Liberty isn’t everything. It just allows everything to happen. Proud nations didn’t achieve liberty or prosperity by error or omission. It was by design, and the architects were mostly their Founding Father(s).
By Nazarul Islam
Proud nations didn’t achieve liberty or prosperity by error or omission. It was by design, and the architects were mostly their Founding Father(s). Nobody had dared mess with the Nation’s Constitution. Capitalism is not just a form of government. This is a symptom of freedom. It is the result of individual rights, which also include property rights.
Today’s appeal of free-market rhetoric has rested partly in its simplicity: the government should protect economic freedom, narrowly defined as property rights, and facilitate free exchange. Progressives have struggled to articulate an alternative. What should Americans want instead?
One powerful thought is to invert the subordination of political freedom to economic freedom. In the philosopher Debra Satz’s formulation, “Democratic societies depend on the ability of their citizens to operate as equals.” Therefore, where “markets undermine or block egalitarian relationships between people, there is a case for market regulation, even when such markets are otherwise efficient.”
Most market activities wouldn’t be affected by such a principle. Satz also notes, importantly, that some kinds of market activities serve to strengthen democracy.
Law and judicial practices have traditionally sided with employers. It already allowed various forms of interference, such as bankruptcy and limited shareholder liability.
The rise of the labor movement and its eventual success in the long battles to restrict the workday and the workweek is an example of the anti-market tendency in American life. Workers, he writes, “wanted a space and time free from the marketplace.” There is another way to portray the same story, however.
Union leaders and activists are justly celebrated as “the people who brought you the weekend.” But the value of the weekend is that it follows the workweek. Americans already enjoyed the freedom to refrain from working. What they wanted was the freedom to work and then to go home at the end of the workday and stay home on Saturday. They wanted to place capitalism in the service of freedom.
The last four years of Donald Trump provided Americans with a brutal lesson in the importance of public policy. The dawn of a new administration offers a chance to act on that lesson. Americans need government help to obtain an education, to care for themselves and for family members, to pursue economic opportunities.
But progressives will squander the moment if they frame those goals as a fight against markets. What Americans need is a fuller measure of freedom—the freedom to participate in democratic society and in the marketplace.
But then, if we are arguing that the only problem with a free market is lack of competition, is like arguing that that the only problem with prostitution is that there aren’t enough pimps.
Finally – Liberty isn’t everything. It just allows everything to happen.
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