The Quality of Price Signals

by Mario Rizzo

In an under-appreciated book, The Foundations of Morality (1964), the Wall Street Journal and New York Times economic journalist, Henry Hazlitt, wrote that the price system does not send accurate signals in the absence of private property rights.

“It is important to insist that private property and free markets are not separable institutions… If I am a government commissar selling something I don’t really own, and you are another commissar buying it with money that really isn’t yours, then neither of us really cares what the price is” (p. 304).

The so-called Geithner (U.S. Treasury) plan to purchase toxic assets from banks disregards the relationship between an adequately functioning price system and property rights. Continue reading