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By Philip Green (auth.)

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Extra info for American Democracy: Selected Essays on Theory, Practice, and Critique

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Certainly it is not what Friedman, Nozick, Hayek, and the other ideologues of market capitalism have in mind; they are not making an argument against state interference with personal producers, but against state interference with corporations and other forms of extended enterprise. In any form of enterprise that transcends in its scope the labor of a small number of people, the question of ownership becomes crucial. It must be either by all jointly, or by a few; it cannot be by each individual separately, as the history of the rise of the corporation demonstrates.

The family’s property has become worthless; it can no longer be sold at a price that will enable the family to replace it with a similar house. The company, of course, will buy it from them for a song. What has happened there? This (not very) imaginary family has lost its property and concomitantly much of its savings, been deprived of the major amenity of its members’ lives, and then been forced to move—quite possibly into housing owned by the company or one of its agents, so that they will now be dealing with an impersonal absentee landlord who is trying to make further profit from their very living arrangements, and will continue to do so unless they actually leave the neighborhood and seek employment elsewhere.

10 But we do not even need to argue that much to see how silly absolute egoism is. —then we are dealing with two entirely different kinds of people; to describe both kinds as “selfish” would be to destroy the meaning of the adjective, since it would then be applied to contrary states of mind. A political egoist like Nozick cannot have it both ways. If the hypothetical social contract from which he proceeds to an individualistic, inegalitarian polity is supposed to be a legitimate intellectual construct because it is somehow based on human reality, on an accurate psychological depiction of real people, then it is a useless falsehood—no such contract could ever be agreed to unanimously, and we cannot find in it a distinctive justification for the minimal state.

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