Socialist Misconceptions About Market Anarchism

Broadly, my objections to socialism (be it statist or anti-statist) are not with the ends sought (a more egalitarian world, social solidarity and a free society), just the means by which those ends are sought. I take the view that free markets can more justly and more effectively socialize the benefits of capital and labor than can socialism.

Now, I understand that there are many strains of socialists. Some are state socialists, some libertarian (or voluntary) socialists and even some socialists are pro-market (as much as right-wingers might not like to acknowledge it).

A common misconception I run across from anti-market socialists is that they oppose the profit motive and markets, instead favoring non-market economies like gifting. I happen to think that gifting would have its place, but it would not be the primary form of economic activity.

Market anarchists view profit making as a natural phenomenon taking place among living beings, so it is more of a descriptive observation than it is a prescriptive notion about how living beings ought to behave. As a nexus of all of our consensual economic decisions, markets serve to remove human dissatisfaction.

To understand this, profits that free-market supporters speak of do not necessarily take the form of money, either. When bartering, people will trade for goods or services which they more highly value. With even the simplest interaction, it is natural that pleasure is more desirable than pain. Of course, people are going to have different time preferences for valuing particular pains and pleasures. Nevertheless, the psychic values of these pleasures and pains are not reducible to quantifiable interpersonal comparisons. They originate and remain in the mind of the person who holds them. That is, these values are not fixed to the objects themselves but instead represented in people’s own judgements.

So it is possible for a set of people who hold different judgements to exchange objects they each value and still mutually benefit from that exchange, rendering a greater output of wealth for all. In a free market (which is not in place today), consumers would determine who has best combined less-valued resources into higher-valued products and thus profited.

The work before us market anarchists is obvious.

At present, there are all sorts of government interventions, from “lemon market reforms” to socialized information diseconomies of scale and artificial barriers to entry, that limit the number of firms competing in the market. The problem is not so much much markets as it is statism.