Consensual Exchange of Value, or Against Beggars

Jeff Bone (
Wed, 07 Jul 1999 22:03:02 -0500

More to the point... Rather than argue this at a global, macro level,
let me toss out a straw man argument. My thesis is that there should be
no "beggars" at all --- that society should not support the
"economically disadvantaged" in any way. Why? Because there are,
really, very few beggars at all --- just about every living human being
has some sort of value that they can barter with to obtain their
economic needs. The notion of "economically disadvantaged" is sort of
fundamentally flawed to begin with.

Whether it's youth, sexual ability, willingness to perform manual labor
or menial servitude, intellectual ability, artistic creativity, a
specific skill, or whatever --- almost everyone has *something* that is
valuable to someone else. Even the physically disabled have something
that is valuable to someone else: there are many people and
organizations out there who derive satisfaction from being able to
nurture and provide for people that cannot provide for themselves.

The problem is that we undermine the free market for this value by such
things as welfare, minimum wages, and so forth. We make it economically
undesirable for people to compete on the basis they are able to by
eliminating the need to do so. We take resources from the "strong" by
coercion (taxation) and use them to support the "weak" (read, unwilling
to contribute.) This results in a net loss of value in the system of
society. Beggars are bad.

Another problem is that we regard certain forms of value exchange as
anathema. Prime examples are prostitution and indentured servitude.
Both are reasonable, consensual exchanges of value, but both are
regarded in the common Western world-view as somehow "morally tainted,"
and are therefore proscribed.

As an example, let us say that I am an eighteen year-old girl from the
inner city who was a good student, but my grades weren't quite good
enough to obtain enough financial aid to attend the college of my
choice. Let us further say that I know of someone who is interested in
indenturing me for a year of household and sexual servitude in exchange
for enough money to fund my entire undergraduate education, and I am
amenable to this arrangement. Why is this prohibited?

My point here is that almost *everyone* has something to barter with. I
can think of few examples where this is not the case --- perhaps the
severely mentally handicapped, and so forth. But no, even in those
cases, I believe there are plenty of organizations out there with
eleemosynary charters who derive their own form of benefit or value
simply by being caregivers. Indeed, I believe that such charitable
organizations would be more able to obtain individual and corporate
donations if not for all the "mandatory" contributions to social
services through taxation; I for one would be much happier making
larger contributions if I didn't feel like a large portion of that was
already written into my tax bill. (Despite my hard line, I get some
satisfaction out of philanthropy --- but here again, it's value
exchange: money for self-satisfaction.)

And here's my gut feeling: if the free market were truly allowed to be
free, and all forms of consensual value exchange were accepted, I
suspect that the huge disparities between various economic classes
would, over time, level out somewhat. Why? Simple --- the selling
party charges the absolute maximum that the buying party is willing to
pay. In a competitive environment, the market itself optimizes the
price, and competitive pressure causes each participant to find their
ideal, most efficient and most leveraged position within the market.
That leads to higher velocity of money and therefore "better"
redistribution of wealth.

Just a few thoughts,