After reading Benjamin Barber’s careful, fair, charitable, and rigorous essay, I realized Barber is right. Market fundamentalism and libertarianism are cuckoo. We ought to replace our apparent “monolithic monism” with, I suppose, polylithic pluralism. And I’d better start taking seriously the dialectical essence of politics. To that end, I’ve asked Oxford University Press to retract my book Libertarianism, and for Princeton University Press to retract The Ethics of Voting and the forthcoming Against Politics (a book that Barber would truly hate).
The thing is, even if Barber were right about all this – that market fundamentalism is dumb and bad, that markets need the state to be free, that social democracy is the best system, that the public sector is vital for ensuring our freedom and equality, or whatnot – it has no bearing on our argument in Markets without Limits.
The debate about commodification (which Barber’s book Consumed is to some degree about) is not a debate about whether markets should be free, whether libertarianism is true, or whether we need strong democratic oversight and control over the market. Is instead a debate about what sorts of things may properly be for sale. The thesis of Markets without Limits is not that we ought to have free markets in everything, democracy and justice be damned. It’s instead that anything you may do for free, you may permissibly do for money. There are limits to how we sell, but not what we sell, except the trivial and boring limit that you shouldn’t sell some things you shouldn’t have or do, period.
In a bit we’ll post a critique of Ben Barber’s Consumed. He didn’t read our book, but I read his, and I’ve got somethings to say about proper social scientific methods.