Not much action in the markets on Veterans Day. So let’s go back to our story…
At the Kilkenomics economics festival in Kilkenny, Ireland…
We had just taken the first hit. It was an informal debate, in front of a crowd of drunken Irishmen. And our opponent was already way ahead. He had won over the audience with a well-argued series of blasts.
We charged our guns… making notes on the back of an envelope. We prepared to fire back. But our opponent had also laid a thick smokescreen over the whole area. So many misconceptions… so many bad ideas:
…that capitalism has anything to do with the system of crony banks, managed economies and zombie regulators…
…that the regulators protect average people… rather than the industries they regulate…
…that deregulation is what caused the crisis of 2008…
…that you can’t have law without having government (what legislature wrote the Ten Commandments, for Pete’s sake?)
…that the government is the source of all substantial innovation… Good God, they think Al Gore invented the Internet!
Aiming High and Hard
We tacked hard to the right. We aimed our cannon. There was no point in asking for quarter or seeking safe harbor somewhere in the middle. This was going to be a bloodbath. Better to aim high and hit hard.
But there was fog everywhere. The audience was already deep into their pints even before the show began. We had raised a pint, too, leaning on the bar and talking with our Bonner & Partners Family Office investment director Chris Hunter and Telegraph columnist Liam Halligan.
And now, with the smoke pumped out by the other side, the battle was going to be pure chaos.
How could we keep people listening for long enough to blow away the confusion? We could think of only one thing that might hold their attention:
“Look, let’s start at the beginning. There are only two ways to get what you want in this life. You take it by force and violence. Or you get it peacefully… by making, trading, and cooperating with others.
“That’s true of material wealth. It’s true of stuff. It’s true of power and status. And it’s as true of sex as it is of everything else. You can get it by negotiation… or you can get it by brute force.
“So, let’s try to agree on the basics. Wouldn’t you all agree that we’re better off generally if stick with consensual, peaceful, cooperative ways to get what we want in life?
The audience was quiet.
“Okay… well, you’re all hopeless. Girls, don’t let a stranger walk you home in this town!
“Seriously, I’m not saying that there aren’t plenty of cads and gigolos in what we call the ‘free market.’ But it’s still not like the government, which is full of rapists! Whatever it wants, it can get it by holding a gun to your head. Every law and regulation – no matter how silly or how stupid – is backed by the threat of violence.
The Only Game in Town
“That is, of course, why people like it so much. It’s the fastest and easiest way to get what you want. No persuasion necessary. No seduction involved. You don’t have to buy dinner and a few drinks.
“Plus, it’s the oldest and surest way. Humans have been around for about 200,000 years. And for the first 190,000 years… not to mention the millions of years that came before… force was about the only game in town.
“The supply of edible animals… and more importantly, women… was limited. It was a zero-sum game. If you wanted to get ahead, you had to be prepared to take something away from someone else. Otherwise, it was likely that someone would take something away from you.
“And look at it from the woman’s point of view. You were going to live to be 40 years old if you were lucky. You were going to have a few children, few of whom would live to adulthood. Who would you want to be the father of those children, someone who was capable of defending you and your children…or someone who would be killed or pushed aside?
“Note, also, that when a new man took over… he would likely kill any infant children you had so that you would be ready to bear his child as soon as possible.
“Yes, we are programmed by millions of years of evolution to use force and violence to get what we want. But it is a win-lose game. You only get more power, more status or more wealth by taking it away from other people.”