Category Archives: Common Sense

Some people are confused

I have often wondered at the fact that Libertarians are so prone to smug finger-wagging at Conservatives who allegedly fail to consistently apply skepticism about government, who moreover consider the American Conservative a strange alien creature they do not recognize. For my own part I recognize my cousins, most of the time, and merely feel they fail to grasp some important aspects of the Right-Radical world view. But every now and then I see that Libertarians allow antipathy to the State, even when justified, to distract them from reality. And at no time in my recent memory has this been clearer than reading a recent reaction to the now infamous cause celebre in Ferguson, Missouri. As usual when this happens, out of respect for the commentator in question, someone whose opinion I usually regard as quite worthwhile, I will not say who they are nor will I quote them directly. And in fairness to this individual, they primarily quoted someone else, rather than giving in depth analysis of their own. In even greater fairness, I believe we would agree on the substance of all their concerns, about police violence and the police state in general. I only disagree with the desire to tie a worthy cause to a case to which it bears no relation: Michael Brown was not killed by a police officer in a tank provided by the US Federal Government. Nor was he killed by Asset Forfeiture. Nor drug laws. This was not a result of over-empowered Police authority at all-though such a thing surely exists. An anarcho-capitalist Private Security Firm worker would have done the same thing Darren Wilson did.  Brown was killed by his own foolishness. About the only thing that could have saved his life would have been to disarm the Police entirely, and the result would have been that Darren Wilson would be dead, rather than Brown.

For the record I endorse wholeheartedly the idea of agents of the state having to have their activities in that capacity monitored by surveillance. Therefore I have no objection to requiring Police Officers to wear cameras, apart from questioning how those suggesting it intend to pay for this expense. But let’s face reality, here: if Darren Wilson had been wearing a camera, all that would have resulted would be that he would have been exonerated of any wrong doing immediately. The reality challenged protestors in the streets of Ferguson with their violent thuggery, and the peaceful, free speech exercising, lie promulgating Football players and Congressmen and women, to say nothing of the President of the United States or the Attorney General, would still have forced him out of his job and ruined his life through their “protest” against the facts. It is embarrassing to see Libertarians I respect participate in this, and of all things to wag their fingers at Conservatives for believing in the Police! More than that they do themselves and their beliefs a disservice by associating their cause with a hoax.

Libertarians like to speak of why they are not conservative. This sort of foolishness is why I am not a libertarian.

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Filed under Common Sense, Conservatism, Liberals

The Streets are not paved with hundred dollar bills.

Which is just a colorful way of saying, easy profit making opportunities do not sit unexploited for long. If there is a hundred dollar bill on the ground, someone will pick it up, certainly before the dropped bills can coat the road like fresh asphalt. This seems trivial, but it has important implications because many people don’t seem to grasp the lesson this obvious fact offers.

For example, many people actually believe that employers get away with paying women only about three quarters of what they pay men to do the same work-and on the basis of believing this, they advocate making it easier for women to sue employers over alleged pay discrimination. But consider what it would mean if this were actually true: the cost of employing a man to do a job rather than a woman would amount to a massive forgone profit by any employer. The streets could be paved with the hundreds of dollars employers supposedly willingly give up for the sake of employing men! An entrepreneur could build a successful business model on the singular idea that he will only hire female employees-or at least, hire female employees to do the hire paid positions, it might raise eyebrows if he employed that many more women than men in total. At the very least, though, at the margin, when considering whether to hire an additional employee or not, women would have a distinct advantage in terms of the probability they would get the job over a male candidate for the same job.

Of course, obviously none of that is actually the case. What gives? Well what gives is that the claim that there is a massive employer gender discrimination epidemic is a big fat lie. It’s a big fat lie that women make much less money for the same work. In point of fact, the average woman makes significantly less money than the average man (working full time). This raises the interesting question: what is an average job? How do you take the average of a doctor and a retail sales worker? You can take the average of their pay, but you can’t take the average of the jobs themselves. There is no average job. But if there was an “average job” it would not entail the same work for the average man as it would for the average woman. Like it or not, men and women tend to go on different career paths, and men tend to go into career paths that will ultimately compensate them more than those chosen by women. It’s entirely possible that this is a result of discrimination of a kind. But the discrimination does not take place during a job application. It takes place, if it does at all, during the woman’s education at a young age almost certainly in a public school. It makes no sense to say a woman ought to be able to sue an employer because her teachers encouraged her to go into a lower paying career. Of course, they wouldn’t-they currently have the ability to sue, in fact, the proposed legislation is actually to extend the statue of limitations, as I understand it, but it’s already illegal to discriminate in pay on the basis of gender. But because they wouldn’t, lawsuits won’t do much to reduce the pay gap, since very little of it might actually be due to discrimination. Most of it is explained by different educational and career paths, different choices about how much work to do, whether to leave work and have children-which in turn requires different choices of about one’s career path and negatively impacts one’s work experience relative to men. It’s telling that even without accounting for different jobs, there is a significantly smaller gap in pay between men and women that were never married and have no children than all men and women. Accounting for many of these factors will typically, in the literature, narrow the gap from 23 cents on the dollar to just 5 cents. 5 cents are left to possibly be due to discrimination, and possibly due to other factors that are difficult to account for or quantify. I know it seems an outlandish, blasphemous possibility to those who believe it to be an absolute fact that women are every bit the perfect equals and substitutes for men in all ways, but you know? It’s actually possible women are just 5% less productive than men! Horror of horrors. But considering that discrimination is already illegal, I’d offer another possibility. Ironically enough, employers may pay men more because risk of getting sued makes female employees a liability. I can’t really say which of these suggestions, or other possibilities, is the most likely explanation. I do think, however, that this is an incredibly flimsy case to build legislation to make it easier to sue employers on.

Another example would be the theoretical case people build the possibility of a minimum wage actually improving employment on. The idea is that there is widespread “monopsony” power in the labor market. Monopsony is basically a market imperfection opposite of a monopoly, where instead of one person on the supply side of the transaction and many on the demand side, there is one person on the demand side and many on the supply side. It should be quite obvious that a literal monopsony can’t prevail in any labor market, since there are clearly multiple employers for basically any job. But some proponents of a hire minimum wage argue that it does, in effect prevail in low and unskilled labor markets. As it turns out though, if this actually were true, it would in fact constitute another case of foregone profits! Why? Because implicitly, the employees of a monopsonist are paid less than their marginal product. While this may be a way for the monopsonist to increase his profits-but only if those are not competed away in his role as a supplier of the output, in the form of correspondingly lower output prices-a prospective competitor can take advantage of the situation by picking off underpaid employees from the monopsonist, by hiring them at wages that are slightly higher-keep in mind that all of them have marginal product greater than their marginal cost currently by assumption, so you should be able to profit all the way up to paying them their actual marginal product. In other words, people who believe this monopsony problem exists, could get into business and make good money, at the same time as doing good for the low skilled workers they claim to care about. One doesn’t need a law to mandate higher wages in such a case, they could do it themselves. And yet, tellingly, they decline to do so. Equally tellingly, no entrepeneurs seem inclined to capitalize on this “knowledge” even if they would be in a better position than the academic who believes this to be true-and be sure that there are people who could start such businesses, or own existing businesses, who must be aware of this alleged “fact.”

Belief in either, but especially belief in both of these things, amounts to a belief that the streets are paved with hundred dollar bills. But it’s just common sense that this isn’t the case.

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So, according to the Keynesians at the CBO, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 cents an hour would cost 500 thousand jobs. That’s not some right wing talking point, that’s what they actually claim:

Effects of the $10.10 Option on Employment and Income.
Once fully implemented in the second half of 2016, the $10.10 option would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent, CBO projects. As with any such estimates, however, the actual losses could be smaller or larger; in CBO’s assessment, there is about a two-thirds chance that the effect would be in the range between a very slight reduction in employment and a reduction in employment of 1.0 million workers (see Table 1).
Now, for the record, the report itself is actually quite nuanced. You can decide for yourself, for example, if it is worthwhile to increase the income of “many more” families, and the expense of those whose incomes you reduce to zero-I personally doubt they know either of those numbers with the precision necessary to say one is actually a larger number than the other. They’re still Keynesians.
But for what it is worth, it doesn’t seem like the left wing position should be that we should redistribute wealth from the very poor, to the slightly less poor.
But that is the left wing position. At least if we keep in mind that the left is not entitled to their own facts.
Predictably, the Keynesians at the CBO came under attack for their apostasy. But they are standing by their findings. Well, good on them, someone really ought to push back hard on the Administrations asinine lie that economists don’t believe that the minimum wage reduces employment for low to unskilled labor. The real truth is that since the 1990’s, a handful of econometricians-not economists but statisticians who study economic data-have published a handful of studies suggesting little such effect occurs empirically. The actual case for what happened “empirically” is not clear. But one would not be justified in throwing out textbook economics on the basis of a few studies claiming that the laws of supply and demand are magically suspended in low to unskilled labor markets. The reaction of economists should be not unlike the reaction scientists would have to someone claiming to have created a perpetual motion device: “No, you’ve obviously done something wrong.”
Let’s review, though, lest you think me some heartless ideologue, let’s review what the very laws of economics tell us the consequences of a minimum wage and raising it are.
First, what is a minimum wage? A minimum wage is a price floor. It outlaws any employment contract-with certain exceptions, which we will discuss-where the hourly wage rate is below a certain nominal value. If this floor is above the wage that would clear a labor market, then that labor market won’t clear, at least legally. The last bit is kind of an important point, which some commentators miss. It is already illegal, for example, to hire an illegal alien. However, it is not like you are doing something that will get you in significantly more trouble as an employer if you also pay illegal aliens below the minimum wage. There are no jobs Americans won’t do-there are jobs Americans aren’t allowed to do. Or more specifically, there are employment contracts Americans aren’t allowed to agree to. But I am digressing a bit. What does it mean to say that a market “won’t clear?” Well, those on the short side of market can deny trade to those on the long side, or attach conditions to trade. Or, in English, employers can refuse to employ people at the non market clearing wage. Because demand curves slope downwards and supply curves slope upward (mathematically, the derivative of quantity demanded as a function of price is less than zero, the derivative of quantity supplied as a function of price is greater than zero) there will be a large gap between the people willing to accept work at the new wage, and the actual amount of work available at the new wage. This is called “unemployment”-or at least it is, as long as the surplus labor doesn’t get the message that they might as well give up on getting a job altogether, in which case we just pretend it isn’t a problem because we suddenly no longer call it “unemployment.” It’s worth noting that certain groups will be over represent amongst those whose labor is still demanded, and those whose labor is not. Those who will be better represented in the former group: secondary/part time workers from multi-income families, entry level workers with clear potential for advancement, and young workers from working class households will probably still, mostly, see their labor still demanded. The latter group will have would be workers from the lowest income families, victims of discrimination, and single parents with young children overrepresented. In other words, the minimum wage hurts most those it is intended-or at least, claimed to be intended-to help. It cuts off the bottom rungs of the economic ladder, needed more than anyone else by the most disadvantaged. The total income earned by all such workers may initially increase-it depends on the elasticity of labor demand-but it will be a redistribution of income within those in that labor market. But over time firms will substitute skilled labor and capital for unskilled labor-labor demand will become more elastic-and as a result, ultimately the total income earned by unskilled workers will go down. Now, this effect is the effect on the unskilled and some low skill labor markets, at least those which are subject to the minimum wage price floor. But actually, not every labor market for unskilled or low skilled labor is subject to the price floor. Tellingly, there is a legal exception for farm labor. This has the effect of driving those driven out of other unskilled or low skilled labor markets, into the market for farm labor-the supply curve for farm labor shifts rightward, which means that the market clearing wage for farm labor is now lower. This means that not only does the minimum wage drive many out of the unskilled and low skilled labor markets, it has the particularly perverse consequence of driving down farm wages. But this is the only way to avoid the politically unpalatable level surplus of labor that would be created if an exemption for farm labor did not exist. But the effects on other labor markets are equally telling. Unions generally support raising the minimum wage-even though union workers typically earn well above the minimum wage already. This might seem strange, since there should be no direct effect on their wages. However, union labor is typically skilled labor, and skilled and unskilled labor (or more skilled and low skilled) can be substitute inputs, which means that the imposition of or raising of a minimum wage, should increase demand for skilled labor-the demand curve for skilled labor shifts rightward. Both employment of skilled workers and their total income increases as their wages rise. In other words, higher earning skilled labor, including most union labor, gains at the expense of low earning unskilled labor. In a parallel story, because of regional cost of living differences, and because a Federal minimum wage does not factor these in, areas where prices-including wages-tend to be higher, for example, more Northern states versus Southern ones, those regions with lower wages will have the direct effect of a high minimum wage impose increased labor costs on them, but those regions with higher prices and wages will not. As such, Northern labor acts as a substitute for Southern labor, demand for the labor of higher cost of living areas increases, the total income, and the wage rate in those areas rises. But migration also shifts, as the Southern or low cost of living area workers can move more to the North or high cost of living areas (or more likely, fewer people move away from higher cost of living areas). This shifts the supply curve for high cost of living area labor rightward, somewhat offsetting both the increase unemployment in the low cost of living areas, and the income gains in the higher cost of living areas. But in net, higher cost of living regions are expected to gain at the expense of lower cost of living areas. This lines up rather well, generally, with elections maps-it’s a redistribution of income from Red States to Blue States.
Now, maybe you really think all of the above effects sound great. I certainly don’t. I find them perverse, and immoral. But then, that’s why I vehemently oppose the minimum wage.

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Honk If You’re Over-Employed!

We live in an absurd world. You may be aware of a recent report-not, let’s keep in mind, from some right wing think tank, but from the Keynesians at the Congressional Budget Office-that Obamacare will lead to a very large increase in the number of people working part time instead of full time, and the CBO officials even seemed to have opened up introductory texts on actual economics saying the law creates “a disincentive to work.” In English for those of you playing at home: it destroys jobs.

Now, despite the fact that this is a government report, the government isn’t gonna take an insult to itself, from itself, lying down. The Obama administration has given the excuse that this is not due to anyone actually involuntarily losing their job, it’s due to people choosing not to work, because they never really wanted to have a job, they just had to to get health insurance.

Follow that? Millions of people won’t be working anymore, but it’s okay, they didn’t want to be working. They were over-employed because they really only wanted health insurance, not a job. In fact, the assertion amounts to a statement that the American people suffer from a chronic over employment problem.

Huh? That’s self-evidently nonsense. Of the entire population of the US, about 43% of people are employed. Of those between the ages of 15 to 64 a little less than 68% of people are employed. And keep in mind, those are people employed at all-the percentage of people with full time jobs is more like 34% and 54%, respectively. I don’t see how anyone could come to the conclusion, looking at those numbers, that too many people have to work too much.

But the assertion is, at any rate, based on the presumption (perhaps shared by the CBO) that Obamacare actually alleviates anyone’s health insurance woes. And, in alleviating these woes, it allows people to make the choices they would “naturally” chose to make, if only it weren’t for having to worry about health insurance. One might well make the argument that people could “naturally” chose not to work, if only they didn’t have to worry about eating. But there is nothing “natural” about the decisions one can make when one is able to use someone else’s income to purchase one’s health insurance-as is the case with subsidized insurance bought with the help of the government. It’s the “natural” choices the slave master can make with the fruit’s of his slave’s labor, or the “natural” choices a thief may make with his ill begotten loot. Of course, people receiving such things from the criminal gang that is the government are not themselves criminals or slave masters-that is the government. They are no more guilty of the crime itself than the thief or the slave master’s children, whom they feed with their ill gotten gains. But it is absurd and perverse in the extreme to suggest nothing untoward is going on, simply because people are responding to incentives. One might as well conclude nothing untoward is ever going on in the economy-people always respond to incentives. This doesn’t mean that incentives can’t be bad.

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A simple thought experiment to illustrate why a Government cannot facilitate exchange better than Capitalism

Suppose an economy of eleven people. In this economy, 5 people have X and want Y, 5 people have Y and want X, and there is one person who knows this (each individual party is ignorant of this fact). This person recognizes a profit opportunity: he can buy X from 5 people and Y from 5 people for, say, $4 dollars each, and sell them to the people that want them for $5 each. He makes a total profit of $2 per exchange, or $10 dollars.

Now, technically this represents an inefficiency. If we all possessed omniscience, and there was no cost to us actually getting our goods to each other, we could simply exchange with one another directly. This can be, and moreso now than ever is, resolved by technology; thanks to the internet, we can cut out the middleman more and more in our exchanges. But it must also be recognized that a perfectly efficient exchange could only be achieved by omniscient beings with unlimited power to act as the please. It is impossible in the real world. Some amount of inefficiency always exist, and where it does it represents a profit opportunity that will be exploited. In this example our choices are to let the middleman profit and each of us pay a dollar to engage in our exchanges, or not engage in the exchange at all, and not get what we want.

But what if we had the Government as the middleman? Couldn’t they do it without profiting, so we wouldn’t have to pay a dollar to get what we want? In a word, no.

The reason can be illustrated simply. Suppose the Government acted as the middleman, or more specifically, the a government employee is ordered by “the Government” to do, as his job, the facilitation of our exchanges. He is ordered to buy and sell X and Y in such a way as to make no net profit: $4 each. In net, the Government makes no profit and each of us gets what we want. However, if the Government is to do this it needs to pay the employee what he is willing to work for to facilitate the exchanges. That will be, judging from the Capitalist middleman, $2 per exchange; in other words, $10 dollars. Now, he would not be willing to do it for less than that, because he could just facilitate the exchange under the table without the Governments knowledge and make that much money. So the Government has to pay him at least that much. But the Government made no profit, so how is it to pay it’s employee’s wages? The answer is that it must raise revenue through taxation-Here the difference from Capitalism becomes interesting, because the Government can tax different people different amounts through the use of force: it can implicitly tax future people by borrowing money, it can tax everyone implicitly by inflating the currency and reducing the value of their dollars, or it can simply explicitly tax people, but at different rates. But either way it has to take the same amount of money from the people in total as the Capitalist did,  but unlike the Capitalist, who got the voluntary consent of those paying him, the Government does so with or without their consent, by force. If our Government strives to be fair, it taxes all 10 people equally (and cannot tax the employee of the government without raising his pay, because if his net pay is less than $10, he has an incentive to facilitate the exchange under the table.) The net result is that all ten people each pay a dollar to engage in the exchange, which was the same exact result achieved by the Capitalist who made a profit. We introduced a Government into this process, exchange, and we failed to improve the outcome for anyone. We could have improved the outcome for some individuals only at the expense of others (by harming them). And all this resulted from rather generous assumptions about how the Government would act. In the real world, the Government does not merely fail to improve on market outcomes, it actually does significantly worse; which is to be expected, since we assumed away that the Government would, itself, constitute a use of the 10 people’s resources and an additional cost to their exchanges. Which means that since the Government failed to improve upon the exchange process, there is no justification for having it interfere in it; if it can’t actually improve it, why should it?

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A Teeming Horde Of Socialists

-Or, the Capitalist Suicide Pact.

Is it the case that the restraint of free movement of people across international boundaries is, in essence, of the nature of the error of the protectionist? Is, it not the case that imposition on such free movement represents violation of the natural right of man by the State?

Resolved that these propositions are, so the citizen of the Capitalist World, fear hypocrisy, deigns it that the artificial construction of a border ought not restrain migration, and he welcomes with open arms as a brother the worker, the talent, the human resource, (for he does not make the error of the population alarmist, that more people is bad) into the nation he calls home, but which, thinking on it, he holds in no special regard, except in so far as it may be an exemplar of his capitalist ideal-and that it is not, so much the more reason to hold it in contempt.

And, being that he may occasionally dislike the results of elections, but thinking the results of human events must inevitably favor liberty in the end, he excepts democracy, perhaps hesitantly. He thinks not for a moment that, in the regions from which his new brothers come, in choosing their own governments freely they have chosen despotism, tyranny, socialism. He is, after all, not racist, to think that ideology could be genetic. He thinks, such is the product of their institutions, but our institutions favor the market-One supposes he forgets that this is not so often, his patriotism is oddly restored from his-deserved-early contempt. And more importantly, he reasons, these are Christians, and we all know how Christians vote. Oh sure, he thinks, my wife or lover may not be able to get an abortion the next time she gets pregnant, but trade will be reasonably unrestrained. He is, unaware? Perhaps, of the evidence the prevailing opinions of these folks, on the contrary, are much the opposite of the typical evangelical Christian. He attributes, instead, all the evidence of every passing election, of evidence of purposeful thought by a block of voters seeking to righteously punish the truculent. And, he says, surely if we do away with the truculent, these people will, so long as we may make the issue ours, vote more in line with their religious beliefs. Religion, not biology, determines ideology, all human history not withstanding.

And lo, political victory! He achieves his goal, and across the nullified national boundary comes the teeming horde. Wonder, glory, at the production from this labor! Huzzah, a victory for mankind, for the future! And thus, on the surface, it seems.

But things are not as they appear. Look upon those things our Capitalist Citizen holds, rightly, in contempt: government largesse swells, and strains to be supported by a tax structure that burdens exclusively the upper income earners; for now, the state of Social Security and Medicare improve, at the expense of Medicaid and welfare programs.

Never fear! The election is here! Finally in good conscience, Capitalist Citizen can support Republicanism again, having defeated the bigots and reclaimed it’s name for the Truly Righteous. And, he expects-contrary to recent evidence-that the people are generally intelligent enough to realize that socialism isn’t working. He is enthusiastic. And so election day arrives.

Disaster! Calamity! Well, on the bright side, your wife can get that abortion. It is the first electoral college unanimous election since George Washington.

Republican Crass Crusty is defeated by Democrat Hugo Vladimir Gonzalez in a landslide. The election is attributed by pundits to the Hispanic vote.

Well, an election is just an election, there will be another one. So he waits, and in the mean time the Democrats further transform the country into something he does not recognize as remotely Capitalist. They win the next election, too, and the next one.

After an entire generation of ruin, Citizen Capitalist is in despair. In his squalid, rent controlled apartment, Citizen Capitalist commits suicide, not able to face the world anymore, it’s future so dim.

Of course, in reality, he committed political suicide a generation ago.

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To Whom Success Is Due

Recent statements by Obama have gotten a lot of (well deserved) attention already. As usual when Obama tells us what he really thinks, we Conservatives are just too stoopeed to comprehend the point, or we are taking the remarks out of context. Right. Well, what does Obama mean when he says “You didn’t build that”? Apparently his point was simply that people cannot take all the credit for their own success. But such a statement is totally vacuous if it is not meant to make a political point. So what is the political point? The political point is that successful people owe their success to the fact that the government made their success possible, and, therefore, they have a special obligation to pay the government for the services it provided them. This point is still vacuous, however, because it is basically an argument for a progressive income tax which, in case you haven’t noticed, is the existing government policy. In terms of what Obama would like to do with that policy, he has said that the wealthiest should pay more: in other words, according to Obama, the wealthiest are not currently paying income taxes in proportion to the extent to which they benefit from the services that government provides. But that is false: those with the highest incomes pay a greater portion of the overall revenue from income taxes than their share of the national income. The other possible political point is that the government needs to provide certain services. Again, vacuous: the government can provide necessary services, it also might “provide” many unnecessary ones. What services that only the government can provide does Obama want? Which ones are the “bad guys” trying to do away with? The answer to both questions is none. There are a great many unnecessary services that the government “provides” and many such services that Obama wants to create or expand (or has).

But, let’s deal, in a philosophical manner, with these points in a bit more detail. Obama says people owe their success (at least some of it) to great teachers or roads and bridges. These are government services, it is surely true that people may benefit from these services. But do the successful disproportionately benefit from these services? Put another way, why is life unfair? I have t0 admit I am a bit amused to learn that Leftists do not believe that some people succeed and others fail because of a cruel and angry God in whom they do not believe. It turns out it’s teachers. Yes, teachers choose to make some people successful and others not; in fact we may make a general statement that government services discriminate systematically to make certain people successful and others not. One has to wonder, if government services are so profoundly biased and unfair, why we would want the government to be the provider of services at all. Well, either that or one cannot attribute a few people’s success to services provided to people who failed, too. But on a less facetious level, it is worth noting that, in a capitalist economy, one would not have obligations to those who have provided services or goods for one’s use. One pays the price the offerer asks for their services-or one demonstrates how little one actually desires the service by not bothering. It is by forcing some services to be done through the government that you create a situation where someone “owes” another party for their services, but does not pay. Who are the greatest beneficiaries, and to whom is the most owed? The answers are, the government’s friends, and the governments enemies. Are there services which only the government can provide? The first that springs to mind is national defense. But every person benefits equally from that crucial service, and yet about half of the people pay nothing for this service (crucial point here: for this service. While Social Security and other things that payroll taxes pay for are arguably not necessary services, such taxes are in-arguably not supposed to pay for national defense). I would certainly agree that people should pay for services they receive. If such services cannot be provided by private entities (cannot does not mean the same thing as “currently not” as Leftists inevitably interpret this) the solution to this problem is called user fees, or in the case of services which a person may not choose to forgo a head tax-not a progressive income tax. In point of fact, however, Leftists do not agree with the principle that people should pay if they receive a service-they strongly reject this proposition as unfair when it applies to making those people who they like pay for things Leftists think should be given to them for free. But a more fundamental problem is that, even if they were being serious in proposing such a principle, the Left believes a great many things must be done by the government, that frankly don’t need to be. We might be able to maintain true fairness (those who benefit, pay), if we adopted the aforementioned principle and then had the government provide most services, but never as well as the private sector could. In fact in many cases it would only remain “those who benefit, pay” in the sense that many would not benefit at all and therefore have no obligation. But more importantly, people would not decide for themselves if they were in the group of those who benefit, and pay, as in the capitalist economy; the people who would benefit, and pay, would be arbitrarily determined by the government-the only difference from the current situation being that the government cannot make those who benefit and those who pay two different groups of people. The real alternative is capitalism.

Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.

~Frédéric Bastiat

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