There’s Only One Argument for College (and It’s Wrong)

My good friend and colleague TK Coleman is launching an 8 stop tour of bad arguments for college this week, taking on a different argument each week.  Follow it here.

I’m glad it’s TK and not me.  I don’t have the patience to engage arguments for college anymore, because all of them but one fall apart instantly.

The only argument for paying tuition and completing college is the old, “You need a degree to get a decent job.”

That one’s worth engaging, and it’s easy.  A few bullets:

  • Around 65% of grads have no job or one that doesn’t require a degree, so it’s not working.
  • A degree is a signal to employers of some base level of ability. You can build a better signal. We do it all the time at Praxis.
  • Jobs that say “degree required” don’t mean it. We’ve helped hundreds get just those kind of jobs without one.

There’s one good reason to get a degree and one only: if you know for certain you want a job that legally requires a degree.  Government protections and monopolies are the only justification.

“How can you be so dismissive of all the other arguments for attending college?”

Because there aren’t any.

Let’s look at a few contenders:

  • “It’s about learning and being exposed to ideas”
  • “It’s about making friends and networking”
  • “It’s a unique social experience”

Of course, each of these is hard to justify if you spend any time on a campus.  If you think world-class learning, socialization, and networking are happening, you might lack imagination…or eyes.  But forget that.  Let’s completely accept the premise that four years in college absolutely produces these things and these things are absolutely valuable.  If true, no one should pay tuition.

Why would you?  Every single item but the rubber-stamped paper can be had without paying tuition.  You can sit in classes, attend parties, even do homework without registering or paying a dime.  If all those vague, fuzzy things are the real value of college, then tuition is unnecessary.

The fact that no one does this reveals that consumers of college do not see those “intangibles” as valuable at all.  If some professory type wants to argue that they should value these things that’s just fine.  It’s also an argument against paying tuition.  If you want the bundle of stuff other than the paper, move to a college town and get it for free.

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The Social Benefits of Hipsters

Hipsters catch a lot of flak for being pretentious and seemingly silly social fashion fringe-dwellers.* People don’t like people who stick up their noses, or those who like to flaunt edginess or early adopter status.

Still, I don’t think we give hipsters enough credit for the positive role they play in things. What’s better is that we can all choose to enjoy the work of hipsters without having to be hipsters ourselves.

Hipsters help us to see old things in new ways. They’re the ones who launch folk music revivals, who refurbish old buildings for new tenants, who bring back old styles in a fresh way in men and women’s clothing.

Hipsters also help us to see normal things in extraordinary ways and new things in old ways. They go through ordinary life using extraordinary lifestyles and lifestyle techniques. They release their newest records on vinyl. They invent games like soccer pool (apparently available at The Painted Duck here in ATL) that with the next person.

Hipsters start restaurants like the Ladybird Grove and Mess Hall, a camping and wilderness-themed “basecamp for the urban explorer.” Hipsters refurbish old buildings to be luxury bowling alleys, like with Nashville’s Pinewood Social. They build some of the best venues for socialization around.

Through all their creativity – which may after be driven out of arrogance or snottiness – hipsters deliver a massive benefit to their societies. They bring back some magic into the mundane, and they bring new life to the parts of our world that might otherwise die slow deaths.

So be thankful for those friends of your who listen to music from the 1960s folk revival, wear fedoras, and twirl their mustaches. As a creative force, they help us to transform our culture.

* They probably wouldn’t mind that accusation. Flak jackets are totally in these days.

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That’s Not Feminism: 3 Ways Women Advocate For Their Own Oppression

Another women’s march has come and gone, and once again I wasn’t in attendance. Not because I am anti-woman (I would actually argue that I am more pro-woman than even the most die hard feminists), and not because I don’t think women should have equal opportunities and treatment as men. Of course I do. At this point, who doesn’t, really? (Donald Humpty Dump and his cronies don’t count). I love seeing all the ways we demand our rights and equality (like intersectionality), and saddened by the issues that don’t make it to mainstream media (like rights in childbirth).

At the same time, women aren’t men, and often times feminism seems to me more about women wanting to become like men than more like… women.

The patriarchy runs so deep that we can easily find ourselves knocking on the doors of it and desperately asking to join the ranks and systems of a man created world. Personally, I would much rather tune into the power of what makes us female, and work to take down the current model, recreating a new one that wholly supports what it fundamentally means to be a woman. In all of our intuition, vitality, and nurturing spirits.

Don’t mistake this to mean that I believe women and men should be pigeonholed in set gender roles and stereotypes. With that said, and I will say it again, women and men are different, and that is ok. Not only is it ok, but it is crucial for the health and continuation and cooperation of our species.

Something I often see in the feminist movement (and I am a feminist!) is women demanding for something that appears on the outside will liberate them, but in reality, it only furthers their oppression. Usually, the very nature of the thing they are asking for, the very concept of it is bred from patriarchal ideals and ways of thinking.

Women, if you are really wanting to take back your power as a woman, then understand the ways we unknowingly conspire with the patriarchy to keep us from knowing who we really are and what we are capable of…

1) Work/motherhood/childlessness

No, I am not here to say that mothers need to stay home, not work and resort to being housewives. But I will say that it’s the patriarchy that made us all believe that “merely” raising children is an inferior path. Only a society that detests, ignores, and denies the importance of the mother/child relationship says that motherhood is nothing but a burden on women. It is only a burden in a society that puts all of it’s worth into production and growth of industry. It is only a burden in a male centered society that offers women who have had babies no support. It is only a burden in a society that has made it to where the choice to become a mother only further disadvantages a woman.

Your choice to not have a baby is most likely coming from being raised in a patriarchal society that has tragically low views on women and children and has detroyed the the more natural ways of life lived by our ancestors that is more conducive to that.

But don’t be confused. It isn’t motherhood itself that further disadvantages a woman. It is the society that she finds herself in and the fundamental way it operates. Patriarchy puts mothers at a disadvantage. Not motherhood.

There is a big influx of women choosing to not have children and parading it as a choice of empowerment and liberation. For some or many women this is perhaps the case. I am not suggesting all women should have babies and I absolutely believe in having a choice. But a choice can only be made when the option to have a child without you having to sacrifice your life is present. I can’t help but wonder if this choice was made based on the current way society is set up, and the values women have taken on from a society who only grants validation to women who work hard according to its patriarchal definition of “hard work.”

You see, we don’t recognize the hard work of woman (yes, I meant woman, not women). The dark, underground work. The lead to gold. The blood. The death to rebrith. The places we have to go to bring life into the world (and many women don’t even know that one because more patriarchy, i.e. medicalized birth).

We don’t see the behind the scenes work of mothers and women. The work that often goes unnoticed, but without it, everything would collapse.

If a woman has to choose between her job or having a child, that isn’t an empowered choice. If a woman has to jump out of bed at 3-6 weeks postpartum to go back to work or else she loses that job isn’t something we should all high five for because #workingmom.

That mom just severed the symbiotic relationship that is required for mother and child to thrive (which ultimately means for humanity to thrive). She just had to stop breastfeeding and start feeding from a bottle. She just had to leave her baby all day which increases her risk for PPD. It also increases her and her baby’s cortisol production (stress hormone). A woman’s body isn’t even fully healed in this amount of time, and some studies show it takes a woman a whole year to fully recover on every level after giving birth (I can attest to that one). What this is essentially saying is the work to be done out in the world is more important than the work of raising healthy (physically, emotionally, psychologically) humans. We are telling women that they are more valuable at work than they are at home with their newborns. A job that no one can replace for the mother and be as effective as. How is all this in any way, “pro woman?”

2) Birth Control Pills (and all hormonal contraceptives)

I’ve always been a feminist, right? So even when I was younger and very much ‘asleep’ I identified as a feminist, and I was one of these people who thought birth control was like a female entitlement like, ‘How dare you not make this free and widely available.’

But as I began to research more about it, I learned it’s–and not to be too inflammatory–but the ultimate tool for oppression of the modern woman.

Your biology is meant to guide you. It’s meant to empower you, it’s meant to, you know, create a sense of vitality if you can inhabit your body and be in a truce with it.

-Dr. Kelly Brogan MD

Your fertility is not a burden. It’s your power. Our demand and outcry for hormonal contraception means the patriarchal system has very successfully made women believe that they can’t be bothered by what makes them women (so be like a man, basically).

The wide use of synthetic hormonal contraceptions have stripped women of their unique rhythmic cycles and understanding of their own biology. It has meant that the majority of women know nothing about their monthly cycle, or how to track it, or how to read their body for their own personal advantage. This ancient and vast well of wisdom that was given to women has been taken from them by medical, patriarchal thought that says women can’t know their bodies so well. That they need a pill to control their moods, hormones, and when they bleed.

Just like a lot of pharmaceuticals, the pill keeps you from looking within. It band-aids potential imbalances within the body. Don’t even get me started on the long list of side effects and negative outcomes women experience on the pill. Did you know if a woman is taking birth control she is 30% more likely to be prescribed anti-depressants than a woman who is not on birth control? Do you know how many parents are grieving over their daughters who lost their lives to pulmonary embolism (a side effect of the pill)? Not to mention the day-to-day health repercussions like weight gain, migraines, heavy bleeding, low libido, mood swings, et cetera, ad infinitum

Hormonal contraception is a total undermine of a woman’s health and wellbeing. It is the manipulation of her sex hormones, which are inextricably connected to the rest of her body. It is the tactical breakdown of a woman’s autonomy and opportunity to know her true self. It is the rejection of her feminine essence and the power, intuition, and magic that women of the past gained from the total embrace and connection to their monthly cycle.

There is nothing more liberating and empowering than embracing who you truly are as a woman, without suppressing it. There is nothing more empowering than taking 100% control and responsibility for your body, fertility and cycles, and knowing how to work with and understand the ebbs/flows and energy shifts that occur throughout a woman’s life. For me, there has been nothing more radically empowering than taking 101% responsibility and control of my reproductive health. My rights cannot be taken away. Nothing can be given to me that I don’t already have.

There is nothing empowering or liberating about handing your health over to big medicine. There is nothing empowering about not seeking the wisdom of your body because you can just pop a pill to manage your cycles for you. It doesn’t come without a cost. Women deserve to be given all the information before they are given the pill, but more often than not, this information is not disclosed, once again making it not a truly empowered choice. It’s more like the default due to the lack of choices.

There’s a reason there isn’t a birth control like this for men. No really, it’s because they tried but the side effects were too unbearable for them. I don’t know if the patriarchal overtones could reek anymore strongly. Not to mention it absolves men of the responsibility to be vigilant about unwanted pregnancy.

3) Abortion

No “choice” is ever made outside of the potent and unseen forces of socialization that we are all subject to, whether we recognize this or not. I’m much less interested in the reasons and rationalizations for why individuals make the decisions that we do, in favour of looking at choices as political and systemic. I hope that everyone can recognize that while it is never necessary or appropriate to judge individual women for their “choices”, it is in fact essential to make judgements about the cultural mores and expectations that underpin individual choices—this is, after all, the purpose of feminism as a political movement.

-Yolande Clark

Whoa, Nelly. Before I get bombarded with hate, let me tell you that I don’t identify as pro-choice or pro-life (as we commonly define those terms), because this issue is not that black and white to me.

With that said, what I have come to realize in my investigation is that often times, a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy is a symptom of living under a patriarchal regime, not a solution to it. Let me explain…

At this point, I don’t have strong opinions about what constitutes as the beginning of life, nor do I have a religious dog in this fight, so that won’t be the position I am coming from. I am more interested in what drives 1/3 of women to have an abortion at some point in their lifetime. One third. That’s one third of women who don’t “feel proud kinship in the earthy, elemental beauty of birth. To hold it in contempt is to reject our distinctive power, our bodies, ourselves,” as put by Frederica Matthews-Green. (Seriously go read that article). So what’s up? Honestly, I could dissect this topic forever, but I will try to keep it concise.

First I want you to ask yourself this question: Do you believe that if we lived in a matriarchal/woman-centered and revered society, one that understood deeply and honored and prioritized the mother/child dyad, women would still be getting abortions at the number we see them getting them today?

In my opinion, if a woman wants her baby, she should have the right to the means to be able to do that. For a woman to feel like she has no choice (which is the opposite of how we tout pro choice abortion) but to terminate her pregnancy because of societal expectations of who and who is not capable and deemed acceptable to give life, is in its essence patriarchal and abusive to women and their children. Because we don’t have an understanding or reverence for the mother/baby relationship, we place all these outside conditions on who is suitable to have a baby. The underlying message is that the woman herself isn’t enough. She must have a certain amount of money, be a certain age (we hate pregnant teens), be partnered (and preferably married according to many), et cetera, for society to give the nod of approval to her pregnancy. One poll revealed that most women get abortions because it was what someone else thought they should do (boyfriend, parents, et cetera).

In a patriarchal society, death and destruction is the solution to a perceived problem. In a society that was truly for women, the suggestion to end her pregnancy when she felt alone and upsupported wouldn’t make the top of the list. Asking how we can help and support her and make it possible to have her baby (the preferred choice) would. Abortion is a false sense of control and autonomy when a woman feels she has no other option.

If an entire society is set up in a way that becoming a mother only further disadvantages you, is it fair to call having an abortion a true choice?

It’s not really pro-choice if the option to keep the baby (and thrive) isn’t on the table. If we are going to be a pro-choice society then we really need to give women the resources and support they need to keep the baby without it being some great sacrifice. Otherwise, where is the choice really? I don’t think any woman ever really chooses to abort her baby. Abortion is what happens when a woman feels she has no other option.

-Suzanne Gross

Patriarchy is driven by profit and control. It’s what ultimately deconstructed colonial and tribal lifestyles. Lifestyles that support the mother/baby relationship, which is to say, supports our humanity. Without that, it isn’t a wonder why so often women feel driven by desperation to end a pregnancy. Having a child in this culture is grueling work. How can we blame us?

Feminists for Life maintains that abortion rather reflects traditional patriarchal values: seeking power through control and domination, condoning violence on the grounds of personal privacy, and using killing as a solution to conflict. These views represent a renaissance of the original American feminism. Like the early American suffragists, today’s pro-life feminists envision a better world in which no woman would be driven by desperation to abortion.

It is unjust to ask a woman to choose between sacrificing her life plans or her own child in order to participate freely and equally in society. Instead, let us work together to systematically eliminate the root causes that drive women to abortion — primarily lack of practical resources and support — through holistic, woman-centered solutions.

Marilyn Kopp, Washington Examiner

I haven’t even touched on the corruption of the abortion industry and how it’s simply another way we commodify women’s bodies. Nor have I mentioned the physiological and emotional consequences of interrupting a pregnancy that most women have to suffer in silence about because our society doesn’t offer support for the biological after effects of abortion. Because, once again, patriarchy only values that which it can cash in on and assert control over. Nurturing and healing people doesn’t exactly fall into that category.

I totally get that there are some situations (like rape) where a woman choosing to terminate isn’t coming from being driven by societal expectations and lack of support. These are more rare, and I am speaking about the majority of women, but this is why I am not an absolutist in this discussion. With that said, I still believe this is a systemic issue that needs to be investigated and addressed.

Again, I could go on about all the misconceptions here, but I think I have made my point clear. Please contact me personally if you have any questions.

When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society — so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged.

-Mattie Brinkerhoff

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The Profound Limitations of School

Earlier today I was reading an article from one of my favorite homeschooling blogs, and someone commented,

“What if your kids regret being homeschooled?”

This isn’t the first time I have heard this, but I couldn’t help but wonder why no one ever asked what if public/traditional schooled children will regret being schooled in that particular way.

Well, I decided not to wait and hold my breath until someone asked, and took it upon myself to write an article on behalf of myself:

Someone who regrets being raised in the public school system.

I want to start off by saying that this isn’t an article meant to criticize my parents, vilify teachers, or make you feel sorry for me. As a matter of fact, I am not one to really *regret* even the worst of things in life, because it has been my experience that I always find value in those situations later and I am better off from having learned from it.

More than I feel regret, I feel sad. When I really consider my 18 years (from ages 5-23) in the school system, I feel sad about all the time I wasted living for an idea that wasn’t mine. I feel sad wondering about all the things I might have been doing if I wasn’t sitting in a desk learning boring material that serves next to no use to me today as an adult. I feel sad at how little say I had over my life, and even more so, that I didn’t know I was supposed to have a say, and how I believed I was just doing what everyone *had* to do. I feel sad that I missed out on so much opportunity in childhood.

This isn’t to say I never had a good time at school. If you put a bear in a cage, he will find a way to have some fun. This isn’t to say I didn’t gain things at school. For example, I made great friends at school that I still have today (although, I didn’t *need* school to make friends, but I digress). Something doesn’t have to be all bad all the time to be mostly subpar, which is what it was for me.

People will wonder what’s with me. “School did you well,” they will say. “You loved school. You should be appreciative that you can even go to school.”

I just don’t agree. I don’t have to appreciate anything I didn’t choose. I don’t have to appreciate that which steals freedom.

Because that is what I learned. You cannot under any circumstance be pro-freedom AND pro-public (and even much private) education. They are total opposites. School is the antithesis of freedom. Period.

At school you can not arrive when you want, or leave when you want. You may not wear what you want or style your hair how you want (at least, not at my school). You may not even learn what you want, or when you want, or how you want. You may not choose your sources or your teachers. You may not even always get to urinate, defecate, or eat when you want. You may not get time off on the days you want (you must abide the calendar the school has set; this will determine the schedule of your entire family for the entire year). You may not pursue anything outside of school that conflicts with school hours.

And if there is *anything* that I learned, it is that you cannot *say* what you want without consequence.

Oh, and socialization my ass. That’s all I ever got in trouble for.

Ok, maybe I sound a little bitter, and it’s because I a little am (18 years is a long time!).

In school, there are about 10 subjects and areas of learning offered. I came from a conservative school, so I’ll be generous and say 20 subjects on average (make that number 30 if you want!). This number is still incredibly tiny compared to all the things to be learned and experienced in the real world, outside of school. The real world is a huge, amazing place full of amazing people, things to do, and discoveries to find. Heck, your local library offers you more than your school.

This is what I mean by the profound limitations of schooling. What is to be learned in the school environment is profoundly minimal compared to all that can be learned in LIFE.

Since I am the one writing this, we can take me for example. That which I am most passionate about now and the area of studies I pursue (midwifery and women’s health) were not offered in school. Maybe some in college, but not in the way that it really matters to me or in the ways that I wish to make a difference in the world. Once I learned about unschooling I dropped out of college and coined myself an “adult unschooler.” I used my 20’s exploring and for the first time, figuring out what excited me and made me feel inspired. Now, at 30, I am much more clear on my mission in life. And I didn’t get it from school. I figured it out because I gave myself the time and the freedom to explore what it was for me. Without school, it is possible that I could have figured this out a lot sooner in life (but who really knows).

The public education system has created a curriculum that excludes an almost infinite number of possible chosen life paths. I mean, any system is going to exclude other systems, naturally. When you enter into the schooling system, you are shutting the door to all other possibilities that do not fall within that system. This done under consent is fine. I enter into systems and leave others behind all the time. The problem is we have been told a lie that says this is the best system, the most salient system, and if we don’t go to this system then we will fail. And for the most part, people deeply believe this lie.

So much of what is possible today as far as “career” and  “work” goes, does not require a degree. And with the internet, there is so much more opportunity for self-created business and entreprenuership.

“There’s not a school on earth, not a university or college that exists that is even remotely equipped to educate you properly on communications and marketing in the world we live in today.”

-Gary Vaynerchuk, entreprenuer, author, self-made millionaire. 

Today’s traditional schooling environment is outdated at best, and a complete waste of time for so many people, at worst.

We have to wipe away the misconception that school prepares you for life. For two reasons:

Life is now. It is not a place in the future. You prepare for life by living life, not locked away all day hearing about your future life one day.

The second reason is that it only serves a purpose for a fraction of people. It is not a one size fits all model, and is a very new system comapred to the history of the world, created to make workers for industry.

Boldly, I say school doesn’t optimally serve anyone, because lack of freedom and choice isn’t *the best* for anyone.

….but I know there will be push back on that claim.

My son is only three, but I get asked where he will go to school or what kind of schooling he will receive. To me, knowing the answer to this question would be more or less assuming who my son is and should be. It would be molding my son to fit an image before he even had time to show me who he was and what he wanted out of life. I do not assume what his life will look like. This doesn’t just simply mean I do not assume what he will want to be when he grows up. I also don’t assume he will want to live like me or anyone else. For all I know, he wants to be the next Christopher McCandless, or be a baker in France, or a porn star, or an author, or build the tallest buildings in the world, or play the piano, or swim with dolphins. I literally have no idea, and that is how I like it. I like being a witness to the unfolding, not a maniplulator of it.

My bottom line is that compulsory schooling is a form of insanity. If we have to punish and shame children who don’t want to follow the rules of a system that doesn’t appeal to their true nature or bring them joy (school isn’t natural for children or for anyone), then it’s a system of abuse and misguided power. Then we are the ones with the problem, not them.

Free your children. Free yourself. Free your life <3

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Life Outside the Cloister

Every time a person asks how homeschoolers learn about relationships or socialization, I think that some folks must believe a) that homeschooled kids must be stuck in the home all day, since their own experience is with being stuck in a cloister, and b) they must not realize that lots of life actually happens outside that tiny cloister in which they spent most of their early lives.

There are actually real people doing things – including relating and socializing – during regular cloister hours.

Really. Amazing. Absolutely crazy how varied and interesting life outside the cloister is.

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We Are the Economy They Want to Regulate

Critics of the libertarian philosophy think they can score points by calling libertarians “market fundamentalists.” It’s supposed to conjure images of dogmatic religious fundamentalists, just like the term global warming denier is supposed to conjure images of Holocaust deniers. It’s a smear, of course, and if you think the tactic discredits those who employ it, I agree.

The fact is that libertarians cannot be market fundamentalists. Why not? Because in the libertarian worldview, the market is not fundamental. What’s fundamental is every person’s right to be free from aggressive force. Strictly speaking, it’s not markets that can and should be free — it’s people. The term free market merely describes one political-legal context in which people conduct themselves. It’s shorthand for a subset of human action — the exchange of goods and services, usually for money. (The logic of human action, the study of which Ludwig von Mises called praxeology, applies to all purposeful conduct, not just market exchange.)

It follows, then, that when politicians and activists call on the government to regulate the economy, they mean to regulate us. There’s no economy to regulate. It’s not a machine or a vehicle. It’s an unending series of purposeful activities the logic of which gives rise to a process characterized by regularities. Hence, for example, the law of supply and demand. We can talk about this orderly process — the market — as though it were a thing, but we have to keep its metaphorical nature in mind. It’s still only people cooperating with each other.

When market critics demand government regulation, they imply that markets are by nature unregulated. But we’ve just seen that this is nonsense. An unregulated market is a logical contradiction. That we call it a market indicates the regularities, or laws, just mentioned. No regularity — no market. There could no more be an unregulated market than there could be a grammarless language or a perpetually disorderly society. We would not call a population a society if it did not display a general order expressed by rules (written and unwritten), customs, and mores. Without such things, a population would be not a society but a Hobbesian state of nature.

So the question is not whether the market should be regulated, but who should regulate it. And the only two choices are: 1) market participants through the exercise of their free and peaceful choices or 2) politicians and bureaucrats relying on the threat of violence to impose their will.

Easy choice, I’d say.

Those who doubt the market is intrinsically regulated when people are completely free need only ask themselves what would happen if someone charged $100 for an apple or offered to pay workers $1 an hour (assuming no legislation forbidding this). The answer is simple: others would offer lower prices for apples and higher wages to workers. No need for government regulation. In other words, competition would discipline the would-be gouger and miser. Competition simply means the freedom to offer better terms to consumers and workers. As I say, free markets are nothing but free persons.

Those who think cooperation is preferable to competition should realize they are two sides of the same coin. Competition is what happens when we’re free to choose with whom we wish to cooperate. Two shoe stores compete, each hoping to be the one that cooperates with me in my quest for new shoes.

Critics really must stop reifying the market because markets don’t do things or have purposes. Only people do things and have purposes. You often hear it said (unfortunately, by some economists) that markets ration goods and services.  This is often the retort when critics of national health insurance warn that rationing would eventually be necessary to sustain the system. When a government bureaucracy allocates medical services, that is indeed rationing. Think of food rationing during World War II, when you could buy no more eggs than your government-issued stamps allowed.

Nothing like that happens when people cooperate in the marketplace. Buyers decide how to spend their money, and sellers decide how many goods they wish to sell. There is no central plan according to which an authority allocates resources. Thus, there is no rationing in the market. There are just people exchanging goods, services, and money in order to mutually improve their situations.

Finally, the great free-market economist Frédéric Bastiat taught us long ago that a key blessing of freedom is all the free stuff it bestows on society. You read that right: free stuff. As he wrote in his unfinished magnum opus, Economic Harmonies (Chapter 8, “Private Property and Common Wealth”):

That … veil which is spread before the eyes of the ordinary man, which even the attentive observer does not always succeed in casting aside, prevents us from seeing the most marvelous of all social phenomena: real wealth constantly passing from the domain of private property into the communal domain. [Emphasis added.]

Bastiat anticipated that such talk would brand him as a communist, but he meant every word — namely, that as technology (as Bastiat described it, the turning of production “over to Nature”) and competition reduce the toil required to obtain goods, more and more of the services rendered by those goods (“real wealth”) become free. That is, consumers acquire those services without the expenditure of effort. As I wrote some years ago in “Bastiat on the Socialization of Wealth”:

If the average worker had to work two hours, 40 minutes, to buy a chicken in 1900, but only 14 minutes as the 21st century approached (actual statistics), Bastiat would say the chicken “is obtained for less expenditure of human effort; less service is performed as it passes from hand to hand; … in a word, it has become gratis, [though] not completely.” In other words, most of the utility that had to be paid for with painful effort in 1900 was free by 2000.

Since technology substitutes the free services of nature for the exertions of human beings, they cannot command a price in the market — as long as everyone is free to compete. If someone tried to charge for what nature supplies gratis, competition (assuming no IP barriers) would drive down the price, eliminating the remuneration for nature’s contribution. Our enjoyment of the free benefits bestowed by nature is what Bastiat meant when he wrote of the “communal domain”: that is, “those things that we enjoy in common, by the design of Providence [nature], without the need of any effort to apply them to our use. They can, therefore, give rise to no service, no transaction, no property.”

I am drawn to Bastiat’s innovative explanation because it’s potentially useful for grabbing the attention of people who today don’t like the market. What if they could see it as an arena for social cooperation and, à la Bastiat, the true socialization of wealth? So you can imagine my excitement when I read this lecture, “The Case for Free-Market Anticapitalism,” by one of my favorite writers, Matt Ridley. Here’s what struck me:

I want to argue that the champions of markets and enterprise need to recapture their radicalism, to reassert the right to be a disruptive, even subversive, not a reactionary, force in the world….

The truly radical idea was and is the one in which we say, hang on a minute, maybe society does not need to be told what to do. Maybe the economy should be bottom-up, not top-down….You can see where I am going here, can you not? That true communism, true collectivism, is created by the market, not the state. That the deepest cooperation is what we achieve by buying and selling. It’s time we told the young this. They will never have heard it.

You can see where I am going here, can you not? That true communism, true collectivism, is created by the market, not the state. That the deepest cooperation is what we achieve by buying and selling. It’s time we told the young this. They will never have heard it.To be a follower of Adam Smith was to be

To be a follower of Adam Smith was to be radical left-winger, against imperialism, militarism, slavery, autocracy, the established church, corruption and the patriarchy.

Precisely. As we’ve come to expect, Ridley shatters old categories to present great truths in fresh ways to new audiences. So should we all.

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