Through some force majeure, haggling is supposed to pick God’s price for things. Not only are these markets able to calculate the exact value for things, they do so by incorporating all relevant knowledge into that calculation. In other words, markets are also omniscient!
This is no straw man. This is exactly what the efficient markets hypothesis (should be called the efficient markets fallacy) says. So, how on earth could a bunch of fat sweaty corrupt bureaucrats doing the bidding of labor unions possibly interfere to positive effect? Apparently, most of the proof the world needed for forming a consensus around this was the fall of planned economies like the Soviet Union.
There was a lot more wrong with the Soviet Union than its economy. You have to believe the Ayn Rand tripe about personal freedoms and economic freedoms going hand-in-hand to believe that (and ignore all of the evidence right in front of your eyes). The Soviet Union was a corrupt, militant, police state that did not tolerate even a glimmer of dissent. It could have been all of those things and had a roaring economy, even a laissez-faire one just like there are nations will relatively oppressive social laws and unregulated economies (the United States, for one). Economic inequality, not lack of regulation, corresponds much more powerfully to oppression than a few outliers like North Korea. (And, well, isn’t a communist state actually the most wealth unequal: no one can even have property except the state, and, well, that’s controlled by the tiny group at the top of the party.)
So, even though the evidence wasn’t exactly conclusive, it was enough for most of the world’s thinkers to believe that the free market dogma was closer to the truth than planned economies. Apparently, they never considered that both could be wrong. This is called the fallacy of the false dichotomy. It is perhaps the single deepest hallmarks of social repression of all kinds. You make people do things they don’t want to do because they feel they have no other choice. This is often extremely wise for individuals to do, when true. But when fraudulent, it is how people (even in democratic countries) act against their interests and want to do so.
The apparent basis for this kind of thinking in the case of free markets, is, again, the collapse of the communist, planned-economy-model nations about 20 years ago. (Indeed, the economic collapse of them.)
This might hold if the kinds of assumptions we have to make can be altered in a degree proportional to their effect on the belief. In other words, if there are cases where the efficient markets hypothesis can be shown not to hold, we can argue this is a distortion of an otherwise sound theory, we must still hold it. This is why many scientific theories endure. Because they explain more than they don’t. We still learn Newtonian physics even in college, and only the very specialized need even consider the exceptions. So, it would seem, behind the man-made distortions, this god of markets–Pluto, the pagan god of wealth seems appropriate–endures.
But physics isn’t a model for everything. We can’t predict the weather after a while because there is simply not enough order in the system. Markets seem to behave more like these chaotic complex systems than they do the orderly and often linear world of physics.
This isn’t news. Many of the more recent Nobel Prize winners in economics have won their award for showing that the efficients markets conjectures are wrong. There has been much study of the psychology of economics as well. Dan Ariely has written popular books on these topics. Pluto isn’t even blind, he just doesn’t know what the other half of himself is thinking and he’s very, very emotional and moody.
It’s unclear to me if the believers in these theories are or ever were unbona fide in their beliefs. I sometimes wonder if their originators weren’t either sociopathic or just calculatingly plutocratic. I honestly believe that most academics who believe this bullshit are seduced by the elegance of the math and not a political agenda, but they came to that later, after its creators. But that might be a bit of a stretch. Maybe Pluto’s elegance and apparent mathematical precision simply seduced some beautiful minds with an affinity for math and they felt they had been put into the false dichotomy of not believing the truth–that Pluto is real–or believing it and accepting the consequences of drastic income inequality.
But it won’t be long before Plutoism is a dead religion in the academic world. I’m sure there will be a few weirdos at the University of Chicago and here and there for a while, but it’s essentially over. Corporations don’t want the free market; they want one of the most widely recognized “failures” of the market: monopoly! The main people interested in pushing this theory are, of course, the wealthy. It, like the other hocus pocus economics of the right wing, like the Laffer curve, are simply simulacra of theories designed to appeal to those with just enough knowledge to be dangerous.
So, in other words your average BMW-driving private-college-educated asshole who makes over $200k. They read articles, think it sounds as intellectual as they are, and they support it.
But of course, these concepts are just designed to confirm the pre-ordained results: that taxes are evil, that any kind of government regulation that prevents wealth accumulation in any manner is evil, and that even fundamental rights should vary based on one’s wealth.
If you are one of Pluto’s chosen, you are more equal. We accept that if you’re poor, you’re more likely to be convicted of a crime, be in bad health, live a shorter life, and have less opportunities in life. Even decisions like Gideon v. Wainright, requiring states to provide lawyers to those who can’t afford them, are constant sources of outrage because they require taxes even though they make only tiny strides in closing the justice gap between rich and poor.
As I’ve discussed in Free Speech is Slavery, we have also come to let money be the blessing required to opinions in politics. Without millions of dollars to give to candidates, what you think doesn’t matter. This naturally reinforces the power of those who have money and want to keep it.
Assume this is not the case. Then the repeated failure of the theory to comport with historical evidence means that it should not be accepted for governance. But it is, even though it’s quite possible to have a moderately regulated economy and great degrees of personal freedom. Did you know in some Nordic countries there’s no such thing as trespassing?
It has transcended a theory. When a theory maintains believers in spite of empirical repudiation, it becomes a religion. Free markets are a religion for the Plutonic cult.
And as they increase the wealth and income inequality in this country, they make us less free. Free markets are slavery.