Monday, May 15, 2017

No, Capitalism Doesn't "Keep People Down"

We have a twentysomething son of a friend staying with us, and very helpful it is. Because an old geezer like me isn't up to date on all the liberal memes, not as much as I ought to be.

Already I have been inspired to make a chart of Deirdre McCloskey's Great Enrichment notion, showing the US and the UK starting at about $3 income in real dollars per person per day in 1800 and reaching $120-140 per day right here in 2017. Go take a look at the links: it's really cool.

But my young friend also has the opinion that capitalism "keeps people down." OK, never mind that the charts just mentioned give that notion the lie.

It is true that capital-ists are often discovered trying to keep people down. I don't mean the meanie-jelly-beanie that won't give his workers a raise. I mean dear old Warren Buffet. The dear chap announced back in the Obama days as how chaps like him should pay more in taxes because his secretary paid more percent of income in tax than he did. Well, Warren old chap, I doubt it. But if she does the reason is that she is paying payroll taxes which are a cunning way to prevent ordinary middle-class people from building assets that can be handed down to their children -- in other words keep them down. So yeah. Warren Buffet wants to keep people down.

And let us not forget that Buffet's support of the Obama administration helped pipelines from being built in the frack-alicious Dakotas, and that helps Warren make lots of lovely money hauling crude oil around in his Burlington Northern trains. But Mr. President, Is It Safe? No, transporting crude oil in trains is a lot less safe than transporting it in pipelines. Any fool knows that. It's the science.

Then, of course, there are out-and-out crony capitalists like Elon Musk, who is making big money from renewable energy credits with his Tesla electric-car company and from NASA with his SpaceX outfit. I know: electric cars and reusable rockets are cool. Still...

Look the problem here is not that capitalists "keep people down." Of course they do, just like SJWs keep the notorious racists, sexists, and homophones down. And just like the welfare state keeps the old white working class and women and minorities down, anesthetized by welfare and healthcare entitlements and opioids. One of the basic facets of social animals is hierarchy. Hierarchy, or pecking order, is one way to avoid violence, and the war of all against all. So today's top dogs certainly have an advantage. In order to have access to money, power, and the love of beautiful women you have to fight for it, like these giraffes.

But the whole point of markets and prices is that you can only be "kept down" so long as you don't have a better idea, and only so long as crony capitalists have access to politicians to write laws to block up-and-coming businesses with licensing laws and regulation. And even politicians and the current crony capitalists are not really smart enough to keep a good man down for long, except in full-on socialist countries.

The astonishing thing about the last 200 years of the Great Enrichment is that, time after time, the ruling class and the crony capitalists were caught looking the other way, and not really understanding the threat from the latest innovation until it had got itself fully in the saddle and able to bribe politicians just like the old rich.

But what really keeps people down are government programs. That's because it is almost impossible to reform government programs. Why? Not because of capitalism, but because of the selfishness and meanness of the government's clients, who will war to the knife to keep their free stuff, their subsidies, their credits.

And why not? Who would go out into the world and endure the stress and humiliation of working for a boss or a demanding consumer when you could get it all almost for free just by bribing and threatening a politician?

No. It is not capitalism that keeps people down. It is government.

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