Distrust of Government Does Not Imply Trust in Markets

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This recent post from E.D. Klain points out one of the subtle yet critical flawed assumptions about conservatism: that distrust in government means placing trust in markets. In a way, the assumption is natural, and perhaps in some ways correct. Certainly, we have to put our "trust" somewhere, in the sense that public choices have to be made in one place or another. But markets are not to be preferred to government on the basis that they yield better results. They certainly do in some areas, and we hope for the best in others. The real reason we ought to prefer markets, however, is because markets are fair. Fair as in blind, anachronistic, non-empathetic. Process-oriented rather than ends-oriented. Markets produce a brand of fairness as close as possible to the sort produced by nature itself. Thus, markets will harm you in near the same way as a tornado will. It's nothing personal. And in either case, you are about as likely, and have about as much cause, to shake your fists at the sky than at some person.

The real problem, of course, is not that liberals make this erroneous assumption (i.e., that markets somehow possess some superior ability to produce substantive fairness), but that conservatives do. When we begin to think that we can have our heaven on earth, whether through a centralized government or through an idealized "market" that will give us our hearts' desire, we are headed for disappointment.

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