Cans of corn

In the comments to this post, we had what I thought was a good discussion regarding fairness and how government interference usually causes unfairness rather than fixes it.

Wally asked if unfair processes exist outside government. I responded that they do but that there are better feedbacks and choice outside of government to help with that.

Don Boudreaux just wrote a fantastic column, Competitive regulation, in the Pittsburgh Tribune addressing how much better feedbacks and choices, which derive from competition, work in a free market work than the regulations from government.

I particularly love this part:

No one asserts that competitive regulation works perfectly. But perfection isn’t the appropriate standard. The claim, rather, is that competitive regulation works pretty darn well.

Want evidence? Go to the supermarket and then to the mall. You’ll find astonishingly wide offerings of high-quality and affordable goods: food and drink products, detergents, kitchenware, clothing, furniture, consumer electronics and on and on and on. You’ll also find stores manned by clerks and managers who generally would be distraught to lose their jobs.

Nearly none of what you see is the result of government regulation. No regulator ordered Safeway into business. And no regulator tells it what to offer for sale. If Safeway wished, it could — as far as the government is concerned — stock only cans of corn and nothing else. It could refuse to pay any of its workers wages higher than the legislated minimum. It could open for only 15 minutes daily. It could use pencils and paper, rather than electronic scanners or cash registers, to tally its customers’ grocery bills.

But it does none of these things. Competing with Kroger, Wal-Mart and other supermarkets, Safeway voluntarily chooses — for its shareholders’ own good — to spend tens of millions of dollars annually to keep its shelves stocked with a vast assortment of items, to pay most of its employees wages well above the legislated minimum, and to undertake all the other countless activities that it must undertake to turn a profit.

I continually find it amazing how much a part of life these feedbacks and choices are and how little people recognize it.

People simply don’t recognize that free market and competition provides them with so many choices. How often do we complain about not getting what we want with stuff that comes to us by way of generally free markets like restaurants, shoes or deodorants? How often do we complain about things from government?

Sure, there are complaints about products. As Boudreaux says, no one says the market is perfect. But, there are entire TV and radio channels dedicated to complaining about government.

The same people go to Target and to the DMV. I can’t figure out why they never seem to think “I want more of what brought me Target and less of what brought me the DMV”.