My prank detector may be fried by now, but I can’t detect an April Fool’s joke in this essay. So, I’ll stick my head out of my shell and call this out as a great post:
For instance, all to often, when people announce that they are suspicious of markets, they come out instead in favor of some sort of centralization and distribution. Many today announce that they believe markets are bad for society in regards to health care, and that instead the federal government should provide us all with a single payer health plan. Similarly, a fair number of people believe that the centralized state should provide a comprehensive “safety net” against unemployment and poverty, rather than requiring that people rely upon their own work and resources (and the charity of others) to provide for all their needs.
Marglin, however, takes things in a very different direction. He makes the following example: He’s looking out the window at his barn. Now, if his barn burned down, he would call his insurance company, they would send out an adjuster, the adjuster would certify that the barn had burned down, the insurance company would issue a check, he would hire a contractor, and eventually the barn would be rebuilt. However, if this were two hundred years ago, if his barn burned down, he would need to rely on his neighbors to rally round him and help him rebuild his barn. He would rely on them because it was more work than he could perform or pay for himself, and they would rely on him in their turn.
In other words, insurance helps people avoid the need of relying on their neighbors. Insurance frees you from needing to have a strong, mutual aid relationship with your community. He points to the modern Amish, who refuse to use insurance, as an example of a group of people who have chosen to avoid individual goods such as insurance, have done so because they believe that the reliance upon each other which is central to community will be destroyed by such things.
Now, Marglin doesn’t go into this, but it strikes me that one of the forces that, in a world without individual protections such as insurance, unemployment benefits, etc., one of the forces that keeps community together is the implicit fear that if one does not cleave to one’s community, one will be left alone when one is in one’s hour of need.
And yet, it is precisely this fear that one may be abandoned by the community that drives us to want insurance, unemployment benefits, welfare, etc. Our fear that the other members of our family, parish, neighborhood, etc. may not take care of us lead us to seek guaranteed protection from the biggest kid on the block — the national state. And yet, this very move is what is most likely to both enable us to be on the outs with our families, parishes and neighborhoods, and also make those communities feel that they have less responsibility for us
If the market kills local communities, government does too.