Control versus Free Exchange

Cafe Hayek

… is from page 123 of the 2016 Third Edition of James D. Gwartney’s, Richard L. Stroup’s, Dwight R. Lee’s, Tawni H. Ferrarini’s, and Joseph P. Calhoun’s excellent Common Sense Economics:

The power to tax and regulate makes it possible for the majority to coerce the minority.  There is no such coercive power when resources are allocated by markets.  Market exchanges do not occur unless all parties agree.  Private firms can charge a high price, but they cannot force anyone to buy their product.  Indeed, private firms must provide benefits that exceed the price charged in order to attract customers.

Members of the modern clerisy (to borrow Deirdre McCloskey’s term) reveal their distorted vision of reality when (as they often do) they assert that the freedom to make voluntary exchanges with money is both evidence of, and fuel for, anti-social greed, and assert also that the use of force to prevent such exchanges – as well as to take from Smith in order to give to Jones – is both evidence of, and fuel for, loving and peaceful social cooperation uncorrupted by greed or even by self-interest.  In the gnarled eyes of the clerisy, the business person who earns lots of money by producing a product that many people voluntarily choose to purchase is a socially destructive, narrow-minded, and greedy parasite, while the politician who uses threats of violence to prevent people from dealing with this business person, or who uses threats of violence to seize a large chunk of this business-person’s earnings, is a socially creative, broad-minded, and charitable benefactor.

In short, when sellers peacefully request, and buyers voluntarily agree to give, money in exchange for goods and services, the clerisy declare that what occurs is unsavory and destructive human devilment.  But when politicians forcibly demand, and their victims – in order to save their skins – obey, the clerisy proclaim that what occurs is lovely, altruistic, and creative human brotherhood.

It’s damned bizarre.


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