Re: Will the free market solve everything?

Guru George (
Sun, 23 Feb 1997 17:19:17 GMT

On Sat, 22 Feb 1997 21:00:13 -0800 (PST)
John K Clark <> wrote:


>It's true, the market can not find a solution to a problem if nobody wants
>a solution to that problem, but problems that don't need fixing are not


Hmm, yes, I would *like* to believe this, but isn't it sometimes the
case that there can be a problem that nobody (except a few experts, say)
*sees* as a problem (or nobody *wants* to see as a problem - say the
presence of large numbers of automobiles, for instance), so nobody seeks
a solution to the problem, so the market won't find one? Isn't this the
sort of thing Joost is talking about?

I'm always torn by this question: do we admit that some people may be in
a position to notice things most of us can't or won't, and do we grant
them power to effect changes that would be beneficial to us all? (Take
a look at Mancur Olson's work, for instance, where he shows that majority
interests often gets shafted by better organised minority interests)
Then you get into "Who watches the watchmen?" stuff - a *very* old and
knotty problem.

Or do we stick to the theoretical hardline and define that possibility
away (as in the Misesian type of praxeological analysis, where wants are
revealed only in actual market interactions, for example)? Ought we to do
this for the sake of taking the moral high ground? (Then you get into
debates about consequentialism!)

(This is perhaps the modern equivalent of the old "we know what's best
for you better than you do yourself" thing that socialists used to be so
fond of.)

I dunno. Like Joost, I love the market, and value it highly, but can't
avoid having some reservations. I like the logic of a-c arguments; but
on the other hand, perhaps there is some kind of hidden wisdom (a la
Hayek) in the idea that 'we' do need some sort of collective power on
some occasions. Perhaps a-c is itself just another form of 'constructivist
rationalism', as some anti-libertarians would argue!

(I think I would be comfortable with a collective organ, so long as it
didn't itself break the law in its activities - the straight classical
liberal position, I suppose.)

Guru George