The Hand That Feeds You
September 24, 2012 Leave a comment
Photo added, H/T LegalInsurrection
“You didn’t build that.” We’ve all heard those dismissive words in the news recently.
Luckily, for all I involved, when I heard those words I didn’t jump up run out and burn an effigy of BHO or stampede my local DMV. I guess that’s because I didn’t inherit the Islamist strain of thin-skinned believer DNA that makes one go berserk at the mere thought of someone trivializing what they hold to be true. I did yell at the TV, though: “You’re full of yourself BHO.”
I am an ardent believer in the constrained view (see below), the view that incentives, individual hard work and prudent trade-offs builds houses on stone foundations. The unconstrained view of good intentions, big government and “divined” solutions builds houses on sand. And we all know what happens to each house when torrential rain comes. And, we all know what Liz Warren’s government built road to hell is paved with.
There is a reason why BHO diminishes the individual effort. BHO, of the central planning view, wants joy-stick control of the “invisible hand.” And I am not talking about “Thing” from the Addams Family comic or the other-worldly operator of the Ouija board.
The “invisible hand” of the market is a metaphor used by the father of modern economics and capitalism Adam Smith. Simply put, the metaphor describes the self-regulating behavior of the market place. Individuals seek to maximize their own gain in a free market society where goods and services are traded in a free exchange between both parties. For Smith the” invisible hand” guides individuals into mutually beneficial exchanges. Moral and socially beneficial behavior is evoked through the process. Fairness is part and parcel of market practices. Obeying the rules (i.e., standard weights and measures) is the order of the day in the market place. Contract laws were developed to help enforce agreements. If an agreement was broken a resolution in a court of law would be required. This is just and fair to everyone involved, because everyone is involved in protecting their own interests. Free market capitalism offers “The possibility of cooperation without coercion” as Milton Friedman, a Nobel Prize winner in economics once said. Regarding one-on-one resolution Jesus did say, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.
Adam Smith theorized that the self-interest of individuals acting independently will lead to a socially optimal outcome. From Smith’s Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Chapter 2:
“As every individual, therefore, endeavours as much as he can both to employ his capital in the support of domestic industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce may be of the greatest value; every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other eases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. [emphasis added].”
Free market exchange encourages a man to, let’s say, go fishing. The man may eat the fish he caught or he may trade for something that will benefit himself. The fisherman is not coerced into doing either. He is free to do as he pleases with his fish. And another is free to trade with the fisherman – say, bread for fresh fish and both parties therefore benefit from the trade-off. The second party is also free to simply say “No, I don’t want your fish. I want to make tacos al pastor today.”
Again Adam Smith,
“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.”
On the other very visible hand, the well-intentioned-solutions hand, the government confiscatory and coercive hand taxpayer money is simply thrown at problems. Data abounds showing that well-intentioned-solutions (i.e., food stamp programs, Obamacare, minimum wages laws, etc.) never ever ever fix problems they were intended to solve. The “solution” is never a mutually beneficial exchange. Rather the solution is a one-way, one-time meal ticket that will always end up requiring more taxation, more regulation and less of your liberty. The only fishing taking place is in the mail box for the food stamps. BTW: The hand that provides the food stamps is an iron fist – “Do as I say or you will end up hungry,” “Buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty.”
Now, Adam Smith, and later Noam Chomsky invoking Adam Smith, warned of an unrestrained free market society where the “vile maxim of the masters can be pursued without undue interference.” In other words they thought government regulation (Smith much less, Chomsky much more) would hold the free market in check. One example: the fisher folk would not be allowed to restrict the wee folk from fishing, thereby preventing a monopoly on the fish market.
From what I can tell, both BHO and Chomsky see big corporations and Capitalism in general as behemoth American Devils who suck the air out of the world leaving societal corpses in their path. In each their own measure they see the free market, left on its own, turning into unconstrained selfishness. Yet, they see themselves as altruistic. And as a result of such myopic views of the free market and of themselves they are eager to throttle the life out of the free market with very visible “hands”, the hands of government regulation, taxation and confiscation – the hands of coercion. They truly believe that an unrestrained socialist statist (central planning) government under the guise of a (small “d”) democracy would be superior to an unrestrained free market within a big “D” democracy. But government, if you haven’t already noticed, is a monopoly. It is an all-powerful, ready-to-inflict pain monopoly. Who is holding the tyranny of government back? Not good intentions. Not nebulous open-ended “social justice” solutions. Not the voters. Take a look at congress – there are a lot of visible hands in the pie, grabbing at taxpayer money. They’ve want their clutches on your property because controlling redistribution is a means of staying in power.
The so-called “unrestrained super-national corporations” are in reality restricted to what the markets will accept. Countries all around this world invite corporations into their realms because they see the benefits. These corporations are not coercive like government is. And don’t think for a moment that your vote will restrain government. Those in power like to stay in power and to wield that power. They pass laws to keep themselves in power as State CEOs. Good intentions and redistribution solutions are simply “goodies” thrown out during the campaign parade. The public is left with the big mess after the parade.
My answer: Laissez-faire – a “hands-off” economic environment made possible by a majority vote for smaller government (big D, small g), less regulation and fewer hands in the pie. Vote for the person and party that will let you keep your money and control your life. You know what I am saying– restore LIBERTY. The end result will help generate the dynamic green energy needed for human flourishing. Human flourishing will then enable people to not have to think so hard about scrapping together an existence or worry about whether the hands of government will snatch away your property. Human flourishing will also allow more time for the sublime.
So, put your hand in the hand, the “invisible hand,” and let conscience be your guide, not the government.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (A free will-free market exchange moved by the Invisible Hand of love.)
“Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” Proverbs 10:4 (A statement of fact from the wisest man who ever lived – Solomon.)
Sally Paradise: “I built it with my own two hands.” Invisible hand: “And I helped.”
Laissez-faire (i/ˌlɛseɪˈfɛər–/, French: [lɛsefɛʁ] (listen)) is an economic environment in which transactions between private parties are free from tariffs, government subsidies, and enforced monopolies, with only enough government regulations sufficient to protect property rights against theft and aggression. The phrase laissez-faire is French and literally means “let [them] do”, but it broadly implies “let it be,” “let them do as they will,” or “leave it alone.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laissez-faire
Constrained view: The constrained vision sees man as he really is: self-motivated. This realistic vision sees man as selfish and greedy but also willing to respect tradition and rules and certainly able to make prudent trade-offs based on knowledge gained from centuries of accumulated knowledge and wisdom, knowledge and wisdom not confined to an omnipotent Decider. One with a constrained vision doesn’t have all the answers. He or she must operate with humility, tolerance and cooperation in order to support the freedom and liberty within which they seek to live.
Unconstrained view: The unconstrained vision relies heavily on surrogate decision makers, men or women of “superior” intelligence and virtue, to make our decisions for us. The implication of this vision is that the common man does not know what is good for himself and for those around him. But those with super-rational intelligence and sincerity do. And because of our lack of “fair and just” decision making, we the people need an over-arching Decider – someone to rein in society. (Recall Obama’s statement: “You didn’t build that.” He’s trying to rein in economic activity and attribute a man’s own blood, sweat and tears to government largesse!)
See my post What’s Left? To Be Decided for more information on the Constrained and Unconstrained Views, terms derived from Thomas Sowell’s book Conflict of Visions.
Statism/centralized government: Course Correction Needed 2012
Things to ponder:
Michael Boskin: Obama and ‘The Wealth of Nations’
Thomas Sowell: The Fallacy of Redistribution
Obama “Goodies:” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpAOwJvTOio&feature=player_embedded
“You didn’t build that. Yadda, yadda, yadda.”