Musings on Why Markets Trump Politics

Politics got you down? Disillusioned with Democracy? ^Here is a suggestion for a Fall activity to take your mind off things.

As election season approaches, I am more thankful than ever that most of our lives are governed by markets, not politics. Political systems have the unfortunate quality of being exclusive. If one party dominates the political marketplace, everyone else’s parties have little say in making the laws that we all have to live by. However, in a market, there is no exclusion. If you want a ham sandwich, that does not stop me from having a salad with chicken. Everyone can get what suits them best. Politics is like a massive gathering where only one food item is served. The attendees can choose what it will be, but if your view is not the majority, tough luck. Alternatively, a market system is like a restaurant that allows each person to order based on her preferences. This is one of the reasons for keeping the scope of government as small as possible. Those who advocate for larger government always imagine that this all-powerful state will do exactly what they want it to do. But because only one set of ideas can be implemented at a time, they will certainly be disappointed in government’s inability to do what they want it to do. (Hayek discusses this issue in The Road to Serfdom, Chapter 5: “Planning and Democracy”)

All that to say, markets allow each person to make the best decision for himself, whereas the political system requires all citizens to be subject to decisions made by others. There is a place for politics, but I would like that place to be as small as possible in my life.

Coming soon: Public Choice in Plato’s Republic. If you haven’t subscribed for email alerts of new posts and would like to, there is a space on the left column of your screen where you can enter your email address. Thanks!


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