It is true that I have stopped reading 'Terror and Consent'. It isn't impenetrably dense, but it isn't much fun. Still the concept of the market state is appealing and frightening all at once - and it does loom large in the deep background of our notions of belonging and defense.
Along comes Neal Stephenson's Anathem which begins right at the start with a simple yet profound insight, which is something of a conceit and yet a powerful idea. What if there were such a thing as a super university, a space-age monastery, a bastion of civilization that had purposefully downscaled itself? At the moment in the book it is difficult to say with any accuracy how central to the fate of its planet this monastic bunch might be, but it does solve a number of interesting problems with which thoughtful people are concerned, and is part of a central theme in Stephenson's mind - if I read it correctly.
What do you do with real knowledge given that so few people bother to learn it appreciably?
The market state applies to this because once you have lost hold of an identity that protects everyone, you are hard pressed to enforce order. Jihadi terrorists seek to undermine faith in Western society and identity and therefore the center of power. They are using our open society against us. The market state might emerge as the result of a commitment of citizen to power if national identity is ultimately undermined by this conflict. You might have people saying with credibility at the end of such a war, that they sure as hell can't trust the US Navy, but Blackwater? You bet. Think of a gradual migration of tax revolters to survivalism - a benign and relatively comfortable survivalism - private schools, private security, private everything, but big enough so that it doesn't feel cult-like. Rather like The Big Ten Conference.
Imagine that instead of state governments we had smaller entities that worked in smaller federations with each other - that might be something like a market state. Americans certainly have enough trust in such private and semi-private entities that such an eventuality would not appear so far fetched, in certain ways. A market-state might be a sort of distributed society within a society which doesn't necessarily or overtly subvert the authority, but remains suffiently independent of it that it is basically sovereign.
Stephenson, being a science-fiction writer this time around, provokes such questions in his novel which is populated with youthful supermen I come to recognize rather like the characters of Avatar: The Last Airbender. The difference is that they don't seem, at least in this stage of the book, to have any sense of destiny - instead they are rather cheerfully odd, like the young wizards and witches of the Harry Potter series. But what they possess is not magic at all, rather The Discipline, a complete system of knowledge and behavior, nothing more or less than a religion. There is no God in this religion any more than there is a God of engineering or of biochemistry. There is simply the concerted effort to keep not only a purity of mind and spirit but of body as well. These characters appear to us as nothing more or less than what most American geeks want to be - with the great additional benefit of belonging to a fraternity which provides for the full spectrum of human need.
The process for admission into this 'mathic' world seems to be nothing greater than the willingness to abandon the outside world and make, at the bare minimum, a comittment of one year to hermetic life. Such a barrier might not be appropriate to an American concept of the market state - how many of us could submit to such a discipline? But we would certainly buy our families into such privatizing arrangements. What is appealing to Stephenson's monastic life is that it is completely organic - a society that evolved over thousands of years, much the way his phyles did in The Diamond Age.
But apart from the mathic society in Anathem, such market state groupings would represent a set of values that people would find attractive in society.
OK I'm going to quit now because this is rambly and I'm no longer interested in completeness. It's really cold here in Columbus and it's affecting my brain - ie I'd rather just read the book...which now at page 205 is feeling rather Harry Potteresque. In a good way.