Thursday, January 13, 2011

On the Market No Vote is Cast in Vain

on the market no vote is cast in vain. Every penny spent has the power to work upon the production processes. The publishers cater not only to the majority by publishing detective stories, but also to the minority reading lyrical poetry and philosophical tracts. (Mises, Human Action, 271)
It would seem that those who support the "common man" would thus be avid supporters of the free market system, as it provides them with their tastes. Of course, the fact that the market does in fact provide the common man with his tastes is the main complaint made against the market by the supposed friends of the common man. They complain that the market does not more readily supply poetry and philosophy -- meaning they believe in something which is patently untrue -- on the belief that if more poetry were available, more people would read it (another belief which is patently untrue).

The fact is that such critics are really upset that not everyone shares their elitist tastes. It doesn't upset me that most people don't share my tastes, so why should it bother them? Perhaps because they are uncomfortable being elitists as well as Marxists. They can solve this internal contradiction by insisting that everyone would share their tastes if the market didn't supply works of bad taste -- a statement which is patently absurd. It may also express a certain amount of laziness on their part, as the only way to get people to appreciate what they appreciate is to teach them to do so. But that takes hard work. Easier, then, to attack the free market for supplying it.

But let us think about what would really happen if democratic processes were applied to the economy. What would stay and what would go? Would a majority vote for lyrical poetry? Philosophy? Postmodern novels? Hardly. A majority would vote for romance novels, thrillers, and pornography. Isn't it better, then, if you like surrealist poetry, stream of consciousness novels, and Scholasticism, to have a free market system where you will have people willing to provide even the smallest market with their product?

The Marxist literary scholar thus cuts off his nose to spite his face. It is the market which supplies him with the works he loves.

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