lunes, 10 de noviembre de 2008

Market: Traffic light regulation

One of the issues that historically has generated more debate in the study of economic theory is the market performance. It is an issue that polarizes and generates radicalism, as it is central to the quest for an answer to why some countries develop economically, and others do not. Faced with this mystery, two basic propositions have been set: there are those who argue that the state or government should monitor the functioning of the market to regulate prices and the goods or services that are traded there. On the other hand, there are those who say that the market should operate without any control by the government and that simply the forces of supply and demand will determine the performance level of the market.
Both positions clearly formulate arguments as to why one proposal is valid and the other proposal is not. . And so, historically, economic analysts have opted for one of those two proposals to determine the reasons there is growth and economic development of countries. As noted, both positions are located in the opposite poles of economic policy, specifically in relation to the dynamics of the state in regard to the market.
From this introductory part, one can then formulate an alternative hypothesis based on the premise of Aristotelian virtue. Aristotle argued that virtuous behavior observed a balance between two extremes that express opposing characteristics: excess and deficiency. In the case of the market and the state, the aims are given by the proposed total regulation of the state towards the market and its opposing pole which proposes zero intervention. In this context, why not talk then of an Aristotelian approach where the state is present but gives broad leeway to autonomous operation of the market. In other words: a virtuous performance of the market that does not tilt to one of the two extremes. One argument in support of this hypothesis, as in many of the themes of social sciences, is the use of simile. The simile is understood as an analogy in which the related elements are presented as equal in terms of a quality. In this case, the simile that is intended to be depicted is the market with the roads and traffic in a city.

The markets would be understood as the routes that the government has designed for “automobiles” (market players, suppliers and applicants for goods and services); there they can interact. In addition, an important element in this analysis is that just as not all people have the ability to have a car and drive on the streets, not all market players may have their own business, so for them, as employees,to be able to move (to interact in the market) necessitates mass transportation. . In this context, the point at which clarity can be at its best is the metaphor of traffic lights and traffic signals. These devices are ready to report, prevent and regulate the operation of transit in a city. In normal operation, it is assumed that all people know and respect the signs and traffic lights and the organization of these is available to increase the flow and efficiency in transport.

In that vein, moving this analysis to the functioning of the market, state intervention implies that the State would be responsible for directing and in some cases restricting the way motorists are mobilized in the city, practically telling them where to be and to dictate where they should go, meaning, as a result of this, that people would have to move their cars as they are imposed by the government regardless of whether they want to or can do so. The other aim would be given by the case where there are roads but with little or no regulation and each motorist is free to decide where to go without any indication or restriction. To understand the consequences this would entail simply observing a high flow of vehicular crossing at an intersection where the traffic lights have been damaged: it is total chaos and each person seeking his own interest does not act as predicted in Adam Smith's theory of the invisible hand, but increasingly entangles traffic and hampers mobility.
In the case of market performance, in this example we show that total freedom generates chaos because the market is far from perfect and can cause damage to some of the players who move in it. For this reason, the best operation f traffic in a city is where motorists have full autonomy and freedom to move wherever they want in their vehicles, but at the same time respecting the laws and signals that the government has arranged to operate traffic, efficiently and smoothly.
In conclusion, for a proper functioning of the market, there is no need to think in terms of a dilemma with extreme positions, but the idea is not outlandish of a balance or middle ground between total regulation versus absolute freedom of the market. In Aristotle’s words, a virtuous intervention that seeks a balance between these two extremes, and that, combined with the simile exposed, would seek to form a market of regulatory traffic lights.