A little legal joke by Prof. Ivan Pongracic of Hillsdale College:
Three businessmen found themselves together in prison.The first man said, “I was convicted of price gouging because I was charging more than my competitors.”
The second man said, “Well I was charging less than my competitors and was convicted of predatory pricing.”The third man, eyes wide, said, “I was charging the SAME as my competitors and the government threw us all in jail because we’d formed a CARTEL!”
Arbitrariness… A wonderful basis for law in a just society.
A quick story as related from Lawrence Reed, President of the Foundation for Economic Education (www.fee.org):
Thomas Anderson, author, farmer and presidential candidate in 1972 & 1976, used to tell a story about a herd of wild hogs, that lived along a bend of river in Georgia.
Now this band of pigs was a stubborn, ornery, independent, self reliant bunch. They had survived floods, and freezes, and fires, and droughts, and hunters, and dogs, you name it.Nobody thought that these hogs could ever be penned up or captured.
But one day a stranger came to a town not far from where the hogs were, and he went into the general store and he said, “Tell me where I can find the hogs. I have a plan to pen them up.”
And the store keeper said, “Ah, well you’ll never do that.”
But he nonetheless gave him some general directions and off the stranger went with nothing but a few sacks of corn, an axe, and a one-horse wagon.
A few months later he came back into town, came into the store and said, “I’ve got ’em all penned up, out in the swamp. I need some help to bring the hogs out.”
The storekeeper couldn’t believe it, and others came from miles around to hear the story of how this guy had penned the hogs that everyone assumed could never be captured.
He said, “Well it was really rather simple. At first, I made a clearing at the middle of the swamp with my axe. And then I put some of the corn at the center of the clearing and for the first few days none of the hogs would take any of it. But after a while the younger ones would come out and grab some of the corn and scamper back into the underbrush, and before long then the older ones were coming out, each of them taking some corn, figuring if they didn’t take it one of the other hogs would. And so they were all now taking the corn regularly as I put it in the clearing.”
He then said, “It was about that time, unnoticed by the hogs, that I started building a fence around the clearing. One more small section each day until at just the right point I built a gate, and at just the right moment I swung it shut.”
And his last line was, “Naturally they squealed and hollered, when they knew I had ’em. But I can pen ANY animal on the face of this Earth, if I can first get him to depend on me for a free handout.”
That describes a number of civilizations that have risen and fallen in part because of people deciding that it may be easier to vote for a living than to work for one… To use the political process as a means to redistribute wealth that belongs to others.
– Lawrence W. Reed, 2010
Some great ideas to keep in mind as you head out to vote this Tuesday.
Happy Election Season!
Does anyone else remember those PBS brand commercials built around something like, “You Own This…”? Basically the gist was that the camera went swooping over the National Mall in DC and then the words would pass over the screen “You Own This…” The shot then faded to helicopter shots of Mt Rushmore and Yosemite followed by “You Own This…” It went through a couple of iterations on this theme, ending finally with a slow fade-in and light flare across the PBS logo and then a last drop in of that phrase, “You Own This…”
How patriotic, right?
I was always really offput by those… In my mind, we don’t own ANY of that. The US federal government owns those assets (PBS being a public-private partnershipy thing). We are given some access to those places and assets, but we don’t OWN them in any meaningful way.
Let me state what this article is NOT about. I am not going to address what we spend our money on. I would like to simply laser in on how we handle the financials in our government bodies, particularly the example of our federal government. We don’t need to address the specifics of priorities or of this or that program decision in order to come to a general agreement that our nation is currently on an unsustainable fiscal track.
We cannot continue to overspend our national government income by over 40% (Source: CBO estimate, FY 2012) year after year after year. In the long run (probably more like the medium run at this point) it is utterly unsustainable and we see examples of the political and economic consequences of ignoring this reality when we look to the current situations of Greece and others.
Thus regardless of our opinions on the place of government in our lives, we likely can generally agree that our financial house needs to be put back in order.
The question then becomes, how can we accomplish this? The simple answer brings us back to a certain ideological divide. Do we lower government expenses, increase government income or some combination of the two?
First published on the Wake Up Tucson Blog:
One of my father’s favorite quotes is from Woody Allen. I’ve heard it a couple ways but he always related it as “90% of life is just showing up.”
The older I’ve gotten the more I have come to find this an astoundingly important and fascinating insight. It (rather unexpectedly) says that doing the minimum or close to it is really a big deal in most of life.
In my firm I write insurance contracts for clients. What my client is looking for, and what they will pay me to do, is fill out forms and file them with insurance companies. There is a lot more that we do in addition to this, policy reviews, competitive bidding to ensure the best price, custom marketing, employee services, etc. But at the end of the day, the client (AT MINIMUM) just needs that paperwork done.
The flip side though, is I get NO credit, NO payment, if I fill out the application to 10%, 30%, 50%, etc. If that minimum standard is not met, I get ZERO credit.
For my job, Woody’s adage certainly applies. 90% of what I do is meeting that minimum effort requirement. Everything above that is icing, but anything below that is worth nothing, nada, zip, zilch.
First published on the Wake Up Tucson Blog:
As we start debating the re-authorization of our state’s 1 cent sales tax I would like to pause for a moment and take a slightly closer look at what has been, and will undoubtably be again, one of the oft heard sentiments in these discussions.
You almost certainly have heard some version of it, but Paul Krugman (writing in his recent release A Manifesto For Economic Sense) provides a good example: “There must of course be a medium-term plan for reducing the government deficit. But if this is too front-loaded it can easily be self-defeating by aborting the recovery.”
So more or less, “Yes, we absolutely, positively know we need to get back to (INSERT NORMAL HERE) but certainly not right now.”
Dr. Krugman is certainly and simply an easy target but is an excellent example of those who, over many years, have maintained an incessant drum beat for “emergency measures”. Whether it is stimulatory fiscal and monetary policy, private company bailouts, vast military spending, expanded police powers, environmental regulatory interventions, increased taxes or other“temporary”, “one-time” reactions to current difficulties, there always seems to happen to be another “emergency” on the horizon which will serve to extend the definition of “temporary” and turn “one-time” into repetitive.
My primary issue are the pundits and government officers who prefer to define us in an almost constant state of “crisis” or for whom at least the pendulum seems only to swing in one direction.