As both a libertarian and a student of praxeology, I was somewhat perplexed from the title of Tucker’s new book The Market Loves You. Only man acts, in the sense of utilizing means purposively to achieve certain objectives, as the praxeological axiom goes; the market as an aggregate of individuals cannot by itself act, and it is, therefore, meaningless to anthropomorphize the market and to attribute to it certain human characteristics such as the emotion of love or the act of loving. Despite the soundness of this argument, however, one realizes through reading the book that it misses Tucker’s point. As a diligent disciple of Ludwig von Mises, perhaps the first discoverer of praxeology, he must surely have a firm understanding of this methodology, and he rightfully commends Mises’ masterpiece Theory and History first published in 1957, which delineates incredibly deep insights derived from praxeology (I was coincidentally reading the two books “simultaneously”).
The fundamental point behind Tucker’s book is that a system of free, voluntary, and mutually beneficial exchanges brings out the best in us as human beings. One acts in order to better one’s conditions and the incentive structure in a free market operates such as one has to create value for others in order for oneself to become more prosperous. When the State comes in and interferes, however, it skews this process, both by establishing its own destructive means of acquiring wealth and power and making market exchanges a zero-sum game to a much larger degree than would’ve been present otherwise. I’ve written almost a dozen articles on my blog delineating this issue from different perspectives and with different arguments, so I’d like to think I’ve acquired a somewhat sophisticated understanding of what Tucker is discussing.
There is, however, a fundamental difference between how myself (as well as other free-market Anarchist theoreticians like Michael Huemer and David Friedman) and Tucker approaches this issue. While in my articles and Huemer’s The Problem of Political Authority there are systematic and technical arguments, derived from a priori reasoning and empirical evidence to show opponents of the free-market why their objections are misguided, Tucker rather uses the literary strategy “show, don’t tell” in the sense that he illustrates dozens of anecdotes of how the free market has provided us with living standards that would have been unbelievable for only a few centuries – and even decades – ago. I think, therefore, that The Market Loves You may be most appropriately compared with Leonard Read’s timeless essay “I, Pencil”, and can be understood as an elaboration thereof. Tucker is a rather clever fellow, but in this work, he also illustrates that he sees the beauty in the small things in life, tracing one thing after another back to the fact that thousands – possibly millions – of people have exerted their skills and effort into making them possible. The Market Loves You is, in a sense, an appraisal of the market, a manifesto of gratitude, and a deeply elaborate reminder of Read’s fundamental point.
This point is even more important than what may be recognized at first glance, however, as it’s an attempt to bridge the gap between the theoretical and the practical. As Immanuel Kant asserted, “Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play.” What Tucker does in his new book, whether consciously or not, is to interlink the libertarian philosophy with everyday experiences that most people can relate to. Not everyone has a “clock obsession” or think the tick-tock sounds of mechanical clocks are anything else than an annoying disturbance, as Tucker does, but with the great number of anecdotes laid out throughout the book, there must surely be something that any reader has experience with, which can be used as an anchor to incline them to appreciate the small things in life and the processes that have gone into creating them. Through this argumentative strategy, Tucker shows that the doctrine of libertarianism is far from “mere intellectual play”, and makes us understand on a deep emotional level how important these ideas are for us humans to prosper and grow.
Though the market as an abstract concept may not love you by itself, our freedom to act through voluntary exchange and charity, to the degree it’s untouched by State interference, whether it may be to improve our own conditions, to just help others in need, or a mixture thereof, highlights the best qualities in ourselves and our interhuman connections. It enables us all to a larger degree to take responsibility for oneself, to build up one’s skill set, to encourage the development of others rather than seek to push them down, and to empathize with and love one another by recognizing the hardships and blessings they’ve experienced, as well as the infinite potential which resides within them.
This is how the market loves you, and why you should love it back.