Help Needed

I haven’t been active in the blogosphere lately because school and work have been keeping me incredibly busy. But I would appreciate your help if you can offer any advice:

I’m looking to subscribe to some sort of publication, but there’s not just  a single one out there which I would like. But my financial conditions permit me only to subscribe to one, so I’m hoping you may be able to advise me on this.

The Economist
Financial Times
Wall Street Journal

If you happen to know whether one of these is better than the others, please let me know. Also, if there’s  a publication you particularly enjoy that I don’t have listed above, I’d love to hear it. Thanks!

aldo raine

Bernie Sanders: Too Good to be True

My favorite movie is Inglorious Basterds. Near the end of the movie, Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) has a brief monologue which ought to be heard by anybody who is attracted to a particular politician, particularly Bernie Sanders.

Ya know where I’m from…I’ve done my share of bootlegging. Up there, if you engage in what the federal government calls ‘illegal activity’ but what we call just a man trying to make a living for his family selling a little moonshine liquor, it behooves oneself to keep his wits. Long story short, we hear a story too good to be true, it ain’t.

To all those who think “the rich” will bend over and do everything Bernie demands; who think that politicians can confiscate wealth through taxation without destroying the incentive to create wealth; who think that scarce goods can somehow be made free; who think that politicians are better suited than self-interested businessmen motivated by a desire to make profits to distribute goods and services to the masses; all I can say to you is: keep your wits. If you hear a story too good to be true, it ain’t.


Where Would New Yorkers be Without Capitalism?

Answer: Stuck in traffic.

Rarely a day goes by without an opportunity to give thanks to the marvels produced by free markets. Today, The Verge tells us an incredible story from Manhattan:

Not in a million years did I think that there would be a market for a helicopter service to ferry people from one side to the other, but here we are: Blade, which is like an Uber for helicopters and small aircraft, is letting you get around hellish Pope-related traffic and street shutdowns in Manhattan with trips between its E. 34th Street and W. 30th Street bases for $95.

Find out more about Blade HERE. Blade is similar to Uber in that it’s an app that you can download on your phone. But instead of requesting somebody to pick you up in a car, Blade will pick you up in a helicopter! The site describes the Blade Bounce as such: “6-seat Eurocopter charters available on demand within 20 minutes of booking to all New York area airports. From $695.”

On Friday, the Pope will be joined by President Obama and UN delegates in Manhattan, which means travelling by cab will be costly in both monetary and time concerns. Blade is infiltrating the city to allow people to go above the traffic for $95. It will run during the morning rush hour period between 7:45 AM and 10:00 AM, then again during the evening from 5:00 PM until 7:00 PM.

This story has several implications.

  1. People who are worried that technology will eliminate jobs miss the point that as new technology is created, new markets spring up. Also, if technology was able to provide us with all of our needs, and jobs in fact were unnecessary, would that really be a bad thing?
  2. Presumably, Blade is targeting Manhattan on Friday out of self-interest: the massive influx of tourists will clog the streets and provide more opportunities for them to profit by allowing people to escape traffic. This is how individuals pursuing their own self-interest in the marketplace simultaneously make other people’s lives better. Adam Smith eloquently observed this in 1776.
  3. The Pope has been critical of capitalism and the profit system, but without the opportunity of profit it’s highly unlikely that people would be willing to provide these types of services. Walter Williams humorously noted that individuals are motivated by their own self-interest, instead of love for their fellowman.

Hurrah for Capitalism!


The Minimum Wage and Anti-Capitalist Rhetoric Don’t Help the Poverty Situation

Long before he turned a single floundering store in Utica, New York into a global chain-store empire, and long before he could boast of a personal fortune estimated at $65 million, Frank Woolworth was an impoverished and unskilled 20 year-old farm boy who desperately wanted a job.

But 20 year-old Woolworth was in a bit of a pickle as he left his father’s farm early in 1873 to search for a job in the city. He desired to become a merchant, but not a single established merchant in New York seemed to want an unfamiliar boy from the country. As Walter Jennings, a 20th century economic historian, noted, Woolworth “called at the various stores asking for work. No one would hire him, and some proprietors would not even talk to him.”[1]

His bad fortune changed one day when a pair of merchants, Augsbury and Moore, gave him an interview. When Woolworth agreed to the job duties and descriptions, he asked how much he would be paid. Augsbury and Moore had a field day with this question. “You don’t expect any pay, do you?” they hollered. “You should work a whole year for nothing, as a schooling. You have to pay tuition when you go to school. We will not ask you any tuition fees.”[2]

Woolworth was shocked, but so eager to work that he agreed to undertake a three month trial period without pay. And so the future leader of a global chain-store empire began his career without pay on the bottom rung of the industry he would eventually dominate.

What would have happened to Woolworth if today’s progressives had implemented their most cherished anti-poverty measure (minimum wage) way back in the 19th century? First, understand that not one of the established merchants from whom Woolworth sought work, including Augsbury and Moore, were willing to pay him even a mere penny. They certainly would not have hired him if the terms required paying him a “living wage.”

Woolworth’s resort to a three month trial period without pay would have been rendered illegal by the minimum wage law, so that he effectively would have been ousted from the job market. Frank Woolworth, the future millionaire and chain-store pioneer, would have been sent back to toil on the farm, kudos to the enlightened minimum wage activists who ostentatiously devote their political work to caring for people like Poor Frank Woolworth.

Woolworth’s example illuminates at least three important lessons. First, from time immemorial until the present day, people have been capable of rising out of poverty armed with nothing but their own ambition. Politicians and their minimum wage laws, historically speaking, have been a negligible factor in the comparatively recent global exodus from poverty.

Second, if minimum wage laws have not been a negligible factor, then they have actually served as an encumbrance to individuals fighting to raise themselves out of poverty.

Finally, our friends on the left are being counterproductive with their “Fight for $15,” Get Outta Poverty Now! infomercial campaigns. You don’t produce an environment in which people are made to feel like victims of oppression from the upper classes and expect those people to develop an ambition to become wealthy (that would be turning into “one of them,” after all). This is why politicians cultishly resort to glorifying the “middle class” as some sort of utopian ideal. I don’t know about you, but I get incredibly tired of being spoon-fed from wealthy politicians the idea that I’m supposed to be inspired by the chance that someday I might get all the way to the middle class!

Want to fight poverty? Then end this creepy “middle-class is nirvana” nonsense and start to teach children the inspirational rags-to-riches stories like Frank Woolworth. Quit teaching children that wealth is antagonistic to poverty. Teach them that wealth is an admirable goal to strive for, and that most wealthy people have achieved their success only because they found better and cheaper ways to make millions of lives better off. Most important, make sure children understand that they are not helpless pawns in the hands of wealthy business owners whose only salvation is a politician who promises nice things.

[1] Jennings, Walter Wilson. 20 Giants of American Business; Biographical Sketches in Economic History. New York: Exposition, 1953. 406. Print.

[2] Jennings, Walter Wilson. 20 Giants of American Business; Biographical Sketches in Economic History. New York: Exposition, 1953. 407. Print.

UNBELIEVABLE: The Start of Mass Production of Houses

Free market innovations use technology to improve on former production processes and ultimately make more and higher quality goods available to the masses. As Ludwig von Mises said in The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, “Capitalism deproletarianizes the common man.”

Somebody correct me if this is a prank from The Onion, but otherwise you have to check this out! A private Chinese firm is reported to have used four 10m x 6.6m 3D Printers to construct 10 houses in one day, for about $5,000 per house. From the BBC:

“We can print buildings to any digital design our customers bring us. It’s fast and cheap,” says WinSun chief executive Ma Yihe. He also hopes his printers can be used to build skyscrapers in the future. At the moment, however, Chinese construction regulations do not allow multi-storey 3D-printed houses, Xinhua says.

The method of 3D printing has become more widely used in recent years. Manufacturers and designers have been able to make everyday items such as jewellery and furniture, as well as more specialised objects like industrial components.

Think of the possibilities 3D printing can bring to humanity! The natural response from established industries will be to lobby government to protect their own short-term interests at the expense of consumers and long-run progress.

It’s a great time to be alive, folks!


Arrogant DC Bureaucrats Seek Control Over Personal Trainers

I’m a pretty avid gym-goer, so this story hit close to home with me.

According to Watchdog, personal-trainers in Washington, D.C. “could soon be subject to the first set of occupational licensing laws targeting personal trainers.” From the story:

The Council of the District of Columbia empowered an obscure regulatory panel, the Board of Physical Therapy, to create the new rules, which are scheduled for a Sept. 22 vote.

“My fear is that because I didn’t study kinesiology, or exercise science, or whatever, they’ll decide that I’m not capable of running this place, just because I don’t have a degree,” Killion [a personal trainer in D.C.] said. “The whole thing is a solution in search of a problem.”

The exact rules are still unclear, but all personal trainers would be required to register with the mayor’s office and pay a yet-to-be-determined fee. An early draft of the rules would have required that all personal trainers have a four-year degree — the reason for Killion’s concern.

That’s right. Somebody now needs special permission from bureaucrats to remind people to “breathe,” to “put the weight down slowly,” and to “keep yourself hydrated.”

Ironically, just two months ago the White House issued a report which showed that occupational licensing laws have led to higher prices and employment restrictions, and few noticeable benefits. The report laughably stated that “often the requirements for obtaining a license are not in sync with the skills needed for the job.”

But the real-life consequences are most likely a secondary concern for those D.C. policymakers serving on the Board of Physical Therapy, since physical therapists are either directly or indirectly competing with personal trainers for clients. Peter Suderman of Reason Magazine noted this conflict of interest and facetiously asked, “You really mean that professional groups granted regulatory power over their rivals might use licensing requirements in self-interested ways? Who could possibly have imagined that this would happen?”

In my view, the greatest regulator is the marketplace. Competition among trainers gives each one the incentive to perform as well as he can. If individuals observe that a certain trainer isn’t up to the task of preventing his clients from suffering injuries, then he will automatically lose customers to those trainers who prove to be more competent in their work.

Also, people are not so clueless that they need to be forced by regulators to become certified. Any trainer who was looking for a leg up on his competition would voluntarily earn his certification (for credibility purposes) in order to retain current clients and to recruit new ones from uncertified competition.

We need to remember that people can think things out for themselves without the assistance of enlightened regulators, and that the marketplace is the most pure regulator.

To prove my point, those D.C. bureaucrats should understand that people already know how to spot a bad trainer, and it’s so easy that a bureaucrat could probably spot one as well…



Random Thought

A stream-of-consciousness/free write:

I read The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, by Ludwig von Mises, yesterday, and will have a brief review up here on my site pretty soon, but I just wanted to illustrate a concept Mises brought up which I thought was really interesting.

He wrote:

In a daily repeated plebiscite in which every penny gives a right to vote the consumers determine who should own and run the plants, shops and farms…Those who satisfy the wants of a smaller number of people only collect fewer votes–dollars–than those who satisfy the wants of more people.

I hadn’t ever thought of myself as a “voter” when I fulfill my role as a consumer. I recently purchased a pizza from Hungry Howie’s, which means that I essentially “voted” for Hungry Howie’s and against the plethora of other pizza places around my apartment.

In this view, businesses compete against each other to receive the most votes, which means they can only earn more money if they perform better than other businesses at satisfying more consumers. I guess that’s what Mises meant when he wrote, “The control of the material means of production is a social function, subject to the confirmation or revocation by the sovereign consumers.”


Cooperation is a Natural Characteristic for Human Beings

I once heard Whoopi Goldberg defend Communism as an ideal because, in her words, “When you get down to the bottom-line of what communism is, it is you and I working together for a” better purpose.

These words made it painfully apparent that Goldberg was completely oblivious to the complex network of teamwork and cooperation on display every single day within a free-market framework.

For example, Goldberg’s broadcasting career has been made possible only because individuals were willing to “work together” to get her face on television screens across the country. Think about how many people it takes just to get a simple television show on the air–an audience, writers, camera men, makeup artists, directors, producers, publicists, advertisers, marketers, and on and on and on, all cooperating with each other to accomplish a common purpose.

In other words, Goldberg can laud Communism on national television only because individuals operating within a free-market structure work with each other to make the show a success!

Therefore, to suggest that Communism is somehow uniquely engineered to encourage human cooperation and teamwork is to shut one’s eyes to history and completely ignore how human beings actually behave.

Everywhere around us we can incessantly see examples of voluntary teamwork on display within a free-market system: On the assembly lines in factories; the division of labor within restaurants, especially McDonald’s or Chipotle; shipping companies like UPS or FedEx, etc.

Teamwork and cooperation are natural characteristics to human beings, and don’t need to be forced upon people by enlightened bureaucrats who call themselves Communists.


Capitalism Accelerates Living Standards

I agree with Ludwig von Mises. This quote is from my copy of The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, page 6.

There is but one means available to improve the material conditions of mankind: to accelerate the growth of capital accumulated as against the growth in population. The greater the amount of capital invested per head of the worker, the more and the better goods can be produced and consumed. This is what capitalism, the much abused profit system, has brought about and brings about daily anew. Yet, most present-day governments and political parties are eager to destroy the system.

Mises makes some crucial points here, especially ones that need to be considered on Labor Day. First, he points out that an economy grows when people save money, which frees up resources for businesses to invest. When businesses invest in capital, they expand their production possibilities frontier, meaning they enable each worker to produce more output than before.

Such investments in capital (equipment) have been the primary reason why real wages have increased over time. Also, since capital expands output of goods and services, it allows for more efficient production, which means people are able to work less when the capital-population ratio increases.

Yet, from the following meme, it’s evident that people actually thank labor unions for these advances in human welfare.

None of the things listed above would have been possible without economic growth. Imagine, for example, if labor unions had insisted that workers in 1800 work only 40 hours per week and have Saturday and Sunday off. People would have starved! Without enough capital to aide workers in the production process it becomes necessary for each worker to labor for many hours a week just to achieve subsistence.

Here’s a video from We Are Capitalists that sums the issue up nicely.