The very first votes of the 2016 presidential election season will be cast tonight in the Iowa caucuses. This is supposed to fill us with happy thoughts about self-government, civic virtue, rational deliberation, and about politics as the way the people’s will is put into effect.
But to the contrary, we should spurn what the establishment would have us celebrate. Politics operates according to principles that would horrify us if we observed them in our private lives, and that would get us arrested if we tried to live by them. The state can steal and call it taxation, kidnap and call it conscription, kill and call it war.
And yet we are taught to fear capitalism, of all things.
But what, after all, are capitalism and the free market? They are nothing more than the sum total of voluntary exchanges in society.
When we engage in a voluntary exchange–when I buy apples for five dollars, or when you hire someone for $25 per hour–both sides are better off than they would have been in the absence of the exchange.
We can’t say the same for our interactions with the state, since we pay the state under threat of violence. The state sure winds up better off, though. That’s for sure.
Business firms that increase their profits thanks to some new innovation cannot rest on their laurels. Other firms will adopt the innovation themselves, and those abnormally high profits will dissipate. The original firm must continue to press forward, striving to devise still newer ways to please their fellow men.
The state operates under no such conditions. It can remain as backward as it likes. Other firms are typically prohibited from competing with it.
The state’s priorities arbitrarily override your own. Ethanol “is important for the farmers,” one candidate says. So because the state has decided some interest group’s foolish and economically nonsensical pet project is “important,” what you yourself would have preferred to do with your money is simply set aside and ignored, and you are forced to subsidize what the state seeks to privilege.
Our schools and media portray corporations as sinister, and government as benign. But who wouldn’t rather take a sales call from Norwegian Cruise Line than an audit demand from the Internal Revenue Service?