We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Why arbitrage is not a zero sum game

or Fred Bastiat gets all warm, loving and huggy with Natalie…

Arbitrage itself is not a zero sum game as the buying/selling of both sides of the arbitrage adds liquidity to the market, which adds value to the market itself by making trades easier for all participants and reducing volatility.

As for ‘arbitraging’ sovereign services, anything which reduces the distortions of the state by reducing the power of the state to do, well, much of anything, is hardly a ‘zero-sum-game’. Allowing the market to actually work better adds value that would otherwise be lost to the state. Government by its nature destroys wealth by using force to allocate resources, thus removing the ability of those resources to flow where they otherwise would have been employed with profit.

Frederic Bastiat wrote in 1850 about ‘that which is seen, and that which is not seen’, in which he explains how we can see how the state allocates resources which it has appropriated and we can see how it results in supposed productive activity. But what we do not see is what those resources would have done if allocated by the market if the state had not appropriated them. If the resources could have be used to create what the government wants at a profit, then why have the government do it at all? If the resources could not have been employed to create it at a profit, then clearly the actions of the government result in wealth destruction.

So I would contend anything people can do to keep the means of production out of the hands of the state, far from producing a zero sum game, actually adds to the total sum of wealth by allowing those means to engage in genuine wealth creation.

Capitalism, when warm, loving and huggy… or cold, bad tempered and grumpy, is a splendid thing because it creates wealth whilst not actually giving a damn. It is rather like the way the wind can move a sail ship forward if the ship is sailed correctly or sink it if the ship is sailed poorly. On the other tentacle, government, even when warm, loving and huggy, makes us all poorer, rather like a dreaded in-law who comes to visit and just will not go away again.

As for my glee at the idea of driving the tax men of several nations into a confused state of mental collapse, now that is a metacontext thing. It’s just the way I see the world.

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