The expansive goodness of the age-old free market, moderated and strengthened by personal and institutional ethics, pivots on the economic force of voluntary exchange as a phenomenon of positive sum. With the continuous presence of responsible freedom, ownership and the specialized division of tasks in the economic organism, millions of daily exchanges are permitted in our societies in which all the participants gain, or at least, some gain while others remain as they were.
If there is free trade, that is to say, if a voluntary exchange of goods takes place between two individuals it is because, in that instant and in those circumstances, both increase their subjective value of wealth after having carried out the exchange. For both, the exchange value of what they give is greater than its value in use and the value in use of what they perceive is greater than its exchange value. They both prefer to have what they receive in their internal patrimony and to be deprived voluntarily of what they give. If free trade increases the subjective value of the wealth of both participants (and the human value of something is always subjective although it tends towards the optimum objective) then we can conclude that it increases the value of wealth of both individually and that, in turn, the perfection and added value of both is further increased. The capacity to produce future service is increased and with it the economic power of each subset of wealth and the total power of the group, now more complete and connected. Exchange relationships create the ties that unite men in society since with interpersonal exchange there is mutuality in service. Each one gives to others, so that in turn, he receives from them. Each individual serves the others with a view to being, in exchange, served by him or her. Better still: serving others, potential clients, one’s own wealth and benefit are increased unexpectedly. Exchange appears as an ideal instrument of peaceful and spontaneous cooperation. As Von Mises indicated: “The reality is that the internationalisation of the capitals market, as well as economic and migratory freedom, were phenomena that suppressed the incentives of war and conquest.”
A corollary of all these principles consists of affirming that all the means that favour and spur fair commercial transactions in free competition, especially money and ethics that generate trust, produce beneficial effects on the increment of the value in use of the social group, that is to say, on the well-being and the well-doing of citizenship.
But current society, especially the Western, has amply transcended the time of industrial society and it is more and more strongly immersed in what is called the post-industrial society or, much better, the society of knowledge. In the numerous daily exchanges, those of ideas and information prevail over exchanges of goods. In some societies with high indexes of productivity and saturated with material trash the civilized exchange of ideas and knowledge, interpersonal human relations, become more and more indispensable. If the exchange of goods is a positive sum phenomenon, then so are communication, transparency and contrast of ideas and views, with more reason and grounds. With unquestionable added advantages: an idea, although it is given and transmitted to others, continues to also belong to the personal patrimony of the one who promotes it. Although it enriches others, it does not impoverish us. We do not need anything in exchange.
The philosopher Leonardo Polo has a conception of open and expansive intellectual property: the control and ownership of an idea does not only correspond to the one who it first occurs to, but to all those who are able to understand it, generating in turn a self-generating process of a new collection of intellectual glimmers.
The vital function that the extraordinary telecommunication instrument performs, that is the system of competitive prices in the goods market, is exercised by word, language and culture in the society of knowledge in which we are all immersed. If the free market was indispensable and beneficial in industrial society, in the society of knowledge it is much more since our possibility of making all that specific and original practical, cultural and reflexive knowledge available to a great number of people becomes urgent. There are some who possess that knowledge in a sometimes inexpressible way but that are prepared to be intuitively utilized by others, thanks to interpersonal communication through word and thought with the help of telematics and the media. Free and responsible exchange of ideas, through that valuable instrument of coordination and information, guides individuals showing them how they will be better able to reach their own objectives in free cooperation. In this way it becomes an institution that orders the system spontaneously in its group, endowing it with reason and sense. Each idea, like each price in the cash economy, is unrepeatable and it contains privileged information for everybody who knows how to understand it because it is the fruit of the original performance and experience of concrete people of flesh and blood.