The western hemisphere is trapped in a battle for self-control. Two intellectual offspring of the enlightenment compete to govern our lives. Both organising mechanisms lay claim to being democratic, but one is a lie and the other is widely misrepresented. The decentralised decision making that gives the market strength leaves it vulnerable to having its vitality redistributed away by the progressive, the sophists and the central planner. Perhaps the existential fear that echoes in every act of choice makes us vulnerable to the siren call of dependence on the state.
Every day, the free market offers the consumer opportunity to choose almost everything important in their lives. Blessed by fate, choice and immigration law, the lucky consumer is a voluntary participation in a market that may deliver the entire primary layer of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Individuals vote to organise society in a manner that best fits our community’s needs one transaction at a time. The sovereignty of the consumer directs the actions of entrepreneurs with a virtuosity that would out shine even Mozart. The aggregate of individual decisions allocates resources and capital with an eye to detail that is a miracle of collaboration and value creation. Its democratic credentials are on display every second of the day. Left without a champion by heads of state and central bankers, the manifest bounty of the market’s apparently chaotic creation leaves so many of us unable to trust.
The aggregate we preferences the certainty of subjugation, and so it is no surprise we are so loved and patronised by Keynes&Co. We buy the lie of democratic totalitarianism. Every three, four or five years we vote away our sovereignty. In an apparent act of self-loathing the collective we pass the baton of control to one politician after another. Like an adolescent, we have needed the comfort of knowing that someone else controls the boundaries of our choice. Our need seems so intense that we preference certain failure over the uncertainty of trusting voluntary exchange. The back beat at the heart of our fading national productivity seems to be provided by groundhog dazed intervention through car industry subsides, public ownership of ICT infrastructure, and pink batts.
Are we condemned to a future defined by an oxymoron of ‘free market liberal democracy’? Wouldn’t we be better served by a democratic free market? Surrounded by a sea of evidence that proves the market’s case and destroys the central planner’s claim to benevolence, it seems odd that we face a choice of the ‘end of history’ or ‘the decline and fall’. The holy trinity of Mises, Hayek and Buchanan dealt the fatal blow to the myth of a third way deep in our intellectual past. And now, at a time when ideas have greater currency than ever, what inhibits the effective advocacy of the free market? How can collusion, self-interest, and dependence seem more attractive? What can we the academic, the intellectual, the educated captain of industry do to champion the sovereignty of the consumer?