Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Leonard Read's classic essay "I, Pencil" is deceptively simple. It exposes something that benefits us daily but that we rarely perceive: the power of the market to produce goods and services, not by demanding that they be produced, but by allowing people to act freely along every step of the way. Of course the example of a pencil is merely incidental. This could have been the story of a million other products that are readily available to us, thanks to the power of the free market to effectively allocate resources. The point is that the process is decentralized and spontaneous. Every worker in the making of a pencil is working for themselves, not for the goal of making a pencil. To them, the pay they receive is worth the labor they put in. Each party benefits, and nobody is coerced. Not only is voluntary action the most morally acceptable, but it provides the best incentives for people to produce the most at the lowest cost. If we zoom out from any one of these single transactions, we would see a growing web of interaction which, as a whole, creates our entire economy. The beauty of this system, and what makes it so easily taken for granted, is the fact that it arises naturally when people are simply allowed to trade with each other on their own terms and not according to any particular scheme or design.
This is not easily grasped by most casual observers of economics. In his essay, "Why I Am No Longer A 'Brain-Dead Liberal'," the playwright David Mamet explains that, like most government apologists, he once saw the state as the solution to society's problems. If only it could have a little more control of our affairs, it could set them in the right order for us. It took him 60 years of experience before he came to realize this simple truth: that people are self-interested and that "...the world in which I actually functioned day to day was made up of people, most of whom were reasonably trying to maximize their comfort by getting along with each other." Along with this realization, Mamet came to see the idealistic goals of most government schemes as naive and misguided since they only disrupt the spontaneous and voluntary system of free enterprise and result in unforeseen harm. From the increasingly statist flavor of modern politics, more and more government plans promise to correct the imperfections of our world (healthcare for all, affordable housing, protection of domestic markets). The truth is that the world in which we live is not perfect, but it is generally best served by getting out of the way and letting people handle their problems themselves.
by Brian Bisek
Monday, October 19, 2009
"Ladies and Gentlemen, we are no doubt living in perilous times. The economy has recently tanked, and the stock market is down greatly. But before we all panic and act hastily, let me read you something. It is entitled 'How to Destroy an Economy.'
If one were set on destroying an economy how would they do it? Here are a few of the ways I could see it happening:
1. Create a state of panic. Threaten martial law. Say how if we don't act now the sky will fall down. Do everything to over-exaggerate the severity of the crisis.
2. Double the money supply in a few short months. Do this by print trillions of dollars backed by nothing but their own paper.
3. Bail out and rescue those whose bad decisions led to this collapse. Create a false impression that some companies are just too big to fail. Create a giant moral hazard for corporations to engage in more future risky adventures and then try to keep a straight face when you say you won't bail them out again. Don't tell the people that the corporations you bail out finance your reelection campaigns.
4. Print a trillion dollars to pass an economic stimulus package based on the dubious premise of what we need is more borrowing and spending. Don't tell people we got into this mess by too much borrowing and spending. Pass the stimulus by saying we don't have a day to spare, but then wait a few days to sign it.
5. Create a scapegoat for the collapse by demonizing capitalism. Tell the masses we got into this mess by having too much freedom. Create the impression that we need more government and more regulation and less freedom.
6. Say that the debate is over on economic policies. Phrase all sentences by saying "all economists agree" followed by your plan.
7. Run a projected $10 trillion deficit over the next ten years. Create excuses for it by childishly saying "but the other party did it when they were in office!"
8. Use the crisis for other opportunities. "Never let a crisis go to waste" some in the highest positions may say. Pass healthcare reform with money you don't have.
9. Give the government institutions who created this mess more power. Let the quasi-government institution that has been the source of all bubbles be the regulator of future bubbles.
10. Reappoint the Fed Chairmen whose nickname is "HELICOPTER Ben!"
Thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time."
Sunday, October 11, 2009
There has been a lot of talk recently about the war in Afghanistan, and whether or not Barack Obama will send more troops (again) to continue it. I was watching an interview on Fox News last week with two Congresspersons, one Democrat and one Republican, weighing in on the war. By the end, I wasn’t stunned by the responses, just disappointed. Disappointed in the utter disregard for the legislature’s duty to provide a check and balance on the executive branch as ordered by the Constitution.
The Republican talked at great length about “supporting the troops”. This is a phrase that we’ve seen many times to justify the perpetuation of war. We often hear rhetoric about “supporting the troops,” and how cutting the funding for the war will put our troops in danger. Cutting the funding to the war is almost unthinkable by many in the congress, even those who don’t support the war. This “support our troops” rhetoric, as it is used by many on the right, deems such action as un-American. It is almost as if putting troops in harms way (un-Constitutionally, might I add) by the executive is less of a threat to their well being, than the Congress ending the funding of the war. This rhetoric has effectively neutralized the Congress’s “power of the purse,” which is an essential check on executive power.
The Democrat went on for a long time about supporting whatever decision the President comes to. Here, again, we see the disregard for the Constitutional powers granted to the Congress. It seems that no one remembers the idea that the Executive is supposed to enforce the laws (and wars) deemed necessary by the Congress—not the other way around. Our system of politics has strayed far from the framing of government provided in the constitution. It is a system of the party, by the party, and for the party; a system where the people, philosophy, and common sense play an insignificant role in the shaping of policy.
It is time that Congress starts doing its job—its real job. Stop blindly following your president and take a concrete stand on issues. The label “Democrat” or “Republican” should not take precedence over your philosophical ideals. If you oppose the war, oppose it. Don’t wait to see what your commander in chief thinks about it. Start providing a check on the authoritarian office that the Presidency has become. Stop undermining your own authority with your rhetoric! Most importantly, follow the Constitution and play your much-needed part in this government. It is your duty not only to this country, but to the people you represent.
Friday, October 9, 2009
What work, I ask? What specifically has he done to make the world a more peaceful place? Iran is still making weekly threats against Israel, North Korean relations have crumbled further, and he has expanded the war in Afghanistan, encompassing parts of Pakistan and is considering expanding it further with another troop deployment.
This selection is like the last presidential election in miniature. The judges were clearly so won over by his flowery speech and promises of a better world that they paid no attention to his track record, which is essentially blank.
I honestly would rather have seen Bono get the Prize. I'm serious.
Brb, off to buy a commemorative T-Shirt!
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Before I can do any of this I must pick a topic, so does anyone have any ideas for a topic? Right now I'm thinking of Plaxico Burress and the Second Amendment or California and the Tenth Amendment (Marijuana). Any suggestions will be much appreciated.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I raised my hand and replied: "I believe the current system could be called a tyranny of two alternating majorities, where only two specific sets of political ideals get a fair shake and a real say in the legislative process. There are a huge amount of political parties in this country that you never hear about, or maybe you've never even heard of. The fact that the Democrats and Republicans are the only two political parties most people are aware of is proof that we have not followed Madison's advice."
A girl replied to this by saying that I was incorrect, that the Republicans and Democrats offer two very different viewpoints, and within the party there are many different individuals with diffuse interests who accurately represent the people of the nation.
She gave examples of areas where Democrat (she referred to Dems as 'We' and Repubs as 'they') and Republican policies supposedly differ: "Afghanistan, taxes, size of government, Iraq, health care, and education, to name a few" she said.
I challenged her on that. I asked "Just how does the current administration's Afghanistan policy differ from the previous administration? You know Obama has INCREASED the war budget, right? You realize government GREW drastically during the Bush administration? These two parties operate in a very narrow framework and are much more alike than you think."
Then the bell rang, and class was dismissed. I'm glad I was able to get some kids in class to think about the goals of the framers vs. the system we know today. This is why groups like YAL are important. We have to continue to increase our influence on the political system, despite the choke hold of the two dominant factions, and insert viewpoints into the national political dialogue that people aren't used to hearing. That's how to avoid the tyranny of the majority, and make America more free.
What I noticed when I heard this story was something I head noticed from almost every instance of government interaction - their inability to deal with spontaneous orders. Notice that the problem of the Sukawatis didn't arise because of a failure of communication, since even the Suwatis didn't know the purpose of their cultures, or the underlying structure or meaning to their water schedules, since they were both produced by the same invisible hand method, over hundreds of years, without the direct intention, planning or well-meaning of any individual that could be asked. The problem with most government interactions isn't that they haven't been done by the right people, it's that they can't be done efficiently by any human, since their underlying structure and purpose is beyond the scope of any one humans comprehension.
Monday, September 28, 2009
I found the article biased in my opinion. In the second paragraph the AP appeared to praise the federal government for running a cumulative $2.5 trillion SS surplus over the years. The only problem with that is...all that money was spent. It's not there anymore, just a bunch of IOU's sitting in a vault somewhere. So there is no money. SS is the epitome of failed government programs. The situation is so bad I seriously I doubt our parents who have been paying in the system of 30, 40 years will get more of a fraction of what they paid in back.
The other part I found unrealistic was that it claimed after the next two years of annual deficits, SS will run annual surpluses again until 2016 (down from 2040 as of 2 yrs ago I think). This is looking through a rose-colored lens as government always does, just like the CBO budget deficits that get revised a few trillion up every few months. That 2016 date assumes we get out of recession this year and have a substantial recovery. Of course though, through all of the policies being pursued now by the Obama administration we will be guaranteed to be in an economic black hole for years to come. So I'll predict right now on the record that SS will never run an annual surplus again...EVER.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
There was a great opinion piece about the absurdities of the drinking age on CNN today by John M. Cardell. Over the summer, I met a Danish fellow who said that dangerous college binge drinking is entirely unheard of in Denmark - they're secret? the drinking age is 15. There, the phenomenon of rebellious drinking dies at age 14-16, while they are still in care of their parents. By the time they're living on their own, drinking is seen as a lubricant for social settings at most. This friend of mine even went so far as to cite the popularity of drugs in America as a side effect of our rediculous drinking laws, which make illegal drugs just as easily obtainable as alcohol for most people under 21. It really makes me wonder if "adults" will ever look at us hopeless, rauckus youths and realize that freedom and responsibility flow in both directions.