A few centuries ago people in Europe discovered free trade. The market. They got the state to say: go make money, free of any guilds or regulations. I won’t stop you. Go out there and make money. Compete freely. So people went to make money. Started businesses, factories, mines. In short order we got 2 industrial revolutions, the greatest technological advances in history, and vast, vast, amazing amounts of wealth. Pretty neat.
But. We also found the market isn’t perfect. Yeah it produces wealth. A damn lot of it. But leaving people alone to make money also resulted in other outcomes which weren’t so desirable. For some people, at least. You see, people compete to make money, and the competition can get ruthless, so people start doing bad stuff. These undesirable outcomes ended up being called “market failures”. There’s a whole literature about that. Externalities. Monopoly. Sweatshops. There’s lots of stuff, it isn’t quite clear what is and what isn’t a market failure; but the consensus out there is that there are quite a lot. And that the government should use its power to regulate the market in order to prevent and/or fix market failures. Again, it’s messy business, as tends to happen with government stuff, but that is how it works today. And it doesn’t work that badly. We got clean air and stuff. Which is nice.
So let me do this analogy:
A few centuries ago people in Europe discovered civil rights. Democracy. They got the state to say: go, be free of all legal restrictions in status. No more nobility or medieval ties. You are all citizens, get into politics. I won’t stop you. Go out there and say and read and assemble as you wish. Compete freely. So people went out there and started to do what they wished. Started newspapers, political parties, clubs. In short order we got a dozen liberal revolutions, the abolition of all hereditary privileges, universal suffrage, equality before the law. The first East Asian visitors to Europe in the late 1860s saw how cargo was transported by animal-drawn carts, never by people, and wrote: pretty neat. This white guys treat men like men, not like animals. The shock killed Confucianism in a decade.
I digress. And there is no but. Only a small minority of reactionaries ever protested against this. Civil rights only got bigger, deeper. The free market produced much wealth. Free societies also produced much good stuff. But surely free societies have also resulted in undesirable outcomes. You see, people compete in society, competition can get ruthless, and people do bad stuff. We might call that social failures.
Surely low natality is a social failure? The education bubble? Youth unemployment? High criminality? Ugly art and architecture? You name it. All caused by the same thing that causes market failures. Competition run amok; too little oversight. Too much competition makes ruthless people take the upper hand, and the little people suffer.
Libertarians have this dream about the market which self-regulates. The market is just Human Action. Well, to a point. The market doesn’t care about what humans want long term. If it did there wouldn’t be Capitalist accelerationists who openly cheer for Skynet. So it stands to reason that public force is to be used to correct some market outcomes produced by too much economic freedom.
Libertarians also have this dream about society itself, which self-regulates. Hayek pontificating against social engineering. Well, to a point. If society self-regulated perfectly no people ever would have gone extinct. And there’s a ton of social equilibriums, which we may or may not like. Not sure if I want lip plates as standard fashion. So, it stands to reason that public force is to be sued to correct some social outcomes produced by too much social freedom.