>What or where is the limit for markets?

>Should markets be unregulated? Should we be able to sell drugs, guns, ourselves, part of ourselves like organs, and various other things likely to grab press attention?

Should markets be heavily regulated? Where is the limit for regulation and where should it come from? Should all regulation be carried out by the state?


  • >1. Yes, we should (subject to certain regulations, see below) be able to market pretty much any commodity we choose. Whether or not it grabs the shreiking attention of hysterical or more illiberal parts of the press is, as far I can see, irrelevant. The right to trade should be, like everything else, subject to rule of law and rationally-constructed and consistently applied principles, not subject to an obnoxious culture that pretty much says 'ban everything I disapprove of'2. No, markets need regulation. This should fall under the proviso that individuals and collections of individuals should be at liberty to act so long as they do not positively harm others by so doing. In order to secure this certain restrictions should be in place, including.i) Monopolies should not be permited except in certain unavoidable areas (wouldn't be too good to have a privatised Navy though, of course, such natural or state monopolies outsource and consume from others in a polyopolistic system), primarily in the interests of consumers.ii) Goods sold should be subject to certain standards and qualities. This includes, as now, the kitemark in toys and condoms, sell-by dates in food and household products etc. iia) This should also extend, subject to impartial scientific review of their dangers, all drugs currently illegalised. I won't go into this debate as it is for elsewhere, but I will say that I am not proposing legalising all drugs. All I am saying is that, unlike current practice (witness the furore over M.Cat earlier this year) thorough, proper and impartial scientific review should be undertaken on all currently banned substances. If the risks of taking a drug in a responsible manner are judged to carry no significantly greater risk than products currently available then they should be sold, subject to regulations, and taxed. iii) Consumers should be vetted before purchasing certain products, again in the interests of public safety. Minors should not be able to purchase alcohol, drugs or hardcore pornography. Restrictions should also be made on knives, cars etc. subject to qualifications/suitability and so on. Particular care needs to be taken with guns. Owners should have full and comprehensive background checks with references and, if necessary, interviews. Their homes should be checked and they should not be allowed to keep weapons loaded or aummunition in the same place as weapons. Owners should ensure their gun is locked and secured when not in use. I don't 'do' banning, but we have had two incidents this summer that show just how dangerous firearms remain in one of the most regulated states in the world in this regard.3. Individuals and communities do offer de facto regulation of quality re: choice of purchase, word of mouth recommendation, comparison websites (not just price but quality and service of everything from breakdown companies to eBay transactions). Beyond this, I think the points listed in 2. are too serious to be regulated by anything other than national law, though obviously private citizens can help in enforcement (informing, being vigilant etc) as the front line in any transaction.Despite the above, I am essentially a free marketeer but, as I hope I've shown, the limit of markets fall where the safety of individuals is threatened. Even then, however, I prefer regulation to a long list of bans. I'm not sure if this is a place for a discussion of the virtues of free trade or merely the nature of regulation; either way, I have to go now. Will be back later as I don't see this response as anything like comprehensive. Anyway, I need to go get tea.

  • >I think it is fairly comprehensive, or as much as an answer to a question this big can be. There are also economic reasons for the regulation you speak of i.e. regulating when market activity imposes too great a risk on consumers or threatens their safety stops the market carnivorously destroying itself. There can be no greater proof for this than the current recession.The one question that jumped out of what you said for me was about monopolies. You say we shouldn't allow monopolies, but the markets are different today than in Adam Smith's time. So are you talking about not allowing national monopolies, or not allowing global monopolies? Or must that decision depend on the time and the individual good/service you're discussing?

  • >Re: monopolies I accept there are certain natural monopolies. Trains spring to mind – I know they are privatised and on big routes (Leeds to Kings X, for example) I could choose National Express or Virgin, but realistically I am forced (understandably given the impracticalities of running more than one company to a timetable – two trains can't arrive at the same platform at the same time) to take a certain train. Not saying they should be nationalised, but I can't really begrudge Arriva being my only public carriage into Leeds either. Certain national monopolies are OK as well. I prefer the current rail set up to the old British Rail because it's cheaper (not, generally, better or more efficient) to the taxpayer, but wouldn't be ideologically opposed to nationalised rail as we have nationalised roads. Same goes for the military, only this time (for obvious reasons) a state monopoly is desirable. I cannot think, currently, of one legitimate justification for a global monopoly to ever exist, nor can I think of one that does. 15 years ago, maybe, I might have said Microsoft and Intel, but clearly not anymore, partly due to regulation and resultant market forces.So, in short, in some cases national monopolies are acceptable and even desirable, though these should be limited to such situations. Where competition can exist, and is safe to exist, it must be allowed to exist. I cannot see any comparable situations in global economics, certainly not until the hypothetical eventuality of a global state, and perhaps not even then.

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