"Markets vs. Politics: Which Will It Be?"
by Brian Maher
"No man can avoid politics. All are in siege. No rival field of human enterprise can approach its ferocity. War is the extension of what by other means… in Mr. Carl von Clausewitz’s grim telling? The answer is politics of course. Today we file a scorching tort against politics. Politics separates, divides, enrages, disrupts - as war itself separates, divides, enrages, disrupts. Democratic politics offer no exception. Reduce electoral politics to its naked core…
The Essence of Electoral Politics: You have Candidate X. You have Candidate Y. Each is nothing more in this world than a liar, jackleg or rogue. This human sculch appears before the voters, hopeful of election. Both roar their flubdubberies before eager and attentive crowds. Both shout their propagandas. Each denounces the other as an arm of Satan. Amazingly, both are correct. This we witnessed Tuesday evening.
Come the election... 50.1% of voters may yank a lever for X. 49.9% may pull one for Y. X claims the laurel. He proceeds immediately against the desires, hopes and interests of the hapless 49.9%. Each day they live they wither, cringe and chafe beneath X’s atrocities… helpless as worms on fisherman’s hooks. Only upon some distant November can they heave this jackal out. Assume they do... Y - or some other Y - comes in. X’s voters must then endure their own parallel hells until the following election. The case of President Donald J. Trump is exquisitely in point…
In Politics, Smaller Is Better: One segment of the nation is with him. The other is against - many violently against. Why should either boss the other for four entire years? The same pitiful calculus applies to elections at any level of American government… down to canine-catcher. But the higher the office… the greater the menace.
The mayor of Why, Arizona, may impose his torments upon his encircled victims - as may the mayor of Whynot, North Carolina. Yet their victims are free to jump the fence. The bordering hamlet might run to saner and more tolerable settings… and so the oppressed flee.
The same dynamic applies to states. Has a California or an Oregon or an Illinois gone lunatic? For many they have. But a Texas or a Tennessee or a Utah holds out asylum. These local competitions form a severe brake on the natural rascalities of politics. It is, in fact, the crowning glory of the American device of government. But to escape a president a fellow must quit the country altogether - or rot down four years until he takes another go at the vote booth. And if the scalawag wins reelection? Then our wretch voter must endure another four years under occupation - for a total of eight.
There is politics for you. The business is so dismal... it can wear the soul out of the stoutest fellow. Now contrast the political system with the market system…
Voting in the Marketplace Is Entirely Different: Free markets - authentically free markets - lack entirely the violent combats central to politics. They are scenes of peace, tolerance… and justice. Let us draw a parallel case to our previous example of candidates X and Y...
A Coca-Cola holds itself out before the American people. This candidate claims to be the “real thing.” “Vote for me,” it says. Behind another podium stands a Pepsi. “No. Vote for me,” counters this fellow. Drink me “for the love of it.” Each cries his case.
This fickle and capricious voter pulls the lever for Coke. Or he pulls the lever for Pepsi. He opens his wallet for the one or the other. Does his vote injure, usurp or ruffle the opposing voter? Does he club the other voter over the head… as he does in politics? In no way, no shape, no form.
Satisfied Voters: A voter for either is a satisfied voter. Neither has any care to impose his preference upon the other… or deny him his soft drink of choice. Multiply this one example countless times and in countless directions - and you have a picture of majestic electoral peace.
McDonald’s versus Burger King, Honda versus Ford, Nike versus Adidas, Walmart versus Target… it is all one. A vote for any of them is peaceful as a dove. This voter on the free and open market holds no gun to the other voter’s ribs.
When he votes in politics - conversely - he does hold a gun to the other’s ribs. He seeks to impose his preferences upon the other fellow who does not wish to be imposed upon. To pull a lever is to pull a trigger.
Red State vs. Blue State: Chain a red-state American to a blue-state American. Force them to vote between any product on the free and open market. The blue-state voter may razz the red-stater’s ghastly and barbarian tastes. The red-state voter may in turn razz the blue-stater’s effete and supercilious tastes. But neither attempts to dragoon or bayonet the other. Each is free to vote his own way, as he might. And so peace prevails between them.
But give them the choice of Trump versus Hillary or Trump versus Biden... They will fall into savage combat… as the Kilkenny cats fell into savage combat. One will win. One will lose.
We must therefore conclude the free market’s voting system is vastly superior to political voting. A vote in the marketplace is a “win, win” deal, as our co-founder Bill Bonner styles it. What is politics then but a colossal “win, lose” deal? And market voting improves the world in ways large and small…
Voting in the Free Market Improves the World: Each business must compete for the consumer’s vote. That vote harms no one, as we have established. It also benefits many. It benefits many because a vote sends a signal. It tells the outvoted to field an improved product - or take the consequences. And an improved product lifts this world that much higher.
If a business fails the market’s harsh and ruthless voting, it falls into bankruptcy… and goes away. Yet here is perhaps politics’s greatest crime, its most scarlet of sins: It has drained away “social power”... and channeled it off into state power. That is, politics has stripped society’s power and liberty… and placed them in the state’s hands.
Social Power vs. State Power: Albert Jay Nock (1870–1945) was a gentleman and thinker of deep and penetrating insight. Nock bemoaned the loss of social power during the New Deal: "If we look beneath the surface of our public affairs, we can discern one fundamental fact: namely, a great redistribution of power between society and the State…
It is unfortunately none too well understood that, just as the State has no money of its own, so it has no power of its own. All the power it has is what society gives it, plus what it confiscates from time to time on one pretext or another; there is no other source from which State power can be drawn. Therefore every assumption of State power, whether by gift or seizure, leaves society with so much less power. There is never, nor can there be, any strengthening of State power without a corresponding and roughly equivalent depletion of social power...
Heretofore in this country sudden crises of misfortune have been met by a mobilization of social power. In fact (except for certain institutional enterprises like the home for the aged, the lunatic asylum, city hospital and county poorhouse), destitution, unemployment, "depression" and similar ills have been no concern of the State but have been relieved by the application of social power."
As the frog in its pot acquiesces to the gradually warming water… the citizen has acquiesced to his gradual loss of social power: "Thus the State "turns every contingency into a resource" for accumulating power in itself, always at the expense of social power; and with this it develops a habit of acquiescence in the people. New generations appear, each temperamentally adjusted - or as I believe our American glossary now has it, "conditioned" - to new increments of State power, and they tend to take the process of continuous accumulation as quite in order."
The lingering vestiges of social power are in the State’s sights. And many voters are hot to sign them away.
Is There Any Alternative to Politics? Do we propose an alternative to the political arrangement? No - not earnestly. We diagnose a disorder… we do not prescribe a fix. Besides, most would find a true alternative hard to worry down. It would be very rough stuff.
We have previously held out the relative virtues of monarchy to jab cherished democratic theories. But we certainly do not expect - nor do we propose - a return to monarchy. But you say we are a republic, not a democracy. It is the best we can do in this fallen world of sin and evil. Just so. We will not argue. But as French historian François Guizot said of republics: “I have no use for a republic that begins with Plato... and ends necessarily with a policeman.”