Monthly Archives: March 2017

A quick thought on the additional benefits of the Free Market 

Any reputable economist will tell you that the cure for racism, sexism, and religious xenophobia is not regulation or more government but the Free Market.  When I buy a digital song or a car or a pair of jeans or a TV or a house or some chimichangas, I am unknowingly supporting millions of people from all walks of life and geography — men, women, old, young, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Jews, atheist​, and even poor and rich.

The Free Market doesn’t care who or what you are. It only cares what value you can bring to the table.  To produce anything, all of the components, parts, assembly, raw materials, financing, transport, warehousing, marketing, sales, and management come together, usually without central planning, without the need for coercion, and without any extra incentives other than individuals seeking out their own self interests. And yet, in the midst of the selfish anarchy of Free Will and Voluntary Association, every day people put aside all of the things that divide us and are able to work together on the majority of the things that unite us.


#Embraceliberty #MiltonFriedman #Rothbard #Hamsandwich #Thepencil #Adamsmith #Invisiblehand

Free Markets Are a Prerequisite for Art and Charity

Catching up on some of the news this week.  Aside from the hilarious, abysmal failure of Obamacare Lite (aka the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the budget has been getting a lot of publicity.  I realize some of my readers are not number crunchers, so for this post, I’ll refrain from digging into those details of the budget plan and focus more on the qualitative aspects.  (No promises for future posts. 😉 )  

Center Stage with the liberal Left this week is PBS, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Meals on Wheels.  From some of the memes and posts you’ve been reading, undoubtedly you know that Humanity as a whole is about to descend into a Dark Age.  Elderly veterans will be callously left to starve.  Our great-grandchildren will have to read about Art and Educational Programming in history books because without Government support, there will be none.

That is if our great-grandchildren are actually reading.  And reading history books.  

Maybe they’ll learn about it on YouTube.  (Wait, isn’t that art?  I digress.)  

Without digging into numbers as promised, I’ll simply mention that the Left loves to point out these programs are tiny budget considerations compared to, say, Social Security or Medicare or the Military policing the world (all of which I’m also in favor of slashing).  But if I’m bleeding trillions of dollars a year, spending money we don’t have and borrowing more, then yeah, I’m looking for every opportunity to save a buck.  Guess that makes me heartless and greedy.

Think about the government slush fund created to support the broad and nebulous space known as Art.  Is all Art good and worthy of our combined, financial support?  To those that defend the NEA and PBS, does it matter where the money goes, just as long as it is labeled as “Art”?  I’ve been around musicians, graphic artists, videographers, photographers, sculptors, painters, poets, dancers, writers, and actors for most of my life.  I can tell you without hesitation that Artists are some of the most critical people I know.  They love to rip into other artists calling them Hacks, Attention Whores, Corporate Shills, Sell Outs and Wannabes.  If they’re being honest, they will even admit Nickelback isn’t as good as Buddy Guy.

For over half a century, our tax dollars have been taken from us for a committee to decide which Art should be supported.  So, let’s say you’re an artist/entrepreneur trying to open a small local gallery in Chicago.  You don’t have a large staff, and you’re barely able to keep your doors open.  You then learn that the Art Institute of Chicago received, yet again, another $20,000 grant from the NEA, despite the fact that they have a budget of tens of millions of dollars and support from corporate and private philanthropists from all over the world.  In fact, in their 2016 Financial Statements, the Art Institute of Chicago declared they had over $70 million in Net Contributions Receivable. (Sorry, numbers, I know.)  

Is this acceptable to you artists and supporters of Art?  In economics, we call these Rent Seekers.  Basically, those that are rewarded are not necessarily the best, the purest, or even the most popular.  The reward goes to those that can successfully navigate the system.  If you’ve got lots of money already and can hire dedicated staff to apply for grants and government funding, chances are you will reap the rewards.  

This is also one of the reasons why you can easily find countless examples on the web of questionable spending of public funds in the name of “Art” — things like almost a half million dollars for medieval smells museums and $100k for Shakespear without Words.  

Then there’s Meals on Wheels, as mentioned above.  Their funding is also on the proverbial chopping block.  Or so that’s what we’ve been led to believe from the headlines and memes.  In fact, less than 3% of their operating budget comes from federal grants.  

Again, numbers.

But what is the solution then?  Without Government stealing from everyone, creating slush funds with zero accountability, and rewarding organizations and artists with the means and knowledge to navigate the grant writing maze game?  

The Free Market, of course.  

Take, for example, this blurb from the NEA’s own website.  

Capture

So now, the NEA is an investment vehicle?  If $9 of private investment for the arts is voluntarily given by individuals and organizations, why do we need to steal the last dollar of $10?  Can’t those $9 be used to create catalysts for communities, productive jobs, net adds to GDP, and revitalize communities?  Or is there something magical about that federal $1 bill.  (#fungibility) 

Just can’t seem to get away from numbers, can I?  

The Free Market encourages individuals to support Art in all of its glorious shapes and sizes based on our preferences.  In fact, more people voluntarily support the arts, despite the theft that government practices.  If they had more disposal income to allocate, support for the arts would grow even further.  George F Will wrote in the Washington Post

Americans’ voluntary contributions to arts organizations (“arts/culture/humanities” institutions reaped $17 billion in 2015) dwarf the NEA’s subventions, which would be replaced if those who actually use the organizations — many of them supported by state and local government arts councils — were as enthusiastic about them as they claim to be. The idea that the arts will wither away if the NEA goes away is risible.

A bit dated, but still relevant, the Heritage Foundation wrote that the NEA actually discourages charitable gifts to the Arts.  

But where’s the assurance that people would freely fill the void if the government safety blanket is removed?  Look no further than Meals on Wheels.  When the news was announced that the proposed budget cuts might impact 3% of their existing budget, those silly fools John and Jane Q. Public donated 50 TIMES their normal rate and 5 TIMES as many volunteers stepped forward to get their hands dirty and work at Meals On Wheels.  

How is that possible without the threats of government coercion?  Why would anyone voluntarily support the things that matter to them without the use of force?

It’s a mystery, to be sure, what makes people act so irrationally.  

But let me add one other consideration to this topic which I had alluded to in my post title.  Milton Freedman wrote in his book “Free to Choose” that voluntary exchange is a necessary condition for both prosperity and freedom.  It’s not a guarantee of prosperity and freedom.  But is a necessary prerequisite.  

I’ll add my own variation of Milton’s idea to say that in order for the Arts and Charity to not only survive but to thrive, voluntary exchange or Free Markets are a necessary prerequisite.  If arts and charity were supported more and more by coerced, government participation rather than individual choice, eventually Government will determine what are acceptable forms of art and what causes are worthy of “charitable” support.  As I pointed out above, most likely this road leads to successful Rent Seekers and the Politically Connected grabbing up all of the attention and resources.

Imagine if Trump’s administration was given the reigns to decide not only which forms of art and charity are worthy of support but also if he could decide which forms are ALLOWED.  What if Obama was given that amount of power?  Or John McCain or Hillary or Chad Kroeger of Nickelback?  The Free Market is the single greatest protector of the Arts and Charity because individuals can decide which of the countless choices available should be rewarded with our support, both financially and otherwise.  

The government should not be in the business of deciding which forms of Art and Charity are acceptable or not.


An Evening With Bastiat

Yesterday, my wife and I attended a lecture hosted by the Charlotte chapter of the Bastiat Society.  I was thrilled to learn there was a local chapter in Charlotte and even more excited to learn there was a free lecture being given on Capitalism.  Those who don’t know, Claude Frédéric Bastiat was a 19th century French economist who wrote revolutionary, pro-liberty works such as The Law.  This book was responsible for my first step into the philosophy of Liberty.  If you haven’t read it, download a free copy of it here on audio or pdf at Mises.org.  

Seriously, it’s like 50 tiny pages and will take you less than half an hour.  Go learn something.  

The speaker for the evening was Clemson University Professor of Economics Dr. Bradley Hobbs.  He was very entertaining and informative, engaged the audience well, and gave a lot of excellent, historical and contemporary data about the benefits of Capitalism, why Socialists and the Left seem to be gaining popularity, particularly among the young and senior-aged cohorts, and gave some perspective on many of the common debates often heard on social and traditional media around the evils of Capitalism.  Dr. Hobbs will be sharing some of his presentation notes and references with us soon, so I hope to pass them on when I get them.  

One interesting exchange took place between me and an older, self-proclaimed Crony Capitalist (I’m 90% sure he doesn’t know what that means.  Pretty sure he thinks because he’s an entrepreneur and aged, that makes him one.)  Anyway, the exchange went something like this:

CC:  The problem with Capitalism is that people aren’t concerned about all these larger, global issues.  They’re selfish and only want to think about themselves.  They don’t think about what’s best for society.  That’s just human nature.

Me:  And so you are making an argument that because Human Beings are selfish and short-sighted, we should put Human Beings in charge of determining what’s best for everyone to deal with these issues?  Milton Friedman once asked “Who are these angels that are going to come down and organize society?  Where do we find them?”  

He didn’t like me tone, I guess, because that got him going.  

Somehow, we got to the topic of Public Safety and Motorcycle Helmet Laws.

CC:  Someone has to take responsibility for protecting us and keeping us safe.  The government enforces things like motorcycle helmet laws. . . .

Me:  So if I want to ride my motorcycle without a helmet, breaking the law, and I get into a crash, who is the victim?  

CC: Society is when my money has to take care of your family and loved ones because of your selfishness.  

Me:  So you are protecting Me from Myself [on behalf of my family]?

CC:  Yes because when you’re in the hospital and don’t have the money for emergency care, my money is going to pay for your care. 

Me: No, I do not want any of your money.  

CC:  You will someday.  When you’re laid up and have nowhere to turn.

It’s like a broken record, but I have this same exchange almost everywhere I go (physically and virtually) to talk about Free Markets, Choice, and Liberty.  I even had a similar exchange with a co-worker the other day.  The idea that elected officials, people who were slick enough to convince 50.1% of the voting population to put them into power, know what is best for the hundreds of millions of people in our country is beyond my tiny brain to comprehend.  

Invariably, Statists proclaim that the reason why Free Markets and Liberty fails is because people can’t be trusted.  Thus, People need to be placed​ in charge of everyone.  They also arrogantly claim responsibility and authority over my own free will to make choices about my life.  Because somehow they know what’s best for me.  

Updated edit – The organizer of the Charlotte chapter said I should lead one of the next lectures.  Hmmmm. . . .

 

A Father’s Birthday Wish Come True

Today’s my birthday.  Not a big deal for me, but I have a wife and 7 children, so it’s impossible not to celebrate.  But I was given one of the best presents I could ask for yesterday.

My 2nd daughter, Eva, turns 16 in 2 days.  She’s very thoughtful and kind, friendly to most strangers, and has a heart especially for disabled children.  Sometimes, I forget how much she’s grown.  Below is one of her writing assignments for her Christian Growth class.

When I read this, I was immediately reassured that we are doing something right, homeschooling our children, raising them in God’s Word, and teaching them how to express not just their thoughts but more importantly, their convictions of faith.  This is no longer her parents speaking and teaching.  This is her faith and life she’s chosen to follow.


Committing to pray without ceasing

“Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy gave this command to the church in Thessalonica. (1Thessalonians 5:17-18) Why was this command so important, and is it still just as important? They, and other believers, were suffering imprisonment and persecution for their faith and spreading the Gospel message. Though the Thessalonians could not be with them in other countries, Paul, Silvanus and Timothy all knew they could be through prayer. The same goes for us; this command is for all believers today in this dying world, and will continue to be.

Committing to pray every day is important. It’s an appointment with God in prayer every day, for us to praise and thank Him, and intercede for others. It will take you a little bit of experimenting to find the best plan for you, but there are a couple of steps that you can take that might help you ease into it.  

1. Verbally declare your commitment.

You don’t have to announce with a megaphone in a town square, but it’s important to remind yourself (aloud) that you have to, and are going to have that time set aside today. Just like any other meeting, it’s important to be on time. Why should we strive to be on time for every appointment of our day, except for our appointment with God?

2. Fight all interruptions fiercely.

There will be times when Satan will try to slip little disturbances in the way of your appointments, but don’t let him! He knows that prayer is our greatest means of defense against his plans, and you should too! 

3. Develop a practical prayer plan.

Find the best time to have as your prayer time, and how long you have to pray. I enjoy basing my prayer plan on Dick Eastmans’ Scripturally-based Hour of Prayer, but again, it takes a little experimenting and practice to find what best suits you. I recommend setting aside at least one hour a day to pray when you first start out. You may find yourself at a loss of words at first, but this will give you time to fully enjoy having this appointment with God and God alone. After some time, you may find yourself wanting more than an hour a day! (You don’t have to pray for a whole hour straight; you could divide your prayer time throughout your day. Just remember to be consistent in your timing.)

4. Recognize the importance of your daily hour
 

Romans 10:13-14 says, ”For ‘Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” Our prayers for our brothers and sisters-in-Christ, for the lost, for our leaders, and countries, make a difference. Even when you don’t know exactly what it is you’re praying for, “His (the LORD) ears are open to their (the righteous) cry” (Psalm 34:15)

Let us be “worthy of the calling” (2Thessalonians 1:11-12)! “For we are God’s fellow workers…” (1Corinthians 3:9) Let us work together to expand God’s Kingdom, and see other souls saved! Although we may lack opportunity throughout the day, there is always an opportunity to intercede for a lost soul in prayer. There is always an opportunity to pray for a friend, family member, stranger, etc. Let us take hold of this freedom and privilege to pray for others, and “pray without ceasing!”