Free markets promote tolerance

Justin Bis

You don’t have to look far back into history in order to realize that as a race, humanity has taken a huge step forward since the advent of industrialization.

Not only were there vast improvements in material terms, often ignored are the cultural and ethical developments made possible by this revolution in man’s relation to his fellow man.

Before industrialization, life in the West was homogenous.  Differences in religion and nationality were the differences between life and death. Little tolerance was afforded in these pre-industrial times. Indeed a constant state of war existed amongst the rival petty princes. Political rights were minimal: they extended to the feudal lords, while every day serfs were treated like cattle.

Association between different peoples was almost nonexistent. States had almost no trade with each other — without trade, these people of different ilk had no reason to cooperate with each other. Where there is no cooperation, conquest and genocide become a reality. These were the Dark Ages, and man’s relation toward one another was that of master and slave. Then all of that began to slowly change.

As competition in war necessitated better forms of production, the exceptionally greedy and ambitious princes started to build manufactories for weapons and other goods that gave them an advantage in war. In order to run these manufactories efficiently, they delegated authority to those who were skilled at the logistics of business.

Gradually, these new businessmen and merchants came to be an important part of society — and they began to replace the landed gentry in importance. This is vital for a very important reason. The old European feudal system was based on force: summed up as “grow these crops or we will kill you!”

The new business class (or bourgeoisie) authority was based on cooperation: “let’s make a deal and work together!”

I realize this is an oversimplification because in reality these changes were slow and had many setbacks. But nonetheless, the new spirit of cooperation spurred relative tolerance of other peoples and increasingly more so as the world became more and more industrialized.

Tolerance doesn’t mean acceptance — people today still hate other people because of their religion, sex or nationality.  Tolerance is about coexistence. In the practical world of industry, people can coexist together regardless of xenophobia. There are two basic ways of dealing with your fellow man. You can either use force or obtain their consent.

To use force creates the barriers we still find in society. To use consent breaks those barriers down and sets men free from one another.

We see it in history, and we continue to see it today. In today’s political debates, the fundamental relation between men is raging on. Every issue Congress deals with has two possible methodologies of implementation: force or consent. In dealing with the health care debate, we have two possible choices: to force people to buy healthcare insurance under threat of a fine or to allow individuals to choose between different insurance companies beyond state borders (make the market as free as possible).

Public assistance is another example of the choice we have between force and consent. I don’t know about you, but forcing people to pay for other’s expenses is not the action of a civil society. Instead, a system of voluntary charity should be implemented for the needy.

What about Affirmative Action? Because, at least to me, forcing some people to give up admittance to top universities because of their race does not lead to tolerance and peace in race relations.

Instead of those attempts to force men into relation with each other, real tolerance requires choice and consent amongst the partners. Tolerance depends on everyone being useful to each other, so each individual is indispensable in the scheme of things.

We can either have a world of warriors or a world of traders. Remember: the weapon of a warrior is a gun; the weapon of a trader is a handshake.

To quote the great French political theorist Frédéric Bastiat: “If goods don’t cross borders, armies will.” Which one do we pick? Will we continue the liberating influence of capitalism or shall we start the descent back into feudalism?