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Free Market in Family

September 18, 2011 - 3:34pm
Nick Coons by Nick Coons


The free market provides for the best goods and services because consumers have choice. They have the choice not only among which vendors they will utilize for their needs, but also whether or not to utilize anyone at all. This, in turn, causes the vendors of goods and services to continually attempt to prove their value to consumers by innovating, by making their services better, by providing them at lower prices, etc.

I can choose one of many grocery stores in my area, or I can choose none and grow my own food. Grocery stores know this, so they continually work to provide better and better products and at lower prices, working tirelessly to out-pace their competitors. All of this benefits me, as a consumer, directly. So long as free choice exists (i.e. no government intervention), this is how interactions in the free market work to provide for the consumer. As long as consumers recognize that they have this free choice, and they have no inherent obligation to one vendor or another, then consumers will continue to be served in the best way possible.

I've often made the argument of taxation as theft. This argument takes only seconds to clearly communicate, and some people recognize it for its simplicity and truth value. But so many others fight it tooth and nail. Their objections are generally nonsensical, as if they were to dispute the claim "2+2=4" because of the negative effects on society that may or may not occur for accepting that simple truth. What is it that causes people to reject something that is so obviously true?

Human beings are rational by nature. Unlike other living things, we don't have large claws, we're not extremely fast or strong, we're not naturally camouflaged, and we don't have hardened exoskeletons for protection from predators. The only means of survival that we have is our intelligence. We must view the world and make sense of it rationally so that we can make decisions about how to proceed from moment to moment. The feeling of hunger and the desire to eat comes instinctively, but knowledge of how to acquire food, for humans, does not. We have to think, and so the only way human beings have survived since our beginning is because we are naturally rational. Any human that was not naturally rational hundreds of thousands of years ago had no means of survival, and thus went extinct, or at least became an small minority in the gene pool as to be an extremely rare occurrence.

Which leads me back to my previous question, how does a rational person reject something so obviously true? And it's not just about non-aggression, there are many irrational decisions that people make. Or at least, they seem irrational on the surface. But a deeper look indicates that they are rational so long as we know the motivation.

People are prone to reject truth statements as a survival mechanism if accepting a particular truth will cost them heavily. A woman married for 40 years will initially reject the idea that her husband might be cheating on her, because of the costs associated with accepting that reality. Someone who spent eight years in higher education learning about man-made global warming will reject evidence to the contrary. If you're a layman in the realm of biology, and I tell you that I can prove that the cell of a particular type of dinosaur contained two nuclei, you're likely to react either with curiosity or indifference. But if you're a biologist who has published many works on the subject with contrary claims, you'll react negatively and likely emotionally, as accepting this would be a heavy cost for you.

Because someone emotionally rejecting an obviously true claim is evidence that accepting the claim would cost them so much, what could it possibly cost someone to accept the claim that taxation is theft? This is something we can get into in more depth perhaps in a later article, but suffice it to say there is no doubt that whatever the cost, it is too high a price for someone in such a position to pay, or at least this is their belief. The short version is this: It causes one to question authority, not in the conformist way that we've all heard before, but to truly question the legitimacy of authority. And the very first authority we've ever experienced in our lives is that from our families, specifically our parents.

"Family" is the abstract concept used to refer to closely related genetic connections caused from a common ancestry. The more recent the ancestral connection, the closer the genetic relationship. While people who spend much of their lives together can and will ideally form close and satisfying relationships that they will continue for the rest of their lives because of the joy such relationships bring, this is not an inherent function of family. Many familial relationships are viewed as obligatory, and "family" itself is a virtue independent of the actions of the people involved in that relationship. But there is no basis for this claim.

Going back to the market, if I'm a local shop owner who does not want you shopping at a competitor, there are two ways I can handle this. I can provide the best goods and services at the best price. Or, I can make up "moral" reasons why you shouldn't do business with my competitor. Maybe my competitor is a chain store, and so I tell you that it's good to shop locally. But the only reason I would choose the latter is because I wouldn't want to do the former. That is, I choose an option that's easier for me, at your expense. If you as my potential customer buy into the idea of unchosen positive obligations, then this form of manipulation may work on you.

There are all sorts of rules put forth in family. For instance, honoring and respecting your father and mother. "Honor" and "respect" are effects of one's actions. If you act with integrity, then you are respected, so you have no need to tell people to respect you. The only time you must demand respect is if you don't deserve it. If you deserve it, then demanding it is unnecessary as it will be given to you naturally. But people buy into such false "moral" rules about the family, that they must respect people that don't deserve it, that they must love people that haven't earned it. In other words, that they have an obligation to others that has been neither chosen nor is deserved, but exists only because of some inexplicable abstract. Rejecting authority-by-power (as opposed to authority that has been earned by one's virtuous actions) in terms of the state logically, consciously or not, means rejecting the authority of one's parents as it was imposed upon them. As a side note, someone who violently rejects the idea that taxation is theft is telling you everything you need to know about their childhood.

Once again, back to the market. Businesses act in a way that is parallel to their customer's demands when they realize that their customers have a choice, when they recognize that no obligation to patronize their businesses exists, but that their customers do business with them only because they've earned it in the value that they provide. Likewise, parents would provide a more valuable service to their children if their children had such choices, hence the idea of the free market in the family.

Realistically speaking, it is not possible for a two-year-old to both decide and coherently indicate that their parents are not up to the task of raising them, and that they would like to swap out their parents, so this is not what I'm suggesting. But parents usually desire to have long-term relationships with their children, whether it be so that someone will take care of them in their old age, or because they want to know that they simply did a good job as parents. So if people recognized that as adults, they have no obligations to their parents if their parents were abusive, and thus parents recognized that their adult children would leave them if they were not good parents, then parents would have a better incentive to be good parents. Because most adult children believe that they are obligated to their parents even if they don't like their parents, parents have less of an incentive to be good parents.

As a business owner, I make it clear to my clients that they always have a way out, that nothing I do is going to lock them in, and if they want to transition to one of my competitors I'll even help. The reason is two-fold. First, it means that all of my clients are working with me because they really want to, since they know they can leave at any time. Second, I'm not stuck working with clients that don't really like me because they're stuck with me, so my work life is happier overall. But it also has the corollary that I must always strive to be the best, lest my clients leave me for someone better.

Parenting should operate the same way. Parents should approach the job of parenting as one of earning a child's respect, and in that way gaining just authority not because they are bigger and physically more powerful, but because they can depart a valuable experience that will cause their children to want to maintain a long-lasting relationship with them. Parents who don't place demands on their children, like "honor and obey your mother and father" or "you should love your parents", don't do so because it's unnecessary. You don't need to demand honor, respect, or love from anyone if you deserve it, because they'll give it to you naturally. Parents who do demand it are doing so because they know their actions are unworthy of those things. Children of parents that operate under false moral pretenses should no longer associate with their parents. Parents, knowing that they must be virtuous in order to maintain relationships with their children, will begin doing so if psychological manipulation is no longer an option. Young children cannot realistically leave their parents, but adult children can and should choose to pursue valuable relationships to the exclusion of invaluable or abusive relationships.

Like businesses providing valuable goods and services in the market, recognizing that choices exist in relationships, even familial ones, is the only thing that will increase the quality of these relationships.

Related Content:

Freedom In Your Lifetime - Nick Coons
Tariffs and Economic Favoritism - Austin Raynor
Global Warming and Government Regulations - Austin Raynor

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