Not so much competition as a food chain

Here’s where the nature of economies, suggested in part by Jane Jacobs work of that name, can be recognized. The origin of the study of eco-nomies, deriving from eco-logy, surfaces a disconnect in the way that the term competition is used.

When advocates of the market talk about the natural competition that would take place within the ecology of a “free” market, they are not being precise.

Natural systems tend toward a stable state. While there may be competition for resources, generally speaking, what conflict there is in a natural system is between hierarchically differentiated participants. This is because a natural system tend to have niche players in each rung of a food chain.

When advocates of the “free” market talk about competition, what they are speaking of is the kind of sorting out that happens before niche players in the ecosystem have become entrenched. What is not talked about is what happens when the niche players have holds on levels of system hierarchy. Ultimately, advocacy of a market without conditioning will result in a hierarchical food chain, where there may be competition of scraps, but generally the order in which members of groups eat and the order in which the groups eat is pretty well settled.

Therefore, advocacy of a market without regulation and oversight is advocacy for a system that tends to preserve privilege and power for those that hold it against those lower in the hierarchy. Competition in a stable ecosystem is typically horizontal and down the hierarchy and almost never up to hierarchy, except for sneaky behaviour that doesn’t challenge the hierarchy.