Will the Market Do It?
Tibor R. Machan
I am a bit concerned about this expression, ?the market will do
it??there?s even a joke in which a libertarian is asked how many people
will it take to screw in a light bulb and answers, ?None, the market will
do it??because it treats markets as if they were persons. But most of us
know that the idea is that the task, whatever it is, will get done without
government needing to stick in its fingers because free men and women are
enterprising enough to get it done and make a living from it.
Recently, as I was running out to get some groceries, I listened to KFI
AM Radio, the Los Angeles all talk and news ABC affiliate, and heard an ad
for a company that provides other companies with the service of handling
their human resources tasks. This reminded me of yet another local
company, called Government Solutions, Inc., which specializes in providing
private firms with the needed expertise to obtain various government
permits to carry on their business. For example, a private developer has
been trying hard to get a project involving 12 large homes built near
Silverado Canyon, where I live, and this company has been leading the
various battles with the several layers of government, including planning
groups and courts, to get the deal done.
Now what caught my attention is the fact, easily noted around the country
once you think about it, how readily such companies are started by various
entrepreneurs simply because there is a demand for their type of service.
Frankly, I am not always very happy with how eager some of these
entrepreneurs are to go into business as a sort of liaison between private
firms and public agencies. That relationship seems to me altogether too
cozy for comfort for those of us who are convinced that government and
business alliance tends to perpetrate more harm than good. But let?s leave
that aside for the moment.
What is important is how responsive people are to the weirdest types of
demands that spring up in a community. Does this not suggest that if the
government itself got out of trying to solve every other problem people
face, there would be a great many entrepreneurs who would step in to
handle them? In short, the market is very likely, indeed, to do it and all
the complaints that we need the government to get things done tend to stem
from a bad?the governmental?habit, not from serious reflection and
Of course, it is difficult if not impossible to fully anticipate just how
in particular the market will respond. If there is a need for old age
security provisions, product quality control, workplace safety measures,
and all the rest, precisely how markets will meet the need may be
impossible to predict. Just as sometimes when a person is asked the
question, ?Well, what are you going to do (in some novel situation)?? the
best answer could be, ?I?ll think of something,? so with how people in a
market system will address various needs?they will most likely think of
What this suggests to me is that folks who insist that governments must
address most problems in human communities?big ones, small, medium,
immediate, or long range ones?really show a distrust of human nature. Why
they, then, trust governments is beyond me, since all governments are is a
bunch of human beings equipped with the most dangerous of all tools, raw,
aggressive power. So these folks appear to believe that men and women in
the market place, since they are forbidden to use aggression to make
things happen, simply are useless, whereas governments that wield such
power are just the ticket for solving problems.
The truth, however, is precisely the other way around. Governments and
their tool, aggressive power (exhibited by the police and the military)
are at most useful in defending against criminals and invaders from
abroad. They are, however, not much use for anything else?to get anything
done, they actually need to conscript labor and talent from the market.
So, yes, the answer is, the market will do it. Far better than government.