means is a situation in which one you can carry on your affairs and trade without interference from any aggressor, government or otherwise. This means private property rights are respected, fraud is punished, etc, etc.

What I think everyone can agree on is that a man alone on an island making everything he needs for himself certainly constitutes a free market. In this situation, it is certainly not the case that “technology becomes quickly outdated.” One reason I like free markets is that I recognize that technology grows more quickly in that situation than in any other, but you don’t get rapid technological growth without a large population (among other things), and there’s nothing contained in the term “free market” that assumes a large population.

Maybe it’s hair-splitting, but that slip-up really got to me.

(note: I wrote this while watching star trek, so apologies for any major flaws resulting from my inattention)

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