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Won’t Big Businesses Abuse Their Power in a Free Market?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 21 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Big BusinessQUESTION: If you free big businesses from government regulations, how do you keep these same businesses from becoming an aristocracy and turning America into a feudal state?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, you, the consumer, control businesses by voting to buy or not buy their products. You vote to keep them in business or shut them down. You eliminate the “bad guys” by purchasing only from the “good guys.”

In today’s society, government regulates some companies out of business, leaving a monopoly (like most local utility companies) or a cartel (like the banking industry). Limiting your choices limits your control.

Government doesn’t keep big business in check; government keeps big business big.

Business only has two ways to get big: by serving customers better than the competition or by getting Big Brother to regulate their competition out of business. Keeping government out of the marketplace keeps business in its true service role.

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LEARN MORE: Suggestions by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris for further reading on this topic:

* “Big Business and Big Government“ by Tim Carney, Cato Institute Policy Report, July/August 2006.

EXCERPT: “The history of big business is the history of big government. As the federal government has progressively become larger over the decades, every significant introduction of government regulation, taxation, and spending has been to the benefit of some big business. …big business and big government prosper from the perception that they are rivals instead of partners (in plunder). The history of big business is one of cooperation with big government. Most noteworthy expansions of government power are to the liking of, and at the request of, big business.”

* “The Only Way to Get Money Out of Politics“ by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom Foundation.

EXCERPT: “It’s a great myth that businesses, especially big prominent corporations, want less government intervention in the economy. On the contrary, they love government power because it provides things they can’t achieve in a freely competitive marketplace where force and fraud are barred. Corporations support and lobby for interventions that benefit themselves by hampering their competitors, both foreign and domestic. You often find companies asking for tariffs and other restrictions on imports that compete too effectively with their products. Agribusinesses welcome government (taxpayer) help in selling their products abroad; they also love subsidies, price supports, and acreage allotments. … In American history big companies were behind virtually ever advancement of the regulatory state.”


Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

THEY SAID IT…

in Communicating Liberty by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Conor Friedersdorf

LIBERTARIAN VICTORIES: “If fewer people are caged for inhaling the smoke of a plant, that’s a libertarian victory. If fewer people’s doors are kicked in late at night by police officers dressed in combat fatigues, that’s a libertarian victory. If more cancer patients can legally obtain a substance that alleviates their suffering, that’s a libertarian victory. If fewer assets are seized by police without proof of guilt, that’s a libertarian victory.” — Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, “Libertarians Can Be a Significant Force for Good in U.S. Politics,” refuting critics who charge that libertarianism is not changing U.S. politics.
REFUTING THE LATEST PROGRESSIVE LIE ABOUT LIBERTARIANS:

Elizabeth Nolan Brown“There seems to be a meme going around that libertarians don’t care or aren’t talking about what’s going on in Ferguson, Missouri. And like most things mainstream left/right pundits say about libertarians, it has almost zero relation to the truth. … If you don’t think libertarians are talking about (and outraged over) Ferguson, you’re clearly not reading or talking to many libertarians.” — Elizabeth Nolan Brown, “Where Are the Libertarians on Ferguson? Here, LMGTFY,” The Dish, Aug. 14 2014. Her article provides many examples of libertarian activists and organizations fighting against police militarization now and in the past.

DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY BY… BLEEDING: “Police in Ferguson, Missouri, once charged a man with destruction of property for bleeding on their uniforms while four of them allegedly beat him.” — Michael Daly, “The Day Ferguson Cops Were Caught in a Bloody Lie,” The Daily Beast, Aug. 15, 2014.

OBAMA VS. FREEDOM OF THE PRESS: “He [Obama] is the greatest enemy Jim Risento press freedom in a generation.” — Jim Risen, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist facing imprisonment for his investigation of the Bush-Obama surveillance state, quoted in “Where’s the Justice at Justice?”, New York Times,  Aug. 17, 2014.


OBAMA AS BIG BROTHER: 

Maureen Dowd“Obama is channeling Orwell.” — Maureen Dowd, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist, protesting Obama’s crackdown on freedom of the press and other invasive policies in “Where’s the Justice at Justice?”, New York Times, Aug. 17, 2014.

OOPS: “The U.S. Postal service has lost $2 billion this Conan O'Brienspring. Postal officials are busy emailing each other wondering how this could happen.” — Conan O’Brien, Aug. 11, 2014.
Noted and Re-Quoted
GOV’T FAILURE:

Matt Ridley“Economists are quick to speak of ‘market failure,’ and rightly so, but a greater threat comes from ‘government failure’. Because it is a monopoly, government brings inefficiency and stagnation to most things it runs; government agencies pursue the inflation of their budgets rather than the service of their customers; pressure groups form an unholy alliance with agencies to extract more money from taxpayers for their members. Yet despite all this, most clever people still call for government to run more things and assume that if it did so, it would somehow be more perfect, more selfless, next time.” — Matt Ridley from his 2010 book The Rational Optimist. Quoted by Don Boudreaux at Café Hayek, August 14, 2014.

Word Choices: Pro-Market, Not Pro-Business

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Libertarianism by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Libertarians enormously appreciate the positive contributions so many businesses have made to our

world.

Because of this, libertarians are sometimes labeled “pro-business.”

But this is incorrect — and misleading.

Libertarians are not “pro-business.” We are “pro-market” — a very different thing.

The distinction is a vital one.

Libertarians support a free market where businesses are free to enter a field and offer their goods and services, in competition with any and all others who wish to do the same.

The resulting competition brings ever-better goods and services. Lower prices. Innovation. More convenience and more choice.

The companies that succeed in this free market competition do so by doing the best job of pleasing customers. Those that fail to sufficiently please consumers go out of business. The consumer is king.

This is the market process that libertarians strongly support.

But being “pro-business” is an entirely different thing. Politicians, lobbyists, economists, pundits and others who are pro-business — or who favor a particular business entity — may lobby for special favors for a particular business or area of commerce.

This may be pro-business. But it is anti-market.

Many who are pro-business want government to help particular businesses or industries that are unable to compete effectively. Sometimes they want government to use political power and tax dollars to entice a business to locate in a particular area.

Pro-business forces may want to prop up a favored business with bailouts of tax dollars or with other tax grants. They often call for punitive taxes on competition that challenges the favored business (especially if that competition is foreign). They may offer special zoning privileges to favored businesses. They may call on the government to seize private property through eminent domain and give it to a favored business.

Pro-business forces may endorse licensing, education requirements, regulations and other obstacles that protect favored businesses from competition. It often surprises people to learn that many large businesses love government regulation because it limits their competition. But as Nobel Prize winning economist George Stigler wrote: “…as a rule, regulation is acquired by the industry and is designed and operated primarily for its benefit.”

Governments may declare a business is “too big to fail” and thus deserves a huge taxpayer bailout. Or that a field is crucial to the “public interest,” and thus deserving of subsidies and special treatment; agriculture is a prime example.

You get the picture. All of this is done by pro-business people. And all of it is deeply, profoundly, anti-market.

In an excellent article on this topic, “‘Free Market’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Pro-Business“ economist Art Carden quotes a great passage from the book The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley:

“I hold no brief for large corporations, whose inefficiencies, complacencies, and anti-competitive tendencies often drive me as crazy as the next man. Like Milton Friedman, I notice that ‘business corporations in general are not defenders of free enterprise. On the contrary, they are one of the chief sources of danger.’ They are addicted to corporate welfare, they love regulations that erect barriers to entry to their small competitors, they yearn for monopoly and they grow flabby and inefficient with age.”

The fruits of the pro-business mindset — taxes, unfairness, lack of competition and choice, over-priced goods and services, unemployment — are often the things that people hate most about our economic system. People naturally blame this on free enterprise, on the market system. Yet it is the pro-business mindset — not the market — that is responsible for these ills.

Let me give Art Carden the (almost) final word:

“In a free market, you are welcome, and indeed encouraged, to enter the mousetrap industry if you think you can build a better mousetrap or find a way to make similar mousetraps more efficiently. The other side of that coin is that you will be encouraged to leave the mousetrap industry if it turns out that your mousetraps are not better, but inferior.

“A ‘free market’ agenda is not the same thing as a ‘pro business’ agenda. Businesses should not be protected from competition, losses, and bankruptcy when they fail to deliver for the customer. All three are essential to truly free markets and free enterprise.”

Don’t use the label “pro-business.” And politely but firmly reject it if someone attempts to label you that way. Respond that you are pro-market, not pro-business. And explain the difference.