Walter Williams this week penned this outstanding column contrasting the harmony that emerges from market-based (i.e. voluntary) interactions against the conflict involved in government programs. A sample:
Millions of people love Apple computers and wouldn’t be caught using a PC. By contrast, there are many millions of PC users who feel the same way about Apple computers. Many men like double-breasted suits, but I wouldn’t be caught dead in one. Some people swear by Cadillac cars, but my favorite is Mercedes-Benz.
Despite these strongly held preferences, there’s no conflict. We never see Apple computer lovers picketing firms that serve PC lovers. Mercedes-Benz lovers don’t battle Cadillac lovers. In free markets, people with strong differences in preferences get along and often are good friends. The reason is simple. If you like double-breasted suits and I like single-breasted suits, we get what we want.
Contrast the harmony that emerges when there’s market allocation with the discord when there’s government allocation. For example, some parents want their children to say a morning prayer in school. Other parents are offended by that idea. Both parents have a right to their tastes, but these parental differences have given rise to conflict.
Why is there conflict? The answer is simple. Schools are run by government. Thus, there are going to be either prayers in school or no prayers in school.
The greater the scope of political control of the allocation of goods and services, the greater the levels of conflict. Those that advocate for a greater role of government in our lives are inviting more conflict, and as such believe the way to settle the conflict is to forcibly impose their preferences on everybody else.
Free market allocation is conflict-reducing, whereas government allocation enhances the potential for conflict. But I’m all too afraid that most Americans want to be able to impose their preferences on others. Their vision doesn’t differ from one that says, “I don’t want my children to say morning prayers, and I’m going to force you to live by my preferences.” The issue of prayers in school is just a minor example of people’s taste for tyranny.