Economics, Morality, and the Law

“In an environment in which public policy determines individual lives and fortunes and in which social and economic life has become politicized, it is not surprising that many Americans have turned their attention to politics to improve their market position and relative income share. Legalized coercion has become the method by which they get ahead in life.”
“And make no mistake about it: Every income transfer, every tariff or import quota, every business subsidy, every regulation or prohibition on who may compete or how a product may be produced and marketed, and every restraint on the use and transfer of property is an act of coercion. Political force is interjected into what would otherwise be a system of peaceful and voluntary transactions.”
“Over time, interventionism blurs the distinction between what is moral and what is not. In ordinary life, most people take for granted that certain forms of conduct are permissible while others are not. Those forms are the Golden Rules we live by. Government’s only proper task in human society is to enforce and protect those rules, which are summarized in two basic principles: Neither force nor fraud shall be practiced in dealings with others; and the rights and property of others must be respected. In the moral order that is the free-market economy, those principles are the wellspring of honesty and trust. Without them, America is threatened with ultimate ruin — with a war of all against all in the pursuit of plunder.”
“When people began to ask government to do things for them, rather than merely to secure their individual rights and their honestly acquired property, they began asking government to violate others’ rights and property for their benefit. Their demands on government have been rationalized by intellectuals and social engineers who have persuaded people that what they wanted but didn’t have was due to the greed, exploitation, and immorality of others. Basic morality and justice have been transcended in the political arena in order to take from the “haves” and give to the “have nots.” Theft through political means has become the basis of a “higher” morality: “social justice,” which is supposed to remedy the alleged injustices of the free-market economy.”
“But once the market becomes politicized, morality begins to disintegrate. Increasingly, the only way to survive in society is to resort to the same political methods for gain that others are using, or to devise ways to evade the controls and regulations. More and more people, therefore, have been drawn into the arena of political intrigue and manipulation or violation of the law for economic gain. Human relationships and the political process have become increasingly corrupted.
In the 1920s, Ludwig von Mises explained a crucial aspect of this corruption of morality and law:”

“[By] constantly violating criminal laws and moral decrees [people] finally lose the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, good and bad…. The merchant who began by violating foreign exchange controls, import and export restrictions, price ceilings, et cetera, easily proceeds to defraud his partners. The decay of business morals … is the inevitable concomitant of the regulations that were imposed on trade…. (Critique of Interventionism, p. 13)”
“Mises was, of course, repeating the lesson that the French classical economist Frédéric Bastiat had attempted to teach in the 1850s in his famous essay “The Law.” When the state becomes the violator of liberty and property rather than its guarantor, it debases respect for all law. People in society develop an increasing disrespect and disregard for what the law demands. They view the law as the agent for immorality in the form of legalized plunder for the benefit of some at the expense of others. And this same disrespect and disregard sooner or later starts to creep into the ordinary dealings between individuals. Society verges on the brink of lawlessness.”

Austrian Economics & Public Policy–Restoring Freedom and Prosperity. pp. 178-180., Richard Ebeling