Jonah Goldberg

And here is where we get to the heart of things. The rule about selling expensive bread at a loss if necessary to feed the poor was just one of a whole tangle of crazy regulations established by bleeding-heart French nobles to do "right" by the lower classes. From medieval times until the 1980s, the price of a baguette had been fixed to a specific formula. And, even today, bread prices, baking techniques and bread sizes are regulated in minute detail in France.

The intention behind these laws was largely goody-goody, nice-nice. In fact, Marie Antoinette was something of a limousine liberal (gilded carriage liberal?) who offended her fellow nobles by disdaining royal excess.

The problem was that since French bakers were denied the ability to make cheap bread at a profit, and forced to sell expensive bread at a loss, they did the only rational thing possible: They made very little bread at all. That's how we got bread riots and maybe even the French Revolution.

Today, the loudest voices in the Democratic Party want to regulate the economy based upon what's nice, not on what works. Yes, it would be nice if economic realities didn't make it necessary for some jobs to be sent overseas, and, sure, it'd be sweetness and light if life-saving drugs could cost a penny.

But simply saying you're going to "stop" companies from outsourcing a fraction of their labor or that you're going to "make" drugs supercheap doesn't cut it. There's no way to do those things without inviting other, usually worse, problems.

The moment you make a drug company sell its products at a loss is the moment that company stops making that product at all. If you tell a firm it can't hire a few people in India and lay off a few here to stay competitive you're saying you want that company to lose money.

That's fine if you want the government to subsidize industry and force prices to go up for consumers or something else along those lines. But history tell us that it's not good for the poor or anybody else in the long run.

The slander behind the whole doctrine of "let-them-eat-cake economics" is that, aside from distorting history, it distorts the motives of those who support the free market, which just happens to be the greatest boon to poor people in the history of the planet. Meanwhile it's the liberals who practice "let-them-eat-cake economics." They just don't know enough of the facts to realize it.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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