Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Is the Free Market Really "Survival of the Fittest?"

Click here to read the original Cautious Optimism Facebook post with comments

The free market?

2 MIN READ - Among the countless progressive clich├ęs the Cautious Optimism Correspondent for Economic Affairs and Other Egghead Stuff has heard over the years…

“The rich don’t pay their fair share”

"CEO's, business owners, and landlords don't do any work"

“Lower prices for consumers is just a race to the bottom”

“All of history the rich get richer while the poor get poorer”

…two of the most amusing are the depiction of the free enterprise system as “the law of the jungle” and “survival of the fittest.”

Every American has seen the productive achievements of the free market system, even when handtied, mangled and disfigured by literally millions of distortive regulations between the federal and state governments.

And anyone who has seen one nature documentary about insect wars or animals in the jungle can fathom there is no resemblance to the free marketplace.

The late economist Murray Rothbard reminds us how daft those are who equate the market with the jungle.

From his book “Power and Market”:

“To apply the principle of the ‘survival of the fittest’ to both the jungle and the market is to ignore the basic question: Fitness for what?"

"The ‘fit’ in the jungle are those most adept at the exercise of brute force. The ‘fit’ on the market are those most adept in the service of society. The jungle is a brutish place where some seize from others and all live at the starvation level; the market is a peaceful and productive place where all serve themselves and others at the same time and live at infinitely higher levels of consumption...”

“…The free market, in fact, is precisely the diametric opposite of the ‘jungle’ society. The jungle is characterized by the war of all against all. One man gains only at the expense of another, by seizure of the latter's property. With all on a subsistence level, there is a true struggle for survival, with the stronger force crushing the weaker. In the free market, on the other hand, one man gains only through serving another… …It is precisely through the peaceful co-operation of the market that all men gain through the development of the division of labor and capital investment...”

“…In the jungle, some gain only at the expense of others. On the market, everyone gains. It is the market—the contractual society—that wrests order out of chaos, that subdues nature and eradicates the jungle, that permits the ‘weak’ to live productively, or out of gifts from production, in a regal style compared to the life of the ‘strong’ in the jungle.”

-“Back to the Jungle?” (1970)

Correspondent's comment: In the jungle, the weak truly perish—either by starvation or being brutally killed and eaten. 

In the free market the weak drive automobiles, live in climate controlled abodes, surf the Internet on smartphones, shop at Target and Walmart, enjoy closets full of clothes and cosmetics, eat at restaurants, and even fly from coast to coast in a matter of hours—all while locked in constant struggle with obesity.


ps. Over one million federal regulatory restrictions and over five million across the states:

"These estimates are only for state-level restrictions, which are an added layer on top of the words and regulatory restrictions in the CFR [US Code of Federal Regulations]. As of 2019, the CFR contained nearly 103 million words and 1.08 million regulatory restrictions. Researchers are only beginning to understand the causes and effects of the federal regulatory system’s massive size and dramatic growth over the past four decades."

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