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Grim Tales

Here’s a letter that I sent to the Washington Post:

Daniel Greenberg adapts famous morality tales for children into tales that show the unaccountability that allegedly infects modern market transactions (“A fox, a hound and other market tales,” Feb. 15).  Alas, the moral of his stories applies far more readily to politics than to private markets.

For example, tale #1 warns that bonuses paid in markets are unconnected to any merit; they’re just monies stolen from the decent by the devious.  Well, firms that pay employees arbitrarily, without any connection to productivity, don’t long survive – unless, of course, they’re propped up by government.  And no institution is as arbitrary as is the state.

What measure of merit led Uncle Sam to take money from taxpayers and give it to General Motors?  What principle of productivity justifies taxing citizens to pay for the virtually unused John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport?  What gauge of efficiency explains the up-to $30 billion in direct subsidies paid annually to owners of farmland?

If Mr. Greenberg is keen on adapting classic morality tales to the modern world, he should turn his attention to the most gluttonous, irresponsible, and baddest big bad wolf of all: government.

Donald J. Boudreaux