David R. Henderson  

Chad Seagren on Service in a Free Society

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Notes From the Field... Liberty, Population, and Cogni...

Today, while most Americans celebrate, quite appropriately, the killing of a mass murderer, Osama bin Laden, we are likely to hear encomiums to people in the U.S. military. In the May Econlib Feature Article, one member of that military, Major Chad Seagren of the U.S. Marine Corps, takes on General Stanley McChrystal's narrow view of service. Chad is an economist with a Ph.D. from George Mason University and as assistant professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. I am proud to call him a colleague and, increasingly, a friend.

Here's an excerpt:

Many people think that service to one's country must mean military service. I agree with McChrystal that this interpretation is far too narrow. But if the General would only take his own advice and widen his vision of what it means to serve, he would see that literally millions of Americans diligently serve their country every day. Simply put, in a free society, a person who participates in the market serves his or her countrymen in an immensely powerful way.

In discussing those who serve their fellow men and women, Chad writes:
They repair air conditioning units, wait tables at restaurants, operate machines that make Petri dishes, build websites, and drive delivery trucks.


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CATEGORIES: Economic Philosophy



COMMENTS (7 to date)
chris writes:

I for one do not celebrate the extra-legal state-sanctioned assassination of anyone. Other than that....i agree with you wholeheartedly..

Tracy W writes:

I spend a chunk of time pointing out this to people, that in a well-functioning market society people working in market-driven jobs are typically providing more to their fellow citizens than they get paid. It's in response to the common argument that society has the right to tax people as much as the government of the day chooses, because we all gain so much from being in society.
(Of course, it is possible for a society to have rules that financially reward something that is actually bad for society overall, eg open-access fisheries encourage over-fishing, but in that case the logical response is to change the rules, not to tax people who happen to earn a lot of money that way).

David R. Henderson writes:

Thanks, chris and Tracy W.
chris, I understand your viewpoint and I'm sympathetic to it. What makes me sympathetic, though, is that I would have wanted Osama bin Laden to be taken alive and put on trial. The problem is that had he been taken alive, the U.S. government probably would have tortured him. All along, I advocated, not a war on Afghanistan, but an international focused manhunt. I spoke about that on the BBC last night. It would have been much cheaper and would have saved thousands of lives.

Daniel Klein writes:

Excellent essay by Chad.

Congratulations to Chad, whom I knew when he took my Economic Philosophy course and critically examined property as a "bundle of rights."

Chad, if you're out there, a "bundle of rights" symposium is coming in Econ Journal Watch in September.

Chad Seagren writes:

Thanks, Dan. As you can see, your class certainly had a positive impact on my thinking.

Mr. Econotarian writes:

Public signalling of the mythology of the brave & righteous warrior is part of the military pay package, especially during times of conscription. Otherwise we would need to pay them more.

Robert Book writes:

I am not sure that EVERYONE who "participates in the market" necessarily "serves his or her countrymen." Suppose, for example, someone lobbies the government to create some burdensome regulation, then "participates in the market" by offering services to make compliance with that regulation less costly than it would be without those services.

While this sort of thing certainly involves a minority of market participants, it's not exactly negligible.

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