[ExI] Don't be a locavore fundamentalist

Robert Masters rob4332000 at yahoo.com
Sat Sep 26 20:27:16 UTC 2009

Rafal Smigrodzki wrote:

"### Free exchange (i.e. non-violent, non-regulated interactions between multiple entities) is a means of apportioning resources according to the desires of participants - and aside from a refusal to endorse violence, the proponent of free exchange does not pass judgment on the wisdom or folly of these desires....

"Still, locovory is stupid....

"[Locovores] believe that... the sacrifice they make to pay extra for crappy products, makes them better human beings - but aside from the heady feeling of moral superiority they get, the net effect on human welfare is clearly negative...."


Aren't you contradicting yourself?  If I understand correctly, you are making the standard libertarian assumption that the ultimate and sole criterion of "human welfare" is the judgment of the free market.  But locovores are PART OF THE MARKET, right?  If they bid up the price of lousy New York wine, who are you to say there is anything wrong with this?

There would appear to be two alternatives:

(a) Human welfare is entirely a matter of ECONOMIC value, i.e., price (as determined on a free, unregulated market).  Thus, if Jerry Springer earns $10 million/yr and Richard Feynman earns $50,000 (on a free market), then Springer's services really are worth 200 times as much as Feynman's.

(b) There are non-economic values (e.g., moral, intellectual and esthetic values), and human welfare cannot be measured by prices alone.

If (b) is correct (as I believe), it doesn't necessarily follow that coercion is warranted to enforce non-economic values.  One can argue, in particular cases, that the consequences of coercion are worse than the results of a free market (e.g., that, on net balance, society would be a better place if there were no drug war).  Or one can claim that coercion ("initiation of force") is ALWAYS immoral, in some ultimate, deontological sense, regardless of other considerations.  Libertarians often seem to be relying on the latter contention--which, in practice, is more or less equivalent to alternative (a) above (i.e., "The only standard of human welfare is what people choose in an uncoerced, free market").  Am I correct in understanding that that is your position?

Rob Masters

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