I think this post properly criticizes what Roderick Long calls right-conflationism, the logical mistake of thinking that the ideals of an unhampered market system justify the status quo. For example, a right-conflationist might argue in favor of child labor on the basis that it’s the best (or least worst) option for a desperate family. Meanwhile, the right-conflationist ignores the ways in which government interventions for privileged businesses have put people in such a vulnerable position that they have to accept wage labor as their only reliable source of income in the first place.
To speaking meaningfully of regulation, we need to distinguish between regulatory interventions1 into the market system for favored businesses and the regulatory restraints on those political privileges2. Conservatives use free-market rhetoric when talking about removing restraints on political privileges. I would think that removing restraints on political privileges represents a greater degree of intervention into the market system. The proper thing to do would be to abolish the political privileges that prop up existing economic privileges that give rise to child labor, poor working conditions, and poor product quality standards.
With that said, the most important reforms to be made aren’t about removing restraints on big businesses, most of whom got that way because of political pull, but by removing the controls on you and me.1 Minor point as I understand it: Not all regulations are interventions into the market system, since some regulations (like the prohibition of fraud) would be necessary for the market system to function. 2 By political privilege, I mean control of the use of another’s property in such a way that is only made possible by the force of law.
It is common to hear people call for the removal of the government from the market or launch defences of the ‘free’ market. It is asserted that governments always get things wrong and that regulations only make things worse. Conservatives proclaim that if the economy was only left in the hands of the free market everything would be better. However there is no such thing as the free market. It doesn’t exist and probably never did. Every market has some rules and regulations that even conservatives admit are necessary. We have grown so use to them that we don’t see them but they are still there. The market is never free.
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