You raise some interesting points. Life is complicated. It's not like
some lab experiment controlled for all but one variable. I agree that
the factors you cite regarding North and South Korea are also
relevant. But I still think it's a good example because there are many
similarities between the countries (e.g. race, culture, language,
resources, weather are similar) yet the outcomes are starkly
different. Even limited economic freedom leads to a better life for
people in South Korea, while severe repression in North Korea prevents
people from being able to take care of themselves. But if you want
more examples, see "Economic Freedom of the World 1997"
(http://www.fraserinstitute.ca/econ.htm) or "The 1998 Index of
Economic Freedom" (http://www.nationalsecurity.org/heritage/index/).
These studies show a strong positive correlation between economic
freedom and growth.
I agree with your point that "Free market forces do not step in and
make sure that children are fed." Freedom allows people to use their
time, energy, and resources for what they believe is important. If no
one cared about feeding children, they wouldn't be fed. But people DO
care. If this weren't true, a democratic society wouldn't have
government programs to help the disadvantaged. I'm convinced we could
better care for the poor and disadvantaged with voluntary
organizations rather than "government enforced compassion". I realize
this is a minority viewpoint. And one I can't even begin to prove in a
short email. For anyone interested in considering this, there are
several good books on the subject. One I like is "The Tragedy of
American Compassion." by Marvin Olasky.
By the way, doesn't the word "starvation" overstate the case a bit?
I'm not aware of starvation in the United States.
I agree with your concern about "separation of individuals and
families from their local community". This is one reason a government
"safety net" is a mistake. It severs community relationships. (Why
should I care for my neighbor? The government should take care of
him.) A good book that discusses this is "In Pursuit of Happiness and
Good Government" by Charles Murray. I also agree that there is nothing
wrong with mixing "market economics and communal living". I've visited
a few communes in the U.S., like Twin Oaks in Virginia, which has been
active since the 60's. That's one of the great things about freedom.
It allows people to live together on whatever terms they choose.
I don't understand the point about "free market economics" being an
"an immoral or at the very least, amoral system". The way I look at
it, a free market is what you have when you practice basic morality,
the kind of morality all of us practice in our personal lives every
day. We respect each other. We recognize each other as individuals
with unique goals, dreams, desires, and abilities. We work together
with others who share common goals. Our relationships are based on
voluntary cooperation for mutual benefit. We don't try to force other
people to do what we think is good for them. We don't try to force
others to devote their time, energy, and resources to what we think is
important. We don't forcibly interfere with the efforts of others to
earn a living. We realize that our use of force would be wrong and
would generally produce bad results like resentment, resistance, and
The reasons we don't resort to force in our own lives are the same
reasons we shouldn't support government force: it isn't right and it
doesn't work. I wish it were true that free market economics
"dominates the culture" in the U.S. It doesn't seem that way to me.
Every time we employ government to address an issue, we are choosing
force over voluntary cooperation. Government keeps expanding. The cost
of government at all levels is approaching 50% of our economy. We have
become so accustomed to government regulation of our day-to-day lives
that many people can't imagine how we could get by without it.
Is it really free markets you consider immoral? Or something else?
Like inequality or materialism?
I'll stop here. Sorry to be so long-winded. As you can see, these are
issues I really care about. Once I get going, I sometimes have trouble
stopping. Some people on this list may find these ideas bizarre and
even backwards. I have no interest in arguing. I think the best we can
do is try to understand and learn from each other.
Date: Sun, 05 Apr 1998 12:19 -0600 (MDT)
From: Martin Perkins <email@example.com>
To: Paul Gilbert <Paul.Gilbert@mci.com>
Subject: Re: Working for love.
Having wrote the comment below concerning the thousands of children who
are hungry, I find your example very weak. Forces within North Korea
extend well beyond a lack of economic freedom. The government is
isolated and totalitarian with little regard for its citizens. South
Korea is a government run economy with extensive help from foreign
governments. Neither is a relevant example either for or against free
I freely admit that in this country we have abundant supply. However, it
is for that exact reason that we have starvation. Free market forces do
not step in and make sure that children are fed. To the contrary, the
exact opposite occurs when the government safety net is removed and free
market forces dictate the allocation of resources. Without charitable
organizations, what little help out there would not exist for hungry
children. And to play angels advocate, there is currently a movement, in
the name of free market economics, to eliminate the tax free exemption
allowed to charities.
I agree, economic forces are not the only culprit for starving children
in this country. I personally believe that the primary cause is the
separation of individuals and families from their local community. And
in turn, the local communities inability to reach out to its members. In
aboriginal cultures and other cultures predating large central
government, abundance in the community was shared by all. Was this free
market economics? NO. It was communal by necessity and by choice. Was
their trade and commerce? Most certainly yes. The concept of mixing free
market economics and communal living is nothing new. However, to come
full circle, I believe free market economics is an immoral or at the
very least, amoral system when it dominates the culture as it does here
in the United States.
I was surprised to see the comment about "thousands of children who at
> this moment in the United States are hungry as a direct result of the
> immorality of free market forces." The truth is quite the opposite. It
> is only because of market forces that we have such an abundant supply
> of food not to mention lots of other things. A recent example can be
> seen in North and South Korea. The same racial group in the same area
> of the world; yet we saw starvation in the north and plenty in the
> south. I think the main reason is that market was far more hindered in
> the north than in the south.