Tuesday, January 18, 2011

When a divided nation is good
When’s the last time you heard of rock-and-roll lovers in conflict with classical-music lovers, or Mac lovers in conflict with PC lovers, or football lovers in conflict with golf lovers? It seldom if ever happens. When there’s market allocation of resources and peaceable, voluntary exchange, people have their preferences satisfied and are able to live in peace with one another.

Think what might be the case if it were a political decision of whether there’d be football or golf watched on TV, whether we used Macs or PCs and whether we listened to classical music or rock and roll. Everyone had to comply with the politically made decision or suffer the pain of fines or imprisonment. Football lovers would be lined up against golf lovers, Mac lovers against PC lovers and rock-and-rollers against classical-music lovers. People who previously lived in peace with one another would now be in conflict.

Why? If, for example, classical-music lovers got what they wanted, rock-and-rollers wouldn’t. Conflict would emerge solely because the decision was made in the political arena.

The lesson here is that the prime feature of political decision-making is that it’s a zero-sum game. One person’s gain is of necessity another person’s loss. As such, political allocation of resources is conflict-enhancing, while market allocation is conflict-reducing.

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