If you’ve never heard Tom Woods speak, you’re really missing out. He has a unique ability to take politics and economics and make them fun, engaging, and exciting. In the talk below, he clears up some of the misunderstandings so many people have of the free market. In short, free markets are not supported by Big Business, as large corporations often benefit from getting politicians to stack the deck against small businesses and other competitors.
On a similar topic (and quoted in Woods’ talk), below is a short excerpt from Murray N. Rothbard’s greatest work, Man, Economy, and Liberty: Essays in Honor of Murray N. Rothbard. Rothbard is no longer living, but he’s an excellent proponent of human freedom.
The free market, in fact, is precisely the diametric opposite of the “jungle” society. The jungle is characterized by the war of all against all. One man gains only at the expense of another, by seizure of the latter’s property. With all on a subsistence level, there is a true struggle for survival, with the stronger force crushing the weaker. In the free market, on the other hand, one man gains only through serving another, though he may also retire into self-sufficient production at a primitive level if he so desires. It is precisely through the peaceful co-operation of the market that all men gain through the development of the division of labor and capital investment. To apply the principle of the “survival of the fittest” to both the jungle and the market is to ignore the basic question:Fitness for what? The “fit” in the jungle are those most adept at the exercise of brute force. The “fit” on the market are those most adept in the service of society. The jungle is a brutish place where some seize from others and all live at the starvation level; the market is a peaceful and productive place where all serve themselves and others at the same time and live at infinitely higher levels of consumption. On the market, the charitable can provide aid, a luxury that cannot exist in the jungle.
The free market, therefore, transmutes the jungle’s destructive competition for meagre subsistence into a peaceful co-operative competition in the service of one’s self and others. In the jungle, some gain only at the expense of others. On the market, everyone gains. It is the market—the contractual society—that wrests order out of chaos, that subdues nature and eradicates the jungle, that permits the “weak” to live productively, or out of gifts from production, in a regal style compared to the life of the “strong” in the jungle. Furthermore, the market, by raising living standards, permits man the leisure to cultivate the very qualities of civilization that distinguish him from the brutes.
It is precisely statism that is bringing back the rule of the jungle—bringing back conflict, disharmony, caste struggle, conquest and the war of all against all, and general poverty. In place of the peaceful “struggle” of competition in mutual service, statism substitutes calculational chaos and the death-struggle of Social Darwinist competition for political privilege and for limited subsistence.