Monthly Archives: February 2017

How Free Is The Market? Pt.1

From my Facebook page.

“Here Augustine points to the social nature of desire, the origination of desire from both inside and outside the individual self. Augustine also points to the unreality of his desire. The object of his desire, because it is not oriented to the true end of human life, is in reality a nothing. His desire is not endowed with reality simply because he experiences it and chooses on the basis of it.”–Being Consumed: Economics And Christian Desire by William T. Cavanaugh

Cavanaugh is placing economics within the Augustinian tradition. The free market economics of say, Milton Friedman is not concerned with where this desire comes from nor whether they can be objectively oriented towards desirable ends. But should we not be concerned about these things? If desire is partially informed by something external to ourselves then should we not be concerned about those influences? And if desire is not oriented to the true end of life (God) then is it endowed with reality?

In the comments section I put:

Cavanaugh later on says that conventional thinking about the market (free) is that individuals are free to choose their own ends based on nothing more than their wants (what I think he earlier calls a “wasteland” and something economists are not concerned with). But he questions this by arguing that freedom is based not on the autonomy of the will but on the end to which the will is moved. Powerful stuff.

For Augustine the most important question was not whether the will was moved via external forces or internally but to what end the will was moved.



Violating the Non-Aggression Principle

I had a talk with a libertarian yesterday. He’s actually quite prolific when it comes to libertarianism (he gave a paper at Princeton on sphere sovereignty before “converting” over to libertarianism there’s a video on that).  

Essentially, his argument was that it is always wrong to initiate coercion against a person or their property–the non-aggression principle. From that, he concluded that because I don’t have a problem with aggressing against someone when it is the right thing to do, that in principle, I would be OK with slavery obviously.  

I pointed out that, in fact, it would be him who would favour violating the principle of non-aggression. Remember, I said, “when it is the right thing to do.” If you were walking down the street, I would not, out of the blue violate you or your property for no reason. But if you were holding people as slaves or (as the example I used), were to sell babies for a profit, then I would violate the principle of non-aggression. My libertarian friend wondered how I could impose my own morality on someone else. But this is not like, say, what are you going to put on your pizza for dinner tonight. There are differences between these things–pizza? Selling babies for profit? What one would you violate the principle of non-aggression for?