Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A Free Spirit Don't Come For Free

A Long Bloody Fight With A Horror In The Dark (with little fungus from Yuggoth).  By Halsted Bernard, via Wikimedia Commons, released under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.  Squamously blasphemous toot from the uttermost pit added by me. Further to my meditations on whether a free-market world would be more or less corporate, I've just been smacked across the face with a blindingly obvious insight.

In our present world, most people would like a cup of libertarianism about as much as they would like a Long Boring Wait For A Bus In The Rain (with little paper umbrella). That is a principal reason for the marked absence of free markets to date.

Therefore, in a society with freer markets, it is reasonable to assume that people would place more value on their personal liberty than they do at present.

Employment relationships, especially in large hierarchical organizations, are master-servant relationships, involving copious amounts of being bossed about for almost everybody. But in a more liberty-loving society, preferences for not being bossed about will by definition be stronger. Thus, so will the costs incurred by employees - in increasing degree, the more bureaucratic the organization. It can also be hoped, though this is not so certain, that preferences for bossing other people about will decline as well.

The inevitable result of this is that wage labour, and especially menial or micromanaged labour, should be a significantly higher business cost in any genuinely achievable free market than it is at present. Therefore, modern-style corporations should suffer a general competitive disadvantage relative to self-employment, small firms and partnerships, co-operative production networks, and so forth. Further, highly controlling management styles will also be more expensive to sustain, disadvantaging their employers above and beyond any inefficiencies they already suffer.

This is another strike against the conflating of modern corporate capitalism with potential future free markets.

I can see one condition, and one condition only, under which this argument is not true. If a more free-market framework were imposed upon a society with a profound distrust for liberty, then at least initially the pressures would go all the other way. Gigantism, paternalism, and bureaucracy - even autocracy - would all be favoured beyond their apparent economic efficiency. They might, in some respects, actually increase!

Social engineers, and libertarians who think it is enough to be reviled but right, please note.

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