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Drinkin’ that Bubble-Up

Here’s a letter sent today to the editor of the New York Times Book Review:

Critical of “a market-driven society,” Henry Giroux asserts that “At the heart of this market rationality is an egocentric philosophy and culture of cruelty” (Letters, May 16).

Let’s ignore the tens of millions of people cruelly enslaved, tortured, and slaughtered by their own anti-market governments during the past century – tyrannies cheered on by western intellectuals, such as Prof. Giroux, whose fetish for strongmen springs from their fantasies of reconstructing society according to their own puerile designs.

Instead, simply ask: Is (let’s call it) “centralized-power rationality” not egocentric? Do the ‘government-affairs specialists’ headquartered on K Street lobby for some Aristotelian conception of The Good – or for more butter on their bosses’ bread?  Do elected officials cast aside their own egos and biases and personal interests to do battle for The People – or is each chiefly motivated by the perqs and pomp of power?  Do government workers regularly sacrifice for the common good – or do they regularly plead for higher pay and greater job security for themselves?

Yes, egos are at work in markets.  But egos are no less at work in the public sector.  The big difference is that the egos at work in markets spend their own money and deal with other people consensually.  The egos at work in government spend other people’s money and deal with other people at gunpoint.

Donald J. Boudreaux