Good For Markets, Good For The Self: An Ode To Competition

Competition has an amazing effect on humans. One of the very first competitions (of sorts) was between Cain and Abel of the Book of Genesis. Cain lost that competition and, being the sore loser that he was, smashed his brother Abel’s skull.

Humans are evil and can find any reason to exercise their evil wills, be it competition, as Abel learned, or money or power or whatever you can think of. Just because competition can lead to bad, however, does not make it bad. Money isn’t evil, nor power. What people do with that money or power is what must be judged.

And in a free market, if it is to be free at all, humans need to be allowed to compete with one another. Without that competition, you can’t claim that the market is free. Democrats like to claim to be advocates for a free market, but then add that there need to be some restrictions. That argument certainly didn’t hold up in the case of slavery. “Okay, Ndugu, you’re free…but there are some restrictions.”

Since competition is both natural to us humans and morally neutral, we need to be allowed to compete.

At my bookstore job, I’m tasked partly with putting rare books online for sale. We look at what other used-books stores are selling those books for, and then we undercut them (taking condition into consideration, of course) so that our books are the cheapest and therefore the ones that people want to buy. If another bookseller—a competitor—sees that our books are cheaper than his, he then lowers his prices. Our competition is integral to a healthy market.

One of the things Republicans said should be in any national health-care law in order to lower costs for customers was the ability to purchase insurance across state lines. If your health-insurance options in, say, Virginia are twice as expensive as those in Ohio, then you would be able to buy insurance from insurers in Ohio, no problem.

What this would then do is encourage Virginia insurance companies to lower their prices. That’s just the natural reaction Virginia insurers would have. They want those customers!

Competition also encourages humans to better themselves. The winter Olympics are playing out right now over in Russia. They are the culmination of thousands of years of humans competing with each other to become stronger, faster, better. Competition is sort of like genetic engineering, but natural.

Look at this comparison between two gold-medal-winning vaults at the Olympics 56 years apart. Had competition among athletes been discouraged or stifled, what you see in the picture on the right (click that link!), from the 2012 summer Olympics, would, even 56 years later, have looked just as it did 56 years prior. It was a competitive spirit that allowed such progress.

Not being as good as others are is an incentive to become better, not a reason to put restrictions on the people and industries who are better. Allowing successful people and businesses to be as successful as possible allows the less successful to see what can be achieved if they try to better themselves. If the government subsidizes failures, failures have no reason to strive for personal betterment.

Human beings are naturally competitive creatures and neither they nor the industries they run should not be discouraged from going toe-to-toe with each other.