The Hollywood industry magazine of Variety recently reported that the movie Avengers: Infinity War has earned $1 billion faster than any other in cinematic history. This is great news, from two perspectives.
One (less important) perspective is as a fan, because it is a fabulous film (superhero or otherwise) and one even deserving of an Oscar nomination. The other (more important) perspective is as an economist, because the core of the story is relevant to the Economics Infinity War.
This war has been going on in America since before the founding, and in the rest of the world throughout recorded history. It has, for the most part, been growing and intensifying since the “Progressive Era” of the latter parts of the 19thcentury and early 20th.
The Economics Infinity War, in a nutshell, is a story of do-gooders versus good-doers of the economic variety. The former are all about intentions, the latter results.
In the Avenger’s Infinity War, Thanos is obviously the main villain but less obviously a do-gooder. He does not intend, nor view himself, to be or doing bad. He is very nearly a likeable anti-hero.
The main heroes are, of course, the Avengers themselves. They are a mix of do-gooders and good-doers: with Vision being largely the former; whilst Captain America is the latter here and throughout the series.
Good intentions are simply not good enough as, to paraphrase Proverbs 14:12, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. T.S. Eliot went even further: “Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.”
This is mainly due to unintended consequences. And our Big Government overlords have literally institutionalized this economic phenomenon. As classical liberal Claude Frédéric Bastiat wrote in 1850:
A law [or any government intervention], gives birth not only to an effect, but to a series of effects. Of these effects, the first only is immediate; it manifests itself simultaneously with its cause – it is seen. The others unfold in succession – they are not seen.
And most do-gooders in and since the “Progressive Era” have looked to power politics and for more government. This has resulted in less-and-less good-doers in free markets and from civil society. As historical sociologist Franz Oppenheimer wrote in 1908:
There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man, requiring sustenance, is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are one’s own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others … [ie] the economic means [versus] the political means.
Economics = peace; politics = war. War = physically violent power over others or the credible threat thereof. Government = a monopoly on this. The bigger and more powerful government and politics get, then the more conflict there is inside and outside its jurisdiction. As economic historian Murray Rothbard wrote in 1970:
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