Kathleen: I started helping my mother after school here when I was six years old. And I used to watch her. And it wasn’t that she was just selling books, it was that she was helping people become whoever it was (that) they were going to turn out to be. Because when you read a book as a child it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.
Joe: Working, at six? How enterprising of you. What did she pay you?
Kathleen: What? No, I was…I just liked helping out around the store.
Joe: Helping? You performed basic tasks that ensured the store’s continued profitability and existence?
Kathleen: Well. I guess it was working. In a sense.
Joe: For free. You were enslaved, then.
Kathleen: I wouldn’t put it like that, exactly…
Joe: Tell me, did you ask your mother to give birth to you?
Kathleen: Of course not.
Joe: Then whence your moral obligation to provide her with unpaid labor?
Kathleen: I…I suppose there isn’t.
Joe: On what grounds did she have the right to demand free work from you?
Kathleen: None. None.
Joe: Does it not follow that what is true for individuals is true for society? If parenthood is not a system for breeding servants, is civilization? Did you ask to be born into a society that demands financial and emotional support from the state?
Kathleen: No. No, I didn’t.
Joe: Then why – why, Kathleen – would you provide strangers with free goods, currency or services when you would not even provide them to your own mother?
Kathleen: I…I wouldn’t. The welfare state must be dismantled.
Joe: And for that matter, why is it that corporate profits are taxed first on a company-wide level, and then the shareholders of said corporations are also taxed after receiving profit distributions?
Kathleen: That sounds like double taxation to me.
Joe: Right again.
Frank: When you are finished with Fox Books, the Shop Around the Corner is going to be responsible for reversing the entire course of the Industrial Revolution. You are a lone reed waving in the breeze standing strong and tall in the corrupt sands of commerce.
Kathleen: All the evils, abuses, and iniquities, popularly ascribed to businessmen and to capitalism, were not caused by an unregulated economy or by a free market, but by government intervention into the economy. There is nothing corrupt about commerce; corruption may exist in a less-than-free society, but commerce itself, the trader principle, is unassailably pure. If I trade something in exchange for that which I want, even if I feel I have been unfairly treated, have I not made the choice to give up what I must in order to acquire that which I desire? Was I not free in that moment? I may not have had the advantage, but still I was free.
Frank: I –
Kathleen: A businessman cannot force you to work for him or to accept the wages he offers; you are free to seek employment elsewhere and to accept a better offer, if you can find it. The Industrial Revolution is the greatest thing that ever happened to this earth and the men who stand firmly on it. Some day the sun will burn out, and men like you will burn with it, but the rest of us will ascend to orbit brighter stars.
Frank: I didn’t mean –
Kathleen: And reeds don’t even grow in the sand. They grow in marshes and wetlands. Yours is the vacant lot of the abandoned mind.
Christina: I went to the Fox Books Website and you can buy anything. Maybe we should get a website.
Kathleen: My mother would never have wanted us to have a website. “Every book you sell is a gift from your heart.” She always said that.
Christina: What if they put us out of business?
Kathleen: A good point. If those books really were a gift from the heart, why did we ask for money in exchange for them? A feeling is not a transaction.
Christina: You can order anything from that website. They ship it to you in a day.
Kathleen: Within every category of goods and services offered on a free market, it is the purveyor of the best product at the cheapest price who wins the greatest financial rewards in that field—not automatically nor immediately nor by fiat, but by virtue of the free market, which teaches every participant to look for the objective best within the category of his own competence, and penalizes those who act on irrational considerations.
Christina: I think we should hire a web d–
Kathleen: Also, my mother is dead; dead people cannot effectively manage bookstores. A website it is.
Joe: You know, sometimes I wonder…
Joe: Well…if I hadn’t been Fox Books and you hadn’t been The Shop Around the Corner, and you and I had just, well, met…
Kathleen: I know.
Joe: Yeah. I would have asked for your number, and I wouldn’t have been able to wait twenty-four hours before calling you and saying, “Hey, how about…oh, how about some coffee or, you know, drinks or dinner or a movie…for as long as we both shall live?”
Joe: And you and I would have never been at war. And the only thing we’d fight about would be which video to rent on a Saturday night.
Kathleen: Well, who fights about that?
Joe: Well, some people. Not us.
Kathleen: We would never.
Joe: If only.
Kathleen: I gotta go.
Joe: Well, let me ask you something. How can you forgive this guy for standing you up and not forgive me for this tiny little thing of…of putting you out of business?
Kathleen: Joe, competition is a by-product of productive work, not its goal. Competition, properly so-called, rests on the activity of separate, independent individuals owning and exchanging private property in the pursuit of their self-interest. It arises when two or more such individuals become rivals for the same trade.
Joe: Kathleen, what are you saying?
Kathleen: The freest market is the human heart.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.