George Mason economist, and letter-to-the-editor writer extraordinaire, Don Boudreaux, has an opinion-editorial in the Christian Science Monitor explaining his distinction between public policies that are pro-business and those that are pro-market.
Economists (especially the free-market variety) – concerned always to keep outputs of goods and services as high as possible – typically defend business against counter-productive government interference. We economists do so, however, not because we have special fondness for business. We do so because we understand that government interference in business often results in fewer goods and services for ordinary men and women – as consumers – to enjoy.
In short, an economy’s success is best measured by how well it pleases consumers, not by how well it pleases businesses…
“Competition” sounds good. But businesses don’t like competition; they like protection from competition – along with subsidies, special tax breaks, and other government favors that relieve them from the need to cater energetically to consumer demands. So a pro-business president is prone to curry favor with businesses by shielding them from competition…
The irony is that such policies – which really should be labeled “crony capitalist” – are often labeled “competitiveness” policies. Because these policies increase the profits of some domestic businesses, they are mistakenly believed to make the domestic economy more “competitive” when, in fact, they make it less so.
This seems to me to be an important distinction. I try to convey to you all that no one hates competition more than business does. If you set up a profitable business, say, selling hot dogs on a street corner, the absolute last thing you want is a competitor to park her cart next to yours.
And, while we’re on the subject, don’t forget to join us for tea at 4:21 for Econ TeaBA.