Does Price Fixing Destroy Liberty?/General Conclusions
"All who joy would win
Must share it.
Happiness was born a twin."
If the purpose sought has been accomplished, and it is understood that free and untrammeled competition is a necessary foundation both of Liberty and plenty; that market price is but the price varying from moment to moment which results from unrestricted freedom, and without which real competition is an impossibility; that those things which men use have real value, and not the mere counters which carry on the exchange of commodity for commodity called "trade"; that men should not, as is customary, thank others when they give things of real value in exchange for the mere facility of trading called "money"; that Courts have fallen into error in deciding that an essentially wrongful act has been committed when grown men, in a bargain freely made and to their mutual satisfaction, have given a moderate amount of goods for a large number of depreciated counters; that no one ever feels any distress when the reverse takes place and a larger amount of real things is exchanged for a smaller amount of such counters;—when these foregoing fundamental principles are fully taken into account, then only can clearly be comprehended the results of a violation of these essential truths.
It has been said that men expect results, but receive consequences, and perennial consequences have always come, true to principle, where these eternal laws are violated by men. The guardianship of adults by the State destroys manhood and the Liberty that manhood always craves. The mother of risk is uncertainty, and, no matter what the effort to ignore it, risk must be paid for—and it is the most expensive thing in business. To make the penalty of a mistaken opinion, as to anything, possible destruction, is the worst form of tyranny; and to threaten men in trade with discredit, ruin, and even imprisonment, for guessing wrongly the inscruitable risks of production as a means of terminating scarcity, is no more effective than to attempt to stop a conflagration by deluging it with a combustible. But the worst evil of all is that nothing so jeopardizes Liberty as economic distress. Those who have sufficient influence to lead the world into these errors, as Mr. Mill has pointed out, are always ready enough to shift the burden of their errors upon those who have chiefly suffered by them, and thus to urge an establishment of that terror which is always the ultimate result of such a propaganda. Envy, though the meanest basis of human conduct, is always the most certainly and promptly punished of any of our faults, even punished not merely by a loss of prosperity, but the greatest punishment—the loss of Liberty also. But as our poet has so well said: "Happiness was born a twin." We must all rise or fall together, where freedom and free competition are preserved; and though men have persecuted those who preached the duty of brotherly love with its accompanying well wishing, they have always paid for such deeds in sackcloth and ashes.