… is from page 23 of Kenneth Boulding’s 1974 essay “The Dynamics of Legitimacy,” which appears in The Business-Government Relationship: A Reassessment (Neil H. Jacoby, ed., 1975):
In capitalist societies the main distinction is that businesses exist primarily in an exchange environment and survive because what they sell has a greater value in the market than its cost. In exchange there is neither obligation nor duty, and either seller or buyer in a potential exchange has a veto that can be exercised without fear of any sanctions, moral or material.
Governments, by contrast, even though they do buy and sell, operate in an environment that might be described as one of legitimated threat. Their income is derived mainly from taxes rather than from voluntary exchange; and most people pay their taxes to avoid serious trouble.
Yes. And so how very strange it is that so many people regard government as good, well-meaning, trustworthy, and largely beneficial while simultaneously regarding businesses operating in markets as vile, threatening, devious, and destructive.