The statist claim that a strong government is needed to protect the
“weak” against the “powerful” is usually accepted as a matter of faith.
But given just a tiny bit of thought, the claim turns out to be hogwash.
Dr. Donald Boudreaux, president of the Foundation for Economic
Education, based in Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y., demonstrated that
nonsense in the foundation’s December 1999 issue of Ideas on Liberty.
Do free markets favor the so-called powerful over the weak? Boudreaux
says no. Microsoft CEO Bill Gates’ wealth is about 600,000 times greater
than mine, but Gates has no more power over me than I have over him.
You say, “Balderdash, Williams, you’re up against a
multibillionaire!” Well, let’s see. Can Bill Gates take my car? What
about my home? Can he dictate how and where my children are to be
educated? Can he force me to associate with people with whom I’d rather
not associate? If I want to use Microsoft software, I must buy it from
him just as if he wants me to mow his lawn or give him economic counsel,
he must pay me. Of course, both of us are free not to contract with,
speak to or have anything to do with one another. So where is the power
the rich have over the non-rich?
Boudreaux says, “A person (or an institution) is powerful only
insofar as he can use authorized force to compel others to act against
their wills.” Gates can’t force me to do anything I choose not to do.
Neither can Gates imprison me for disobeying him.
Guess who does have power to force people to act against their will?
If you said politicians and government bureaucrats, go to the head of
the class. That’s why liberals curse free markets and bless government.
They want power over people. Free markets and limited government
restrict the power that one person can have over another.
Here’s another misunderstanding of economics. Suppose I told you that
the way to create more good paying jobs is to give a bunch of youngsters
baseball bats and tell them to smash car windows. All kinds of jobs
would be created in the auto repair and glass manufacturing industries.
You say, “C’mon Williams, that’s crazy.” You’re right but look at the
headline in the Sept. 17, 1999, Wall Street Journal: “Hurricane Floyd
May Leave Robust Economy in Its Wake.” Reporter Tristan Mabry reports
Hurricane Floyd “may actually have churned up some economic activity.”
Marilyn Schaja, chief economist at Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette
Securities Corp. in New York, is quoted as saying “the storm may
actually give the economy a boost.”
Dr. Thomas J. DiLorenzo, professor of economics at Loyola College in
Maryland, writing in February’s Ideas on Liberty, says that kind of
thinking is a classic example of economic ignorance. Yes, the hurricane
will create some jobs, just as smashing automobiles windows does, but it
will destroy others. That’s because the money used for the repairs had
to be diverted from other job creation uses.
Another example of this fallacy is when politicians, Chambers of
Commerce and labor unions produce the self-serving argument that
municipal stadium construction creates jobs. Yes, more jobs are created
in the construction industry. But since there’s no Santa Claus,
government had to tax people. Had the people not been taxed, they would
have spent (invested) the money elsewhere. Where they would have spent
(invested) that money, and didn’t, represents jobs that were not
Good economics training gives us ammunition to corner charlatans,
demagogues and quacks. Maybe that’s why the nation’s statists don’t want
economics as a part of our education.
To find out more about Walter Williams, and read features by other
Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate