Monday, October 22, 2007

Nanny Governments and Marm Markets

Have you ever noticed how the same people who see a threat to individual autonomy of creating a nanny-state completely ignore the same hazards caused by relying on what could plausibly be called a "marm market"? Conservative libertarian types tend to refer to either the expectation or the sense of entitlement that people have that the government will take care of their needs in using the "nanny" metaphor. That reference often gets exaggerated into the idea that people who rely on government for certain things stop relying on themselves, as if people in general willingly trade their independence just because the government guarantees their children health insurance, for instance.

Now, I don't have a problem criticizing an undue attitude of entitlement or a lack of self-initiative, and anyone who knows my thoughts knows that I harbor suspicion toward government. However, any observant person comprehends that money--the realm of business--is as much a corrupting influence as power--the realm of government. So, I maintain that if government is to a nanny, then corporatism is to a schoolmarm. And the marm market brings out a proverbial hickory stick to thwack unruly and independent individuals who fail to conform.

If we actually lived in some dream world of small agrarians and local craftsmen, then it might be enough just to asperse nannying and to ignore its twin in the marketplace. But we don't live in that kind of world. We live in a world where people are generally born dependent on corporations for their jobs, their insurance, their homes, their children's education, their health care, and even their futures. And the market determines who has the head start and who does not based on those who play the corporate game for themselves and for their posterity. Innovation and independence are swallowed up and assimilated, bought and paid for. The rugged individual striking out on her own is an intolerable enigma, a dunce to the marm market, which looks for dupes.

In the end, the dream of reforming the nanny state without reforming the marm market is not a dream in the sense of a realm of hope. It is more of dream in the sense of a delusion under which individuals are said to be free only under a market. However, freedom to choose Exxon or BP is not independence even if it may be a dime's worth of difference. It is dependence, because our choices have already been made outside of our individual influence by those who have infinitely larger checking accounts than the rest of us.

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