How’s that been working out for y’all lately?

Charles Johnson gets it ("it" being public choice theory):

If there’s anything of real value in Leftist economic analysis, it’s the way that the Left insistently points out that businesses are not large automata; that they are run by people, that people are limited in knowledge and are also easily corrupted when they have a great deal of power to gain at the expense of others. As a result, large corporations with critical resources often act in ways that are foolish, selfish, exploitative or destructive. If you’re trying to understand the economic world while ignoring the fact that it is made of people you will always go seriously astray. But if there’s one thing that’s been going wrong with the Left’s economic analysis during the past several decades (basically, since the 1930s, when Marxism and Progressivism each rose to the top of the heap in the radical and reformist wings of the Left), it’s the way in which they have refused to apply exactly the same analysis to the agents of the State. If it’s vital to remember that people run businesses, it is even more vital to remember that people run the government. And that is exactly what is being forgotten, because it is covered over by the shimmering mystical glow of the State. If Leftists are willing to call out cheerleaders for business when they fetishize the anonymous, undirected forces of the market and their supposedly reliable and benign march towards equilibrium, then they had better stop being cheerleaders for the State, and stop fetishizing the anonymous, undirected rules of the government and their supposedly reliable and benign pursuit of the public interest. That ain’t how it works now (just pick up any newspaper) and — this is the important part — it ain’t how it would work under any government. Bureaucracies are run by fallible human beings blundering their way through no matter what the party in power is; in the government they face the same knowledge problems and incentive problems that corporate bureaucrats face. In fact, they face even more severe knowledge problems and incentive problems — beacause, as agents of the government they hold a monopoly on whatever resources they control, and that monopoly is backed with handcuffs, guns, and bombs.

If critical resources are too important to leave in the hands of private businesses, then yes, they are damn well too important to put under the monopolistic control of government bureaucrats.

Now, pro-State Leftists might object at this point that I’m being unfair; the position is not that government is run by people any more perfect than business is, but rather that people in a democratic society, the people in government have restraints put on them that tends to direct them towards the public interest, whereas the environment in which business decisions are made is one that rewards the irresponsible pursuit of private advantage. But this, again, relies on a mystical conception of the State; here the mysticism comes in not with the conception of government intervention, but rather with the conception of control by the people. The idea that government officials — and appointed government bureaucrats especially, who are after all the people who run all the regulatory bodies — are responsive to what people like you and me want under most circumstances is so obviously refuted by a quick look at the daily operations of government that I must conclude that people who make these kind of arguments are being stopped from looking, because democratic mysticism is used as a substitute for observation.

If, to put it another way, the pro-State Left is making their argument for government control over some resource or another by claiming that you can always vote the jerks out of office if you don’t like how they are running things … well, then, how’s that been working out for y’all lately?

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Not that the market works, but that the government does not

Arguments that markets work do not have very much of an effect on the advocates of an intrusive state, because even if they are convinced that markets work, that does not by itself stop them from believing that governments work better. The important argument is not that markets work, but that governments do not.

Unfortunately, there is a much better understanding of the functioning of markets than of the malfunctioning of the state, even among the advocates of markets. So the least effective front in the war on statism is best and most strenuously fought, while the most effective front is relatively neglected. Small wonder that we have so little success year after year in getting the point across. We are fighting the wrong battle.

Unfortunately, there is a

Unfortunately, there is a much better understanding of the functioning of markets than of the malfunctioning of the state, even among the advocates of markets.

It is interesting that you presume the state malfunctions while simultaneously stating its working isn't understood--at least not as well as the market's.

Why is that interesting? The

Why is that interesting? The two claims are perfectly consistent: that, on the one hand, we have a better understanding of markets than we do of governments, and, on the other hand - limited though our understanding may be - we conclude that states tend to malfunction worse than markets do, primarily for the reason Charles Johnson mentioned ("In fact, they face even more severe knowledge problems and incentive problems — because, as agents of the government they hold a monopoly on whatever resources they control, and that monopoly is backed with handcuffs, guns, and bombs.")