A question came up in the comments section of a previous article. “Do businesses always have the best interests of the nation in mind when making business investments or do they have the best interests in their business?” My answer came quickly, “No. Businesses do not always have the best interest of the nation in mind… nor should they.” Certainly this may sound harsh to those bombarded with the propaganda of the State and the Social Contract. This response would most likely give progressives heart palpitations and cause them to foam at the mouth!
I can even confess that just a few years ago, this idea would have shocked me into a pre-programmed outrage of collectivism and statism. That was before I had accepted individual liberty as my Lord and Savior. The answer to this question can best be addressed by the Non-Aggression Principle and property rights. This was discussed in a previous Bad Quaker podcast.
Before going into the NAP and property rights, let’s define the phrase “good of the nation.” The answer to that question would depend upon the outlook of the person answering it. It would be as subjective as defining “nice weather.” To the person that is always a little chilly, a 95 degree day would be beautiful where I am completely comfortable at temps in the 60’s. We could always put that question to a vote of the population and let the majority decide. Not such a good idea having seen the results of the democratic process thus far.
Has the firm violated the NAP with its actions? Has the firm used violence or threats of violence against people or their property in order to get their way? If not, then there is no violation. Let’s go with the most common response of pollution. If a firm does damage to another’s property through pollution, then the NAP has been violated and that firm is obligated to clean up the mess or make restitution to the party that was harmed. Let’s also remember which entity put limits on the liability of oil companies in the event of oil spills.
By putting limits on the amount of money that an oil company would have to pay for destroying property, the government has created a disincentive to work safer and clean up faster. In the incident involving the Deepwater Horizon , BP did not carry liability insurance. They chose to self-insure. If there was no limit to the liability that they could face, BP would most likely have carried insurance or worked more diligently to deal with the spill. They also may have gone bankrupt paying for their blunder. But don’t forget that BP had the “thumbs up” of government inspectors too.
A family friend had a dumping site on his rural property that he wanted to get rid of. The cost to hire somebody to come haul the junk away was $500. Back in those days, that was a lot of money. He called the township to find out how much the fine was for burning trash, not that burning trash on his own property should be a crime if he really owns the property. It was only $50. Can you figure out what he did? He was given a choice of paying $500 for the removal or up to $51 for the fine and the cost of the gasoline and matches. He only paid for the gasoline as there were no nosy neighbors or revenue collectors. This is not by any means an endorsement of higher fines for activity on private property but merely an example of how people evaluate their options.
Does a business, more specifically the owner(s) of the business have a right to use their property as they see fit? Of course they do. To show a completely ridiculous example, a firm could purchase the entire available supply of any item and either hoard it or destroy it. Sure, the public would not have access to those consumer goods but the firm would not have access to the revenues earned from selling those consumer goods. The firm would also go out of business eventually for taking such a foolish action.
If we look at this from a personal level, if you have a bunch of money and choose to hoard (save) it for a later date; are you an evil person? Do you have an obligation to go buy things that you do not want or need for the benefit of the economy? Do you have the right to destroy your own property? If you do not violate the NAP, you and businesses (other people) have that very right.
The Economic Explanation
In a market economy, businesses are actually at the mercy of the consumer. Many will tell us that the opposite is true. Every time you spend your money, you are voting for the firm that you want to provide that good or service. You do have a choice in where you get your goods from because of competition. Don’t like this fast food joint? No problem. There is another a block away. Don’t like this hardware store? Pick a different one. They must EARN your business through price, quality, customer service, or any other factor that people use in determining where they will engage in commerce.
The only way for a business to survive in a (free) market is for a business to offer goods and services that people will voluntarily exchange their money for. That is the profit motive. That is self-interest. That is, in my opinion, “for the good of the nation.” On the other side of the coin, in a manipulated market, we are subjected to politically motivated products such as the Chevy Volt or inferior products that people hate but are forced to buy. In a truly free market, these businesses would suffer the economic death penalty for sucking.
Would you buy products that you do not like or want? Would you go to a store with high prices and bad service? If you do, it’s your own fault… or you are at a government office.
Lou – Freedom Feens
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