A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

Corporate Welfare Commission Decides Cheap Solar Panels Are Bad

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Big corporations tend to be very friendly with big government because big government can help them monopolize their market. While this process of monopolization is bad for consumers, neither the government nor the corporations that have allied themselves with it give a damn. For example, solar power has become increasingly viable over the years thanks to cheap solar panels. However, these cheap panels are being produced overseas, where the lack of government restrictions makes it more viable to make cheap products. To compensate domestic solar panel manufacturers for the restrictions it put in place, the Corporate Welfare Commission, sometimes mistakenly referred to as the International Trade Commission (ITC), has ruled that overseas panels are a threat to domestic manufacturers:

On Friday, the International Trade Commission (ITC) sided with bankrupt solar panel manufacturer Suniva, voting 4-0 that cheap imported solar panels and modules have harmed domestic panel manufacturers.

The commission now has until November to send recommendations on remedies to President Trump, who will be responsible for either setting a tariff on imported solar materials or finding some other remedy. Given Trump’s promises to bolster American manufacturing, it’s likely that he’ll favor restrictions on solar panel imports.

I’m sure the ITC will settle on a tariff because the other remedy, removing government created restrictions from domestic manufacturers, is unthinkable. What does this mean for consumers? It means us consumers will be paying more for solar panels. This is a bit ironic since the government dumped so much money into encouraging manufacturers to make solar panels affordable in the first place. But what government giveth, government taketh away. It may favor cheap solar panels today and oppose them tomorrow.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 26th, 2017 at 10:30 am

All Hail Hurricane Harvey, Savior of Our Economy

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A lot of people like to write off the Austrian school of economics as lunacy. Those same people usually cite mainstream economics as the right and true school of thought. However, I have a difficult time taking their opinions seriously when they believe shit like this:

Devastating Hurricane Harvey, unprecedented in its rainfall, could be a slight negative for U.S. growth in the third quarter, but economists say it may ultimately provide a tiny boost to the national economy because of the rebuilding in the Houston area.

Goldman Sachs economists estimate a very preliminary impact of the storm to be $30 billion in property damages, making it the ninth largest since World War II in terms of domestic property damage. Goldman economists say, in a note, the storm could take 0.2 points off of growth in third quarter because of the impact to the energy sector.

The problem with mainstream economics is its reliance on activity. So long as money is changing hands mainstream economists see a strong economy. If $30 billion of property is destroyed, they see $30 billion of activity and therefore a stronger activity. What totally flies over their head is the fact that that $30 billion isn’t producing new wealth, it’s merely replacing lost wealth. The Austrian school of economics is at least intelligent enough to address this fact.

What’s especially bad about the viewpoint that destruction is good for the economy is that it was refuted by Frédéric Bastiat way back in 1850:

Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James Goodfellow, when his careless son has happened to break a pane of glass? If you have been present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear witness to the fact that every one of the spectators, were there even thirty of them, by common consent apparently, offered the unfortunate owner this invariable consolation – “It is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?”

Now, this form of condolence contains an entire theory, which it will be well to show up in this simple case, seeing that it is precisely the same as that which, unhappily, regulates the greater part of our economical institutions.

Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say that the accident brings six francs to the glazier’s trade – that it encourages that trade to the amount of six francs – I grant it; I have not a word to say against it; you reason justly. The glazier comes, performs his task, receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and, in his heart, blesses the careless child. All this is that which is seen.

But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, “Stop there! Your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen.”

It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.

Resources spent on rebuilding lost wealth cannot be used on creating new wealth. The rate of creation of new wealth is a far better indicator of the strength of an economy that simple economic activity.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 30th, 2017 at 11:00 am

How Civil Asset Forfeiture Reduces Economic Mobility

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Believers in the American dream still talk about how people who had nothing managed to pull themselves up by their bootlaces and make it big. Proponents of socialism point out that such economic mobility almost never happens. Are believers in the American dream right? Can somebody from poverty elevate themselves to the middle class or higher? Are the socialist right? Is such economic mobility a pipe dream? They’re both correct.

In a free market and where property rights are recognized it is certainly possible for a person to elevate themselves from poverty to a comfortable or even luxurious life. However, such mobility seldom happens this day an age. Where both parties get things wrong is believing that the United States has a free market and property rights.

There is no free market in the United States and there sure as the fuck isn’t a concept of property rights:

Asset forfeiture primarily targets the poor. Most forfeitures are for small amounts: in 2012, the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm that has focused heavily on asset forfeiture, analyzed forfeiture in 10 states and found that the median value of assets seized ranged from $451 (Minnesota) to $2,048 (Utah). Given that law enforcement routinely take everything they find in a forfeiture case, these small values suggest the relative poverty of the victims.

The procedural hurdles for challenging asset forfeiture also mean that poor people are less able to get their money back. The average forfeiture challenge requires four weekdays in court; missing four days of work can be a prohibitive expense for Americans living paycheck to paycheck. Additionally, claims are challenged in civil court, where the right to counsel doesn’t apply, meaning that claimants need to hire their own lawyer.

Asset forfeiture is especially dangerous for the unbanked, because police and federal agents consider high amounts of cash to be suspect. In 2013, half of all households with incomes of less than $15,000 were either unbanked or underbanked. In a report on non-criminal asset forfeiture, the Center for American Progress argues that “low-income individuals and communities of color are hit hardest” by forfeiture.

Civil asset forfeiture allows the State to seize your property if one of its law enforcers accuses you of a drug crime or affiliation with terrorism. The only time proof comes into play with civil asset forfeiture is when the accused party has to prove that the officer’s accusation was incorrect, which is nearly impossible to do under ideal circumstances. However, as the article notes, poor individuals aren’t operating under ideal circumstances. Many of them cannot afford to take several days off of work to plead their case in court. This makes them prime targets for civil asset forfeiture because law enforcers know that they chances of the property being returned to its rightful owner is practically zero.

As I noted, economic mobility requires property rights because you have to be able to keep what wealth you acquire. If you’re able to scrape together some capital to start a side business but then have that capital stolen, your ability to elevating yourself economically through entrepreneurship is also stolen.

Create Wealth, Not Jobs

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Expanding on my previous post, many people have fallen into the trap of believing that the solution to unemployment is to create more jobs. On paper is seems to make sense. If people don’t have jobs then the solution is to create jobs. However, unemployment is a symptom of a problem, not the actual problem itself:

But employment is not an end in and of itself. Rather, it is a means to an end: namely the increased standard of living that the worker obtains by trading his labor for wages.

In a free market, employment is a value creation process — with jobs stemming from the wants and needs of consumers as conveyed through the price system.

It is this productive nature of free-market jobs that make them desirable and capable of increasing a worker’s standard of living.

Wages spring directly from, and are proportional to, the degree in which a job creates wealth by helping to satisfy an unmet need. As is the case for all mutually-agreeable trades in a free market, both sides gain and wealth is created: the worker receives wages that he values more than his labor and the consumer receives a product or service he values more than its price.

In other words, a worker’s wages are reflective of the additional wealth he helped create, which enables his newly improved standard of living.

Because government-created jobs are devoid of this wealth creation process, they are merely a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the program’s beneficiaries.

Unemployment stems from a lack of wealth. Most often the lack of wealth is caused by government. Through their burdensome regulations governments place roadblocks in front of entrepreneurs that prevents them from creating new wealth. Through their burdensome taxes governments siphon wealth from practically everybody under their rule. Government regulations also force currently existing wealth to be misallocated.

Solving unemployment by having the government create jobs actually exacerbates the problem. Since governments needs to siphon more wealth from the economy to create jobs there is less wealth in the hands of producers and consumers, which means consumers aren’t able to buy as much so producers respond by producing less. Eventually the drop in production forces producers to lay off employees, which increases the amount of unemployment. You can see where this vicious cycle ends up.

The solution to unemployment is to reduce the amount of wealth being siphoned by governments. With more wealth in hand entrepreneurs can create more wealth, which will actually allow the unemployment issue to be solved.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 1st, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Result of Relying on Coercion Instead of Market Forces

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Minimum wage laws are seen by many as a mechanism to uplift the poor by ensuring every employee receives a “living wage.” For the economically ignorant that fairytale makes sense. For those with even a slight understanding of economics it’s a recipe for disaster.

The problem with minimum wage laws is the same problem with any government writ, they’re based on coercion instead of market forces. Market forces are based on wealth creation. When more wealth is created employees can be paid. Government writ doesn’t create new wealth so minimum wage laws rely on the current amount of wealth. Since the employers don’t have more wealth to draw from they’re forced to increase their prices to compensate, which often makes their product unaffordable to those who could previously afford it:

The U.S. restaurant industry is in a funk. Blame it on lunch.

Americans made 433 million fewer trips to restaurants at lunchtime last year, resulting in roughly $3.2 billion in lost business for restaurants, according to market-research firm NPD Group Inc. It was the lowest level of lunch traffic in at least four decades.

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Cost is another factor working against eating out for lunch. While restaurants have raised their tabs over the past few years to cope with rising labor costs, the price of food at supermarkets has continued to drop, widening the cost gap between bringing in lunch and eating out.

Statists often scoff at the idea that minimum wage laws hurt the poor. How could laws that are advertised as helping the poor possibly hurt the poor? By forcing employers to increase their prices and thus make their product that was previous affordable to poorer individuals unaffordable.

The best way to help uplift the poor is to create more wealth. Creating more wealth requires fulfilling the wants and needs of consumers. Commands from governments cannot accomplish that no matter how many people vote in favor of them.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 1st, 2017 at 10:30 am

Labor Versus Capital

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“Labor is superior to capital,” the gathered mob yelled as they raised their crude clubs above their head in anticipation of their seemingly inevitable victory over the poor bastard they had cornered.

Then their would-be prey pulled out a gun.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 5th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Posted in Economics

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Capitalism Cannot Give Consumers Taste

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It was brought to my attention that an Internet meme managed to nail a multi-million reality television show. This news didn’t surprise me because she became an Internet meme by being trashy and trashy television sells. Some people aren’t happy about this because they think everybody should watch highbrow television (i.e., whatever television show they like). But the market has spoken and while the market can’t give consumers taste, it does at least give them a choice:

According to reports, Danielle Bregoli, the 14-year-old girl who became a popular internet meme this year due to a failed intervention on the Dr. Phil show, has signed a deal for her own reality television show. On a personal level, there is much to find offensive in Bregoli’s fame, in spite of her obvious marketing prowess. She is, after all, internet-famous simply for her improper English, toxic personal behavior, and apparent lack of respect for anyone around her. On an economic level, however, her rise is an interesting example of how capitalism rewards the interests of the masses, regardless of the opinion of the cultural elite.

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Capitalism cannot give consumers taste, just as democracy cannot give voters wisdom. What capitalism does do, however, is give consumers choice — and creates the incentives necessary for producers to meet the desires of the people. Democracy simply offers the masses the ability to enforce the whims of the majority against the wishes of the minority. In America no one will be forced to watch a minute of a reality show about Danielle Bregoli, but should it find commercial success, its viewers will have the ability to shape American policy going forward.

A lot of people believe that their preferences should be everybody’s preferences. State socialism is the ultimate expression of their attitude because the State controls all means of production and therefore dictates what will and will not be provided to consumers. Whoever controls the State, in that case, controls what options consumers have.

Markets work the other way. Anybody can possess means of production and therefore bring options to consumers. Whether one wants media that forces a particular viewpoint down consumers’ throats, show epic space battles, or feature annoying teenage girls being jackasses, they can have their show under a market economy. So while I might judge your for your tastes, the market won’t.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 29th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Cost Effective Drone Defense

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Fourth generation, or asymmetrical, warfare is much more reliant on economics than firepower. Instead of attacking an enemy directly, a military practicing fourth generation warfare tries to slowly chip away at its enemy until that enemy loses the ability or will to fight. If, for example, a military can cost their enemy $3 million by spending $200 it’s only a matter of time until their enemy is bankrupt:

A Patriot missile – usually priced at about $3m (£2.5m) – was used to shoot down a small quadcopter drone, according to a US general.

The strike was made by a US ally, Gen David Perkins told a military symposium.

“That quadcopter that cost 200 bucks from Amazon.com did not stand a chance against a Patriot,” he said.

According to the story, the missile was fired by an unspecified United States ally. Perhaps they were given the Patriot launcher for free and therefore aren’t concerned about the cost disparity. But anybody looking at the United States and its allies is probably getting some clever ideas. Sure, it’s unlikely that a Patriot will be used to take down a cheap quadcopter again but the basic idea is pretty solid, cheap drones can lead to an expenditure of expensive military equipment.

If the United States’ allies continue pulling this kind of stunt the country will have to decide whether it will keep handing out expensive toys or not. If not, its allies will be weakened and its enemies will be able to declare a victory. If so, the United States will continue throwing money down a hole until it’s bankrupt, which will cause its enemies to declare victory as well. There’s no winning when you enemy can cost you millions of dollars by spending a couple of hundred dollars.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 16th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Opportunity to Provide Free Labor to Billionaires

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Are you friendly? Can you pass a background check? Are you stupid enough to provide free labor to a multibillion dollar organization? If so, there’s an opportunity for you:

Minnesotans who aren’t Hall of Fame quarterbacks can still make a play to get in the action for the 2018 Super Bowl.

The Minnesota Host Committee needs 10,000 volunteers to run the event, and the process starts Wednesday with online applications.

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Obviously, volunteers don’t get paid, but they do get a complete Super Bowl LII outfit unique to the effort that will include top-grade winter gear, including a parka built to withstand extreme cold, a sturdy backpack, beanie and thermos.

Talk about a sucker’s deal. 10,000 people will provide labor to the National Football League (NFL) and in return they only receive marketed attire that will allow them to act as free walking advertisements in the future. They don’t even receive a free ticket to the event they’re going to bust their asses for. And you know what? The Minnesota Host Committee will get its volunteers. It’ll probably get so many volunteers that it’ll be able to pick and choose who it wants.

To me this demonstrates the sordid state of economic education in this country. Anybody willing to provide free labor to a multibillion dollar organization is a goddamn fool in my book. Especially when you consider the fact that the organization needs workers and would therefore offer some kind of actual compensation if nobody was stupid enough to provide labor for free.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 16th, 2017 at 10:00 am

If Everything Sucked as Much as Public Schools

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The Foundation for Economic Education posted an excellent article explaining how absurd it would be to run grocery stores like public schools. But the best piece of information in the article is this:

One often hears that education is too important to leave to the whims of the market. Yet food is even more important; it’s a prerequisite before education can be considered. In spite of this, the (relatively) free market in food seems to work quite well.

Consumers get a wide variety at a low cost. Even people that have niche dietary requirements like gluten-free or vegan have products suited to them. And while complaints about the quality of public education are rampant, one rarely hears objections about the quality of the grocery stores. In the latter case, people don’t have to complain; they just take their business to someone who will serve them better.

Education isn’t even possible if one doesn’t have enough food to survive. Yet public education is a sacred cow. If you criticize public education or, worse, advocate for its complete elimination you are going to hear a lot of people accusing you of hating children. However, if you don’t advocate for socializing grocery stores nobody cares. In fact, everybody seems to be fine with grocery stores remaining private.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that grocery stores in the United States are private. If they weren’t they’d operate like the grocery stores in the former Soviet Union or current ones in Venezuela. You’d have to wait in line for hours just to find out that the store doesn’t have anything you need in stock.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 24th, 2017 at 10:00 am