Michael J. Fox was the star of ‘Family ties,’ where he played diehard Republican Alex P. Keaton. Back in the 1980s, when I first saw the show, I had no idea about the issues discussed, nor of how the concept of a family with political differences yet united in love, appealed to Americans, making the show a huge hit during the Reagan years.
Watching it 25 years later, I can say that ‘Family ties’ has its flaws, but overall is still worth watching for some good laughs, and also, its educational value as to 1980s sensibilities. One thing that bugged me though is the manner in which, in the person of Alex Keaton, the show seemed to equate an interest in economics, finance, etc. with a love of money, or greed. From my experience, this just isn’t so.
Economics, in particular banking, has been a source of fascination for me the past eight years, not out of any extraordinary pleasure derived from money – which after all is just one economic good of millions, simply scapegoated for its nature by-definition of relative exchangeability – but because of its social relevance, what it says about people and their relationships with one another.
If it weren’t for reading about the Great Depression, I don’t think I would have come to appreciate the market for what it is, and ultimately realize the implication that the state is the representation of the worst of humanity.
The prevalent Republican-Democrat or liberal-conservative paradigm, as seen in shows like ‘Family ties,’ is indicative of most people’s limited understanding of political economy, where the rich are attacked for “working only for the money,” as though:
1) Other workers didn’t prioritize the size of their salaries;
2) Money had inherent qualities; and
3) Acquiring money from another was necessarily to the other’s detriment.
Little effort is made to distinguish the various means of acquiring money or any other good. Actually, there are only two different means of acquisition: exchange, and forcible taking. And practically all the ‘wicked corporations’ who are supposedly only after the money can actually be found to use the second means, of forcible taking, through political privilege.
Greed is neither good nor bad. The further question is if greed manifests through violence, or cooperation. Scapegoating moneymaking itself makes for the worst policies, as entrusted to the state.
How you defend, not what you defend, matters most
The funny thing is, most people, depending on whether they are liberal or conservative, are right half the time, siding with freedom. To put it simplistically, ‘fiscal-conservative, social-liberal’ is the best combination. I say ‘simplistically’ because oftentimes, when one is right, their reasoning is all wrong, and makes for inconsistent ceding to forces of unfreedom.
For example, those who support free speech or are against state censorship would yield when it comes to the issue of libel or slander, thinking that it is right for the state to lock up people on account of what they say. Or those who support free trade think it’s all right to have a central bank – which is actually the most enslaving of institutions.
Why err on the side of freedom? Educate yourself why
More consistent reasoning comes about from education on markets, property rights and law. Like with libel, the matter of whether something is libelous or not is moot, if the rights of the owner of the property used as avenue for expressing the contentious statements, is given precedence.
People should associate as they please, and thus face the consequences of doing so in the most fair manner.