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Surprising Agreement!

Here’s a letter to a new correspondent:

Dr. Harlan Quarles:

Dr. Quarles:

You write that you find “hysterically laughable” all attempts by “free marketeering nut jobs,” including me, “to defend WalMart free-riding on taxpayers” – by which, you explain, Walmart’s ability (as you mistakenly see it) to pay to its workers excessively low wages because these workers receive welfare handouts from the state.  I’ll not bother repeating here the arguments that send you into such stitches (although – in case you’re in the mood for more side-splitting amusement – I provide convenient links to some of these arguments below*).

I here rest content to ask you a serious question – and, in doing so, I grant for the sake of argument the truth of your false belief that taxpayers do indeed subsidize Walmart’s employment of low-wage workers: If, as you apparently agree, forcing taxpayers to subsidize the activities of private parties is objectionable, why don’t you turn your ire away from Walmart and concentrate it instead on those people who are directly responsible for arranging for such subsidies in the first place – namely, politicians and pundits who continue to support the welfare state?  I agree with you that institutional arrangements that allow Jones to free-ride on Smith are undesirable.  Yet such free-riding is at the very core of the welfare state; free-riding is inseparable from this institutional arrangement.  Therefore, given your apparent, deep concern for the well-being of taxpayers, and your anger that third parties now have indefensible access to taxpayers’ funds, I should expect that you will join me and other classical liberals and libertarians in calling for the welfare state to be completely abolished.

Can we count on you?!

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

* See here, here, and here.