The markets of the ancient world were often sewn up by kings and courts and priesthoods. In Egypt or Assyria or Rome, you had to pay off a guild to practice a trade, at least if yours was a common craft, and even ask permission of the sovereign.
Closed entry was the norm, and it certainly contributed to the age’s forbidding pyramid of wealth (which overshadows present One Percenter concerns): Vast hordes of the very poor and the “just scraping by”; tradesmen; slaves to the landed and wealthy; and then the very few rich and powerful. In Europe, this system opened up, in fits and starts, after the fall of Rome, but the basic idea was retained in the policy of mercantilism, against which Anders Chydenius, Adam Smith, and the exponents of laissez faire argued so persuasively. The social advantages of competition for customers and laborers and capital became widely recognized.
And yet free trade never won full sway anywhere.
Cut to today. Dateline: St. Louis, Missouri.
Michael Munie wanted to go into the moving business, but needed the permission of . . . his competitors.
This, the very opposite of “free enterprise,” is the living embodiment of mercantilist “public-private” collusion, where the state secures existing businesses from “upstart” competitors in what Timothy Sandefur calls “an especially stark example of legislative protectionism.”
So, best wishes to Mr. Munie’s lawsuit, Munie v. Skouby, and the Pacific Legal Foundation, which has helped him bring it. Freedom requires the breaking down of barriers to business entry. Always has. Always will.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.