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Natural Harmony of Interests

bigfield

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Natural Harmony of Interests. Libertarians believe that there is a natural harmony of interests among peaceful, productive people in a just society. One person’s individual plans — which may involve getting a job, starting a business, buying a house, and so on — may conflict with the plans of others, so the market makes many of us change our plans. But we all prosper from the operation of the free market, and there are no necessary conflicts between farmers and merchants, manufacturers and importers. Only when government begins to hand out rewards on the basis of political pressure do we find ourselves involved in group conflict, pushed to organize and contend with other groups for a piece of political power.

http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/key-concepts-libertarianism

Is this true?

If so, then how are existing conflicts of interest caused by the government, as Boaz claims?

If not, then what are some existing conflicts that inevitably exist regardless of the influence of government?
 

Sarpedon

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It is a naive view. And it is inconsistent. It draws a false dichotomy between 'political pressure' and 'market pressure,' somehow implying that the market pressure that causes some people to abandon their plans is fundamentally different from the political pressure that somehow comes about from government. It is a simple and obvious rich man's argument. The 'political pressure' here is the voting power of the poor, and the foresightedness of officials who are more interested in long term stability than short term profits. In absence of government, the poor and those who desire stability (who can be called the middle class) would be forced to use other means to protect their interests. Government arises as a natural compromise and mediator between these groups.

There is a natural conflict of interest between the rich and the poor. The rich desire to get richer (and there is ample evidence that there is little self-imposed limits of this) and the poor desire not to be oppressed, (and of course, to become rich themselves, as a secondary goal). The idea that this conflict is caused by the government is absurd. What the rich want is a system where the poor have no power in the government, and that any poor person who tries to exercise their power in other ways are branded a threat to the 'peace.' In short, like all libertarian arguments, it is a defence of the unlimited use of a certain kind of power, that is economic power, for the benefit of those who have it. The rich want a government only to keep the 'peace' which is to say to oppress the poor without empowering them. Indeed, republican government can be seen as a compromise between rich and poor. With their economic power, the rich are likely to run the government, but they must always be limited by the poor. This was the way of the Roman Republic, with the rich controlling the Senate, and the people's Tribunes exercising veto. In America, we have a similar situation, with the rich controlling the workings of government with their donations and lobbying, but politicians having to make a certain number of concessions, so as not to lose the vote.

There is indeed a natural harmony between members of the middle class, which is what is cited here. It is a blind of course. The rich conveniently leave themselves out of the equation, disguising themselves as 'manufacturers' or 'importers.' The rich these days, while they might have gotten their start in one business or another, are pure capitalists, who will buy, run, and break up and sell businesses of any sort as it is profitable. They are not rooted in any one type of activity, and as such do not participate in the 'harmony' that is cited here. A genuine factory owner, who goes to work in his own shop, knows his own employees, has roots in his own community, and buys and sells to his neighbors would indeed enjoy such a harmony. But is this really how the economy is now? This is a thing of the past, and nostalgia is used for propaganda here.

Both systems favor the rich, yet the extremists among them are not content with anything short of complete destruction of any system that does not favor themselves in every possible way. It is analogous to America prior to the Civil War, where the slaveowning states dominated the government, but because they couldn't prevent the election of an anti-slavery candidate, they preferred to secede so they could have everything entirely their way. The shortsightedness of this point of view is obvious. No system can long endure where there is no compromise between rich and poor.
 

James Brown

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There's natural harmony of interest among siblings living in the same house--for those who know that in the next room are strong parents who are ready to arbiter disagreements and are swift to administer justice.
 

Valjean

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It flies in the face of history. Given the opportunity, individuals, businesses and corporations frequently become predatory.
 

Deepak

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It flies in the face of history. Given the opportunity, individuals, businesses and corporations frequently become predatory.

The animals in the Garden were all vegetarian before the Fall, don't you know?
 

Bronzeage

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What is "political pressure"?

Libertarianism might work for a sparse population where you can't see the lights of your neighbor's house after dark. It gets more complicated in a place like a city. If my neighbor lets his sewage cross the property line and puddle in my yard, I'm going to expect some political pressure to make him stop doing that. Is this my reward? Has the government somehow violated his property rights?

Libertarianism has a great appeal to people who already have what they want, and like to imagine they gained it all through their own virtuous labor, but it's a hard sell for the working poor. That's the real catch. There's no good argument to convince someone to become a Libertarian, unless they already are one and just don't know it.
 

laughing dog

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Boaz's argument ignores the reality of history - gov't arose because there were natural confluences of interests and natural conflicts of interests.

For anyone interested, Paul Seabright's The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life. is an interesting interpretation of the evolution of economic life - the evolution and necessity of trust of strangers.

This interview - http://reason.com/archives/2005/05/17/darwinian-markets) - gives a flavor of the contents of the interpretation.
 
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