David R. Henderson  

Great Moments in Crowd Sourcing

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Tell Me How It Feels to Be a B... Is Average Over?: Two Equivoca...
One highlight of my third year at Columbia was the Industrial Organization course that Larry [Moss] and I took along with several Randians. The professor, Donald Dewey, started off the semester by stating that there were three respectable views on anti-trust, and called for a show of hands of those who supported each. First were those who advocated much more stringent anti-monopoly laws and penalties. No takers. Second, there those who opted for the status quo. Again, no agreement. Third, and finally, there were some, derisively dismissed by Dewey as free-market extremists, who wanted to actually reduce the coverage and severity of these laws. Much to his consternation, again there was no support. Not a single solitary hand was raised in [sic] behalf of this option. Flustered, Dewey finally came up with a fourth alternative, which he said no rational person would defend: complete abolition. At this, the entire class raised their hands, with a grin. Great moment.
From Walter Block, "On Autobiography," in Walter Block, editor, I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians. 2010.

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COMMENTS (4 to date)
Nathan Smith writes:

I'm an antitrust skeptic, but I do worry that if monopolies and cartels are allowed, they have a special incentive to use/abuse political influence and extralegal methods to maintain their position. Labor unions have the same problem.

A compromise occurs to me. The Department of Justice still keeps track of market concentration, and identifies companies with a dangerous amount of market power. But, instead of breaking up these companies, they simply become subject to more stringent restrictions on campaign finance, and have to meet much higher standards of transparency. The public knows exactly what their costs and profits are, and where their money is going. That facilitates both moral pressure on monopolists to use their money well-- patronizing the arts and sciences, beautifying cities by building palaces, giving to churches and charities, etc.-- and entry by competitors, if monopolists become lazy and inefficient.

All in all, I'd trust a monopolistic tycoon to use money for the common good at least as much as I'd trust the government.

Tracy W writes:

Great story, what were the social dynamics behind that?

MingoV writes:

This could be a case of presentation order bias. We don't know if all your classmates truly wanted to abolish antitrust laws. We only know they didn't like the first three choices and accepted the last. If the first choice had been "abolish anti-trust laws," would everyone had chosen it?

David R. Henderson writes:

@Nathan Smith,
But, instead of breaking up these companies, they simply become subject to more stringent restrictions on campaign finance,
It’s hard to make them much more stringent at the federal level. That famous racist, “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman got a law passed in the early 1900s that makes it illegal for corporations to donate even a dime to a candidate for Congress or President.
and have to meet much higher standards of transparency. The public knows exactly what their costs and profits are, and where their money is going.
That’s a pretty big intrusion.
That facilitates both moral pressure on monopolists to use their money well-- patronizing the arts and sciences, beautifying cities by building palaces, giving to churches and charities, etc.--
It also facilitates pressure to use their money badly--giving to politicians’ favored causes, for example.

@Tracy W,
Great story, what were the social dynamics behind that?
I have no idea. My guess is that by showing his “tell” AND denigrating those who disagreed with him, Dewey caused a reaction.

@MingoV,
See my response to Tracy W.

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