Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 20, 2011

in Politics

… is from page 107 of my colleague emeritus Gordon Tullock’s 1970 book Private Wants, Public Means:

The individual must choose between two monstrous packages of services every time he votes instead of choosing in an incremental manner from a large number of small packages as he does in the market.

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Dave Tufte August 20, 2011 at 5:25 pm

For better or worse … elections are sales of bundled goods.

vikingvista August 20, 2011 at 9:51 pm


muirgeo August 20, 2011 at 11:37 pm

The alternative to democratic elections is revolution and massive social disruption the end results of which are anyones guess. You guys pissing and moaning about the government are going to see how much you miss the civil and safe society you were born into.

The Other Tim August 20, 2011 at 11:56 pm

Stop confusing private and public goods. To argue that public goods like police protection from “revolution and massive social disruption” will disappear if schools get turned over to the market demonstrates a thought process which disregards the particulars of the various conditions surrounding the provision of each kind of good.

Private consumption is exactly that: private. It isn’t the concern of the public, therefore uninvolved parties cannot be harmed if we don’t hold democratic caucuses to determine what people do in private. Society does not collapse into anarchy simply because I and my neighbors do not vote on what we will collectively consume for dinner tonight.

Russell Nelson August 21, 2011 at 2:05 am

Is it not yet clear to you that muirgeo is daft? Why are you arguing with a crazy person? He deserves pity, not correction (because the correction never gets past his insanity).

JS August 21, 2011 at 9:24 am

He is not insane. I like daft.

Look at all his posts. They’re like airballs thown up in basketball. But to see a pattern, try substituting the topics and his themes for this:

(Defend the institution of slavery on the grounds of paternalism, security, and the fact that those enslaved are not only too stupid to take responsibility for their own lives, but would be further exploited under conditions of freedom.)

Note how his arguments, in every case, boil down to that.

muirgeo August 21, 2011 at 11:25 am

Yeah I’m the daft one and you the coherant one with a cult like belief in a way of setting up society that exists no where in the real world and no where through all of history.

What you believe is propaganda spun to dig in the wealthy class. You are like the people who in Libya, Eygpt and Syria who by and side with the ruling class.

And me what I believe is something that exist and worked well in the worlds most advanced societies ever… the social democracies…. brought to their knees by too much Reagan,Thatcher and Freidman cultist influence.

There was no crash in the economy like this 20-30 aftr FDR. Yeah wacky me and my references to history…

SweetLiberty August 20, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Choosing between monstrous packages of services is the problem – politicians are so far away from the rulebook (the Constitution), that they can make up these packages at will. We are supposed to know the limit and extent of the package and, any politician that wishes to change the package, must successfully make a change to the Constitution.

Even those who, in principle, believe in getting back to the rules – like Bachman, will say things like, “If you elect me, I promise to reduce the price of gasoline to less than $2 per gallon!” (Don’t know where I read that she said this recently, but I did.)

Rick Perry is proposing 7 Constitutional changes should he get elected. Even if I didn’t agree with a one of them, I appreciate that he is trying to play by the rules.

Dan J August 20, 2011 at 6:56 pm

‘I promise to reduce…..’

WTF?!? Sounds like your watching Schultz. You see his hit piece on Perry? Took sound bites out of context…. ‘black cloud hovering over us…..’, which if Ed would have continued the clip he would have been greeted with ‘the black cloud of debt….’.

muirgeo August 20, 2011 at 5:46 pm

That’s not true. You can vote for the Libertarian candidate, the Green candidate and many more. You can even start your own party and try to get people to vote for you.

The problem is our democracy is run like one of YOUR free markets where money is king, money is speech and corporations are people. It is YOUR very ideas that allow this sort of non-sense and thus you really have nothing to complain about. The markets ARE providing your government.

Stone Glasgow August 20, 2011 at 6:06 pm

There is no objection to the method used in electing leaders. I do not want any leader, including one chosen by “libertarians” to have that amount of consolidated power.

It’s like going to prison and holding a democratic vote on which large inmate will be permitted to rape everyone in the ward. Both choices are poor!

Libertarians want to ban rape, liberals want to regulate the raping, and conservatives only want rape allowed in other prisons and for anyone contemplating abortion or drug use.

muirgeo August 20, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Sure you’d like to ban government rape… but again the guys with the money WILL NOT LET YOU….. its a market creation. So stop complaining because you are unwilling to look at real solutions.

A libertarian government will ALWAYS result in the monied interests raping you via their control of the government .

The Koch brothers claim to be libertarian…. do their actions support this?

Sam Grove August 20, 2011 at 6:50 pm

A libertarian government will ALWAYS result in the monied interests raping you via their control of the government .

Political government will ALWAYS result in the monied interests raping you via their control of the government .

Sam Grove August 20, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Democracy is just one of the labels used to disguise the reality of political hierarchy in which the serfs are provided the illusion that they have some kind of control over an imposed collective fate.

You are a collectivist and a democratic monarchist.

muirgeo August 20, 2011 at 11:40 pm

And you Sam have no rational alternative. This government works if we keep it in the hands of the people. Tearing it down may teach you guys a thing or two about just how much liberty you gave up pissing and moaning about small things.

The Other Tim August 21, 2011 at 12:07 am


Start reading at “A time, however, came” and stop with this nonsense about “the people.” There is no such thing.

muirgeo August 21, 2011 at 2:11 am


Start reading at We and stop at People….


Dan J August 20, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Such an angry little man. Your misconceptions and anger cloud your ability to reason. I bet you even agree with the racist Garafolo about Herman Cain and Allen West.
Have you written a check to the govt yet for 40% or more of your financial holdings to be more patriotic? Hhhmmmm…. Bet not.

brotio August 21, 2011 at 1:29 am

Your misconceptions and anger cloud your ability to reason.

His lack of brains is what clouds his ability to reason. Yasafi should probably be in the Guinness Book of Records as the dumbest human without a birth defect.

Stone Glasgow August 20, 2011 at 7:29 pm

That’s why libertarians want the government to be so weak that the monied interests can’t use it to hurt anyone, like they do now.

Greg Webb August 20, 2011 at 8:37 pm

George, you said “The markets ARE providing your government.” No. And, that is a silly thing to say. Markets are millions of people making independent decisions as to whether to buy or sell or simply to stay home. So, with markets, I get to decide. With government, other people get to decide for me.

If this were a market, I would not have bought this government. And, if I had inherited it or had it given to me, I would sell it immediately.

With government, you decide with your feet. As the United States was intended to be, and still really is, the only Constitutionally-limited representative government in the world, I choose to stay and force the genie of government that the progressives let loose back into its Constitutionally-prescribed bottle.

Those who prefer a social democracy should relocate in one of those 30 grand places that you talk about. Only they really aren’t so grand, are they? Otherwise, their own people would choose to stay there and not come to the United States. And, that’s why you won’t leave either. So, why do you want to change the only Constitutionally-limited representative government into another social democracy that does not work.

JS August 21, 2011 at 10:25 am

I think Muirgeo’s point is that “markets” lead to the emergence of monied interests, so we must regulate markets, etc. Hi error is in not knowing cause and effect–what comes first, the chicken or the egg?

The truth is that regulated markets lead to the emergence of monied interets, not free markets. Muirgeo sees what he thinks are free markets when they are really regulated markets, that may be operating only partially free. He sees the ‘freeness’ as the culprit, rather than recognize the true culprit, which is the distortion of the regulation. The regulated markets allow for the reduction in competition which, in turn, allows for the massive accumulation of wealth that leads to political corruption.

But lets walk through this from the beginning. Free markets, to be free, must have laws that prohibit outside interference that reduce competition. Billionaires can emerge from the competition of free markets, but very, very few succeed at that. Warren Buffet did not make his fortune in free markets, Bill Gates did not, and neither did Carlos Slim in Mexico. Money, banking, and our financial markets (bonds, stocks,etc.) are so regulated that much competition is reduced by them. Those who are better at navigation through the regulations win.

Has anyone here ever realized that the concept of “limited liablity”, upon which our so called “free market” is built upon, is a regulation that, by itself, disqualifies the entire economy from being “free”? Has anyone understood that limited liability leads to huge consolidations of wealth? Even recently, has anyone understood why the large financial firms, that used to be partnerships, switched to corporate legal status in order to leverage themselves one hundred fold in order to make billions instead of millions?

Free markets mean that regulations would essentially be illegal, except those that the overwhelming majority of citizens consent to. This does not mean that thereould be anarchy. Anyone or group could sue corporations or individuals who violated the constitutionally established rights of others, but no one or group would have access to economic legislation that protected them from competition.

Our Constitution established America as Merchant State, not as a Libertarian State. From the beginning, the legislative process was for sale. Through limited suffrage, it was originally dominated by the merchant class, and today, through popular sovereignty, redistribution is possible. But what has remained constant is that our legislation is for sale to the highest bidders and majorities, which is the antithesis of what a Libertarian model is built upon.

Limited Liability is what allowed for the historical accumulation of wealth by the merchant class that created the income disparity that so defined us. Yes, one should admit that the masses were much richer here than elsewhere, whose merchant states were far more monopolistic than ours, and one could further argue that redistribution and regulations against merchants are detrimental to the economic condition of the masses, but where everyone would be exposed, and where no businessman could posture that they are for free markets, would be if it were suggested that we dismantle the legal apparatus that protects corporations from paying their debts and their stockholders from being responsible for their actions.

How can you have a free market that limits liabilities? How can huge corporations walk away from millions of debts without their owners being responsible?

These laws are why the people who own capital can exploit those who merely sell their labor. When the country was set up by its owners, the desire was for the merchants to be able to take greater economic risks that would provide for “greater” returns. The problem with this was that increased risk also led to increased liability, so the political goal was to socially “redistribute” the risks and liability, but to keep the greater returns for themselves.

If the liability assocaited with failure had been left where free markets and the precepts of private property suggest it should be kept–squarely on the shoulders of the responsible individuals–the nature and scope of business investments would have been much more conservative and many more people would have been included in the raising of capital for the projects. The wealth would have been distributued far more equitably than it was.

The libertarian who clamors against redistribution of wealth should focus, perhaps instead, on reforming the laws that redistribute liability to the undeserving masses as well.

Stone Glasgow August 20, 2011 at 5:55 pm

We’re not choosing packages of “services.” We’re choosing between two stage-actors speaking words they didn’t write, about things they probably don’t understand, trying to convince the audience that they are a superhero.

The acting and writing team with the best performance wins. Democracy is glorious, isn’t it?

Invisible Backhand August 20, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Where’s vidyohs?

vidyohs August 20, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Here I am, sweetiekums, need someone to read your oil level. Okay, just hike your pant legs a few inches so I can read where the oil marks the scale.

Invisible Backhand August 21, 2011 at 12:46 am

You are so easy to manipulate.

vidyohs August 21, 2011 at 10:18 am

Yeah, that is what all my girls tell me, glad to know you’re on board.

Why not take the opportunity to tell JohnS why he is a simpleton for thinking that beating a team dead horses will be more effective than beating one dead horse.

Superior lefty intellect like yours should have no problem.

Gwynafar August 20, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Good evening to one and all, I am totally new here, seeking a different perspective, and I believe I have found what I am looking for.

Intelligent dialogue!

I am also a fledgling libertarian, I shall observe and learn more than I may comment…

I hope I will eventually bring my own thougts to the subjects as they come about…

Meantime, could any of you recommend some good reading material to further my knowledge of Libertarian thought? I have done some
‘homework’ need to improve though…

I thank you in advance…

Sam Grove August 20, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Julian Simon’s “The Ultimate Resource”: http://www.juliansimon.com/writings/Ultimate_Resource/

Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson: http://www.fee.org/library/books/economics-in-one-lesson/

Bastiat’s ” The Law”: http://mises.org/books/thelaw.pdf

The are many resources. Perhaps others will add to this list.

rbd August 20, 2011 at 8:33 pm

You can go here: http://mises.org/literature.aspx

This should satisfy your craving for a while.

Stone Glasgow August 20, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Watch some Milton Friedman videos on youtube. That’s what got me started and he is quite entertaining.

Richard Stands August 20, 2011 at 11:21 pm

I’ll second that.

Chucklehead August 21, 2011 at 8:30 pm
Gwynafar August 21, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Thank you all!! I have been reading a-plenty here already, as I have at Mises also for sometime…thanks again…

Dan J August 21, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Follow VikingVista on this site…… BIG L……..takes no prisoners.

nailheadtom August 20, 2011 at 11:04 pm

“The individual must choose between two monstrous packages of services every time he votes….” —————— The individual doesn’t necessarily get what he chooses when he votes, and he gets it even if he doesn’t vote.

Richard Stands August 20, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Not to mention that voting imposes my selection on others that do not want it, while purchasing small packages in a market is done for myself alone, leaving others to make that same choice for themselves. 100 people, 100 answers. No force.

Russell Nelson August 21, 2011 at 2:02 am

You market fundamentalists are all the same. Don’t you know that we need a monopoly government to prevent monopolies from occuring in the market? Don’t you know that we need a spendthrift government to stop fraudulent stock activities by corporations? Don’t you know that we need to have a government with guns to defend us against corporations without guns ?

Sheesh, you guys don’t know anything do you?

Sandra August 21, 2011 at 4:16 am

Add to it imperfect information while voting and we see that system needs to be changed. Question is how?

Seth August 21, 2011 at 10:59 am

Sowell elaborated on this in “Applied Economics” in three well-written paragraphs:


Dan J August 21, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Was it Sowell who said that, ‘politicians or the intelligentsia would say we are worthy enuf to vote for them but not to decide our own fates on products and services’?

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