I feel you, Karl.

The market acts like an invisible boundary isolating all individuals in their day-to-day activities, as producers and consumers. They produce for the market, they are supplied by the market. Beyond it they cannot reach, however eagerly they may wish to serve their fellows. Any attempt to be helpful on their part is instantly frustrated by the market mechanism. Giving your goods away at less than the market price will benefit somebody for a short time, but it would also drive your neighbor out of business, and finally ruin your own, with consequent losses of employment for those dependent on your factory or enterprise. Doing more than your due as a working man will make the conditions of work for your comrades worse. Be refusing to spend on luxuries you will be throwing some people out of work, by refusing to save you will be doing the same to others. As long as you follow the rules of the market, buying at the lowest and selling at the highest price whatever you happen to be dealing in, you are comparatively safe. The damage you are doing to your fellows in order to serve your own interest is, then, unavoidable. The more completely, therefore, one discards the idea of serving one’s fellows, the more successfully one can reduce one’s responsibility for harm done to others. Under such a system, human beings are not allowed to be good, even though they may wish to be so.

Quoted in Gareth Dale, Karl Polanyi: The Limits of the Market, 10-11.

Advertisements