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Market Societies vs. Societies with Markets
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One of the most common misconceptions about Socialism and Capitalism is the role of markets. Pro-Capitalists tout that Capitalism is The Free Market (not a thing) where commodities are traded voluntarily, while Socialism is a completely planned economy that strips individuals of free choice. I covered this misconception here (Socialism vs. Capitalism vs. Markets vs. Planning), but it’s worth diving deeper into the role markets play in society. Specifically, we’ll be looking at the distinction between Market Societies and Societies with Markets.
Societies with Markets
Markets pre-date history. Ever since the first cavemen traded berries for fish, markets have fostered exchange based on personal wants and needs. Since their prehistoric invention, markets have existed in various forms across nearly every economic system. The Slave Societies of Ancient Rome and Greece (where the bulk of the economy derived from the value created by slaves) were filled with bartering merchants. Even the Feudal lords of Medieval Europe partook in market activity, selling their serfs’ surplus crops to pay for their lavish lifestyles.
While markets were present in these societies, their inhabitants were not compelled into the market. Primitive humans hunted, gathered, and stole. Serfs lived off the crops left over after their lord had taken his cut. Residents of the Slave Empires used their human property to build roads and work fields, freeing them to do important things, like burning astronomers. Inhabitants of these times could live a reasonably well-off life without market activity, as the core of production was not market-based. The lack of force driving people into the market was what made these civilizations Societies with Markets, which are very different from the Market Societies of modern Capitalism.
Opposed to the previous ways humans have structured their society, Capitalism is unique in that it forces its inhabitants to partake in the market. If you want food, shelter, or healthcare, you must:
Enter the labor market,
Sell your labor for a wage,
Use that wage to purchase the desired service.
Advocates for contemporary Capitalism tout this as the Ultimate Freedom. In a “free market,” workers can choose where to work and have near-infinite choices on what to spend their hard-earned money on. But what these advocates miss is the implied threat behind our economic structure. If a person doesn’t sell their labor, they’ll have no money to buy food or shelter, leaving them to starve on the street. This is no freer than a King forcing a serf to work the land so the serf’s family can survive.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to bad hair transplant survivor Jon Taffer and Third Reich Barbie say it themselves.
Taffer later apologized for his remarks (and Ingraham put the clip on her resume), but they were honest. American Capitalism works by threatening workers with starvation. This is the foundation of a Market Society — the imperative to enter the market for survival.
Work or starve is not freedom, no matter how many different flavors of Pepsi the market provides.
Instead of coercing laborers into shitty low-paying jobs with the threat of eviction and starvation, we should be building a society where simply existing isn’t a commodity. It’s time for humanity to move past the Market Society and build a world where violence and threats are no longer needed to keep civilization going.
I aim to explore how we can do just that, so subscribe if you’d like to join me.
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