Worstall of the Adam Smith Institute admits markets don’t work

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I thought I'd finished with Tim Worstall. But not quite as it turns out, for he left a comment on this blog yesterday which really does blow his whole position apart.

I'd said:

It is impossible to suppose that a man who can argue (as you did in the Guardian, very recently) that "Things in markets are worth what the markets say they are worth" is a true heir of [Adam] Smith

His response? This:

As I've said before, no one thinks that all markets all the time produces the optimal allocation of resources.

The argument is not over whether markets *always* produce either "just and moral" prices, as opposed to simply market prices, or whether they *always* produce an optimal allocation of resources. It's over when and where do they and when and where do they not.

That's fine Tim. I agree. But let's be clear what you have conceded here. What you're saying is:

1) Markets don't necessarily produce the optimal allocation of resources;

2) We don't know when they do, and when they don't;

3) In that case the economics you espouse provides us with no useful information - we're left making our own choices;

4) In that case you either can't sustain your claim that economics is a rational science, or alternatively you can say it is, but the results it produces are of no use to anyone;

5) As a result economic decisions are always subjective;

6) The economic theory you espouse can never be used to justify intervention in the economy because it is clear that it cannot predict optimal outcomes, and we could not tell is those had been achieved in any event.

Put bluntly, this means you're about as far away from objectivity as it is possible to get: you pretend you're objective when you know you're not. That's not just a failure of objectivity and a lapse into subjectivity, it's rank hypocrisy.

And it's rank hypocrisy that you use for a particular purpose, which is always to favour markets when they suit the well off and to oppose regulation when it suits the least well off. This is readily apparent from your argument against the minimum wage recently where you said there was a moral argument for abolition because this interfered with market outcomes: market outcomes you now admit you cannot predict. The only morality on offer therefore was your own, designed in this case to harm the well-being of those on the lowest pay in our society.

At some points over the last couple of weeks I seriously wondered why I bothered to engage with you. Now I know two things: one you definitely do not know what you're arguing, and second that all the arguments you and your ASI colleagues put forward for the supremacy of the market are pure bunkum: they're simply a subjective argument for the endowment of favour on those you choose.

It was worth getting to this point. The argument with you has been won. I'm satisfied with that outcome. So please don't bother me again: it's now abundantly clear it's not worth my time dealing with you or your like.