An article in the June 19, 2008 Wichita Eagle (Many businesses owners say they carry too much of local tax burden) provides an example of the frequently-expressed bias against individuality and markets, and in favor of government and its institutions.
The article, which presents much useful information, unfortunately contains this sentence: “Needless to say, taxes are essential to running the government, which provides the necessary public safety, infrastructure, education and regulation that makes business possible.”
The writer’s (reporter Bill Wilson) bias, and presumably his editor’s too, is plain to see: without government, none of the things mentioned would exist, at least not in a way that makes business possible. Starting the sentence with the idiom “needless to say” tells us that the writer believes the claim made in this sentence is self-evident and obvious.
Consider education, however. Many parents have made the decision that the product the government, or public, schools provide does not meet their needs. Through private efforts they provide very nicely for the education of their children. Further, since this article focuses on business, it is often businesses that are most critical of the quality of education that the public schools provide.
The bias in favor of government regulation needs examination. The article “Private Food Standards Gain Favor” (March 11, 2008 Wall Street Journal) starts with this: “Amid growing fears about food safety and impatience with government response, standards set by the private sector in Europe are starting to spread to other parts of the world, including the U.S.” The article describes GlobalGap, a firm that sells its private inspection services to grocers and restaurants like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s.
So what is the difference between private and government food inspection? When government food inspectors fail and people become ill or die from tainted food, politicians will inevitably say the inspecting agency was under-funded, and more money must be spent. But if a grocery store stakes its reputation on the fact that its produce is inspected by a private firm with high standards, and that inspection turns out to be faulty and tainted food slips by, the grocery store is likely to fire the inspection company. This is precisely the opposite outcome from the failure of government inspectors and regulators. Which would you rather trust to keep your food safe?
Even items that seem, by the conventional wisdom of today, to be solely the function of government can be provided by markets without government intervention. Can fire and police protection be provided through private efforts without government? Streets and highways? Writers like Murray Rothbard have made the case. The website of the Ludwig von Mises Institute is an excellent place to read about these ideas.
The difference between government and markets is the difference between coercive force and peaceful cooperation. Why would anyone prefer the former?