“Governments deliver what people pretend to want.
Free markets deliver what they actually want. ”
There’s a big difference between saying something matters to you and actually behaving like it does. Someone who shakes their head at the ubiquity of junk food and insists that regular exercise is indispensable, but who regularly indulges a weakness for potato chips and lets their running shoes gather dust has shown what their real priorities are. Through their actions they have revealed that they prefer tasty treats and leisure to a healthy diet and physical exertion. That’s not to judge – good decisions (whatever those are) have costs. We like potato chips, too. Anyone who claims to never fall short of their own standards is either superhuman or fibbing.
Turning individual decisions into collective choices made through the ballot box encourages us to vote based on things we’ve shown we don’t want but, due to social pressures, feel obligated to support.
The reason is that everyone responds to incentives – even governments. As voters, we reward politicians who respond to our stated preferences with policies that reflect what we claim to want, but don’t freely pursue. As consumers, we reward businesses who respond to our revealed preferences with products that we actually want when we’re forced to bear the costs and live with the trade-offs. Those divergent incentives explain how we end up with laws that cater to one set of preferences, but market choices that cater to a very different one.
This blog’s title is a reminder that, while people may claim that they want something, if they’re not prepared to pursue it without being forced to do so then they simply don’t mean it. The kind of world that we’re advocating for is one in which each of us has the liberty to pursue their true preferences, free of the constraints imposed by the state. We hope you’ll find our writing stimulating, provocative and, occasionally, convincing.