The reason for the massive amount of regulation of every aspect of private business in today’s economy can be traced to undue reliance by intellectuals on utilitarian reasoning to the almost complete exclusion of natural rights thinking.

Utilitarianism holds, not incorrectly, that private property in the means of production is a tool, a means to an end. It has no value apart from its service to society and consumers in particular. Mises, for example, is quite guilty of this type of adamant stubbornness:

But the teachings of utilitarian philosophy and classical economics have nothing at all to do with the doctrine of natural right. With them the only point that matters is social utility. (HA, 175)

From this point of view one may describe the objective of social cooperation as the realization of the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Hardly anybody would venture to object to this definition of the most desirable state of affairs and to contend that it is not a good thing to see as many people as possible as happy as possible. All the attacks directed against the Bentham formula have centered around ambiguities or misunderstandings concerning the notion of happiness; they have not affected the postulate that the good, whatever it may be, should be imparted to the greatest number. (833-4)

Thus the owners of the material factors of production and the entrepreneurs are virtually mandataries or trustees of the consumers, revocably appointed by an election daily repeated. (271)

Profit-seeking business is subject to the sovereignty of the consumers. (299)

Private property [in the means of production] is a human device. It is not sacred. (683)

These are all true, but care must be exercised when addressing non-economists with such propositions. For regulationism argues that businessmen have no rights other than those that conscript them into public service. Therefore, any regulation issued by the state can claim to fix some market failure or protect consumers or in general steer production into pro-social avenues and in so doing be innocent until proven guilty.

It falls to libertarians then to analyze every single regulation issued by the organs and dispassionately to seek to figure out whether this particular decree is or is not utilitarian. Without bringing to bear any general principles, each regulation must be carefully judged on its own merits.

I submit that there are not enough economists in the world to do that successfully. Hence, most regulations are acquitted by default. And that’s just wrong.


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