What The Free Market Can't Buy

Libertarians often use the free market in all-consuming terms, trusting that it will swallow all of our differences through contract. On paper this works, but in life, it works better as a metaphor. After all, whose to say there wouldn't be layers to the market, companies undercutting one another and coercing results like we already have now? In that kind of world, monopolies arise which promise to keep everyone else in check, but then go on to coerce and do harm to others when it benefits them. 'The state' is only the name we give to something that operates this way, regardless of what it gets called in its other forms.

Monopolies can work on a small, spatial scale. The polis or the city state can operate this way, as the peremiters of its power are more localized and, mostly confined to its immediate patrons and citizens. But even this doesn't just work in and of itself, just as the free market doesn't just work in and of itself. A city state could easily turn into a prison state or a work camp.

In order for any form of societal network to work, the people need, not only to agree about the nature of their involvement, but they need to believe that they are headed in the right direction: they need purpose.

No government or institution is going to just give people purpose. It can't be bought. Often, those businesses which claim to sell you purpose hand you something that leaves you feeling empty and unaccomplished. A die hard free marketer will tell you that you can measure your purpose by whatever value people are willing to pay for your services.

But you can't (at least, not quite) pay to be a mother or father, or husband or wife. You can't pay to have an unprecedented experience with The Divine.

Yes, the market can exist alongside these things, but it will only do so if these things are valued above the market. People will only ever know what to do in a market if they know what it means to provide for someone, if they believe in the value of self betterment, and if they understand what putting something beautiful into the world really means. If all these things become the focus of a community, it doesn't much matter what the market does, because it will mold itself around what is of most value in nature, rather than arbitrarily creating value.