Category Archives: socialism

Quality and Free Markets

Quality.  It’s a hugely subjective measurement. Some may argue there are universally accepted standards for what’s considered to be “good” quality vs. “poor” (eg. your local FDA bootlicker).  I would argue that Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder.

Many people mistake Price for Quality.  In a Free Market, Price only indicates the intersection of Supply and Demand.  If there’s a shortage of Supply and relatively stable or even increasing Demand, you very well could see prices for low-Quality junk go higher and higher.  The reverse is also true in that high-Quality goods may be in ample supply and thus prices drop.  (eg. computers, memory, and processors over the last 30 years.)

The reason I bring these up is because Socialists will, without exception, argue there is only one acceptable standard for Quality.  In fact, their aim is to eliminate choice altogether.  A Socialist State cannot allow for product differentiation because that opens the door for Disparity.

The head scratcher in all this is that Socialists want you to believe their agenda will give everyone the best fruits the Free Market has to offer.  Suddenly, everyone will have palatial mansions, Ferraris, and grass fed Wagu filet mignon every night.

This can’t be further from the truth.  Throughout history and even today in countries like Venezuela, Socialists and central planners cannot even supply basic needs like food, water, or even toilet paper.  

And let’s not forget the fact that not everyone wants or needs the same Quality of goods or services.  My needs may be very different from yours.  We have 7 children in our home.  Do you think for one minute your transportation needs are the same as mine?  Or size of home?  Or meal planning?  Or healthcare needs?

What about your own needs over time?  Will your needs change over the next 10, 20 or even 40 years?  My wife and I are big fans of Ikea and Walmart mostly because they provide LOW-COST options for our family.  It’s understood that everything we buy from them is pretty much disposable.  Furniture, electronics, food items, sundries, clothing — we have zero expectation of holding on to these things after all of our children have grown and moved out of the house.  But these things are very much in demand in our household for the time being.  The Free Market gives us the power to weigh our needs, wants, and preferences against our own personal Demand curves throughout time.  

The Socialist State will tell you what you need when you need it.  

You have children with Gluten or Dye Allergies?  LOL!  You think the Socialists care?  

You want organic, non-GMO produce for your salad?  The Socialist has no salad for you this month.  

You like energy-efficient, hybrid cars to ‘save’ the environment?  Socialists can’t even deliver the rubber for making tires.

Make no mistake about it.  When Socialists proclaim equality and fairness for all, they are talking about the lowest, common denominator of quality with no other options allowed.

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. . . .

 

What Would You Say, Ya Do, Here?

Just a short thought prompted by an exchange I had recently on Facebook with a former student of mine. When it comes to Labor, there’s a difference between Value and Activity. In the free market, Value is determined by the Consumer. Whoever is buying decides if the good or service offered has enough Value to justify the price. As I’ve written before, in a free market, Price is simply the agreement of terms set by the Buyer and Seller. If the Buyer doesn’t see enough Value at a given price, he doesn’t buy. If the Seller doesn’t see an adequate return on his labor, she doesn’t sell.

The Free Market demands Producers give their best in order to attract the most Buyers. Now, a Seller could very well try to cut corners, use inferior materials, or cookie-cutter mass produce his goods to get them to market at the lowest price. And the Buyer might favor affordability over quality. Choice. That’s the magic of the Free Market.

Activity is also known as busy work. I’m sure you can identify someone with whom you’ve worked that seems to always be busy, but you can never really articulate what it is that they do or what their contribution to the organization might be. If you’re familiar with the movie Office Space, one of my favorite scenes is when Tom is meeting with the Bobs, trying to explain what did at Initech. People skills!

Now, this is not a rant against management or some Proletariat rallying cry for the Workers. Good managers absolutely add value to an organization. But the biggest culprit of Activity promotion is Government. Government thrives on pushing paper, filling out redundant forms, following arbitrary procedures and protocol, perpetuating outdated equipment, and generally making you wait. And the reason is simple. Government has very little accountability. They’re not measured on whether their Activity produces anything efficiently. They usually have no competition, so there’s little incentive to make any improvements to the status quo.

I remember seeing news stories of the Soviet Union where everyone was given Activities to perform. Someone might have been responsible for cutting pipes. Another person might have been instructed to produce the joints. Another made the valves. Turned out that the pipe cutters used ¾ inch pipes. The joint makers used ½ inch. The valve makers used 3/8 inch fittings. Because they each had an Activity to perform and no incentive to make sure their product was useful or compatible with others, they just kept making their daily quotas. And what happened? Well, if you were trying to build a house, you probably ended up using a lot of duct tape.

Only in the Free Market, where Producers are rewarded for Value they create and Consumers are empowered to choose the products and services that exactly fit their needs, can a nation thrive, overcome poverty, innovate and explore, and progress ahead. Government, almost universally, stands as the greatest inhibitor of progress. It is a parasite on the Free Market, rewarding Activity and not real Value creation.

How Far Are You Willing to Compromise Your Integrity and Values?

Election fever has taken hold. A new generation of young voters will have their first chance to vote for the next President this November. The energy of the American dream will surge in the hearts of the masses. Like the groundhog that comes up once a year, the American voter will suddenly care about the issues, rules of engagement, democracy, laws, social contracts, and a bunch of -isms that divide into Us vs. Them, only to retreat into their safe zones and watering holes for another 4 years.

If social media is any kind of representation of reality, then I can tell you this election is going to get ugly. People are angry. People are pointing fingers. Everyone has an ax to grind and someone to blame.

And then there are our Leaders. The snake oil peddlers and soothsayers are drumming up the sheeple, feeding on their fears and hatred, and promising to care about them and solve their problems. Every one of them is peddling something at the cost of your liberty. Want better health care? You need to be taxed and pay for services you don’t want or need. Want secured borders? We need to have access to your private information. Want equality and protection from hate speech? We need to threaten you with incarceration for unsanctioned speech or expression. Want a greener planet? People in poorer countries might have to starve to get that done.

As of this moment, the 2 presidential front runners appear to be Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I really hope they are the ones on the ballot. You might think I’m saying that because they represent polar opposites of the political spectrum and should find some common ground for most voters from which to choose, but that’s not the case. I find them to be more similar than not. The real reason I want to see them on the ballot is because I believe they are SO bad, that many honest, thoughtful people will have to do some deep, soul searching to motivate them to actually cast a vote for one over the other.

Now many die hard political party drones will simply vote along party lines. But I suspect if you’re out there reading this, and you have been bathing in the Bernie ether pond, and you see that he’s led in many primaries by popular vote, but lost because of the SuperMario insider caucus voters — then at some point, you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that in the end, your precious grass roots movement meant nothing because money and power, within your own party, sold you out. And are you prepared to fall in line and cast your voice to support the system that chewed you up and vomited you out?

Similarly, if you are a professing Christian, and you’ve been pushing for Rubio or Cruz or Carson, fooling yourself into hoping that your guy will uphold Christian values (while bombing civilians in foreign countries or justifying police brutality and creating a nation held hostage by thugs with anger issues and badges) — and you’re left with a flamboyantly adulterous, pro-abortion, misogynist who has promised more govt regulation and more wars, are you comfortable standing before a Holy God someday and saying “but he was better than Hillary”?

Now some of you are going to say “you can still write in your candidate” and that is true. My question back to you is – do you honestly believe they are going to be any different? Is the government they run going use their power for good or for selfish gain? Are corruption and backroom dealings going to go away if we elect X instead of Y?

So I challenge all of you out there.

Don’t continue to support a corrupt system by casting a symbolic nod of approval. Let’s see voter turnout down to single digits this fall. If you want to stand for something, stand for integrity and your soul.

Stop worshipping the State and appointing your next slave master.

As for me and my household, we have but one King and that is Jesus the Christ. I owe allegiance to no one else. Go ahead with your silly fixed, 2 party race.

But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord . And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.”

So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king. And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.”

Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them in the hearing of the Lord . So the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed their voice, and make them a king.”

And Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Every man go to his city.”
I Samuel 8:6-22 NKJV

Why do you make so much trouble, arguing with your friends?

It seems nowadays having strong opinions about anything can get you into deep trouble.  Not only do you risk offending the people who challenge your views, but there are countless others that don’t say anything and simply write you off or agree to disagree with you.  (click – unfriend button).

Not sure why this is.  Is it that people don’t have strong convictions anymore?  Is it that we have forgotten how to rationally debate ideas without feeling personally attacked?  Are we afraid to step out on a limb and stand for something that’s unpopular, counter-cultural, or even rebellious?  And why does dissenting opinion anger those in the majority so much?

I’ve always fancied myself to be a very logical person.  If I’m presented with information that challenges some notion that I’ve held for my whole life, I’m open to being corrected.  I’m open to testing the results of your theory.  Oftentimes, ideas require a partial leap of faith because not everything can be ‘proven’ to everyone’s satisfaction.  But it doesn’t take much discussion or debate to look at root causes, priorities, motivations, and results.  You just have to be open to being honest.

I speak and write with passion and conviction.  My tone is oftentimes authoritarian (meaning I sound like I know what I’m talking about), but that’s not to say that I am never wrong.  I make mistakes all the time.

When it comes to Liberty, there’s very real evidence you and I witness every day that shows when left alone, people generally are better at knowing what decisions will make them better off or worse off than some outside party.  There’s also ample historical evidence that shows when any group tries to control us and our choices (usually under the umbrella of the ‘greater good’), bad things happen.

That doesn’t mean people don’t make bad choices or that short-term happiness doesn’t cost them long-term suffering.  What it means is the cost of sacrificing Individual Liberty for the sake of the flock is too great to ignore.  Individual freedom is the safeguard against the tyranny of the elite and powerful.  It places responsibility and benefits squarely on the people making the decisions.  It thus creates incentives for us to make good, wise choices.  It motivates us to seek out professional or expert guidance in areas we lack understanding.  It rewards those that innovate.  It compels us to be productive in society, not just busy.  Individual liberty actually encourages cooperation and interaction, not isolation and selfishness.

Milton Friedman was asked once in the clip below what the consequences are of continuous erosion of Individual Liberty and why We, as a society, allow it to happen.

The consequences are very straightforward, and that’s the eventual eradication of all Liberty.  The why, as Friedman points out, is a little more difficult to explain.  I personally agree with Milton that the reason why WE head down this path is because of ignorance – not fully comprehending both the intended and unintended consequences of the choices we make, the politicians we elect, the goals we set as a society, and the Total cost it takes to get there.

That is why I write.  That is why I speak out.  That is why I read and study and discuss and watch and listen and learn — To prevent intellectual atrophy.  To challenge my perceptions.  To strengthen my courage and bolster my resolve.  To gain wisdom but also learn humility.  To seek solutions to problems rather than sit back and let someone else do the thinking for me.

The Atlantic put out a story that showed that American adults spend more money on Lottery Tickets than the combined total of Sports Tickets, Books, Video Games, Movie Tickets, and Music.  I personally don’t care what you spend your money on, because that’s your business.  But it says a lot about Americans when they devote that much of their money into what they perceive to be the answer to their problems — a statistical impossibility of winning a big sack of cash they did nothing to earn and will most likely blow through wastefully in less than 10 years.

Get in the fight.  Take a stance.  Stop making excuses for yourself and the things you can’t do.  Discuss ideas, debate solutions and be open to criticism.  Those that have different opinions or values are not your adversaries.  They are your opportunities.