What do you call a market where people can profit from depriving others of life, liberty, and property with impunity?

April 25, 2024 by Joshua
in Models

I like the idea that if I create something, you and I agree on a price, and we exchange your cash for my product then we mutually benefit. The more I sell to people voluntarily choosing to buy what I made, the more mutual benefit I create.

What if to make my product, I harm someone? For example, if in my manufacturing process, I save money by dumping mercury in water that supplies a city, would you call a market where I sell that product a free market? No one in that city consented to drinking mercury. I contend it was not a free market.

Pollution destroys life, liberty, and property. Some things that can be cleaned up you could call an externality that new accounting, fines, taxes, or penalties could fix, but many types of pollution can’t be addressed as externalities. People die and suffer birth defects from pollution. How long can civilization last if governments don’t protect life, liberty, and property but instead profit from it?

I don’t see how pollution can be compatible with a market being free. If people profit from coercing others, markets may to some degree allocate resources to people who solve problems best, but they’ll increasingly allocate resources to those who coerce the most.


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