Stark Difference

by Don Boudreaux on January 3, 2013

in Hubris and humility, Man of System, Other People's Money, Politics

Here’s a letter to NPR reporter Julie Rovner:

Ms. Julie Rovner
Morning Edition
National Public Radio

Dear Ms. Rovner:

In your interview yesterday with outgoing U.S. Congressman Pete Stark (D-CA), (“Pete Stark, Health Policy Warrior, Leaves A Long Legacy“) you asked him what he’ll miss most about being in Congress.  He replied: “It’s one of the areas in which you get up … in the morning and look at the mirror … and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to do something today that’s going to make life better for somebody.’ And that’s pretty neat….  When I was a banker I’d get up and say, ‘Whose car am I going to repossess?’ or ‘Whose house am I going to foreclose?” and that didn’t start you out on a very nice approach for the rest of the day.”

If true, Mr. Stark was a lousy banker.  Only unsuccessful bankers spend so much of their time repossessing cars and foreclosing houses.  Had he been a better banker, Mr. Stark would today recall, not his disagreeable efforts to cut his losses by repossessing cars and foreclosing houses but, rather, his successes at earning profits by helping other people – successes such as directing capital to entrepreneurs who create new products and expand economic opportunities, or successes at arranging mutually agreeable mortgage terms that better enable responsible people to buy homes.

That Mr. Stark evidently failed at banking suggests that much of the good Mr. Stark today imagines that he did while in Congress very likely is no good at all.  The reason is that these “good” deeds that Congressman Stark performed were funded with money forcibly taken from others rather than voluntarily paid or entrusted by others to him.  Someone as apparently unable as Mr. Stark to help his fellow human beings when he must deal with them voluntarily is hardly likely to succeed at helping people when he gets to confiscate their money and order them about.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

(HT Art Woolf for alerting me to this interview with Stark.)

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