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Ron Paul on Jon Stewart

June 5th, 2007 · 8 Comments

Via Radley. I thought he acquitted himself pretty well (in part because Stewart was clearly a friendly interviewer) but I did think there was room for improvement in his reply to the old saw about libertarians having to “trust corporations” even as they’re highly skeptical of government. Paul defrayed this with a joke about not being automatically hostile to people who make lots of money “even in entertainment.” But the real advantage markets have over political processes in most cases, I think, is precisely that they don’t rely primarily on one’s trusting the character or good intentions of the players. (Actually, even in politics, I think people tend to fall into the trap of thinking about problems primarily in terms of whether the sufficiently good and honest people are in charge, and not enough in terms of whether the institutions are set up so as to promote good behavior.) It’s important, then, that we expect corporations (and those who run them) to be constrained by competition, not their own sweet natures.

Tags: Journalism & the Media



8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dave W. // Jun 5, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    constrained by competition

    Of course then you open yourself up to the trap of trusting that the competition is real and not a sham to cover hidden co-operation. i think it is really hard to tell the difference between real competition and fake competition, especially because these aren’t mutually exclusive modes of behavior.

    There are definitely libertarians who trust corporations way too much. Sometimes they are called corporatarians.

  • 2 jeh // Jun 5, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    As Adam Smith put it:
    “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

  • 3 Adam // Jun 5, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    At the same time, history has proven that corporations will, if unchecked, act in ways detrimental to society as a whole (covering markets and price gouging, paying and treating workers poorly, etc). The vast size of corporations allows the decision-makers to never personally have to walk amongst the employees and consumers who are effected by the board decisions.

    I think that America has established a happy medium between regulation and free markets. I think a world with either of these extremes being enforced would be an unhappy one.

  • 4 thoreau // Jun 5, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    I think Stewart was pretty good to Paul. If he had wanted to, he could have probably hammered on economics and asked some loaded questions along those lines, and thereby make him look like a nut to much of the audience. Instead, he let Paul get in the important points: That what he trusts is competition more than any particular company, and that he’s against government favors for corporations. These are among the strongest and most widely-appealing points of the libertarian economic stance. Stewart didn’t throw a softball to elicit that response, but he did ask questions to which Paul could offer such responses.

    All in all, a pretty good interview.

  • 5 mediageek // Jun 6, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Paul came off well.

    As far as the “corporations vs. government” bit goes, I have yet to hear of corporations dispatching balaclava-clad ninja wannabes armed with submachine guns to bust a poker game.

  • 6 Glen Whitman // Jun 6, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Dave and Adam: For whatever competition corporations face or don’t face, rest assured that government faces even less.

  • 7 Bobbo // Jun 7, 2007 at 1:30 am

    I think it’s also important to remember that corporations are incorporated through law, and that it’s entirely reasonable to think that some of those laws and regulations may be ill tuned. They also act within the law, pharmacoms and patent law being a clear example of where tuning is important.

  • 8 Luka // Jun 7, 2007 at 3:18 am

    Why’d Paul have to spaz out and leave at the end there? That was too bad. Otherwise, stylistically, he did a fine job.

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