Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 16, 2014

in Competition, Politics, Property Rights

… is from page 58 of Richard Stroup’s important 2003 primer, Eco-nomics: What Everyone Should Know About Economics and the Environment:

As transfers that depend on political clout increase, more people redirect their energies to gaining political influence, taking away more time, energy, and other resources from productive activities.  Competition shifts from innovations in production and trade to competing for political favors.  When political redistribution of society’s goods and services (the pie) grows, fighting over shares reduces efforts devoted to increasing the size of the pie, making it smaller.

Picking a nit: While I know, and agree with, what Rick means – and while I’m pretty sure that Rick will agree with what I’m about to say – I wish that Rick hadn’t here used the term “society’s goods and services.”  Society is not an entity that can own anything.  Practically speaking, property rights can be vested only in, and exercised only by, persons - either as individuals, or as groups of persons such as families, firms, and governments.  Resources that government officials ‘redistribute’ were created and made into property by a network of individual decisions and efforts and are initially vested in identifiable, flesh-and-blood persons (again, either as individuals, or as decision-makers for groups of persons).  Resources have never belonged to, and can never belong to, “society.”  Society is not a sentient creature; it can no more own anything than can a bowling ball or an ear of corn.

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