"Security can be viewed as a tax on the honest, and [the theft of iron manhole covers, lead roofing and aluminium guard rails] demonstrate that our taxes are going up. And unlike many taxes, we don't benefit from their collection. The cost to society of retrofitting manhole covers with locks, or replacing them with less resalable alternatives, is high; but there is no benefit other than reducing theft.
"These crimes are a harbinger of the future: evolutionary pressure on our society, if you will. Criminals are often referred to as social parasites, but they are an early warning system of societal changes. Unfettered by laws or moral restrictions, they can be the first to respond to changes that the rest of society will be slower to pick up on."
- Bruce Schneier, from the essay "An Enterprising Criminal Has Spotted a Gap in the Market"
The financial crisis of 2008 should have illustrated, to all but the most die-hard, ignorant or Sinclairized, that 'the market' is by no means a panacea for our ills. It is not some modernist god worth worshiping for its wealth creation abilities. Nor should the forces it creates in society be exempt from judgment by virtue of their origin.
The above quote illustrates this neatly: Schneier discusses a situation where market forces incentivise the cannibalising of the very infrastructure on which society and functioning markets depend.
Cross-reference this with 'The collapse of complex societies', by Joseph Tainter, which investigates why societies fail. To illustrate what is meant by 'collapse', here he quotes an eyewitness account of the collapse of the Turkish government:
"...the Allied troops... found a city that was dead. The Turkish government had just ceased to function. The electrical supply had failed and was intermittent. Tramways did not work and abandoned trams littered the roads. There was no railway service, no street cleaning and a police force which had largely become bandit, living on blackmail from citizens in lieu of pay. Corpses lay at street corners and in side lanes, dead horses lay everywhere, with no organization to remove them. Drains did not work and water was unsafe. All this was the result of only about three weeks' abandonment by the civil authorities of their duties."And from his summary, a succinct explanation of the core thrust of the book:
"Four concepts lead to understanding collapse, the first three of which are the underpinnings of the fourth. These are:We started with an example of an expensive investment to guard against a generally improbable crime, itself only occasionally worth committing during commodity shocks, and costing far more to society than it makes in profit to the criminal.
"This process has been illustrated [in previous chapters of the book] for recent history in such areas as agriculture and resource production; information processing, sociopolitical control and specialization, and overall economic productivity."
- human societies are problem-solving organizations;
- sociopolitical systems require energy for their maintenance;
- increased complexity carries with it increased costs per capita; and
- investment in sociopolitical complexity as a problem-solving response often reaches a point of declining marginal returns.
In the reference frame of point 4 of the above quote, this kind of investment is very far past the point of declining marginal returns, almost absurdly so - the marginal return is most definitely negative.
If society collapses around us, the market will make things worse, not better. 'Market forces' will strip buildings of pipes and copper wires, homes of their roofing and the vast majority of citizens, defenseless, of their possessions and dignity. This too is the market - Moloch as Ginsberg imagined it. Nothing worth venerating there, nothing at all.