ECONOMIC GOALS AND THE ROLE OF COMPETITION: INTRODUCTION
JOHN PERRY MILLER
Yale University, New Haven, Conn., U.S.A.
The free market is an ubiquitous institution to be found in most societies, ancient and modern, developed and underdeveloped, planned and unplanned. Current interest in the functioning of free markets has been heightened by the increasing awareness of the role of the private industrial sector--including manufacturing, construction and distribution--in the process of economic growth. The development of the institution of the free market was a major feat of social engineering and the development of our understanding of its potential was a major intellectual accomplishment. While there is considerable evidence of a "natural tendency" of man to "truck and barter," it is clear that if man's energies and resources are to be used effectively, institutions which will channel these energies and resources appropriately must be developed.
Economic growth in free societies depends upon social, political and economic institutions which are respectful of and conducive to enterprise, i.e., innovation and risk taking, and acquisitiveness and mobility on the part of substantial groups throughout the society. It presupposes various institutions supporting a free market, including the law regarding property and contract, and substantial freedom for individuals and firms acting independently in their own interest to make decisions with respect to investment, output and prices. But it has long been recognized that the public interest and private interest are not always synonymous. For example, freedom to misrepresent one's product, freedom to destroy a competitor's property, freedom to monopolize and freedom to restrain trade are generally recognized as contrary to the public interest. The evolution of the rules for a policy of enterprise and competition has been a tortuous one; as the following chapters indicate, it has followed different paths in various countries.