Adventure in Absurdity: Bernie Sanders

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It is very difficult to sit through an entire debate now, and I say that for the debates of both parties.  Last night, hidden behind two football games and a new episode of Dowton Abbey, the third democrat debate took place.

It goes without saying that Bernie Sanders has been attracting a huge following and is within striking distance of Hillary.  In fact, as things stand now I (rather boldly) predict that Hillary will not be the Democratic nominee, and whether it is Sanders or someone else remains to be seen.  What can be said is that we see little enthusiasm associated with Hillary and especially among my peer group, she represents the status quo and the establishment which is most responsible for the problems we face.

But we must be very careful.  The promises of Sanders all sound very nice – but they are all like the Sirens in Homer’s tale; a sweet song which ultimately leads us to our destruction.  (Maybe a dramatic comparison, but when it comes to matters of economy, the negative consequences of a misguided policy really are profound.)

Let’s look at a little of what Bernie Sanders had to say last night:

“As we look out at our country today, what the American people understand, is we have an economy that’s rigged; ordinary Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, 47 million people living in poverty and almost all of the new income and wealth, going to the top one percent…” 

Where shall we begin?  This statement assumes that wealth creation is a zero sum game; that there is a fixed amount of wealth in the world, and that it must be divided between us (thus the constant “fair share” we always hear about) but we know that ‘wealth’ is infinite.  So long as we are producing and exchanging, wealth can be continually created.  Production is simply giving matter a utility it did not have before; and wealth is simply the measure of one’s capability of procuring goods and services.

The origin of all wealth is that which emerges from the ground; raw material, specifically subsistence – is the fuel which makes everything possible.  All wealth springs from extracting products from the Earth and giving them a use for which they had not before, and this process is constant and infinite, so long as we continue to work and advance our industry.

As for the “longer hours for longer wages” comment – does he mean that hours have become longer?  One hundred minutes instead of sixty?  (Certainly feels like this sometimes, doesn’t it?) Because the numerical aspect of wages have not technically decreased, he must mean that the power of the current wages has decreased; who can we blame for that?  Who controls the currency supply?  The Federal Reserve!  (Credit where credit is due: shout out to Mr. Sanders for his ‘yes’ vote on auditing the fed.)

“It is understanding that in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, we should have healthcare for every man woman and child as a right, that we should raise the minimum wage to at least fifteen dollars an hour, that we have got to create millions of decent paying jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.”

Yes, let’s talk about “rights”!  What is a “right”?  It is that which all of mankind may lay claim to, simply by virtue of being human.  We have the right to our life, our liberty, and the fruits of our own labor.  We have the right to speak freely, to worship freely, and so on.  These rights do not cost anyone anything; one man need not be deprived so that another may enjoy these rights.

But when another man must be deprived of something in order for you to enjoy a certain service or enjoyment, it is no longer a right – it is a privilege.  And if a population comes together and decides that a small deprivation of each man is necessary in order to help a certain group of people to get an education or healthcare, very well – but do not misrepresent the nature of this arrangement.  It is a privilege, not a right.

As for the minimum wage, well – haven’t I covered this before?  It is not an increase in the minimum wage that is a problem; the problem is that there is a minimum wage at all.  Labor is like any other commodity, and just as it is economically unjust to place price floors on commodities, it is unjust to place a price floor on labor.  Not all parcels of labor are the same, not all forms of labor are worth $7.25 to an employer.

If you think your wages are too low, if you think an hour of your time is worth more, then refuse to work for the “slave wages” as the socialists phrase it.  But as we see, the market is far better at determining the true value of labor, just like every other commodity.  The natural, spontaneous market forces see to this.  More and more it seems the entire Sanders doctrine is just the attempt to avoid inevitable economic forces.

While we’re on the subject, I’d like to air a bit of a grievance.  If I had a dollar for every time I heard the phrase “wage-slave,” “Wage slavery,” or something along those lines, I would be well on my way to becoming a member of the “one percent.”  Good heavens, do the socialists not understand what “slavery” really is?  Slaves did not receive wages as a recompense for their labor; any and all demands for a higher minimum wage would have fallen on deaf ears.  And before the chorus of “that’s not what we mean when we say this” or “you must be fun at parties” breaks out, yes, I understand it’s just for rhetorical effect.

Because we all must realize that no one in this economy is truly enslaved; all employment, from the cashier at a restaurant to a doctor or lawyer is a voluntary arrangement.  You give me a certain amount of money, I give you my labor.  Voluntary implies that such an arrangement, if it becomes unsavory to any party, can be ended at any time.  That does not sound like slavery to me.

I do understand that it feels like slavery, and that the economic conditions are very difficult.  But who do we assign blame to?  The ever vague “Wall Street speculator” (which is becoming to the left what the “terrorists” or “illegal immigrants” are to the right – a group of people you can blame for all your woes) or the decades of central economic planning and currency manipulation?

Why don’t we try freedom in the absolute, for once?

Now, regarding “rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure,” if there is a legitimate need to replace certain roads, bridges, or other structures, very well.  Whether or not those things could theoretically be better accomplished by private concerns is irrelevant; politically speaking, most people seem to agree that is a proper function of government.  If the infrastructure in question provides a utility to the people paying for it, then it is a fair exchange so far as we are concerned.

But I fear that this will quickly evolve into the old Keynesian standby: tax and spend on projects simply for the sake of spending.  You want to put people to work, fine, but we must ensure that those products have a clear utility.  If we begin to build bridges and roads leading nowhere, then it is an absolute waste.  It is not a fair exchange to the taxpayer who must bear this expense, as he will not benefit from it.

But the socialists say that it is worth it to see people employed – but what are we to assume that dollar taken from the taxpayer would not have employed someone, just in a different industry and in a different place?  For sake of this exercise, let’s say that Sanders, in order to implement his infrastructure plan, would require $50 from every average taxpayer.  That money is taken, given to an employee, and in exchange he works on a project that the taxpayer may never utilize.  The workman is employed, yes; but what if that $50 had been left in the hands of which it rightly belongs?  It could be spent at a restaurant, on clothes, books – anything that a consumer may spend surplus money on.  This not only gives a real utility to the taxpayer, but also employs other workmen in an infinite variety of ways.

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Forgive me, this appears to be my longest article yet!  But I hope, despite it’s long windedness, it still is of some value.  And, more to come!

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