Skip to comments.Columnist Charley Reese Asks, "Is Economics All There Is?"
Posted on 07/18/2003 4:22:53 AM PDT by Theodore R.
Is Economics All There Is?
Let me invite you to join a crusade to change the culture and stop the present trend of treating us, our country, the world, everything and everybody in it as mere economic units.
I was reminded of the necessity of this when reading a news story in a local paper about the Fourth of July. It was, in fact, just about how businesses catering to visitors fared during the holiday weekend. They did well, but is that what the Fourth of July has become: just another business opportunity? Is it a "good" Fourth if the merchants make money and a "bad" Fourth if they don't make as much as they did last year? What does making money have to do with the Fourth of July anyway?
The answer is nothing. The Fourth of July is our celebration of political independence. It is about freedom, not money. It is about our country, not our economy. The fact that economic activity is necessary to sustain our flesh-and-blood bodies does not mean that economics is the be-all and end-all of our existence. We are human beings and citizens, not consumers. Our lives are much more than what we eat or wear or drive, just as our country is far more than its gross domestic product.
Think for a moment about the mentality that says the way to describe the Fourth is to talk to the merchants about how much business they did. You see the same mentality everywhere and year-round. Christmas stories are done the same way: Are sales up or down? Globalization which means the takeover of the world's resources and labor by multinational corporations is presented as a nondebatable fact.
If you protest a corporation closing its American plant and relocating to a cheap-labor country, the corporation acts as if that is inevitable and dictated by economic necessity. It is not. It is, in fact, immoral and socially detrimental. Corporate types who make those decisions should be shunned by their fellow citizens. It is far more important for Americans to have decent-paying jobs than it is for any corporation to make excessive profits.
We have to stop allowing economics to be used as a trump card. Capitalism is like math. It is amoral. It is good at producing wealth; it's bad at distributing wealth. Unless it operates within a moral framework it will produce an unjust society. The answer to every question is not "It's profitable" or "It's unprofitable." There are social and political values that have to be taken into account.
It's unfortunate that many politicians today see the role of government as assisting corporations to make profits. That's not the legitimate role of government at all. That is a corruption of government, and today it is so rampant that politicians don't even think twice about sounding as if they were representing the chamber of commerce instead of the people.
We should seek to separate government and business for the same reason we separate government and religion. Instead of negotiating more managed trade agreements to facilitate the loss of even more American jobs, Congress should be figuring out ways to punish the practice of offshoring with punitive taxes and tariffs.
America as a nation was poor a lot longer than it's been rich. It wasn't money that created this country and made it great, but there has always been a conflict between those whose god is money and those who have different values, whether they be a just society, political liberty, religious freedom or good stewardship of the land. In the later half of the 19th century the money worshippers raped the land, exploited the American people and created slums and hellish working conditions.
Today's robber barons will re-create those 19th-century conditions if we continue to let them dominate the government and our very thoughts. Remember, we are human beings with souls, not cogs in some economic machine.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- © 2003 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
They should be forced to stay here and do what we tell them to instead of what will be best for themselves. Don't they ever think of the people?!! No not them. They only think of themselves and their evil shareholders. Wicked greedy capitalists!!!
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We have to stop allowing economics to be used as a trump card. Capitalism is like math. It is amoral. It is good at producing wealth; it's bad at distributing wealth. Unless it operates within a moral framework it will produce an unjust society.
What a moron!
What a compelling argument. You really destroyed Reese's premise.
Since when is the distribution of wealth important? Did monarchies evenly distribute wealth? Did communism evenly distribute wealth? Have dictators ensured the even distribution of wealth?
Stealing from the pockets of the productive to pay for the needs of the unproductive is pure solicialistic BS. Profit based decision making may be imperfect in a socialist based world view, but it sure supplies all of us with jobs. It also provides opportunities to those who are willing to invest, work hard, and take risks.
Who defines the moral framework referred to? Liberals? Anarchists? How about leaving the definition of the moral framework to those who earned the profit. The fabric of American history is replete with rich philanthropists, religion based charities, and neighbors helping neighbors. Evil capitalists are the poor man's best friend. The turnover in the lowest paid quartile is huge. Those that are poor and don't want to be poor are constantly moving up. Those that are poor and don't care are the minority.
What a false dilemma. I work for a company that's bleeding money as fast as they can raise it. They're trying to move manufacturing to the far east to merely break even, not make "excessive profit." If that doesn't work then we all lose paychecks here in the states, period, not "profit." It's not about outsourcing low dollar manufacturing to save my white coller design job, it's about mere survival against everyone else.
My issue is with the idea that it is fair for someone who does less than me (as determined by the consensus estimate of our contribution), to get more than me. this is just a feeble attempt at making people feel guilty about making decisions about benefitting themselves when the result manifests change for others. It's a socialist's argument about the definition of morality.
And by the way, ask any socialist what constitutes an "unjust society" and you should get a better idea of what a slippery slope you're on when you take merit out of the compensation equation. Of those high paid laborers who lose their jobs, the best will get better jobs, and be much better off because they'll also get the benefit of lower prices. The worst of them will go on to complain about the immoral fat cats, and live off public assistance.
What utter crap. The people and companies producing the most profits get the most benefit - that sounds like a damn good distribution system to me.
Regarding the evils of the 19th century robber barons it should be noted that it was the government that helped them become all they were. Lincoln and the Republican party established corporate welfare as policy i.e. government funds "helping" private businesses for the general public good. Part two of that is that the close relationship of government and these corporations once established bloomed into government favoring special interests over the general welfare. Governors - bought and paid for used the power of the state - police and national guard to come down on the side of large business in labor disputes for example. One further point is that the large influx of immigration floaded the labor pool so business could dictate harsh working terms and low wages to workers - if you don't like it there are plenty of others who need the work. No question that human nature is corrupt but government is not a fair arbitor - it is run by people who like everyone else are corrupt by nature. Government is force and nothing else. That force has been allowed to be harnessed by corporate interests and that is why the founders knew the answer is more freedom and less government in all things. Things are a mess because we discarded the wisdom of the founders.
BTTT. Too many 'free market capitalists' forget this part...
You make some excellent points but, as is always necessary, you leave out a lot of good points, too. First, in addition to being corrupt human nature is also good. It depends on which nature is nourished throughout life that determines which prevails. The spiritual side, as opposed to the physical side, of human nature is just as natural and more conducive to harmonious interaction when nourished.
Secondly, free enterprise, a.k.a. capitalism, has the unique ability to transform the selfish interests of the individual into a common good for all. The market is self-regulating and the abuses of one side (labor, management, costs, price, etc.) are soon mitigated by fluctuations in supply and demand. When government interferes with this natural market interaction the system breaks down. I am not in favor of unrestricted "Buyer Beware" but as long as government prevents the big 'uns from eating the little 'uns that is about all it can safely do.
When Charlie Reese was with the Orlando Sentinel I enjoyed most of his columns. Since then I find more I disagree with than agree.
Thanks for the compliment. I'm not beyond the sin of pride - it makes me feel good - I like it.
>but, as is always necessary, you leave out a lot of good points, too
always necessary??? Like I have a pattern you've noticed? I do not sinisterly disregard facts for political purposes. Anything left out of my comments are either for the sake of brevity or an honest oversight.
>in addition to being corrupt human nature is also good.
definition of an honest politician: a politician who once bought stays bought.
>as long as government prevents the big 'uns from eating the little 'uns
The problem with our system socialism or fascism (same thing only different - which are we?) is that the wealthy and powerful use government to secure contracts, protection and funding for themselves and to cripple the little guy. How does one get government to fix the problem that it has created itself? How about limiting government and enforcing the principle "all men are treated equally under the law" meaning laws (like once covering taxes, exports, imports, subsides, etc.) apply to everyone period, without exemptions, loopholes.
That people like me spend their professional lives using numbers to describe the state of an economy is really just about trying to quantify risk. But the debate between economic systems is about decision making, and who makes the decisions. If the government puts a law in place which makes it illegal for you to do what you would otherwise do, then they have made a decision for you and enforced that decision with (at least the threat of) force.
Now you have given up your freedom, but your company will stay where it is. Of course, you'll have to charge more now, so you'll lose business, but maybe you can convince the government to put another law in place which takes away the freedom of choice from your customers. This goes on ad infinitum under socialism.
Personally, I think a businessman doing what he must to make his business as profitable as posible is the most moral thing a man can do. I think the immorality of the authors equation is when someone has the nerve to try to convince him that he should give up his freedom of choice for the benefit of others.
All this because the author can't understand the law of comparative advantage.
Actually, I think I have a better book for you to read. Hayek is a classic, but it reads a little slow. Try reading "Knowledge and Decisions" by Thomas Sowell. Personally I think it's the best Economic text I've ever read.
Sorry I didn't make myself clearer or perhaps I am sorry that you took in so personally, unnecessarily, whichever applies. I meant that it is always necessary to leave out many aspects of a subject in a format such as this due to time and space constraints, just as you replied. That was a general statement, not one directed to you or concerning your style, etc.
all the best -