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It’s Not A Rigorous Empirical Study, But….

On Monday, on my way back from Colorado to my home near the Potomac swamp, I was stranded at DFW airport for more than 12 hours. Needing to get work done, I splurged and bought a one-day pass at an American Airlines lounge.

Throughout my time in the AA lounge, I overheard several conversations – some face-to-face, others over telephones – of business people talking business with each other. Although (of course) the specific contents of each of these conversations differed from the others, I noticed that in each one there sounded a common theme: ‘How can we better please those persons with whom we deal?’

Most of these conversations were of how to structure deals that are more likely to attract or to retain customers. A few other of these conversations were of how to attract or to retain good workers. But contrary to what I imagine is the suspicion of free-market skeptics, not one of these conversations was about how to profit at the expense of customers or workers.

Obviously, the ultimate goal motivating each of the business people whose conversations I overheard was to increase his or her company’s profits. Yet in each and every case the means of achieving that goal involved improving the lives of customers or workers.

I don’t doubt that some business people in market economies are dishonest and seek to profit at others’ expense. But the ability of customers in free markets to say “no” to any offered deal, along with the ability of workers and other suppliers in free markets to say “no” to any offered deal, ensures that those who seek to profit at others’ expense are kept to a minimum as the bulk of business flows to those who successfully offer to others deals that are win-win.