Pass More Laws, Fix The World. Easy, Right?

This post by James Pethokoukis on the enormous interconnectedness of globe-spanning supply chains, along with David Henderson’s reminder of Pietra Rivoli’s The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy, reinforce the reality that reality is vastly more complex than most people realize.  Indeed, it’s not too far a stretch to say that nearly all mistaken economic notions, dangerous ideologies, and counterproductive government policies are the simple results of people thinking the world to be far simpler than it really is.

The solution is to seize income or wealth from those who have more and give it to those who have less.  Simple. Easy-peasy.

Do you not have as much money as you like, or do you despair that some people have much more money than do other people?  Both the explanation and the solution seem simple.  The explanation for income and wealth inequality is that those who have more have more only because they’ve somehow weaseled an excessively large share of “society’s” wealth from those who have less.  The solution is to seize income or wealth from those who have more and give it to those who have less.  Simple.  Easy-peasy.

Anyone who has mastered simple addition understands that transferring $X from Smith to Jones reduces Smith’s net worth by $X while raising Jones’s net worth by the same amount.  And because wealth simply exists – it’s simply out there – the only effects of any such forcible transfer are simply to make Jones richer, Smith less-rich, and society more equal.  What you get is what you see.  See, simple!

Do you grieve for workers who lose jobs to fellow Americans who choose to buy more imports?  The explanation and the solution are simple: restrict imports.  Jobs saved!  End of story.  Simple!  And the only possible explanation for policies that allow domestic jobs to be ‘destroyed’ by foreign trade is that people in power, who are either malevolent or incompetent, simply failed to pursue the simple solution of protectionism.  It follows that solving this simple problem requires nothing more than installing in high office someone strong and resolute – someone skilled in the art of the deal – who will simply demand that foreigners reduce their sales to domestic consumers.  No more job losses!  Our country is great again!  What could be simpler?  Who needs – indeed, who even notices – complex global supply chains?  Restrict trade and everything we need we will simply produce ourselves.  No prob!

Are people in some foreign lands tyrannized by their own rulers?  The explanation and the solution are simple.  Somehow the levers of state power in those lands fell into the hands of bad guys.  The simple solution is to get rid of the bad guys and replace them with good guys.  And the simple way to replace bad guys with good guys is with physical force.  Further, because we are good guys – and because, when we are abroad, we are always noble – we should simply use the resources at our disposal to dispose of the bad guys and their bad policies.  Quite straightforward, really.

Is the economy slumping?  The explanation and the solution are simple.  Every businessperson knows that the more people spend on the offerings of existing businesses, the more profitable and thriving are these businesses.  So the simple reason for an economy-wide slump is that people aren’t spending enough economy-wide.  The solution is to get people to increase their spending in the aggregate.  Duh!  What could be simpler?

Has some teenager or single mom died of an overdose of an illegal drug?  The explanation and solution are simple.  Drug-enforcement efforts are too weak.  Rev up those efforts and watch not only illegal drug use fall, but currently dissolute and irresponsible people become less dissolute and more responsible.  Simple!

Are some workers paid less than you feel they should be paid?  Of course your assessment is correct, for nothing could be simpler than noticing that some workers’ wages are much, much, much lower than are other workers’ wages.  And wages so low are simply wrong!  The simple and obvious solution is simply to force employers to pay all of their workers wages that are at least as high as you judge appropriate.  Simple!

Do government schools perform poorly?  My gosh, the explanation is simple and plain as day: these schools are underfunded.  To solve this simple problem, simply increase government-schools’ budgets.  Simple!

Whatever your complaint, the solution is simple: give power and authority to the government.

Are some people homeless?  The reason for this misfortune is simple: there aren’t enough homes.  The solution is equally simple: build more homes that homeless people can afford!  (It’s called “affordable housing,” which differs from what too many home-builders mysteriously insist on building: unaffordable housing.)  Why didn’t anyone think of this simple solution earlier?!

Indeed, is your life not ideal?  Is the world imperfect?  The explanation for much of this sad reality is that other people are not behaving in ways that would make your life and the world better.  It’s oh-so-plain to see.  If only merchants would lower their prices.  If only employers would raise the wages they pay.  If only investors would build that new factory in my town rather than elsewhere.  If only those people from far away did not come here and offer to work at the same kind of job that I now hold.  If only the police would get tougher on criminals.  If only our elected leaders would not be out-bargained by foreign leaders.  If only our military were better funded and not restrained by misguided isolationist sentiments here at home.  If only corporations would put people ahead of profits.  If only corporations didn’t spend so much to influence the outcomes of elections.  If only….  Whatever your complaint, the solution is simple: give power and authority to government officials who promise with great earnestness to “solve” whatever problems you, as a voter, instruct them to solve.  These officials, adequately armed and provisioned, will simply roll up their sleeves and attack the problems directly – simply – and fix things.

What could be simpler?

Republished from Cafe Hayek.

Donald J. Boudreaux


Donald J. Boudreaux

Donald Boudreaux is a senior fellow with the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a Mercatus Center Board Member, a professor of economics and former economics-department chair at George Mason University, and a former FEE president.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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Polarizing Adjectives

I did an experiment once and bought two newspapers from cities over 100 miles apart, one very left leaning and one very right leaning then looked at stories that they published from the wire, i.e from a national reporting agency and only edited for the local paper. On almost every one of them you would think you were reading about two completely different happenings even though the original writing came from the exact same source.

It’s in the details that were thought relevant to the story and the subjective adjectives used to polarize the story in one direction or the other.

Say one of the stories involved a person who was high and had been out of work for 6 months committing a crime. One paper would say that he was on drugs and imply that’s why he committed the crime, but not mention that he had been out of work and the other would highlight the fact that he had been out of work and imply that he was desperate to feed his family, but not mentioning that he apparently had the money for drugs.

On adjectives, there are some that are objective … it was a “red” car, a “glass” bottle, things like that. Then you have the subjective adjectives … they were “needlessly” loud, it was an “outrageous” situation. Objective adjectives are simply facts, with no emotional bias one way or the other. Subjective adjectives arise from the beliefs of the writer and/or editor. Others leave a question open, such as my saying “that he ‘apparently’ had the money for drugs.” Which says that it looks like this is the case, but we’re not sure.

Then you have the purely economic fact that, like it or not, people are more interested in bad things happening than good and so news agencies give far more weight to negative and conflict laden stories and even create them if they weren’t bad enough to begin with. That’s what drives the ratings and that is what drives the profits. It is their JOB to make things sound as bad and divisive as possible and pound on them day after day.

In the online population it’s the comment trolls that perform that function. Gotta get those talking points out there. Anyone who disagrees with what they say is obviously a _______— (fill in the blank). They like trouble. They love feeling holier than thou by pointing out the evil in their opponents, regardless of any facts to the contrary.

It’s also interesting to see what I get called when I write something like this in comments. Depending on the audience and the comment it is in response to, (if any) I am just as likely to be called a “libtard” as a “winger” or other equivalent insults. I’m always curious to see what, if any, response it gets. It usually gives me a good chuckle.

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Liberals Vs Religion

I just ran across one of the best calls for reaffirming the roots of liberalism with respect to religion that I’ve read in many a year. It talks both about things that really make me mad at a lot of liberals and yet find myself falling into on occasion. Tolerance includes tolerating intolerance and free speech means nothing if it’s not free for people you despise as much as for those you agree with.

Check it out …

http://theweek.com/article/index/269462/why-do-so-many-liberals-despise-christianity

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Civil Forfeiture – Arresting Your Money (or House Or Car Or …)

Civil forfeiture, or civil asset forfeiture, is a legal action where your property is arrested and seized even if you aren’t. Get stopped on your way to buying a used car and having a couple of thousand dollars in cash on you? The cop can take the money, saying he thinks you’re really on your way to buy drugs and keep it, no proof needed.

It can cost thousands of dollars and years of work to get your property back if you even can. Most people wind up walking away. One airplane owner in Arizona had his plane confiscated because they said it was being used to transport drugs. He was never even arrested, much less convicted, of anything. Over $50,000 and years later he finally got his plane back … in the pieces they’d taken it apart into to search it.

Originally conceived as a way to cripple organized crime bosses so they couldn’t buy their way out of trouble when being prosecuted, it has morphed into the biggest crime ring of all, run by the police themselves. You see, they often get to keep that money or the proceeds from the sale of property to spend pretty much however they want. It’s off budget and un-accountable.

What brought all this to mind is a video I ran across on Cafe Hayek. Longish and hilarious, but well worth watching:

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The Morning After The Night Before In Ferguson

A Grand Jury is created to decide if there are grounds for criminal charges to be pressed against a person, if they are criminally liable for what happened. It’s a more formal procedure than a common court based indictment, but it also goes into more depth and can last much longer.

As with any court proceedings, the question is solely about whether one specific person in one specific case acted with criminal intent or willful negligence. “Society” is not on trial, nor is any subgroup such as police officers or members of a given race.

Justice is blind. Justice for one is justice for the other. It’s not an emotional plea for “fairness.” Justice does not take into account any matters of race, creed, sex or any of a number of other irrelevant pieces of information.

A Grand Jury is to decide if the physical evidence and testimony of witnesses is sufficient to recommend going forward with an actual trial. Has a crime, according to the law, been committed?

The pertinent law in Missouri:

563.046. A law enforcement officer in effecting an arrest or in preventing an escape from custody is justified in using deadly force:

(2) When he reasonably believes that such use of deadly force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest and also reasonably believes that the person to be arrested

(a) Has committed or attempted to commit a felony; or

(b) Is attempting to escape by use of a deadly weapon; or

(c) May otherwise endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless arrested without delay.

In other words, an  officer can use deadly force when it’s necessary to prevent bodily injury or death to himself or others.

I’m working my way through the evidence right now, so more later.

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Things Worth Checking Out, 7-5-14

Hilarious column from Reason taking a very tongue-in-cheek approach to outlawing volunteerism.

And another on the ExIm (Export-Import Bank) authorization. It’s about as Crony Capitalistic an organization as you can get.
I’ve run across this video once before, but forgot to get the code for it. What is the scientific method as described by Dr. Richard Feynman, a Nobel prize (and many others) winning physicist? Then compare that definition to the Global Warming/Climate Change/Alarmist crowd. Hint: None of the theories and models have come close to accurately predicting the facts on the ground (or in the air or water).
It’s getting late, so this will have to do me for tonight.

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Things Worth Checking Out 6-22-14

Let’s take a look inside those unemployment numbers. We’re still a LONG way from a healthy job market. Our Decimated Labor Force at The Weekly Standard shows that it’s not “just the baby boomers retiring” that are drawing down the participation rate as is usually claimed when you point out the worrying numbers.

Peer to Peer isn’t just for files. Interesting Daily Beast article on the progress of Uber (one of the ride sharing via mobile companies) and what’s come up against it. As Europe Now Sees, Resisting Uber is Useless. At least the Euro cabbies didn’t try to pretend their protest was against anything but maintaining their government protected monopolies like the ones in San Francisco and Boston have done. I wish we had one set up here, but no luck yet. We’re just a bit too small.

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BLM Has More Problems Than Just Cattle

Here’s the story. Wild horses run free on Federal land. Nobody owns them, they’re just another species on the land. But, being horses, they like to eat grasses and do other things that “hurt” the environment. Complaints that there weren’t enough taken were met with the explanation that BLM didn’t have enough money to do more.

Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek found a way around that little money problem. Give it a read and see if you like his suggestion.

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