Liberty Quotation: Mike Munger on the Invisible Pig of State Intervention

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Munger“In North Carolina at the state fair, we have what in effect are beauty contests for pigs.  So you might imagine in one of the categories at the state fair there is a Big Pretty Pig contest.  And there aren’t many entrants because there’s big pigs, and there’s pretty pigs, but there’s not many big pretty pigs.  So there’s just two; we have the two entrants.  The first one comes out and the judge goes, ‘Oh, God, that’s an ugly pig!  Let’s give the prize to the second one.’  Well, he hasn’t seen the second pig.  Now it’s true that the first pig is ugly.  But why would you have a decision based on the fact that there’s problems with one system, the other one must be better?  But that’s precisely what people who want to reject market solutions in some ways are advocating.  So the world is imperfect, our knowledge is limited, that particular pig of market solutions is in many ways pretty ugly.  The world is hard.  The problem is that advocates of state intervention often want to award the prize to the invisible pig:  the state.  But when you actually take a look under bright lights, government failures are just as ugly, just as prevalent, and in some ways harder to control than market failures.”

Mike Munger, in a symposium on “Capitalism, Government, and the Good Society” (13 April 2013)