Friday, January 01, 2010

CAUTION TO STUDENTS

California, cornucopia of the world. Courtesy Wikipedia.


CAUTION TO STUDENTS:

Where did your question originate? Propagandists often ask misleading questions or leave out part of the story in order to misinform. You need to verify the premise of the question to avoid being misled and manipulated.

Please be very clear in your understanding that there are only two approaches in politics and economics:

(1) voluntary individual choices including people making mutually beneficial buying decisions according to their own preferences or in giving charity, private ownership and control, allowing freely set prices and sales that let you vote with your dollars to convey information to organize society ("economic freedom"); or,

(2) using force, coercion, or deception to compel people to do things that they don't want to do, or prevent them from doing what they want, such as taxing/inflating and spending, government ownership [also called "socialism", "communism", "Marxism", "collectivism", or "progressivism"], government sanctioned monopolies, or government central planning and legislation or regulation [also called "fascism" or "crony capitalism"], i.e., (the "road to serfdom").

The founders of the United States were very much afraid of coercive big government doing the latter, and did their best to limit government to a very few enumerated powers, with separation of powers and institutional checks and balances. George Washington said it best, that: "Government is not reason, it is not eloquent, it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." But, Karl Marx later wrote the Communist Manifesto advocating the second approach, which he said would require mass killings to achieve, with the result that more than a hundred million people were murdered in failed experiments in socialism/communism and fascism in Russia, Germany, China, and elsewhere in the twentieth century.

Leftist Populists and Progressives (now called "liberals," reversing the original definition to co-opt the language) in the United States follow the second approach but mostly by misleading and blaming instead of by violent revolution, especially by falsely portraying people who are successful or rich as evil, greedy, exploitive, anti-environment, or racist. (Which is why this caution is needed.) A common trick is to misrepresent economics as if when someone wins, someone else has to lose which is completely false because a growing free economy creates wealth that benefits everyone. (It's really a con, and the trick is to hope that you won't notice what could have happened but didn't ("the unseen"), for example, that if a century of income taxes had not squandered vast wealth to "help poor people," instead, everyone would be so much richer today that there would be no more poor people left to need assistance.) It is the saving and investment of "excess" wealth (having more money than individuals can quickly spend) that fuels innovation and employment and has resulted in greatly increased prosperity and longevity.

Another common deception is when government regulation creates a spectacular failure, to try to deflect blame onto the industry that was regulated (for example, attempt to blame the banks when government controlled low interest rates and tax laws caused a housing bubble and after the Community Redevelopment Act required banks to lend to people who could not possibly afford to repay, for a spectacular housing crash and defaults of mortgages and mortgage insurance that threatened in 2009 to take down the entire interdependent global banking, insurance, securities, and monetary systems; or to blame oil companies for oil spills after environmentalist promoted government regulations forced drilling in the most dangerous possible location while government encourages corruption and also fails to enforce safety regulations). Or pretending, contrary to the scientific reports, that the world is coming to an end, to engage in obvious stupidities, such as the fact that you can't avoid electrical blackouts and maintain our standard of living if you remove too many of the reliable energy sources such as fossil fuels and nuclear reactors and switch instead (faster than innovation allows) to immensely costly and unreliable renewable sources of energy, i.e., solar and wind that are unavailable when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing, pretending that magic will prevent the lights from going out, or pretending that there could be thousands of times as many batteries as could possibly be manufactured, to save you even if you could afford them now, and even if you didn't care about the environment and were willing to do the massive unprofitable mining operations (which take 20-30 years to put into place and for which you couldn't obtain a permit) required to make the batteries (making an electric car size battery requires 500,000 lbs. of excavated ore). It would take the Tesla gigafactory a thousand years to make enough batteries to keep the lights on for 2-3 days just in America, which wouldn't last through a week long heat wave or extreme cold, and with no source of extra power needed to recharge them afterwards. Absurd, ridiculous, not feasible with current technology, environmentally harmful, and causing much higher energy costs that would most hurt the poor.

Don't believe that wasting more dollars on welfare than it would take to give every poor person enough money to instantly eliminate all poverty is for the benefit of the poor. The huge tax and spend U.S. government of today is largely the legacy of a hundred years of effort to undo the constitution, starting in the progressive era which re-instituted race segregation and, contrary to the original U.S. constitution, eliminated the States' check and balance against Congress and federal tyranny, and started government on taxing income, and creating increasingly worthless money. Government keeps expanding so fast that we could eliminate the income tax and replace it with nothing just by going back to the government budget of a decade earlier.

So do redress injustices, but when you see questions which imply exploitation, racism, evil business practices, harm to people, an existential crisis, etc., often used as an excuse to take away your money and your freedom, be sure to double check the facts using original primary sources to see if what is being portrayed in the question actually happened, why, and what was left out. It is not an accident that you get the impression that life is getting worse, when actually, life is rapidly getting very much better, so much so that even poor people today live longer and better lives, and have more than did the royalty of past centuries.

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