Hot Best Seller

Illusion of Free Markets

Availability: Ready to download

It is widely believed today that the free market is the best mechanism ever invented to efficiently allocate resources in society. Just as fundamental as faith in the free market is the belief that government has a legitimate and competent role in policing and the punishment arena. This curious incendiary combination of free market efficiency and the Big Brother state has It is widely believed today that the free market is the best mechanism ever invented to efficiently allocate resources in society. Just as fundamental as faith in the free market is the belief that government has a legitimate and competent role in policing and the punishment arena. This curious incendiary combination of free market efficiency and the Big Brother state has become seemingly obvious, but it hinges on the illusion of a supposedly natural order in the economic realm. The Illusion of Free Markets argues that our faith in “free markets” has severely distorted American politics and punishment practices. Bernard Harcourt traces the birth of the idea of natural order to eighteenth-century economic thought and reveals its gradual evolution through the Chicago School of economics and ultimately into today’s myth of the free market. The modern category of “liberty” emerged in reaction to an earlier, integrated vision of punishment and public economy, known in the eighteenth century as “police.” This development shaped the dominant belief today that competitive markets are inherently efficient and should be sharply demarcated from a government-run penal sphere. This modern vision rests on a simple but devastating illusion. Superimposing the political categories of “freedom” or “discipline” on forms of market organization has the unfortunate effect of obscuring rather than enlightening. It obscures by making both the free market and the prison system seem natural and necessary. In the process, it facilitated the birth of the penitentiary system in the nineteenth century and its ultimate culmination into mass incarceration today.


Compare

It is widely believed today that the free market is the best mechanism ever invented to efficiently allocate resources in society. Just as fundamental as faith in the free market is the belief that government has a legitimate and competent role in policing and the punishment arena. This curious incendiary combination of free market efficiency and the Big Brother state has It is widely believed today that the free market is the best mechanism ever invented to efficiently allocate resources in society. Just as fundamental as faith in the free market is the belief that government has a legitimate and competent role in policing and the punishment arena. This curious incendiary combination of free market efficiency and the Big Brother state has become seemingly obvious, but it hinges on the illusion of a supposedly natural order in the economic realm. The Illusion of Free Markets argues that our faith in “free markets” has severely distorted American politics and punishment practices. Bernard Harcourt traces the birth of the idea of natural order to eighteenth-century economic thought and reveals its gradual evolution through the Chicago School of economics and ultimately into today’s myth of the free market. The modern category of “liberty” emerged in reaction to an earlier, integrated vision of punishment and public economy, known in the eighteenth century as “police.” This development shaped the dominant belief today that competitive markets are inherently efficient and should be sharply demarcated from a government-run penal sphere. This modern vision rests on a simple but devastating illusion. Superimposing the political categories of “freedom” or “discipline” on forms of market organization has the unfortunate effect of obscuring rather than enlightening. It obscures by making both the free market and the prison system seem natural and necessary. In the process, it facilitated the birth of the penitentiary system in the nineteenth century and its ultimate culmination into mass incarceration today.

30 review for Illusion of Free Markets

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rhys

    This book was not what I expected, but I enjoyed it very much. Good scholarship, well written, and interesting - particularly how he interpreted the output of the Chicago School over the past decades. The argument presented in the book is clear: the natural order is highly regulated; and "the naturalness of the market depoliticizes the distributional outcomes" (p.32). And Harcourt delivers on the supporting evidence. What came to mind as I read Illusion of Free Markets was how we use an illusory ' This book was not what I expected, but I enjoyed it very much. Good scholarship, well written, and interesting - particularly how he interpreted the output of the Chicago School over the past decades. The argument presented in the book is clear: the natural order is highly regulated; and "the naturalness of the market depoliticizes the distributional outcomes" (p.32). And Harcourt delivers on the supporting evidence. What came to mind as I read Illusion of Free Markets was how we use an illusory 'natural order' to obscure the distributional outcomes; and how we use an illusory 'natural order' to obscure our entanglement within the natural environment - both use illusions of 'freedom' and inevitability to exploit. Thanks again to Sara for this selection (as I pick away at her formidable reading list)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Discipline or sacrifice, and how economics can help [Through my ratings, reviews and edits I'm providing intellectual property and labor to Amazon.com Inc., listed on Nasdaq, which fully owns Goodreads.com and in 2013 posted revenues for $74 billion and $274 million profits. Intellectual property and labor require compensation. Amazon.com Inc. is also requested to provide assurance that its employees and contractors' work conditions meet the highest health and safety standards at all the compa Discipline or sacrifice, and how economics can help [Through my ratings, reviews and edits I'm providing intellectual property and labor to Amazon.com Inc., listed on Nasdaq, which fully owns Goodreads.com and in 2013 posted revenues for $74 billion and $274 million profits. Intellectual property and labor require compensation. Amazon.com Inc. is also requested to provide assurance that its employees and contractors' work conditions meet the highest health and safety standards at all the company's sites]. Bernard Harcourt is on to something - which ultimately eludes him. His attempt to trace the genealogy of the correlation between mass incarceration and the free-markets ideology is promising at the beginning. We learn that the idea of natural social order coupled with legal despotism is first theorized, at the birth of economics, by François Quesnay and the Physiocrats. The economy should be left free to adjust, without government intervention. But government must be inflexible with les hommes déréglés , those who do not fit in, and risk jeopardizing the social order. Choosing Physiocracy as the point of departure for a genealogy of mass incarceration is a stroke of genius, but the impression is that the author gets soon lost along the (very long) way. And the cause for this is that the category of discipline gets confused with that of sacrifice - and disciplinary with sacrificial society. Foucault's discipline is what elites use to restrain themselves (what the 1968 elitist anti-authority movement objected to). Sacrifice, as recently pointed out by Naomi Klein in her book on climate change, is how elitist societies exploit what is 'other' than themselves. Sacrifice is how society protects itself, discipline how society maintains its desired shape. Quesnay thought of a disciplinary society in France, but his disciple Mercier de la Rivière realized a sacrificial society in Martinique. Beccaria promoted a system of more humane penalities, conceived as a price list, in 'racially' homogeneous Italy. Race was being invented at about that time in the US, as a means to deny freed slaves access to the same rights as white free men. And mass incarceration is the policy outcome of that sacrifice. It is the sacrificial pull of society that uses neoliberalism to reach its ends, not the other way around. What fascinates me of this book's magisterial - a word the author likes a lot - analysis of Physiocracy is the light it sheds on neoliberalism by contrast. Physiocracy built on the biological metaphor of the body (Quesnay was a physician, and a good one) and its principal tenet was that only nature creates value (a point the author pays little attention to). The engine gave then birth to Adam Smith's capitalism or liberalism, effacing nature and bestowing humankind with the ability to plan ruthlessly (only the factory creates value, with its discipline, of course). And finally the algorithm (only imagined first, as Hayek wrote at the time of Turing's theories) delivered neoliberalism (where only finance creates value). What is completely off the mark here is the idea that free markets do not exist, or how this is proved. The fact that regulated exchanges (as the Chicago Board of Trade, or Nasdaq) are regulated through and through is no proof of the logical impossibility of free markets. On the contrary. Markets are the less free the less they are regulated, because in the absence of regulation contractual power kicks in. Markets dominated by sheer contractual power are free for the hegemon, and a nightmare for the rest. Neoliberals, siding with the hegemon, call unregulated markets 'free'. Regulated exchanges are the exception, not the rule, and 'on exchange' the elites carefully discipline themselves (making the 'correct', i.e. self serving, use of discipline). In free markets, the spirit of sacrifice prevails (developed countries 'freely' extract what they need from developing countries).

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ben Chinn

    Some interesting ideas but I couldn't get past the academic jargon and lefty posturing. Gave up after the first couple of chapters. Some interesting ideas but I couldn't get past the academic jargon and lefty posturing. Gave up after the first couple of chapters.

  4. 5 out of 5

    KT

    Excellent, if repetitive, critique of free markets and its facilitation of the expansion of the neoliberal penal state, which traces the birth of natural order and explores how it evolved into its current manifestation of the superiority of free markets proved by scientific market-efficiency theorems, using well researched history The author shows how the influential Chicago School vision of the free market effectively depoliticizes the market and its outcomes, and by defining the free market by Excellent, if repetitive, critique of free markets and its facilitation of the expansion of the neoliberal penal state, which traces the birth of natural order and explores how it evolved into its current manifestation of the superiority of free markets proved by scientific market-efficiency theorems, using well researched history The author shows how the influential Chicago School vision of the free market effectively depoliticizes the market and its outcomes, and by defining the free market by its inherent orderliness that should make us cautious about government interference, allows the state to have free rein outside that space to punish those who bypass and/or don't play by the rules of the free market This was illustrated by President Reagan's articulation that the government does not belong in the economic sphere, which has its own orderliness, but it has a legitimate role to play outside that sphere, especially in law enforcement Another highlight is the author explanation of Becker's view of everyone as a potential criminal and it's only a question of pricing, but when this view was channeled back into the free-market mold and crime became "market bypassing", the underlying logic would serve to justify politicians in packing prisons. Thus the rationality of neoliberal penality fully legitimated severe intervention on punishment issues. The book ends on a call for political economists to shed these tropes of natural order and police, of free markets and excessive regulation, of security and discipline, in order to destroy the excessively punitive neoliberal carceral state

  5. 4 out of 5

    howdy

    dryer than fuck

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    I was expecting a rundown of the epistemological errors of “spontaneous order” in capitalist society, and came up somewhat wanting. It's certainly a good analysis of the controls that were inevitable even in the high-liberal era, although when you criticize the quality of the egg, it's not the same as criticizing the quality of the chicken. Harcourt is much more interesting when he's addressing the contemporary link between free markets and penal society, and the state power at the heart of moder I was expecting a rundown of the epistemological errors of “spontaneous order” in capitalist society, and came up somewhat wanting. It's certainly a good analysis of the controls that were inevitable even in the high-liberal era, although when you criticize the quality of the egg, it's not the same as criticizing the quality of the chicken. Harcourt is much more interesting when he's addressing the contemporary link between free markets and penal society, and the state power at the heart of modern capitalism. I wish, however, that that was more than 20% of the book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alex Zuckerman

    A fascinating bundle of ideas about markets and intellectual history, a bit of a slog to get through because Harcourt splays much of the material appropriately left in the footnotes across the body of the book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    UChicagoLaw

    The Wall Street Journal reviews the book here: http://bit.ly/hSwf4Q The Wall Street Journal reviews the book here: http://bit.ly/hSwf4Q

  9. 5 out of 5

    David Kaib

    An even better job of busting the myth of free markets than Robert Hale, and also explains the connection market thinking and punitive approaches in non-economic arenas.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jie Ying

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  12. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Summers

  13. 4 out of 5

    Erica

  14. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael D'Ambrosio

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cullen Enn

  18. 4 out of 5

    John

  19. 4 out of 5

    Allen Severino

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jose

  21. 4 out of 5

    Darren

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stockfish

  23. 4 out of 5

    Eric

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  25. 5 out of 5

    Niral Shah

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michael Stenovec

  27. 5 out of 5

    Phạm N.

    Much better to read Polanyi's The Great Transformation. Much better to read Polanyi's The Great Transformation.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Carlos

  29. 5 out of 5

    xiaolei lei

  30. 4 out of 5

    cyrise Brown

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...