I want to pick up where we left the discussion at the conclusion of the last chapter … in the next chapter.
Here and now I would like to attempt a first approximation of the primary goal of “social business”. Let me point out that I do not “own” this phrase — except and insofar as this phrase is the (working) title of the current book project (see also “Introduction to Rational Media: Content vs. Container“).
The precipitous moment that led to my decision to start this book project was an “AHA!” moment I had about a week ago and some discussions I had thereupon with some of my friends and colleagues here in Germany. The people I am thinking of were all “German” (whatever that means), except, perhaps, for me — I’ll get to why that’s significant in a moment.
The basic idea is actually quite simple and straightforward. It goes like this: One can have either a free market economy or social integration — but not both. Any social integration policy introduced into a community comes at the cost of infringing upon the freedom of market participants. Perhaps it is best to conceptualize markets as located at one end of a scale, and social integration (or “cohesion”) located at the other end of the scale — ranging from completely free to completely socially constrained.
Now my German friends and colleagues were in general quite quick to point out how awesome Germany is, because it has what Germans like to refer to as a “Soziale Marktwirtschaft” (i.e. a “social market economy”). Now in my humble opinion a big part of the reason why many Germans seem to think this way is because such ideas (as the existence of a “Soziale Marktwirtschaft”) get pounded into their brains over and over at a very early age, leading them to salivate over such ideas much like a Pavlovian dog would respond under sufficient conditioning to generate the conditioned response.
The problem with their response is that it is completely absurd. It is, essentially, the equivalent of speaking about a “white blackboard” — it simply doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. This is the issue: the whole notion of a “market” economy is that market participants are (to quote Milton Friedman’s famous phrase) “free to choose”. If market participants were not free, then it would not be a marketplace at all. There are certain constraints on what qualifies a “place” as a “marketplace”, and ironically rules and regulations a marketplace doth not make (the irony here is that the constraints themselves can be seen as rules, regulations and such).
People are born free, yet everywhere they are in chains — Roussaeu said something like that … and this is the puzzle this project is all about: How do we (best) reconcile this contradiction? We cannot have complete freedom, we cannot have complete regulation. The fanatical fantasies of dictatorial power ought not to cloud our judgement that we must reject such ambitions vehemently whenever and wherever they may occur. One of the most eloquent warnings about such risks to civilization came in the late President Eisenhower’s Farewell Address (see “A Better Way to Leave Office“).