20A043 Two Arenas  by Jim Davies, 10/27/2020 


There's the political or government arena, and the market arena.

The former consists of laws made by rulers, put in place by some mechanism (divine appointment to a monarchy, siezure at gunpoint by a band of thugs, purchase by plutocrats, election by majority vote of some franchise, etc etc.) Laws are made and lawbreakers, punished. That prevails today; we are, want it or not, in a political arena. But there are traces also of a market; we can imagine a market society and describe its characteristics in some detail.

Here's an example of the difference: the ever-popular controversy about abortion. Let's imagine that the matter is to be decided according to the Constitution, ie by Congress - and not by the long-winded, roundabout way of having judges appointed to settle it on the Supreme Court.

(a) You want it banned, by law. That means you want the person you vote for to use his influence to force a pregnant woman to give birth, regardless of her wishes, and to punish her, and/or those who help her, if she refuses.

(b) You want it to be allowed freely, at the woman's expense. That means you want your representative to over-rule the sincere and passionate beliefs of those who see the fetus as a human being with a right to life, and hence that abortion is murder.

(c) You want it to be allowed freely, but at taxpayer expense. That means the same as (b), except that in addition you want your representative to force the cost of abortions to be paid by all, including those who oppose it.

Clearly, these are mutually exclusive. A choice of one means a rejection of the others. If the matter were resolved by majority (or plurality) vote for one of these three possible options, those preferring either of the other two will be dissatisfied, disgruntled. At the next election, they may reverse the choice - and so on. What's "legal" could reverse every few years! - and 49% (or even more, since there are three alternatives above) will always be disgruntled.

There's a simple alternative to that obviously unsatisfactory situation: no voting, no law, but instead persuasion and a market. If you favor option (a), get your check book out and try to persuade a pregnant woman contemplating abortion to carry the baby to term; pay her to do so and make sure adopting parents are ready. You (and your presumed friends and associates) may not succeed in every case (the price demanded may be too high) but you will succeed in many cases. The number of abortions will fall steeply, and so will the number of dissatisfied people. That leads directly to a more peaceful, harmonious society.

That's what a market does, for the principle applies not just to this example but to any issue you care about enough for it to influence the way you might vote, were the political arena to continue. Every player in the market arena gets exactly what he or she demands, with the fewest possible exceptions; so the degree of harmony is maximized. A market arena or society is the optimal society.

"Demands"? - yes, I didn't use the word "wants" - for in the market arena, demand equals the wish, plus the money. Why so? - because if someone is to provide what you desire, he or she will expect something in exchange which he values more; and it usually takes the form of money. So just because I might want a top-of-the-line BMW, doesn't mean I'll get it; first, I have to pony up. And that means I'll have to work to provide value to someone else, so as to acquire something poniable.

Everyday experience tells us this is so. Enter any supermarket, and observe tens of thousands of competing items and brands, bidding for your business. You, the customer, are king: if one of them isn't to your liking, you don't buy it. That choice is rapidly detected by the retailer and manufacturer, who adjusts the nature or price of the product to attract your custom. And, take a look: no two customers' shopping carts are identical! That's the market arena. In the government arena, were there some equivalent (and there was, for decades, in the USSR) you buy what the government decides to provide, if it happens to be in stock.

But what, may say the government junkie, about the poor? The downtrodden? The disabled?

Aside from the few sadly deprived of normal brain function at birth, any of that kind of person who exists, does so because a government school raised him; and those who are truly unable to work or choose for themselves will be (and always have been) cared for by family, church or charity - out of true compassion, not the compelled kind which is actually no compassion at all.

The political arena benefits only those who run it; it gives them power. Having acquired a little power, they use it to acquire more. They are and always will be heavily outnumbered (otherwise there would be too few to pay their handsome salaries) but they are very skilled in deploying that power. So it will not go away of its own accord; hear Orwell: “Power is not a means; it is an end... The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.” So, if a market arena is to prevail, action is required. Here's what, and how.

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