Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal

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Steven Pinker on How the Free Market Makes Us Uneasy

Steven Pinker, in The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature (p. 409), writes:

Fiske’s taxonomy also accomodates a fourth relationship type [in addition to Communal Sharing, Authority Ranking, and Exchange], which he calls Market Pricing. It embraces the entire apparatus of modern market economies: currency, prices, salaries, benefits, rents, interest, credit, options, derivatives, and so on. The medium of communication is symbolic numerals, mathematical operations, digital accounting and transfers, and the language of formal contracts. Unlike the other three relationship types, Market Pricing is nowhere near as universal. A culture with no written language and with a number system that peters out at “3” cannot handle even the rudiments of Market Pricing. And the logic of the market remains cognitively unnatural as well. People all over the world think that every object has an intrinsic fair price (as opposed to being worth whatever people are willing to pay for it at the time), that middlemen are parasites (despite the service they render in gathering goods from distant places and making them conveniently available to buyers), and that charging interest is immoral (despite the fact that money is more valuable to people at some times than at others).[See Thomas Sowell: Knowledge and Decisions.] These fallacies come naturally to an Exchange mindset in which distributions are fair only when equivalent quantities of stuff change hands. The mental model of face-to-face, tit-for-tat exchanges is ill equipped to handle the abstruse apparatus of a market economy, which makes diverse goods and services fungible among a vast number of people over great distances of time and space. 

As far as I can see, this takes Market Pricing out of the realm of human nature, and there seem to be no naturally developing thoughts or emotions tailored to it.

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