Monday, December 07, 2009

The delusion of Free Markets.

Something for our local anti-tax cabal.

How Free-Market Delusions Destroyed the Economy

A clear new look at the free-market fantasy.


Kevin Scheunemann said...


And what is your solution?

(without destroying all incentives to work)

Anonymous said...


you are taking the wrong attitude.

people do not like,and will not tolerate, and will not, be paraded around like chimpanzees in some mad scientific experiment.

the answer for each individual has to come from within,and without understanding this core principle,any attempt by the establishment or government to regulate and process the people in the name of capitalism will be resisted and defeated.

kevin scheunemann said...


You are taking the wrong approach.

You believe everyone's motivation is for some higher, inner, purpose. Some people just want to be irresponsible and pursue destructive activities.

The free market punishes irresponsibility. In the free market, irresponsibility and stupidity hurts.

You sound perilously close to the idea that you want to unshackle the economic consequences of irresponsible behavior....

Mpeterson said...

Not at all Kevin, I do believe people are generally motivated by whatever will satisfy their immediate appetites and concerns. I don't believe it's likely that most people will act reasonably all the time -- I mean, c'mon. It's too much work.

What I do believe is that Adam Smith's metaphor justifying the "free market" -- and it's consequent adoption by some economists as an article of faith -- does not explain or predict how this motivational vector works in either an adequate or accurate way.

Kevin Scheunemann said...

Now that we got that out of our way...

What is your proposal to replace the free market?

Here's your chance to convince me that freedom of choice, responsibility, and hard work are overrated!

I trust you can articulate the "anti-free market" approach eloquently.

Mpeterson said...

Since you've made it clear that even you don't know what's implied by the term "free market" -- and I'm pretty sure by this point, that you don't care whether you understand it or not -- I'll be happy to play for one last round.

Start here: the problem with the notion of free markets, both in theory and in practice, is information asymmetry.

When you can convince me you understand Stiglitz's critique, I'll let you post again.

Sound fair?

kevin Scheunemann said...


Advancing technology progressively eliminates the "information asymmetry" challenge.

Advancing technology, generally, does not take place outside the marketplace.

Or at the very least, I hope we can agree on the idea, technology advancement thrives under free market conditions. The closer one is to the free market ideal, the faster technology advances, more readily eliminating the information asymmetry "challenge".

Or do I need to introduce you to things like "ebay" and "craig's list"?

Mpeterson said...

Except advancing technologies don't do this because the access they provide depends disproportionately on wealth and wealth, as we've seen, depends on access to this same info. So the asymmetries aren't ironed out by technology, but reinforced.

One more try.

kevin scheunemann said...

Advancing technology creates wealth.

Even the so-called poor in this country have a refrigerator, microwave, stove, most have cable TV and internet access. And a majority have air conditioners and a car. (CATO study)

By comparison, just pick any destitute 3rd world nation. The "poor" in those nations rarely have any of those things.

Even if technology is widening the so-called wealth divide in this country, the standard of living for the poor in this country is accelerating upward compared to countries that destroy their market freedom.

The point is: slowing technological wealth creation down, with heavy handed regulation or taxation, to pursue some vague and ill-defined social justice theory hurts the poor disproportionately. If there is a disincentive, via taxation, to create and innovate, the so-called poor pay a heftier price through lost jobs and opportunity.

Social justice of this type in practice equals Zimbabwe. Everyone but the ruling elite starve.

Mpeterson said...

You can only say things like that when you reach for theory without history. We inherited a spectacular glut of wealth after WWII that had nothing to do with markets and everything to do with an intact infrastructure and our economic policies since then have been designed to export our poverty and maintain our economic hegemony... born on 3rd base and claiming we hit a triple.

And from here you dodge off again into your Friedman memes. You'd do better to quote Milton back at me and explain how the current corporate structures have made coercion (either economic, political, or military) and fraud (whether economic, political, or military) less of a factor in our economic system. Freedom from fraud and coercion are the central criteria for the possibility any free market -- so says Uncle Milt. But your argument can't go here precisely because fraud and coercion (whether economic, political or -- in Chile and Argentina say -- military) are precisely the things our economic system, and it's corrosive effects on our political system, have maintained and made even more opaque.

So, sorry Kev.

Maybe you could start your own blog?

DanBack said...

I'd love Kevin to "start" a "blog".

Kevin Scheunemann said...


You talk, eloquently, about what you don't like about the free market, but what is your "solution" to your free market "problem"?

I'm sure it involves more government, higher taxes, more regulation, and a disincentive to work.

Lets just be intellectually honest about what you are promoting.

Mpeterson said...

Sure. The most practical approach would simply be to use Rawl's notions of distributive justice.

kevin scheunemann said...

Could you explain "distributive justice"?

I got to give you kudos. "Distributive justice" is the equivalent of calling a manure pile a sweet smelling spring meadow.

Why is Zimbabwe not a perfect example of "distributive justice" in action?

Mpeterson said...

Calling Zimbabwe an example of distributive justice is like calling Ayn Rand a philosopher -- so your analogy doesn't hold.

Seriously Kevin, you should be better at this by now.

Why aren't you simply lobbing in the hard core libertarian arguments? They're based on faulty assumptions but, at least they're coherent. Instead you're just splashing about with all of this mushy neo-confectioner's corn syrup.

--which, leads us back to your mud pies. :^)

Bottoms Up! said...

Mark and Kevin,

How about an entirely different approach to this debate.

Government now is indeed regulative as Kevin points out; this is a good thing because unbridled capitalism is basically anarchy.

But Mark, you are equally lost in darkness and confusion.

The Rawls approach is top-down, and I'm sorry, but that kind of hierarchy is outdated.Any new approach to regulating capitalism has to grow from the bottom up, in conjunction with capitalism.

Capitalism is not so much the enemy as it is an inescapable condition.

And do you really want to deny that capitalism, for better or worse, breeds innovation?

Mpeterson said...

I was trying to stay inside of lines Kevin could understand. :^)

All I needed from Rawls here was the notion of acceptable inequalities. That by itself should make even the free-marketeers happy but, I'd also note that without some regulation "unbridled capitalism" is never "anarchy" for long. Based on experience of the past hundred years and, especially, the last couple of decades in the US -- and China! -- unbridled capitalism devolves into oligarchy not anarchy.

I have a problem with your assumption about capitalism as the inescapable condition of human life, however. If that were the case, then you have to assume that human beings are only motivated by money and that -- and this is the assumption economics seems to depend on -- wealth is the same thing as being happy.

If human beings are motivated by currencies other than economic ones, then you might have to recast your sense of inevitability.

Anonymous said...

Economics always an incentive?

When economics becomes the standard, economic values drive out human ones.

kevin scheunemann said...


Wealth allows one the luxury to worry about "other life currencies other than those economic".

One cannot pontificate about the meaning of life if one is starving in Zimbabwe and N. Korea. (Perfect examples of distributive justice societies) The economics of your next meal is the ONLY thing you are woried about!

Wealth creates the luxury to worry about currencies of life other than those economic.

So this means you support wealth creation!

Just answer me this question: How does wealth creation come from anywhere other than the capitalist system?

(In other words, explain to me how high taxes, high government spending, high regulation creates wealth?)

Mpeterson said...

Whose capitalism are you talking about? LBJ's or George W Bush's?

Kevin scheunemann said...

Any type of capitalism/free marketplace that allows wealth creation to thrive!

Or are you playing the discredited "zero sum game" liberal card?

Weather Man said...


I would like to keep this discussion going because I think it cuts to the core and is uber-importante.

you said "I have a problem with your assumption about capitalism as the inescapable condition of human life, however."

Is that what I said?

Let me rephrase: I think capitalism is not so much inescapable as it is the endgame(y'know,like Beckett)of the progression of civilization.

You said "If that were the case, then you have to assume that human beings are only motivated by money."

But humans are not motivated by money; my point is that they are motivated by what they want!!!

As far as the anarchy/oligarchy thing, oligarchy can only form under the condition of PURE capitalism-and pure capitalism is total,insane,anarchy.

Anonymous said...


okay, so you say capitalism is NOT an inevitable condition.

then you tell me:how do you propose getting back out of it?or, to rephrase the question more precisely: how do we get THROUGH it?

and also, about the anarchy/oligarchy of capitalism-anarchy is the precondition for oligarchy,not the other way around.
the anarchy of the "free" market is the breeding ground of tyrants and despots.

Tell me I'm wrong!!!

jean-francois said...

whats a mayter mark,

this discussion getting to you?

the global capitalist machine/system is swallowing us whole. do you really think outdated theoriers from the past are going to absolve us of our karl marx, champion of the slaughter,godfather of misinterpretation,is he going to rise up again and we will just "get 'er done" the right way this time?

NO.acknowledge the crisis of advanced-capitalism.let me quote marx's succesor who is undoubtably the most important philosopher right now:

"we live today in the age of partial objects,bricks that have been shattered to bits,and leftovers.We no longer believe inn a primordial totality that once existed, or in a final totality that awaits us at some future date."
Gilles Deleuze

if you are afraid that the rigid parameters of theory are going turn into madness, i have some news for you.

they already have.ciao baby.

Mpeterson said...

Hello j-f,

You know fully well that we'll agree about freedom and the totalizing character of our systems. We've been too late since the beginning. :^)

Weather Man: I think I generally agree. My only observation is that where there has been lots of 'freedom' (from regulation) in markets, they've turned into oligarchies (Chile, Argentina, Russia, the US).

Anon: yeah, how do we get THROUGH it? I think that's the question. All I'm relatively sure about it is that we don't get through it the way we're staying stuck in it right now. People want all sorts of things that aren't money -- they're starving for it. Here's one: citizenship. What if we started emphasizing this again, as they did when I was little. What if we started treating Americans like citizens again, instead of consumers?

LazedAndConfused said...

Whoa, Mark, that was a glancing blow.
Oh well, I guess we ARE talking about delusion...

But tie in with another post about undoing the binary dialectic of sex and about sexual ambivalence,right,

LazedAndConfused said...


Getting a little overly defensive here, sorry.>

Mpeterson said...

Don't hawk your lookism with glancing blog blows bLaze. Hope you've been well.

You and I agree about capitalism, but I'm thinking Kevin here could do with some undoing regarding the blinkers of binary dialectic -- in all these dimensions.

But he never leaves an email address and doesn't like to answer questions -- you see, he's an Objectivist.

(No, seriously, he is.)

LazedAndConfused said...

you're right, that is a very good point, about treating people like citizens and not consumers.

this betrays some of the jaded theory here.

but does not citizenship ultimately bring us back to communism and Karl Marx?

Citizens of what?

Mpeterson said...

What I think is interesting is that your point about the consequences of citizenship was perfectly obvious to you and to me. The economic system wants consumers. The political system wants citizens. What happens when the economic system finally takes control (explicitly I mean) of the political system... as it has recently? Citizenship gets marginalized and consumption replaces truth. QED I'd say.

Hmm... and what happens to Sittlichkeit then?