Thursday, January 1, 2015

Builderism

Anybody else starting 2015 with a cold?  Sore throat, runny nose, achiness...it's really not the best way to start a new year.  So far no good.  I'm not superstitious, much, but I do feel some need to offset this lousiness with lots of awesomeness.  So I'm going to post this entry today even though it could probably do with a few more days/years of refining.  To help hedge my bets, at the end I'll share my recipe for the very best breakfast to make when you're sick.

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Who really helps the poor?  Does Cutlass?

Context: Welfare Theorem vs Progress Theorem

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A huge part of the problem here is that you think that elections (cheap talk surveys) accurately reflect the demand for public goods...
No, I don't. Because elections can't segment out that level of discrimination. But they can and do aggregate it, to a point. And within a useful margin for discussion. So while it is an imperfect measure of preference, and while it is an aggregated measure, rather than an individual measure, it still is a measure of revealed preferences.

And that revealed preference is for not helping the poor. Not beyond a minimum point, anyways.
Taxpayers, at least initially, would be paying the same taxes. They would be able to choose where their taxes go...and congress would still be in charge of determining the tax rate. So the amount of money that congress itself receives will reflect how satisfied taxpayers are with the tax rate. If the tax rate is too high...or too low...then congress will lose money. And whether the tax rate is too high...or too low...depends on how much value the public sector is creating relative to the private sector. To learn more...pragma-socialism.
Now you are opening yourself to 2 economic fallacies: Free rider problems and public goods problems. People will express false preference in order to save themselves a buck, and free ride on the generosity of others. And that causes a public goods problem, in that underinvestment in public goods is the normal course of individual preferences.
Education doesn't benefit the poor?
Giving endowments to major universities doesn't feed or house the poor.
The Koch brothers employ far more people than I do...so I'm certainly in no position to judge their concern for other people's welfare.
Employing people has nothing to do with providing aid the poor. The Koch brothers, on the other hand, spend vast fortunes to try to convince people of their point of view, and that point of view is that government should take from the poor and give to the Koch brothers.

So, in effect, you started this discussion with the brief of making things better for the poor through a different means of government. But then since then you've been defending making the poor much worse off by empowering those who want to harm them, and disenfranchising those who wish to help them.

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If somebody was a connoisseur of contradictory arguments then they might really appreciate this guy's argument.  Let me try and break it down...

1. Voting adequately reveals people's preferences
2. People don't really want to help the poor
3. People lie in order to save a buck
4. Pragmatarianism would...
A. disenfranchise those who want to help the poor
B. empower those who want to hurt the poor

#3 negates #1 and #2 negates #4A.  Except, if #1 isn't true, as this paper suggests, then perhaps neither is #2.  If people really do want to help the poor, then would pragmatarianism prevent them from doing so?

Wait a second...I've read DeCanio's paper a few times but this is the first time I realized that the opening quote... "Few men ever really understand their institutions"...is from William Riker.  William Riker?  As in...Star Trek?  If so, that's pretty darn nerdy/cool.  Every paper should have at least one pop culture reference or analogy.  Thinkers should strive to make their thoughts more accessible!

Getting back on track, a fun way to frame the discussion is to say that all rich people are selfish and all poor people are selfless.  Isn't that a fun generalization?  Rich people are rich because they keep all their money and poor people are poor because they give all their money away.  This is so much fun that it really deserves its own unique label.  Let's call it "cutlassworld" (8 search results).  Of course cutlassworld isn't real.  But it can be useful.

If we pretend that cutlassworld is real, then with the current system the selfless poor vote to receive money from the selfish rich.  Of course, given that the poor are selfless, they don't want the money for themselves.  Which means that they give it all away.  To who exactly?  Well...hmm...errrr...I'll have to get back to you on that one.  But in a pragmatarian system, the rich, being entirely selfish wouldn't give any of their taxes to the selfless poor.  So the poor would certainly be less well off in a pragmatarian system.  In the sense that they wouldn't have any money to give away.

How unreal is cutlassworld?  It's not too inaccurate to say that half the people in the US pay income taxes and the other half do not.  It's not too unreasonable to say that the half that doesn't pay income taxes are poor and the half that does pay income taxes are rich.  The middle class?  No such thing.

But in terms of altruism?
Only where we ourselves are responsible for our own interests and are free to sacrifice them has our decision moral value. We are neither entitled to be unselfish at someone else's expense nor is there any merit in being unselfish if we have no choice. The members of a society who in all respects are made to do the good thing have no title to praise. - Friedrich A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom
C'mon Hayek, you wonderful bastard you, are you trying to say that Robin Hood's actions have no moral value?

When I was a little kid my very favorite movie was Disney's Robin Hood.  There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that the clever fox was the biggest hero ever.  He wasn't risking his life for his own selfish gain...he was risking his life to help the poor.  His actions were righteous.  Robin was honorable, courageous and genuinely concerned about the well being of the poor.

But now that I'm all grown up?  If there was some guy in real life called the Fox who stole money from the Koch brothers and used it to try and help the poor...then I'd have mixed feelings...

1. Progress depends on difference.  Freeing the poor from poverty would allow their difference to manifest itself.  The more people we have at the top of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs the better.  As per Linus's Law...given enough eyeballs, all bugs (and solutions) are shallow.  Freeing people from poverty/slavery/tyranny would provide us with more eyeballs.  Admittedly, putting it like this does sound a bit ghoulish.

In the words of a Nobel prize winning liberal economist...
We have betrayed one of our most fundamental values. And the result is that we are wasting our most valuable resource, our human resources: millions of those at the bottom are not able to live up to their potential. - Joseph Stiglitz, Why Inequality Matters and What Can Be Done About It
From another Nobel prize winning liberal economist...
Yes, we need to fix American education. In particular, the inequalities Americans face at the starting line — bright children from poor families are less likely to finish college than much less able children of the affluent — aren’t just an outrage; they represent a huge waste of the nation’s human potential. - Paul Krugman Degrees and Dollars
This time from a Nobel prize winning market economist...
Of course, the benefits we derive from the freedom of others become greater as the number of those who can exercise freedom increases. The argument for the freedom of some therefore applies to the freedom of all. - Friedrich A. Hayek, The Case for Freedom
From somebody who should win a Nobel prize in both peace and economics...
Mankind’s progress has stemmed from individual men and women thinking, creating, experimenting, and innovating. Advances comes from a man or a woman attempting something new. A hunter trying a new way to make an arrowhead, a gatherer noticing that animals liked a strange plant and tasting it, an artist creating a new way to portray perspective, a thinker imagining a new political process, theory, or concept are steps leading to improvement in the human condition. A single individual’s passion to paint, to write new music, a play, novel, or poem can produce progress. All of these requires the freedom or independence to innovate. The less liberty, the slower progress will be. Rigid dictatorial or tradition ridden societies are unlikely to produce much innovation or advancement. - Thomas Gale Moore, On Progress
2. Results are more important than good intentions.  Here's a poem by Stephen Crane...
Tradition, thou art for suckling children,
Thou art the enlivening milk for babes;
But no meat for men is in thee.
Then --
But, alas, we all are babes.
Tweaking it a bit...
Robin Hood, thou art for suckling children,
Thou art the enlivening milk for babes;
But no meat for men is in thee.
Then --
But, alas, we all are babes.
When I was a little kid, the "enlivening milk" was brave Robin Hood stealing from the evil rich and giving to the oppressed poor.  But now that I'm an adult this doesn't nourish me at all.  In order to be nourished I want to know how effectively the poor are being helped.  Because, when it comes to helping the poor...it really isn't just the thought that counts.

With all this talk of then and now...it will probably help if I fill in a few of the blanks...

All through school I was always reading, but rarely the assigned reading.  School was tedious, my grades were lousy but I loved running...so right after high school I joined the Army infantry.  Spent three years in the jungles of Panama and decided to go to college.  Switched my military specialty, joined the active reserves and attended community college for a few years.  Got my grades high enough to get into UCLA where I majored in International Development Studies (IDS).  In between my junior and senior year I spent a year in Afghanistan.

IDS was my first real taste of meat.  We studied how effectively rich governments have helped poor countries.  My junior year we learned all about the theories/attempts that failed.  Then, courtesy of the Army, I spent a year participating in a real world attempt to help Afghanistan develop.  After that I spent my senior year learning all about more theories/attempts that failed.  And then I graduated.  Maybe if I had pursued a masters in the same field I would have learned about the successful theories?   It's doubtful.  If there were any successful theories then I would have witnessed their implementation first hand in Afghanistan.

It should be readily apparent that the US government is the Fox.  Over the years the Fox has taken billions and billions of dollars from rich people like the Koch brothers and spent it on poor countries.  But this hasn't helped the poor countries at all.  What has helped poor countries is when rich people like the Koch brothers spend billions and billions of dollars opening factories in them.

If you don't want to take my word for it, then consider these words from the premier liberal economist...
These improvements have not taken place because well-meaning people in the West have done anything to help--foreign aid, never large, has lately shrunk to virtually nothing. Nor is it the result of the benign policies of national governments, which are as callous and corrupt as ever. It is the indirect and unintended result of the actions of soulless multinationals and rapacious local entrepreneurs, whose only concern was to take advantage of the profit opportunities offered by cheap labor. It is not an edifying spectacle; but no matter how base the motives of those involved, the result has been to move hundreds of millions of people from abject poverty to something still awful but nonetheless significantly better. - Paul Krugman, In Praise of Cheap Labor
Krugman and I will have to agree to disagree on the size of foreign assistance.  Perhaps he's thinking in relative terms and I'm thinking in absolute terms.   But we both agree on the unintended consequences of global builderism.

If you've read Krugman's article (you really should!) then you would have noticed there's a bit of a "who done it" mystery.  I'm relatively certain that I've solved the mystery...but I'll build the suspense by first bringing a very important point to your attention.

If the US government has fundamentally failed to help other countries develop, which the evidence strongly supports, then why should we have any confidence that the US government has helped its own country develop?  If you have any confidence in the overall efficacy of the US government...then, given the lack of evidence, your confidence is founded on faith alone.  The evidence strongly supports the conclusion that we prosper despite, rather than because of, government interventions.

Hopefully the suspense hasn't killed you.  For Krugman, the cause of global builderism is a mystery...
And then something changed. Some combination of factors that we still don't fully understand--lower tariff barriers, improved telecommunications, cheaper air transport--reduced the disadvantages of producing in developing countries.
Hey Krugman!  Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year...




Given enough eyeballs, all mysteries can be solved.

Everybody please feel free to use this chart however you like.  Linking to this blog entry would be nice, but it isn't required.

Sources...

Union data
1% data
Poverty data

For reference...

1933 - 1945: Franklin Roosevelt
1933 - 1938: New Deal
1945 - 1953: Harry Truman
1952 - 1953: Top tax rate peaked at 92%
1953 - 1961: Dwight Eisenhower
1954:  union density peaked at 34.8%
1954:  Paul Samuelson published The Pure Theory of Public Expenditure
1960:  Friedrich Hayek published The Case for Freedom
1961 - 1963: John Kennedy
1962:  Milton Friedman published Capitalism and Freedom
1963:  James M. Buchanan published The Economics of Earmarked Taxes
1963 - 1969: Lyndon Johnson
1968:  minimum wage peaked at $1.60 ($10.71 in 2013 dollars)
1969 - 1974: Richard Nixon
1971:  John Rawls published A Theory of Justice
1974 - 1977: Gerald Ford
1977 - 1981: Jimmy Carter
1978:  Deng Xiaoping began opening China up to foreign investment
1981 - 1989: Ronald Reagan

Here's a pretty great summary of the political climate during the 60s and 70s...
Why do I make such a strong distinction between the 1960s and the 1970s? Because in the 1960s, the dominant view about economists in macro was Keynesianism, the dominant ideology was statism, and the leading economist was the late Paul Samuelson. By the late 1960s, that had started to shift and by the mid-1970s, the shift was well under way. By the late 1970s, the dominant macro view was either monetarism or rational expectations, the free-market deregulators were never dominant but reached their peak influence--think airline and transportation deregulation and elimination of price controls on interest rates that banks could pay on deposits--and the leading economist was Milton Friedman. - David Henderson, Noah Smith on Modern Economics
Liberals getting their way was the cause of global builderism.  Their policies...
  1. Stronger unions
  2. Higher minimum wages
  3. Higher taxes
  4. More regulations
...made the US so ugly that business owners fled into the open arms of homely countries.  And by "homely" I mean poorer.

A slightly more nuanced version of this story probably has many business owners setting up factories in the Sun Belt after their exodus from the Rust Belt.  But this still left them well within the range of liberal influence...so many continued their exodus and ended up in poorer countries.  The lower costs of operating in these poorer countries combined with a much larger pool of potential customers increased the profitability of successful businesses.  Therefore, it was liberal policies that caused the increase in income inequality.

Wasn't there some other theory though?  Oh yeah, I remember now...
The inequality r>g [the rate of return on capital is greater than the rate of economic growth] implies that wealth accumulated in the past grows more rapidly than output and wages. This inequality expresses a fundamental logical contradiction. The entrepreneur inevitably tends to become a rentier, more and more dominant over those who own nothing but their labor. Once constituted, capital reproduces itself faster than output increases. The past devours the future. The consequences for the long-term dynamics of the wealth distribution are potentially terrifying … - Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century
Evidently Piketty isn't one of the few men who understand their institutions.  Do any liberals understand their institutions?  If so, then where's their race to the bottom?
Stiglitz also said that free capital movements had brought few benefits for ordinary workers. “Capital market liberalization has not only not brought people the prosperity they were promised, but it has also brought these crises, with wages falling 20 or 30 percent, and unemployment going up by a factor of two, three, four or ten”. - Stiglitz supports workers
Let's review will quick.  The chart...
  1. solved a major mystery for a Nobel prize winning liberal economist.
  2. debunked a theory that turned another liberal economist into a Rock Star.
  3. discredited another Nobel prize winning liberal economist's understanding of globalization.  
Maybe now Boettke will accept my friend request?  Probably not.  Sigh.

What's profoundly ironic, but not at all surprising, is that many liberals want to try and "correct" the significant disparity in income by doing the same things that caused it in the first place...
If the heart of the problem is a rate of return on private assets that is too high, the better solution is to lower that rate of return. How? Raise minimum wages! That lowers the return on capital that relies on low-wage labor. Support unions! Tax corporate profits and personal capital gains, including dividends! - James K. Galbraith, Kapital for the Twenty-First Century?
Most of the policies are familiar: more support for education, including pre-school; increasing the minimum wage; strengthening the earned-income tax credit; giving more voice to workers in the workplace, including through unions... - Joseph Stiglitz, Why Inequality Matters and What Can Be Done About It  
Liberals want the power they once had to make rich countries less attractive to greedy business owners... which will again strongly motivate them to invest their energy, expertise and capital in poorer countries.  As we've seen, these countries won't stay poor for long and we'll all benefit from greater difference.  Progress depends on difference so I'm inclined to support this builderism deja-vu.  It would be beneficial if history repeated itself and continued to do so until every single poor country was lifted out of poverty.

Personally, having extensively studied the topic, this process is crystal clear.  Anybody who has at least read Smith's Wealth of Nations should have no problem seeing it...
A merchant, it has been said very properly, is not necessarily the citizen of any particular country. It is in a great measure indifferent to him from what place he carries on his trade; and a very trifling disgust will make him remove his capital, and together with it all the industry which it supports, from one country to another. No part of it can be said to belong to any particular country, till it has been spread as it were over the face of that country, either in buildings or in the lasting improvement of lands. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
Also...
Secondly, land is a subject which cannot be removed; whereas stock easily may. The proprietor of land is necessarily a citizen of the particular country in which his estate lies. The proprietor of stock is properly a citizen of the world, and is not necessarily attached to any particular country. He would be apt to abandon the country in which he was exposed to a vexatious inquisition, in order to be assessed to a burdensome tax, and would remove his stock to some other country where he could either carry on his business, or enjoy his fortune more at his ease. By removing his stock he would put an end to all the industry which it had maintained in the country which he left. Stock cultivates land; stock employs labour. A tax which tended to drive away stock from any particular country would so far tend to dry up every source of revenue both to the sovereign and to the society. Not only the profits of stock, but the rent of land and the wages of labour would necessarily be more or less diminished by its removal. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
Unfortunately, too few people have read Smith's book.  So for most people this process is probably pretty murky.  Not sure if this illustration that I've modified will help clear things up...




This is the concept of "value signals".  Profits, which are hard to hide for long, are value signals which help guide business owners and investors.

Let's take China for example.  In 1978, when my hero Deng Xiaoping started to open China up to foreign investment, the profits of the first few brave foreign investors created a value signal that attracted other foreign investors.  As the value signal grew brighter...it was harder for other investors to miss.  But as more and more investors have responded to the very bright value signal...the increased competition for limited resources (such as labor) have cut into profits...which has caused the value signal to grow dimmer...
Costs are soaring, starting in the coastal provinces where factories have historically clustered (see map). Increases in land prices, environmental and safety regulations and taxes all play a part. The biggest factor, though, is labour. - The Economist, The end of cheap China
What's extremely fascinating is that China is now at nearly the same cross-road situation that we were in several decades ago.  Last I heard, there are numerous labor strikes in China...which also happened in the US just before our manufacturing belt began to rust.  Will China choose the same path that we did by allowing their liberals to get their way?  The fundamental difference between these two countries is that, unlike the US, China isn't a democracy.  This means that Chinese liberals can't vote the conservative bums out of office.

What if Chinese officials asked for my advice...what would I tell them?  Something like this...

For short-term benefit...ignore the heck out of liberals.  Your country will continue for some time to be moderately attractive to business owners.  For long-term benefit...cave to liberal demands.  Your country will become less attractive to business owners and this will send them to poorer countries.  Builderism will lift those countries out of poverty and the entire world will benefit from more difference.  For the best benefits, create a market in your public sector.  The injection of so much difference into your public sector would super charge your progress.  It would be historically epic for China to be the very first country to have a pragmatarian economy.  For once your country would lead rather than follow.  This would certainly disprove all the people who say that China isn't capable of epiphytic thinking.    

I've used the word "builderism" a few times, and it's the title of this blog entry, but I haven't defined it yet.  Builderism is where better options come from.  Starting a company that employs people is an example of builderism.  The company has provided its employees with their best employment options.  If it didn't, then the employees would be working elsewhere.

Krugman briefly touched on this concept in his article that I referenced earlier...
And yet, wherever the new export industries have grown, there has been measurable improvement in the lives of ordinary people. Partly this is because a growing industry must offer a somewhat higher wage than workers could get elsewhere in order to get them to move.
The concept can be traced all the way back to at least Adam Smith...
Where all other circumstances are equal, wages are generally higher in new than in old trades. When a projector attempts to establish a new manufacture, he must at first entice his workmen from other employments by higher wages than they can either earn in their own trades, or than the nature of his work would otherwise require, and a considerable time must pass away before he can venture to reduce them to the common level. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
Benjamin Powell has supplied by far the best treatment of builderism...
Agitating for policies that would take the option of sweatshop employment away from these workers makes the workers worse off.  It throws them into a worse alternative now and it undermines the process of economic development that ultimately leads to better paying jobs with better working conditions. - Benjamin Powell, Out of Poverty: Sweatshops in the Global Economy
Liberals rarely, if ever, engage in ethical builderism.  They aren't willing to take on the risk of building air-conditioned factories.  In other words, they aren't willing to put their own money where their mouths are.  Rather than endeavor to give poor people better options, they endeavor to eliminate poor people's best options.  Poor people really aren't helped by the elimination of their best options...they are helped when they are given better options.  And that's exactly what greedy business owners do whenever they risk building a factory.

For other passages and a list of some of my blog entries that are relevant to builderism...please see this blog entry...Biting The Hand That Employs You.

We all want better options so it would behoove us to figure out where they come from.  A fundamentally important first step is to label this concept.  Hence, "builderism".

As far as I can tell, better options come from discovering better uses of societies limited resources...and the rate of discovery depends on difference.  Therefore, we need to develop, rather than diminish, difference.

Getting back to the topic that we considered in the beginning of the blog entry...the evidence is pretty clear that all the credit for truly helping the poor goes to greedy business owners.  Except, not all the credit...right?  If it wasn't for economically ignorant liberals, then who knows how long it would have taken for greedy business owners to risk setting up factories in developing countries.  So liberals certainly deserve some credit for lifting millions and millions of people out of poverty.

Of course, neither the liberals nor the greedy business owners really intended to help poor people around the world.  Liberals just wanted to help "poor" Americans and greedy business owners just wanted to help themselves.

Yes, I used quotes for "poor" Americans and I'll let Don Draper explain why...
The average American experiences a level of luxury that belongs only to kings in most of the world. - Don Draper, Mad Men
This level of luxury wasn't enough for union members.  They weren't comparing their wealth to the average person in developing countries...they were comparing their wealth to richer Americans.  But rather than risk engaging in builderism to try and obtain more wealth, union members endeavored to cheat.

As anybody who has read Smith's Wealth of Nations knows...union members aren't the only ones who endeavor to cheat.  Business owners are just as guilty of this.  Rather than try to earn more money by making the effort to innovate and create more value for consumers...they often endeavor to cheat in all sorts of ways...such as limiting competition.

We all want the most bang for our buck.  We all want more for less.  We all want to maximize gain and minimize loss.  But there's a right way and a wrong way to try and gain more.  Some shortcuts are good while others are bad.  This is another important economic concept that's missing its own unique label...or two.

Linvoid0 = the wrong way to try and gain more
Linvoid1 = the right way to try and gain more

Let's take wages for example.  Liberals want the poor to get paid more...which is really wonderful.  Freeing people from poverty would result in more difference which would result in more progress.  There are two types of approaches that liberals could take in order to try and help the poor to get paid more...they could either engage in linvoid0 or linvoid1.  An example of linvoid0 would be to vote for a minimum wage.  An example of linvoid1 would be to start a business.  Starting a business would increase the demand for labor which would end up driving up the cost of labor (wages would increase).   So which method do liberals choose?  Do they put their votes, or their money, where their mouths are?
They will not indeed submit to more labours and privations than other people, for the relief of distressed fellow creatures: but they make amends by whining over them more.  It is not difficult to trace this sort of affectation to its cause. It originates in the common practice of bestowing upon feelings that praise which actions alone can deserve. - J.S. Mill
Voting for a minimum wage is an easy way to try and help poor people get paid more.  It's a shortcut.  But it's a bad shortcut because it puts false information into the allocation equation.  Wages, just like profits, are a value signal.  Higher wages create brighter value signals for workers just like lower wages (= higher profits) create brighter value signals for business owners.  Distorting these signals results in the misallocation of factories and labor.  This prevents the creation of value for workers, producers and consumers.  What's the difference between preventing value from being created and destroying value?  There's absolutely no difference.

To help drive this point home, here's a picture that I took in Afghanistan...




It's a mother and her son scavenging a garbage dump.  How horrible would it be to lie to this mother about something as important as work?  "Haha, I tricked you into immigrating to a country that has a high minimum wage but a massive surplus of unskilled labor!  Oh don't cry, I'm sure it was easy enough to get there."

A minimum wage is a lie to poor people around the world.  It doesn't tell them the truth about the demand for unskilled labor.  Therefore, supporting a minimum wage is shameful behavior.

Occasionally liberals will argue that minimum wages and unions are needed because business owners conspire to keep wages artificially low.  Like I already acknowledged, there's no doubt that business owners engage in linvoid0 just as much as workers do.  But linvoid0 really isn't the solution to linvoid0.

While it's true that liberals and their linvoid0 did end up inadvertently causing a massive reduction of global poverty...the fact of the matter is that there wouldn't have been any poverty to reduce in the first place if governments had been effectively fighting, rather than facilitating, linvoid0.  If a century ago, capital and labor had been able to freely flow around the world, then poverty would have already been wiped out.

Right now there's so much gunk in the engine that it's an engine of gunk.  Our rate of progress reflects this.  In order to move forward at a faster rate, we need pragmatarianism to clean out the gunk.  Allowing taxpayers to choose where their taxes go would accomplish this by clarifying the demand for public goods.  There'd be more eyeballs to spot and remove linvoid0...which would result in even more eyeballs participating in the process.

Perhaps the term that's closest to linvoid0 is "legal plunder"...which Frédéric Bastiat discussed at length...
The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.
[...]
..imagine that this fatal principle has been introduced: Under the pretense of organization, regulation, protection, or encouragement, the law takes property from one person and gives it to another; the law takes the wealth of all and gives it to a few—whether farmers, manufacturers, shipowners, artists, or comedians. Under these circumstances, then certainly every class will aspire to grasp the law, and logically so.
[...]
When the state is responsible for establishing fraternity [distributive justice] on behalf of its citizens, we shall see the entire people transformed into petitioners. Landed property, agriculture, industry, commerce, shipping, industrial companies, all will bestir themselves to claim favors from the state. The public treasury will be literally pillaged. Everyone will have good reasons to prove that legal fraternity should be interpreted in this sense: “Let me have the benefits, and let others pay the costs.”  Everyone’s effort will be directed toward snatching a scrap of fraternal privilege from the legislature. The suffering classes, although having the greatest claim, will not always have the greatest success…
From a slightly different, and more modern, angle...
Their resources can be used in two ways: investment in capital goods that can be used to produce a product for sale in competitive markets, or investment in lobbying and bribing politicians and in trying to develop legislation that will protect firms from competition or provide them with a share of the public budget.  Under a large government, "political investment" can become relatively more profitable than "market investment," and a shift in investment from the market to the political arena should be expected.  In private competitive markets, a firm must appeal to buyers to enter mutually beneficial trades: in political markets it can enlist the power of the state to force people to give up part of their income for the firm's benefit. - Richard B. McKenzie, Bound to Be Free
Legal plunder, concentrated benefits and dispersed costs and free lunches are all very closely related concepts.

In that last link, I shared a video that's by far the single best illustration of what linvoid0 looks like.  It's from the Adventure Time episode "City of Thieves"...





We live in a world of thieves.  We're all guilty.  We're all complicit components in this engine of gunk system that leaves us all considerably worse off than we really should be.  Cancer, and the common cold, should have been wiped out years ago... school should never be tedious... we should already have colonized numerous other planets... poverty and wars should be very distant memories.  Every single one of us should have a plethora of incredibly better options to choose from.  The fact of the matter is that we should be so very much closer to utopia.  Where we are now, by comparison, is hell.

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  If we can accept the fact that our knowledge will never be perfect, the best strategy will be to allow people to allocate their resources differently.  This will help ensure that we don't have too many eggs in the wrong baskets.  Therefore, the road to heaven is paved with difference.

If we could directly allocate our taxes, then there would be much debate about where they should go.  This debate would reflect a wealth of difference of perspectives, values and information.  People wouldn't all be on the same page...they would be on many different pages.  Would this difference be beneficial?
Progress stems from the trial and error of many individuals. The more entities free to experiment, the more successful innovations will result.  Beneficial experiments will lead to imitation and more innovations to improve on the original effort. Thus a free society, in which millions of people enjoy the right to attempt to improve their lot or the condition of their families, friends or society at large, will evince much more progress than a slave state. True, most individual’s experiments will fail, as will governments’, but since so many more entities will be innovating, progress will be much quicker. - Thomas Gale Moore, On Progress
More difference -> more experiments -> more progress.  

Of course it's entirely possible that I'm on the wrong page.  Maybe less difference means more progress?  It just doesn't seem very likely.

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The very best breakfast to have when you're sick is a type of bruschetta.  I'll call it "Mallorca bruschetta" because that's the first place that I ever had bruschetta.  Here are the ingredients needed to make enough Mallorca bruschetta to serve two sick people...

2 medium tomatoes
6 cloves of garlic
2 table spoons olive oil
4 slices of rye bread
3 dashes of salt
6 dashes of cayenne

Begin by washing, coring and slicing the tomatoes into a medium bowl.  Next, garlic press the cloves into the bowl and add the salt and cayenne.  Use a fork to thoroughly squish the tomato slices.  Pour in the olive oil, put two slices of bread in the toaster and continue squishing the tomato.  When the toast is ready, spoon the tomato sauce on top and enjoy.

What makes this the best breakfast to have when you're sick?  Well, unlike most breakfast options, Mallorca bruschetta doesn't have any dairy, sugars or fats.  Instead, it has raw garlic, cayenne and tomatoes.  So there's plenty of antioxidant goodness to kick some free-radical butt.

I'll admit that it's possible though that there's a better breakfast to have when you're sick.  After all, there's always room for improvement.  If you know of one then please feel free to chime in.

See also...Xero's Salad Dressing.

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