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Prior to Keynes' time, there was no such thing as 'free commercial exchanges between private citizens' either.

Consider serfdom, slavery, guild systems, the Enclosure Act, private armies, strikebreakers, debter's prisons, workhouses, unequal pay for equal work, press-ganging... You can look all across history, and hardly find an example of free commercial exchanges at work.




Even today it's not "free". Try selling methamphetamine, or buying advance information from insiders on Alphabet's next quarterly earning report.

What we have are markets that are designed to be safe, fast, easy, clear, and beneficial to society.


We're doing OK on the first three, but depending on the market, 'clear' and 'beneficial to society' are highly contentious.

My point is that most of history's economic miracles were built either on the backs of theft, coerced labour, or government largess. There was no golden age when businessmen could be businessmen, and enterprise was free.


The 'clear' markets are generally better functioning than ones that are more opaque, and there's been deliberate effort to making them more obvious. Think grain categorization and grading.


One of my favorites: English labor law, prior to the 20th century, was still rooted in master/serf traditions. If an employer violated the terms of an employment contract, it was a civil matter and the employee had to fund the resulting lawsuit out of his own pocket (i.e., employee could not ever successfully fight a violation by the employer). But if the employee violated the contract, it was a criminal matter prosecuted free of charge by the state.




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