Tagged: public choice

Every Industry Gets Worse When Government Gets Involved

This is easily provable with Public Choice Theory, and consistently proven in practice.

Contrary to the absurdly naive belief that monopolizing an industry will produce “efficiencies”, it has the opposite effect.  All the wrong things are incentivized and no one has any clear signal of what creates value. (See “Socialist Calculation Problem“)

Antony Davies shared this depressing graph with me last week.  If you’ve been to a health care provider in the last few years, you’ve felt the pain this causes in the realm of customer experience.

 

Non-Physicians in Health Care

Four Options When Government Gets in the Way of Your Dreams

Four Options When Government Gets in the Way

Illustration by Matthew Drake

 

This article is adapted from a presentation given at FEE and SFL seminars.  Co-authored with James Walpole for The Freeman.

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We all want to live free, but we have a problem: governments don’t always want us to.

From seemingly mundane rules (like banning raw milk sales) to the truly horrific (like taking your house from you or throwing you in jail), the state is probably going to mess with you at some point in your life. It will throw taxes and fees and fines and rules at you and erect roadblocks and regulations inhibiting your progress — especially if you’re trying to do something new and innovative.

What can you do?

You do have options. Grave as the stakes may sometimes be, you must first accept this outlook: it’s all a game. If you treat it that way, you’re more likely to find a way forward rather than simply cowering in fear or trembling with anger.

Here, then, are four options when you’re faced with the game of government interference.

1. Play the Game

This is the strategy you’re probably most familiar with. It’s what we’re all encouraged to do. Whether through voting, lobbying, or holding office, you can try to take on the state while playing by its rules. You can try to change it from the inside. This is a strategy we cannot recommend.

In business, this strategy leads to the phenomenon economists call “regulatory capture.” Many companies become involved in lobbying and political action to prevent hostile regulations. It’s understandable. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on campaign donations and dinners trying to sway politicians and regulators to delay a vote, join coalitions, or carve out exceptions.

It’s a tough, slow process, one that involves endless compromise of principle and decency, and the few who succeed end up with political power and the ability to gain more. They end up using that power not just to expand their own freedom but to crush the freedom of competitors.

But any changes you make will be temporary. Laws passed in one decade are easily repealed in the next, especially if they limit state power. The bigger loss is a personal one. If you play the game long enough, the game ends up playing you. You become a part of the power structure you were trying to fight.

2. Defy the Game

When the state crushes your dreams, you can fight back. History is full of people who stopped taking oppression for granted and started resisting. Look at the civil rights movement in the United States, the Hungarian revolt against Communist rule, or even Uber’s commercial rebellion.

Today, the ridesharing company is operating illegally in dozens of cities, and it’s already paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines for its drivers who are caught violating local laws. The company is growing fast enough to absorb the damage, and while governments don’t like Uber, customers love it. In Uber-hostile cities like New York, riders are standing up for their favorite way to get around. The “rebellion” has been a huge success.

But rebellion plays out in more desperate ways in the rest of the political world. For people and companies without the money and reputation of Uber, successfully defying the game is hard. While you can get tremendous satisfaction from sticking it to the man, you might end up in jail. You might be killed. In other words, playing this way means you might run into the real power of the state in its rawest form.

3. Change the Game

Changing the game is about recognizing the incentive structures and putting external pressure on the government to bend. Often, all you need to do to win is to hold the state to its own rules.

But it’s not as easy as it sounds, and the people who try to change the game in this way have to be heroic, if not martyrs. They’re taking the longest route. Game-changers lower the cost of information to the public while raising the cost for government to break its own rules or be thuggish. This group includes lawyers, journalists, public intellectuals, and everyday citizens.

Look at the case of occupational licensing. Municipal and state governments throughout the United States require entrepreneurs to give up money and time to comply with regulations. Many would-be entrepreneurs are stopped dead in their tracks by competition-killing regulations.

Before the Institute for Justice (IJ) challenged the regulation, eyebrow threaders in Texas were required to train for 750 hours before they could set up shop. Before another IJ case in 2011, Texas required bakers wanting to sell cookies to the public to rent commercial kitchen space and obtain food-handling permits.

Changing the game isn’t limited to the courtroom. Governments will break their own rules if they can get away with it. Both IJ cases included concerted efforts to raise public awareness about the unfair consequences of the regulations while simultaneously challenging them in court. These efforts raised the stakes for any judge who wanted to rule for the status quo. It also resulted in politicians jockeying to change the law before the court case was even settled so that they could take credit and benefit from the positive PR. Think about the state lawmakers who jumped at the chance to restrict eminent domain after theKelo outrage.

This is one of the biggest pros of changing the game: if you’re successful, you’ve kept your own integrity, and you’ve helped to protect others from the dream crushers in government.

The problem is that you may not win. You can spend years of your life fighting the battle to change the game and lose — plenty of people have, from the Dred Scott case to the Kelo decision. Even if you do win, the victory is too often short-lived: as soon as public awareness and scrutiny abate, courts will “reinterpret” hard-fought constitutional changes put in place to restrict government.

4. Ignore the Game

Entrepreneurs in the last decade have made international-trade and immigration restrictions less and less important. Today, anyone can telecommute to work in the United States from a call center in India, an Internet cafe in Bangladesh, or a personal laptop in Mexico. These innovations allow labor to move freely, and the inventors never needed to lobby politicians.

You can quit, exit, and opt out of the games government uses to stop you. You can move. You can pull your kids out of school. You can alter your business plan. You can quietly sidestep the obstacles placed before you.

There are major benefits to ignoring the game. For one thing, you don’t have to think about politics. Psychologists and philosophers have long told us to not worry about things not under our control. By ignoring the game, you can be politically ignorant and much happier. You don’t have to fight court battles or Internet comment threads. You can focus on creating, not protesting.

Ignoring the game isn’t always as satisfying as defying it, but ignoring the game offers an immediate sense of personal freedom. It allows you to create a freer life for yourself while providing an example that others can learn from. Over time, if enough people ignore the game, it begins to wane in importance and power.

How Will You Respond?

If your goal is to live free, first understand the game and know the rules. The way you respond to the game is then up to you. The strategy you choose will have more influence over your quality of life than any near-term victory or defeat will.

You may respond to the government in many different ways throughout your life, but if you treat it like a game, it will be less likely to ruin you.

Three Types of Racism

  1. Scientific Racism: “Some races are biologically inferior and should therefore be treated differently.”
  2. Cultural Racism: “Some races are culturally inferior and should therefore be made to adapt to the superior culture.”
  3. Institutional Racism: “Some institutions have bad incentives that attract scientific and cultural racists and enable them to act on their racism without fear of bad consequences.”

All three forms of racism exist.  I think the first two statements above are false, while the third is true.

Those who believe in either of the first two are not likely to change easily, and almost never through direct argument.  A steady drip of experience could potentially affect them, and more likely a generational change.

The third type of racism is the kind that can be meaningfully alleviated by ignoring, defying, or innovating around the bad institutions.  When the bad institutions are undermined the first two forms of racism tend to shrivel and go into hiding.  The existence of bad institutions protects and perpetuates racist beliefs and actions.

In the long term, markets do not reward racism.  Free association does not perpetuate it.  It is for this reason that racists everywhere are always forced to go to violent state institutions to codify racism in the face of market pressure in the opposite direction.  When the market isn’t racist enough, the law is invoked.

You can justifiably scream about people’s horrible beliefs, but until you alter the incentives they face the outcomes are unlikely to change.

A Tale of Two Cities Part 2: Why People are Dumb at the Ballot Box

This is the sequel to a post about the two spheres we all dwell in – the political and the civil – and how each affect our behavior.

Originally published in The Freeman.

Why do so many San Franciscans want to curb Airbnb’s innovative business model?

Proposition F would have restricted the number of nights owners could list their homes and which types of rooms could be listed; it would also have required a litany of paperwork and reporting to a city department. Listings that did not meet city standards would have incurred fines of up to $1,000 per day. The details are many, but the thrust is obvious: this proposal was to make Airbnb far less successful at creating value for customers and investors.

The proposal ultimately failed, but it wasn’t a landslide. Forty-four percent of voters supported it. Nearly half of the voters in a city that owes its recent prosperity and identity to this kind of innovative company wanted to strangle one of the geese on whose eggs they are feasting.

Most political action is signaling.

The simplest explanation is that proponents of this proposal were the minority of businesses and individuals who are in direct competition with Airbnb — hotels and those working or investing with them. True, but something deeper is at work. A surprising number of investors, entrepreneurs, and everyday residents of the city who are not involved with competing businesses voiced their support for the proposal. Some supporters were even Airbnb investors.

How could this be?

Here are five reasons (by no means an exhaustive list) why people behave so badly in the political realm.

1. Other People’s Problems

Milton Friedman famously described the four ways to spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself, your own money on someone else, someone else’s money on yourself, or someone else’s money on someone else. It’s clear that you’ll be most judicious in the first scenario, and less so in each that follows.

All political issues are a case of the fourth scenario, even when money is not directly involved. You’re voting on the use of resources that aren’t yours — the pool of taxpayer dollars that fund government bureaucracy — to solve someone else’s problem, in this case hoteliers threatened by competition and San Francisco residents supposedly being pushed out of affordable housing.

Ballot initiatives tell us that some people, somewhere, are having some kind of problem — and that we can vote to make it better. It’ll cost you nothing (at least nothing you can see at the moment), so why not?

Not only voters, but also the regulators, enforcers, and drafters of such propositions are so far removed from the issue at hand and have no personal stake in the outcome that it is impossible for them to make decisions or draft policies without unintended consequences.

2. Information Issues

Proposition F is ridiculously complex. To cast a fully informed vote on the Prop F, one would need to begin by reading all 21 pages of legal text. What’s more, the costs of obtaining the information far exceed the probability that your informed vote will be decisive. The result is what economists call “rational ignorance.”

Customers, employees, managers, and investors of Airbnb are best suited to optimize the service. Even the company’s competitors are in an excellent position to curb it or force it to improve if they channel their efforts where the information matters, namely in the markets where they stand to lose or gain.

3. Signaling for Survival

Most political action is signaling. It’s not so much that people want to buy American or recycle everything — we know this because when their own money is on the line in the real world of trade-offs, they mostly don’t. But people want to be seen as the kind of person who buys American or supports recycling. There is tremendous pressure in the political sphere to prove to everyone that you support all the right things — especially things that come at a direct personal cost to you. This proves you care about that abstraction called “society.”

Once control by force is an option, a great deal of otherwise productive energy and otherwise creative people are drawn into the crooked craft of politics.

The best thing a rich person can do in the political sphere is vote for higher taxes on the rich. The best thing an Airbnb investor can do is claim to support regulations that restrict Airbnb. You’ll get lots of cheap signal points, even if what you support would actually be bad for everyone.

4. Binary Choices

Voting is a yes or no affair. The political sphere is incapable of genuine pluralism. Imagine if markets worked the same way. What if your local grocery store sent out a survey asking you to vote on which kind of wine you wanted them to stock, or how much, or at what price (with any losses to be made up by adjusting other prices)?

Can Airbnb be improved? Of course. Can a bunch of people with no control over the outcome and little skin in the game be given an up or down vote on a single policy proposal and make it better? Don’t be silly.

The adaptability, nuance, and diversity of options, offerings, and solutions in a market are the greatest strength and the very stuff on which the startup scene was built. Cramming broad society-wide solutions into binary choices is absurd.

5. The Problem of Power

The infamous Stanford prison experiment didn’t go horribly wrong because the wrong batch of subjects was chosen: it was a case of dangerous institutions and incentives. When rules are enforced by raw power, the person who wields that power has more control than any human being can responsibly handle.

Contrary to Thomas Hobbes, it is not the “state of nature” that is a war of all against all; it is Leviathan that rewards force over cooperation and cultivates the worst traits. Once control by force is an option, a great deal of otherwise productive energy and otherwise creative people are drawn into the crooked craft of politics.

F.A. Hayek wrote at length in The Road to Serfdom about why, in the political sphere, the worst get on top. It’s a predictable outcome of a powerful state.

Democracy doesn’t keep this tendency in check so much as it directs the power toward those who are best able to appeal to the desire of rationally ignorant voters to signal the trendy positions on the latest issues.

Focus on Freedom

The innovative startup founders on the San Francisco scene are an amazing force for good when they are pursuing their own interests within the incentive structure of civil society. Not one of them would remain a positive influence if they were granted monopoly power through the ballot box. Nor would their customers: even the most forward-thinking minds in the most innovative city in the world become petty and stagnant when operating within the confines of the political sphere.

When you act as a consumer and choose which kind of vacation housing to purchase, your action sends information and incentives rippling through the market price system, helping entrepreneurs guide resources to their highest valued use. When you act as a voter to support or reject a policy, you create losers and enemies, and your vote generates a host of destructive effects.

If you want a freer, better world, you’ve got to build it in the private sphere.

A Tale of Two Cities: Civil vs. Political Society

In one city it seems the innovation never ceases.  Bright and talented dreamers from across the globe flock there to build amazing things.  They create solutions to problems both commonplace and incomprehensible.  You can find entrepreneurs and investors working round the clock on everything from entertaining apps to asteroid mining to life extension.  In the past few decades alone the denizens of this city have revolutionized the planet, put massive computing power in everyone’s pocket and all the libraries of the world at the fingertips of the majority of earth’s population.

This city is always looking forward, upward, onward.  It is relentlessly focused on solving problems and improving quality of life.  It is driven by curiosity, new frontiers, and prosperity.  From this city have come simple yet revolutionary technologies that unlock billions in dormant assets like extra bedrooms, apartments, and cars.  Customers love them.  Investors love them.  And the city can be proud of the world-changing impact made by the companies headquartered there.

There is another city much different.  This city puts up barriers and blockades to keep bright and talented people out.  It proposes solutions to problems that don’t exist.  You can find demagogues and petty tyrants working 9-5 on everything from grocery bag taxes to restrictions on tree branches.  In the past few decades alone the figureheads of this city have managed to take record amounts of money from citizens and demand record levels of compliance with confusing rules and regulations.  They’ve taken untold creative power out of every citizen’s efforts and resources out of their pockets.

This city is always looking backward and downward.  It is relentlessly focused on creating new conflicts and categorizing everyone’s relative quality of life.  It is driven by fear, doubt, and preservation of the past.  From this city have come complex and confounding ordinances that strangle active assets and reduce quality of life.  Customers have no choice.  Investors can’t divest.  And the city can take credit for world-changing companies that have relocated to other cities to escape the Leviathan.

Both cities are the same place.  In this case, San Francisco.  But many cities share the same fate.  The citizens are the same.  Yet they live in two spheres simultaneously and the institutions and incentives in those spheres are so drastically different you can barely recognize the actors in each as the same people.

Make no mistake, they are the same people.  It’s not that some people are peaceful, productive producers and consumers and some people are meddling petty tyrants.  It’s that the same person behaves in both ways, depending upon the incentives and institutions.  The political man (as in mankind) is a barbarous, tribalistic busybody.  The market man is an inventive, curious soul.

I’ll be sharing a specific recent example of this split-personality disorder and what leads to the contrasting behaviors in the two spheres in an upcoming piece for The Freeman.  Stay tuned.

The Futility of Reform

Don’t run for class president.  Don’t go to HOA meetings.  Don’t join a committee.  Don’t get involved in political campaigns.

All of these activities are about reform.  Get into the institution, play by its rules, and try to make it behave differently than it wants to.

Forget this approach.  It sucks.  Here are four reasons why.

It makes you less happy

Have you ever been to a town hall meeting?  Life’s too short to endure such horrors.  The worst life to live is a boring one.  The machinations of every political institution are stale and boring and full of self-serious processes, procedures, and practitioners.  Your every moment is too valuable to suffer through it.  It’s inhumane.  If Roberts Rules of Order are relevant to any effort you’re involved in, get out and go build something new.

You can’t change the game by playing

Political institutions do one thing best: restrict individual fun and freedom.  It’s natural to want to reduce the role of these rule-happy entities.  But you can’t win playing by their rules.  You can’t vote your way to a system where votes no longer curtail progress.

Trying to reduce the role of the state by engaging in politics is like trying to put a casino out of business by playing blackjack there.  “Oh, I have it figured out.  I’ll beat the house!”  No.  You won’t.  They want you to think that.  They want you to keep playing.  Abiding by house rules is no way to protest or change them.  Especially when the house gets a little richer every time you do.

If you don’t want the casino to keep luring people in don’t go in yourself.  Build something better that people want to go to instead.

Progress always comes from without

Political institutions are reactive.  They wait until the world forces them and then they change.  If humanity is a car these institutions are the brakes, able to stop progress but never create it.  If you want to get to a new destination you need the accelerator.

Accelerators are new ideas and products and services that forge ahead, paying no mind to the consensus-seeking bureaucrats nested in the status quo.  Accelerators don’t care about argument, nor protest.  They care about creation.  They build the world they want to live in instead of hoping to prevent its decay.

There is no permanence

The great thing about innovation is that it only needs to happen once.  That painful, gruelling, child-birth like experience of the creative act or eureka moment is born out of imagination, hard work, and courage.  If the result is of any value to the world it lasts forever and serves as the stepping stone to still greater innovations.

The wheel was invented once.  No one has to re-invent it.  It’s world-improving powers are permanent and irreversible.

Any apparent victory within a political structure is fleeting by definition and design.  You align all the powers and elites and interests just so after years of butt-numbing meetings and pompous proclamations from people you’d never want to have a beer with but now you must woo and coddle.  You have your mandate or constituency or whatever other serious sounding label you slap on the gaggle of interests vying for a win within the house rules.  You get your way.  Hooray!

Until the next month or year or election cycle when the new interests group outmaneuvers you and the tables turn in an instant.  Everything you created in your coalition vanishes, along with all the money you convinced people to throw at it.  The same tiny sliver of ground must be re-won, each time as if from scratch.  Only then do you realize that broader social forces created by the outsiders accelerating humanity are the master, not the servant, to these stale political institutions that apply their rusty brakes against all odds.

Go out and build something

Build something instead.  Exit.  Go your own way.  Forget the suits and speeches and posturing and canvassing and internal climbing and deal-making.  Go build your wildest dream.  Imagine and create things that excite you.  Move to a place that doesn’t suck.  Create a job that’s not boring.  Live a life you want to live.

Don’t wait for the world to change or beg for permission to let it evolve.  Go change your own world.  The rest will follow.

Profit is a Better Goal Than ‘Social Good’

Yesterday I got an email from Kickstarter that at first I laughed off as silly PR and signalling.  Then it made me sad.  Then it made me upset.

I like Kickstarter.  I use it.  It’s a supercool platform and has opened up a whole new world of crowdfunding, the effects and possibilities of which we are only beginning to see.  So what did they send me that rubbed me so wrong?

Kickstarter is no longer a traditional corporation but a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC).  I have not looked into the legal structure of PBC’s nor am I any kind of legal expert.  The way a company chooses to structure itself doesn’t really matter to me.  The thing that got me was the description in the email:

Until recently, the idea of a for-profit company pursuing social good at the expense of shareholder value had no clear protection under U.S. corporate law, and certainly no mandate. Companies that believe there are more important goals than maximizing shareholder value have been at odds with the expectation that for-profit companies must exist ultimately for profit above all.

Benefit Corporations are different. Benefit Corporations are for-profit companies that are obligated to consider the impact of their decisions on society, not only shareholders. Radically, positive impact on society becomes part of a Benefit Corporation’s legally defined goals.

What could it mean to have legal “protection” and, far more ominous, “mandate” to pursue social good?

The most obvious questions are what is social good and who gets to define it?  Even if specific goals or outcomes are written in to a legal charter, who gets to interpret them?  If an investor puts millions in to a business with expectation of financial return and the money gets squandered on a giant made-from-recycled-shoes art project at the office, could it be argued that this was the legally correct move because it’s good for the community or some other undefinable value?

Firms are not profit driven because they are evil.  They’re not even profit driven because they care more about profit than anything else.  No one got together and decided to make firms profit driven as an evil conspiracy.  They simply ended up that way because it’s the best possible method of accountability to value creation.

They’re profit driven because profit is the only uniform, objective measure of all the diverse goals and desires of everyone involved in the enterprise.  Designers might want to make the world more beautiful, customer service people may want to help others solve little problems (except maybe at Comcast), investors may want to be a part of something new and exciting, founders may want to change the world, and customers may want a specific feeling the product provides.  To keep creating value in these myriad ways the firm needs resources.  They can’t be consuming more value than they produce.  They need to create something that is valued by the customers more than the raw inputs were valued on the market.  The only way to measure all these subjective preferences is with profit and loss.

When people decry profit they seem to treat it as a one-sided bilking affair.  Profit is really, really hard.  Loss is far more common.  And loss is just as important.  Loss is the greatest force for resource conservation the world has ever known.  It lets us know that a company is, quite literally, destroying value.  It puts the brakes on fun but destructive behavior.  They are consuming resources valued at X and are only able to sell them at X-1.  They have transformed resources into something less valued by society.

Profit and loss are the best signals humanity has ever had to make decisions about resource allocation.  Relying on warm fuzzies or good intentions is far less effective and can even be downright deadly.  If you allocate resources based on perceived need or good feels you’ll end up with big shortages and surpluses, like every planned economy ever, and the poorest will suffer from lack of access to food, health care, etc.  This is how mass starvation happens.  High minded ideals replace organically emerging prices as the means by which resources are allocated, and well-intentioned elites from on high replace self-interested individual decisions makers on the ground.

I’m not trying to get dramatic here.  For all I know PBC’s could be an improvement over current state offered options for incorporation like 501c3’s or C-Corps or what have you.  I’m also not such a fool to think technical legal jargon so powerful that it can override informal institutions or cause investors to make horrible decisions with their money.  Chances are, if you’re knowingly investing in a PBC, you trust the assumed definition of “social good” or whatever other goals enough to take the risk.

The troubling thing is the rhetoric and the built-in assumption that profit and loss provide worse information about how to improve the world than vague things like a “commitment to the arts”.  Being committed to a high ideal without really knowing enough to bring it about in the everyday lives or real people (hint: none of us do) is a great way to waste a lot of resources and do a lot of damage while feeling good about yourself.  Being committed to accounting profit and loss is a great way to create value for the world, whether you intended to or not.

*BONUS

I was discussing this with a friend on Voxer, and added this very important point about what prices really are.  They’re not only about incentivising people to do things.  Even in a world where people were able to rise above self-interest, prices would still be crucial for the information they convey.  It’s an incentive wrapped in information.  Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

Four Ideas I Don’t Think Are Crazy (but you probably do)

I think these ideas are so straightforward and unscary that the world wouldn’t even look that different tomorrow if we did this today.  Shortly after tomorrow, the world would look significantly better.

  • Stop funding the Post Office and replace it with nothing.
  • End the TSA and let airlines do security however they wish.
  • End the FDA and replace it with nothing.
  • Scrap criminal law and let civil law handle everything.

Entrepreneurship Needs the Right Context

Entrepreneurship is really sexy right now.  Startup founders are like rock stars and you can’t go a day without seeing articles about them.  As far as it goes, I welcome this trend.  Entrepreneurship, as J.B. Say might define it, is the act of moving resources from lower to higher valued uses, or more concretely, creating a new process or product to solve old problems in innovative ways.  This seems a pretty good thing to glorify, at least compared with some other superficial traits that get a lot of attention.

Still, if entrepreneurship is praised across the board, regardless of the context, bad things can happen.

Absent competition and markets, being entrepreneurial has no value.  In fact, it can destroy value if channeled into the political process.  Political entrepreneurs find new ways to access resources first taken from others by force (taxation), and therefore do not create wealth.  They shift existing wealth around with no value-add, because the profit/loss signals are short-circuited.  Furthermore, they divert resources from productive activity to lobbying, currying favor, or massive projects with populist appeal but no market value.

Just about any entrepreneurial endeavor with the words “green” or “sustainable” has a high likelihood of being a fraudulent political game rather than genuine value creation.  The web of grants and subsidies and tax incentives and price supports and mandates in this industry make it all but impossible to identify real value creation as distinct from political shenanigans.  There are a great many media friendly entrepreneurs who chase government dollars instead of private investor or customer dollars, which are the real indicator of value creation.

Furthermore, all the buzz about entrepreneurship has given tech founders a huge platform from which to weigh in on a great many other issues.  Many people assume anyone smart enough to build a great app or billion dollar company could improve public policy.  The problem is that policy doesn’t get debated and implemented in a startup environment, but a monopolized, violence-backed, and fundamentally warped institution with all the wrong incentives.  The technocratic desire many startup types have to make gov’t more like a Silicon Valley company is what Hayek might call the fatal conceit.  It won’t work.  “If only smart people would control all the resources (and the guns that seize them) we’d make public infrastructure flawless!”  This kind of thinking is more dangerous, even if more noble on its face, than political actors openly seeking their own enrichment and not trying to solve grand problems with central plans.

The same thing happened in the industrial era.  Titans like Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Morgan, and Carnegie were heroes because of their amazing success at improving the world through entrepreneurial action in the market.  When they turned their attention to politics, Gilded Age entrepreneurs built up a horrific behemoth of graft and monopoly that only slowed progress.

In a free or mostly free market entrepreneurs are the greatest force for good the world has ever known.  More than any amount of philanthropy or good intentions.  Outside the market context there is nothing inherently noble about entrepreneurship, and when directed to the political process it can be downright destructive.