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King Canute vs. the Climate Planners by Jeffrey A. Tucker

“With a small hammer you can achieve great things.”

Oh really?

This claim comes from French foreign minister Laurent Fabius as he banged his gavel at the close of the Paris climate summit. To the cheers of bureaucrats and cronies the world over, Fabius announced the deal that the press has been crowing about for days, the one in which “humanity” has united to stop increases in global temperature through the transfer of trillions of dollars from the rich to the poor, combined with the eventual (coercive) elimination of fossil fuels.

And thus did he bang his gavel. To his way of thinking, and that of the thousands gathered, that’s all you have to do to control the global climate, cause the world to stop relying on fossil fuels, and dramatically change the structure of all global industry, and do so with absolute conviction that benefits will outweigh the costs.

One bang of a gavel to dismantle industrial civilization by force, replace it with a vague and imagined new way of doing things, and have taxpayers pay for it.

Markets Yawn

Interestingly, the news on the Paris agreement had no notable impact on global markets at all. No prices rose or fell, no stocks soared or collapsed, and no futures responded with confidence that governments would win this one. The climate deal didn’t even make the business pages.

Investors and speculators are perhaps acculturated to ignoring such grand pronouncements. “The Paris climate conference delivered more of the same — lots of promises and lots of issues still left unresolved,” the US Chamber of Commerce said in a statement. And maybe that’s the right way to think, given that the world is ever less controlled by pieces of paper issued by government.

Still, breathless journalists wrote about the “historic agreement” and government officials paraded around as planet savers. Meanwhile, the oil price continues to fall even as demand rises, and the Energy Information Administration announced the discovery of more reserves than anyone believed possible. As for alternatives to fossil fuels, they are coming about through private sector innovation, not through government programs, and successful only when adopted voluntarily by consumers.

It’s a heck of a time to announce a new global central plan affecting the way 7 billion people use energy for the next century. Anyone schooled in the liberal tradition, or even slightly familiar with Hayek’s warning against the pretensions of the “scientific” government elites, shakes his or her head in knowing despair.

The entire scene looks like the apotheosis of the planning mentally — complete with five-year plans to monitor how well governments are doing in controlling the climate for the whole world and do so in a way that affects temperature 10-100 years from now.

King Canute?

The scene prompted many commentators to compare these people celebrating in Paris to King Canute, who ruled Denmark, England, and Norway a millennium ago. According to popular legend, as a way of demonstrating his awesome power, he rolled his throne up to the sea and commanded it to stop rising.

It didn’t work. Still, the image appears in many works of art. Even Lego offers a King Canute scene from its historical set.

Historians have challenged the point of the story. The only account with have of this incident, if it occurred at all, is from Henry of Huntingdon. He reports that after the sea rose despite his command, the King declared: “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.”

He did and said this, say modern experts, to demonstrate to his courtiers and flatterers that he is not as wonderful and powerful as they were proclaiming him to be. Instead of subservience to his own person, he was urging all citizens to save their adoration for God.

His point was that power — even the absolute power of kings — has limits. During his rule, King Canute was enormously popular and evidently benefitted from the common tendency of people to credit authority for the achievements of the spontaneous evolution of the social order itself. His sea trick, if it happened at all, was designed to show people that he is not the man they thought he was.

The Pretensions of the Planners

Lacking a Canute to give us a wake-up call, we might revisit the extraordinary speech F.A. Hayek gave when he received his Nobel Prize. He was speaking before scientists of the world, having been awarded one of the most prestigious awards on the planet.

Rather than flattering the scientific establishment, particularly as it existed in economics, he went to the heart of what he considered the greatest intellectual danger that was arising at the time. He blew apart the planning mindset, the presumption that humankind can do anything if only the right people are given enough power and resources.

If the planning elite possessed omniscience of all facts, flawless understanding of cause and effect, perfect foresight to know all relevant changes that could affect the future, and the ability to control all variables, perhaps their pretensions would be justified.

But this is not the case. Hayek called the assumption the harshest possible word: “charlatanism.”

In the climate case, consider that we can’t know with certainty whether, to what extent, and how climate change (especially not 50-100 years from now) will affect life on earth. We don’t know the precise causal factors and their weight relative to the noise in our models, much less the kinds of coercive solutions to apply and whether they have been applied correctly and with what outcomes, much less the costs and benefits of attempting such a far-flung policy.

We can’t know any of that before or after such possible solutions have been applied. Science requires a process and unrelenting trial and error, learning and experimentation, the humility to admit error and the driving passion to discover truth.

In other words, science requires freedom, not central planning. The idea that any panel of global experts, working with appointed diplomats and bureaucrats, can have the requisite knowledge to make such grand and final decisions for the globe is outlandish and contrary to pretty much everything we know.

Throw the reality of politics into the mix and matters get worse. Fear over climate change (the ultimate market failure “problem”) is the last best hope for those who long to control the world by force. The entire nightmare scenario of rising tides and flooded cities — one that posits that our high standard of living is causing the world to heat up and burn — is just the latest excuse. That fact remains whether or not everything they claim is all true or all nonsense.

Pretensions Everywhere

Hayek explains further: “To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm.”

Why? Because planning overrides the spontaneous discovery process that is an inherent part of the market structures.

We are only beginning to understand on how subtle a communication system the functioning of an advanced industrial society is based — a communications system which we call the market and which turns out to be a more efficient mechanism for digesting dispersed information than any that man has deliberately designed.

He went further. The planning fallacy doesn’t just affect economics. It is a tendency we see in all intellectual realms, including climatology and its use by governments to justify the desire to manage the world from on high.

Hayek’s conclusion is so epic that it deserves to be quoted in full.

If man is not to do more harm than good in his efforts to improve the social order, he will have to learn that in this, as in all other fields where essential complexity of an organized kind prevails, he cannot acquire the full knowledge which would make mastery of the events possible.

He will therefore have to use what knowledge he can achieve, not to shape the results as the craftsman shapes his handiwork, but rather to cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does this for his plants.

There is danger in the exuberant feeling of ever growing power which the advance of the physical sciences has engendered and which tempts man to try, “dizzy with success”, to use a characteristic phrase of early communism, to subject not only our natural but also our human environment to the control of a human will.

The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson of humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men’s fatal striving to control society — a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals.

Or we could just quote King Canute after the tides failed to respect his edict: “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name.”

Jeffrey A. TuckerJeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.

‘Capitalism’ Is the Wrong Word by Steven Horwitz

We Shouldn’t Use a Term Coined by the System’s Enemies!

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply invent new terms to replace the words that seem to cause more heat than light? For example, I have written before of my qualms about using the word capitalism to describe the free-market economy. The word was coined by capitalism’s enemies to describe the system that they rejected.

Red Plenty, a marvelous book by Francis Spufford, offers an important perspective on our discussion of terms. The book is a must-read for fans of free markets. It combines elements from the actual history of the use of mathematics to try to plan the Soviet economy, fictional dialogue and some fictional characters, and Spufford’s excellent understanding of the economics of capitalism and socialism to create an incredibly readable account of the attempt to engineer a world of abundance in the former Soviet Union.

In the senior seminar I teach, we recently read a section of the book that deals with how the Soviet planning process actually worked. That section got me thinking about the terms capitalism and socialism again. The term capitalism suggests a system built around capital and its interests, while the word socialism suggests one built around society and its interests. Notice how these connotations beg some questions from the start.

Is it really true, for example, that capitalism is centered around capital and its interests? Is it really capitalists who benefit the most from capitalism? And on the other side: have existing socialist economies ever served the interests of society as a whole? Could socialism, in theory, do so? Do both of these names make assumptions about each of the two types of economies that reflect the biases of capitalism’s critics and socialism’s defenders?

Of course, capital does play a crucial role in capitalism. The private ownership of capital (the means of production) is a defining characteristic of a free-market economy, especially in comparison to socialism. And the ability to engage in economic calculation provided by the money prices of the market is crucial for the owners of capital to know how best to deploy it. So in those senses, capitalism is about capital.

But notice that nowhere in the previous paragraph is it claimed that the primary beneficiaries of capitalism are the capitalists! What is missing is an answer to the question of why the capitalists continually have to figure out how best to deploy their capital. The answer is because they are constantly trying to provide what consumers want using the least valuable resources possible.

Sure, the capitalists reap profits by doing so. But those profits result from the mutually beneficial exchanges capitalists have with consumers.

The main beneficiaries from capitalism are not the capitalists, but all of us in our role as consumers. Competition among the owners of private capital is all about responding to consumers’ wants. And consumers benefit from this arrangement through more, better, and cheaper goods. If we want a name for the free-market economy that indicates who its primary beneficiaries are, we should reappropriate the term consumerism.

But “consumerism” is only half of the story. It’s easy enough to show through the standard arguments that socialism doesn’t work for the benefit of society as a whole. We know from the socialist-calculation debate that eliminating the market altogether in favor of planning can’t work. But what about all of those countries, like the Soviet Union, that claimed to be planning their economies?

As we see in Red Plenty, the truth was that central planning served as a kind of myth around which economic activity could be oriented. Everyone acted as if there were a plan, but the actual way resources got allocated and shuffled around was much more complicated. In Red Plenty, we meet two characters who help us see this.

First is Cherkuskin, the middleman who trades on relationships and friendships to help producers get the goods they need to meet their centrally planned targets. Cherkuskin is the personification of what Ayn Rand called “the aristocracy of pull.” His power comes from whom he knows and what he can get them to do for you. When producers don’t have enough to fulfill their quotas because of the inability of the plan to allocate rationally or to respond to unexpected change, the Cherkuskins come into play and move resources around to help them — and to profit handsomely in the process. Underneath “the plan” was the black market that did a great deal to ensure that Soviet-style economies were minimally functional.

The other character is Maksim Maksimovich Mokhov, a high-ranking bureaucrat in the planning agency. Faced with the news of the destruction of a crucial machine, Mokhov has to figure out how to rebalance the plan given that one factory will either need a new machine or fail to produce the output that other factories need. Spufford gives us terrific imagery of Mokhov sliding around on his wheeled chair, abacus in hand, going from file to file using technology primitive by even the 1962 standard of that chapter of the book, attempting to reallocate resources with the flick of an eraser and the scratch of a pencil.

Both Cherkuskin and Mokhov are, functionally, substitutes for what the price system does under capitalism, and inferior substitutes at that.

But what’s most interesting is that neither of them cares one whit about the consumer. Cherkuskin is all about making sure that producers get what they need to fulfill the plan, never pausing to consider what the costs were for consumers. Mokhov describes consumers as a “shortage sink” because they are the end of the line, and if they don’t get what they want, no one else relies on them for further output. It was more important to balance out production than to worry if consumers got exactly what they needed.

What Spufford so nicely illustrates here is how real-world socialism, and not capitalism, put the needs of “capital” first and the wants of consumers last. In a world where producing more stuff, regardless of its value, was the path to plenty, ensuring that production continued according to the plan and that producers got what they needed were the central tasks. And the black market middlemen like Cherkuskin could make a real ruble or two doing so.

But unlike the profits of market capitalists, Cherkuskin’s rubles came at the expense of the consumer rather than reflecting mutual benefit. A system where consumers are just the folks who are expected to absorb the errors of the plan is hardly one geared to the interests of society as a whole. And a system where capital is ultimately the servant of consumers is misleadingly named if we call it capitalism.

It’s a difficult battle to get people to change the names they’ve long used for free markets and (supposedly) planned economies. Even if we don’t win that battle, it’s still important for us to point out how the terms capitalism and socialism really do give a false impression of how markets and planning work. If we want to know who really benefits from markets, a quick look around the abundance that is the typical American household will answer that question quite clearly.

Steven HorwitzSteven Horwitz

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions.

He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and the FairTax by Rep. Dave Brat (VA-7)

Adam Smith, the father of economics, published An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations nearly 240 years ago[i]. Soon after, an extraordinary flourishing of innovation and human well-being took off and transformed the globe. According to economist Deirdre McCloskey, the average American today is roughly 30 to 100 times better off than our ancestors in 1800[ii], the point when humanity began to escape crushing poverty. Notwithstanding modern prosperity, however, human nature hasn’t changed much. Smith’s insights remain relevant.

The Wealth of Nations considers taxation in Book V, Chapter 2: “Of the Sources of the General or Public Revenue of the Society.” In the prior chapter, “Of the Expenses of the Sovereign or Commonwealth,” he describes the primary functions of the national government. Some—like defense—need to be paid for by general revenue, while others—like transportation infrastructure—can be built and maintained with fees paid by users.

Revenue policy should fund the necessary expenses of the government. Not to benefit this or that industry. Not to advance social objectives. Certainly not to suppress political speech.

Smith set out four goals for evaluating tax options. First, tax contributions should be proportionate to abilities. Second, the rules should be certain and not arbitrary. Third, taxes should be levied when and how its payment is most convenient. Fourth, collection should minimize administrative overhead.

He then evaluated possible tax bases using those principles: rents of land and houses, profits, wealth, wages, head taxes, and consumption. He concluded that the ideal tax bases are residential property and consumption, particularly on luxury goods.

What does Adam Smith have to do with the FairTax? Everything. Setting aside property taxes—a state and local issue—consider how his principles relate to a consumption tax like the FairTax.

Is it proportionate to abilities? Yes. Those who earn more also consume more, thus contributing proportionately more to the general revenue. Savings—which our current tax system discourages but the FairTax would not—provide no current consumption benefits. They are deferred consumption, which in the meantime enables others to borrow to finance education, infrastructure, factories, and much more while also reducing the trade deficit.

Is the FairTax certain and not arbitrary? Yes. Everyone pays the same, known rate on consumption.

Is it convenient to pay? Yes. Merchants include the tax in the prices of final goods and services, which consumers pay all at once. Businesses simply remit the revenue to the government from time to time.

The FairTax also minimizes administrative overhead. The U.S. has around six million businesses.[iii] Not all would collect revenue under the FairTax, since many don’t sell directly to consumers. Current tax law requires the processing of six million business returns, 150 million individual and household tax returns[iv] (some overlap), and various trust, foundation, and other returns that are processed today, all under a complex, burdensome, and unFairTax code.

A broad-based consumption tax like the FairTax has other benefits. It eliminates the bureaucratic discretion that enabled the illegal and corrupt targeting of political speech, as the Richmond Tea Party experienced first-hand. Less taxation on productive activities yields greater physical and human capital investment by businesses and individuals, which makes workers more productive, boosting their compensation and standards of living while also increasing returns to saving.

It eliminates a major source of favor trading between Congress and big businesses. The concentrated interests of businesses associations create enormous pressure for Congress to provide tax preferences. The FairTax dramatically reduces the ability of political insiders to manipulate the tax system.

After nearly a decade of poor economic performance, we need comprehensive, pro-growth, simplifying tax reform like the FairTax. That’s why I’m a proud cosponsor of H.R. 25. To fully restore the American Dream, however, we must also pursue major regulatory and spending reforms.

We can have even more of the market-tested innovations that improve our lives and that would have astounded Adam Smith and our ancestors. Smart policy reforms—like the FairTax—can clear the path.

[i] http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smWN.html

[ii] https://www.aei.org/publication/perhaps-the-most-powerful-defense-of-market-capitalism-you-will-ever-read/

[iii] http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2015/econ/g12-susb.pdf, Appendix Table 1, pp. 7.

[iv] https://www.irs.gov/uac/SOI-Tax-Stats—Individual-Statistical-Tables-by-Size-of-Adjusted-Gross-Income, “All Returns: Selected Income and Tax Items: 2013”

ABOUT CONGRESSMAN DAVE BRAT

Congressman Dave Brat represents Virginia’s 7th congressional district, serving since 2014 when he won a special election. Brat is a member of the House Budget Committee, Education and the Workforce Committee, and Small Business Committee. He has a Ph.D. in economics, formerly was a professor of economics and chairman of the economics department at Randolph Macon College, and previously worked for the World Bank and Arthur Andersen.

EDITORS NOTE: To learn more about the FairTax please click here.

Bernie Sanders and the Fixed Pie Fallacy by Chelsea German

“The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.” Senator Bernie Sanders first said those words in 1974 and has been repeating them ever since.

Senator Sanders is not alone in his belief. Three out of four Americans agree with the statement, “Today it’s really true that the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer.”

Senator Sanders is half right: the rich are getting richer. However, his assertion that the poor are becoming poorer is incorrect. The poor are becoming richer as well.

Economist Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institute showed that between 1979 and 2010, the real (inflation-adjusted) after-tax income of the top 1% of U.S. income-earners grew by an impressive 202%.

He also showed that the real after-tax income of the bottom fifth of income-earners grew by 49%. All groups made real income gains. While the rich are making gains at a faster pace, both the rich and the poor are in fact becoming richer.

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In addition to these measurable real income gains, decreases in prices have given the poor increased purchasing power, helping to raise living standards for the worst off in society. As a result of falling prices such as for groceries and material goods, along with gains in real income, Americans have more income left after basic expenses.

Technology has also become cheaper, improving our lives in unexpected ways. For example, consider the spread of cell phones. There was a time when only the wealthiest Americans could afford one. Today, over 98% of Americans have a cellular subscription, and the rise of smart phones has made these devices more useful than ever.

Unfortunately, progress has been uneven. In those areas of the economy where competition is hobbled, such as education, housing, and healthcare, prices continue to increase.

Still, the percentage of the population classified as living in relative poverty has decreased over time. Why then do three quarters of Americans, including Senator Sanders, believe that the poor are “getting poorer?”

A simple logical error underlies Sanders’ belief. If we assume that wealth is a fixed pie, then the more slices the rich get, the fewer are left over for the poor. In other words, people can only better themselves at the expense of others. In the world of the fixed pie, if we observe the rich becoming richer, then it must be because other people are becoming poorer.

Fortunately, in the real world, the pie is not fixed. US GDP is growing, and it’s growing faster than the population.

Poverty remains a pressing issue, but Senator Sanders is incorrect when he says that the poor are becoming poorer. In the words of HumanProgress.org advisory board member Professor Deirdre McCloskey,

The rich got richer, true. But millions more have gas heating, cars, smallpox vaccinations, indoor plumbing, cheap travelrights for womenlower child mortalityadequate nutrition, taller bodies, doubled life expectancyschooling for their kids, newspapers, a vote, a shot at university, and respect.

This post first appeared at HumanProgress.org.

Chelsea German

Chelsea German

Chelsea German works at the Cato Institute as a Researcher and Managing Editor of HumanProgress.org.

3 Ways to Destroy American Prosperity

If you absolutely had to draw up a set of policy proposals to dislodge the United States from its position as the most prosperous country in the world, how would you do it?

Your first step would be to pinpoint which factors have produced levels of prosperity unseen in human history and which exist here in the United States. Step two would be to convince impressionable citizens that their eyes and ears are deceiving them, and that the policies that have produced our unprecedented prosperity are failures. Your third step would be to get those same impressionable people to become advocates for legislation which will ensure that the deterioration of the United States occurs slowly, so the contrast between a less prosperous today and a more prosperous yesterday is less noticeable; the regression of prosperity becomes accepted as the norm. Your fourth step is to laser-focus all blame for this regression on your ideological opponents.

Understandably this is an extremely touchy subject, so in this piece I’m going to avoid speculation about the motives of any particular individual or individuals, as I feel conjecture may obscure the seriousness of our subject matter.

With that caveat, here are a set of policy proposals which will ensure the destruction of prosperity.

POLICY OF DESTRUCTION PROPOSAL #1

The first policy priority would be to separate Americans from their money and to convince them that bureaucrats and elected officials can spend their money—for them—better than they can spend it on themselves.

After all, you cannot have both vibrant economic and political liberty and expect to implement your anti-prosperity platform at the same time. Separating people from their own hard-earned money is not easy and requires some slick marketing. Here’s how to do it: Find a charismatic speaker, with no qualms about bending the truth, and ensure he or she depersonalizes and demonizes hard-working taxpayers.

Very few Americans, when asked about specific people (i.e. their neighbors, family members, or friends) want to confiscate their money for their own personal use, but when the charismatic speaker engages in a full blown class-warfare campaign and avoids specifics, using terms such as “the rich,” “pay your fair-share,” and “big business,” it becomes easier to convince others that they are entitled to the earnings of fellow citizens. What many of these people fail to understand, when they buy into the big lie about income confiscation and redistribution, is that their own prosperity is next.

POLICY OF DESTRUCTION PROPOSAL #2

The second policy priority would be to separate Americans from control of their health and medical care.

You cannot destroy American prosperity while allowing people to freely choose when and where they seek medical care, whether acute or chronic. There are only two ways to organize a healthcare distribution system. Healthcare can either be rationed by those in power or priced through free-markets; there is no other way. Medicine, a hospital bed, and a doctor or nurse’s time are resources that can only be allocated by rationing or pricing. In dismantling the pricing signals of healthcare by inserting the government as a third-party payer of healthcare services, and disconnecting the patient from his or her own healthcare provider, you can convince the public that the inevitable exploding health care costs are the fault of greedy boogeymen. This will allow the government to come in and save the day, even after having caused the problem in the first place.

Once this step is achieved, grab your charismatic leader again, and encourage him to demonize “profits” in healthcare—despite the fact that he or she doesn’t work for free—and you’re on the road to government rationing of healthcare and the destruction of your health and prosperity.

Policy of Destruction Proposal #3

The third and final step is to expand the government bureaucracy and ensure it has maximum discretion in the implementation of regulations.

You cannot destroy American prosperity with a Constitution and laws that limit government power and maximize individual freedom. The way around this dilemma is to expand and empower the government bureaucracy and write a series of regulations that mimic laws by giving the bureaucrats power to interpret what the regulations say.

Go get your charismatic leader again and ask him or her to give a series of apocalyptic speeches about our future and man’s role in the inevitable destruction of the planet, and while giving the speeches, be sure to demonize any opposition as “deniers.” This will pave the road to establishing an unchecked government bureaucracy with the power to take your private property, your business, and your bank account. It will most certainly destroy the path to prosperity.

Ask yourself: Who are these charismatic leaders?

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the Conservative Review. The featured image is by Robert F. Bukaty | AP Photo.

The Economics of a Toddler and the Ethics of a Thug by Donald J. Boudreaux

Reflecting on the recent Democratic debate, Dan Henninger reports that Bernie Sanders said that he would fund his plan to make college free for students “through a tax on Wall Street speculation” (“Bernie Loves Hillary,” Oct. 15).

This statement reveals the frivolousness of Mr. Sanders’s economics. If such speculation is as economically destructive as Mr. Sanders regularly proclaims it to be, the tax on speculation should be set high enough to drastically reduce it.

But if — as Mr. Sanders presumably wishes — speculation is drastically reduced, very little will remain of it to be taxed and, thus, such a tax will not generate enough revenue to pay for Mr. Sanders’s scheme of making all public colleges and universities “tuition-free.”

That Mr. Sanders sees no conflict between using taxation to discourage (allegedly) harmful activities and using taxation as a source of revenue proves that he ponders with insufficient sobriety the economic matters on which he pontificates so sternly.

Excerpted from Cafe Hayek.

Donald J. Boudreaux

Donald J. Boudreaux

Donald Boudreaux is a professor of economics at George Mason University, a former FEE president, and the author of Hypocrites and Half-Wits.

RELATED ARTICLE: A Look Inside the Courtroom Where Property Owners Fight the Government to Get Back Their Cash, Homes, and Cars

PODCAST: You Cannot Multiply Wealth By Dividing It

A sermon given in 1984 by Dr. Adrian Pierce Rogers, Baptist Pastor, Author, and Political Commentator titled, “God’s Way to Health, Wealth and Wisdom.”

“You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the industrious out of it. You don’t multiply wealth by dividing it. Government cannot give anything to anybody that it doesn’t first take from somebody else. Whenever somebody receives something without working for it, somebody else has to work for it without receiving. The worst thing that can happen to a nation is for half of the people to get the idea they don’t have to work because somebody else will work for them, and the other half to get the idea that it does no good to work because they don’t get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.”

Please listen to Dr. Roger’s entire sermon “God’s Way to Health, Wealth and Wisdom“:

We’re on the verge of a major international conflict

I know most of us are still reeling from the Umpqua Community College shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. Prayers for the souls of those who lost their lives, their families, and those wounded and perhaps scarred for life. But we must never forget the carnage and death that occurs regularly in our inner cities, our urban areas, such as President Obama’s hometown of Chicago, that goes unmentioned from the nation’s biggest bully pulpit.

obama_angry_2012_8_63

But that is not want I want to focus on right now.

Today we got the September jobs report and it is still disturbing. Our economy is not growing at the necessary rate. The report put the unemployment rate at 5.1 percent, which is unfathomable when you consider the U.S. workforce participation rate remains at a historic low near 62.7 percent. In the entire month of September, the American economy added 142,000 jobs, 30,000 below what was estimated. These numbers are anemic, and do not represent a flourishing free market economy but one that is struggling — under crippling tax and regulatory policies implemented over the past seven years.

This cannot be the new normal and accepted as “positive” gains, especially considering annual GDP growth is below 2.5 percent. These are the reasons why the Obama administration has turned to Janet Yellin and the Federal Reserve to prop up the economy with artificial measures called “quantitative easing” — incessantly low interest rates and printing. It’s creating another bubble that will certainly burst. And it’s not about raising taxes on high wage earners; it’s about sound fiscal policy that restores our economy.

That is the major domestic economic concern for today, but there is a greater international concern. Due to the weakness of the Obama administration — or perhaps the intentional decimation of our global influence and military capacity — we could be on the verge of a major conflict.

A declared state terrorist organization, Iran’s Quds Force, led by General Qassem Suleimani, is now openly operating on the ground in Syria. Yes, Iran has “boots on the ground” in Syria using Russian air assets to attack the Syrian rebel forces supposedly supported by the Obama administration. I think it is fair and honest to say, another “red line” has been crossed in Syria. Sadly, President Obama took to the stage yesterday, showing his unrighteous indignation over having new gun safety laws – but said nothing about the Russian-Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah alliance.

Perhaps President Obama should take to the world’s largest bully pulpit today and announce that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iranian nuclear deal, is cancelled. It is beyond belief that President Obama and his cohort of 42 Democrat Senators, who blocked the Resolution of Disapproval from even reaching the Senate floor for a vote, could still support this foolish agreement.

I’d like Obama, any Democrat, any liberal progressive supporter or their media accomplices to explain to me why ….

Continue here


How can President Obama actually look at himself in the mirror, look at the American people and tell us Bashar Assad must go — when he has created the conditions for him to stay? ~ Allen West


Dear Millennials, the Dems are Screwing You

At what point does the millennial generation wake up and realize that their love affair with the Democratic Party has been one-sided? While the Democrats have benefitted enormously from millennials’ overwhelming support of their brand in national, state and local elections, the affection has gone unrequited. Granted, the Democrats talk a big game about the youth of America, but it’s what they’re actually doing to younger Americans that matters. In nearly every significant policy arena the modern, far-Left Democratic Party is pushing policies that will undoubtedly jeopardize the futures of young Americans working hard to make a better tomorrow.

Conservative activist, former Reagan administration official, and nationally-syndicated radio host Mark Levin’s new book Plunder and Deceit is a thorough examination of the ideological and legislative assault on young Americans. The book uses extensive data points and a second-to-none analysis to make the case that the modern Democratic Party’s allegiance to liberal ideology on the social front, and to tax-and-spend economics on the fiscal front, is selling out young Americans. It is a must-read for young Americans who are looking to escape the Democratic Party’s deceptive, focus group tested talking points and looking to find the truth.  Additionally, the book is a must-read for Americans of all ages who want to understand, and be able to explain to open-minded young Americans, the danger we are in if we fail to correct our course.

What is perhaps most disturbing about this disconnect between what the modern Democratic Party says to young Americans, and what it does to them, is that it’s not simply that the Democrats are failing to help the youth in our society, but that they are deliberately harming them. After reading Levin’s book and being reminded of the grave economic future being created by the Obama administration, their congressional allies, and weak-knee’d Republicans too cowardly to fight back, I wonder where young Americans think the money to pay off the growing national debt, which is equal to the value of everything the country produces, is going to come from? There is no significant difference between annual deficits, accumulated government debt, and taxes coming out of your pocket, absent the time preference. And the modern Democratic Party prefers to burden young Americans with the debt and spending they are accumulating right now, rather than to govern responsibly, due to their continued quest for the consolidation of government economic power. This allegiance to the broken economics of unsustainable government debt, is not just failing to provide young Americans with the promised “hope and change,” but it is unquestionably doing significant damage to the potential prosperity of young Americans hoping for a bright economic future.

Facts matter and the facts are not on the side of the modern Democratic Party. The laws of both arithmetic and economics dictate that all debts both public and private must be paid. Those debts are either paid by the debtor, who fulfills his obligation to pay back the debt, or the creditor, who unwillingly pays the debt himself when he fails to receive the money he loaned back from the debtor. There is no third way, these are the only options. With these hard facts in mind, it’s clear there are only a couple of options for young Americans going forward if we do not begin to control the federal government’s profligate spending. The first option for young Americans is a future of confiscatory tax rates so high that they will choke off any chance that they can live economically prosperous lives in an increasingly shrinking private sector future. Our unsustainable and growing national debt, with its entitlement promises and grim discretionary spending outlook, will strangle private sector opportunity in favor of public sector thievery.

The second option is just as disturbing for young Americans. The federal government can simply ignore its accumulated debt obligations and fail to repay its creditors, both foreign and domestic. This disastrous scenario would destroy the economic credibility of the world’s greatest supporter and dramatically increase the cost of debt in the future. Young Americans need to understand that this means that their car loans, their home loans, their credit card interest rates, and any other attempt to finance their lifestyles, or their futures, with debt will be dramatically more expensive than it was for their parents. You can thank the big spenders in elected positions in our government for this disparity between what your parent’s lifestyle was, and what yours is going to be.

Yes young America, you are being screwed, big time. It’s easy to make the faux “tough choices” to pile on government debt today, when cowardly politicians, and their silent opposition, anchor the costs of those “tough choices” to my children and yours, who will pay for them for decades.

For the sake of the country and its future, I am hoping that Levin’s book becomes the centerpiece of a long overdue national discussion about what our real “priorities” are as a nation. I refuse to accept that the greatest country in the history of mankind, when confronted with the hard facts in Levin’s book, will choose the route of a profligate present, and a bankrupt future for their children, rather than a responsible present and a prosperous future.

RELATED ARTICLE: Nearly Half of Millennials Say the American Dream Is Dead. Here’s Why.

RELATED VIDEO: Why the GOP Sucks at Courting Millennials: ‘The Selfie Vote’ Author Kristen Soltis Anderson

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the Conservative Review.

7 Things the Left Should Apologize For

While attending a gathering of conservatives a few years ago in Washington, D.C., I was confronted by a far Left group conducting an amateur “ambush interview.” They demanded I opine on the comments of a number of 2012 Republican U.S. Senate candidates whom they found objectionable, and it was clear that they were seeking some sort of apology.

The Left loves to demand apologies from conservatives for grievances both real and imagined and, sadly, sometimes we play along with this ridiculous game.

The Left loves to demand apologies from conservatives for grievances both real and imagined and, sadly, sometimes we play along with this ridiculous game. I frequently wonder why conservatives don’t pay back the favor and demand apologies from the Left.

At the macro level, the Left should apologize to America for their continued allegiance to European-style welfare statism. At the micro level, they should apologize for their ongoing use of hateful division politics.

These two guiding ideologies of the Left have caused immeasurable poverty, misery and grief. Their intent to divide us is leading to concertina-wire-reinforced borders among the individual race, gender, and religious silos that they have chosen for us.

With the continued focus on the 2016 presidential elections we should start demanding apologies from the Left. Here are seven things the Left is largely responsible for which I’m demanding apologies before Election Day.

The death of four American patriots in Benghazi and the disgusting lies told to the families of the deceased…

  1. Sanctuary cities and the murder of Kate Steinle, by an illegal immigrant deported, an unforgivable five times.
  2. The ruthless political targeting of conservatives by the IRS to silence conservatives and advance the Left’s political agenda.
  3. The Obama economic “recovery,” where a tragic 1 in 5 Americans are now on some form of government welfare and over 90 million Americans are not working.
  4. The continuing destruction of the economies and education infrastructures of America’s once great inner cities by liberal governance.
  5. The massive health insurance premium hikes, outrageously high deductibles, and doctor and hospital restrictions imposed on middle class Americans by the disastrous Obamacare legislation.
  6. The death of four American patriots in Benghazi and the disgusting lies told to the families of the deceased, and to concerned American citizens, by the Obama administration afterwards.
  7. And, most importantly, the continued shredding of our Constitutional Republic, and what little faith we had left in our government.

Demand an apology from the Left for this, America deserves it.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the Conservative Review. The featured image of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifying before Congress on Benghazi is courtesy by Bill Clark Roll Call CQ | AP Photo.

Global Coal Use Growing Faster Than Any Other Energy

Over the last decade, global coal use grew by 968 million tonnes of oil equivalent. That is 4 times faster than renewables, 2.8 times faster than oil and 50 per cent faster than gas. That’s hardly justification for a requiem.

As Master of Oxford University’s Baillol College in the second half of the 19th century, Benjamin Jowett once submitted a contentious issue to a vote among Baillol’s dons and was displeased with the result. “The vote is 22 to 2. I see we are deadlocked.”

enegy sources global

Jowett was determined to ensure that empirical facts were not going to deny him the result he wanted.

When it comes to the coal industry, environmental campaigners and fellow travellers in the media are busy wishing away facts that don’t suit their arguments.

‘‘The end of coal’’ was the tag­line for a Four Corners’ “analysis” of the coal sector last night. It was Episode 14 of Series 3 of the Four Corners’ critique of the mining industry.

Consistent with the established practice, the conclusion of the piece was predetermined and the narrative arranged accordingly.

Facts were in short supply, wishful thinking was not. A trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation, which funds activist groups and co-funded the development of an Australian anti-coal strategy in 2011, was wheeled out as an objective observer.

So the release of BP’s 2015 Statistical Review of World Energy in recent days is timely. Although BP is no friend of coal, the report provides an objective analysis of developments in global energy.

Let’s test some of the anti-coal crusaders’ claims with some objective facts.

First, it is claimed that coal is a dying energy source and its use is being phased out. Not so. According to the BP Review, over the decade to the end of 2014, coal use grew by 968 million tonnes of oil equivalent. That is 4 times faster than renewables, 2.8 times faster than oil and 50 per cent faster than gas. That’s hardly justification for a requiem.

Second, investors are not walking away from coal. Yes, some universities and some funds have decided to divest some of their stocks in fossil fuels. That’s their prerogative. But the overwhelming majority have not and will not divest of coal stocks. Sure the share prices of coal companies fall during a commodity downturn due largely to oversupply. So do the share prices of oil companies and grain producers when prices fall in those sectors.

The empirical evidence suggests that interest in the sector from lenders and investors remains strong. One of the anti-coal movement’s own groups, Bankwatch, has complained that global financing for coal mining rose to $US66 billion in 2014, up from $US55bn in 2013 and a 360 per cent increase from 2005.

The third claim is that renewable energy is capable of replacing fossil fuels, including coal.

Not likely. In 2014, if the world had relied on renewable energy like wind, solar and biomass for primary energy, then the world would have had just 9 days of heat, light and artificial horsepower.

Fourth, campaigners claim that coal has no future in a low emissions world. Not true. New generation technologies are slashing CO2 emissions from coal fired plants by as much as 40 per cent. These high efficiency low emissions plants are being rolled out in China, Japan and elsewhere in Asia. And the first large scale carbon capture and storage coal plant in Canada has slashed its CO2 emissions by 90 per cent. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated the cost of meeting global reduction targets will be 138 per cent higher without the deployment of carbon capture and storage.

The campaigners also claim that major consuming nations are turning away from coal. But the International Energy Agency predicts that China will add 450 gigawatts of coal fired power over the next 25 years. That’s 40 per cent larger than the entire US coal fleet. As the International Energy Agency has predicted, “China will be the coal giant for many years in the future”.

Energy starved India is also expanding its coal use and is expected to become the world’s largest coal importer in the next decade. The anti-coal crusaders are confused when it comes to India, which, by the way, still has 300 million people without access to electricity.

Their intellectual callisthenics are driven largely by their opposition to the Adani project in the Galilee Basin, which will export high-quality thermal coal to India.

First the campaigners argued that India’s power needs could be supplied by renewable energy. Really? Wind, solar and biomass accounted for 2 per cent of India’s energy needs in 2014. That’s about one week of India’s primary energy needs.

Read the full post

My 2015 Commencement Address

All manner of people are giving commencement speeches to students graduating from colleges and universities these days. It is doubtful that any will be remembered because the prospects of students depend in large part on the economy into which they are entering, the majors they pursued, their individual ambitions, and capacity for hard work. Then, too, there’s dumb luck which often plays a role.

For those graduating this year, my profound sympathy because the economy could not be much worse short of being declared an official Depression. Out of a total of 330 million Americans, there are currently 93,194,000 Americans who are not in the workforce because they can’t find a job or have given up looking. Even in the field of manufacturing—not something you studied for—the number of jobs have declined by 7,231,000, some 37% since manufacturing peaked in the U.S. in 1979.

U.S. economic growth rate has slowed to 0.2%. In short, it is virtually non-existent. So, with your diploma in hand, unless you majored in the sciences, math or engineering, you are not likely to join the workforce any time soon. Those of you who majored in social work, theatre arts, elementary education, and something called parks and recreation, are going to be at the bottom of the salary scale for the rest of your life.

Of the previous graduates from 2008 to the present who voted for Barack Obama, just 14% have real jobs. You have had the vast misfortune of being born just in time to live through the worst presidency in the history of the nation. If, in fact, you even know the history of the nation.

You are at a further disadvantage because the curriculums of the government schools you attended have been so distorted that you have been led to believe that the Founding Fathers were all slave-owning, white elitists when in fact, many opposed slavery, the labor source of their era, and would have abolished it. However they knew they could not get the Constitution ratified by the southern states if they did. It’s called compromising for a greater goal, the finest and currently the oldest functioning Constitution on Earth.

Depending on your race and sex, you have already been taught to blame anything that goes wrong in your life on whether you are white, black or Hispanic, male or female. If you want to know what’s wrong, look in the mirror and ask yourself what you are doing wrong or not doing right—dressing, manners, behavior, addictions, et cetera.

If you have been raised to believe in God and have spiritual values, you are likely to be mocked, though not necessarily to your face. While still the majority faith in America, Christianity is under attack from many directions, not the least of whom are homosexuals that constitute less than 2% of the population. Their attack on traditional (and biological) male-female marriage that has been part of every civilization going back five thousand years and more will degrade society in many ways.

For many of you, graduation means years of paying off huge loans for the privilege of picking up a degree that, as noted—short of science, math and engineering—will not yield a lot of income. This will impact your lifestyle including possibly having to move back in with your parents. It may mean putting off marriage and a family of your own for a while and your loans will affect being able to secure a mortgage on a home, but everyone is having problems doing that these days.

So, if all this looks and sound bleak, it is because it is. A real commencement speech should tell you the truth but most of them do not. They are generally filled with inspiring talk about the future.

The future you are looking at along with everyone else is fraught with danger. That, however, can be said of every “future” that every American has faced since the nation was established. It took a shooting war with Great Britain just to have a nation and Americans have been engaged in wars large and small ever since.

The threat of Communism faced Americans after World War Two and generations previous to yours waited out and opposed the Soviet Union for nearly fifty years before it collapsed. Communism is still around however in China, nearby Cuba, Venezuela and other nations who suppress their people in the name of the utopian society they claim to have.

The more recent threat is the rise of Islamism, radical Islam as practiced and supported by a significant percentage of the world’s one billion-plus Muslims. It is a cult about Mohammed based on the total domination of the world. Divided between two sects, Sunnis and Shiites, when they are not killing each other, they are killing “infidels”, anyone who is not a Muslim.

It will fall to you and your fellow graduates to fix the nation’s problems and right now its biggest one is that the federal government is too large and we are collectively facing an $18 trillion debt that must be resolved because just paying interest on it makes doing anything else difficult at best.

All of the states are in debt as well as they struggle to pay the health benefits and pensions of civil service workers, active and retired. That often doesn’t leave much money for fixing potholes and other infrastructure needs.

Whatever problems you will encounter, keep in mind previous generations often encountered much worse, such as those in the 1930s during the Great Depression and in the 1940s who fought World War II, and those from the 1950s and 1970s who were called on to fight the Korean War and the war in Vietnam; more recently those who fought the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Respect their sacrifices and their courage.

If you want to see the government grow even larger along with the debt, vote for Hillary Clinton. She’s still mentally and ideologically stuck in the 1990s, plus she has engaged in behavior that would get anyone else put in jail. You have a large choice among Republican candidates and eventually it will narrow to someone capable of tackling the future.

The best I can do is to wish you good luck. You’re going to need it.

© Alan Caruba, 2015

Are Markets Ruining Video Games? Or is intellectual property the real culprit? by MATTHEW MCCAFFREY

Capitalism is ruining video games. So says game producer Lorne Lanning, creator of the Oddworld series, who recently sparked controversy by blasting economic developments in the gaming industry.

Lanning blames “capitalism” for gaming’s recent financial and artistic troubles, especially its emphasis on commercial success over artistic creativity. His basic claim is the same one levied against the film industry: major studios have been squeezing out their smaller competitors, taking advantage of market dominance to produce an endless stream of big-budget, artistically uninspiring sequels and spin-off franchises.

It’s unclear what Lanning (or anyone, really) means by capitalism, but he seems to be condemning the largely corporate world of game design and marketing. For instance, he mentions bureaucratic corporate structure, the quest for constant growth, and the need to appeal to mass markets as problems undermining the industry.

Several criticisms have been raised against Lanning’s claims.

First, he mainly seems upset about declining demand for the kinds of games he likes, so his arguments may be little more than sour grapes.

Second, markets produce to satisfy consumer wants, so if the artistic quality of games is low, isn’t that the fault of consumers’ tastes, rather than the market itself?

Third, without markets, there wouldn’t be a gaming industry. Markets increase productivity and make leisure possible, which in turn allows for the production of leisure goods like video games.

While there’s some truth to these criticisms, it’s important not to dismiss Lanning’s views as run-of-the-mill anti-market bias. In particular, we shouldn’t assume the game industry is a poster child for consumer sovereignty and healthy economic competition. In fact, what Lanning objects to sounds more like corporatism in the game industry than unregulated commerce; if so, it’s misguided to respond by defending game developers as heroic entrepreneurs or appealing to the wonders of the free market.

Lanning’s complaints may be justified, though he has misdiagnosed their cause: it’s actually regulation and a lack of markets that are hurting the game industry.

As it happens, major game studios have developed in ways we expect from firms artificially protected from competition: they’ve become less innovative, more risk-averse, and more focused on short-term gains. As Lanning puts it, in the gaming world, it’s not personalities and it’s not companies. It’s capitalism. So you get that [large] scale and now it gets more ruthless. These are public companies. This is Wall Street.

The analogy to Wall Street is telling, because the finance industry is at the heart of our heavily regulated and monopoly-privileged economy, and is probably the best example of what happens when government helps to eliminate market competition.

But what kind of intervention could be hampering competition in the gaming world?

One culprit is intellectual property (IP) law, which produces exactly the kind of problems Lanning is complaining about. Major studios spend a lot of money developing their IP, which they often license jealously. A case in point: Nintendo takes 40 percent of the ad revenue from YouTube videos featuring its games, a tactic that drives some creators away from their content.

Without noticing the irony, Lanning mentions several times the importance of retaining and nursing his own IP, all while protesting the sad state of small and medium-sized developers.

He may even have fallen prey to the anti-innovation incentive provided by IP, given that his recent projects have involved re-releasing classic titles rather than working on more ambitious (and uncertain!) projects. While IP law tends to favor the largest competitors, smaller firms can rely on it as well.

Ultimately, if developers want to pursue more artistic projects that appeal to smaller audiences, they need to take a step away from the one-size-fits-all corporate development supported by government regulation and toward genuine entrepreneurship and innovation.

If Lanning thought more about free exchange, he’d realize that markets produce exactly the kind of high-quality product he wants:

As craftsmen, our opportunity lies in finding the niches where we know our audience, we focus on it, we listen to it, we respect it, we treat it with some grace and … if you can keep mobilizing that audience, keep informing that audience, then how much is that worth?

It’s worth a lot. Yet, it’s markets that cater most effectively to diverse needs and niches, and it’s entrepreneurs who nurture value for consumers. Their success depends on it. We’re all better off when we turn our controllers over to the invisible hand.


Matthew McCaffrey

Matthew McCaffrey is assistant professor of enterprise at the University of Manchester and editor of Libertarian Papers.

Some Basic Economic Truths

During the summer of 1985 my oldest son, Mark, decided to leave his job as a chemistry teacher in a Silver Spring, Maryland, Catholic Boy’s High School to complete his Master’s thesis and his Doctoral work in Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Oklahoma.  With little money to finance the move, he was looking for ways to transport his wife; his five-year-old stepson, Chris; and his four month old infant son, David, from Washington, D.C. to Norman, Oklahoma.

Having recently retired from my job with a major oil company in suburban Philadelphia, I offered to help with the move.  So, on the appointed day I drove to Silver Spring and loaded every cubic foot of my trunk and my rear seat with some of their belongings.  As we headed west on Interstate 70, my son took the lead in a borrowed Mercury station wagon, with every cubic foot filled to capacity; my daughter-in-law followed close behind in their worn-out old Toyota, the baby strapped into a car seat beside her; and I brought up the rear with five-year-old Chris riding “shotgun” in the passenger seat beside me.

The trip across the country was not up to my usual standard for cross-country driving.  Since the Interstate highway from Indianapolis to St. Louis was completed, but unposted, I had always taken that to mean that they wanted me to use my own discretion.  As a result, I was accustomed to driving the 1.030 miles from Philadelphia to St. Louis in just under fifteen hours.  But on our trip in August 1985, from the D.C. area to St. Louis, it was drive two hours, nurse the baby, drive two hours, nurse the baby, and on and on.  Then, after a night’s rest in St. Louis we set out again the next morning for the last leg of our trip from St. Louis to central Oklahoma.

As we had lunch in a roadside restaurant in Joplin, Missouri, I remarked that we were just a few miles north of Camp Crowder, Missouri, where I spent the first week of my U.S. Army military career, and that I’d like to revisit the place sometime just to see if it was the same as it was in the summer of 1953.

That was the last word on the subject until we crossed the Missouri/Oklahoma state line fifteen or twenty minutes later.  It was then that young Chris said, “Grandpa, tell me about some of your war wounds.”

Not wanting to go into detail on how I was machine-gunned by a group of South Koreans in a “friendly fire” incident during basic training, I decided to tell him some stories about wounds I received when I was a boy, just a few years older than he.  So I proceeded to describe a long ugly scar I have on my right knee that I received when I was just ten or eleven years old.  When I had described the scar, Chris said, “Grandpa, how did you get that wound?”

I said, “Well, as I recall, my friends and I were at the local ballpark in my hometown, crawling around under the bleachers, when I knelt on a broken soda bottle.”  To which he replied, “What were you doing crawling around under the bleachers?”

I said, “We were looking for small change, nickels and dimes that people had inadvertently dropped while watching a softball game.”

“Why were you looking for nickels and dimes?” he asked.

To which I replied, “We wanted to buy some sodas.”

He thought for a moment, a puzzled look on his face.  Then he said, “Grandpa, you can’t buy a soda for five or ten cents.  Sodas cost sixty cents.”

Not when I was your age,” I replied.  “When I was your age we could by a soda for five cents.”

That came as a big surprise to him.  He said, “How did that happen, Grandpa?”

I said, “The Democrats did it.”

“The Democrats did it?  Why did they do that?”

Thinking I’d impart a bit of economics wisdom, I said, “Well, the Democrats discovered many years ago that if they passed a law taking money away from people who have jobs and who work for a living, and give it to people who don’t have jobs or who don’t want to work, the people who get the free money will always vote for them on election day.  That helps to create what we call inflation and that’s why a soda costs a lot more than five cents today.”

This was obviously a new concept for him and I could almost hear the wheels turning in the seat beside me.  Finally, he said, “Grandpa, could the Democrats pass a law that would make candy free?”

I replied, “Sure they could.  But think about it… if the Democrats made a law saying that candy would be free, how long do you think the people who make candy would continue to make it?”

New concept; I could hear the wheels turning again.  Then he said, “Grandpa, am I a Democrat?”

I said, “Well, it’s too early to tell.  We’ll have to wait a few years to find out.”

Then he asked, “Grandpa, could the Democrats make a law that some candy would cost money and some would be free?”

I replied, “Yes Chris, the Democrats could make some candy free and others that would cost money.  But are you asking whether the Democrats could make a law saying that the kind of candy you like would be free and all the rest would cost money?”

A big smile crossed his face.  He nodded his head and said, “Yeah!”

I said, “You’re a Democrat.”

I’m happy to report that my step-grandson has turned out just fine, in spite of his Democratic leanings as a five-year-old.  He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in Economics and is now a successful executive with a major Oklahoma City bank.  But now, thirty years later, there is evidence that many who were as ignorant of basic economic principles as my grandson was at age five, are still burdened by the same economic illiteracy.

The proof of what I say can be found in the television commercials of a company called Lear Capital, Inc.  In their most recent TV ads they tout the current low price of silver, showing a two dimensional graph in which the abscissa, or x-axis, represents time, and the ordinate, or y-axis, represents the fluctuations in the price of silver.  If one were to believe the graph, the market price of silver during a significant time period represented on the graph dipped to less than the price of production.  In fact, that claim is made quite clearly in the Lear Capital voice-over.

When I saw the ad I couldn’t help but be reminded of my grandson’s attitude toward the candy market when he was just five years old.  The fact that a precious metals marketing firm would continue spending big bucks attempting to convince television viewers that mining companies are continuing to mine silver when the market price is less than the cost of production, is proof that there are some adults out there in TV land who still believe in the Tooth Fairy.

When I posed the hypothetical question to my grandson thirty years ago, asking him how long he thought candy manufacturers would continue to make candy if there was no profit in doing so, it never occurred to me that, some thirty years later, silver miners might be doing just that.

However, there is some empirical evidence that there are fewer consumers who might fall for that advertising scheme than we might think.  Another Lear TV ad that has run on a daily basis for many months proclaims that the first one-hundred callers to their 800 number will receive up to $500 worth of free silver… just for calling their number.  If, in fact, callers to that 800 number are actually given silver coinage, they could be given a silver ten-cent piece, just for their taking the time to listen to a sales pitch, and the marketer could still claim truth in advertising by hanging their hats on the words “up to.”

Nevertheless, it is frightening to think that Madison Avenue advertising firms have such a low opinion about the economic smarts of the American people that they would air such an insulting advertisement.  My step-grandson has discovered some important economic truths.  Apparently, some in the corporate world and on Madison Avenue have not.

Are Markets Myopic? The illusion of government looking out for the long term by ROBERT P. MURPHY

We often hear that individual investors are myopic. They make decisions based on a relatively short time horizon, so forget about the long run. That’s why we need government officials to step in with regulations, as well as corrective taxes and subsidies, to guide the market toward long-term social goals. Or so the story goes.

Though this view of markets versus government is common, it has things exactly backwards: markets do contain sophisticated mechanisms for rewarding long-term planning, and democratic political institutions encourage extremely short-term thinking.

The fundamental institution for promoting proper planning is private property. The owner of a piece of property has an incentive to take actions that enhance its market value. For example, consider the owner of a giant tin deposit who must decide how rapidly to extract the resource.

Those who are naïve about the operations of a market economy might suppose that the greedy capitalist owner would “strip mine” the deposit as quickly as possible, channeling all of the accessible tin into projects serving the current generation while ignoring the needs of future generations. A moment’s reflection shows this is nonsense.

The greedy capitalist owner is at least vaguely familiar with the notion that tin deposits — unlike apples and wheat — do not naturally replenish themselves year after year. An extra pound of tin extracted and sold this year means exactly one fewer pound of tin that this deposit can yield in some future year. Once we realize that the greedy capitalist doesn’t want to maximize revenue but instead wants to maximize market value, it is obvious that he must take the future into account when making current decisions.

Specifically, to maximize the market value of his asset, the owner should extract additional pounds of tin in the present (putting the proceeds in a financial investment earning the market rate of interest), until the point at which he would earn a greater return by leaving the next pound of tin in the deposit, to be sold next year at the expected market price. For example, if tin is selling today at $8 per pound, and the interest rate on financial assets is 10 percent, then the owner would halt his operations if he ever came to confidently expect the price of tin next year to be $8.80 or higher. (I’m assuming the marginal costs of extraction and selling are the same, year to year, just to keep things simple. See this article for a more comprehensive explanation using oil.) Once he reaches this point, the best “investment” of his additional units of tin would be to leave them in the mine, “ripening” for another year.

Thus we see that a greedy capitalist would implicitly (and unwittingly) take into account the desires of consumers next year when making current production decisions. He would be guided not by altruistic concern, but instead by personal enrichment. We see the familiar pattern of market prices guiding even selfish individuals into promoting the general welfare. If for some reason tin were expected to be scarcer in the future, then its expected spot price in the future would be higher. This would lead owners to hold tin off the market in the present, thus driving up its price even today, in anticipation of the expected future price. Modern financial and commodities markets — with futures and forward contracts, as well as more exotic derivatives — refine things even more, drawing on the dispersed knowledge and different risk appetites of millions of people.

The critics of capitalism would probably complain again at this point, bemoaning the fact that the greedy owner was now “undersupplying tin” and gouging today’s consumers with artificially higher prices. But if so, the critics need to make up their minds: do we want the tin going to the present or to the future? There’s a finite amount of it to go around — that’s the whole (alleged) problem.

Notice that even if a particular owner of a tin deposit is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he still has an incentive to behave in this “efficient” manner. The reason is that he can sell the tin deposit outright. The market value of the entire deposit will reflect the (present discounted) future flow of net income derived from owning the deposit and operating it in the optimal manner indefinitely. If the owner ever thinks, Well, if I had 10 years left, I would run the operation in such-and-such a way, then that decision won’t change just because he only has one year left. Instead, he can sell the operation to the highest bidder, including people who do have 10 or more years left of expected life.

Thus, we see that contrary to the critics, a pure market economy contains sophisticated mechanisms to guide owners into acting as farsighted stewards of depletable natural resources. In complete contrast, political officials who control natural resources face no such incentives. Because they can’t personally pocket the revenues, or bequeath the asset to their heirs, political officials have the incentive to maximize thecurrent income from the natural resources under their temporary control, to the extent that they are guided by pecuniary motives.

Even here, it’s usually not the case that the government sells access to a resource in order to maximize current receipts. Rather, what often happens is that the government officials will give sweetheart deals to private interests (such as a logging company operating in a state-owned forest), allowing these officials to develop a business relationship that will benefit them after leaving government.

Private owners in a free-market economy have the incentive to maximize the long-term value of their property, which implicitly leads them to consider the desires of future generations. Democratically elected government officials, on the other hand, act as temporary custodians who will not personally benefit from maintaining the market value of the assets they control.

Rental car companies would be foolish to suppose that their customers will put the more expensive high-octane gas into their vehicles, even though the customers might do so if they personally owned the rental car. Yet, for some reason, millions of voters think that politicians with two-year terms will be more farsighted when it comes to economic resources than private shareholders will be.

ABOUT ROBERT P. MURPHY

Robert P. Murphy has a PhD in economics from NYU. He is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism and The Politically Incorrect Guide to The Great Depression and the New Deal. He is also the Senior Economist with the Institute for Energy Research and a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. You can find him at http://consultingbyrpm.com/.