I’ve never been able to come up with a completely satisfactory definition of “the free market.” It’s always been eluded me.
I don’t think I will ever go able to come up with one that satisfies me. It is a fact, and not an opinion, that the map is not the terrain. All theories are convenient fictions used to describe reality, but none are reality itself.
It isn’t a problem for me for that being unable to formulate a comprehensive theory to describe everything is impossible. To understand everything is, theologically, to know the mind of God, which is beyond human abilities.
The closer the theory describes reality, the better it works. But no theory will ever be able to describe reality perfectly. At first, I used the word “theory,” which is the most commonly used one. Then I switched to “model.” But perhaps “theology” is the best word.
Why the word “theology”? Because any endeavor to understand reality is the attempt, ultimately, to understand the mind of God. By the way, I don’t care if you use the word “God” or “the Absolute” or “science.” It’s all the same thing: the attempt to understand the whole of reality.
I studied the neo-Keynesian synthesis taught in college. I dismissed it as dangerous nonsense believed only by what I call high-IQ idiots, the dumbest of which come from Harvard and Yale and Princeton and then go to work for the federal government or else regurgitate what they have learned by teaching college. None have any practical experience in business.
Monetarists out of the University of Chicago are better but still dangerous. Fortunately they’re not as dangerous as Keynesians of whatever perversion.
The closest economic theory I have encountered that describes reality with much accuracy is the Austrian School. But I have my disagreements with some its more vociferous and confused supporters.
Let’s say the “free market” is what occurs when the government only protects “life, liberty and property,” as John Locke suggested, and which made it into the Constitution as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
What automatically springs up is the maximum of political and economic liberty – what is commonly defined as the free market. This is a very good thing for maximizing people’s well-being, although some people prefer security, not understanding they always give up their liberty for it. They don’t get their security, either.
There is no such thing as economics per se. Economics is inseparable from political science, and in wiser days it was called “political economy.” It’s also an inseparable part of the law, since under that minimum of law protecting “life, liberty and property” we get the maximum amount of liberty.
Those three things –- economics, political science, and law – also cannot be separated from religion. All religions agree people should not murder or steal or lie, and without religion I doubt there would be anything except a wolves-eats-sheep society. With no religion, contrary to the delusions of atheists (and John Lennon, too), you’ll get not much more than chaos.
So you can see my problem in trying to define the free market. It’s not just economics. It’s also politics, law and religion. But it gets even more complicated. It’s also tribe.
Let’s look at the relationship of open borders to tribe. Are open borders part of the free market? The open-borders libertarian crowd claims that it is. They operate on the assumption the free market will turn all immigrants into Americans who share American values – whatever the hell they are these days.
How do you define tribe? Essentially, an extended family that have many traits in common. It can be race, religion, ethnic group or nationality. But they always must have certain core beliefs in common.
Open borders, however, aren’t part of the free market. Let’s do a thought experiment – a rather extreme thought experiment – and imagine a country of three tribes: Wahabi Muslims (the ones responsible for 9-11), Zionists, and fundamentalist Christians. Now imagine them trying to share the same land.
Some will claim such a hypothetical example will never happen. True. But it doesn’t matter. Let’s quote Ludwig von Mises: “There is no such thing as too much of a correct theory.”
If the belief in open-borders is a correct theory, then there can be no such thing as too few borders. If the theory is completely correct, there should be no borders at all.
So what would happen with the example I just created? Would all of those people be turned into Americans, united in their love of DVD players, wide-screen TVs and SUVs?
Nope. There’d be violence and murder as each tried to expel the other from their land. As Gary Brecher (the War Nerd) has written, “Traditionally, genocide has been the result when one tribe encounters another.” It’s been the history of the world.
The free market makes life better. Open borders makes things worse. Ergo, open borders are not part of the free market and political liberty.
“Economics” is not based on empiricism. You can’t do repeatable experiments in a lab, which is why it’s not a hard science. It is historical in that you can look at what has happened in the past, such as what inflation has always done.
Yet even history doesn’t always work. Historically it’s possible to see what the oversupply of money does, but you can’t always tell about the demand, or velocity, for money.
That’s why economics is based on rationalism, as von Mises commented. But in order for it to be a comprehensive, rational theory it must take human nature into account – the differences in race, culture, religion, intelligence.
My conclusion? The free market must take into account the tribal nature of mankind. That is the application of the “correct theory” of which von Mises wrote.
Since open borders (i.e., the unimpeded free movement of labor throughout the world) do not work, and in fact is immensely destructive, this means, contrary to the hallucinations of anarchist libertarians, there will always be some kind of government.
A cohesive, workable country must be overwhelmingly of one “family” that shares certain traits in common.
The only way open borders (or no borders) would work is if everyone in the world was of the same race, same language, same religion, and shared the same culture; specifically, the belief in the smallest possible government with the maximum of political and economic liberty. Otherwise, it would never work.
Leftists, who truly are fuzzy-minded (as Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn wrote in Leftism Revisited, leftists don’t merely misunderstand human nature but instead don’t understand it at all), believe that all cultures can learn to co-exist peacefully.
How they believe this is beyond me, considering Jews don’t believe in Jesus at all, Christians see him as the Son of God and consider Muhammad a psychotic child-raping false prophet, and Muslims consider Jesus a mere man and Christians who believe in the Trinity as polytheists. The idea these people could share the same land peacefully and productively is something only a mentally-stillborn leftist could believe.
The free market is based on economics, political science, law, religion, and a culture with shared views. Those five pillars must support the minimum number of laws to obtain the maximum amount of political and economic liberty.
The only place where those five things coalesced to discover political and economic liberty is the Christian, European “West.” It came from no place else in the world, and for that matter, isn’t taking root beyond its birthplace. It’s not going to, either.
Unfortunately, these five pillars are close to collapsing. Mainstream economics is a dangerous joke, as is much of political science, law, religion and culture. They’ve all been degraded. Since all of those things are so severely damaged, and since all of them are essential pillars of society, I see no way around a coming collapse of some sort.
What passes for economics today is dominated by blundering neo-Keynesians; the law is about lawyers suing those with money to transfer it into their own pockets; a lot of political science is leftist looniness; a politically-noticeable number of “Christians” believe Jesus is going to come back, rub out all the Muslims and kill Jews until they convert to their perverted version of Christianity; and “Western culture” (sic) has become multiculturalism (actually multitribalism) which is going to lead to nothing but conflict, destruction and backwardness.
It won’t be the Dark Ages, but it won’t be much fun.
So even though I cannot come up with a fully satisfactory definition of the free market, I do know enough about it to know that its loss is a terribly dangerous thing.