I really, really hate… oh wait

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.

5 thoughts on “I really, really hate… oh wait”

  1. That implies that I should maintain good relationships with the mine owner, the foundry operator, the machinist, the engineer, the factory worker, the rubber plantation worker, the tire factory owner, the oil driller, and the refiner. After all, I might need a new tractor to work my land, someday.

    That model works in a classic Amish community because their society is built around economic self-sufficiency. The Amish can easily build another barn because they had the tools and knowledge to build the original barn. While the Amish probably couldn’t replace the village phone without assistance, their society is carefully engineered such that they don’t totally rely on it.

    The same argument against government aid and insurance can be used against currency. Cash also functions as a means of “keeping score” of your contributions to the community. You only demand cash if you somehow feel that the community would somehow underestimate or forget your contributions. If, instead, you worked hard to foster strong relationships with your community, they would give you meals, shops would contribute clothing, and any member would provide a roof to sleep under.

    In other words, specie helps people avoid the need of relying on their neighbors. Specie frees you from needing to have a strong, mutual aid relationship with your community.

    Funny, that. Weren’t the original towns and villages built around markets?

    (If that post was a joke, I fell for it too.)

  2. Screw community! Community is for poor people, because only poor people will have the time to perform unskilled tasks for each other.

    The division of labor + impersonal social interaction rules (e.g. secure rights) = LOVE

  3. Besides, rich people have servants. Then they bugger their servants and get them pregnant. Then the little bastards spread their superior fiduciary genes across the land. Win-win.

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