Free Will and the Market Place

If the laws of economics are either unknown or not heeded, the inevitable penalty will be an economy of scarcity and poverty.

Free will is the starting point of all ethical thinking and it plays an equally important part in the business of making a living. If man were not endowed with this capacity for making choices, he could not be held accountable for his behavior, any more than could a fish or a fowl — an amoral being, a thing without a sense of morals. So, if man were devoid of this capacity, his economics would be confined to grubbing along on whatever he found in nature. It is because man is capable of taking thought, of making evaluations and decisions in favor of this or that course, that we have a discipline called economics.

If, for instance, we discard the Ten Commandments, declaring them to be mere manmade conventions changeable at will, we end in chaos and disorder — evidence that we are on the wrong track. Likewise, if we declare that God in his infinite wisdom chose to disregard economics, that in ordering the world he overlooked the ways and means for man’s making a living, that in this particular field man has to work out his own formulae, we will end up with a poor living.

“Economics” without Principles

And that is exactly what has happened in the study of economics; many experts in this field are of the opinion that nature can tell us nothing about the business of making a living; it’s all a matter of human manipulation. That is why economics is so often a meaningless hodgepodge of expediencies, leading us to no understanding and no good end. I might add that the incongruities of ethical life, such as divorce, juvenile delinquency, international friction, and so on, are largely the result of the current conceit that there is no warrant for ethics in nature, no positive laws for moral behavior; but that is another subject.

So it must be in his search for a more abundant life. If in his search for a good life the human must be allowed to make use of his free will, why should he not be accorded the same right in the search for a more abundant life? Many of the persons who would abolish free choice in the market place logically conclude that man is not endowed with free will, that free will is a fiction, that man is merely a product of his environmentThis premise ineluctably leads them to the denial of the soul and, of course, the denial of God.”

[Adapted from an address before the American Farm Bureau “Farm, Family and Christian Resources” Conference, October 30, 1958; reprinted in The Freeman, January 1959.]

https://mises.org/wire/free-will-and-market-place-0

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