I had 3 posts over at Demos’ Policy Shop this week. Here is a rundown with links:
There Is No Such Thing As Free Contract. Excerpt:
The point here is that the gospel of mutually beneficial transactions makes little mention of the fact that transactions are only mutually beneficial within circumstances established by public policy. Those circumstances are alterable and none of them are default or natural. So for instance, if I am very poor I might accept a job paying me $2/hour picking fruit in a field. Now suppose I am that same person, but my country has a basic income system where everyone receives $10,000 each year. Under those circumstances, I may choose not to work in that field unless it pays more or has better conditions. So is working for $2/hour a mutually beneficial transaction for me or not? The fact that the answer depends on the policy background I live in shows how impossible it is to make any broad conclusions about economic justice or fairness by looking at individual transactions.
What’s interesting about Hoppe to me is that he sees exactly the things every critic of libertarianism sees. He sees that, in fact, totally unfettered private control over the resources of the world would be a brutal existence (if an existence at all) for the vast majorty of people. Expanded private control is not free-love, wonderful, amazing liberty. It is a kind of total tyranny (tyranny of the property owner, as opposed to tyranny of the state). Instead of denying these things are true (as many try to), he says they are absolutely true, and that constructing this private tyranny is precisely the point of libertarianism.
The double movement – economic liberalization happens or expands and then society crams it back to make it livable – really does appear to be a universal historical occurrence. Where is the society that goes down the path of economic liberalism where the hell of it all doesn’t create a backlash that leads to social protections? Are there any such historical examples? Contemporary examples?
China is an interesting case. We are told about how great liberalization and industrial capitalism has been at raising the living standards of so many Chinese. So what’s happening now? Well, among other things, the country is exploding in labor unrest and massive strike activity. What a familiar story. I feel like I’ve read it before.