Markets Are Not Gods

One of the many reason libertarians had no choice but to evolve into the pep squad for the managerial state is they could never finish their own sentences without sounding like loons. For example, their reification of free markets, often has them sounding like primitive shaman. Their deification of personal liberty would lead them to defending morally abhorrent things like the poor selling their organs to the rich. In order to avoid this, they developed the habit of not finishing the thought.

One of the errors of libertarianism, as well as the various tribes of the New Right, is the mistaken belief that markets are a Platonic good. The free market is the end, rather than a means to some end. A popular trope among those in the post-war New Right was the claim that an undesirable end, arrived at through principled means, was superior to a desirable end, arrived at through unprincipled means. It is has always been a ridiculous idea as a basis for politics.

The marketplace is never perfect and it can often lead to undesirable ends. This is why it has to be viewed as a tool, one of the many tools a society has to better itself and insulate itself against its own internal division. A fair and open marketplace for housing, for example, will result in the maximum amount of affordable housing. Open borders and unfettered trade will lead to the corruption of the people’s laws. An unfettered recreational drug market will end up with this.

A less emotional example of this is the market for concert tickets. It used to be that states protected the primary market by suppressing the secondary market. The internet and the unwillingness of the people in charge to enforce the laws has changed that. The primary market has now been captured by the secondary market. The bulk purchase of tickets by brokers now makes them the primary player in the market. In fact, they can control the market, by manipulating availability.

With the curtain rising on her “Reputation” tour, Taylor Swift blinked.

She buckled by having Ticketmaster turn off resale ticket listings on its interactive venue charts for the first leg of her North American tour, according to music-industry veterans.

The tour, which begins on Tuesday in Glendale, Ariz., shows plenty of primary tickets still available for the first nine shows.

But the delisting of secondary, or resale, tickets — a move experts called unusual if not unprecedented — makes the inventory of available seats seem much smaller.

On July 20, for example, Swift is scheduled to appear at MetLife Stadium as part of her tour’s third leg.

About half the seats still available for that show are represented by red dots on Ticketmaster’s venue chart, meaning they are up for resale.

The other half, represented by blue dots, signify primary sales. Those are the only dots currently visible to visitors trying to score tickets for a show on the first leg of “Reputation.”

Ticketmaster’s shutting down ticket resales for Swift’s early shows perplexed many in the industry because it handed secondary sales to competing resellers like StubHub.

On blockbuster tours, Ticketmaster admittedly makes more revenue on ticket resales than primary sales.

It also left some wondering if Ticketmaster was taking orders from its parent company, Live Nation, which as the tour’s overseas promoter, has much riding on “Reputation” being perceived as a success.

Now, the libertarian argument is that the venue should simply auction off the tickets for their show and not worry about the secondary market, because the bidding process would no doubt undermine the secondary market. The trouble is, there are no pure markets, so the sophisticated players in the market will game the auction just as they game the direct sales market now. In other words, there can never be a free market, as long as there is informational asymmetry.

If we stop pretending that a free market is an end in itself, we can think about the desirable ends would like to see in something like the concert business. Obviously, one end is for the performer and the venue owner to make a profit. Without them, there is no market for concert tickets. Secondarily, you want the fans to have access to tickets at a price that they see as reasonable. The libertarian idea of an initial auction solves one problem, but it requires shutting down the secondary market, like we used to do.

This is a trivial issue, as the world is not going to stop spinning if Taylor Swift can no longer make a living doing concerts. In fact, if all of our mass market entertainments dried up tomorrow, people would find new ways to entertain themselves. The point I’m trying to make is the market place, is a means to an end. When thinking about what’s happening to us, the question is not how best to get people cheap stuff. It is about the kind of society we want the type of people we want in it.

59 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Severian
6 years ago

“A popular trope among those in the post-war New Right was the claim that an undesirable end, arrived at through principled means, was superior to a desirable end, arrived at through unprincipled means.” I’m not no fancy big city lawyer, but this seems to be what “legal positivism” is about — make the process of trying a case as mechanical as possible, and whatever happens is automatically “justice.” It’s just old-school Progressivism — don’t make better men to make a better society; make a better society (though laws and taxation) and men will be better. I’m always surprised the New… Read more »

el_baboso
Member
Reply to  Severian
6 years ago

One doesn’t really need judges anymore, does one? A clerk with a flow chart could handle most sentencing these days it seems

Severian
Reply to  el_baboso
6 years ago

The legal positivist dream. We’re 90% there, which is why constant detention without trial, plea bargaining, sentence enhancements, three strikes laws, etc. mean any interaction with the court system is a complete crapshoot. But since it’s all mechanically applied, it’s “justice.”

Saml Adams
Saml Adams
Reply to  el_baboso
6 years ago

Back when my family was a still a participant in the public school system I once wondered out loud at a board meeting why, with the proliferation of “zero tolerance” regulations and other similar statutory solutions to subjective problems, we didn’t simply sack a bunch of administrators and replace them with Capuchin monkeys. The monkeys could push a “Yes” or “No” button, would work for Monkey Chow and were a crap load more entertaining. The professional educrats in there usual weaned-on-a-pickle way, were not amused.

Rod1963
Rod1963
Reply to  Saml Adams
6 years ago

The scary thing about public education is that the schools that fail are rewarded with more money, high paid experts, sinecures for cronies,etc. IOW the failure pays and pays big.

Of course the students never see the money, it’s sucked up by a bunch of drones who can barely pass a 10th grade test.

Wilbur Hassenfus
Wilbur Hassenfus
Reply to  Severian
6 years ago

That libertarian belief in market-worship is similar to the left wing belief that “green energy” will create more jobs than “bad energy”, or that “diversity” magically creates efficiencies out of the ether.

It’s voodoo. Virtue pleases the gods, who will reward us. That is the belief.

Teapartydoc
Member
6 years ago

Still plodding through the French Revolution and associated literature. Read a portion of a missive written by some Russian dude in 1790 about freeing the serfs in Russia, his inspiration being the FR and Enlightenment ideas. He was sent to Siberia for this by Catherine II. Part of his argument follows Locke’s notion that in the state of nature man creates a right in property by working the land. He says that the serf has more right to the fields he works than the owner because he’s the one who works them. Of course, this ended up being a justification… Read more »

Severian
Reply to  Teapartydoc
6 years ago

It’s not communistic. Property-in-use has been a thing in Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence since the days of the Angles and Saxons. It was one of the justifications for kicking the Indians off their land (they don’t “use” it, so it’s not theirs). It was the basis of the Homestead Act right here in the good ol’ USA (whatever the Republican Party was in 1862, Communists they were not). It’s a great idea; I’d vote for it.

Teapartydoc
Member
Reply to  Severian
6 years ago

It’s the idea that you are creating a property interest in a domain already created as intellectual property by someone else, say Google, GoDaddy, Youtube, etc. It’s not like they aren’t using it. It is being appropriated, stolen, if you will. That is how the lord of the demesne would look at it, and how many property purists today (like your libertarians, who love Google more than their fellow man) would look at it.

The point is that internet property is in a feudal state right now. And, like in the late 18th century, feudalism has to go.

Teapartydoc
Member
Reply to  Teapartydoc
6 years ago

Property is being redistributed against the wishes of the owner. If that isn’t communistic, I don’t know what is.

A.B. Prosper
A.B. Prosper
Reply to  Teapartydoc
6 years ago

Property redistribution to some degree is the hallmark of every single human civilization everywhere and throughout time

Its necessary for functioning, so is a certain amount of central planning for things like infrastructure

It tends to go to far though and the core idea of Communism, From Each According To His Ability, To Each According To His Needs simply doesn’t work

Cloudbuster
Member
Reply to  Teapartydoc
6 years ago

I think an important point here is that the property ownership rights (server space, bandwidth usage) are in conflict with the intellectual property rights — site content. Take altright.org GoDaddy has a physical property right to its DNS servers and hosting servers. Spencer has an intellectual property right to his domain, altright.org Domain names are unlike any other property I can think of in that they can be made effectively useless if no registrar will announce them. It’s not trivially easy to become a domain registrar. It’s controlled by ICANN, and it’s a prohibitively complicated process if all you want… Read more »

Teapartydoc
Member
Reply to  Severian
6 years ago

One other thing. When a man swore vassalage to a lord, his wife and kids and all his descendants were stuck with this decision, just like in the social contract theory developed in the Enlightenment. You could say that social contract theory is a product of feudalism. In swearing vassalage, the person coming under protection makes an agreement with the lord promising his labor in exchange for that protection. In agreeing to a domain’s terms of use, a person is signing away rights in exchange only to make a part of his life and labor the property of another without… Read more »

Whiskey
6 years ago

I would take this further. I have argued consistently that the primary source of the POZ IS the Free Market, specifically television and to a lesser extent movies catering to female-driven mass consumerism. I did a study of the Prime Time Network Fall Premiers available on Wikipedia, from the mid 1970s up to 2006 IIRC, and found that the tipping point, where there were more hours devoted to female audiences than male audiences was somewhere between 1979 and 1981 IIRC. The methodology was simple, take the nominal hours of what the Network figured was its most important schedule, the initial… Read more »

Pimpkin's Nephew
Pimpkin's Nephew
6 years ago

Nothing says progress more than a piece of good farmland turned into a tract of 3500 square-foot houses occupied by lawyers, financiers and school administrators, with weed-free lawns cut by Mexicans.

Good thing that God is making the surface area of the world bigger every year, and replenishing all the mineral resources underground as well as the topsoils that grow our food; otherwise you might conclude – against all the varieties of political doctrine – that nature has limits.

james wilson
james wilson
6 years ago

Off topic, apologize. Rick Moran on PJMedia wrote a piece lamenting the incivility of the White House in not apologizing for an aid’s joke about McCain. The disconnect is astonishing. Scanning 350 comments, his own readers unanimously believe that civility is something which can be unearned.

Max
Max
Reply to  james wilson
6 years ago

Many leftists and cucks are pearl clutching about morbid jokes at McCain’s expense. Have these people forgotten his whole “Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran” “joke” [sung, of course, to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann”]? He is a vile, evil, despicable monster. He wouldn’t deserve a golden shower if he were on fire.

Karl McHungus
Karl McHungus
Reply to  james wilson
6 years ago

Moran is a talking burrito with arms and legs. And a virulent anti-Trumper. Real piece of shit IMO. Will laugh the day I read about him having a fatal coronary while taking a dump.

Adobe_Walls
Member
Reply to  james wilson
6 years ago

His daughter asserted that we’ll be talking about his legacy for two hundred years. Don’t know of any memorable legacy he’ll be leaving. After he passes he’ll be forgotten by most in a couple days.

Dr. Mabuse
Reply to  Adobe_Walls
6 years ago

There was a line in ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’ that sums up what awaits McCain: “We’ll give you a grand wake, and then we’ll forget all about you.” That’s what happened with Ted Kennedy, and the same thing will happen to McCain.

Cloudbuster
Member
Reply to  Adobe_Walls
6 years ago

Well, I believe we’ll be using McCain-Feingold as an example of pernicious, unconstitutional power-seeking by incumbent politicians and favored industries for two hundred years. So there’s that.

Brother John
Member
6 years ago

The market is indeed a means to an end; that said, as one who has been touched by the question of organ donation in more than one way, why exactly is it morally abhorrent to sell one’s own organs? Not only is one the owner of one’s own body, but to sell organs to those wishing to pay takes pressure off the donation list, seeing those on it move up a few slots a little quicker. Who loses here?

Tykebomb
Tykebomb
Reply to  Brother John
6 years ago

The low IQ crowd who don’t know what a kidney actually does.

Ivan
Ivan
Reply to  Brother John
6 years ago

If you can justify selling an organ then why not a body (prostitution/slavery)? Honest question.

Brother John
Member
Reply to  Ivan
6 years ago

Well, as George Carlin said: “Selling is legal; fucking is legal; why isn’t selling fucking legal?”

Can you justify prohibiting it? On what grounds?

TomA
TomA
6 years ago

The question you now need to address is . . . who decides? Who decides what the desirable end is and what means shall be employed to achieve it? What is to prevent others from covertly bribing the “decider” and thereby achieving the same end result as manipulation of the secondary ticket market? In the news today . . . Iran says it may reveal the names of Western leaders that were bribed in order to secure their support of the Iran nuclear deal.

Pimpkin's Nephew
Pimpkin's Nephew
Reply to  TomA
6 years ago

I look forward to that revelation.

Pimpkin's Nephew
Pimpkin's Nephew
Reply to  thezman
6 years ago

Profound and essential. In all stable ages, no one asked “who decides?” ‘Rule’ isn’t an issue – even for those of us raised in democratic republics – for everyday people living in societies bound by rules absorbed from tradition, above all the Christian tradition. The freest people are those who can say, “it’s how thing are done”. They don’t have to cite imperial edicts in one era, or cite a constitution in another. It’s just the way they live. In our time the average person will spend research time on-line, or in a library, studying the ups and downs of… Read more »

A.B. Prosper
A.B. Prosper
Reply to  thezman
6 years ago

Even that wouldn’t even work there unless somehow against all experience the sociopaths didn’t prey on one another Leave me alone if not a basis for anything but a frontier society, It doesn’t work in a developed world period Worse even though it kind of worked in the old days if you didn’t mind choking on the air and dying of cholera but technology means you need a strong State The private sector will never pay for the harm it does unless forced since its main job, make money for the share holders would be impaired Another thing you also… Read more »

TomA
TomA
Reply to  thezman
6 years ago

For most of our evolutionary history, the answer was likely the tribal leader. For the past few thousand years of civilization, the answer was probably various things like warlord, king, emperor. mayor, prime minister, or national political body. All of these are limited by human frailty in the few that rise to these heights. In my opinion, any system with checks and balances is most likely to be robust and optimized.

Cloudbuster
Member
Reply to  thezman
6 years ago

I think the opposite. It only works in a world without sociopaths. Libertarianism makes a naive assumption that people will play by the mutually agreed-on rules and temper their lusts. Sociopaths don’t play by the non-aggression principle. You can’t have a successful Libertarian society full of sociopaths. Libertarianism is a White people thing. White people are on average pretty high in trust and conscientiousness. Fairly low levels of sociopathy. As our society has become more fragmented, less White, less homogeneous and decidedly more sociopathic, Libertarianism is less and less a realistic option. A bunch of Mexican peasants, Africans, East Asians… Read more »

Reply to  TomA
6 years ago

The question you now need to address is . . . who decides?

The national body of men decide, on the basis of:
3. Judge & Jury
2. Common law
1. Constitution
0. Natural Law (as per Christianity)

Other systems are alien to the West and must be destroyed, e.g.:

0. The State (Democracy), or
0. The State (Communism), or
0. The State (Foreign Imperialism), or
0. Natural Law (absent Christianity), or
when the women of the nation are also permitted to decide.

el_baboso
Member
6 years ago

Another way of looking at the libertarian question is to view it as an extension of the problem we’re having with our policy elites: they are simply too stupid to understand secondary markets, derivative securities, web monopolies, leveraging the mortgage asset pool for securities trading… I could go on endlessly. Anyone with a 110 IQ and a reasonably rigorous undergrad education should be able to understand this stuff. It seems like the intersection of those two sets keeps getting smaller. Thanks for the primer on the secondary ticket market. I really don’t go to many large public events, could tell… Read more »

Frip
Member
6 years ago

The last podcast from 51:15 to 52:00 was really impactful and notched up my anger to another level.
Hopefully, say a decade from now, speeches with this kind of talk will be acceptable on nationally televised election debates. It would really rouse the masses in our favour.

Zman: “You know, this stuff [multiculturalism] it gets tiresome. It just becomes a burden. It’s this sack. That we all have to carry, for no other reason than–the people in charge–they think it’s fun. To see us struggle. To see us drag this sack around. This tax. And that’s ultimately what multiculturalism is…”

Member
6 years ago

Therefore, the free market is the end, rather than a means to some end. A popular trope among those in the post-war New Right was the claim that an undesirable end, arrived at through principled means, was superior to a desirable end, arrived at through unprincipled means. Yes. However, good or bad, markets reflect the desires of the individual people who participate in them, so fighting against the market is fighting against individual people. And anytime you decide to fight against the desires of individual people, you had better be prepared to deal with the consequences, up to and including… Read more »

Frip
Member
6 years ago

Z: “…they developed the habit of stopping short of fully stating the inevitable ends of their ideology.”

That, in a nutshell, is why I hopped aboard the Alt-Right ship. I got so frustrated (then bored to death) with Conservatives always reigning themselves in at the last second, just before they were about to get interesting.

Lorenzo
Lorenzo
6 years ago

Dawn of the Superscalpers.

Shrugger
Shrugger
6 years ago

Homo economicus is the libertarians’ Piltdown Man.

EMP
EMP
6 years ago

One of the errors of libertarianism, as well as the various tribes of the New Right, is the mistaken belief that markets are a Platonic good. Therefore, the free market is the end, rather than a means to some end. Ludicrous. Prosperity is the end; or, via negativa, minimizing human suffering is the end. Markets are clearly the best means toward this end. You write as though you’ve never read a word of Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, Hoppe, Kinsella, et al. If you have read these folks’ arguments, then you’re purposefully distorting the libertarian message, which is basically a nice way… Read more »

EMP
EMP
Reply to  thezman
6 years ago

Perhaps you’re right. I thought I was engaging here with a gentleman and a scholar, not a purveyor of subterfuge.

sirlancelot
sirlancelot
6 years ago

Pearl Jam tried to go up against Ticketmaster back in the early 90s and that proved to be a losing battle.

The problem with so-called free markets is that the big companies buy out the smaller ones and then form a monopoly.

Ticketmaster bought out there only competition Ticketron and then it was all over. They were free to fleece concert-goers as much as they pleased.

They did finally get cornered by a class action suit , but donated some tickets to charity and it’s been business as usual

tz1
Member
6 years ago

The free market is entirely amoral, even for libertarians. A real example are shoplifting rings that would get you amazingly good deals on eBay (when they weren’t caught). Cheaper than Wal-Mart! But that is free trade! We don’t care if abuse and theft happens in Mexico or China. Burglary or assassination services are priced according to difficulty and risk on a truly free market, and they go batshit insane with privatized tyranny with their insurance, security, arbitration DROs – See Stefan Molyneux 3255 podcast at 50 minutes in. If I don’t buy a DRObamacare bronze plan, they will lay seige… Read more »

Reply to  tz1
6 years ago

This is exactly the consequence of trying to create a de facto “political order” in which the participants are not united by nationhood.

The question is completely academic, since we ARE united by nationhood. And the logic of Anacapistan helpful confirms that yes, nation-states are a perfectly reasonable (and indeed preferable) outcome.

Din C. Nuffin
Din C. Nuffin
6 years ago

The kind of society “we” want? The kind of people “we” want in it? Who is “we”? The point is, i trust even flawed markets more than flawed individuals. If the secondary market in concert tickets prices them too high, they wont sell.

james wilson
james wilson
Reply to  Din C. Nuffin
6 years ago

There can be no intelligent markets without intelligent people, yet here we educate people to be unintelligent and import more who can never be intelligent. This is just one of those things which appears to be beyond the imagination of libertarians.

Pimpkin's Nephew
Pimpkin's Nephew
Reply to  Din C. Nuffin
6 years ago

Ok, I get the objection to “we”. You don’t want anyone to speak for you. So what kind of society do you want?

Din C. Nuffin
Din C. Nuffin
Reply to  Pimpkin's Nephew
6 years ago

I was happy with a constitutional republic until “they” decided that’s not who “we” are any longer. With or without government, freedom to exchange with each other and property rights are the genesis of prosperity. Markets aren’t “God”, but they are objective. Rulers are not. Nos relinquere solus.

Pimpkin's Nephew
Pimpkin's Nephew
Reply to  Din C. Nuffin
6 years ago

But what kind of society do you want? By that I mean, when you wake up in the morning and look out your front window as your coffee is brewing, what sort of activity do you hope to see?

Din C. Nuffin
Din C. Nuffin
Reply to  Pimpkin's Nephew
6 years ago

I took a philosophy class in college about 54 years ago. The teacher asked us in the first class to justify our existence in 200 words or less. I didn’t go back. As soon as i finish that assignment, I’ll work on your question.

WOPR
WOPR
6 years ago

This reminds me of when the floods hit Texas a year ago and all of the free market guys were touting how price gouging was good. If the rich guy could buy the only generator in town to heat his Koi pond and the emergency shelter had to go without electricity, well that was just dandy.

EMP
EMP
Reply to  WOPR
6 years ago

“Price gouging” is good. Nothing stays on the shelves during an emergency without substantial price hikes. Misers are miserly. Moreover, what incentive beyond altruism is there drive a truckload of, say, bottled water to an emergency zone? Profit.

WOPR
WOPR
Reply to  EMP
6 years ago

No, price gouging in an emergency is not good. It’s why the topic of the post is the markets are not God. I am not talking about reasonable price markups for expedited transport, or difficulty of delivery. People understand that and many states simply limit the amount you can markup during those situations. What most people mean by gouging is taking advantage of people to make a morally unjust buck. The market can’t help you if the only water was purchased by the guy down the street. It’s going to take three days before anymore water arrives and he’s charging… Read more »

EMP
EMP
Reply to  WOPR
6 years ago

Simply put, you’re treating the market as a god who can do no wrong and will solve every problem.

I make no such treatment.

You’re playing with fire, Z.

Ryan
Ryan
6 years ago

Libertarianism: The belief that the government is oppressing you if you’re not allowed to get your neighbors addicted to heroin. Oh yeah, that’s a utopia.

Vizzini
Member
Reply to  Ryan
6 years ago

Collectivism: The belief that if you get addicted to heroin, it must be someone else’s fault and government ought to do something about it.

Anonymous Reactionary
6 years ago

Free markets lead to housing bubbles and demographic collapse. It shocks no traditionalist that usury ends badly.