Should we subdue nature, or live in harmony with it?
The obvious answer is, “both.” We live in tension with the earth. We, just like any animal, do the best we can to protect ourselves from harsh weather and danger, and secure food. The difference is that we make it easy for ourselves and our children. We grow up sheltered, clothed, and fed very well through technologies most of us do not understand. Because of this ease of living, we afford the finer things such as music, art, architecture, gourmet foods, science, and philosophy.
On the surface, there isn’t much cause for complaint. Yes, we may be over-drugged, or too dependent on sophisticated machinery such as air conditioning and computers. I can’t fathom how, once we have them, we can reject or abolish such conveniences. Yes, they make us soft, dependent, and vulnerable. But that is better than, say, a life expectancy of 30 years.
The problem with criticizing such things, or our political and business practices in general, is this affluence. Am I ungrateful? No. Do I wish we didn’t have, say, television, or washing machines, or penicillin? Of course not. Would these things have appeared without the rise of corporations, mass production, and government support? Maybe not everything we enjoy today. At least, not yet.
Then again, maybe other, better things would have developed instead. The way in which we have acquired our affluence is, well, unnatural. If there wasn’t government granting privileges for some, imposing prohibitive regulations on others, we might not acquired everything we have, or not so quickly. But just like polluting the water or extracting oil from the earth, can our practices last indefinitely? Can we consume more than we produce, forever?
We hear criticisms of the “free market.” But the free market is not the problem; it doesn’t exist, so how can it be at fault? Much of what is criticized in the market are actually government disbursement of privileges that make it less free in exchange for being more “efficient” for some people. Especially the corporation, a creation of government similar to Frankenstein’s monster. In a free market, there would not be corporations with charters and privileges protected by the government. In a free market, if a company went bankrupt, those who invested in it, would lose their investments and would have to help pay for any liabilities for the company. We do not have that today.
In a free market, there would be no patents. Inventors and innovators would bring their wares to the market to sell. If one invents the widget and makes it to the Patent Office on Tuesday, and another, working independently, arrives on Wednesday, the inventor who got there first enjoys years of monopoly to produce, price, and sell widgets. There are even international agreements that enforce this. But in a free market, the person who can build a better one at less cost, would be free to do so, no matter who invented it first.
Likewise, in a free market, musicians and writers would be paid according to the demand for their work, not royalties from government-created copyrights that last several decades. Readers who enjoy a novel would pay its author to write another. The matter by which the novel is transmitted would be secondary. The novelist would actually want the novel to be distributed far and wide, by any form of media, even if many never pay to read it, because that would create demand for the next novel.
And in a free market, the people would decide for themselves what medium of exchange suits them. There would be no government-created central bank to set interest rates. The market would likely to revert to exchanging silver and gold; the bills in your wallet would be certificates that allow you to buy, say, a certain amount of gold. We would have “inflation” of prices only if and when large deposits of precious metals are discovered. Otherwise, with greater production, prices would fall over time, making the goods available to more and more people and enhancing their standard of living.
In a real free market, land that was not already occupied would be homesteaded. The government couldn’t claim the land and distribute it to favored developers, nor could it kick its current occupants off the land to give to those who might produce bigger tax revenues.
A real free market thus makes Big Business and mass production unfeasible. The government wouldn’t be there to protect stockholders from personal risk of failure or criminality. The government wouldn’t be there to inflate the currency to guard against falling prices due to mass production. The government wouldn’t be there to put caps on civil liability for wrongdoing.
In a real free market, there would be very few large companies and few product brands marketed nationwide. Thus, fewer people’s jobs would be at the mercy of quarterly reports. Few companies would employ thousands of people, let alone tens of thousands, or devastate communities by laying off employees by the hundreds. If there would be any gazillionaires, they would likely own their own companies (as there would not likely be any publicly traded corporations) and be personally liable for any harm their products may cause. There would be no barriers to enter any industry or find any job. Most people would make a decent living working for themselves or for small firms that may serve a few thousand, rather than several million, customers, but no one would get rich off of government-sanctioned monopolies.
Individuals are free by nature, in that no one else can control their movement or will. Free markets are also natural, because voluntary cooperation is natural. Every government intervention into the market is an attempt to extract more “wealth” from it than is actually produced and is unnatural.
This can not be sustained indefinitely. We can’t pretend that the proper control of interest rates, or government make-work projects (pork), or “trickle down” tax policies will generate better goods and services for all. All they do is shuffle the wealth around, make the market less efficient by preventing it from operating as it normally would, and, in the end, cheapen the value of the dollar to the point of financial collapse.
Would another artificial, government-created economic “stimulant” prevent this collapse? That would be like using drugs to lose weight, when the natural solution is to eat less and exercise. Would it not be better to repeal laws, regulations, and spending programs so that the economy can operate according to free-market principles? According to voluntary cooperation? According to nature?
The sooner we do this, the better off we will be.