Out of Control Policy Blog

Why we're a divided nation

Reason board member Walter Williams points out:

Recent elections pointed to deepening divisions among American people, but has anyone given serious thought to just why? I have part of the answer, which starts off with a simple example.

Different Americans have different and intensive preferences for cars, food, clothing and entertainment. For example, some Americans love opera and hate rock and roll. Others have opposite preferences, loving rock and roll and hating opera. When's the last time you heard of rock-and-roll lovers in conflict with opera lovers? It seldom, if ever, happens. Why? Those who love operas get what they want, and those who love rock and roll get what they want, and both can live in peace with one another.

Suppose that instead of freedom in the music market, decisions on what kind of music people could listen to were made in the political arena. It would be either opera or rock and roll. Rock and rollers would be lined up against opera lovers. Why? It's simple. If the opera lovers win, rock and rollers would lose, and the reverse would happen if rock and rollers won. Conflict would emerge solely because the decision was made in the political arena.

The prime feature of political decision-making is that it's a zero-sum game. One person or group's gain is of necessity another person or group's loss. As such, political allocation of resources is conflict enhancing while market allocation is conflict reducing. The greater the number of decisions made in the political arena, the greater is the potential for conflict.

read the rest of his astute analysis here.

Adrian Moore is Vice President, Policy


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