This is the first time I’ve come across Jakub Augstein. His article A Society on the Verge of a Meltdown looks at the moral meltdown of the rioters and looters and is, I think, wrong in many ways.
First, he attacks those who emphasize the individual as the basic unit in society and the economy. His view seems to be more top down, in that social problems and economic difficulties are inflicted on individuals. I think it is more bottom up, because society and the economy are just abstractions, complex webs of social and economic relationships that consist of flesh-and-blood, and acting and different individuals. They do not have an existence independent of them.
Second, he charges that the market lacks morality. I think there is a very strong moral case for the market, also known as the free market or capitalism, as it is simply voluntary economic exchange, and so inherently peaceful, fair, and mutually beneficial.
Third, I believe he misunderstands why society is “broken”. Unfortunately, there are indeed many “broken” people. The same therefore goes for much of society and the economy. As statists, their beliefs, advocacy and actions are far less moral throughout and overall than they realize.
Fourth, he mistakenly blames capitalism for material inequality and treats such a human condition as a grave injustice. In the market, in words of Ludwig von Mises, “It is the consumers who make some people rich and other people penniless.” Sadly, capitalism and the people have been under assault by the massive interventionism of the state. As well, humans simply aren’t equal in conditions in that people have widely varying inherent, environmental and developed differences, chances and the ability to develop relationships and opportunities to engage in exchanges.
Fifth, he embraces the notion that the true consummation of society lies inside the legislature of the state and calls for the power of the state to be used towards equality. This is definitely horrifying to me, because the members of the legislature aren’t true representatives and the state is an attempt at a territorial monopoly of unjust violence, and as such of aggression, predation and parasitism, and so when compared to voluntary arrangements it surely isn’t the apotheosis of society. Again, except in natural individual liberty people aren’t equal, and so the calls for statist attempts at any other equality come off to me as revolts against nature and reality and ultimately totalitarian and antihuman.
The truth is that the state is the most organized and violent enemies of humanity, individual rights, civil society and the market, progress, prosperity and civilization. They have beat down and herded the rest of humanity with such weapons as: propaganda, regulatory protectionism, taxation, intellectual monopoly grants, and bailouts; control over money and banking, lands, infrastructure, education and health and medical care; vice prohibitions, the police state, the military-industrial complex, conscription and wars; subsidization of poverty, unemployment, irresponsibility and sickness; barriers to international trade of goods and services, flow of capital and migration of people; and more. The state is not the answer to moral meltdown; it is capitalism that points the way to a future of greater harmony and plenty.