The N&O today published this article by a British professor of “economic security” in which he is discussing the topic of his new book – a new social class he describes as the “precariat.” As he puts it:
The emerging class is dangerous in that it does not identify with mainstream politics. But it does know what it is against, the gross inequalities around them and the chronic insecurity in which more and more people are forced to live. Call them the precariat, from the word “precarious.”
The precariat consists of millions and millions of people who are finding themselves in a life of insecurity, flitting between low-paying jobs that are leading nowhere.
Unsurprisingly, the article is a rundown of vague descriptions of people that, essentially, don’t have everything they want handed to them. These people are portrayed as victims.
To the extent there is any mention of the causes creating this new class, the author is rather brief, and unsurprisingly blames the problems on individuals having too much freedom to make their own economic decisions.
The globalizing market system wants a precariat, seeing it as a flexible labor supply, as a mechanism for economic competitiveness. It is an outcome of an era of free market economics, not something simply due to the economic crisis of 2007-08.
From this, we can expose the author as a fraud. First, to describe our economic system as an “era of free market economics” is a joke. The mere existence of a central bank in every industrial country is enough to lay that fallacy to rest.
But the phrase “The globalizing market system wants a precariat…” especially caught my attention.
An economic system has wants? Such phrasing exposes the ignorance of this author. A market economy is not some separate entity with desired outcomes of its own. As Ludwig von Mises described in his book Human Action:
The market is not a place, a thing, or a collective entity. The market is a process, actuated by the interplay of the actions of the various individuals cooperating under the division of labor. The forces determining the – continually changing – state of the market are the value judgments of these individuals and their actions as directed by these value judgments.
The market process is the adjustment of the individual actions of the various members of the market society to the requirements of mutual cooperation.
In other words, the “market system” is a series of exchanges between individuals. The N&O article author’s desire for “economic security” is actually a path towards yet more state control over our decisions – and a sure recipe for economic stagnation eventually leading to grinding poverty for all.