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The friend Roger I wrote about, who opposes every single policy that might achieve his declared objectives, lives on the same planet as I do. We share physical space, but we live in very different parallel mental universes.

His world is dominated by sinister dark conspiratorial forces which leave ordinary humans as helpless victims of their oppression. Big Pharma, as he calls the pharmaceutical companies, is in cahoots with Big Tobacco, and they have allied themselves with Big Bankers to create cartels that acts against the interests of the public by overcharging for goods, by denying the public access to life-saving treatments, and by forcing them into buying harmful products and detrimental services. Big business, which includes fast food providers and major brand retailers, have bought legislators, think tanks and the media, and contrive to ensure that their misdeeds are never adequately uncovered and exposed by a servile media and legislature. We are all their helpless victims, and Roger campaigns against them by eagerly buying each new book that highlights their nefarious influence.

In my parallel universe people buy stuff they like, and their choices influence businesses into tailoring their output so that they can sell more. Individuals exercise the power of their feet; they walk away from stuff they don’t value, and every year big household names go under as they fail to match up with changing tastes. People make choices, and they allocate their resources to where they think they’ll bring most satisfaction. Sometimes they buy things whose value others might question, things such as carbonated beverages, salty crisps, tobacco, alcohol and fatty foods. But others who dispute the value of these things are free not to buy them.

In Roger’s universe the dark forces control our lives, and in the parallel universe we mostly control our own through our decisions. Roger’s world is full of pessimists who see individuals as helpless pawns, constantly manipulated; the other world is inhabited by many cheerful optimists, confident that human resources can be applied to achieve worthwhile objectives. In the cheerful world people watch out for rent-seeking, for the desire to use government restrictions to limit choices and secure greater returns than people’s free choices would have bought them. The optimists campaign constantly against this crony capitalism and in favour of free choices, open entry to markets, and against using legislation to thwart competitors. They often win, and they know that eternal vigilance is needed if individuals are to keep a world they can control, rather than succumb to one in which they are controlled.

It has to be said that the cheerful world is a lot more fun to live in than the one controlled by shadowy, sinister forces.