Regulation of "Economic" Markets vs. Regulation of the Market for Culture and Ideas:

Economist Bryan Caplan poses some excellent questions to liberal economists who want heavy government regulation of "economic markets" but take a laissez-faire approach when it comes to the market for culture and ideas. Bryan gives his own answers to the questions in this follow-up post.

Bryan's challenge to liberals parallels my own recent article challenging conservatives such as Robert Bork, who defend laissez-faire with respect to economic markets, but advocate extensive cultural censorship in order to protect our "morals." Bryan and I both believe that many of the rationales used to justify government regulation of cultural and idea markets are applicable to the market for goods and services, and vice versa. But we also believe that the government has common, systematic weaknesses in both fields that outweigh those of the private sector. Thus, we advocate a free market approach in both fields (though Bryan is probably more sweeping in his rejection of government regulation than I am).

Nobel Prize-winning economist R.H. Coase addressed some of the same issues in his underrated 1974 article "The Market for Goods and the Market for Ideas" (available here to those with access to J-Stors). He too stressed the parallels between conservative arguments for regulation of the culture and the left's arguments for regulation of the market for goods and services.