Market truths or obscured views?
from Peter Radford
This is meant as a friendly gentle nudge:
As we all know markets are heavenly creations of exquisite perfection. Free and impersonal markets that is. We just know this. It just is. Free impersonal markets are what have delivered us all from the abominations of servitude and the darkest poverty. They have enlightened us. The have illuminated us. They are what have enabled us to discover what we now know. Our literature, our arts, our politics, our cultures, our very beings are due entirely to the ability of free impersonal markets to grab hold of the tyrannical state and demolish its suffocating grip.
Markets said free, and they were free.
That in a democracy we the people are the state and so apparently have our own hands on our own throats is of no consequence. That ‘we the people’ stuff is just a veil behind which lurks the monster of the state waiting to bash us with another calamitous and inevitably doomed policy. Even if that policy was conceived with the best intentions.
Beware: unintended consequences are everywhere. Except in free impersonal markets.
This is because free and impersonal markets are just awesome.
So surrender to the impersonal. Float away atop the surf of free markets. No matter where they take you, no matter the consequences, no matter anything at all: it is better than anything the nasty horrible state could ever deliver to you.
Stop. I just caught myself making a silly error. Learn this important lesson: it cannot be ‘no matter what the consequences’. No, not in free impersonal markets. The consequences in a market are always just. They are always right. They are always optimal. They are never unintended. No, those consequences are the best.
Free markets are always right. This is indisputable.
So last Friday the stock markets were absolutely correct. And this morning they are absolutely correct again. They were prescient and all-knowing Friday. They are prescient and all knowing today. The gulf in stock valuations that has opened up in the interim is simply a recognition of the new information the
non-persons agents who comprise the impersonality of the impersonal market absorbed over the weekend.
Note: this new information was not due to uncertainty. No, not at all. There is no uncertainty. Just calculation and recalculation. Actually not recalculation because that might imply error in the first calculation. So we won’t call it recalculation , we will call it new calculation. Phew.
It’s all part of the mystery of market magic. Sorry, not magic, nor mystery. It’s all part of the super-calculating optimizing machinery that is so impersonal and free that it only looks like a mystery or magical. Actually it’s a cold hard fact.
What to you and me look like wild gyrations are simply the ever so smooth and infinitely smart manifestations of the transparent bargaining between completely equal and well informed
non-persons agents. These agents rise above all emotion and trade, not with each other, but in an entirely impersonal and open manner and are simply expressing a purity of valuation that the rest of us can only be in awe of.
The reason why you and I probably misunderstand these swift and precise re-valuations and see them as bizarre or manic panic stricken emotional outbursts is because you and I are not sufficiently impersonal. We do not quite comprehend the
axioms mysteries workings of the free and impersonal markets. We are not yet suitably enlightened.
So it ought be no surprise that when asked the public thinks hedge fund managers or CEO’s are overpaid and that unskilled workers in factories are underpaid. Clearly the public has no clue about the
magic precise and accurate workings of marginalism. All those people are paid exactly what they are worth. It’s just a fact. A cold hard artifact of nature. An actual fact. It is a product of the free and impersonal marketplace in which such things are decided.
That it is this same clueless public that then transforms into super agents in order to participate in impersonal free markets is of no matter. If you can’t keep up with the theories of markets, then that’s your problem.
If, for instance, you can’t grasp that the buffoons who are so easily befuddled at election time by the evils of the government they elect are the self-same agents who then rationally organize their lives in order not to be take on by that same trickery in the marketplace, then you are just dumb. Or confused. Or both.
You see, it is the workings of markets that does this liberating. A person who is stupid enough to vote for evil state policies at election time is actually cleansed of this stupidity when confronted with those exact policies within the market. As long as the market is impersonal of course, but you knew that.
Yes you knew that. But the public doesn’t.
Which is why only 27% of the silly dears we know as the general public want to live in a society in which government pays the minimalist role our libertarian economist friends who espouse the
magic liberating workings of free impersonal markets advocate. This is according to a 2012 paper by professors Page, Bartels, and Seawright, who, being political scientists probably don’t realize how silly they are by even compiling data so affronting to the magic smooth workings of markets.
This is the point: there are many economists who believe so devoutly in market magic that they sometimes say things they ought not, they sometimes attribute supreme powers that don’t exist to their fanciful markets, and they sometimes ignore vast swathes of social and political history in order to keep close to the pure faith that markets are just right. They don’t admit to market failures, they don’t admit to the multiplicity of institutional richness around us, and they certainly don’t admit to the existence of something called society into which the economy can be subsumed.
Something, that is, that is bigger and more important to our historical trajectory than simply the free and impersonal market that they theorize about.
This is more than a mistake. It is misleading. Especially when you know that they don’t actually believe as devoutly as they sometimes pretend.
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