On Continuing Education

Before we dig in let’s review the latest machinations of our maniacal leader President Trump which are almost certainly moving the world closer to an apocalyptic end, maybe even faster than the predictions about anthropogenic global climate change. Welllll…

When we turned on our televisions recently there was footage of the maniacal leader of North Korea shaking hands in the DMZ with the democratically elected leader of South Korea. It was not quite as impactful as the tearing down of the Berlin Wall but certainly few people saw this coming. And to think that we might see, at long last, the formal conclusion of the Korean War. Of course the odds of Trump receiving the Nobel Peace Prize if it all comes together are an asymptote to zero because, we all know that he is, as with the economy, simply building on the outstanding work of his predecessor.

Of equal interest is the possibility that the Trump Presidency is bringing about the first cracks in the monolithic Black support of the Democrat Party. Candace Owens took on a group of free speech opponents from (Some) Black Lives Matter. She suggested that embracing oppression based on slavery and Jim Crow was not a wise life strategy. She went so far as to point out that Blacks are privileged because they live in America. Then Kanye West lets the world know that he “likes the way Candace Owens thinks”. This simple statement of support for an argument that might lead to an escape from the Democrat plantation has set the liberal world on fire. On top of that Chance the Rapper questions the article of faith that Blacks have to be Democrats…apparently he actually believes that Blacks can think for themselves and are not statutorily required to vote for Democrats. West and Chance have triggered seismographs across the country. Stay tuned!

In the last post we discussed suggested readings largely related to economic theory. Economic freedom is essential to personal liberty. Private property and the right to offer personal labor for freely negotiated wages liberates people from the dependence that the Democrats demand. The greatest period of unbridled capitalism was the years following the end of the Civil War (for those who attended Emory that would be the late 1800’s). The “heroes” of that period are described by the left as “Robber Barons” which is intended as a pejorative. Burton Folsom offered a counterpoint in a wonderful book entitled: The Myth of the Robber Barons. The economic and scientific progress that flowed from these allegedly rapacious capitalists is truly impressive. The products developed during this period made lives better and promoted economic opportunity for all Americans. Perhaps with the exception of Blacks suffering under the rule of the Democrat Party in the South.

So what went wrong? The capitalist surge of the 19th century increased the wealth of our young country. Everyone became richer. It ultimately lead to the exodus of poor Blacks from the South to the North responding to the many job opportunities that were being created in new industries. Communication and transportation were within in the reach of everyone. Cities grew and baseball became the national pastime. Despite occasional financial disruptions the economy grew and grew and this inevitably brought about the destructive politics of envy. In addition it ignited the need for the “elite”, fearing the culturally insensitive “nouveau riche”, to help the victims of all this success.

The so-called Progressive movement arose to address the many perceived societal dislocations caused by chaotic, unregulated economic growth. Disregard the good that resulted with the burgeoning employment and the increased wealth of America. Someone needed to ensure that things were better controlled and that the people involved in the economic Nantucket sleigh ride were not “victimized”. Angelo Codevilla has written a thoughtful book entitled The Ruling Class which describes the self-identified intellectual elite that is driven by their vainglorious assumption that they are smarter than the average bear and should, therefor, have their hands firmly on the governmental tiller. The vast majority of our ruling class has parasitically attached itself to the Federal government and most have little or no experience with capitalism. They would do well to read two books defending capitalism: The Mystery of Capitalism by Hernando de Soto and In Defense of Global Capitalism by Johan Norberg. It is inescapable fact that the least economically advanced societies are those which have eschewed capitalism. Rather they are heavily invested in economic theories that call for redistribution of wealth and, not surprisingly, that “redistribution” must be managed by our ruling class which has no idea as to the source of the wealth they are dispersing.

One of the hallmarks of an economically free society is income mobility. Over the course of an average lifetime people will, at some point, be part of three different income quintiles. To better understand this check out The Myths of Rich and Poor by Michael Cox and Richard Alm. Recent data indicate that one casualty of dirigisme is income mobility. It has declined dramatically over the past 50 years. As such the poor tend to stay poor and the wealthy remain wealthy. In other words the ruling elite doggedly protect their elite economic position and, incidentally, keep the population dependent on their largess.

The Obama administration, aka the original amateur hour, was devoted to government regulation. Apparently water consumed with every toilet flush was crying out for regulation. The policies of the economically ignorant were a governor on economic growth and we were all told that the slow growth was the “new normal”. I can assure you that the fastest and surest cure for liberalism is a negotiation with the EPA. Note the fear and outrage in response to Scott Pruitt’s requirement that all “science” used as the basis for EPA regulatory activity would require strict peer review. The bureaucrats were outraged. This Draconian requirement flew in the face the usual peer review process at the EPA. Historically they used only reviews by those who agree with the proposed regulation. Michael Mann’s hockey stick was never reviewed by anyone not wearing a global warming “end of the world” sandwich board. And the vast majority of the regulations imposed by an agency like the EPA are designed to limit your economic freedom and ultimately your individual liberty.

Capitalism has sown the seeds of its own destruction. It has created a level of wealth that is beyond the imagination of every generation before the late 19th century. So in addition to envy we have unleashed centralized greed, both for wealth to distribute and for the power that comes with the act of distribution. Our political class produces nothing so they must resort to confiscating the wealth produced by others in order to give themselves purpose and power. It is the size of the pie that motivates elected officials. It was Bill Clinton who famously said that “I can spend your money better than you can.” So here is a man who has produced nothing beyond a stain on a blue dress suggesting that it really isn’t your money. A $4 trillion dollar budget can only result in the accumulation of power at the Federal level. And if you think people like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have the intellectual horsepower to operate anything larger than a lemonade stand then you have been sleeping as soundly as Rip Van Winkle.

Thomas Sowell has written two books about the arrogance of the elites: A Conflict of Visions and The Vision of the Anointed. He makes a devastating case against the chasm that separates the progressive elite from the people who actually fuel the economic engine of America. The driving need for the progressives to micro-manage the world may ultimately bring the capitalist economic cornucopia to an end. As Margaret Thatcher said: Socialism works until you run out of other people’s money.

There are two examples of the failures of statism that are instructive. The first is the EU which is the perfect example of the marriage of central planning and management and the anonymous bureaucratic foot soldiers populating an unaccountable regulatory apparatus. All that can and will go wrong is ably documented in The Great Deception by Christopher Booker and Richard North. It provides a clear explanation of the Brexit vote that has rocked the EU.

The second is captured perfectly in America’s Bitter Pill by Stephen Brill. It is the story that would make Abe Froman proud. This is a reference to the “Sausage King of Chicago” in Ferris Buehler’s Day Off. Obamacare is the perfect example of the preparation of legislative sausage. Brill provides painful detail into the authorship of the The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which amounts to 2,800 pages. In addition there were more than 33,000 pages of regulations already prepared at the time it was signed into law. And it has proved to be a disaster which exemplifies the issues discussed above: the progressive instinct to control an ever expanding web of personal economic transactions and the concomitant constriction of individual liberty. Recovering alcoholics should not be allowed to read this book.

Capitalism is the engine of freedom and it has been under attack by the progressive left because it undermines the authoritarian playbook that has been used by Presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Ponzi Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. You will not be surprised to learn that most colleges and universities do not rely on any of the books referenced in this post. The Democrats fight to keep the public schools free of any serious study of the economic and political principles that made this country great because the last thing they want is an educated and curious population.

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