Thursday, August 17, 2006

Free Market Reactions

The sort of thread that drives me nuts: This Daily Kos diary post about neoconservatives, neoliberals, and the free market.

Forget the errors for a second, and the blatant misreading of Hayek, (Which only one commenter happens to point out), and focus on the fact that this is supposed to be an attempt for liberals to better understand their enemies.

Understand? All this piece does is mesh contradictory philosophies in an attempt to place all non-liberals (in the modern American sense) in the same box. Which is, of course, crazy. I've never really heard of Walter Lippmann before- I've certainly never heard him cited by any free market proponent. From what the author says here, much of what Lippmann says runs counter to all of the basic ideas proposed by Hayek- the strength and democratizing effect of the market, anti-authoritarianism, and anti-collectivism. Connecting these two makes no sense whatsoever, other than painting believers in the free market as authoritarians.

And this is the real problem. Leftists can't accept the notion that there are those of us who are actually motivated by the freedom promised by the free market. Not every defender of the free market is a corporate stooge or a closet authoritarian. There are those of us who believe that a free market, subject to as little government restriction as possible, makes us freer, and gives us a higher quality of life than any other economic system.

This utter lack of understanding has unfortunate consequences. In response to the commenter who questioned his reading of Hayek, the author of the piece responded,

Yes, but I think that while Hayek speaks about liberty in very sweeping terms, he's speaking most specifically about economic liberty as part of his effort to fetishize the "free market."

Actually, Hayek saw economic and personal liberty as going hand-in-hand, but that's really beside the point. The point is that Hayek, and other articulate defenses of the free market are written off- Ideas are not discussed and debated- In fact, the very heart, the very basic concepts of neoliberalism are not even reached. It's unfortunate, but it's an all too common modus operandi of leftists.

And perhaps above all else, this coincides with the theme of this blog, thinking about and examining ideas for yourself. For instance, public interest consumer groups and pro-business groups may tell you drastically different things about the dangers of some specific product. Before making your decision about that product, examine the nature of the claims being made by both sides, don't just side against big business. As one of my favorite professors in law school always says, "Don't just react - think!"


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