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Economic Nationalism Is Frightening

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:


The tendentiousness of John Burtka’s “Under Trump, a very different agenda for conservatives emerges” (July 23) is matched only by its distressing detachment from reality – a perfect example of which is his favorable endorsement of the absurd assertion that “big business is a greater threat to liberty than big government.”

In contrast to the state: no business can compel anyone to purchase its outputs or otherwise to pay money over to it; no business can force anyone to work for it or to provision it with supplies; no business can use coercion to obstruct other businesses from dealing peacefully with consumers or suppliers; no business can compel its customers or suppliers to ‘contribute’ money to a fraudulent retirement “trust fund” in which none of the contributors is vested; no business survives unless it produces outputs that consumers value by an amount greater than is the value of the goods and services forgone to produce that business’s outputs.

Each of these realities about businesses is true regardless of the businesses’ sizes. Amazon.com and General Motors are no more able to force me to act against my best interests than is little Laura’s lemonade stand. The only way that any business can obtain any power to compel anyone to do anything is for that business to entice government to grant to it special privileges. But when such privileges are granted – as they too-often are – the evil is not business acting commercially; it’s government acting coercively.

Any and all power that businesses actually wield over individuals is power granted to them in the form of special privileges by the state. Given this reality, nothing is more ironic than are calls to enhance our liberty by demanding that the state wield more power over our commercial affairs.

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