Home/Daniel Larison/There Is No Such Thing As The Market

There Is No Such Thing As The Market

Conservatives and liberals will fight unto eternity over whose notions of the law, society and justice are right. But the one idea owned by conservatives is the market.

For many Democrats in politics, the market–the daily machinery of the private economy–is a semi-abstraction. ~Daniel Henninger

To normal people, “the market” is a full-blown abstraction.  No semi-abstractions here.  Conservatives are supposed to be allergic and opposed to abstractions.  Therefore, it seems implausible that conservatives “own” one of these abstractions and still remain conservatives.  How does one own an abstraction anyway?  Wait, I know–the market will provide the deed! 

If Mr. Henninger means to say that many modern conservatives have traditionally tried, at least to some degree, to guard property rights, defend the claims of private enterprise against regulation and argue for the more effective distribution of goods and services via a relatively less regulated process of providing such goods and services, then he might say something more like that.  To speak about “the market” as if it were a concrete entity in opposition to an abstraction is to take a term that is specifically designed to abstractly describe a vast, complex system of exchange and make utter nonsense of it.  But then if I were trying to pretend that providing cheap labour for business interests (a.k.a., exploitation) was a “core” American value, I would probably wind up talking a lot of nonsense in the process as well.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

leave a comment