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What the Heck is an “Unfettered No?”
20 Oct

In my book the “unfettered no” is the holy grail, the yardstick for measuring whether we have achieved a truly free market. Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear about or utter to ourselves the words “fair opportunity”—as in everyone deserves a fair shot at realizing the American dream. But fundamentally, for there to be economic freedom for all, one must always have a choice, in every transaction, including to participate or not in the competitive market at all. So economic freedom demands that there be a choice to stay outside the competitive market—sort of a rural bound to the economic city that forms when the right laws are in place.

True economic freedom requires that individuals be able to say “no” to anything except the responsibility to economically care for one’s self. Self support is every able person’s moral responsibility; otherwise you are taking from others. But the ability to say “no” to everything else must be unfettered. If this option is ever-present, then we have fair opportunity.

These principles are the forces of good economic design:

 Freedom always allows for the choice to participate or not.

 Capital—the result of labor—is not to be taxed.

 Honesty is economically efficient for communities, but can be inefficient for individuals.

These emanate from a system built on choice. A properly-designed free market accommodates the majority who are naturally well suited to competing for work or creating new products as well as those who are not. The able-bodied sustain themselves and their dependents without government help. A well-functioning economy finds fair economic recognition for everyone and thus, dignity for all.

Our current version of capitalism has been sapped of its inherent freedoms and efficiencies—giving us a large national debt and worsening tensions between rich and poor. I maintain that the designers of our economic structure did not appreciate fundamental economic forces. Poverty and the national debt do not have to exist in the dire way they do.

In a true free market, everyone has a choice to trade for a living or work for another, or not—viable choices not dependent on having preexisting wealth as a stopgap. In any exchange of goods or services in a free market both parties must find the exchange willful and fair, which can only occur when both parties are free to say “no” without preordaining harm. Today someone without assets and who is hungry likely doesn’t have such a choice. A true free market is predicated on the real choice of an “unfettered no”; someone with the wherewithal to say “no” to a transaction always has the upper hand over someone who does not.

If there is a threat to capitalism, it is due to the way we practice it. Bad rules only invite the government to step in try to fix things. In my true free market, the government would have less to do and politicians would have less to fight about.

About the Author

Written by Stephen Taft

I live in New York City, work on Wall Street, and think about justice...all the time.

3 Responses to What the Heck is an “Unfettered No?”

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