The Meaning of a Free Market

There’s something that’s always bothered me about the concept of a free market, and I suspect it bothers others too. A free market is supposed to allow the free interactions of its many participants. Intervention by the state is exactly what doesn’t happen in a free market, by definition.

But the state is composed of people too. It’s an organization – a unique one, for sure, but an organization nonetheless. Why treat it as something extraneous to the market, imposing on it from without? Why not consider state regulations of the market to be just the contributions of one of many market actors in a free market? Isn’t the state/market distinction ultimately arbitrary? What, in principle, is so different about the state?

Behind these questions lies an important insight into how to best bring about the emergence of a truly free market.

 

Let’s first imagine that a free market is simply everyone doing whatever they choose.  Of course, this doesn’t mean everyone has unlimited options. Each person’s actions will impose constraints on the actions of everyone else. I cannot, for example, buy eggs if no one around me sells eggs. These inevitable constraints aside, let’s not stipulate any other limitations.

This scenario is “free market” at its extreme: it lets the “free it all!” disposition run full throttle to its logical endpoint.

Notice that this state of affairs is what we already have. Everyone – including all market actors, including the state – is already doing whatever they choose within the constraints imposed by the actions of others.…

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What is Logic Selection? Part I: Introduction

Debates over what a term “is” are always amusing. They’re arguments over definitions. Definitions are stipulated. There’s nothing more to what a term “is” than what people agree to have it mean. I can say that the colloquial name for the species felis catus is “parlock,” and so long as you agree with me, we can have a perfectly meaningful conversation about parlock whiskers. Now imagine someone comes along and says to us, “what are you guys talking about? Parlocks don’t have whiskers, they have 88 black and white keys and are used to make music.” We wouldn’t get into a debate with this person; we would simply let them know that we use the word differently. If the person were to respond, “no, it’s not a matter of use. Parlocks are a type of musical instrument,” we’d quickly come to the conclusion that this person doesn’t understand how language works.

With this point in mind, a question: what do you think logic is?

I’m willing to bet your answer is something like “the fundamental laws governing the universe,” “the laws of existence,” or “the laws of rationality.”

None of those is right. You might want to argue with me. But if you do, you’ll be arguing that a word doesn’t mean what people have historically taken it to mean. You can use the sound and letter-combo “logic” in whatever way you like. But the word has a definition, a history, and a way that it is used by philosophers and logicians.…

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