Sphere crossing

How many organisations give platforms to their critics? That’s what the CIS did when Kevin Rudd delivered this speech (pdf) last Thursday. Much of it is a critique of Friedrich Hayek. But the part that caught my eye was a common criticism of markets, that its self-interested values invade other spheres where other values ought to prevail. Rudd is unconvinced by what he regards Hayek’s ‘ex cathedra pronouncements’ that the family and the market can be maintained as separate moral realms, as different ‘orders’, a ‘private’ order for the family and ‘extended’ order for market where altruistic values are less applicable. Rudd says:

…this is formalistic nonsense given that Hayek’s fundamental concern is individual liberty and the same individuals are who are participants in family life are active in the market. Is it seriously contended that behaviours in one sphere do not affect behaviours in the other?

In a quote from David McKnight, he elaborates on the problem:

We must be ruthlessly self-interested in the market and sweetly caring in the family, greedy at work, selfless at home.

I don’t think Rudd realises the difficulties this critique creates for his own position. After all, he does not oppose the market. He maintains that ‘social democrats maintain a robust support for the market economy’, just not of the neo-liberal minimal state variety. Yet this would surely mean that everyone would still have their principal exposure to the self-interested values of the market, ie as consumers. Don’t we all like to get a bargain? How often do we really consider the full implications of our purchases for other people or the environment?
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