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The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order

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Sukrit Posted: Sun, Mar 24 2013 12:57 PM

"It is widely believed today that the free market is the best mechanism ever invented to efficiently allocate resources in society. Just as fundamental as faith in the free market is the belief that government has a legitimate and competent role in policing and the punishment arena. This curious incendiary combination of free market efficiency and the Big Brother state has become seemingly obvious, but it hinges on the illusion of a supposedly natural order in the economic realm. The Illusion of Free Markets argues that our faith in “free markets” has severely distorted American politics and punishment practices.

Bernard Harcourt traces the birth of the idea of natural order to eighteenth-century economic thought and reveals its gradual evolution through the Chicago School of economics and ultimately into today’s myth of the free market. The modern category of “liberty” emerged in reaction to an earlier, integrated vision of punishment and public economy, known in the eighteenth century as “police.” This development shaped the dominant belief today that competitive markets are inherently efficient and should be sharply demarcated from a government-run penal sphere.

This modern vision rests on a simple but devastating illusion. Superimposing the political categories of “freedom” or “discipline” on forms of market organization has the unfortunate effect of obscuring rather than enlightening. It obscures by making both the free market and the prison system seem natural and necessary. In the process, it facilitated the birth of the penitentiary system in the nineteenth century and its ultimate culmination into mass incarceration today."




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Jargon replied on Sun, Mar 24 2013 1:36 PM

What tripe. It's total conflationism.

Land & Liberty

The Anarch is to the Anarchist what the Monarch is to the Monarchist. -Ernst Jünger

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Wait... I can't tell. Is this saying that the free market (or a string belief in and adherence to free market ideology) leads to mass incarceration?

The only one worth following is the one who leads... not the one who pulls; for it is not the direction that condemns the puller, it is the rope that he holds.

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Bogart replied on Sun, Mar 24 2013 1:41 PM

First how do you measure the efficient allocation of resources?  And once you have that you need to measure the purpose to this allocation which is the satisfaction of millions of individuals.  Keep in mind that individual preferences are amazingly complicated and individuals face a vast number of decisions in the conduct of their daily lives.  So how exactly do you do this?  If you can't then how can you claim that any system is superior to any other system on something you can't measure and even if you could it would not measure the ultimate purpose of an economy.

I can say that the free market being just a bunch of trades maximises individual satisfaction on each trade.  And Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, etc deduced that these interactions will create an ordered system.  Is some other system relying on force, coercion, fraud and threats able to outdo a system of free exchanges?  And if it can at one point in time, can it do this given an unknown future?

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True story:

did you know some people in the humanities department still get off on calling people "Bourgoise", and if they really want to show their claws "petite bourgoise" .


Anyway, lucky for us there isn't an actual argument that has been shown (to me it looks like a bunch of gibberish): it seems to be a combination of a very very dubious geneology, a moral / aesthetic, and the academic lefts unsusual concept of "justice".  This may be the thinking of the work of Michel Foucault, which is bein highly researched right now in the Humanities department. 

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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Clayton replied on Sun, Mar 24 2013 3:17 PM

Clayton -
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