French President Approaches Cliff, Steps on Accelerator

January 19, 2016

France has been dirigiste since Louis XIV centralized all power under him, and the French leadership has been trapped in that intellectual straitjacket ever since. The idea of lowering the burden of government and letting market forces work is probably inconceivable to President Hollande — and most of his people.

International Liberty

When I wrote back in 2012 that France was committing fiscal suicide, I should have guessed that President Hollande would get impatient and push for even more statism.

Sure enough, the BBC reports that France’s President has a new plan. The ostensible goal is to reduce unemployment, but the practical effect is to expand the size and scope of government.

President Francois Hollande has set out a €2bn (£1.5bn) job creation plan in an attempt to lift France out of what he called a state of “economic emergency”. Under a two-year scheme, firms with fewer than 250 staff will get subsidies if they take on a young or unemployed person for six months or more. In addition, about 500,000 vocational training schemes will be created.

Needless to say, if subsidies and handouts were the key to job creation, France already would have full employment.

In reality, real jobs are created

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The Value-Added Tax Should Be Political Poison for Advocates of Limited Government

January 15, 2016

Tweeted this last night, but it’s worth its own post. There’s a lot to like about Ted Cruz, but his insistence that his new tax plan doesn’t contain a VAT, thus giving advocates of big government another revenue stream, is an annoying dodge. I wish he’d drop it, and the VAT.

International Liberty

It’s not my role to pick sides in political fights, but I am very interested in trying to make bad ideas radioactive so that politicians won’t be tempted to do the wrong thing.

This is why I’m a big fan of the no-tax-hike pledge. The folks in Washington salivate at the prospect of getting more of our money, but they are less likely to act on their desires if they’re scared that breaking their promises means they’ll lose the next election.

It’s also why I want the value-added tax (VAT) to become a third-rail issue. Simply stated, it would be a catastrophic mistake to give Washington an additional source of tax revenue. Especially since the European evidence shows that it’s a money machine to expand the welfare state.

Given my concerns, I was understandably distressed that two lawmakers (and presidential candidates) who normally support smaller government, Rand Paul

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So-Called Paycheck Fairness Was the Nuttiest Idea at the Democrats’ debate

December 20, 2015

Remember what Margaret Thatcher said; it applies to the Democrats: They would rather everyone were poorer, as long as the gap between rich and poor were narrower. We would rather *everyone* be richer, and the “gap” be damned. The difference is crucial and fundamental.

International Liberty

Normally I’m very happy to work for the Cato Institute, both because it is a principled and effective organization.

But I wondered about my career choices last night because I was stuck with the very unpleasant task of live-tweeting the Democrat presidential debate. Cleaning out septic tanks would have been a more enjoyable way to spend my time.

Of all the crazy things that were discussed (you can see my contemporaneous reactions on my Twitter feed), the Clinton-Sanders-O’Malley support for so-called Paycheck Fairness legislation would be at the top of my list.

Yes, I was irked by the myopic fixation on income inequality, the support for class-warfare taxation, and the reflexive advocacy for more government spending, but messing around with the price system – because of an assertion that women are paid 77 cents for every $1 received by men – is an entirely different level…

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Minimum Wage Mandates Help Workers…into the Unemployment Line

December 17, 2015

Progressive city councils (Hello, Seattle and Los Angeles!) and state governments (Hiya, California!) have a lot to answer for: pricing out of the job market the very people they claim to want to help — young people and the poor.

International Liberty

As you can see from this interview, I get rather frustrated by the minimum wage debate. I’m baffled that some people don’t realize that jobs won’t be created unless it’s profitable to create them.

You would think the negative effects of a higher minimum wage in Seattle would be all the evidence that’s needed, but I’ve noted before that many people decide this issue based on emotion rather than logic.

So even though we have lots of evidence already that wage mandates cause joblessness (especially for minorities), let’s add to our collection.

Here are some excerpts from a Wall Street Journal column by Professor David Neumark from the University of California Irvine.

Economists have written scores of papers on the topic dating back 100 years, and the vast majority of these studies point to job losses for the least-skilled. They are based on fundamental economic reasoning—that…

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#RaiseTheWage – Applebee’s testing tablet ordering in California

November 22, 2015
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we raised the wage!”

Action, meet reaction.

Last night I took my wife and our two young grandchildren to Applebee’s. It went great — our 4 and 2 year old charges were more decorous than half the patrons.

But I digress. Here’s what caught my attention: Applebee’s is testing a new ordering policy — using the technology that is rapidly becoming prominent in fast food restaurants. Every table had an online electronic tablet, with the menu, ordering and payment process built in. One can place the order and have the busboy bring your food.

For now, one can still use a waiter for service, but obviously the plan is to reduce or eliminate that service. That makes PARTICULARLY good sense in California, which is rapidly becoming the home of the $15 minimum wage. Moreover, California is one of only 7 states that requires “tip” employees to be paid a FULL minimum wage IN ADDITION TO all tips collected. That can make a meal too pricey — reducing the number of times patrons choose to dine out.

California’s minimum wage is currently $9 per hour and will rise to $10 in January. Here in Los Angeles, the minimum wage has been $15 dollars since June, and there is pressure to make that the statewide minimum.

The upshot? Expect to see more and more restaurants going to electronic ordering and payment systems, and more and more waiters and waitresses out of work, as progressive social justice warriors and the pols who appease them make it impossible to do business in the once-Golden State. Again, for those didn’t learn this in school, math wins:

Labor is a cost, because the business owner has to provide wages and, often, benefits that cost him more money. When a government mandate increases that cost, the business owner has three choices: pass the cost along to the customer, who may decide it’s too much and stop shopping there; cut employee hours and stop hiring to save on labor costs, thus costing potential jobs and putting a burden on workers still employed; and, finally, just decide it’s not worth it anymore and close up shop. In the low-margin bookseller business, Borderlands’ owner chose the last course as the only one viable.

San Francisco’s Borderlands bookstore chose to close its doors because it could no longer make enough money to make staying in business worthwhile. Applebee’s (and I’m sure other restaurants and fast-food establishments) are looking to cut back on labor hours in order to balance the increased cost of labor. In each case, employees have lost jobs as a consequence of government interference in the labor-management relationship. It’s only going to get worse, too as long as statists in government continue to act as if the laws of economics will bend to their will and that their actions have no consequences.

It must be nice in their fantasy world; it’s a shame others have to suffer because of those fantasies.


The Value-Added Tax: A Nixonian Scheme to Fund Bigger Government

November 21, 2015

The VAT is to me an obviously bad idea, especially as long as there is also an income tax. But why Senators Cruz and Paul would support one is way beyond me.

International Liberty

In early 2013, a reader asked me the best place to go if America suffered a Greek-style economic collapse.

I suggested Australia might be the best option, even if I would be too stubborn to take my own advice.

Perhaps because of an irrational form of patriotism, I’m fairly certain that I will always live in the United States and I will be fighting to preserve (or restore) liberty until my last breath.

But while I intend to stay in America, there is one thing that would make me very pessimistic about my country’s future.

Simply stated, if politicians ever manage to impose a value-added tax on the United States, the statists will have won a giant victory and it will be much harder to restrain big government.

But you don’t have to believe me. Folks on the left openly admit that a VAT is necessary to…

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If We Want Prosperity, Prices Should Be Determined by Markets rather than Politicians

November 8, 2015

What more can I say, except “Exactly!”

International Liberty

The communist economic system was a total disaster, but it wasn’t because of excessive taxation. Communist countries generally didn’t even have tax systems.

The real problem was that communism was based on central planning, which is the notion that supposedly wise bureaucrats and politicians could scientifically determine the allocation of resources.

But it turns out that even well-meaning commissars did a terrible job. There was massive inefficiency and widespread shortages. Simply stated, notwithstanding the delusions of some left-wing economists (see postscript of this column), the system was an economic catastrophe.

Why? Because there were no market-based prices.

And, as explained in this video from Learn Liberty, market-based prices are like an economy’s central nervous system, sending signals that enable the efficient and productive allocation of resources in ways that benefit consumers and maximize prosperity.

And just in case it’s not obvious from the video, a price system can’t…

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