If I Were A Shill For Industry...

Bravo, Don Boudreaux (responding to the typical anti-libertarian attack that we are just "shills" for large corporations:

If I were a shill for industry...I would oppose free markets. Free markets, after all, are markets open
to competition that invariably keeps the profits of existing firms from
remaining excessive and, often, even bankrupts firms once thought to be
invincible industry leaders. Existing firms almost all deplore
competition in their industries. They seek government regulations that
hamstring rivals and potential rivals. And, of course, firms are
forever pleading for "protection" from foreign competition.

I just wrote a book ("Globalization") in which I make a strong and
principled case for completely free trade - not free trade sometimes,
for some firms, under some circumstances, with some qualifications, but
free trade always, for all firms, under all circumstances, and with no

Whether my book's case for unalloyed free trade is correct or not,
it is surely not the sort of book that causes the heads of many
corporate CEOs to nod in eager agreement. The typical reaction of
business people whenever they hear or read me make my case for
genuinely free trade is to say something like, "Professor Boudreaux,
you don't understand the peculiarities of my industry." And then each executive launches into a laundry list of excuses for why Congress should protect his industry from foreign rivals.


  1. somebody:

    Yes, corporations love the free market. That's why they spend so much money and time lobbying the government for special legislation. You know, the opposite of the free market.

  2. Bearster:

    Warren: do you mean that free markets are bad for business?

    Alas, the answer is simpler but more profound. CEOs go to the same schools, are exposed to the same media, and attend the same churches as the rest of everyone else. They believe in the class theory of conflicts of interest, altruism, pragmatism, and often go for the quick grab rather than seek to build long-term value. And, of course, their shareholders drive them to this (and fire them if they don't behave this way).

    Bottom line: it's very, VERY hard to live rationally in this culture, and damned few people even try.

    Where are CEO's (or anyone else) to get exposed to rational ideas? Where are they to learn that free markets are, in fact, good for business?

    Perhaps blogs written by libertarian B-school grads?

  3. Reformed Republican:

    Free markets are good for the economy. Free markets are bad for businesses that do not want to work to please the customer. Free markets are bad for customers who feel they are entitled to certain goods but do not want to pay a market price.

  4. John Dewey:

    Let's attack the real culprit.

    Corporate leaders are required to represent shareholder's interests - not taxpayers interests. We cannot expect corporate leaders to refrain from accepting government handouts or supporting legislation that gives them an advantage. It is their mission to seek lower costs and higher revenues - higher profits.

    Elected government leaders should be representing those who elect them. When Congress gives money or advantage to business at the expense of the taxpayer or consumer, it is Congress, not business, that ignores its responsibility.

  5. Kent Gatewood:

    I think Bill Gates took the position that he didn't have to pay attention or tribute to Washington. The Clinton administration thought otherwise. Now Microsoft plays the game. If Gates has to, then every American business leader has to be aware of the power of government.