Many people look upon the State — that is, “government” — as an instrument of Justice, from which good things just flow.

Need more Justice? Just ask.

The people who make up the State — politicians, functionaries, “civil servants” — often look upon propertied, commercial society as the source of sustenance, from which money “just flows” into state coffers.

Need more money? Just take.

Neither view is correct. Neither justice-from-the-state nor wealth-from-taxpayers is, or can be, foolproof or automatic. The truth is that state departments and bureaus tend to do what they want, within the broad limits of bureaucratic management, and justice is rarely the highest priority. And commercial society exists with limitations, too, and cannot be tapped to the same yield in every situation. Too much extraction from commercial society can cripple markets, and greatly harm the wealth creation aspects so needed by the state.

These two truths about limitations of ideal service are at the heart of political economy. Economists and Public Choice researchers should be telling us, over and over, why we cannot get what we want, always and efficiently, to the extent we want it. What we want doesn’t “just flow” to us. We have to give up things of value to “let justice roll down like the might waters.” And it might be that some elements of justice won’t flow no matter how hard we try.