American Thinker, Not Thinking?
Bruce Johnson writes 23 July on American Thinker “On Schooling Liberals” HERE
“Which 'invisible hand' do we prefer? The one referred to by Adam Smith and Milton Friedman? A 'hand' that acts as people act for themselves? An arrangement in which individuals, in an effort to improve themselves financially, provide goods and services or improve goods and services, to the betterment of all. Or, another type of 'invisible hand' ? One which is in your pocket and extracts money for use by the government, as the government sees fit?”
As a populist statement of the benefits of markets “to provide good and services or improve goods and services, to the betterment of all” over government taxation for political purposes that may not be beneficial to tax payers it seems a no brainer.
However, it misses important realities of life experienced by all of us (and observed by Adam Smith in the Eighteenth century too). This description by Bruce Johnson, written in good faith I have no doubt, makes no mention of Smith’s other, equally valid, observations that some, but not all, individuals who provide goods and services, do not always do so for the “benefit of all”, or indeed anybody but themselves and the minority who purchase them.
These less positive facts of experience should also be weighed in the balance, otherwise Bruce Johnson (and Milton Friedman) might be found wanting and called to account for discrediting the thrust of their better points. Adam Smith pulled no punches in highlighting how some, but not all, merchants behaved well short of the ideal asserted by Bruce Johnson, and less blatantly by Milton Friedman.
Consider the behaviours of those “merchants and manufacturers” in Wealth Of Nations who clamoured loudly for tariff protection, even prohibitions, against imports from rivals. Such agitation was not aimed at “the betterment of all”. It was cynically aimed at the “betterment” of the individuals who “provide[d] good and services or improve goods and services” for higher prices because competitive imports were curtailed or excluded altogether. Such producer of goods and services used governments (from their politicking with legislatures) to fix markets against the interests of consumers. They manipulate markets to “extract money for” their own benefit and not for the benefit of their customers.
Worse still, they decry government taxation for political ends with which they and we may not sympathise, but they and their lobbyists also use governments to legislate against competition to the detriment of consumers.
On this occasion, American Thinker is not thinking. Adam Smith was not impressed by such behaviour. Neither are we. They
discredit the case for markets where possible and government where necessary.