Is This a Good Social Contract?

A Benjamin Cole post

My libertarian friends bridle at the idea that there is a social contract that binds citizens together, however loosely.

My libertarian friends all have IQs of 140 and above, I suspect. They can survive and even prosper in a monetarily suffocated, slow-growth economy entangled in taxes and regulations.

To be fair, my libertarian friends do call for fewer regulations and taxes of the type they do not like. But they do stop there.

So I ask, “Is the following good public policy?”

  1. Asphyxiate the economy through years of central bank tight-money policies.
  2. All but universally outlaw pushcart vending and sidewalk retailing, home restaurants, front-yard businesses, informal speakeasies, prostitution, and almost any other business an ordinary citizen can start.
  3. Bash the minimum wage.


You don’t have to live long in SE Asia before you  find that pushcart vendors and sidewalk retailers are common, and accepted. Anyone with a $50 load of fruit or large vat of soup to sell can try their luck on city streets. There is a minimum wage in Thailand, but so low as to be meaningless—and besides, anyone can go into business for themselves at any time. In large parts of SE Asia, the wage has to be higher than an employee can make self-employed.

But in the United States, it is virtually impossible to be a sidewalk vendor, and difficult even to be a food-truck operator (and those trucks are not cheap, btw).


Sadly, the minimum wage still does not help average people much, as it perhaps prevents the market from clearing off unemployment.

But relentlessly tight money has probably hurt working people more than any other policy of the last 30 years.

Unfortunately, routinely outlawed sidewalk vending is the province of state and local governments—and what landlord wants sidewalk vending in front of his commercial retail building? Ain’t going to happen in the U.S. Federal intervention on behalf of commercial freedom seems unlikely. The GOP is mute, and the Donks don’t care.

So, I see no practical solution to this unfair set of social contracts that in fact exist, whether my libertarian friends want to recognize those contracts or not.

But the next time you hear someone pompously pontificating about the perils of the minimum wage and the glories of free association and free markets—ask them, “Should not pushcart vending be legal?”

And why is the U.S. Federal Reserve suffocating the economy?

Who benefits from tight-money, no minimum wage, and the barring of millions from starting their own businesses?

2 thoughts on “Is This a Good Social Contract?

  1. Tight money–bad! Regulations that prevent start-up enterprises–bad! These are obvious points. But: High minimum wage–good? Where did you get *that* idea?

  2. Philo–

    Read it again!

    I do not say a high minimum wage is good. In fact, I say if the U.S. had no minimum wage then lower wages would clear off unemployment, and that would be better for the less well off.

    My complaint is suffocating the economy through tight money, strangling true micro-entrepreneurs with regulations, and then pompously pontificating about the evils of the minimum wage.

    That’s called stacking the deck with honor.

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