Friday, October 20, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Letters To The Editor

Media Beat -- Columnists Don't Know That Governmental Power Is Real

In the Oct. 16 Media Beat column, the authors asked, "If big government is bad, why not big business?" I would like to answer.

The major difference between government and business is that governments are the only entity legally allowed to use coercion, whereas businesses conduct their dealings through voluntary transactions.

When people talk about big businesses having power, they confuse the metaphorical power of a big business with the real power of government. General Motors has no real power over people. They can't take a dollar from you that you don't give them of your own free will. But if GM had the power of government, men with badges and guns could drag you from your house and jail you for failing to buy a '95 Chevy.

Even those who realize big business has no power over consumers will talk of big business's power over their workers, but those workers are free to leave anytime they want. Some say that these workers have "no choice" but to work for that particular company, and therefore that company has "economic power" over those people.

Yes, business dealings can have deep and far-reaching effects on people's lives, just as government dealings can, but businessmen who make decisions that do not coincide with their customers' interests - intentionally or not - are held accountable by the market; businesses fail all the time. Politicians, however, quite often pursue their own interests at the expense of their constituents. Sure, we can vote each election day, but choosing your master is hardly the same as choosing not to be a slave.

This is why, as the Media Beat column pointed out, government gets exhaustive press scrutiny and businesses do not, except when lawbreaking is suspected. One has the complete legal use of force to pursue its interests; the other can legally pursue its interests only through voluntary transactions. Bill Muse Seattle

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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