Free-Range Kids / Free-Range Capitalism

Everyone told us that having two little boys would lead to carnage and destruction. We laughed it of

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  1. My Depression-Era parents (older than most as my dad was 40 when I was born in '64) saw raising a child as a part of who they were, not who they were (IMHO, that distinction is a big part of today’s helicoptering issue). I’m backing into this, but they saw their parental responsibilities to provide the basics (in basic quantities) - food, clothing, shelter, schooling, healthcare (sparingly) and a moral foundation (via the Ring Lardner school, “shut up, he explained”) - other than that, you were on your own.

    I was told from as early as I can remember that life isn’t fair (but treat people fairly), life is hard, nothing is free, earning money is important (to pay bills, not get rich) and having and supporting your good friends and family matter. When little league was near my home, I played; when the town moved the program many miles away, I couldn’t as my parents weren’t going to become my “chauffeur.” Tough lesson - maybe, but this kid and this adult never thought the world revolved around him.

    I could go on with a hundred examples that are infinitely interesting to me, but to no one else. Maybe by design, maybe because that was all they were willing to give to being parents (which was plenty, IMHO), but I was well armed for all the kicks, punches, disappointments, cheats and deceptions the life throws at everyone. No, I didn’t see all those blows coming in advance, but because I was never coddled or cosseted from the harshness of life in childhood, I’ve been able to buckle, suck in air and come up fighting as I learned (as best as one can) to avoid or absorb the next one of life’s punches.

    I was a capitalist almost before I knew the word as it is the only way a free individual can interact with other free individuals in a fair and honest manner. And by capitalism, I don’t mean crony capitalism. I’ve been told by some that my upbringing bordered on abusive - that’s nonsense, as I was all but never hit and knew my parents wanted me to succeed - and they provided a framework for that to happen - they just didn’t indulge in all the softness coming into vogue in my day and that’s in full flower now.

    That’s all the background for explaining how meaningful this piece of Rusty’s is to me. To be a capitalist - to support free minds and free markets / risk and reward / upside and downside / creative-destruction - you need to be bred to work, struggle, think, challenge and strive. You need to accept that life is hard and challenging, but offers upside for those willing to - let’s just say it - fight fairly for it. Like Ben has said, I miss what the capital markets were as they had a meaning that aligned (more than less) to a capitalist society (more than less) that respected honest achievement and honest failure (Fitzgerald was wrong about one thing as America is all about second chances).

    I’m not an old man screaming at the kids to get off my lawn as I (am not that old, yet, and), genuinely, feel sorry for helicopter kids as they have not been armed to approach adulthood as, as Rusty and Tom Wolfe say, men-in-full. Sure, I can be annoyed at their insane sensitivity and moral outrage at life’s unfairness (as if they are the first to discover that life isn’t fair), but I’m so glad that I wasn’t raised that way that my irritation is, usually, quickly replaced by compassion.

    Yes, helicopter parenting and capital markets as public utilities are of the same cloth, as are safe spaces, micro-aggressions, hate-speech laws - all of it - and it won’t stop or get better until we raise kids, boys and girls, to be men and women in full. I’m counting on Rusty’s kids to have turned the wheel back to an America of free minds and free markets - that goes forward, stumbles (allows for businesses to fail, recessions to happen, markets to truly bottom), picks itself up and brushes itself off to go forward again - by the time I am an old man. But an old man - because of his kids (and many like them) - with no need or desire to yell at the kids to get off of my lawn.

  2. Well, damn, Mark. Beautifully expressed.

  3. Thank you

  4. The destruction of price discovery is real. The breakdown of the ability of capital markets to allocate resources to uses that create greater value for the economy and society is real. But it remains frustrating to see your myopic focus on how “state actors” use narratives and similar propaganda based techniques to undermine markets and overall economic welfare. These techniques are only available to interests that are well organized, have massive financial resources and are motivated by the potential to significantly increase their power. Where “state actors” are involved (e.g. central banks, the military-industrial complex) they are massively backed by (if not totally captured by) private interests. All of those private interests are working day and night to make sure your imagined ideal of efficient capital markets remains a very distant memory.

  5. I’m not sure why we have to mention this (if you will forgive me for saying so) fairly obvious detail in every single note to avoid claims of myopia. I think you will adequately satisfy your concerns with a pretty cursory search of the website for the term “oligarchy.”

    Yes, individual interests use the state as an organ for private ends. How else would it be?

  6. Avatar for fvc fvc says:

    Mark - +1 Like (I get errors when I try like your work). As a new parent I found this very inspirational. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. We often underappreciate the dichotomy in “life isn’t fair (but treat people fairly)”.

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