What Nelson Mandela Reveals About Free Markets
And why they are so dangerous

The popular narrative of Nelson Mandela’s life focuses on him as a political actor, as someone who brought change and reform into a political system and helped in its renewal.

This gets wrapped up into the notion that a politician, if he be a good enough man, can effect positive social change and bring peace and justice. This reinforces the idea that we need a Kennedy or a Reagan, an Obama or a Nixon, but a better one - one whose inspiring rhetoric is backed up by strength of character and ability to work within the political system to bring reform and change.

But he didn’t change a government, he brought one down. He was imprisoned by a government, and did his most important work - the destruction of that government - while in prison.

And the government was not brought down because some high-minded politicians or diplomats somewhere worked on peace.

It was brought down because Mandela’s individual witness as a victim of state violence and corruption evoked the sympathy of private individuals who exerted influence over the use of private investment capital.

To say that the danger of a free market is that people will always be greedy misses the point entirely. The danger of a free market - and it is, truly, a dangerous thing - is that people will sometimes surprise the hell of you, and will act against their own predictable self interest to do something completely astonishing.

Like bring down a corrupt government.

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