Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Market entrepreneurs versus political entrepreneurs

I just watched the first part of Bill Whittle's interview with Dr. Burt Folsom, author of The Myth of the Robber Barons.

Folsom makes an interesting and important distinction that I would like to see work its way into our public discourse: the difference between what he calls market entrepreneurs and political entrepreneurs.

Market entrepreneurs are those who try to succeed by competing in the marketplace and selling things at a competitive price. Political entrepreneurs are those who try to succeed by using government subsidies or regulations to gain an advantage in the marketplace.

Market entrepreneurs are heroes. They create wealth for themselves by giving value to others. The only way they can succeed is by finding ways to deliver a better product, one that consumers will be willing to voluntarily exchange for their hard-earned money.

Political entrepreneurs are leeches. They use their power and influence to buy government favors and rig the system, typically by getting politicians to give them taxpayer dollars or pass regulations that give them an unfair advantage over the competition. We sometimes call political entrepreneurs crony-capitalists, but that is a misnomer because they aren't capitalists at all and calling them that gives capitalism a bad name.

One of the strongest arguments for small, limited government is that it breaks up the corrupt partnership between political entrepreneurs and the government they need to exploit to succeed. Without government, businesses have no real power over us. If we don't voluntarily buy their products, they go out of business.

This is why political entrepreneurs love a big government with extensive powers. It gives them many ways to bribe, control, and manipulate things for their own profit. A lean government with few powers -- like the one the Founders designed for us -- denies them a way to control us. There is less taxpayer money to steal, and a government that has little power over us is not much good to them.

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