How to Live in Peace

By Walter E. Williams

Give Peace a Chance
How to Live in Peace
Walter E. Williams
Walter E. Williams

USA – -( Millions of people love Apple computers and wouldn't be caught using a PC.

By contrast, there are many millions of PC users who feel the same way about Apple computers. Many men like double-breasted suits, but I wouldn't be caught dead in one. Some people swear by Cadillac cars, but my favorite is Mercedes-Benz.

Despite these strongly held preferences, there's no conflict. We never see Apple computer lovers picketing firms that serve PC lovers. Mercedes-Benz lovers don't battle Cadillac lovers. In free markets, people with strong differences in preferences get along and often are good friends. The reason is simple. If you like double-breasted suits and I like single-breasted suits, we get what we want.

Contrast the harmony that emerges when there's market allocation with the discord when there's government allocation. For example, some parents want their children to say a morning prayer in school. Other parents are offended by that idea. Both parents have a right to their tastes, but these parental differences have given rise to conflict.

Why is there conflict? The answer is simple. Schools are run by government.

Thus, there are going to be either prayers in school or no prayers in school. That means parents who want their children to say prayers in school will have to enter into conflict with parents who do not want prayers in school. The stakes are high. If one parent wins, it comes at the expense of another parent. The losing parents have their preferences ignored. Or they must send their children to a private school that has morning prayers and pay that school's tuition plus property taxes to support a public school for which they have little use.

The liberty-oriented solution to the school prayer issue is simple. We should acknowledge the fact that though there is public financing of primary and secondary education, it doesn't follow that there should be public production of education. Just as there is public financing of M1 Abrams main battle tanks and F/A-18 fighter jets, it in no way follows that there should be government production of those weapons. They are produced privately. There's no government tank and fighter jet factory.

The same principle should apply to education. If state and local authorities annually spend $15,000 per student, they could simply give each parent a voucher of that amount that could only be used for education. That way, the parent would be free to choose. If you wanted to send your children to a school that does not have morning prayers, you would be free to do so. And I could send my children to a school that does. As a result, you and I would not have to fight. We could be friends, play tennis and have a beer or two together.

Free market allocation is conflict-reducing, whereas government allocation enhances the potential for conflict. But I'm all too afraid that most Americans want to be able to impose their preferences on others. Their vision doesn't differ from one that says, “I don't want my children to say morning prayers, and I'm going to force you to live by my preferences.” The issue of prayers in school is just a minor example of people's taste for tyranny.

Think of the conflict that would arise if the government decreed that factories will produce either double-breasted or single-breasted suits or that there will be either Cadillacs or Mercedes-Benzes built or that there will be either Apple computers or PCs built. Can you imagine how otherwise-peaceable people would be forced into conflict with one another? Government allocation is mostly a zero-sum game, in which one person's win necessarily means another person's loss. The great ignored and overlooked feature of market allocation is that it is what game theorists call a positive-sum game. In positive-sum games, you get what you want, say an Apple computer, and I get what I want — a PC, in this case.

My win does not come at your expense, and your win doesn't come at my expense. And just as importantly, we can be friends.

About Walter E.Williams

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. Williams is also the author of several books. Among these are The State Against Blacks, later made into a television documentary, America: A Minority Viewpoint, All It Takes Is Guts, South Africa's War Against Capitalism, More Liberty Means Less Government, Liberty Versus The Tyranny of Socialism, and recently his autobiography, Up From The Projects.

  • 10 thoughts on “How to Live in Peace

    1. The great ignored and overlooked feature of market allocation is that it is what game theorists call a positive-sum game. In positive-sum games, you get what you want, say an Apple computer, and I get what I want — a PC, in this case.
      My win does not come at your expense, and your win doesn’t come at my expense. And just as importantly, we can be friends.

      That’s not an “ignored feature” as far as the Left is concerned. It is a MYTH. When one starts with the proposition that the only way someone can get rich is by taking from others, and you build your economic vision on the idea of taking from the “haves” to give to the “have nots”, then Positive-Sum economics simply does. not. compute.

      1. At Biker Dad,
        Well, at least Dr. Wiliams showed us how it is SUPPOSSED to work. But when there are self serving parasite politicians like Auntie maxine and Queen Bee sheila pandering to the DESERVING “have nots” that have NEVER looked in a mirror for the cause. Then as you said, Positive-Sum economics simply can.
        To add insult to injury, you and I are stuck with THEIR taxpayer sponsored freebie bills. And it’s STILL our fault.
        At least they ARE paid to be poor and always wretchedly UN-happy.
        And with reps like those, perpetual Misery loves their deserving company that elects the gubmit they Deserve.

    2. I really cannot fathom why we have become so polarized on so many issues that should just be personal choice. We can debate all day over McDonalds or Burger King, or Beretta or Glock, and we dont go away mad vowing to bring legislation into this. I do feel when government manages something, they are terrible at it. Managing the funding and allowing local decision making makes the most sense to me. As a firearm owner I am perplexed when people want to legislate against it. I dont understand the issue that is driving them to hate something they dont use and that is part of
      America and its people.

    3. Thnak You, Dr. Willams for another enlightening article of WHY government that govens least goverms Best!

    4. Sounds like Burger King, while all their customer may go away happy what happens to the people that want a happy meal from MCDONALD. Could it be in America we are just given too many darn choices. Another question to ask ourselves is have we out grown our government? Why doesn’t the Constitution seen not to work any more? Matters not our social standing out plate is filled with more than our farther. America Glory days maybe have come and gone, we all enjoyed prosperity after WW2 . I do not think America have a problem that can’t be fixed, the attempt to do so must start at the bottom. The bottom mean the people living in poverty, I believe that it’s no longer the middle class that support America but the bottom that drags America down. If nothing is done to solve this expanding problem we will all certainly fail, then money will not buy anything, it will become a worthless note good for nothing. Problem here is pure and simple greed, all the great Civilization ever to exist shared the same down fall. When the wealth of a nation is held by under ten percent of the population it will fail, always did always will. Will the very rich agree to help his struggling brothers or not, seems he doesn’t have a choice, or does he. What if all the fat cats just not give up their hoardings but say for ten years agreed not to hoard anymore,and dedicated themselves to help the impoverished. Oh I know this would never happen because greed have a never satisfied hunger, but would it work, I think so. We eliminate poor class with middle class and rich. Comments Please.

      1. @LD, When the Great Depression struck, FDR wanted to alleviate the difficulties of the poor with government programs. The Supreme Court blocked him using the Constitution, and Congress did not cooperate by denying him the legislation that he sought. FDR struck upon the scheme of regulatory agencies, and talked Congress into creating agencies with rule making authority. Those rules had t the “force and effect of law”. Congress (and every Congress since) loved the idea because they would never be the villain, and it gave Congress persons lots more free time to obtain campaign funds. FDR (and every president since) loved the regulatory agency scheme because the executive branch controls the agencies. The Supreme Court (and every S. CT since) loves the regulatory agency scheme because it means less work for them. The is just one problem, all legislative authority is vested in Congress. We have not out grown our Constitution. Our Constitution has been stolen from us.
        As to your theory about fat cats hoarding, Rome’s wealth was in the hands of far less than one percent of the population, and Rome lasted eighteen hundred years (Rome was the capitol for eight hundred years, then the Roman empire move the capitol to the more defensible Byzantium and continued for another thousand years. Wealth redistribution is not the answer. The smart will always get the money from the not so smart.

      2. The people in the US who are living in “poverty” would be middle class in much of the world. How does your great redistribution plan work when those people demand their “fair share” from the supposedly poor Americans. Historically it is true that Socialism has proven to be a great equalizer. It makes everyone except the Socialist leaders equally poor, equally impoverished, and equally oppressed.

    5. Hate to nitpick, but Lima Army Tank Plant IS a government owned tank factory. It’s run by GDLS on the government’s behalf, but the government has owned the home of the Abrams for decades.

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