The market is a megaphone

When folks talk about the evils of unrestrained capitalism, what they’re really criticizing is avarice. The function of a market is to connect people and increase productivity. If people are avaricious, the productivity of the market will heighten that avarice, magnify its effects. If they destroyed the environment before living in a commercial society, they’ll do so even more with better technology.

The market is a megaphone that takes what it is given and amplifies. It is amoral. It does not speak in its own voice.

Markets aren’t avaricious, but people are, and so it is to them our criticism should be directed. It’s easy to make “capitalism” the scapegoat for the moral problems of our age: Enron, the treatment of livestock in factory farms, environmental pillaging, and so on. After all, the market is a vast and complex social arrangement that none of us fully understands, which makes it an appealing foe; as a reflex we fear and loathe that which we do not understand and cannot control.

But the truth is that the moral outrages with which we charge capitalism are actually caused by us, by people like you and me, and it is those actions, rather than the market where they take place, that should feel the heat of our indignation.

We must regulate the market, yes, to prevent harm where harm can be prevented, but we must remember that we are preventing harm carried out not by capitalism, but by ourselves.

4 Responses to The market is a megaphone

  1. Dustin says:

    This brings to mind the old saying, “Guns aren’t evil, people are.” I think you’ve made an insightful point here, Jason. It is easier to blame the tool for its misuse than to search for the root cause and remedy it. Maybe running a business (and owning a gun) should require an examination of moral character.

    Great article. Would love to see more of these from you.

  2. jason swadley says:

    Thanks Dustin! Your comments are always appreciated.

  3. Corey Wiley says:

    Great post! It brings up good moral questions of who has the moral authority to regulate us? And who then regulates them?

    • jason swadley says:

      Great questions, Corey. What say you? I’m inclined to say that it means no one person can regulate the market, but it must be regulated by all of us, looking out for all of our interests.

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