An excerpt from The Hidden Hand of American Hegemony:
What differentiates market exchange from other subsets of power and makes it reciprocal and symmetrical is the aspect of social conventions that lead us mistakenly to call markets "voluntary." It is social convention that tells us when markets are legitimate means for distribution of value.
We are not supposed to bribe politicians, and neither are they supposed to buy votes. The allocation of grades in a university should not be subject to market exchange. Children are not anyone's property, and therefore should not be bought and sold. There are many types of value that are distributed by many social schemes. Some involve pluralism and democratically endowed authority, some involve merit, and some involve complete randomness (or what we call natural factor endowment.) And one further social scheme for the allocation of value is market exchange.
We call market exchange "voluntary" because we understand it to be a legitimate way to allocate value and because of the social conventions that we call property rights. If we enjoy property rights, then we perceive our choice as one of exchanging money or goods for something we would rather have, or keeping the money or goods. Because others respect our right not to exchange property and share our understanding that market exchange is a legitimate way to induce the disgorging of property, we are free to volunteer property for exchange, and property is offered for exchange voluntarily. A mugging is not an example of market exchange because the mugger does not respect property rights and because threats of violence are not a legitimate scheme for allocation of money. By the same token, when market exchange is viewed as a choice between participation in a commercial network and starvation or homelessness, it does not seem so voluntary after all. [Cites The Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi] [P.136]
While reading this book, I was struck by the complexity of the topic and reminded of Joseph Tainter's The Collapse of Complex Societies. His premise in the book is that complexity/bureaucracy leads to the collapse of civilizations. One cannot help but be struck by how well those in senior government positions do once they leave government. William Simon's story is told in the book but it could easily apply to Madeleine Albright who is associated with an investment firm that benefits from war. She also happens to be an adviser to Hillary Clinton. Conflict of interest? Absolutely. We need to stop this revolving door between government and powerful private entities.
This revolving door is a topic in a film that everyone ought to watch: The Future of Food.
In an upcoming post, I'll cover the ideas put forth at this site.
Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts…they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun; but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
(As quoted in A Bridge to the 18th Century)