Saturday, 2 March 2013

Hayek's question revisited

"If the market is blind to need or merit, how can those who have no reasonable expectation of benefiting from it be reconciled to their situation?" (Friedrich Hayek)

This is a very good question.  If people are rewarded merely according to their "market value" (i.e. whatever anyone is willing to pay them) rather than according to their needs (e.g. food for their families) or by any moral worth (e.g. the social value of their work), why should they support such a system if they themselves are failing to benefit? A traditional Conservative (or, indeed, Rousseauist) notion of the "organic society" would argue that we have a duty to work for the greater good of all, even if others, who seem to be less worthy, are benefiting more than us; but I doubt if notions of "duty" have any place in free-market philosophy. It is also clear that some people who are benefiting from the free-market system by earning large salaries, show little sense of civic duty; for example, finding complex devices to avoid paying tax.

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