What Will Free the Free Market?

I heartily accept the motto, “That government is best which governs least” . . . Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe — “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.

— Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

“The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority. . . . [Obedience] is the dispositional cement that binds men to systems of authority.”Stanley Milgram, social psychologist, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View.

A recent issue of the Tom Woods Letter offered its subscribers at no cost a digital copy of his 2022 book National Divorce: The Peaceful Solution to Irreconcilable Differences.  In his letter Woods mentioned how a sizable portion of Biden supporters believed violence was justified in keeping Republicans from the levers of power, while a nearly equal percentage of Trump supporters felt justified using violence to stop Biden.

Each side views the other as either incorrigibly wrong or evil.  How do you reconcile these groups?  Follow Lincoln’s solution and let them slaughter one another?  Get the CIA to give Trump the JFK treatment?  Trump supporters are looking to the election of 2024 as their salvation while being fully aware that their opponent might either rig it again or call it off — or worse.  But if it should proceed as scheduled what happens to the losers come 2025?  Will they organize peacefully for the next election?   Will they grudgingly go along with whatever the winners inflict? This is why Woods wants us to consider a national divorce.

Of course neither side might not be around if war consumes the world.  The newly elected Republican speaker, endorsed by Trump, has made it clear that “we” must keep funding Ukraine to keep the evil Putin at bay, counting on the public’s ignorance of US malfeasance in 2014.  But wait, he at least wants accountability for the largess they hand to Zelensky.  Maybe, just maybe, he already knows where the money ends up.  If he’s forgotten details he could turn to the Geopolitics report Heres How Ukraines Corrupt Elites Are Profiting from The Conflict.  But wasn’t the first speaker removed for wanting to continue Ukraine funding?  It’s political legerdemain as usual but it’s nothing compared to Israel’s genocidal contribution to the threat of Armageddon.

If the planet is still around in 2025, it’s clear that neither Biden nor Trump followers are capable of living with one another.  It’s a situation that cries out for secession.

Exactly how it would work is another matter entirely.  Chapter one in his book discusses the history of secession in the US and how it was once regarded as a logical part of the compact formed between sovereign states.  It was even mentioned by the British in the Treaty of Paris (1783) in which they recognized “the independence of a collection of states which they then proceed to name one by one.”  He contrasts the views of philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who argued for a strong central state, with those of the Dutch theorist Johannes Althusius for whom the household is the fundamental political unit upon which all others are built.

The succeeding chapters 2-7 are transcripts of conversations he’s had with experts in the theory and history of secession.  The entire book provides an exhilarating read and I highly recommend it.

A significant problem with separating the two groups politically is that one of them is far more parasitical and could not survive without the other as host.  Biden’s brigade would therefore resist separation without a certain number of slaves.  Where would they get them?  Would they take a certain number of hosts as prisoners?  Though they act as if money is never an object — who needs to work when the Fed can magically produce trillions in the blink of an eye — in fact it always is and they know it.

Political authority has to be extinguished

Even if we could split Biden and Trump supporters into two distinct political units, we would have at best a temporary solution.  Since neither side promotes laissez-faire — in Mises’ words, “the individuals’ discretion to choose and to act” — the seed of bad government would still be with us: The coercive nature of its makeup.

Another name for Thoreau’s “government is best which doesn’t govern at all” is the free market, which, remarkably, has gone virtually unnoticed as a form of political organization.  Perhaps the reason is the free market permits capitalism, the unpopularity of which Mises long ago described succinctly (and entertainingly) in the Epilogue to Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis.

A gun has always been the starting place for political theorizing, even if it’s only implicit.  How else can you establish authority?  On the free market authority comes about voluntarily within organizations and by contract or mutual agreement between them.  Authority is thus tentative, not absolute.  It’s why states are free to peacefully secede and individuals are free to quit a job.   In the broadest sense the free market includes all social interactions, all devoid of coercion.

The free market caters to consumers — they’re the ones with the money.  If they want roads, security, justice, education and other commodities currently provided by the state at high cost and low quality (if they’re provided at all), the free market will supply them, far better and cheaper.  If you doubt it imagine telling a group of successful entrepreneurs you can’t do these things, not because the state prevents you, but because you lack the incentive or ability.

Nature holds us responsible for our lives.  This is what Milgram was referring to when he wrote about the disappearing sense of responsibility when we submit to authority. The government intervenes in our lives under cover of helping us.  Whatever benefit we might receive, it weakens us psychologically.  Dependency robs us of strength.

When the full economic collapse arrives, what Gary North called The Great Default, we will involuntarily enter a kind of survival bootcamp, where dependency comes from within each of us.  By default if not by intention we will be dealing with a free free market.