Category Archives: Economics

A Question of Labor Scarcity

Cory Doctorow started the New Year with a very interesting piece on the “roboticization of the workforce”. The whole article is worth a read, but it brings up a disturbing question:

But here’s the thing that neither of these articles — or even Bruce’s acid observations — touches on: once technology creates abundance, what possibilities exist for distributing the fruits of that abundance such that the benefits are more evenly felt?

There are plenty of people who will suggest that collectivist economics and centralized redistribution are the answer. Given the last century of history, that’s not an option I like. Take a look at Doctorow’s nightmare scenario:

We’ve been talking about an increase in productivity producing an increase in leisure for a long time, but instead, the “winner take all” world of Brynjolfsson and McAfee often seems to produce a “winner” class that works itself into an early grave by running 100-hour work weeks at astounding payscales, and a much larger “loser” class that works itself into an early grave by working 100-hour weeks in shitty, marginal, grey-economy jobs, trying to stitch together something like an income.

This is bad. However, the nightmare scenario that evolves under socialism is invariably worse. Instead of a winner class created by skilled, high-value work, a winner class develops from people who successfully gain control of the redistribution machine. Giving power to those who covet it is rarely a good idea, but usually unavoidable. The United States was built with a system of government shaped by this insight. By and large, its citizens have profited from keeping checks and balances on power seekers, even as the power seekers have eroded them.

A class of power seekers in control of an economic redistribution machine that replaces labor markets would not be subject to checks and balances. By controlling what people have, they would have absolute, unchecked power. Worse, power seekers tend to be the least sensitive to the wants and needs of the people they control. Even worse, most power seekers see others as resources to be exploited for their benefit.

Terrifying, isn’t it? Surely, we can avoid this by making sure the right people are in charge. Nope, sorry. Eventually, those who want power will take over the redistribution machine. It’s a certainty. Those who seek power will overcome the will of the rest to keep them out. It’s the consistent thread in human history.

The real problem is that we’re approaching a point where the labor market as it’s structured will collide with the efficiency gains caused by technology. If most labor is not scarce enough to allow workers to earn enough to support themselves and their families, how does society respond? How do supporters of economic liberty respond? What new mechanisms can be devised that allow ordinary people to continue to participate freely in the markets for goods and services without the wealth earned from the labor market?

This is stuff supporters of economic liberty need to start thinking about now. Our opponents have a ready answer that people will be drawn to despite its historic failures. Without an alternative from us, tyranny of the default will result in actual tyranny.

Thoughts on the fiscal cliff

Just some quick thoughts on the fiscal cliff…

IT’S THE SPENDING, STUPID

It’s frustrating that no one is discussing the fact the the Obama plan for deficit reduction actually increases spending with the inclusion of a stimulus package in 2013. Raising taxes and borrowing more money for more stimulus not debt reduction. It’s just more debt.

The political failure from Republican leaders in the House is staggering. Republicans should have been hammering Obama’s plan so damn hard even the media had to listen. The ad writes itself: “Obama’s plan is tax now, borrow now, spend now. Is that a balanced approach?” It’s a compelling message, a potent political weapon, and it’s true. Had Boehner been looking for any of those, he would have figured this out. Unfortunately for the American people, Boehner felt it was more important to compromise with Obama.

At this point, if I were Boehner, I would actually give into Obama on tax increases but insist that tax increases be met dollar-for-dollar with spending cuts. If suddenly there were no conflict about tax rates but there was no deal, it would force people (even reporters) to ask what the remaining barriers were. This would allow Boehner to shift the conversation where it needs to be… on spending. (Yes, I know this plan is insane. However, when you’re negotiating someone who’s view of compromise is “heads, I win; tails, I win”, there is no such thing as sanity.)

NEWSPEAK OF THE DAY

From the WaPo article linked above:

Boehner’s latest offer calls for $2 trillion in savings over the next decade, half from higher taxes and half from cuts to the fast-growing health and retirement programs that are the federal government’s largest expense. All told, Obama’s latest offer calls for about $2.15 trillion in savings.

Taking more money from the citizens is “savings”? Who knew bank robbers were being so darn responsible, saving all that money?

The accurate description of Boehner’s plan would be $1.2 trillion in savings and $800 billion in taxes. Obama’s plan would accurately be described as $1.5 trillion in new taxes, $80 billion in new spending in 2013, and $570 billion in cuts thereafter. The truth, of course, would disrupt the narrative that the President’s plan is balanced while Boehner’s is not. Therefore, spending cuts and taxes are all called savings.

In other news, the English Language filed assault charges against the Washington Post after reading the article. (If only.)

WHAT IF GOING OVER THE CLIFF ISN’T THAT BAD?

The conventional wisdom is that going over the cliff will be an economic nightmare. But what if it isn’t? There are a some positives in going over the fiscal cliff:

  1. Government spending will go down.
  2. The debt limit will not need to be increased.
  3. Americans will actually be impacted by the cost of government.

Might these mitigate the harms of going over the cliff? In the short term, I don’t think so. The financial hit taken by Americans coupled with the continued economic uncertainty of a government groping for a solution will cause a lot of pain.

In the long term, the pain might (notice I said “might”) produce a healthy skepticism of government spending among the citizens. A 2011 Gallup poll already indicated that the public overwhelmingly favors spending cuts in the abstract. However, they tend not to favor cutting things that benefit them directly. Since different people benefit from different programs, this produces an unwillingness for politicians in either party to cut spending. If people suddenly become concerned with the economic pain of the fiscal cliff, they just might be receptive to a trade-off of reduced government benefits for decreased taxes and increased economic stability.

Of course, there has to be support from the GOP in Washington for this, since it certainly won’t come from the Democrats. Well, there goes that idea…

CONCLUSION

Take these thoughts for what they are… frustrations and wild speculations about the fiscal cliff. Hopefully they start a good discussion on the subject. Maybe they’ll even open a few eyes to facets of the situation left unreported by the mainstream media.

Let me steal adapt a song title from Avenue Q for a closing thought: There is life outside of the Beltway. This country has survived a hell of a lot and it still can. The will of the American people to be successful and prosperous has survived recessions and depressions and governments more suffocating than what we have today. We can do it again, even if we go over the cliff.

Your Incredibly Stupid Progressive Economic Propaganda for the Day

There is so much economic ignorance/stupidity in this video (below), I wouldn’t even know where to begin. John Maynard Keynes himself would probably be embarrassed by this video courtesy of the California* Federation of Teachers and narrated by the great economist of our time Ed Asner.

I don’t have much else to say about this video right now, it’s too easy (though feel free to rip it apart here…or defend it). Actually, I am in the planning stages of writing a book that challenges this sort of mentality (I’m shooting for a release date about May 2013). I’m hoping Liberty Papers readers will buy it; I will have discounts for Liberty Papers readers.

And now for your, um…enjoyment[?]: Tax the Rich: An animated fairy tale**

WARNING: This is 7 minutes and 50 seconds of your life you will never get back.

*Oh yes, the state of California which is being run by people with this kind of mentality! Yeah, their economic policies have been working great, haven’t they?

**Fairy tale is actually a very good description.

I, Pencil: The Movie

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is working on a film series based on Leonard E. Read’s 1958 essay entitled: I, Pencil in which the author makes the claim “[N]ot a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me [a pencil].” The video below is their animated adaptation of the essay (I, Pencil: The Movie). For those of you who are unfamiliar with the essay, its one of the best explanations of how spontaneous order works IMO. For those who have read the essay, I think you will enjoy this video as well.

The Modern Republican Party is a Special Kind of Suck (Part 3 of 3)

Part 2

Did Voters Reject Capitalism?
Some on the Right have said that the 2012 election was a rejection of Capitalism. I’m not entirely sure I agree. Yes, there seems to be a large percentage of the electorate who want money to be taken away from the top 1 or 2% and redistributed to the remaining 99 or 98%. Yes, more people are reliant on some sort of government check than ever before. Is it possible that there was some other reason voters rejected the alternative Barack Obama in this election?

The answer to this question, I think, has more to do with where conservatives come down on certain divisive social issues. The rhetoric on issues like abortion and gay marriage for example have alienated certain people who agree with Republicans on taxes and spending may have otherwise voted for the Republican candidate. For voters who decide these issues are at least as important as economic issues, they either support Obama, support Gary Johnson,* or don’t vote at all.

Anti-choice Extremism of Suck
To be fair, abortion is an issue that even divides libertarians. Sadly, this is not an issue that is likely to disappear anytime soon.** But the way Republicans present the issue needs to change unless they want to continue to chase away the female vote. I don’t think it’s even necessarily about abortion per se but more the cavalier attitude some Republican politicians seem to have about anything concerning women’s reproductive cycles.

While it’s reasonable to say that the government should not force insurance companies to pay for contraception, when someone like Rush Limbaugh calls someone like Sandra Fluke a slut or a prostitute, for advocating the opposite view, this distracts from the argument. There has always been a double standard in our society concerning sex. Men are studs for putting notches on their bedposts while women are sluts for doing the same. Comments like these remind women of this double standard and make it seem that Republicans have not moved beyond this double standard.

They refer to the “morning after pill” (marketed as Plan B) as an “abortion pill” when in fact it is not. In fact, according to this article on WebMD the morning after pill doesn’t work for women who are already pregnant (that’s a different pill). The article further explains that the pill does one of two things depending on where a woman happens to be in her cycle when the pill is taken: 1. prevents or delays ovulation or 2. keeps the egg from being fertilized. Some may also recall that Ron Paul, who was arguably the most anti-abortion candidate in the race and someone who was an obstetrician by trade (i.e. he knows what he’s talking about) said as much in one of the debates when the morning after pill was brought up. Anyone who says the morning after pill is an abortion pill is either uninformed or lying.

You have Republican men like Todd Aiken talking about “legitimate rape,” basically saying to women who are real victims that if her body didn’t “shut that whole thing down,” they weren’t really raped to begin with, therefore; there shouldn’t be a legal exception for rape to allow for an abortion. Another senate candidate, Richard Mourdock, said that a pregnancy that is the result of rape is “a gift from God.” Seriously.

Whether they realize it or not, Republicans are basically saying that pregnant women are second class citizens. For nine months, her rights are second to the concern of the unborn child regardless of the circumstances of how the child was conceived and regardless of legitimate health concerns of the mother. It should come to no surprise that some women might object to these attitudes and vote accordingly.

The issues concerning reproductive rights are delicate but often not treated as such among Republicans. Maybe just maybe, the GOP should allow the women to be the spokespersons on these issues, even if they are staunchly anti-choice. Instead of a blanket one size fits all federal policy outlawing abortion; the GOP should say the issue should be decided state-by-state.

Anti-Gay Attitudes of Suck
Face it Republicans, gays are serving in the military and they will eventually have the ability to get married in all 50 states. The train has left the station a long, long time ago. You can concede that you have lost on this issue or you can continue to take a beating at the polls, and deservedly so.

So what’s a socially conservative person to do?

No one says you have to like the gay lifestyle. Go ahead and preach from your tax exempt pulpit about the immorality of homosexuality. Go ahead and write blogs or write on your Face Book wall about how much you disapprove. Whatever. It’s your right to be as intolerant as you want to be.

The problem for libertarians at least is when you want to use force via the government to get your way. Libertarians would also say that churches should not be forced by the government to marry gay couples (or any couple for any reason for that matter). Let the churches discriminate but also allow gay couples to have the same legal contract*** rights as heterosexual couples. And if a gay couple can find a church that will marry them, that should be the end of it. Who are you to infringe on their religious liberty?

Conclusion: Slaying the Suck
The days of appealing only to white Christian men over 50 are coming to an end as white Christian men over 50 are quickly becoming a minority. The Republican Party must learn to reach out to minorities, to women, and to younger voters.

Sure, Republicans had minorities speaking at their convention and I’m not accusing the GOP of tokenism (though I’m sure others, particularly on the Left will make that charge). But it simply is not enough to have Condoleezza Rice, Susannah Martinez, and Marco Rubio in the party to say that you are “inclusive.” Minorities need to be included in the conversation, heard as opposed to talked at. How are your policies better for them than the Democrats’?

Ask yourself: “If I were female, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Muslim, atheist, or gay, would I feel welcome in the Republican Party?” If the answer is “no,” the Republicans have some serious work to do if they want to win in the future. While none of these minorities in of themselves cost Romney the election, together they make up a significant voting bloc that would be foolish to ignore.

Some of the issues I have mentioned in this series are popular within the GOP but don’t necessarily play all that well outside the GOP (i.e. independent voters). This doesn’t mean surrendering their principles necessarily but it does mean re-thinking some of them, presenting their ideas better, and deciding which issues are worth fighting for and which (if any) need to be jettisoned.

While some people may have liked Mitt Romney’s economic proposals, they may have also disliked his social proposals. The problem with supporting a candidate for office is that the person you are voting for is a package deal. Some of us are simply unwilling to choose between economic liberties and civil liberties (and when the Republicans are only marginally better on economic liberty than the Democrats AND when Democrats are only marginally better than Republicans on civil liberties, some of us prefer the real deal and vote Libertarian).

In closing, I think Rep. Ron Paul had some very good thoughts in his farewell speech from the House that would serve as a guide on how the Republican Party can slay the special kind of suck that gave a terrible president a second term:

The problem we have faced over the years has been that economic interventionists are swayed by envy, whereas social interventionists are swayed by intolerance of habits and lifestyles. The misunderstanding that tolerance is an endorsement of certain activities, motivates many to legislate moral standards which should only be set by individuals making their own choices. Both sides use force to deal with these misplaced emotions. Both are authoritarians. Neither endorses voluntarism. Both views ought to be rejected.

Yes, these views ought to be rejected and the GOP should return to the strategy they used to win in 2010: economic issues front and center and social issues on the back burner.

*I am proud to say I was one of the 1% or roughly 1 million who supported Gary Johnson for president. Though in terms of the election is a small number but set a new record for the Libertarian Party.

**Call me cynical but I think both Republicans and Democrats want abortion to always be an issue for fundraising reasons. This is an issue that animates the bases of both parties.

***Don’t waste my time with the slippery slope arguments “that if gays can marry what’s next, people marrying their dogs?” or “marry children” or “marry their cars.” The key here is contract rights. Dogs, children, and cars all have one thing in common: none have the legal ability to enter into a contract.

The Modern Republican Party is a Special Kind of Suck (Part 2 of 3)

Part 1

Confusing Economic Policy of Suck
I’m sure there are many other areas where Romney went wrong but I think most of the rest of this special kind of suck is courtesy of other Republicans. During the Republican primary, the “anyone but Romney” crowd was so desperate to eliminate Romney that they resorted to a line of attack one would expect to come from Democrats. Many Republicans seem to forget that the attacks against Romney concerning Bain Capital were first leveled by Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry at campaign rallies, in the primary debates, in their campaign ads, and in anti-Romney super PAC ads. Perry called Romney a “vulture capitalist.” The Obama campaign picked up this line of attack where Gingrich and Perry left off. In swing states like Ohio, this message had basically been pounded since before the state’s primary and never let up for the rest of the campaign.

Once charges like these are made by Republicans who are supposed to be proponents of free market capitalism, it’s kind of difficult for people who actually understand how the free market works to explain why business practices employed by Bain Capital are not only legitimate, but also necessary. In this Occupy Wall Street era we live in, there seems to be an attitude that no one is ever supposed to lose his or her job and that every job is not only necessary but equally valuable.

Companies like Bain invest in businesses in trouble and try to make them profitable. In making a business profitable, sometimes this means that some people are going to lose their jobs. Like a doctor who is trying to save the patient’s life, sometimes a limb needs to be amputated. No one wants to lose an arm or a leg in such a scenario but most who face such a dilemma would rather lose an arm or leg than lose his or her life. If the amputation is done soon enough and correctly, the patient lives. Other times, however; even despite taking such drastic measures, the patient still dies. The same is true for some of the companies Bain tried to rescue. Of course no one wants to think of themselves as a limb that needs to be amputated in order to save their company*.

Immigration Policy of Suck
In addition to the mixed messages concerning Capitalism, the Republican Primary debates took on a very harsh tone concerning immigration. Any candidate who suggested that the idea of rounding up each and every illegal immigrant was impractical and that perhaps deporting individuals who were otherwise productive members of our society, said candidate would be accused of advocating “amnesty” – a four letter word among conservative Republicans.

Such harsh anti-illegal immigration rhetoric carried over into the general campaign when President Obama (rightly, in my view) made an executive order to allow individuals who were brought here illegally as children under the age of 16 to stay and have temporary work permits. This was an outrage among Republicans because, you know, the law is the law.

As Gary Johnson pointed out on several occasions during the campaign, while it’s true that we live in a nation based on the rule of law, too many Republicans fail to understand that the laws are changeable. And as I pointed out at the time, when there are more than 27,000 pages of federal law on the books with over 4,500 criminal laws, this necessarily means that any president would have to prioritize and choose which laws he will enforce and which he will not. When the number of laws is this numerous, it’s the same as having no rule of law at all.

Immigration is an issue the GOP needs to figure out and figure out quick as the Hispanic population will become an increasingly major factor in future elections (even GOP strongholds like Texas might eventually turn blue due to this demographic reality). Should we be surprised that the Hispanic population overwhelmingly supported Obama over Romney given the rhetoric?

It’s time to reexamine the notion that the border should be secure first before any comprehensive reforms are made. I think this is exactly backwards. If the legal immigration process wasn’t such a bureaucratic nightmare to begin with, I doubt seriously that illegal immigration would remain an issue.

This much needed debate** is not going to be very productive if every time someone proposes something other than building a 20’ tall fence along the Southern border, checking ID’s of everyone with brown skin, and rounding up every illegal immigrant regardless of circumstances, s/he is accused of promoting amnesty. Even more importantly, whatever the GOP decides immigration policy should be, they need to soften their tone and be mindful that we are talking about human beings here. I think it’s safe to assume that just about every legal immigrant (especially from Mexico) has at least a few family members who are here illegally. They do not like to think of their relatives as “invaders” who need to be rounded up. These people vote too.

*And I’m writing as someone who has been the limb being amputated. Just a couple of years ago, it was my department that needed downsized to save the company…at Christmas time no less. I’m happy to say that the downsizing measure did in fact save the department and six months later, they called me back and have been working there ever since.

**Doug and Kevin have each offered up some ideas for immigration reform that I think warrant consideration.

Part 3

The Modern Republican Party is a Special Kind of Suck (Part 1 of 3)

Barack Obama’s Record of Suck
Four years ago, Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. He promised hope n’ change from the failed policies of George W. Bush. His policies were going to lower the debt, reduce unemployment to around 5%, become the “most transparent administration in U.S. history,” close Guantanamo Bay, and restore the damaged international relations around the world.

Four years later, Obama has increased the debt by $6 trillion (the national debt is now over $16 trillion), kept unemployment hovering around 8% for nearly his entire first term despite his Keynesian efforts to stimulate the economy, and punished whistleblowers for daring to shed light on what has arguably been one of the least transparent administrations in history. Guantanamo Bay is not only still open but now with Obama’s signing of the NDAA, even American citizens can be taken there and detained indefinitely without charge or trail. If this wasn’t enough, the Obama administration also developed a “secret kill list” from which drones search for and kill targets from that list– including American citizens, who are sought out in Yemen, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, and who knows where else without any Constitutional authority whatsoever.

Then there’s “Fast and Furious,” an operation of Eric Holder’s Justice Department in which the BATFE purposely gave weapons to Mexican drug cartels resulting in untold deaths including a Border Control Agent by the name of Brian Terry. Obama has since invoked executive privilege to protect Holder from congress getting too close to the truth.

Finally, there are the terrorist attacks in Libya and Egypt on September 11, 2012. Rather than admit the obvious, President Obama and his administration lied to the American public concerning the nature of the attack claiming the attacks came from spontaneous protesters who were angry about an obscure YouTube video that “slandered” the prophet Mohammad.

A Special Kind of Suck
This is only a thumbnail sketch of the failures and malfeasance of the Obama administration in one term of office. Today the news should be about the Romney/Ryan transition team after a slam dunk landslide victory. But that is not the news today, is it? Yes, the Republican Party sucks but for the Republican challenger to be beaten despite Obama’s record, an advantage the last Republican challenger did not have, that takes a special kind of suck.

How exactly did the Republican Party achieve this special kind of suck? That is the question political observers are asking and what the party needs to answer if the GOP wants to win future elections. Reflexively, many on the Right are blaming the main stream media for its pro-Obama bias. There’s no question the MSM was more critical of Romney than Obama. They downplayed team Obama’s missteps but never missed an opportunity to report each and every gaffe of team Romney. Romney was also running against history – America’s first black president. While this is all true, it’s also true that Republicans won control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections on a wave of Tea Party fervor. The MSM had just as much of an Obama/Left wing bias then as they do now yet the Republicans gained ground. What was different this time?

Mitt Romney, the Nominee of Suck
No doubt, Gov. Mitt Romney is probably getting most of the blame and he deserves much of it. That being said, the reasons Romney failed to beat a failed president go well beyond Romney or his campaign. Maybe, Romney is a good place to start though.

Rather than make a choice that would be a champion of the limited government issues Republicans claim to care about (like say Gary Johnson or Ron Paul), the GOP decided they would go with Mitt Romney. Never mind that he authored the forerunner to ObamaCare (RomneyCare) or that he was a political chameleon (does anyone seriously think he made a principled change, as opposed to a political calculation, on abortion when it was time to run in 2008?). No, Romney was “electable” and by gosh, it was “his turn.”

Much of the destructive foreign policy of the Obama administration was right in line with what Romney said he would do. Romney had no problem with the NDAA, Guantanamo Bay, the secret kill list, or renewing the Patriot Act, therefore; these areas which were ripe for criticism were off the table. Other than the question of defense spending, they seemed to both have identical policies concerning Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon and both pledged they would “stand with Israel”…whatever that means. In the foreign policy debate, the moderator handed Romney a golden opportunity to go after Obama on the recent terror attacks but decided not to do so. On another occasion, Romney did casually bring up Fast and Furious in response to a question about gun control but didn’t ask Obama some of the hard hitting questions many Americans were dying for Romney to ask.

On domestic issues, Romney allowed his opponents to define him as an out of touch millionaire who didn’t care about the 47% of the people he determined wouldn’t support him. Romney did a very poor job of defending free market capitalism* in general and his record both as governor and as a businessman in particular. When asked about the alleged gender pay gap in one of the debates, rather than explaining that the statistic doesn’t actually compare women and men of comparable occupation or work experience he said he asked for “binders full of women” from which he picked to be in senior positions when he was governor of Massachusetts. The Democrats took that line and demagogued** the hell out of it and made it part of their “war on women” mantra. If Romney didn’t want to go through the trouble of explaining why the gender pay gap is a myth, he could have respectfully asked Obama why the women on his staff and why female staffers for Democrats in the Senate are paid far less than their male counterparts. Another hanging curveball that Romney didn’t even take a swing at.

The Romney campaign was ultimately a campaign of missed opportunities; a campaign in which the candidate failed to make the case that he would be a better alternative to the incumbent. When asked how his “numbers would add up” concerning his economic policy, his answer was basically “trust me, the numbers add up.” Barack Obama could get by with his slogans and his platitudes as MSM dutifully filled in the details. But to run against an incumbent who the MSM clearly supported, the challenger apparently made the mistake that the MSM would do the same on his behalf. When you are running against an incumbent and the MSM, you better understand that you have to explain your positions yourself (particularly in the debates) rather than hope others will carry your message for you.

*Though really, I’m not sure how much Mitt Romney really believes in free market capitalism given his desire to start a trade war with China.
** Frankly, I never quite understood what their criticism was in this instance. Was it just that “binders full of women” sounds funny?

Part 2

Why Democracy Doesn’t Work, Evidence #1,083

Over at Ezra Klein’s place, Dylan Matthews points to the fact that elections are driven by the economy (and in some years, by war). And that George McGovern, who died yesterday, gets a bit of a bad rap based on the fact that he was up against an incumbent President presiding over a rapidly-expanding economy and a major drop in Vietnam casualties during his first term.

He points to a model from political scientist Douglas Hibbs, called the “Bread & Peace” model. And uses this chart as a telling guide:

Seems pretty clear to me. When the economy is doing well, the incumbents do well. When the economy is in the crapper, the incumbents get tossed out.

That makes perfect sense if we assume that the incumbent party (Congress or the President) has a big impact on the performance of the national economy. But I don’t think there’s any evidence to support this. Business cycles tend to occur in many ways orthogonal to political cycles. Policy tends to have long-running effects on the economy, but it’s measured in decades, not electoral cycles.

It’s pretty clear that voters are not really answering the question of “who is more qualified to lead us?”, or even “who has better policies?” The question they’re answering is merely “am I doing good right now? If not, whoever is in charge is obviously to blame!” Which causes me to ask a question (one Dylan Matthews doesn’t think to ask): if elections are driven by factors often widely outside the realm of short-term election cycles, why exactly do we think that elections are a good way to decide who to put into power?

About the only acceptable answer to that question that I can find is “it’s a better system than any others we’ve tried.” Frankly, such an answer doesn’t inspire confidence.

And further, when elections are driven by forces outside the candidates’ control, how exactly can we sit idly by and let politicians claim a mandate for their policies based upon the fact that they’ve won office? Voters don’t know what will fix the economy (nor do most politicians, frankly). But I guarantee that if Romney wins, it will be claimed as a mandate that the policies of Obama are to blame for our failure to generate an economic recovery, and that Romney’s policies are much better for all of us*.

Every four years, America goes through a big circle jerk to congratulate ourselves for “freedom” and representative democracy. After all, we get to choose who represents us in Washington and we have an inherent assumption that the fact that we’ve voted for them indicates that we have given them a vote of confidence. Yet we have a Congress with a approval rate in the teens and a re-election rate usually well above 90%, and we have Presidential contests that are usually decided based upon the growth of the economy rather than the qualities of the individual candidates.

But when I point out that we, as a people, don’t do a very good job deciding who to send to Washington, so just maybe we should limit the amount of power they’re allowed to wield, I’m suddenly a libertarian extremist?
» Read more

Atlas Shrugged Part II in Theaters This Weekend

Atlas Shrugged Part II is opening this weekend. Want to check it out? Follow this link to find a theater near you.

And now, the official Atlas Shrugged Part II trailer:

Quote of the Day: Small Things Edition

[I]f you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things.

And you know what? It’s worked before, because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn’t work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it’s best to stop hoping and settle for what you already know.

That was then Sen. Barack Obama in 2008. This (below) is President Obama’s campaign in 2012:

If ending the federal subsidy to PBS doesn’t qualify as a “small thing” being used to distract from a failing president’s record, I don’t know what does.

Hat Tip: Jason Pye at United Liberty

Rand Paul on Why Foreign Aid Should be Cut to Libya, Egypt, and Pakistan

On Saturday, September 22, 2012 Rand Paul’s S.3576, a bill that would have “provide[d] limitations on United States assistance” (i.e. placed conditions on aid to Libya, Egypt, and Pakistan) was soundly defeated by a 81-10 vote. On the day before the vote, Paul gave an hour long speech (truncated, 10 minute version in the video below) on the Senate floor explaining to his colleges why sending tax dollars to foreign countries is a terrible idea, particularly foreign countries which are openly hostile to the US in word or deed. In the speech, Paul reminds us that the foreign policy of recent history that has far too often been forgotten by the American public pointing out that some of the recipients of our aid eventually became our enemies. The notion of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” has been counterproductive. Saddam Hussein, Omar Qaddafi, the Mujahideen anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Resistance is Not Always Futile

There’s no question that the 2012 campaign has been full of disappointments for those of us who want less government, more liberty, and more prosperity in our lives. Very clearly, the game is rigged in large part due to the establishment media, powerful special interest groups, and the political parties themselves. It’s very easy to become disillusioned by the entire process and sometimes it’s tempting to give up and say “to hell with it!”

But rather than bring down you readers out there (as I often do), I want to share something very inspiring with you from Cato’s David Boaz (below). In Boaz’s lecture, he explains how everyday heroism hastened the demise of the Soviet Union. We libertarians complain – often with good reason, about how difficult it is for our voices to be heard in the two party system. For all practical purposes, the U.S.S.R. had only one political party and dissent was strongly discouraged…to put it mildly.

Yet somehow, ordinary people were able to rise up, demand the liberties we all too often take for granted, and prevailed! How did they do it? What can we learn from how these ordinary people brought down the Evil Empire, and more importantly, how can we apply these lessons here in the US?

Accountability, responsibility, risk, metrics, unions, markets… What about education?

As has been discussed here recently, Chicago teachers are striking, even though they already make an average salary nearly double that of the average Chicago family, and are being offered a 16% raise over four years.

I dunno about you, but as a free market partcipant in our economy today, that sounds like a pretty good deal.

Well, first thing is they’re asking for a 30% raise over four years… but that’s really just a negotiating point, and one they don’t expect to get. If it were just about the raise, I’d guess they’d take the 16%.

It’s not.

It’s not really about the money; it’s that the teachers new contract attempts, in even the tiniest way, to add some accountability and performance measures to the teachers contracts.

… and the teachers unions can’t give even a millimeter on this issue. Not one millimeter, not ever. Because if they do, their rigid seniority system collapses, and they lose power.

Here’s a fun fact: a lot of younger teachers don’t mind the idea of performance standards, and they actually LIKE the idea of merit pay, performance bonueses etc… It’s not a foreign idea for them, because all their friends who live in the real world market economy have that sort of thing.

Recently, in Idaho, the commissioner of education managed to get teacher tenure eliminated, and performance based bonuses (note, not performance based salaries or hiring or firing, just bonuses) passed as commission regulations, and then when they were challenged in lawsuits, via statute approved by public referendum.

In response, the teachers unions sponsored an unsuccessful attempt to have the commissioner (who is now serving as one of the two lead advisors on education to the Romney campaign) recalled. So unsuccessful in fact the numbers indicate basically no-one voted for the recall but teachers and their immediate families.

This year, they managed to get enough signatures together to get a repeal effort on the merit pay rules on the ballot as a referendum; polling on which indicates it will fail miserably. Meanwhile, the teachers unions are both suing to prevent the policies from being implemented AND SIMULTANEOUSLY suing to force the department of education to distribute the bonus money, but on a seniority basis.

Trying to have their cake and eat it too.

I don’t understand how much more clear it could be that this has nothing to do with the wellbeing of our children, or about good teachers; it’s about protecting union rules, and union rule…

BUT, there are certainly good, well meaning people, who really do believe that we shouldn’t put performance standards on teachers… That it’s somehow “unfair” or impossible, or just not a good idea etc…

“You can’t hold teachers accountable for the performance of their students, there’s too much they can’t control. Their home lives, their parents, poverty… Good teachers could be penalized simply for having bad students). It’s not fair”

Common refrain from teachers, and from those who support their position in this… After all you wouldn’t want to be evaluated on someone elses efforts and abilities right?

Well… I am. Most likely you are too.

In the free market, we are held accountable for other people performance and decisions etc… all the time.

As an individual contributor, my performance is measured not only by my own efforts, abilities, and success; but that of my group, my manager, and my company as a whole.

As a manager, I am held entirely accountable for someone elses performance. I have tools to motivate them, help them perform better etc… But still, I have to deal with the performance that other people give me. I have to have the skill to use that performance in the best possible way.

“But you can fire your low performing employees”.

Really?

Ever worked in corporate America? Or had a real job of any kind?

So long as my employees meet bare minimum standards, and don’t actually commit a crime (or violate major HR policies), I’m not getting rid of my low performers. It’s up to me, to make them meet the standards I need for my group to be successful.

In sales, you are held accountable for other people actions, decisions, and performance as well. You don’t get to control your customers decisions, and how much they buy from you is dependent more on their performance than yours.

Yes, a skilled salesperson with a good support team will sell more than an unskilled one; and that’s as it should be… but its still entirely dependent on someone elses performance and decisions. A good sales guy can’t get a customer who doesn’t have the money for the product, to buy the product… or at least not more than once.

Good sales managers understand this. They set account and territory sales expectations based on a reasonable evaluation of the possible performance of those accounts. If they don’t then they won’t get any decent sales people to work for them, and they’ll constantly churn sales people making these accounts and territories perform even worse.

What matters in evaluating your ability as a salesperson isn’t your absolute sales, it’s your performance in comparison to other sales people with a similar situation. IF you perform well, then good managers will put you on difficult accounts that have the potential to perform better, and reward you if you make them perform up to potential.

At least if you have a decent management team.

At that point you’re at the mercy of having a good boss, who understands that relative performance is a better judge of your capability than absolute performance…

Just like teachers need to be.

Holding teachers accountable, doesn’t mean that all teachers should be held to arbitrary and universal standards. Teachers that teach all “remedial” students can’t be held to the same standard of performance as those who teach all honors students…

And NO-ONE IS SUGGESTING ANYTHING LIKE THAT.

Or at least no-one serious, with credibility, who should be listened to.

Calling for “standardized testing and accountability” isn’t calling for teachers to make poor students perform at the level of honors students. It’s calling for teachers of all levels of students to perform no worse than average against other teachers of similar levels of students; and to measure improvement in those students over time, compared to other teachers of the same level of students.

How is that unreasonable?

Only those with the irrational… even stupid… belief that teaching is some kind of special “calling” performed only by special people who must be protected from the market forces that the rest of us must cope with; could possibly justify that sort of thinking, with any kind of intellectual honesty.

They generally apply the same sort of thinking to artists, who must be protected from the horrible taste of the masses etc…

Yeah… If we did that, then teachers would be at the mercy of having competent managers, who knew how to evaluate performance.

Just like the rest of us.

In fact… The only time I ever see a serious proposal that teachers should be evaluated by absolute and arbitrary standards… It’s coming from lefties or teachers; because they are trying to “avoid bias” or “avoid subjectivity” etc… etc… etc…

Holding teachers accountable also means holding administrators and school systems accountable. It means making them participate in the market that the rest of us are forced to.

If you have a poorly managed school, good teachers won’t go there.

IF good teachers won’t go there, then good students won’t go there… IF they’re given the option that is…

Oh… wait a second… Hey… that might just be…

And of course, if we allowed that, then the unions would lose…

Oh… hey, that might just be…

Ya think maybe…

Teaching is a job, just like any other. It’s a job that has more benefits than most. These days, it’s even a job that pays more than most. It’s a job that has a lot more security than most. It’s a job that has more garbage and BS and heartbreak than most. It’s a job that’s harder than most. It’s a job that’s a lot more important than most…

Great teachers can do more to help children be successful than anything other than great parents…

But it’s still a job.

Teachers aren’t superheroes, they aren’t artists, they are workers… just like the rest of us.

Teachers don’t need to be protected from the real world, they need to be a part of it, and accountable to it… just like the rest of us.

Maybe if they were, there would be a lot more good teachers, and a lot less bad ones.

Maybe if they our were, our children would be a lot better off.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Are the Striking Teachers’ Demands in Chicago Reasonable? You Tell Me

The teacher strike in Chicago has entered its third day. This is one of the few facts the MSM is reporting along with the fact that the city and the union are far from reaching an agreement. What is missing from much of the coverage is what are their demands? Sure, the MSM reports that the teachers want to be “respected,” paid more, and have smaller class sizes, among other demands but compared to what?

According to NRO’s John Fund, the average annual salary of Chicago teachers is $76,000 before benefits. The highest teacher salary in the nation. Oh, but maybe the cost of living is higher than the rest of the nation! Maybe, maybe not but it also might be worth noting that the average Chicago family earns about $47,000 annually. The teachers were offered a 16% raise over the next four years – a salary of $88,000 by my math*, and the teachers rejected it as it’s still not enough. This doesn’t even take into account that the teachers only pay 3% of their healthcare costs, work 9 or so months out of the year, and are eligible to retire in their fifties with a pension. Yet we are told these poor, poor public servants are underpaid.

Okay, maybe these teachers are actually worth $88,000 a year. Maybe the Chicago teachers are just that good? Fund also points out that 15% of fourth graders can read proficiently and 56% of Chicago area freshman graduate. The U.S. Department of Education reports that 79% government educated Chicago eighth graders cannot read at grade level and 80% not grade-level proficient at math.

Are these government school teachers really getting such a raw deal? You tell me.

» Read more

Ron Paul Will Never Be President But He HAS Made a Difference

Those who support the establishment of the Republican Party tend to be irritated that Ron Paul’s supporters kept trying to put his name up for nomination against Mitt Romney at the convention in Tampa even though Paul had no realistic chance of winning. Even very early in the campaign, establishment whores such as Hugh Hewitt were arguing that Ron Paul along with Herman Cain and Gary Johnson should be “exiled” from the debates because they didn’t have “a prayer of winning” the nomination. But are political campaigns, especially presidential campaigns, only about winning the nomination and ultimately, the presidency?

As someone who supported Ron Paul in the primary, I believed his winning the nomination would be the greatest upset in political history to say nothing about becoming the next president. When Terry Moran asked Paul the question: “When you lay your head on your pillow at night, do you see yourself in the Oval Office?” Paul replied “not really.” This is not a typical response of someone who is making a serious run for president.

This isn’t to say in any way that Ron Paul was not making a serious run for president, I think he was. Paul made three unsuccessful runs for the presidency but has succeeded in changing the political conversation. He advanced the ball in ways that he otherwise would not have had he not made these runs for the White House.

The most obvious example of how Paul has changed the political debate would be his call for a full audit of the Federal Reserve. As recently as 2006, the following was written about the Federal Reserve in a book by Richard Brookhiser entitled What Would the Founders Do (Our Questions, Their Answers)*

Everyone likes the Federal Reserve System these days, partly because it seems to work so well. (Not one person in a thousand ever thinks of it, a rough definition of working well.) But suspicion of public banks could revive at any time, for the same reasons that many of the founders were suspicious of them — most people (the founders included) do not understand banks or banking, and some bankers are in fact crooks. (p.92)

Back when this paragraph was written, I don’t think the Federal Reserve was even on my radar and I don’t think I was alone. Maybe the Fed isn’t the top issue for the average voter even now but I do think it’s safe to say more people are skeptical of the Fed especially in the era of bailouts and quantitative easing (i.e. printing money out of thin air). The mere mention of Ben Bernake or the Fed, especially at Ron Paul or liberty oriented rallies bring about boos and chants of “End the Fed!” “End the Fed!” This in of itself isn’t that big of a deal; these are true believers. What is a big deal, however; is that language to audit the Fed has made its way into the 2012 Republican Party Platform. Even more importantly, Paul’s Audit the Fed bill passed the House by an overwhelming 327-98 vote margin. Every single Republican but one supported the legislation along with 89 Democrats.

The bill wasn’t brought to a vote in the Senate but pressure will mount on Harry Reid if the Democrats maintain control to schedule a vote. If the Republicans take the Senate, a vote is even more likely to happen and Audit the Fed would be more likely to pass. If it gets to the president’s desk, the president – be it Obama or Romney will sign the bill, I believe.

A bipartisan bill authored by Ron Paul – who would have thought?

Ron Paul, one man who prior to the 2008 campaign wasn’t a household name, has changed the conversation within the G.O.P. concerning the Fed, spending, constitutional government, taxation, and civil liberties. Though his delegates were mistreated in Tampa, the RNC saw fit to at least try to mollify them with this tribute to the congressman’s career.

Missing from the tribute video was Paul’s anti-war/anti-interventionist views that he has espoused throughout his political career. Paul challenged people to do their own research concerning American foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East. He openly challenged the notion that policing the world trying to “make the world safe for democracy” and nation building was in America’s national security interest. Though the Neocons and war hawks are still firmly in control of the G.O.P., more voices in the party are challenging the prevailing view and cautioning Americans about blowback – a term invented by the C.I.A. but popularized by the Texas congressman.

Most important of all, Ron Paul is leaving a legacy behind him as he retires from congress. What will become of the rEVOLution in his absence? A small but growing number of individuals are being elected to the House and the Senate who share many of Paul’s small government/pro-liberty views. Ron Paul’s son Sen. Rand Paul along with Sen. Mike Lee, Sen. Mark Kirk, Rep. Justin Amash among others will lead the movement into the future. If the Paul activists continue to fight the establishment from inside** the G.O.P., there is at least a chance that the party will actually live up to its more small government ideals it purports to stand for.

*Basic Books, New York.

**While I understand why some Paul supporters might be tempted to leave the party due to how they have been treated by the party establishment, I would advise against this. The G.O.P. is ripe for a hostile takeover BUT the establishment isn’t going to give up control so easy. If you drop out, you are allowing them to win; this is precisely what they want you to do. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Focus on the Senate, House, and races at the state and local levels and vote your conscience for president (the wonderful thing about voting is that you don’t have to tell anyone who you voted for). After this election, regroup and continue to fight for liberty.

Quote of the Day: Modern Day Witch Hunts Edition

If you haven’t been over to The Agitator recently to read what Radley Balko’s guest bloggers have been writing in his absence over the last several weeks, you are missing some grade A quality posts. This post from William Anderson “Costs and Benefits of Modern ‘Sex Crime’ Witch Hunts” is the creme de la creme.

In this post, Anderson details how easily innocent people can be charged, tried, and convicted of sex crimes due to federal laws such as the Child Abuse Protection and Treatment Act of 1974 (A.K.A. the Mondale Act) and rape shield laws which disadvantage the accused by lowering the normal criminal standard of proof guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to a preponderance of evidence. Not only does the accused have to try to prove a negative (ex: that s/he did not sexually assault the accuser) but also pay out of pocket for legal defense that can cost in the millions of dollars to do so (meanwhile, the state can easily bear the costs of prosecuting the case with taxpayer money).

People who are accused [of sex crimes] either must depend upon a public defender or must pay for legal representation from their own resources, and it does not take long for the money spigot to run dry. Tonya Craft literally had close to a million dollars to spend on her defense, and she still ran out of funds before the case even came to trial. In the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case, each of the three defendants had to spend more than $1 million apiece just to try to debunk what were transparently-false charges.

[…]

The costs can be substantial. I know one attorney who specializes in such cases who requires a down payment up front of $100,000. Since few people keep $100K in spare change, getting the funds is very, very difficult. Then there a experts in forensics, interviewing, and the like who also do not testify for free. One of the reasons that so many people plead to something in such cases is that they do not have the personal resources to fight the charges.

Surely, this could not have been the criminal justice system the founders of this country envisioned!

Liberty > Democracy

Far too often, people use the terms “liberty” and “democracy” as if they were interchangeable. President Woodrow Wilson justified intervention in other countries to “make the world safe for democracy.” Most if not all of the presidents who have followed have made similar arguments as an excuse to place military bases on every continent. Democracy in of itself is no guarantee that the people will live in a free society.

One thing that drives me nuts is this notion that everything needs to be “put up for a vote” whenever the item in question is not at all the business of the would-be voters. Sometimes communities have meetings to decide if the people should “allow” a Wal-Mart to be built. Those who oppose the building of a Wal-Mart in their community argue such things as Wal-Mart won’t allow their workers to unionize*, Wal-Mart will drive out existing businesses, and Wal-Mart imports too much of their “cheap,” “inferior” products from China rather than American products. These might be valid reasons for you to decide not to shop at Wal-Mart but what makes you think you have the right to deny me that choice by holding a vote?

Perhaps a less sympathetic target to some here in Colorado are the medical marijuana dispensaries. These dispensary owners set up shop and followed the existing rules but in the back of their mind they know that community activists can shut them down if they can gather enough signatures to force a vote**.

Then there are those who believe in wealth redistribution. The “rich” need to pay more taxes to benefit the “less fortunate” we are told.

What about economic liberty? Is economic liberty somehow a lesser liberty than any other liberty? The people from Learn Liberty argue that economic liberty is of more value to the individual than any right to vote. There are just some freedoms that ought not be voted away.

*This is more of a selling point for me.
**I’ve yet to hear of a vote to shut down a Walgreens because its within 1000 feet of a school even though they dispense drugs that are many times more dangerous than marijuana.

Additional Thoughts & Further Reading:
Brad reminded me of a great post he wrote nearly 6 years ago along the same lines entitled: Libertarianism and Democracy. After re-reading my post, I realized that I might have left the impression that democracy is of no value to those who value individual liberty. Brad does a much better job explaining that “liberty is an end, democracy is a means to an end.”

In truth, democracy is often better for making decisions than monarchy, or aristocracy. After all, what can empower people more than to allow them to have a hand in making their own decisions? The key is that democracy can be used in ways that don’t reduce liberty, but it can also be used in ways that do.

So it’s not really democracy that libertarians fear, it is force. The sentiment that elicits anti-democratic quotes, though, is the fear that democracy will marshal government to impose force that destroys our liberty.

I think the important thing that people need to recognize is that there are limits to what a government should have the power to do even if the process is a democratic one. What are the limits? Simply the recognition that the individual has the natural rights of life, liberty, and property that cannot be taken away provided that s/he does not infringe on the same rights of another.

Recovered from the Memory Hole: Rep. Paul Ryan Urges Congress to Pass TARP

Mitt Romney has selected Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate with great fanfare among conservatives. Paul Ryan, someone with some fiscal sanity on a major political ticket who can offer an alternative to President Obama and his big government, big spending ways.

Well, not so fast. Not too long after the news of Ryan being selected as Romney’s running mate hit the wires, this little gem was recovered from the memory hole:

Well, maybe this is an anomaly. I wish it were. In addition to supporting TARP, Ryan supported the auto bailout, Medicare Part D, and voted against repealing Davis-Bacon. Ryan is also a war hawk and his record on civil liberties isn’t any better. Extending the Patriot Act, supporting the indefinite detention of American citizens provisions of the NDAA, and voting to create the Department of Homeland Security are but a few examples.

To put it another way, Paul Ryan is no Ron Paul, or even Rand Paul for that matter.

Farming in an Equilibrium Trap

JayG wrote something today about how this summers drought is hitting farmers very hard; which is absolutely true. And it’s already having an impact on food prices, and that impact is just going to grow.

The crop that’s being impacted worst is dent corn, which makes up the majority of livestock feed in this country; particularly beef feed. This is exacerbated by the governments ethanol mandates, which take even more of the feed corn crop out of the feed market.

Over the next couple months, we’re going to see beef prices crash, as ranchers and feedlots come to the end of their stored feedstocks and slaughter more steer than normal (so they don’t have to keep feeding them), and then SOAR to highs we haven’t seen in years over the fall and winter.

Jay points out that some are “blaming subisidies” for the state of things… which I think is silly, you can’t blame subsidies for weather (well… usually… Microclimate and regional climate adjustments due to overplanting can sometimes be blamed on subsidies… but that’s not what we’re talking about here).

But honestly, there’s something that no-one wants to admit, no-one wants to say, and no-one wants to hear in this country….

We have too many damn farmers.

By far.

Probably by more than half, at least for some crops.

In particular we have too many grain farmers. In even greater particular, we have far too many corn and wheat farmers.

We have a natural market for corn and wheat that would support… something like half… of the farmers that we have now.

All of those people who are only making money because of subsidies; we really don’t need them growing corn or wheat.

Either they need to grow something else, or they need to sell their land and stop being farmers.

Even the argument that it “keeps our food prices low” is false; because it actually keeps them higher most years. If there were no subsidies, the market would find its natural level of supply, demand, and price; and the resources inefficiently allocated to subsidized crops would simply be allocated elsewhere (and I’m not even going to get into the second order effects of this regime like obesity, HFCS vs. sugar pricing, ethanol etc…).

But we don’t want to hear it.

We are constantly being presented with images of the “struggling family farmer”… And have been for over 100 years.

Shouldn’t that tell you something?

There are plenty of very profitable and prosperous farmers in this country, and plenty of large farming corporations that do quite well…

And who are they?

They’re farmers that grow crops which don’t get subsidies, who have found ways to be economically efficient; or they are farm corporations who have found ways to extract the maximum amount of government benefits.

Again… shouldn’t that tell you something?

When a business is failing, that doesn’t tell you “we need to subsidize it”, it tells you we need to reduce its regulatory and tax burdens and operational restrictions (stop artificially reducing its competitiveness); or we need to let that business die.

Farming is no different from any other business. If it’s not competitive, we shouldn’t be encouraging people to do it (unless it’s of importance to national security, and thus can’t be outsourced or offshored; and even then that’s an iffy one, and we should still be encouraging competitiveness internally ) and we shouldn’t be rescuing or subsidizing it.

Why on earth have we been subsidizing these non-viable crops for 80 years?

Oh wait… I know… it’s because to get elected president, you need to win the majority of Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio; and to be elected to congress (outside of a major urban constituency anyway) or win those states in the general election, you have to support subsidies for grain farming.

Right now, these farmers are in an equilibrium trap, where because of government subsidies they can just barely get by; but because of inefficiency, actual market conditions etc… they can’t get ahead

The way to deal with equilibrium traps, is to break out of them completely. You can’t do that by keeping on doing what put you in the trap to begin with; and they’ve been doing that for 80 years.

If we stopped subsidizing these crops, people would take huge losses in the first few years; particularly as their land prices fell dramatically. It would hurt. A few hundred thousand people would take a big hit…

An aside about numbers: there are about 2.3 million “farms” in the united states. 65% of all crops are produced by 9% of all farms (which farm 59% of the agricultural land), and 85% of all crops are produced by 15% of all farms.

Of the appx. 2.3 million “farms”, about 2.1 million are considered “family farms”. About 1.9 million of those farms are considered “small family farms”, which have gross revenues of less than $250,000 per year, and produce less than 15% of all crops. Of those, about 35%, produce about 9% of the total crops in this country and are generally considered viable. 40% are essentially “hobby” or “part time” farms that produce less than 3% of all crops per year. It’s the 25% or so of those 2 million farms, which only produce 3-4% of all crops, and which are basically non-viable, that are the biggest issue.

Oh and 10% of all farms receive 75% of all subsidies, for producing about 25% of all crops. Corn, wheat, cotton, rice, soybeans, dairy, peanuts, and sugar, make up 97% of subsidies. Corn and wheat alone make up 52%, cotton about 14%, rice and soybeans another 23%). The VAST majority of those subsidies go to large corporate feed grain farms in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, and Ohio, and to Cotton farms in Texas (Texas produces 30% of all cotton in the U.S., with Arkansas, California, Mississippi, and Georgia accounting for another 40%); NOT to small family farmers

And then, we would be better off as a nation; and THEY would be better off as individuals. They, and their children, would no longer be trapped into a just barely livable, just barely getting by, dependent on the government economic condition for decades. They would move to more productive more useful employment. They would be better off eventually, as would the country as a whole.

The problem? Many of them don’t want to. They WANT to be farmers, even though they KNOW it’s a bad business. They love being farmers. They’ve been farmers for generations in their family. It’s all they know, it’s what they’re passionate about, it’s part of their culture and they can’t see ever doing anything else.

Well… I want to be an Aerospace Engineer, and design and build airplanes; or even boats (many boat designers are also aerospace engineers. It’s a very similar field of study). It’s what I trained for, and I love it and am very passionate about it.

But it’s not viable for me.

There are more than enough airplane designers out there for the market as it exists today; so I can’t find employment as an airplane designer. The fact is, very few new airplanes are being designed.

Now, I’m the first to say that we should get the excessive regulatory burden out of the way of the aircraft industry, and if we did that it’s likely that more aircraft would be designed and more aerospace engineers could find jobs…

But would you say that just because I can’t find a job in the field I was educated in, that we should subsidize that field just so I could?

…Well… Sadly, some would… Or at least they would, if the field I was in was politically or socially favored… But anyone with any sense or integrity knows better.

We have romanticized the idea of the “family farmer” in this country for far too long.

The fact is, it is no longer economically viable, nor is it necessary, for many of these people to be farmers, and we should stop enabling the equilibrium trap constantly keep them locked into farming, but always on the edge of failing.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Taxpayers made that happen

By now, everyone has heard Barack Obama’s “you didn’t build that” line:

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

That quote? It’s fiction. There is no mythical “somebody else”. There is no class of people separate from entrepreneurs and workers who created those things. The political elite would claim otherwise, as Obama does. They claim they built those and we owe them fealty for that.

The truth is obvious. That government? Those public works? They didn’t build those. That research? They didn’t fund that. Taxpayers made that happen.

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