Reprinted from Laissez Faire Today
My neighborhood is filling up with political yard signs. Vote for this guy! Vote for that guy!
I canâ€™t understand why people are willing to give up precious real estate on their front lawns, make friends mad at them, and put their own credibility on the line to back some politico who will certainly betray them in a matter of weeks. The con men who people cheer in politics have done little or nothing to deserve this kind of public support.
My neighborhood forbids commercial advertising on the front lawn, but the code makes an exception for politicians running for office. If anything, it should be the opposite. Commerce serves me every day. I feel genuine gratitude for these companies who give me great products and services, always keep their promises, and never force anything on me.
Every day we all vote in the consumer marketplace. We buy or decline to buy. We do this by choice. Our choice makes a difference. How we use money determines which companies rise and which ones fall. Unless government jumps in to put companies on life support, consumers themselves can vote any company into non-existence simply by failing to buy its products and services. Ludwig von Mises described this as market democracy. It is the only kind of democracy that really works.
Let me give an example. I love this juice from Bolthouse Farms, a company in Bakersfield, Calif. They have these drinks made of fruits that are absolutely delicious. The one I drank today is pomegranate. But there are many other flavors, like wild berry, strawberry banana, carrot, and even chocolate. I get a great drink and donâ€™t have to grow pomegranates, cut them open, pick out the seeds, and walk around with red-stained hands all day.
If someone would let me post a Bolthouse Farms sign on my front yard, Iâ€™d be all about it!
There are thousands, millions, of private companies that directly benefit me every day. Iâ€™m nuts for McDonalds, which keeps reinventing itself in the most marvelous ways. But I also love the pizza joint I will go to today for lunch. They greet me at the door. They give me a lunch special and let me choose what kind of dressing I want on my salad. They will serve me a yummy beer from the tap, and I can choose among many brands. My pizza has tomatoes, wheat, and pepperoni, and the creation of all these ingredients involved the productive works of many thousands of people in many different countries.
And it all lands in front of me in a matter of minutes at a very low price. Then they thank me for coming in.
And if I decide that I donâ€™t want to go there for lunch, they donâ€™t call the cops and drag me in. They try to do an even better job to attract me back. And when I return, they welcome me back to the fold and donâ€™t resent me or call me a traitor for failing to show up for a few days.
What I need is a Brick Oven Pizza sign for my front yard. This one company has done more for me than every politician on the planet.
Iâ€™m thinking too of the cup of coffee I had this morning for breakfast. It was made with a coffee maker called a Keurig. This company figured out that coffee really is an individual matter. We donâ€™t want a pot of coffee. We donâ€™t want to touch grounds. We donâ€™t want to measure. We want a cup just for us as individuals.
Keurig figured out how to do it. They knew that the cost was high. One of those little plastic cups is 50 cents or more each. Having coffee this way is much more expensive. But someone took the entrepreneurial guess that consumers would be willing to pay for it. That person must have been told that the idea was crazy, that no one would be willing to go for this. But the entrepreneur was a dreamer and took the risk.
So this is another sign I would post on my front yard, just as an act of gratitude and a suggestion to others that they give it a try.
Think of all the applications I use on my smartphone. I love the â€œAroundMeâ€ app that permits me to know every restaurant, drugstore, movie theater, or whatever in direct proximity of where I am to be, wherever I happen to be. I was somewhere in the Midwest and pulled up the app and was able to even see the menu plus prices of a restaurant one block from where I sat in my own car. This is like a miracle!
There are dozens of other apps that have changed my life in a positive way. I canâ€™t say that about a single person who has held public office, and I certainly canâ€™t and donâ€™t expect it of anyone who is running for public office now. None of them will do a thing to enhance my life. Like most people, I mostly fear what they will do with their power. Why do so many people advertise for these people?
Itâ€™s an incredible thing how people take their capitalist benefactors for granted, never thinking for an instant to be grateful or to praise a company for pushing history forward in a way that benefits humanity. Yet these same ungrateful people will attend rallies and post signs for politicians, and even clamor to hear their speeches and have them kiss their children and get their pictures taken with them.
I would as soon have my picture taken with the guy who spun my pizza crust on the slice Iâ€™ll have for lunch. This person is a hero in my eyes, a person who possesses a skill Iâ€™ve tried, but failed to master for years. He has dedicated his professional life to serving me even though I never asked for this and even though I might never express a word of thanks.
I never have to worry about betrayal from any of these people. Bolthouse will never knowingly sell me poison. Brick Oven will not promise sausage and give me Shinola. The AroundMe app will never deliberately send me to a brothel when I want a barbershop.
But every politician routinely claims insane things. They claim that their personal vision will be enacted and that the nation and the world will conform to their personal imaginings of how the world should work. They claim that they have the power to bring this about and that it can be brought about.
What a politician promises are outrageous and obvious lies, no different from a promise I might make to build a skyscraper in your backyard overnight. When I donâ€™t accomplish the task, you can say I betrayed you, and I have, but it might be a good idea to consider why you were so gullible as to believe it in the first place.
The nation-state is an unfathomably gigantic institution involving countless internal rules, conventions, employees, and exchange relationships, all of it rooted in graft and coercion, and most all of its operations administered independently of the elected class of political marionettes.
The permanent bureaucracy pays little attention to the comings and goings of the pretty and cunning boys and girls who are elected to occupy designated offices on a rotating basis. The pictures on the walls of the bureaucracies change, but not much else. The drones just keep droning regardless. Even the most powerful politician cannot touch them.
Meanwhile, the wonderful private sector is churning out beautiful surprises for us every day. We hardly even notice. We post no signs. We donâ€™t attend rallies by the CEOs. We donâ€™t urge our friends and neighbors to give up their time to visit our favorite stores and restaurants. On the contrary, private enterprise must pay to be noticed through advertising.
My fantasy is to spend some late night hours posting a hundred signs on my front yard that advertise everything from Bolthouse to McDonalds to Nike to CVS to the Laissez Faire Club. Then all my neighbors wake to see the sight. They complain and I refuse to take them down. The press calls and I use the chance to explain that these companies are treasures and benefactors, whereas politicians are just liars and looters.
Iâ€™ve plotted this scene for years. But, no surprise, these companies donâ€™t print yard signs. They are too self-effacing, sweet, and humble to do that. This is why private enterprise ought to run the world and politicians should not.