Efficiency, Equity, and Ideology: What "Other Values" Matter?
By Art Carden
Here’s a puzzle I’ve noticed: criticize government intervention on efficiency grounds, and you will be quick to be told that there are “other values” (equity, for example) that a good society should consider in addition to efficiency. Perhaps you will be asked “what does it say about us as a society that we don’t permit people to be paid substandard wages or to be gouged after natural disasters?” I answer “it says we’re willing to watch people suffer in order to flatter ourselves,” but that’s beside the point.
Curiously, if you invoke liberty as a criticism of market failure arguments, you’re likely to be denounced as an ideologue (in my experience, at least). Consider justifications for antitrust and policies aimed at fighting monopoly. Suppose a monopolist cannot price discriminate and therefore creates deadweight loss. A statement like “yeah, but there are other values to consider, like liberty: pointing a gun at the business owner and saying ‘increase your output’ infringes on the monopolist’s liberty and in effect enslaves him” is a statement that many won’t take seriously.
So what gives? Are all “other values” created equal? Are some “other values” more equal than others? Or am I just succumbing to availability bias?