Commerce: The Permanent Rebellion

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Commerce, by its very nature, is born free. And more than this, it forever fights to remain free. At almost every time and place, commerce evades regulations and controls; it serves its own will, not the wills of rulers. Markets spontaneously emerge at every opportunity, even when they are outlawed and punished. Commerce seems to have an existence of its own, like an independent organism.

Even under the worst oppressions recorded in history, commerce continued. This was true in the USSR and it was true in Nazi Germany, and it remains true now, even as the Western world runs headlong into a surveillance-state abyss.

All that said, please don’t imagine that in referring to commerce, I am including the mega-corps that seek to dominate the Earth in partnership with states. That is not at all what I mean, as I will explain below.

I’m going to start this issue by explaining the depth of this rebellion, which is permanent; it continues in our time as in all others.

Opposing Models

Commerce does not rebel against regulation because of excesses. Rather, it is contrary to regulation by its very nature.

Commerce is a productive strategy. Strategies that exert control over commerce are oppositional – they restrain production. The two are inherently opposed: on one side are people struggling to produce, and on the other are people struggling to either slow production or to skim it away.

In 1908, Franz Oppenheimer, a German physician and sociologist, published a book entitled The State. In it, he made the very important observation that there are only two primary modes of survival upon planet Earth: The Political means and the Economic means. Oppenheimer says this:

There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man, requiring sustenance, is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one’s own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others.

This stark statement is crucial for understanding how men live in this world – and how they have always lived in it: Men survive by either producing or by taking the goods of others. However many layers of publicity and complication there may be, every act by which men feed themselves can be broken down into one or the other of these two.

The great problem with the above statement has never been a question of its truthfulness but that so many people are uncomfortable facing such a truth directly.

The statement that commerce and regulation are eternally at odds is merely a restatement of Oppenheimer.

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