Society Versus Individuals Versus Markets.

Part of the "Critiques of Libertarianism" site.

Last updated 10/25/07.

Most libertarians myopically focus on individuals: indeed, they often deny that society exists at all. The problem is that individuals reside in an environment called society, which is composed of other people behaving in ways that affect how the individuals will act. This society is a commons. Libertarians seek to disenfranchise people from being able to regulate the commons they must reside in. Unregulated commons have major problems, starting with economic inefficiency.

When liberals talk about "the good of society", it is not because "society" receives the benefit. It is because we receive the benefit from living in a society we view as good, just as we receive the benefit from living in a healthful environment.

Private influence on the social commons is getting to be a larger problem as the power of multinational corporations grow.


Marriage and Morals
William Tucker's American Spectator article points out one of the practical reasons to prohibit polygamy.
For Richer
Paul Krugman's New York Times article describes the growing problems of income inequality and plutocracy, problems libertarians do not recognize. From The Unofficial Paul Krugman Archive.
Are Markets Wise?
Markets are wise the way gravity is wise. There are times when they do and don't serve public interests.
Friedman Or Free Men?
George Walford describes how libertarian schemes still restrict freedom, and how important it is for government to restrict market freedoms such as slavery.
NEW 2/07: Querying Economic Orthodoxy
Angus Sibley's collection of monthly articles and other publications opposing libertarian market-worshipping economics.

Print References

The links here are to, through their associates program, primarily because of the review information. Books without links are generally out of print, and can often be easily found at AddAll Used and Out Of Print Search. Good sites for bargain shopping for sometimes expensive new books are Online Bookstore Price Comparison and AddAll Book Search and Price Comparison. Both of those list applicable coupons. Another is

Walter Adams "The Bigness Complex"
Pantheon Books, 1987. (opposes libertarian antitrust position)
Nicholas Barr "The Economics of the Welfare State"
Stanford University Press, 1999. A thorough overview of the real world economics of market failures and government interventions. Click here for a review.
Peter G. Brown "Restoring Public Trust"
A progressive refutation and alternative to Milton Friedman's "Free To Choose".
Noam Chomsky "Profit Over People: Neoliberalism And Global Order"
Seven Stories Press 1999. Places the current ascendsncy of neoliberalism in historic context as yet another form of oppression by elites.
John Kenneth Galbraith "The Good Society: the Humane Agenda"
Houghton Mifflin Co. 1997. The "why"s of liberalism, illustrating the competing goals in society and how to resolve them compassionately. A book of pragmatic compromise, that asks what is wanted by people rather than what ideology demands.
Naomi Klein "No Logo: Taking aim at the Brand Bullies"
Picado USA 2000. Discusses the ill effects of allowing popular culture to be shaped by branding in the quest for corporate profits.
Robert Kuttner "Everything for Sale: The Virtues and Limits of Markets"
Knopf, 1997. Why mixed economies would outperform pure markets. Essential for countering libertarian economic arguments.
Charles E. Lindblom "The Market System: What It Is, How It Works, and What To Make of It"
Yale Univ. Pr. 2001. The big picture of what markets do well and poorly, their benefits and harms. Very balanced.
Linda McQuaig "The Cult of Impotence: Selling the Myth of Powerlessness in the Global Economy"
Viking 1998. Why economic globalization and its effects are not inevitable, and why democratic government can and should ameliorate those effects.
Margaret Jane Radin "Contested Commodities: The Trouble with Trade in Sex, Children, Body Parts, and Other Things"
An examination of how non-market values are important to personhood, and how social and economic inequality threaten those values, necessitating regulation.
Douglas Rushkoff "Coercion: Why We Listen to What 'They' Say"
The coercive and manipulative arms race between marketers and the public.
Amartya Sen "Development As Freedom"
A Nobel prize-winning economist explains elimination of "capability deprivation" in five categories as being crucial to freedom. Shows libertarian ideas of economic freedom to be dreadfully incomplete for liberty or freedom.
Rick Tilman "Ideology and Utopia in the Social Philosophy of the Libertarian Economists (Contributions in Economics and Economic History, No. 223)"
(Greenwood Publishing Group 2001). Challenges libertarian definitions of freedom and democracy, and shows how libertarianism undermines democracy, civil liberties, and social equality.

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Copyright 2007 by Mike Huben ( ).
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