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

November 8, 2015

Phineas Fahrquar:

What more can I say, except “Exactly!”

Originally posted on 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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#RaiseTheWage: We tried to warn you, Seattle, but you wouldn’t listen, and so…

October 30, 2015
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we raised the wage! Obama!!”

We really did try to warn them: Increasing the minimum wage beyond economically sustainable(1) levels will lead to bad, albeit predictable consequences, such as job losses:

Seattle, which recently passed a $15 minimum wage, has seen the loss of 700 restaurant jobs despite the rest of the state seeing huge increases, according to a Wednesday report.

In its report, the American Enterprise Institute looked at restaurant job growth in both Seattle and the rest of Washington. The state itself has gained 5,800 industry jobs since January. Seattle, however, lost 700 jobs in the same time. The state minimum wage is $9.47. Back in June Seattle passed its own minimum wage of $15 an hour. The city ordinance is designed to phase in over the course of several years. It will reach $15 an hour by 2017 for most employers.

“One likely cause of the stagnation and decline of Seattle area restaurant jobs this year is the increase in the city’s minimum wage,” the report speculated. “It looks like the Seattle minimum wage hike is getting off to a pretty bad start. Especially considering that restaurant employment in the rest of the state is booming, and nearly 6,000 more restaurant workers are employed today than in January.”

As I’ve said before:

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.

That was in San Francisco. In Seattle, it looks like restaurant owners decided on some mixture of cutting labor hours, or perhaps moving out of Seattle altogether. In at least one case, workers asked to reduced their hours, so they wouldn’t lose their jobs… and their government subsidies.

Of course, this is to the benefit of areas with lower labor costs around Seattle; at least some of them absorbed those jobs and the tax revenue from people looking for better prices.

Meanwhile, assuming those restaurants didn’t close, let me introduce you to your new server:

Welcome to the future

Need no wages

The progressive elites running Seattle (and San Francisco and New York and Los Angeles and…) almost certainly feel good for fighting for “economic justice” and “fairness.

It’s a shame the average working stiff has to suffer for their egos.

PS: The ideal minimum wage is zero.

(1) One of the progressive left’s favorite environmental-justice words. Maybe we should use it so they can start to understand economics.

(Video) Is Capitalism moral?

September 14, 2015

The short answer is “yes, far more so than any other system.” Via Prager University, Walter Williams of George Mason University explains why:

You’d think this would be obvious, but too many people fall for the siren’s song of “economic justice,” or whatever the leftist claptrap of the week is.

The Free Market Works in Health Care…When It’s Allowed

April 9, 2015

Phineas Fahrquar:

Best thing we can do to rein in healthcare costs is a) Get rid of Obamacare and b) return insurance to its traditional roe of protection against catastrophe.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

I’ve often complained that government-created third-party payer is the main problem with America’s healthcare system, and I was making that point well before Obamacare was imposed upon the country.

The issue is very straightforward. In a genuine free market, people pay “out of pocket” for routine expenses. And they rely on insurance only in cases where they may face large, unexpected costs.

But in our current healthcare system, thanks to Medicare, Medicaid, and the tax code’s healthcare exclusion, most of us buy services with other people’s money and that dramatically distorts incentives.

Here’s some of what I wrote about this messed-up approach back in 2009.

…our pre-paid health care system is somewhat akin to going to an all-you-can-eat restaurant. We have an incentive to over-consume since we’ve already paid. Except this analogy is insufficient. When we go to all-you-can-eat restaurants…

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(Video) 1948 cartoon: “Make Mine Freedom!”

July 7, 2014

Here’s a neat animated short from almost 70 years ago that does a darned good job showing the differences between a society based on individual liberty and the free market, on the one hand, and those based on statism (Socialism, Communism, and Fascism) on the other. It makes good use of humor to get its point across:

Nowadays, I think we could add another “-ISM” to that patent medicine’s list of ingredients: the religious totalitarianism of Islamism.

Via Dan Mitchell, this was part of good post on how the Left was wrong about unemployment insurance.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

#RaiseTheWage: Seattle businesses push back against minimum wage increase

July 6, 2014
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we raised the minimum wage!”

Rick Moran at PJMedia has an article up about an effort on the part of Seattle business owners to get a measure on the ballot that would roll back the city’s recently passed $15 per hour minimum wage to a more “reasonable” $12.50. You can go there to get the details (there are accusations of fraud in the petitions to get the measure on the ballot), but here is a portion in which a Seattle business owner describes the very real impact raising the minimum wage has on his and other businesses:

That favorite coffee shop that you go to? That great neighborhood restaurant? That store where you buy your books, pet food, art supplies, or clothes? Each of those businesses survives on around a 5 percent net profit margin. That means that at the end of the year, after all the expenses—the payroll, the supplies, the inventory, insurance, rent, etc.—we all will end up with only about 5 percent income in our pockets if we’re doing a half-decent job. Maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less—but you get the idea. This does not leave a small local business with much room to absorb even a small increase in costs, much less the 60 percent increase demanded by the well-meaning but ill-researched and biased reporters and neighbors involved in this discussion.

Here are some more boring facts:

Payroll is approximately 30 percent of my entire costs at Liberty, the bar I own (the average in this business seems to be 30 to 35 percent). If the minimum wage goes up to $12.50 an hour (a reasonable middle ground some have proposed), that would be an increase of 34 percent, which means just to stay even I’d have to raise prices 10 percent across the board—the labor’s percentage increase in total cost to operate Liberty.

If the minimum wage goes to $15 an hour, I’d have to raise my contribution to payroll by 18 percent. So my costs would have to rise by no less than 18 percent, just for payroll—and that’s before my vendors’ increases in costs have to be considered, which I believe will be around another 5 percent, and that’s before Liberty adds any profit.

So it’s not impossible to imagine that costs for business like mine in Seattle will go up by no less than 20 percent.

Those increases are way more than my income. Again, my profit is around 5 percent. And it’s not just me, that’s across the board—for restaurants, for bars, for clothing stores, for pet stores, for art supply stores—many of whom have set costs and are competing with online retail. This makes it very difficult for them to adjust their purchasing.

So, what are this business owner’s options? That’s his problem, not the Seattle city council’s.

Thomas Sowell has often observed that politicians almost never feel the economic consequences of the decisions they force on the rest of us. While they’re buying their way to reelection by handing out goodies and making themselves feel good by supposedly “fighting for the people,” someone else has to pay the cost — in this case, the businessman who takes less profit, the worker who gets fewer hours, or the consumer who pays higher prices.

I left a comment to Moran’s post and I want to share part of it here. It’s anecdotal, but I think it illustrates the very real effects of politicians thinking they can ignore the laws of economics:

A friend supervises minimum wage, hourly employees in an educational setting. Our minimum wage [in California] has just gone up to $9 per hour. She has told me that she knows for a fact her budget for hiring will not increase, so she has to cut employee hours and, perhaps, eliminate a couple of jobs. Now, someone explain to me again how this increase actually helped these workers? But it sure made the pols in Sacramento feel good about themselves.

Those employees are student workers, often from minority groups, who work to help pay their way through school. And they are very real victims of progressives’ “good intentions.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

Be Thankful for Capitalism and Rich Entrepreneurs

June 3, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Earned vs. unearned wealth, free market vs. statist.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

In previous columns, I’ve explained why a wealth tax is a very bad idea. And I’ve also pontificated on why leftists are wrong to pursue policies of coerced equality.

So it goes without saying that I’m a big fan of a new Wall Street Journal column by John Steele Gordon.

He writes that the anti-wealth ideology animating the political elite is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how large fortunes are generated.

He starts by pointing out that many of today’s richest people earned their money as a result of the microprocessor, a technological development that has dramatically improved the lives of ordinary people.

The French economist Thomas Piketty, in his new book “Capital in the 21st Century,” calls for an 80% tax on incomes over $250,000 and a 2% annual tax on net worth in order to prevent an excessive concentration of wealth. That is a monumentally…

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