Do you love commerce?

As a footnote to my last post, here's the choice Jeffrey Tucker leaves us with in his ringing defense of fast food:

Murray Rothbard used the phrase "do you hate the state?" to ferret out real from mild libertarians. As a correlative question, we might ask "do you love commerce?" to ferret out real defenders of real markets as versus those who just enjoy standing in moral judgement over the whole world as it really exists. Yes, I too am against corn subsides, and against all subsidies, as well as taxes, regulations, inflation, zoning, public roads and everything else. In a free market, everything would thrive even more than it does today, and that goes for fast food too.

I have some responses.

  1. I do not love commerce. I think it's one way free people interact. There are others, some that I prefer. There are none that I think are so fundamental that I disconnect them from the particularist details of the situation, elevating the abstraction to some sort of platonic ideal of supreme perfection. Commerce is not, in other words, my religion. I've known people who worship it, and they generally do not impress me.
  2. I agree that merely standing in moral judgment of the whole world is stupid, and I've written so before. We need positive ideas and creative actions, not simply rejection of error. But I think that's a false characterization of what left libertarians offer. Critiquing modern business is not about condemning it, but about recognizing maladaptation so that we can conceive of freer possibilities as we lay the groundwork for them. Which leads me to...
  3. The lack of imagination and passion inherent in the prediction that, in an authentically free market, human relations, production, economics, everything about our lives would basically look exactly the same - except more successful - escapes my capacity for ridicule.

People who basically want the status quo with less taxes and regulation (or less armies and corporations) might be allies in the fight against the state. But they're hardly the kind of radicals that matter - the creative, exploratory radicals who stretch the limits of human potential, inspiration and self-actualization. That's not a strictly political or economic category, but for God's sake: there's more to life than politics or economics. If markets and commerce - or any subset of the human condition - are more important to you than genuine freedom, then you're missing an entire spectrum of the glorious mystery of life on this planet.

Written on Sunday, June 05, 2011 | Tags: markets, libertarianism, market-fundamentalism