Reimagining American Community
May
24
Image by Hannah Boving

Image by Hannah Boving

Hot diggity. The libertarians are getting mystical.   I was only sort of half-listening to this, on my way to dinner with Ben Miller and his fabulous family out on Long Island, but from what I can tell, Brad J, Ben D, and James P over at Coffee and Markets reach the following conclusions: we maybe ought to be

a) having more babies than we think we can afford by yuppie-lifestyle-standards;

b) willing to be downwardly mobile and rent rather than own and try to make a living brewing kombucha if that’s our thing; and

c) willing to recognize that the kind of transaction that actually can fulfill the social and personal promise that traditional libertarianism sees in tit-for-tat exchange is something much weirder.  Something which, in order to describe, they actually find the need to reach for the language of grace.

In a grace-filled market exchange, they argue, Person A exchanges Thing A with Person B for Thing B: and what they get is more than what they gave.  There’s an almost alchemical transmutation whereby the total value of what was exchanged exceeds the sum of the values of the goods before they were exchanged.

They are clearly talking about something that goes beyond the fact that Person A places a higher value on Thing B than Person B does.  This is not a Misesian/subjectivist analysis where it’s about “and everyone went home happier than they arrived at the marketplace.” This is more like “and then God used the market exchange as a sacramental moment to inject more good into the world, and change the nature of the things that were exchanged.”

You thought you were getting a dozen eggs in exchange for your sock-full of wheat, and you would have been happy for that, because you have plenty of wheat and socks at home, and no eggs.  But you actually found, when you got home, that although eleven of the eggs were ordinary and good for cobb salads, one of them was a phoenix egg.

Welcome to the New Libertarianism.  It looks to be a wild ride.

About the Author
Born and raised on Manhattan, a small island in the Atlantic, Susannah Black received a degree from Amherst College and another one from Boston University. She has written for The Distributist Review, Front Porch Republic, Amherst Magazine, The L Magazine, and (in her young and foolish libertarian days) National Review. Having moved back to the New York area, she is now taking her stand in Central Queens, helping to run a sort of boarding facility/rental commune/household for her relatives and friends out of her great-grandparents’ big old house. She is also obsessed with tall ships and in the summers can be found helping to sail a schooner in New York Harbor. She blogs at radiofreethulcandra.wordpress.com.