We economists don’t know much, but we do know how to create a shortage. If you want to create a shortage of tomatoes, for example, just pass a law that retailers can’t sell tomatoes for more than two cents per pound. Instantly you’ll have a tomato shortage.

I think that nothing is so important for freedom as recognizing in the law each individual’s natural right to property, and giving individuals a sense that they own something that they’re responsible for, that they have control over, and that they can dispose of.

There is still a tendency to regard any existing government intervention as desirable, to attribute all evils to the market, and to evaluate new proposals for government control in their ideal form, as they might work if run by able, disinterested men free from the pressure of special interest groups.

In all those cases, in accordance with the theme of this book, increases in economic freedom have gone hand in hand with increases in political and civil freedom and have led to increased prosperity; competitive capitalism and freedom have been inseparable.

The role of government just considered is to do something that the market cannot do for itself, namely, to determine, arbitrate, and enforce the rules of the game.

It is ironic that the Great Depression was produced by government but was blamed on the private enterprise system. The Federal Reserve System explained in its 1933 annual report how much worse things would have been if the Federal Reserve had not behaved so well, yet the Federal Reserve was the chief culprit in making the depression as deep as it was. So the government produced the depression, the private enterprise system got blamed for it, and there was a tremendous change in attitudes.

We now know, as a few knew then, that the depression was not produced by a failure of private enterprise, but rather by a failure of government in an area in which the government had from the first been assigned responsibility–“To coin money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin,” in the words of Section 8, Article 1, of the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately, as we shall see in Chapter 9, government failure in managing money is not merely a historical curiosity but continues to be a present-day reality.

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