… is from page 78 of my colleague Peter Boettke’s 2007 paper “Liberty vs. Power in Economic Policy in the 20th and 21st Centuries,” as this paper is reprinted in Pete’s 2021 book, The Struggle for a Better World:
Human beings are in possession of two competing natural proclivities: to pillage and plunder, on the one hand, and to truck, barter, and exchange, on the other. Which proclivity is stimulated and encouraged is a function of the institutional context with which man finds himself interacting with others.
DBx: Yep. If pillaging and plundering are regarded as – and are spoken of as being – honorable (perhaps by being described with euphemisms such as “redistributing wealth” and “imposing tariffs to protect jobs”), then society will be filled with pillagers and plunderers. The most successful pillagers and plunderers are those who convince their victims that the pillaging and plundering are noble activities. But if pillaging and plundering are recognized for what they are, and are roundly condemned, the willingness of people to abandon productive pursuits in order to pillage and plunder will shrink.