The lesson of the wine rack that I just bought

free market

Today I bought a wine rack I found on, which is a website where neighbors can post whatever they want to each other.  People ask questions, post news, look for advice, sell things, etc.  For selling items, it is similar to Craigslist, so the actual transaction happens in person.

The seller and I made contact and came up with a date and time that we would meet, which was his house.  I drove over this morning and looked the piece of furniture over.  It was exactly as he described, so I gave him the money and he helped me carry it to my car.

We did all of this without the blessing of or oversight by any government.  He didn’t try to lie about his wine rack.  He didn’t try to steal my money.  I didn’t try to steal his wine rack.  I trusted him with my phone number.  He trusted me with his address and entering his home.

These transactions happen all of the time.  I’ve done it numerous times (including buying a tractor off Craigslist…I bet you knew I was going to mention that).  If people were constantly defrauding or robbing each other when using these sites, they would never work.  People aren’t stupid—we don’t like taking putting ourselves in obvious danger.

Everyone knows this intuitively as almost no one would express concern over buying something off Craigslist et al.  So why do people worry so much about the concept of a free market left unfettered by intrusions by the government?  Do we really need to be worried about a bar serving watered down beer or a supermarket selling poison apples?  Is it the government that makes sure that my car doesn’t fall apart while I’m driving or my hot water heater from exploding?  Would my clothes unravel or my roof only last a year if the government didn’t have some sort of regulation?

I’m not trying to claim that no one would ever anything bad.  That’s not the point.  The point is that there are huge incentives to be forthright and honest in your business dealings.  There are ways to expose and eliminate poor actors in the market without needing the force of the government.  These ways also offer better results.