Re: Where we lost America

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Mon Oct 29 2001 - 15:27:17 MST

On Monday, October 29, 2001 1:55 PM Brian D Williams wrote:
>>Okay, if "all members of a society have the right to
>>self[-]determination," then isn't government interference in free
>>markets a limitation of that right? After all, free markets are
>>just people interacting as they want to interact without third
>>party interference -- buying and selling, creating, saving,
>>consuming, investing, etc. Any government intervention in the
>>process abrogates someone's -- often a whole class of people's --
>>right to determine their selves.
> First, most markets are not free.

In what sense do you mean? If you mean most existing markets have extensive
government interventions in them, I agree. In that case, however, the
solution is obvious: remove the interventions. In other cases where the
government has done past interventions or past nonmarket interactions took
place -- such as someone stole some money or land, then decided to be a nice
person from then on -- the case it a little tougher, though I don't think
the solution is [further] permanent government intervention...

If you mean, however, that few or no real world markets hold to an abstract
standard of equilibrium, then I'd say this doesn't matter. If individuals
are to determine themselves, then they must do so with the resources at
hand -- not wait for some perfect situation to arise before doing so.

Also, I should have pointed this out earlier. If you are for
self-determination, then any government intervention is generally
other-determination -- someone else determining you -- or vice versa.

> Second, groups of members can act
> together to influence the market to suit their own position and
> therefore the market is also not free.

The typical way people do this -- if they want to trump market forces that
break down inefficient collusions and the like -- is to use the government
to protect their position. For example, American car companies lobby for
tariffs and import quotas to lessen entry into the US car market which
prevents American car buyers from determining their car choices. There is a
literature on regulation and regulatory capture -- whereby special interests
influence or even takeover the regulating agency. By allowing the camel's
nose of regulation into the market tent, I think you're striking an
intellectual blow here against self-determination.

And just what do you think people who want to control or determine other
people will do? They won't use the tools like this? They already do!

> Limited government can act as a check/balance on both of these.

I don't think so because what limits the government? Markets are
self-regulating because absent coercion, people can opt out. Someone can
decide to take her or his business elsewhere or even create another business
to enter the market. (After all, if a company is acting inefficiently, this
is an invitation to make profits by doing what it does more efficiently --
taking its customers away from it.)

>>If you think then there should be some limit on this "right to
>>self[-]determination," where is it? How do we know what it is in
>>any particular case?
> A more difficult issue and without a current easy answer. Limiting
> the ability of individuals to alter the market is a good start.

But how do you mean? Markets are basically how people interact
noncoercively. Surely, there are other ways they do so -- romantic
relationships, friendships, and social groups -- but in any such
interaction, there is going to be dialectical forces. I decide to buy,
e.g., from a certain product from a certain store. That influences things.
My influence might be small, but it might not be. In any case, I'm altering
the market. The money I spent on that product is not in my savings account,
401k, or spent on something else.

I suppose you mean alter it in a way which benefits me, but why would I not?
If let's say a few of my friends and I get together and make a contract to
buy $200 a week from a certain grocer and that grocer, as part of the deal,
gives us a deep discount and gives us other favors -- maybe gives us the
first picks on stuff that comes in, first word on sales, abnormal shopping
hours, free delivery -- why is this so bad? This is all of us determining
ourselves through mutual agreement? Did you have some other example in

People who can't or won't enter into this deal might not like the fact that
my friends and I have this position vis-a-vis the grocer, but that's just
envy, pure and simple. It does not cut into their self-determination --
unless you believe a) people don't have a right to interact as they please
or b) only certain people have the right to self-determination (the grocer,
my friends, and I don't, the envious people do). Of course, with the
latter, you've already said everyone has this right...

It seems to me that you want a certain type of relationship and only that
type to prevail, which by itself is not bad, but it will probably have
implications that weigh against both a free market and self-determination.
In fact, if you limit people, especially people who are peacefully
interacting -- not mugging, raping, killing, defrauding -- then it would
seem you are limiting self-determination.


Daniel Ust

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