Walter E. Williams

By taking a couple of courses in economic theory, we could immunize ourselves from nonsense spouted by politicians and pundits, but in the meantime check out Professor John R. Lott's "Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works."

His first chapter is "Are You Being Ripped Off?" It addresses myths about predation where it's sometimes alleged that corporations will charge below-cost prices to bankrupt their rivals and then charge unconscionable prices. There's little or no evidence that corporations would choose predation as strategy; there are too many pitfalls. A major one is that in order to recoup losses from charging low prices to bankrupt rivals, the predator would later have to charge higher-than-normal prices. That would attract new rivals who might have purchased the bankrupt assets of the predator's prey and be able to undercut the predator's prices.

A far more successful means to monopoly wealth is for businesses to enlist the aid of congressmen to form a collusion. Classic examples are the dairy industry, which uses the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Federal Milk Marketing Orders to set statutory minimum prices, or the Gasoline Retailers Association using state law to do the same or the sugar industry using Congress to establish quotas on foreign sugar imports.

Professor Lott's chapter "Government as Nirvana" highlights examples of government predation. When the U.S. Postal Service raised the price of first-class mail in 1999, it reduced its price for domestic overnight express mail from $15 to $13.70, even though it was losing money at $15. The Postal Service was facing stiff competition from FedEx and UPS overnight services and wanted to keep its market share.

During the 1980s, private meteorology firms saw a chance to make money by selling television stations specialized forecasts that weren't provided by the National Weather Service. The National Weather Service started providing television stations the same services for free, thus driving private forecasting companies out of business.

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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