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One Metric to Refute Every Argument Democrats Make

by | Aug 19, 2023

Every flaw that people point out in consumer choice is present, but much worse, in political choice!

– Asymmetric information about quality (where producers have more knowledge about the product than consumers)?

Check. Consumers can look at ratings or Consumer Reports to learn about product quality. But it’s very difficult to know when a politician is lying (unless you buy the old line that it’s when her lips are moving).

– Monopoly?

Check. Yes, the cable company is pretty bad. But the state is the very definition of monopoly. Your only escape is to move… to some other monopoly. There is never competition, and the bureaucrats down at the Department of Motor Vehicles know that. That’s why they treat you so badly.

– Seductive and misleading advertising?

Check. Maybe I do buy those new Nike kicks because they promise to make me like Mike, and maybe that Twix bar by the checkout counter is too tempting to resist. But at least I like Twix! Politicians “place” themselves in ads all over the place, like photo bombers from hell, and how often do we really get what we’re promised?

– Seduced by free stuff?

Check. Ariely notes, rightly, that people will often (irrationally) choose the free alternative, and will fail to understand the other costs of free stuff, like waiting in line or filling out paperwork. Frankly, that sounds to me like a pretty good description of government programs ranging from our new healthcare system (“It’s all free!”) to recycling programs, which conserve on everything except time, which is the one resource that is truly non-renewable. I’ve seen people waste 10 minutes and 50 cents worth of gas to recycle two plastic soft drink bottles and a cardboard box worth a total of a nickel. But since recycling gives us free resources, it must be worth it!

– Michael Munger, Every Flaw in Consumers is Worse in Voters: Markets Aren’t Perfect, But Politics is Worse

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About Keith Knight

Keith Knight is Managing Editor at the Libertarian Institute, host of the Don't Tread on Anyone podcast and editor of The Voluntaryist Handbook: A Collection of Essays, Excerpts, and Quotes.

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