One of the great economists of the 19th century was Alfred Marshall. And he has as a sort of model for one of his books, “the Seen and the Unseen.” And it’s a marvelous model for this. What happens in economics over and over again is that there are two sets of effects on any action, the immediately visible effects and the widespread invisible effects. And the widespread invisible effects are often much more important than the visible ones, but people don’t see them.
Let me give you very simple examples. We have a quota in the amount of sugar that can be imported from various countries. The visible effect of that is that there are about a couple of hundred thousand growers of beet sugar who benefit greatly from it, who are able to keep on growing beet sugar. They don’t benefit so greatly, because most of the money goes into paying the expenses of growing beets, and indeed, if there were no such quota, they would find something else to do. But in the short run, it would appear the visible effect is that they are able to have a market they would otherwise not have. The invisible effect is that every consumer in the United States pays twice as much for the sugar he or she buys as a world price.
Now, you’re a consumer. How much attention do you pay to the fact that you pay twice as much for sugar as you ought to? Is the fact that you pay twice as much for sugar as you ought to going to lead you to go down to Washington and testify against the sugar quota? Are the beet sugar farmers going to go down to Washington and testify in favor of the sugar quota?
It’s a typical example of the seen versus the unseen. The concentrated visible versus the dispersed invisible. And the major reason why roughly half the income of this country is controlled by governmental agencies instead of by the people who earn it is because of this contrast between the visible and the invisible.