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Market prices serve an important function, apart from making possible both economic calculation and the indefinite extension of the division of labor. Market prices imply ownership, which in turn implies the right of disposal over the thing owned. If I don't meet your price, you need not perform your labor service for me. If I don't meet your price, you need not relinquish your property to me. They remind us that social cooperation must involve genuine cooperation, which means that no one side of a transaction has the right to cheat or steal from the other. That is the morality of the thug. Instead, they must reach terms that are mutually satisfactory in order for a transaction to take place.###

Market prices, in other words, are not artificial, wicked things that discourage social cooperation. They make social cooperation, properly understood, possible in the first place. They convey the rule that we may not simply walk around as self-absorbed savages, taking whatever we want from whomever we want, as if nothing and no one can trump our demands and desires. We must be willing to offer something in exchange for the things we acquire, such that the person providing them — instead of being exploited by us, with no thought to his well-being at all — can see his own condition improved as well.

With the state, on the other hand, the price is whatever the state says it is. It will provide services you do not want, will never use, and may even find morally repugnant, and then tell you what you must pay for them. In the case of eminent domain, where the state confiscates your property for its own purposes, you will be paid something, but the state itself will decide exactly what it will pay you. How is this preferable to a world in which each individual is allowed to declare the terms on which he will dispose of his person and property, and in which no exchange takes place unless both parties voluntarily agree to it?

It is the state, then, and not the market, that "regards everything that surrounds [it] as merchandise … as an object to be used." Precisely because it acts outside of the market, the state can devise arbitrary prices for its services, make those prices vary across different classes of people, and then threaten physical force against anyone refusing to pay them. Who in civil society is allowed to behave like that?