Things that Annoy

Certain canards just get me going.  When I read any of these my blood pressure spikes and I see red, and I seem to be reading a variation of one or another of these all the time.

  • Capitalism requires low wage workers. This is generally expressed in the context of “why the establishment favors unlimited immigration, both legal and illegal.”  Capitalism requires private property, enforceable contracts, and rule of law. If you have those, then the natural desire of people to better their situation takes over and arranges the things that are present in better arrangements over time.

Japan has few immigrants but a very high first world standard of living. The economy of Japan is stagnating, but that may be because they abrogated the rule of law to prevent their banks from going belly up. One can keep zombie financial intermediaries alive forever with the brute force of unlimited government but you can’t expect the efficient allocation of capital thereafter.

Similarly, I often see “the modern economy relies on cheap energy, with energy getting more expensive to produce the good times are over.” In truth, the cost of various things are sometimes cheap and sometimes dear. If something gets too expensive people substitute other things.  Running a household once required one or more servants. Even poor Raskolnikov had a landlady who prepared meals and tea. When servants became prohibitively expensive, people substituted refrigeration, washing machines, appliances, etc.  Try asking your landlady in Manhattan to do your daily shopping and serve you a snack.

Capitalism, because it embodies freedom, merely rearranges the building blocks available in an order that increases value.

  • Rampant Consumerism is a great evil somehow destroying America.  In reality, consumerism means the average person gets to buy services and things that he very much desires, just as rich people have always been able to.

 

  • Financialization is destroying us.  Truly, I don’t even know what is meant by financialization.  Online sources seem to feel part of it is the increasing size of the financial services part of the economy.  Believe me, I remember when “industrial” was a respected word: The Dow Jones Industrial Average, The US Savings Bonds Industrial Payroll Savings Committee. These names were not accidents, industry was the business of America; bankers were 3-5-3 people, take deposits at 3 percent interest, loan the money out at 5 per cent interest and go home by three o’clock.

Truly, things have changed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average includes Facebook, Amazon and Google, not industries in anyone’s book, maybe it includes Bank of America and Goldman Sachs. Industry created value and bettered people’s lives, but so do other things. Would you like to live in a world with no literature, or musical performances, or interior design services? Anything that satisfies people’s wants or needs is a valid subject of capitalistic enterprise.

Another criticism is over the increased influence of finance institutions over other aspects of business. Under this view, financial institutions and financial elites have way too much influence over the business of America. Just let Henry Ford produce the cars that got America on the road,  not have Steve Jobs forced out of his own company once it went public and the finance people didn’t like the rate of return.

In my humble opinion, (IMHO in the old school Internet) the allocation of capital is the most difficult and the most value adding aspect of a free market. The US Government has allocated capital as it sees fit.  There was the synthetic fuel  corporation under Jimmy Carter.  During the oil embargo who could not better humanity by creating synthetic oil? Well, you haven’t heard of the synthetic fuel corporation because millions of dollars were sunk into it with 100% loss.  Then there is the strategic oil reserve. The US government bought oil when it was expensive and scarce (driving up the cost to taxpayers and to drivers, home owners, and everyone else who used oil). Now oil is overabundant and cheap. The reserve could be filled at half the cost, but the government is thinking of selling a portion of it.  Great investing. The solution to high prices are high prices. The market produced more oil and lowered prices. The government intervention was unneeded, costly and wasteful.

 

 

Federalism

Everyone says The Civil War decided once and for all that the individual States could do nothing against an overreaching Federal Government. Whatever the Feds want, I’m good with it, says the States.

Does anyone think that in today’s emotional environment the Federal government is going to wage domestic war? As a culture, we can’t hurt the feelings of a delusional male who thinks he is a female. States that openly allow pot sales against Federal law suffer no repercussions. No one is going to fight a war against the citizens of a State because they don’t follow the Federal line.

What they would do is stop some Fed swag. No highway money. Companies would withdraw business. Entertainers would refuse to concert there.

Perhaps the states would assert what pressure they could against the Feds. Stop local banks from remitting income tax collections until the Feds honor their legal obligations. Stop cooperating with Federal law enforcement. Execute no Federal warrants, particularly for Federal tax issues. Stop all cooperation with Federal police authorities. Require the Federal government to explicitly authorize with a statute anything it wants to impose on the States (the supremacy clause provides that Federal law superceeds State law but says nothing about Federal regulations or administrative dictates). EPA directives, not Federal law, IRS regulations, not Federal law, etc.

Here’s the key. I have learned that the best way forward is often to not ask permission and then litigate afterwards. The best way is often to do and let the other party litigate if it thinks you are prohibited. Many of these questions are unclear. If you ask, “May
I,” it might take years. If the States do several of these things, and the Feds have to exert force or litigate , the entire State / Federal balance of power would shift rapidly.

The Trade Deficit is a Non-Issue

Look, if you have the world’s reserve currency, other countries will need to accumulate your currency. Every country needs dollars in their bank account (could be treasury securities or anything else priced and convertible to dollars).

You can’t conduct trade in dollars when your checking account has zero dollars.

So, to get dollars they sell us stuff.  They need to sell us more stuff than they buy from us to get the dollars they need. Or they could buy the dollars on the foreign exchange market which just means other countries would have to sell us more stuff then they buy from us to get the dollars to sell on the foreign exchange markets.

Having the reserve currency means the really great thing that lots of people have to hold your currency, giving you real value to get it, and the difficult thing that domestic producers have to see more goods come in than go out. The goods have to come in so other countries have dollars to fill their checking account

Determinism

Determinism is  au courant. It’s stylish. It’s fashionable. It’s up to date.

Why so much interest today in an obscure and ancient philosophical question?

Of course the negation of free will is vaguely part of Marxism. The collapse of capitalism is predetermined no matter what the participants want. It’s “You didn’t build that.” It’s “the root cause of crime”.

But the best part of the pro determinism frame for leftists is the attack on objective reality and knowledge of objective reality.

They say that what you believe about objective reality is simply an adaptive evolutionary fiction that increases your chances of survival. You know nothing about reality; you know only representations that are useful to you.

If you claim that even if  you are on the wrong side of history, you are nonetheless on the right side of reality. They can respond that there is no knowing reality. If you claim that men and women are different and you can support that by the number of hours worked or choice of occupations. They respond that your evidence is only belief in a manufactured “reality” that forwards your survival prospects.

Of course, since people do have beliefs they are quick to attribute beliefs to social influence. All beliefs are malleable, the ones you subscribe to now are a reflection of a certain societal power structure. If women had more power their choice of occupations would mirror men and their hours worked would be statistically identical to those of men.

The one belief that is not doubted is the belief in their theory of beliefs. There, they are correct. It is not a group of leftists seeking to influence fellow citizens and policy for their own self preservation. It is observation and reason proving that observation and reason cannot prove anything. Science proves that science is meaningless.

Wishful thinking finally is the final determinant of what we should do.

Businesses Do Not Exist to Provide Jobs

If you listen to any politician, the reason we have businesses is to provide good, stable, well paying jobs for the voters.

Absolute nonsense. A business exists for one reason and one reason alone. It exists to add value to the world. A business takes value out of the world. It uses real estate, spending on rent. It consumes people’s time, paying for labor, and creative and administrative services. It uses up energy. It uses or borrows capital (money). Then, if it is an ongoing concern, it adds value to the world. It places a product or service on sale for the voluntary purchase by anyone. Each purchase is a provisional addition to the value the business is adding, until the magic day that the incoming revenue from purchases exceeds the outgoing revenue and the business shows a profit. At that moment the business has added value to the world. Its customers who could have purchased everything it purchased at the same price it paid, or anything else with their money that they desired more, were willing to pay for what it produced more than its costs of producing it. A total net gain of value.

Businesses exist to make us all richer, to offer us more ways to satisfy our needs and wants, to promote innovation (because it requires effort and creativity to produce a profit), and to make the dollars we earn so valuable that countless people think day and night about how to  convince us to part with a fraction of one of them. And we are never required to do so unless we are sure what we get is more valuable than the dollars we give up.

Another way of looking at it is, businesses exist to meet people’s needs and wants. There is no revenue if you do not meet  people’s needs and wants.  Under capitalism, the buyer is king; the producer is a poor naive bowing and scraping. Just look at how powerful companies bow and scrape in America for customers.

Now you may want businesses to provide “good jobs”. What that translates into is you want someone else to identify a need or desire of other people, to devise a thing or service that meets it, to risk capital, effort, and time in setting up an enterprise, to manage expenses so that the good or service produced is something people will buy, to pay the taxes, take responsibility for regulations and laws, etc.

You are not entitled to any of that. If you want to earn money that allows you to buy things you need and want, you need to somehow give value to other people so they will give you their money. A job is simply a way to join someone else’s team in that project. As Peter Shiff says, nobody wants a job, everyone wants money. A job is a avenue to money, but the way to get money from others voluntarily is to do something for them. Do it yourself or join a team but the essence of the project is serve others so that others will serve you.

In the former Soviet Union, businesses existed to provide jobs. There, they used to say “we pretend to work, they pretend to pay us.” Because the businesses had no concern about the customer, after you were paid your money would have little power. In America, when you get your pay in your wallet, countless people court and flatter you.

In Latin American socialist countries, businesses exist to provide jobs. The Mexican state owned oil monopoly was used to give high paying jobs to friends of the elite, and lesser jobs to the public to quell unrest and poverty. The state run oil companies are poorly run (as you would expect) and the state is appropriating the value of the natural resource wealth and dissipating it. If Mexico simply sold the rights to drill oil, the state would get great revenue and private enterprise would manage it for a profit, a net value gain to the world.