Vincent Patsy: Why liberals should love the free market

BY VINCENT PATSY

Published March 9, 2009

I love to listen to liberals talk about the drug war, social issues and civil liberties. They often invoke the idea, for example, that a woman owns her uterus and her body, and she therefore owns the right to do what she wants with her body. The reasoning behind the above argument is very important, because by using the principle of self-ownership, liberals strike at what is essentially the core of classical liberalism or libertarianism. This core is the idea that individuals have natural rights and any violation of these rights is immoral.

All rights are essentially the application of self-ownership to different parts of one’s body. I own my mind, lungs and mouth, and therefore have the right to free speech. The fact that the First Amendment to the Constitution protects this right is irrelevant — the natural right of self-ownership supersedes the Constitution.

But liberals’ inability to extend natural rights to economics is where my love affair with them ends.

I own my body, my mind and my property. I can dispose of my property in any manner I conclude will bring me more happiness as long as I do not violate the rights of others. When I decide to exchange my property in a voluntary manner, I have a right to do so. By introducing coercion into the exchange of property, the government violates my rights just the same as if it was suppressing my right to free speech. And the system of economics which is compatible with natural rights is free market capitalism.

The resistance to free market economics often comes from a misunderstanding of what capitalists actually believe. As a capitalist, I do not want subsidies for big oil, I do not want us to use our military to conquer foreign lands, and I certainly do not want businesses to be regulated. All three of these actions represent coercion and an aberration of someone’s natural rights. They are also tools by which larger businesses use government to oppress smaller businesses.

Our current situation is in no way free market capitalism, but rather revolves around business leaders and government coercing the citizens for the benefit of business over that of the people. Established businesses want to be regulated because they will be better able to pay for, and have a better understanding of, the licenses needed to run a business — like tax code, for instance. They essentially use government to eliminate their weaker competitors.

Another misrepresentation of the free market was brought up recently in Adam Gaglio’s viewpoint (The perils of environmentalism, 03/01/2009). Gaglio mentioned environmentalists’ notion that resources are scarce so we need to preserve them for future generations. But all resources are scarce — that is why you have to pay for food and clothing. There is a limited amount of all resources other than air. If resources were not scarce, we would be living in the Garden of Eden with all of our desires met instantly. Unfortunately, we were kicked out for various indiscretions, and now we have scarcity of all goods. This means that we need to utilize them.

Only the free market can deal with the proper utilization of resources. Suppose I owned a tungsten mine with a value of $10 million. If I dig out $1 million worth of tungsten this year, I will have $9 million left in capital value. Now suppose that the world is running out of tungsten. This change would be reflected in a higher capital value for my mine, maybe up to $100 million. This prompts me to dig out less tungsten, and since the price rises, the marginal users of tungsten may switch to other metals. If the government owns the mine, then there is no capital value. There is no possible way for them to know how much tungsten to produce now and how much to leave in the ground.

Author Isabel Paterson, one of the founders of the libertarian movement, once wrote: “Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long preserved in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends.” Liberals, I do not doubt your devotion to higher goals, I merely object to the means by which you attempt to achieve them. To my liberal friends, please, make yourself logically consistent and join me on the other side.

Vincent Patsy can be reached at souljaboy@umich.edu.