morality_play (morality_play) wrote,

Techno Demonology 5: The Market Libertarian Pathology

With respect to nature, we can easily imagine a natural phenomenon that hurts or deprives moral patients. In fact most natural phenomenon probably do. Nature is "red in tooth and claw." The current system requires everyone to eat one another to survive. Nature means institutional infanticide and brutality. It means disease and constant struggle. It means we're all afflicted with the absolute minimum intellectual and athletic potential nature requires to make us successful _breeders_ before we die violently.

But nature has no authority to impose these requirements, and we are not obligated to arbitrarily defer to it. The social darwinist errs by substituting foreign criteria for the criteria of moral activity whenever he makes a normative proposition. We can only decide how we are morally obligated to treat a natural phenomenon based upon what pleasures or pains it causes. For example, we would be morally obligated to suppress earthquakes or hurricanes if we possessed the means. The social darwinist is trying to arrive at moral obligations through an appeal to what conditions nature "favors." But moral activity formally describes obligations to intercede in the pains and pleasures of other moral patients. It has nothing to do with arbitrary emergent phenomena, so we cant then appeal to the evolutionary history or natural status of a thing to justify it's role in a crisis. Earthquakes would not become morally permissible because they're "natural" any more than a genetic proclivity for rape would. Darwin understood this distinction well, while his contemporaries did not. As I remarked to Spider88...

"Darwin's natural selection was conscripted by victorian sensibilities to embody everything from a justification of colonization to fantasies of cultural superiority. Huxley and Spencer were very effective at corrupting the popular interpretation of natural selection into that of an inevitably progressive force. I seem to recall that in several of Darwin's personal reflections and correspondences he explicitly lamented the fact that his popularizers seemed unwilling or unable to grasp that his selection was a process that possessed no agenda."

We're merely vehicles for the propagation of genes.The reason we suffer sickness, death and human limitations is that Natural selection does not have our interests in mind. It's a "process without a purpose." _No one is at the wheel_.

The consequences for market libertarian prescriptions are fatal.

Any prescriptive statement holding that some set of conditions _ought_ to prevail over others, must ultimately appeal to the requirements of moral activity. But what are those requirements? At a minimum, we can specify that moral activity is intersubjective, with subjective operators. Problematically, while market libertarianism assumes it's receiver operators are subjective entities with phenomenological consciousness, (you and I, plus Bambi, Thumper, and perhaps fetal and eventually artificial organisms) it's actor-operator (the market) is not. An important distinction here, is that agency cannot be synthesized by the collective activity of _other agents_. A popular libertarian narrative, for example, appeals to the "wisdom of crowds," to relocate agent-hood from the individual to the consumer market. But the reality is that crowds are quite dumb. Not even dumb. Unconscious. Crowds themselves, don't possess any sort of intentional state. They have no affective consciousness, and so agency can't be understood as something "distributable" in this way.

More critically, we've seen moral activity is necessarily instrumental, with an actor-operator equipped with agency by second order phenomenal consciousness. So even if we overlook the failure of the libertarian model of the actor-operator to meet the minimum requirement of subjectivity, it still fails to meet the requirement of instrumentality. Markets, as non-intelligent emergent systems, are not instrumental, but autonomous from oversight, and self-propelled by their own internal forces.

Finally, we _minimally_ understand moral activity as describing the pleasures and pains of moral patients (and our obligations to secure them) as it's primary currency. And markets, as objectiveless systems, are fatally disconnected from this requirement. They do not take the security of moral patient's quality of life as any sort of objective. They embody Ellul's technique, without a moral agent to steer their selection process, blindly indifferent to real human projects and happiness. Certainly, markets tend to favor certain kinds of conclusions, but "any old favored conclusion" won't do. Unless they actively secure the quality of life of every moral patient, they simply are not satisfying the requirements of moral activity. Markets select some moral patients for prosperity and others for destitution _non-intelligently_ and without respect to the qualities that distinguish their moral worth, and consequently they can't be understood as moral agents.

The crucial distinction seen here, in autonomous, emergent agencies like markets (Szerszinski's "elementals") or natural selection processes, is that they _don't possess moral content_, and consequently they can't be appealed to for normative purposes, the way market ideologues attempt to apply them. There is no way for a market libertarian to propose that the market _should_ determine anything without committing a preformative contradiction. He would implicitly be declaring that some variety of market-favored condition ought to prevail because the conditions the market selects for _ought not_ to prevail.
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