Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Postmodern Anti-Market Mentality

Anti-market thinking takes a variety of forms. For many economists, the most obvious one is economic planning -- an idea which grabbed the imagination of economists in the first half of the 20th century in particular. Yet this is hardly the only kind of anti-market thinking, let alone the most common one in more recent years.

A large number of anti-market thinkers are the postmodernists, starting with Heidegger (who I know is not a postmodernist, but the pomos are impossible without him). Heidegger was anti-science and anti-market, but also anti-central planning (which makes sense given his opposition to science). He saw national socialism/fascism as the corrective to both the free market and central planning. Postmodernist thinkers are anti-market, but also not necessarily for central planning. Their "socialism" isn't central planning socialism -- a fact which suggests that they don't even know what it is they really support. They are just anti-science, anti-market, anti-epistemology, anti-foundationalists. I personally see the logic of being both anti-science and anti-market, even as there is an anti-market, pro-science group as well. Some of the latter are planners; some of them, though, are just afraid that pro-market people will defund science.

For many outside of economics today, socialism isn't necessarily associated with central planning. That is associated with communism. If you asked most non-economists what socialism was, most would perhaps say that it's the government owning the businesses. This is of course possible without explicit central planning. All one would need is the kind of planning one would find in any monopoly business. It would not occur to them that one would have to actually have central planning if the government did in fact own and run all the businesses, since it would make little sense for two government-run businesses to bid for something made by another government-run business. 

In the end, most people today who are anti-market simply think the government ought to regulate the economy very strictly and fund the arts and sciences and make sure people have enough money to live and are able to get whatever health care they need. They have no clear understanding of economics or economic principles, they have no clue that there was even a socialist calculation debate or what that could possibly mean, and they have no really solid ideology to even speak of. Most just have a vague primatological sense that someone ought to be in charge, that money corrupts, and that the government is the arbiter of morals. In the end, most anti-market people don't want central planning so much as they want fascism. They just want the non-ideological, kinder, gentler postmodernist version of it. When one fights the anti-market mentality today, that's what one really has to fight.

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