Markets Transcend the Archaic Hatreds Sustained by the State 8/22/16, by Ryan Miller
We live in a world united. To the extent that markets are allowed to operate freely we have seen increasing convergence within societies and the world on everything, from food to entertainment, from technology to language. Given freer markets, we would likely see the even quicker marginalization of all the negative “isms” (racism, sexism, nationalism, etc.) as well as things like homophobia and religious intolerance.
We have already seen these things largely relegated to a relatively insignificant role and those who are racist or sexist are not able to publicly act on their beliefs for fear of ostracism. This tremendously positive development of human society has occurred because of (relatively) free markets. Because of trading, buying and selling. Because markets incentivize us to not see a black person or a gay person, but a customer or potential client.
Markets Punish Bigotry
For those hold-outs who would still operate their business on a bigoted basis, there is an increasingly global market full of competitors who are happy to sell to those people the bigots won’t. Additionally as we’ve seen, social media quickly makes
known any “infraction” or action which the majority of people hold to be wrong and the market takes its toll through boycotts and bad PR. The incentives this creates encourage people to change their beliefs, or at least keep them to themselves and not act on them.
Whereas markets bring us ever closer together and incentivize us to treat all people with a basic level of respect and decency, political systems and states do the exact opposite. For all the progress that markets have allowed us to gain in terms of equality of natural rights, acceptance of others who are different, etc., the state continuously comes in and highlights people’s differences, stirs up largely imagined divisions—all to exploit for political gains. Things like affirmative action, social security, and welfare all serve to hurt some only by hurting others worse.
But that’s not all.
The very existence of political (specifically democratic) systems creates a situation where people must fight their neighbors and coworkers and even friends for political power. A situation of all versus all.
States Ruin Everything
Modern states have grown to such a degree that they affect nearly every aspect of our lives. This means that if you and people who share your values or opinions do not control the levers of political power, the people with whom you don’t share values, and with whom you don’t agree will. They could then use that power to very tangibly affect your life and the welfare of yourself and your family.
This leads to a society of mistrust, decreasing social cohesion, and sometimes even hate. You stop seeing that black person as a market equal and potential buyer or seller and see them as someone who is going to use the state to get more money from you.
You see that gay man not as a customer, but as someone who is going to vote to force you to act against your religious beliefs. You see the rich guy not as a genius for the immense value he likely created for you and society, but as the enemy using the state to keep you down in order to walk all over you.
What’s even worse, however, is that your opinions and beliefs mean nothing and you are not even allowed to build your life around them as you would see fit. This is because no matter how passionately you believe in something, if the majority decides it to be inappropriate or as not in its best interests then you are barred from exercising that belief or ordering your life around it. You must live with the decisions that millions of people or a handful of politicians you don’t know make for you.
The State Rewards Hate
Given enough time this situation will directly lead to resentment and hate. It draws in differences of opinion and literally makes them a matter of survival, of life and death. This is the cause of the high degree of animosity between Trump and Hillary supporters. Between authoritarian liberals and anyone who has a sane opinion. Because those opinions and political views have a very high chance of actually changing your life for the worse.
Continuing down this road we could see the retreat from the peaceful and respectful viewing of others as buyers, sellers, customers, and clients and the return to seeing people as enemies out to get us, and different people as dangerous.
The good news is that there is an easy way to avoid this path. The answer is to let individuals live out their own lives according to their own values. Punish only those who aggress against others and let the market take care of behavioral practices most find distasteful. If a practice or mindset is thought by enough of society to be immoral or unacceptable, then market produced incentives will discourage it. With that said however, people’s beliefs become a lot less threatening to us if they are not able to use force to mandate our compliance with them.
The State Is Outdated
Quit trying to control everyone’s world. Focus on your life. Focus on how you can create value for yourself and others. Be productive. When in a state of freedom, society tends towards acceptance, productivity, and happiness.
The state is outdated and as such brings with it the outdated prejudices and divisions of an older, less developed time. It is true we are largely passing the state up and making it increasingly obsolete. But because of that, it is clawing at any chance or division that will maintain its power. It’s time to throw the state and political systems into the trash bin of history and work diligently to keep them there.
Ryan Miller is a student at the University of Michigan.