Thursday, September 18, 2014

Anti-Capitalism Myth: Markets Depersonalize Human Interactions

This old progressive saw, like most of their views on capitalism, is completely off the mark.  In the latest installement of FEE's on-going feature The Cliches of Progressivism, Gary Gallies explains why this is so.  Here are the opening paragraphs:
Among the most well-worn moral criticisms of voluntary arrangements is that they treat people as things or commodities, rather than as individuals. In other words, market arrangements are indicted because participants “use” people in the process. As the late economist Paul Heyne described it, “such a system seems somehow to violate our profound moral conviction that nothing is more valuable than individual persons, and that each person ought to be treated as a unique end, never as a means to some further end.”
The irony is that those who understand and respect market arrangements do so precisely because “nothing is more valuable than individual persons.” I echo FEE’s founder Leonard Read’s understanding that “An individualist…looks upon society as the upshot, outcome, effect, recapitulation incidental to what is valued above all else, namely, each distinctive individual human being.” But why have anti-individual criticisms persisted for so long, despite the contradiction? In part, due to a rhetorical bait-and-switch that changes the meaning of “use” in the middle of the argument.
Click here to read the entire article.