Politics Creates Conflict

One interesting thing to note about the political statements coming from candidates as the primaries approach is the adversarial nature of their rhetoric.  They don’t hesitate to attack their primary opponents despite the fact that they broadly agree on most things.  Yes, Republicans will take an occasional jab at Hillary, but mostly they are attacking each other, despite all they have in common.  Meanwhile, Hillary and Bernie are debating who’s more progressive, and even what progressive means.

Candidates don’t talk about what they have in common.  Politics brings out and amplifies any differences, regardless of how small they might be.  Politics creates conflict, because if one person wins, others lose.

Compare that to market transactions, which are always cooperative because market exchange does not occur unless all parties to a transaction agree.  Market transactions occur peacefully and leave everyone satisfied, even though the transacting parties might disagree about almost everything.

When you go to a store, do you check with the sales clerk to see if you share the same religious beliefs, agree on immigration policy or second amendment rights, or have the same views on abortion or same-sex marriage?  No, it never comes up.  In markets, people can disagree about almost everything and yet still cooperate.  In politics, people can agree about almost everything, but politics makes adversaries of even those who hold similar views.

Politics creates conflict.  Markets create cooperation.

Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. His Independent books include Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis (edited with Benjamin Powell); and Writing Off Ideas: Taxation, Foundations, and Philanthropy in America .
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