False Assumption of Statists

Mike Rizzo raises a point that is a common theme here at Coyote Blog.  People often propose a statist solution because they distrust some private actor (e.g. large corporations) and want someone with power over the top of them.  However, to create such a regulatory structure, one has to give even more power to the state's regulator than the corporation has.  At least one has the choice of whether or not to deal with a private entity (unless of course it is a government-enforced monopoly, but that just takes us back to statism).  We give private actors power only to the extent that we choose to transact with them.   When we give government power, there is no longer this sort of opt-out.  Rizzo observes:

Just ask the person a question. “I can respect why you think this. But can you do me a favor? Can you imagine getting your ideal world in place, and then rather than “your guys” being in charge, how would you feel if the person/people running it were people you completely mistrusted, despised and disagreed with? Would you feel good about your system? Why or why not?”

I tell folks all the time - I don't trust private actors any more than the people in government.  What I trust more are their incentives and the tools I have for enforcing accountability on them.


  1. Morven:

    One thing I say often: making money is in fact one of the more honest motives out there.

    Ask anyone who's worked for both for-profit and non-profit organizations which was the more straightforward and less deranged. Most of them will say the for-profit.

  2. LarryG:

    When your child gets seriously sick from lead in their toys - what do you do? Do you hold the toy builder "accountable" or do you expect govt to stop them?

    Let's be real here. What people do when bad actors screw people over is get the govt to go after them.

    there is no way, without govt, that you're going to be able to trust companies to do the right thing.

    we've been there, done that, and it does not work.

  3. Daniel Hill:

    My version of this is to ask my leftist friends to explain how they can simultaneously beleive both of the following propositions:
    1. private employers can't be trusted not to "exploit" their employees. Therefore the government must regulate private employment. We can trust the regulators to do the right thing by virtue of the fact they are government employees
    2. we need strong public sector unions and bargaining rights because obviously government can't be trusted not to exploit its own employees, even though the people doing the negotiating on the employer side are government employees!

  4. John Dewey:

    Underwriters Laboratories is the answer to your argument, Larry, For over a century, UL has been protecting consumers from electrical shock and fire hazards. They inspect and certify products as diverse as life preservers and microwave ovens.

  5. John Dewey:

    Underwriters Laboratories is not the only private organization which tests and certifies consumer products. Others include American Gas Association; Canadian Standards Association; Communication Certification Laboratory; Electro-Test, Inc.; Entela, Inc.; Factory Mutual Research Corporation; Intertek Testing Services NA, Inc.; MET Laboratories, Inc.; Southwest Research Institute; TUV Rheinland of North America, Inc.; Wyle Laboratories; and United States Testing Company, Inc./California Division

  6. Matthew Slyfield:

    Lead is only harmful to humans when ingested or it otherwise gets into the blood stream. I am aware of no evidence that lead from solid objects can be absorbed through the skin by simply handling.
    Many other materials used in the making of toys can also be harmful when ingested. If someone has a child that is young enough that he or she is still chewing on his or her toys and that someone is giving that child toys where there is any possibility of the child ingesting all or any part of the toy then I would suggest that the first place that someone looks for accountability is the mirror.

  7. a_random_guy:

    Part of the problem is that the "government" is assumed to be some supernatural entity. In fact, the government is composed of individual people: some good, some venal, most just wanting to get through another day and go home.

    There is nothing special about the government as an organization, no reason to expect it to have a higher standard of behavior than any other collection of people in a large organization. If anything, government may behave worse because (1) government bureaucracies almost never undergo a housecleaning, one can realistically expect the government to be more bureaucratic and less caring than an equivalent private organization and (2) government employees know that many of their actions are shielded from any legal repercussions.