Freeman

ARTICLE

Perspective: Taken for Granted

APRIL 01, 1988 by JOHN K. WILLIAMS

There is a sense in which being taken for granted is a compliment. A person who takes me for granted has assumed my reliability, trustworthiness, and competence. I have been perceived not as a variable—the fickle subject of random change—but as a constant.

But being taken for granted can also irk. It can be perceived as indifference, as a lack of interest or concern. Indeed, a person who habitually takes another for granted, never expressing appreciation of that person’s activities, runs the risk of jeopardizing the very relationship he or she values.

Many today take the productive genius of the free market for granted. They assume a bountiful supply of goods and services, and devise elaborate schemes to secure a “fairer” distribution. Burdensome regulations are placed on those creating wealth. In the name of compassion, market prices are overruled.

But in so doing, the market is fettered and its subtle operations flounder. Information signalled by changing market prices is distorted. Labor, capital, and raw materials are misallocated. The material abundance cavalierly taken for granted is threatened.

The productive capacity of a free market in one sense can be taken for granted. The market can be relied upon, trusted, and thus “assumed.” Yet when this reliance leads to policies which defy the economic laws governing the market, or to a disregard of the moral values the market presupposes, the ultimate destruction of what has been taken for granted is guaranteed.

—John K. Williams

The Underclass

What prevents men and women in the inner city from advancing is not racism and not a lack of government programs. We have had, in recent years, more government programs and less racism than ever before—yet the underclass has been multiplying at an ever more rapid pace. For any group to advance, what is required is self-discipline, deferring immediate gratification for long-ran goals, and a willingness to commit oneself to hard work. The dramatic strides made by recent immigrants from Southeast Asia—who possess such a value system—indicate that difference of race, language and culture is no impediment to progress.

Black organizations and leaders should be asking themselves how they can assist in promoting such a value system among young people in the inner city. Instead, they continue to speak of more programs, more government spending, and more of the very things which have grown precisely as the underclass has grown. Needless to say, many of those who advocate such counterproductive public policy have a vested interest in such programs. They may be helping themselves, but they have not been helping the pregnant teenagers, the illegitimate children, the one parent families and the young people caught in a dead end of drugs and crime in whose name they speak.

For many years, the black civil rights establishment succeeded in intimidating other Americans, black and white, from confronting the growing inner-city underclass. The fear of being called “racist” was enough to silence many. Yet, today, the explosion of illegitimate births and crime—of drag addiction and every form of social pathology—can no longer be ignored. Finally, it is on the national agenda for discussion and debate.

—J. A. Parker, Editor

Lincoln Review

Freedom to Move

The greatest danger to the country, to individual employees and to the companies involved is governmental policies that tend to lock companies and employees in place rather than encourage the expeditious movement of personnel and capital out of declining industries and into the new, evolving growth industries.

—Martin Stone, Chairman

Monogram Industries

Russian Humor

You can tell a lot about a country from its humor. Here is a joke which is making the rounds in the Soviet Union:

A man goes to buy a car. He puts down his money and is told by the clerk that he can expect delivery in exactly ten years.

“Morning or afternoon?” the purchaser asks. “Ten years from now, what difference does it make?” replies the clerk.

“Well,” says the car buyer, “the plumber’s coming in the morning.”

The New York Times,

August 21, 1987

Good Questions

Is there a compelling national interest in improving gourmet salads? Congressman Silvio Conte of Massachusetts, the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, apparently thought so when he earmarked $60,000 for a Belgian Endive Research Center at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Is U.S. foreign policy served by the $8 million that Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, set aside for a language school for Sephardic Jews in France? Do Alaskan fishermen really need the $2.6 million that Sen. Ted Stevens won to “develop fishery products”? Are America’s economic interests truly met by the $6.4 million federally funded Bavarian-style ski resort that Sen. James McClure brought home to spur development in Kellogg, Idaho?

Newsweek, January 18, 1988

ASSOCIATED ISSUE

April 1988

comments powered by Disqus

EMAIL UPDATES

* indicates required

CURRENT ISSUE

December 2014

Unfortunately, educating people about phenomena that are counterintuitive, not-so-easy to remember, and suggest our individual lack of human control (for starters) can seem like an uphill battle in the war of ideas. So we sally forth into a kind of wilderness, an economic fairyland. We are myth busters in a world where people crave myths more than reality. Why do they so readily embrace untruth? Primarily because the immediate costs of doing so are so low and the psychic benefits are so high.
Download Free PDF

PAST ISSUES

SUBSCRIBE

RENEW YOUR SUBSCRIPTION

Essential Works from FEE

Economics in One Lesson (full text)

By HENRY HAZLITT

The full text of Hazlitt's famed primer on economic principles: read this first!


By FREDERIC BASTIAT

Frederic Bastiat's timeless defense of liberty for all. Once read and understood, nothing ever looks the same.


By F. A. HAYEK

There can be little doubt that man owes some of his greatest suc­cesses in the past to the fact that he has not been able to control so­cial life.


By JEFFREY A. TUCKER

Leonard Read took the lessons of entrepreneurship with him when he started his ideological venture.


By LEONARD E. READ

No one knows how to make a pencil: Leonard Read's classic (Audio, HTML, and PDF)