L.A. Liberty

A Libertarian in Leftywood

When a consumer buys a product on the market, he can compare alternative brands. … When you elect a politician, you buy nothing but promises. You may know how one politician ran the [government] for the past four years, but not how his competitor might have run it. You can compare 1968 Fords, Chryslers, and Volkswagens, but nobody will ever be able to compare the Nixon administration of 1968 with the Humphrey and Wallace administrations of the same year. It is as if we had only Fords from 1920 to 1928, Chryslers from 1928 to 1936, and then had to decide what firm would make a better car for the next four years….

Not only does a consumer have better information than a voter, it is of more use to him. If I investigate alternative brands of cars …, decide which is best for me, and buy it, I get it. If I investigate alternative politicians and vote accordingly, I get what the majority votes for. The chance that my vote will be the deciding factor is negligible.

Imagine buying cars the way we buy governments. Ten thousand people would get together and agree to vote, each for the car he preferred. Whichever car won, each of the ten thousand would have to buy it. It would not pay any of us to make any serious effort to find out which car was best; whatever I decide, my car is being picked for me by the other members of the group. Under such institutions, the quality of cars would decline.

This is how I must buy products on the political marketplace. I not only cannot compare the alternative products, it would not be worth my while to do so even if I could. …

— David Friedman, The Machinery of Freedom

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