A Brief History of Economic Freedom

Tracinski describes opposition to free markets since Adam Smith in 1776 in three phases:

  1. Central Planning – wherein the chief, if not sole, duty of man is to deliver material prosperity to the masses
  2. Anti-materialism- wherein the desire for material comfort and security is a soul-hollowing, environment-ravaging pathology
  3. Planetary destruction- wherein existing behavior will destroy earth’s ability to support humans, possibly all life.

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He ties the whole thing to environmentalism in terms of both politics and spirit. The whole thing is worth a read. I object to Tracinski’s analysis in one point. He misunderstands the relationship between the free market and greed.

Practically every moral philosophy has warned against the evils of greed and self-interest—and here was an economic system that encourages and rewards those motives.

But where is the economic system that does not “encourage and reward” “greed and self-interest”? Dominican monks? Doukhobors?

You could look at this and decide that it’s necessary to re-evaluate the moral issues and come to terms with self-interest in some way. Most factions of the modern right have done so, whether they accept self-interest as a necessary evil or to make a virtue of selfishness.

The best way to “come to terms with self-interest” is the way that Smith did (and before him Calvin). In a proper free economy a man achieves one’s self interest by serving one’s fellow man.

Man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only,…

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest

 

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