FT200: “Only force can make people live in a world without choice.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 13th, 2013

Fundamental Truth

College Students and Hippies of Yesteryear have a Soft Spot for their Communist Heroes

The hippies in the Sixties saw a brotherhood of man.  They wanted to link arms and sing Kumbaya.  Live in their communes.  Get high.  Have unprotected sex with multiple partners who bathed infrequently.  While being one with nature.  And poop and pee in the great outdoors.  Like the animals.  Only with less grooming.  For they hated the Man.  And didn’t want anything to do with their parent’s generation.  They protested any figure of authority.  Protested the Vietnam War.  And protested against their government.  Speaking truth to power.  And yearned to bring the Marxist-Leninist revolution to America.

The hippies were rabid anti-capitalists.  Which is why they loved communism.  Where there were no possessions.  No religion.  Or greed or hunger.  Just imagine all the people sharing all the world.  Words from John Lennon’s song Imagine).  Former Beatle.  And one of the leaders of the counterrevolution.  Not to be confused with the other Lenin.  Vladimir Ilich Lenin.  Of Soviet Marxism-Leninism fame.  Or, rather, infamy.  One of many icons of the counterrevolution.  Along with Mao Zedong.  Ho Chi Minh.  Fidel Castro.  And, of course, Che Guevara.  Whose bearded and beret-wearing image adorns many a university dorm room wall and student t-shirt to this day.

College students today, just as the hippies of yesteryear, still have a soft spot for their communist heroes.  Thanks to many of these hippies of yesteryear having joined the establishment.  And are now teaching our kids in college the evils of capitalism and the goodness of government.  Despite their one-time fierce opposition to the Man.  Guess things change once you get money.  Like someone in the rock band The Who said when asked if he still hopes to die before he gets old (a line from My Generation-a song about youthful angry rebellion against their parent’s generation).  The reply was that being old wasn’t all that bad when you were rich.  Something the old hippies of the Sixties no doubt discovered.  And best of all they got rich by taking money from the capitalist pigs.  Their students’ rich parents.  Or the taxpayers who worked in that detested capitalist system.

Nations with the Marxist Brotherhood of Man with No Possessions have been the Worst Places to Live

It is ironic that without capitalism these communist-loving parasites could not be parasites.  For if no one was creating economic activity there would be no income to tax.  Or to pay for the one thing growing more expensive than health care.  College tuition.  Interestingly, there is no ‘Obamacare’ for our colleges and universities.  No.  They never label them greedy despite their being the greediest of them all.  But you know who they do label as greedy?  The taxpayers who oppose higher taxes to pay for the ever higher cost of higher education.  They’re the greedy ones.  Not the old hippies of the Sixties.  And their fellow anti-capitalists.

Another interesting thing about these anti-capitalists?  They yearn for one-party rule.  Which is why public education teaches our kids to distrust capitalism and to trust government.  And our colleges and universities teach our kids to be ashamed of their nation’s past.  And the importance of diversity.  Which is code for anything that isn’t American.  For America was founded by rich white slave-owners who stole the land from the Native Americans.  And America’s imperialist aggression is the only source of strife in the world today.  While ignoring the expanding communist revolution that was spreading out from the Soviet Union into the Eastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas.  The one ideology that has killed more people than any other.  Through state oppression, wars and famine.

Yes, this brotherhood of man where there are no possessions have been in fact the worst places to live.  The Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Mao’s Peoples Republic of China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, etc.  These are all nations that had gulags or reeducation camps for political prisoners.  Those people who spoke—or thought—truth to power.  They all had police states where the people lived in fear of their government.  They suffered for the want of the most basic items (soap, toilet paper, etc.).  There was state censorship.  They persecuted anyone practicing any religion.  The people suffered from constant hunger.  And the occasional famine.  They killed anyone trying to escape their communist utopia.  Or sent them off to hard labor and torture.  If they escaped successfully then the state punished any family remaining behind.  To warn others what would happen if they escaped their communist utopia.

The Great Flaw of Socialism is being unable to Determine What is the Greater Good

Why did these communist states have police states and brutally oppress their people?  Because they had to.  When the communists built the Berlin Wall it wasn’t to keep people from West Berlin out of East Berlin.  It was to stop people escaping from East Berlin to West Berlin.  For the East Germans were suffering a terrific brain drain.  Capitalists believe in liberty.  The freedom to do what they want.  And to get paid for their services.  A highly skilled doctor expects a higher salary than a janitor.  And that just isn’t going to happen in a communist state.  You get what the state gives you.  No more.  Creating a heck of a free rider problem.  When your economic system works based on the Marxist premise from each according to ability to each according to need what you get is a lot of people showing little ability and a lot of need.  For the more ability you had the harder they forced you to work.  While the greater your need the more you got.  Such a system encourages people to do the minimum and not be extraordinary.  Which is why Sony, Samsung, Microsoft, Apple, The Beatles, etc., did not come from communist countries.

A communist state has a planned economy.  Instead of a free market economy.  Communist state planners manage the economy from top down.  Telling the raw material industry what materials to extract.  They tell what factories get these raw materials and what they are to build.  Etc.  Whereas in a free market economy the economy is driven bottom up by the consumers.  When consumers start buying a lot of one thing the price for that one thing rises.  Attracting other businesses into the market to meet that rising demand.  Who place orders with their wholesalers.  Who place orders with their manufacturers.  Who place orders with their industrial processors.  Who place orders with their raw material extractors.  Hundreds of thousands of decisions happen as this consumer demand travels up the stages of production in a free market economy.  Giving the people what they want.  And not what a state planner decides to give to the people.

This is why communist (and socialist) states are oppressive dictatorships.  Because state planners decide for the people.  Which must start with the supreme decision maker.  The Joseph Stalin, the Mao Zedong, the Ho Chi Minh, the Kim Jong Un, the Raul Castro, the Hugo Chávez, etc.  And these people don’t take polls or hold elections.  Well, at least elections that are legitimate.  Kim Jong Un continues the state policy of his predecessors.  No economic reform.  Money goes to the military first (especially for his nuclear toys) and whatever is left over may go to the people.  And anyone who disagrees with him or thinks wrong goes to the gulag.  Or is executed.  Like his uncle.  While the people suffer the want of the most basic things.  Like food.  North Korea to this day still suffers the occasional famine because of its economic policies.  But one problem the North Koreans don’t have?  Deciding where to go for lunch.

“Where do you want to eat?  I don’t know, where do you want to eat?”  This can go on until someone forceful makes the decision for the group.  Often making no one happy.  But it will end the endless “where do you want to eat?”  This is the great flaw of socialism.  Being unable to determine what is the greater good.  Because people rarely agree on what’s best for other people.  Just look at the recent budget agreement that made few people happy.  They were unhappy because they disagreed on what was the greater good.  People are different.  One size does not fit all.  You just can’t please all of the people all of the time.  So you have to force your will on the people.  The only mechanism that makes socialism work.  Force.  Because people can rarely agree on where to go to lunch let alone national policy.  And this is why all communist/socialist states end in brutal dictatorships.  Because only force can make people live in a world without choice.

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The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Liberal Bias and a Conservative America

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 8th, 2013

Politics 101

Far Fewer People pay to read Papers Online than they once Paid to read them in Print

The Washington Post has a market capitalization of $4.2 billion.  Which is the number of issued shares of publically traded stock multiplied by its stock price.  In other words, this is what the shareholders of The Washington Post believe the paper is worth.  Yet on Monday they sold the paper for $250 million.  Which is 94% less that its market capitalization.

This follows the sale of The Boston Globe.  Which The New York Times sold for $70 million.  After buying it for $1.1 billion in 1993.  Coincidentally, a loss of 94%.  The Washington Post and The Boston Globe show how newspapers have lost their value.  Each paper suffered huge declines in circulation.  And with fewer people reading these newspapers advertisers placed their ads elsewhere.  Which led to tens of millions in annual losses.  Common in much of the established print media.  Why?

In part because of the Internet.  People like getting their news online.  Free.  Some papers have installed pay-walls for their online content.  Some more successful than others.  But far fewer people pay to read these papers online like they once paid to read them in print.  On paper.  Old-school style.  Yes, online content is instantaneous.  Up to date.  Free (much of it).  And you don’t get that black ink on your fingers when reading the paper.  But is there something else causing papers like The Boston Globe and The Washington Post to fail so miserably?  Perhaps.

Approximately 75% of all Americans do NOT call themselves Liberal

The problems these papers are having are caused bytheir liberal bias.  This is why so many people are refusing to pay to pass the pay-wall.  And why they aren’t buying the print version.  Because today there is choice.  A lot of choice.  And a lot of choice that doesn’t insult them on a daily basis.

The (once) leading newspapers, the television news networks, the public schools, our colleges and universities, Hollywood, television and the music industry (apart from country music) leans left.  People are bombarded with a liberal agenda from school to television to the movies to their music.  Making the liberal agenda appear to be the mainstream thought.  But it’s not.

According to Gallup the ideological breakdown of the country in 2011 (and 2010, 2009, 2004, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1988, 1997 and 1996) was approximately 40% conservative.  While 35% identified themselves as moderate in 2011.  And those calling themselves liberal came to 21% in 2011.  So nearly half of all Americans call themselves conservative.  While 75% of all Americans do NOT call themselves liberal.  So is it a surprise that newspapers with a liberal slant that insult approximately 75% of the population are failing?

The Boston Globe and The Washington Post are Failing because People don’t like Elitists talking down to Them

The American people don’t like the liberal agenda.  Even liberals don’t like the liberal agenda when it affects their lives.  Matt Damon is a diehard liberal.  And champion of our public schools.  Loving their liberal agenda.  But when it comes to his own kids, surprise, surprise, they go to a private school.  Just like President Obama’s daughters.  The president is such a fierce supporter of our public schools that he ended the school voucher system in Washington DC.  Keeping those kids in the public school system.  Because he took away their choice.  While exercising his choice with his own daughters.  As the president believes that private schools are better than public education.  And he wants to keep the poor people out of them.  Which is what cancelling the school voucher system did.

And just recently we’ve seen Congress and their staff get an exemption from Obamacare.  The same Obamacare they’re forcing on the masses.  But those working in Congress have the best health insurance plans known to mankind.  And they’re expensive.  So much so that the government (i.e., the taxpayers) pays 75% of their premium costs.  They liked their plans.  They wanted to keep their plans.  But an unattended consequence of Obamacare put them in the same boat as the rest of us when it came to their health insurance.  And it was just a gosh-darn shame that these people would have to pay an enormous amount of money for their gold-plated-Cadillac plans.  So the executive branch of the federal government will pay (i.e., the taxpayers will pay) their 75% subsidy so they can keep the plans they like.  Without seeing their premiums going up.  Unlike the rest of us.

This is why papers like The Boston Globe and The Washington Post are failing.  Because people don’t like elitists talking down to them.  Telling us that we don’t know what’s best for us.  Or that we are simply too stupid to know that things we don’t like are actually good for us.  Like our public schools.  And Obamacare.  While the very people telling us this are exempting themselves from these very things.

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Rational Choice Theory

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 10th, 2013

Economics 101

Trying to Predict which Choice People will Choose is Difficult

People.  They’re the worst.  A joke on Seinfeld.  But so true in economics.

People look out for their best interests.  Everything they do that they have power to do they do to improve their station in life.  When they buy gas they choose the station with the lowest price.  When they get a mortgage they go to the lender with the lowest borrowing costs.  When they go shopping they go to the store with the best sales.  Most of the time.

Some nights people may stop at a pizzeria on the way home from work.  Take the food home.  And scarf it down in front of the television.  Sometimes people may go out to dinner at an expensive restaurant.  Enjoying a fine dining experience.  At a fancy restaurant.  Taking their time.  Savoring every course.  A fine wine.  A decadent dessert.  Two very different choices.  Takeout pizza.  And a fine dining experience.  Trying to predict which choice people will choose is difficult.  Especially when the same people may choose one option one night.  Then the other option on another night.

You can’t reduce People’s Decision-Making Process down to a Mathematical Equation

Choice.  What will we choose when given choice?  That is the million dollar question.  For being able to predict how human beings will choose will make the one who can predict choice very wealthy.  Stores would know exactly what to sell.  Investors would always know what stocks to buy.  And television executives would only put television shows on air the people will love.  But stores often have huge sales to unload merchandise that isn’t selling.  Investors lose money in the stock market.  And every fall television executives bring a slew of new shows to air.  Most of which will be off the air by next season.

Yes, people are rational.  And they typically choose to maximize their utility.  That is, getting the most bang for their buck.  But they are human.  They think.  A lot.  And when they consider everything before making a choice they may choose what to others is irrational.  Even if it’s not to them.  That’s the problem with people.  You can’t reduce their decision-making process down to a mathematical equation.  But economists try.  As do politicians.

But their efforts rarely get the people to do what they want.  During a recession they will implement policy to change people’s decision-making process.  They’ll expand the money supply to lower interest rates.  To encourage people to borrow money and buy things.  Like houses.  And cars.  Even if they weren’t even thinking about buying a house or a car.  The hope is that if these people start buying things they weren’t previously going to buy it will generate economic activity.  And pull the country out of recession.

Left to their own Devices the People will make the Best Decisions

But it rarely works.  If it ever works.  A recession is like a cold.  You can take a lot of over-the-counter cold medicine to ease your discomforts.  But you can’t cure it.  You just have to let it run its course.  So it is with a recession.  A recession is a correction.  Prices correct to market values.  And supply corrects to match demand.  Suppliers cut back on production.  And lay people off.  This is the painful part of a recession.  People losing their jobs.  But they have to.  Because there are too many people producing more than others are buying.  But once the recession runs its course the economy can start growing again.  And business will start hiring again.

Trying to prevent this correction with low interest rates will only delay the correction.  Worse, it will encourage people into irrational behavior.  Such as borrowing money to buy a house during a correction.  Getting a mortgage that will soon be worth more than the value of the house.  Once the correction resets housing prices to market values.  While some people make these irrational decisions others make rational decisions.  Refusing to increase production or to hire more people when the government floods the market with cheap money.  Because they know that it will at best delay the correction.  So they won’t act as the government hoped they would.  Leaving the economy in recession.  So it can run its course.  Like the common cold.

Because recessions must run their course the government should not intervene.  They should not try to influence the decision-making process of the people.  For left to their own devices the people will make the best decisions.  Which is why countries with free market economies have healthier economies than countries with managed economies.  And why when the government does not intervene in the economy recessions are shorter and less painful.  Because the correction that must happen happens.  In the shortest time possible.  But when government intervenes we get things like the Great Depression.  And the Great Recession.

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Clinic in Bendigo has had no Doctor to Perform an Abortion for more than a Year

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 17th, 2013

Week in Review

You can take a horse to water.  But you can’t make it drink.  That’s kind of how it is in Bendigo with abortions.  The state will offer the service.  But they can’t find a doctor to actually do the abortion (see Abortions not performed in Bendigo for more than a year – The Age posted 3/17/2013 on Bendigo Hub).

Bendigo’s abortion clinic has been effectively shut for more than a year because doctors are refusing to offer terminations.

Women in the state’s north-west have been denied local access to publicly funded abortions since the only clinician willing to perform the procedure quit Bendigo Health’s Choices clinic early last year. The hospital has tried to recruit a new obstetrician or gynaecologist, but each doctor has turned down the role because they are ”conscientious objectors”.

Women can access counselling and information at the clinic but are being forced to travel to the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne for abortions…

Marilyn Beaumont, chairperson of the Australian Women’s Health Network, called on Bendigo Health management to show leadership. ”There is a community group that is aligned with Right To Life that exercises a great deal of influence on the health service but that should not stop the proper leadership for the provision of the full range of sexual reproductive services … in that area,” Ms Beaumont said.

An interesting problem.  Abortion is about a woman’s right to choose.  It’s about choice.  But to get that choice some are demanding Bendigo Health management do something about it.  And one wonders if they would go so far as to ask the state to force someone to perform abortions against their conscious.  Giving them no choice.  So these women can get their choice.

Choice is like that line in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.  Where the one rule of Animal Farm states, “All animals are equal.  Only some animals are more equal than others.”  And so it is with choice.  For it may appear that some choice is more equal than others.  That a woman’s choice may be more equal than a doctor’s choice.  Or her unborn baby’s choice.

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The UAW and Public Sector Unions devastate Three Michigan Cities

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 24th, 2013

Week in Review

It’s not been a good year for Detroit.  Well, it’s been more than a year.  It’s been a few bad years.  Actually, it’s been a great many bad years.  Since 1970.  When Ford Motor Company Chairman Henry Ford II joined with other business leaders to form Detroit Renaissance.  To revitalize the City of Detroit.  And some 42 years later, the City of Detroit is still struggling (see Detroit’s Misery Can Be Its Turning Point by Micheline Maynard posted 2/23/2013 on Forbes).

Detroit boosters were dealt a one-two blow this week by the kind of outsiders they have come to resent.

First, a state review panel declared that a financial emergency existed in the city, making it likely that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder will appoint an emergency financial manager with sweeping powers.

Then, Forbes weighed in by declaring Detroit the nation’s most miserable city, based on a series of criteria that include crime, unemployment, foreclosures and home value…

Although General Motors is based in Detroit, and Chrysler recently opened an office there, the automobile industry is not going to provide the vast numbers of jobs the city needs to become solvent.

And there lies the problem for Detroit.  A city that grew big and rich off of the automobile industry saw a steady exodus and a declining tax base when the automobile industry declined.  Live by the automobile.  Die by the automobile.  And it’s just not Detroit.  A couple of other Michigan cities broke into the top 10 of Forbes’ America’s Most Miserable Cities 2013.

#7 Warren, Mich.

Troy and Farmington Hills are part of the government-defined Warren metro division. Like Detroit, the Warren metro has seen home prices collapse–off 53% the past five years.

#2 Flint, Mich.

Flint has been demolishing homes as the city shrinks with residents leaving in search of jobs. Only Detroit has a higher net out-migration rate. Flint ranks third worst for violent crime, behind Detroit and Memphis.

#1 Detroit, Mich.

Violent crime in the Detroit metro was down 5% in 2011, but it remains the highest in the country with 1,052 violent crimes per 100,000 people, according to the FBI. Home prices were off 35% the past 3 years, which is the biggest drop in the U.S.

If you seek a pleasant peninsula* you’d do better looking for one where the UAW isn’t dominant.  Perhaps Florida.  For the UAW is a city killer based on these Michigan cities.  (*The official state motto of Michigan is “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.”)

The Big Three dominated these cities.  Where fat pay and benefit packages were passed on to consumers in overpriced vehicles.  The Big Three’s monopoly on car sales allowed them to make fat profits.  And pay enormous amounts of taxes to the cities that had the factories that assembled their cars.  City coffers were so flush with cash city governments grew.  And city workers enjoyed fat pay and benefit packages.  This was the high water mark of the UAW.  Just after public sector unions had joined them on the gravy train.  But then something happened that devastated the UAW.  Consumers got choice.  They no longer had to buy overpriced ‘rust buckets’ the Big Three was putting out during the Seventies.  For the Japanese gave them choice.

And so began the great decline of the Big Three.  Quality and value did them in.  It’s what the people wanted.  While the UAW wanted consumers to pay more and get less.  So they could continue to enjoy their fat pay and benefit packages.  As the jobs went away so do did the taxes.  The cities bloated with all those government workers with their fat pay and benefit packages tried to maintain the size of their governments even while the tax base was declining.  Reducing other government services as they had little money left over after paying those fat pay and benefit packages.

With fewer and fewer jobs available people left these cities.  Empty houses dotted the horizon.  And housing prices fell.  With the tax base continuing to decline.  Poverty rates rose.  As did city services for the impoverished.  Leaving even less for other city services.  Causing a further exodus from the city.  Urban blight followed.  As did crime.  Causing a further decline in property values.

Low interest rates helped boost housing prices.  For awhile.  President Clinton’s Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending kicked off subprime lending in earnest as lenders bowed to the Clinton Justice Department to put more low-income and minorities into homes they couldn’t afford.  Creating a huge housing bubble.  Built on easy credit.  Artificially low interest rates.  And the adjustable rate mortgage (ARM).  When rates went up all those low-income and minorities who bought houses they couldn’t afford defaulted on their higher mortgage payments.  Creating the subprime mortgage crisis.  Giving us the Great Recession.  Creating a flood of foreclosures.  A free fall in housing prices.  And more of the same that helped put those three Michigan cities into the top ten of Forbes’ America’s Most Miserable Cities 2013.

Michigan recently opted to become a Right-to-Work state.  Greatly angering the UAW and those public sector unions.  But it may be just what Michigan needs to reverse the great decline caused by the UAW and the public sector unions that devastated some of Michigan’s greatest cities.  One thing for sure it can’t get any worse.  Not when being a union state for so long secured three places in the top ten of Forbes’ America’s Most Miserable Cities 2013.

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Competition, Mom and Pop Store, Big Box Store, Cooperative, Internet Sales, POS System, Inventory Control System and Wal-Mart

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 3rd, 2012

History 101

Big Box Stores offered More Choice and Lower Prices putting Mom and Pop Stores our of Business

Competition makes everything better for consumers.  Consumers love competition.  Because it gives them so much to choose from.  And choice is good.  Especially when that choice lowers prices.  And raises quality.  Which is why we love competition.  But it’s not very popular with businesses.  Especially the older ones.  Used to doing things the old way.  Who got into a comfortable rut.  Doing things the way they always did them.  Enjoying their comfortable incomes.  Until something arrived that shattered their world. 

America became the innovative capital of the world.  Thanks to their entrepreneurs.  In the land of liberty they were free to do great things.  Invent great things.  And go into business.  In cities and small towns everywhere moms and pops opened up shops.  Mom and pop stores.  Family affairs.  Serving their communities with quality goods and services.  At reasonable prices.  At least what people thought were reasonable prices.  Often times there was little competition for these mom and pop stores.  Apart from other mom and pop stores.

Mom and pop stores don’t have large sales.  Or large purchasing power.  So their prices are higher than a competitor who has large sales and large purchasing power.  Mom and pop office supply stores learned this lesson quickly when Office Max opened in town.  And Office Depot.  And Staples.  Big box stores that offered more choice and lower prices.  And no matter how much we loved our mom and pop stores when we had a chance to get more for less we chose to get more for less.  And these big box office supply stores put the mom and pop office supply stores out of business.

Advanced POS and Inventory Control Systems allow a Large Variety of Items at Low Prices

The mom and pop hardware stores suffered the same fate.  When the big box home improvement stores moved in.  Builders Square.  Home Quarters.  Home Depot.  Lowes.  Who served both consumers and contractors.  Giving them huge economies of scale.  Moving such a wide variety of material at low prices the small mom and pop hardware stores could never match.  Some survived.  Offering services like they did in the old days (like fixing a broken window).  And joining a cooperative (such as True Value or ACE Hardware) to match the purchasing power of the big box stores.  To get some economies of scale.  But more have gone out of business than stayed in business.

During the Eighties a lot of computer stores opened as the personal computer industry took off.  A lot of small stores custom built PCs.  Sold dot-matrix printers.  Fanfold printer paper.  Printer ribbons.  Floppy disks.  Cables.  External storage devices.  With the advent of the Internet they added dial-up modems.  As the industry grew the big box stores came in.  CompUSA.  Computer City.  The big box office supply stores.  Best Buy.  And Circuit City.  Put the small computer stores out of business.  By providing a huge variety at low prices.  They added software.  Games.  Uninterruptible power supplies.  And other electronic devices (PDAs, digital cameras, game boxes, game controllers, etc.).  Then Internet sales took off putting pressure on the big box stores.  Putting some of them out of business.

A big driver in the move away from the mom and pop stores to the big box stores is technology.  In particular inventory control systems.  Tied into their point of sale (POS) systems.  Buying a lot of goods and storing them in large warehouses is costly.  Because inventory doesn’t earn any revenue.  It costs to warehouse items.  And it takes cash to place things into inventory.  Businesses buy these things to sell them later.  If they buy too much of the wrong things they may sit in those warehouses.  Becoming less valuable as people’s interests change.  Requiring deep discounting to move these unwanted items out of inventory.  On the other hand, if you don’t carry a large inventory there is a chance you may run out of something that is popular and is selling.  This is where technology comes in.  When a cashier completes a sales transaction a lot of things happen automatically.   As people receive their change from the cashier the POS system automatically interfaces with the inventory control system.  It updates the system to show the reduction in inventory.  And the inventory control system places an automatic order to replenish the inventory.  The successful big box stores carry smaller inventories of each individual item.  Allowing them to carry a larger variety of items.  Which is how they can offer a larger variety at lower prices.

Stores like Wal-Mart are the People’s Hedge against Bad Fiscal and Monetary Policy 

The king of retail, Wall-Mart, got to be king with technology.  The ultimate big box store that sells just about everything under the sun (groceries, clothes, hardware, gardening supplies, electronics, prescription drugs, you name it).  They have taken inventory control systems to an art.  They combine economies of scale and efficiency that few can match.  They sell so much that they get to buy at the best prices.  And their sophisticated POS and inventory control systems keep the shelves stocked with the things people want to buy while keeping their inventories lean.  Few stores please consumers more by their wide variety and low prices.  Allowing them to fill their shopping carts without having to sacrifice other family needs.

Competition created Wal-Mart.  Because people wanted more choice and lower prices.  And Wal-Mart figured out how to do that.  Something the mom and pop stores just couldn’t do.  Which is why Wal-Mart stores are opening everywhere.  The people love them.  And the people want them.  Or they want the store that puts Wal-Mart out of business by offering even more choice at even lower prices.

Of course this begs the question why do people want more choice at lower prices?  Are they greedy?  Materialistic?  No.  They’re just not rich.  More and more of their income is taxed away at the local, state and federal level.  And prices keep rising thanks to Keynesian monetary policy.  Which continuously expands the money supply to ‘stimulate’ the economy.  Higher taxes and permanent inflation is why two-income households have become the norm and not the exception today.  And why shoppers love stores like Wal-Mart.  Because stores like Wal-Mart are the people’s hedge against bad fiscal and monetary policy.  Which is the true destroyer of mom and pop stores everywhere.

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Tobacco, Smoking, Cigarettes, Sin Taxes, Obesity, Health Care Costs, Lost Tax Revenue, Abortion, Deficit and Debt

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 5th, 2012

History 101

The Government saves Money in the Long Run when People Smoke because they Die Earlier than Nonsmokers 

A lot of people like to smoke.  Before we knew any of the adverse health effects of smoking it was as wholesome as apple pie in America.  American tobacco was one of the first cash crops of the United States.  Because it was in such high demand throughout the world.  During the American Civil War many officers chain-smoked cigars.  We put cigarettes in our soldiers’ C-rations in World War II.  Some of the most iconic photographs of battle-weary soldiers, seamen and airmen have a cigarette dangling from their mouths.  Our favorite parents from the Fifties’ sitcoms smoked cigarettes in their homes with their children playing on the floor at their feet.  If you watch AMC’s Mad Men everyone smoked cigarettes.  All of the time.  At work and at home.  In restaurants and in hospitals.  Even while pregnant.  Then the attacks against Big Tobacco began.

First they started with the sin taxes.  Greatly increasing the cost of cigarettes.  Which increased their opportunity costs.  People had to give up other things to continue to enjoy their cigarettes.  Especially the poor.  The rich still could enjoy their cigarettes without making sacrifices in their life.  And kept on smoking.  Movie stars and rock stars always have a cigarette hanging out of their mouths.  To look cool.  Which is why teenagers started to smoke.  Not because of Joe Camel.  But to look cool like their favorite movie stars and rock stars.  So people kept smoking their cigarettes.  While the government bureaucrats started tallying the health care cost of smokers.  To recover the health care cost of smoking government bureaucrats sued Big Tobacco.

According to ‘health care experts’ in the government smoking costs the health care industry some $100 billion annually.  Which is why they’re constantly raising taxes on cigarettes.  Why they sued Big Tobacco.  And why they’re ostracizing smokers everywhere by making almost every area a nonsmoking area.  But they still haven’t made smoking illegal.  Why?  High sin taxes and lawsuits.  Smoking is a cash cow for government.  And the dirty little secret about smoking is that the government saves money in the long run when people smoke.  Because of those sin taxes.  And because smokers die earlier than nonsmokers.  Up to a decade or more.  And it is in that last decade of life that seniors cost government the most.  Another decade of Social Security benefits.  And Medicare and Medicaid benefits.  Those benefits smokers paid into all of their lives.  Who forfeit them when they die early (and they don’t get passed on to their heirs).  Unlike the nonsmokers who don’t have the decency to die before collecting all of their Social Security and Medicare benefits.  Adding another decade or so for a whole sort of health ailments to inflict their fragile bodies.  Requiring more hospitalization.  Medication.  And nursing home care.  Expenses smokers help cut short by dying earlier.  Such as from an early heart attack before they even get a chance to have a lengthy and expensive hospital stay.

The Loss Tax Revenue from Abortions in the Eighties over Three Decades is Approximately $4.98 Trillion 

So government is increasing the opportunity costs of something people enjoy.  Smoking.  When in the long run smokers’ early deaths save the government money.   Not to mention those sin taxes fattening the tax pot when they’re alive.  So it’s a specious argument that the government is spending more on them in health care costs than nonsmokers who live another 10-20 years.  So why do they do it?  To boost tax revenues.  And smokers are just a convenient scapegoat.  Like the obese.  Where those on the Left make the same arguments.  Where according to ‘health care experts’ in the government obesity costs the health care industry some $150 billion annually.  Even though these people like smokers live shorter lives.  So while they’re consuming that $150 million the government is keeping about 10-20 years of their contributions to Social Security and Medicare.  So it is again a specious argument that the government is spending more on obese people than thinner, healthier people who live 10-20 years longer.  Who could, say, fall and break their pelvis requiring an extensive and expensive hospital stay.  As well as rehabilitation and possibly nursing home care.  And yet those on the left have campaigned to remove toys from Happy Meals.  And made it illegal in New York to buy a big cup of soda pop.  Why?  Again, to boost tax revenue.

All right, let’s go to the source of that tax revenue problem.  Let’s look at a decade of lost tax revenue.  From 1980 to 1983 there were about 1,300,000 abortions each year.  In 1984 there were 1,333,521 abortions.  In 1985 there were 1,328,570 abortions.  In 1986 there were 1,328,112 abortions.  In 1987 there were 1,353,671 abortions.  In 1988 there were 1,371,285 abortions.  In 1989 there were 1,396,658 abortions.  In 1990 there were 1,429,577 abortions. 

Had these abortions not happen in 2006 there would have been an additional 1,300,000 taxpayers aged 26.  In 2007 there would have been an additional 1,300,000 taxpayers aged 27 and an additional 1,300,000 taxpayers aged 26.  And so on.  If you crunch the numbers over a 30-year period by decades you get an additional 72,006,665 people paying taxes at all levels of government in the first decade (2006-2015).  An additional 146,913, 940 tax-paying people in the second decade (2016-2025).  And an additional 88,169,092 tax-paying people in the third decade (2026-2035).  The average age in the first decade is 29.  It’s 32 in the second decade.  And 42 in the third decade.  Assuming those age 29 earn on average $30,000 annually, those age 32 earn on average $40,000 annually and those age 42 earn on average $50,000 we get the following incomes per decade: $2.16 trillion, $5.88 trillion and $4.41 trillion, respectively.  Assuming that we pay approximately 40% of all our earnings in taxes at the city, state and federal level the lost tax revenue (at all levels of government) for those same decades equals $864.1 billion, $2.35 trillion and $1.76 trillion, respectively.  For a grand total of loss tax revenue for those three decades of approximately $4.98 trillion.  Or on average $165.9 billion per year.  These numbers are conservative.  Yes, some of these people may not survive to become taxpayers.  But some of these could become millionaires and billionaires, paying more in taxes.  There could have been another Lady Gaga, Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Barbara Streisand, George Clooney, Steve Jobs, etc.  A few of these added to the calculations would make the lost tax revenue numbers larger.

From the Government’s Perspective Abortion has a Far Greater Opportunity Cost than Smoking and Obesity 

This is the opportunity cost of the abortions in the Eighties.  So much loss tax revenue that the government has attacked smokers and the obese.  Whose health care costs are not adding much if anything to the federal budget.  Thanks to their early deaths compared to nonsmokers and thin people.  (If the government starts refunding remaining Social Security and Medicare benefits to the surviving family that may change.)  Yes they are costing the health care system.  But their costs are just brought up earlier in their lives as opposed to someone living 10-20 years longer making the nursing home to hospital to nursing home roundtrip a few times in the last 10 years or so of their life.  Because they have lived so long.  And had a chance to suffer every disease and trauma those smokers and obese can’t due to their early deaths.

It is interesting to note that the federal deficit in 2006 was $282.14 billion.  The lost tax revenue from the Eighties’ abortions was on average $165.9 billion per year in those three decades.  Granted not all of that money would have been federal taxes.  But with the conservative estimate of that loss tax revenue it is safe to say it would have come close to balancing the federal budget.  And if you factor in the abortions of the Seventies (there were fewer than in the Eighties but they would have been higher earners in the 2000s) the federal deficit may have become a surplus.  At least holding the federal debt to the $9.34 trillion it was in 2006.  Perhaps even reducing it.

Smoking and eating an unhealthy diet may be bad for you.  But it probably doesn’t cost the government anymore in tax dollars.  But they increase the opportunity costs of these things we enjoy to dissuade us from enjoying them.  So those who enjoy smoking and eating and drinking ‘bad’ things enjoy life less.  By not choosing what they want to choose.  Why? To pay for the lost revenue from another choice that government doesn’t try to dissuade people from.  Abortion.  Which from the government’s perspective has a far greater opportunity cost than smoking and obesity.  And yet government paints a bulls-eye on the back of smokers and the obese.  Why?  Because they’ve so demonized and oppressed them they can.  While the abortion issue too much of a sacred cow to those on the Left.

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Opportunity Costs

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 4th, 2012

Economics 101

Those on the Left are all for Choice as long as you Choose what they want you to Choose

Choice.  It’s what life is.  Every day we make hundreds of choices in our life.  The communists called that a burden.  And that their way removed all that stress from our lives.  The stress of constantly having to choose.  They came up with a new freedom.  Freedom from choice.  To live under oppression.  Like a slave.  Where you no longer had the burden of making a choice every waking hour of your day.  You simply took what the government gave you.  And relaxed.  Truly free.

It turned out the people living under communism preferred having that burden of choice.  And took every opportunity to escape the communist ‘freedom’.  To a freedom where you were free to choose whatever you wanted.  Instead of taking what central planners gave you.  Those on the Left always had a soft spot in their hearts for communism.  And Soviet central planners.  For they never cared that much for free markets.  Laissez faire capitalism.  Freedom of choice.  Because people so often chose poorly in their opinion.  For they weren’t as educated and enlightened as they were on the Left.  And therefore chose the wrong kind of foods to eat.  The wrong kind of beverages to drink.  The wrong kind of cars to drive.  The wrong kind of power to generate.  And the wrong people to vote for.

No.  Those on the Left are no fans of choice.  Except, of course, when it comes to abortion.  When it comes to abortion then they are big fans of choice.  But not so much when it comes to us choosing what to eat, drink and drive.  Or how we generate our energy.  So when it comes to choice those on the Left are like the Soviet central planners.  They are all for choice.  As long as you choose what they want you to choose.

When making any Economic Decisions we make our Choice based on Opportunity Costs 

But we choose.  Because we can.  At least with most things.  But how do we choose?  Does price determine what we choose?  Sometimes.  Quality?  Sometimes.  Loyalty?  Sometimes.  Sometimes it’s one of these things.  Sometimes a combination of all of these things.  Sometimes it’s none of these things.  So what is it that makes up your mind when confronted with a choice?  Do you know?  You do.  For obviously you’re making the choice.  But the ‘why’ we may have to coax out of you.  For you will probably not be able to explain why.  At least not as well an economist can.

The study of economics is all about choice.  And trying to determine what influences people’s choices.  So economists can offer economic policies to maximize economic activity.  By maximizing that thing we ultimately trade for.  Which is what?  Happiness.  We choose to increase our happiness.  Or utility in the parlance of economics.  The things we choose are the things that will give us the greatest happiness.  Or the greatest utility.  But if you’re like me you never saw ‘utility’ or ‘happiness’ expressed as units on a price tag in a store.  Price tags show only price.  Which tells us little how happy something will make us.  So how do we choose the things that will maximize our happiness?  Especially if you’re looking at two different things that have the same price?

Easy.  We don’t make our decision by looking at what we’re buying.  We make our decision based on what we’re not buying.  What we are giving up by buying this thing or that service?  What might have been had it not been for this purchase?  What opportunity we’re passing on to make this purchase?  What cost are we paying in lost opportunity by committing to this purchase?  In other words, when making any economic decisions we make our choice based on opportunity costs.  On an amount of happiness we’re giving up to acquire some other amount of happiness.  And whatever the number of our choices the end result is the same.  What we choose gives us more happiness than all other possible alternatives.  Regardless of price, quality or loyalty.  Though they could influence us when there is a tie.

Liberals make us Buy not what Increases our Happiness but what Increases their Happiness

You can’t put a price on happiness.  That’s what they say.  And they are right.  Whoever they are.  For example, luxury cars are nice.  But they are expensive.  Subcompacts are not as nice as luxury cars.  But they are not as expensive either.  So if you were choosing between these two cars which one would you choose?  I can’t tell because I don’t know your income.  But I can guess at your decision process.  You’re going to compare opportunity costs.  Driving a luxury car gives you enormous amounts of happiness.  For the limited time you spend driving it.  Enormous happiness for a limited amount of time.  Okay.  But what are the opportunity costs?

Let’s say your daily commute to and from work is one hour.  But when you get home you enjoy 4 hours between surfing the Internet and watching cable television.  When you’re not at work or home you like to use social media on your smartphone interacting with your friends.  And using your smart phone apps to maximize your fun in the evenings and on the weekend.  You like to spend your Sunday mornings at the coffee shop with you tablet reading the online Sunday papers.  The hours of driving happiness come to 10 hours a week.  And the hours of online/watching cable happiness comes to 32 hours a week.  Now being that you spend more time online or watching cable than driving then it’s safe to say that driving brings you less happiness than those other activities.  Because luxury cars are expensive they come with a high monthly payment and a high insurance premium.  Which means you will have to cut back on other spending to afford the luxury car.  So to afford the luxury car you have to give up your cable and home Internet access.  And cut back on your minutes on your smartphone.

The opportunity cost of the luxury car is giving up cable TV and cutting back on Internet access and smartphone minutes.  The opportunity cost of keeping those things is getting a subcompact car instead of a luxury car.  This is the ultimate decision we make in all of our economic decisions.  Which will cost us more in sacrificed happiness in the long run?  Which makes those decisions easy.  In the above example you would probably have never given the luxury car any serious thought.  This is why free markets work so well.  Why laissez faire capitalism works so well.  Because the economy is full of individuals making these decisions quickly.  Far quicker than any Soviet state planner.  And with far more insight into our own wants and desires than any Soviet state planner.  And in the aggregate this drives economic activity.  Bringing the things we want to market.  The things that give us the greatest amount of happiness.  The things that have the lowest opportunity costs.  Unlike Soviet central planning.  Or American liberal Democrat central planning. 

No.  These people try to change our purchasing decisions.  Making us buy not what increases our happiness.  But what increases their happiness.  Which is why when liberal Democrats are in power there is a general economic decline.  Because they do alter our purchasing decisions.  By increasing the opportunity costs of the things that increase our happiness.  So that we buy fewer of them.  But we don’t buy more of the things they want us to buy.  Because those things don’t increase our happiness.  When they subsidize hybrid cars (paid for with higher taxes from us) to get us to buy them it doesn’t make the hybrid cars give us any more happiness.  It just leaves us with less money because of the higher taxes.  So we buy less of everything else.  And in the aggregate this lowers economic activity.  Leaving us all less happy.

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FDR, Wage Ceiling, Arsenal of Democracy, Benefits, Big Three, Japanese Competition, Legacy Costs, Business Cycle and Bailouts

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 14th, 2012

History 101

After the Arsenal of Democracy defeated Hitler the Wage Ceiling was Gone but Generous Benefits were here to Stay

FDR caused the automotive industry crisis of 2008-2010.  With his progressive/liberal New Deal policies.  He placed a ceiling on employee wages during the Great Depression.  The idea was to keep workers’ wages low so employers would hire more workers.  It didn’t work.  And there was an unintended consequence.  As there always is when government interferes with market forces.  The wage ceiling prevented employers from attracting the best workers by offering higher wages.  Forcing employers to think of other ways to attract the best workers.  And they found it.  Benefits.

Adolf Hitler ended the Great Depression.  His bloodlust cut the chains on American industry as they tooled up to defeat him.  The Arsenal of Democracy.  America’s factories hummed 24/7 making tanks, trucks, ships, airplanes, artillery, ammunition, etc.  The Americans out-produced the Axis.  Giving the Allies marching towards Germany everything they needed to wage modern war.  While in the end the Nazis were using horses for transport power.  This wartime production created so many jobs that they even hired women to work in their factories.  Bringing an end to the Great Depression finally after 12 years of FDR.

The Arsenal of Democracy defeated Hitler.  U.S. servicemen came home.  And the women left the factories and returned home to raise families.  With much of the world’s factories in ruins the U.S. economy continued to hum.  Only they were now making things other than the implements of war.  The auto makers returned to making cars and trucks.  The ceiling on wages was gone.  But those benefits were still there.  Greatly increasing labor costs.  But what did they care?  The American auto manufacturers had a captive audience.  If anyone wanted to buy a car or truck there was only one place to buy it.  From them.  No matter the cost.  So they just passed on those high wages and expensive benefit packages on to the consumer.  Times were good.  The Fifties were happy times.  Good jobs.  Good pay.  Free benefits.  Nice life in the suburbs.  All paid for by expensive vehicle prices.

The Big Three could not Sell Cars when there was Competition because of their Legacy Costs

But it wouldn’t last.  Because it couldn’t last.  For those factories destroyed in the war were up and running again.  And someone noticed those high prices on American cars.  The Japanese.  Who rebuilt their factories.  Which were now humming, too.  And they thought why not enter the automotive industry?  And this changed the business model for the Big Three (GM, Ford and Chrysler) as they knew it.  The Big Three had competition for the first time.  Their captive audience was gone.  For the consumer had a choice.  They could demand better value for their money.  And chose not to buy the ‘rust buckets’ they were selling in the Seventies.  Cars that rusted away after a few snowy winters.  Or a few years near the ocean coast.

The new Japanese competition started about 30 years after U.S. workers began to enjoy all those benefits.  So the U.S. car companies paid their union auto workers more and gave them far more benefits than their Japanese competition.  And those early U.S. workers were now retiring.  Giving a great advantage to the Japanese.  Because those generous benefits provided those U.S. retirees very comfortable pensions.  And all the health care they could use.  All paid for by the Big Three.  Via the price of their cars and trucks.

Well, you can see where this led to.  The Big Three could not sell cars when there was competition.  Because of these legacy costs.  Higher union wages.  Generous pension and health care benefits that workers and retirees did not contribute to.  (By the time GM and Chrysler faced bankruptcy in 2010 there were more retirees than active union workers).  The United Automobile Workers (UAW) jobs bank program where unemployed workers (laid off due to declining sales) collected 95% of their pay and benefits.  (You can find many quotes on line from a Detroit News article stating some 12,000 UAW workers were collecting pay and benefits in 2005 but not working.)  The Japanese had none of these costs.  And could easily build a higher quality vehicle for less.  Which they did.  And consumers bought them.  The Big Three conceded car sales to the Japanese (and the Europeans and South Koreans) and focused on the profitable SUV and truck markets.  To pay these high legacy costs.  Until the gas prices soared to $4/gallon.  And then the Subprime Mortgage Crises kicked off the Great Recession.  Leading to the ‘bankruptcy’ of GM and Chrysler.  And their government bailouts.

The U.S. Automotive Government Bailout cut Wage and Benefits once Set in Stone

The Big Three struggled because they operated outside normal market forces.  Thanks at first to a captive audience.  Then later to friends in government (tariffs on imports, import quotas, union-favorable legislation, etc.).  All of this just delayed the day of reckoning, though.  And making it ever more painful when it came.

During economic downturns (when supply and prices fall) their cost structure did not change.  As it should have.  Because that’s what the business cycle does.  It resets prices and supply to match demand.  With recessions.  Painful but necessary.  Just how painful depends on how fast ‘sticky’ wages can adjust down to new market levels.  And herein lies the problem that plagued the Big Three.  Their wages weren’t sticky.  They were set in stone.  So when the market set the new prices for cars and trucks it was below the cost of the Big Three.  Unable to decrease their labor (wage and benefit) costs, profits turned into losses.  Pension funds went underfunded.  And cash stockpiles disappeared.  Leading the Big Three to the brink of bankruptcy.  And begging for a government bailout.

Well, the bailout came.  The government stepped in.  Gave the union pension fund majority control of the bailed out companies.  Screwing the bondholders (and contract law) in the process.  And created a two-tier labor structure.  They grandfathered older employees at the unsustainable wage and benefit packages.  And hired new employees at wage and benefit packages that the market would bear.  Comparable to their Asian and European transplant auto plants in the right-to-work states in the southern U.S. states.  And put the market back in control of the U.S. auto industry.  For awhile, at least.

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The Private Sector wants to Please us; the Public Sector wants to Change Us

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 11th, 2011

The Private Sector versus the Public Sector

The best things in life aren’t free.  They come from the private sector.  Where they’re not free.  But can be purchased at some very affordable prices.  We willingly choose to go to the private sector and willingly choose to buy the things they’re selling.  Because we want what they’re selling.  And we enjoy our shopping experience.

The public sector is a different story.  We begrudgingly interact with the public sector.  And only do so when we absolutely have to.  To renew our driver’s license.  Deal with the IRS.  To get all the required building permits to add a deck in your backyard.  Rarely do we enjoy these experiences.  Or are happy with the high prices for these services.

So why is one experience enjoyable and the other one not?  Incentives.  And competition.  One of them has them.  The other doesn’t (see Two Different Worlds: The Public and Private Sectors by Ron Ross posted 6/1/2011 on The American Spectator).

There is in effect an undeclared race between the public and private sectors in regard to satisfying human wants. Who’s winning that race? Which sector is doing a better job of affecting peoples’ lives in a positive way? In fulfilling human wants the private sector is leaving the public sector in the dust. People get more and more value from the private sector and the same or less value from government activity even though the cost of government has increased at an exponential rate.

Why is there so much difference in how the two sectors function? Two important reasons are incentives and competition.

The University of Rochester economist, Steven Landsburg, says, “Most of economics can be summarized in four words: ‘People respond to incentives.’ The rest is commentary.” Although I think that’s an exaggeration, there is much truth in it. The private sector is vastly more effective and efficient than the government mostly because of the differences in the incentive structures. In the private sector you can get rich filling needs and solving problems. The public sector’s incentive structure is totally dysfunctional.

This is why no one cares at the DMV that you’ve been in line for an hour.  Because where else are you going to go?  You know that and wait.  Because you have no choice.  And they know that.  So they don’t hustle to process people as quickly as possible.  Because there is no chance of losing their customers to someone who does.

In a competitive environment, innovation, efficiency, and product improvement become matters of survival. Apple and Microsoft spend billions of dollars annually on research and development. They spend those vast amounts more out of necessity than choice. If they did not they would fall behind and lose market share.

President Obama complained recently about the White House’s obsolete phone system. He said that the White House phones are “30 years behind,” and “we can’t get our phones to work.” He said that he was disappointed by the lack of “really cool phones and stuff.” Does he ever wonder why this happens? I doubt that he does. I’m pretty sure no major corporation has an obsolete phone system.

All innovation comes from the private sector.  It’s on the cutting edge of technology.  Because they spend money in research and development.  And in improving the process of delivering these products to the customers.  And all of these costs are included in the sales prices of what they sell.  Where prices typically fall after a product is introduced into the market place.  Amazing.  Meanwhile, taxes are always going up.  And despite all of this money the public sector operates more like a third-world nation in comparison to the private sector.

The High Costs of Licensing and Regulations

Not only does the public sector do things poorly in comparison to the private sector, their policies hurt the private sector.  And the very people their policies are supposed to protect (see The Cancer of Regulation by John Stossel posted 6/8/2011 on Townhall).

Licensing prices poor people out of the business.

“Compare New York City, where a license to own and operate a taxi is $603,000, to Washington, D.C.,” George Mason University economist Walter Williams told me. “There are not many black-owned taxis in New York City. But in Washington, most are owned by blacks.” Why? Because in Washington, “it takes $200 to get a license to own and operate one taxi. That makes the difference.”

Regulation hurts the people the politicians claim to help.

If the government in Washington can license a taxi for $200, why does New York City need $603,000?  To restrict entry into the market.  Which is the typical purpose of licensing.  To restrict competition so those in the market can charge more.

People once just went into business. But now, in the name of “consumer protection,” bureaucrats insist on licensing rules. Today, hundreds of occupations require expensive licenses. Tough luck for a poor person getting started.

Ask Jestina Clayton. Ten years ago, she moved from Africa to Utah. She assumed she could support her children with the hair-braiding skills she learned in Sierra Leone. For four years, she braided hair in her home. She made decent money. But then the government shut her down because she doesn’t have an expensive cosmetology license that requires 2,000 hours of classroom time — 50 weeks of useless instruction. The Institute for Justice (IJ), the public-interest law firm that fights such outrages, says “not one of those 2,000 hours teaches African hair-braiding…”

No customers complained, but a competitor did.

The competitor complained not over concern for the welfare of customers.  But because her lower prices attracted customers away from the established businesses.  Because if people can get the same or better quality for less, they choose the same or better quality for less.

Once upon a time, one in 20 workers needed government permission to work in their occupation. Today, it’s one in three. We lose some freedom every day.

“Occupational licensing laws fall hardest on minorities, on poor, on elderly workers who want to start a new career or change careers,” Avelar said. “(Licensing laws) just help entrenched businesses keep out competition.”

This is not what America was supposed to be.

Occupational licensing was to protect consumers.  But it restricts entry into markets.  Keeping prices high.  Hurting both people that would like to start a business.  And those who have to pay the higher prices because of licensing restrictions.  Often it’s the poorest people that suffer most.  And the rich that benefit most.  Which is the exact opposite of the desired result of rules and regulations that are supposed to protect the consumer from businesses.  And the poor from the rich.

Your Electric Car in Oregon may Kill You

So the public sector does not do things as well as the private sector.  And their rules and regulations hurt the private sector and consumers.  But those in government know what’s best for us.  Currently there is a push to get us is into electric cars.  They’re subsidizing them to make them more appealing to buy.  Because they are expensive.  And have limited range.  Which is a real turnoff to a car buyer.  But that doesn’t stop them.  Because they don’t care about what we want.  It’s about what they want.  And they want to put us into electric cars.

One of the biggest drawbacks of an electric car is that you cannot pull into an electric ‘gas station’, fill up and go on your way.  The current electric cars charge overnight at home.  And people drive them to and from work.  As long as the round trip is a hundred miles or less.  And they don’t use their lights and heater too much.  But they’ve come up with an idea to fix this problem.  But first, let’s look at some electrical safety.

Electricity is dangerous.  Especially at higher voltages.  That’s why our houses have 120V electrical outlets.  You may have a 220V electric oven, but you don’t play with the electrical connection.  A common industrial voltage is 480V.  It has more energy so it can do more work.  But because of that energy, it is more dangerous.  And people die in the workplace from electrocution.  And arc flash (see What is Arc Flash? by Mike Holt posted on mikeholt.com).

Arc Flash is the result of a rapid release of energy due to an arcing fault between a phase bus bar and another phase bus bar, neutral or a ground. During an arc fault the air is the conductor. Arc faults are generally limited to systems where the bus voltage is in excess of 120 volts. Lower voltage levels normally will not sustain an arc. An arc fault is similar to the arc obtained during electric welding and the fault has to be manually started by something creating the path of conduction or a failure such as a breakdown in insulation.

The cause of the short normally burns away during the initial flash and the arc fault is then sustained by the establishment of a highly-conductive plasma. The plasma will conduct as much energy as is available and is only limited by the impedance of the arc. This massive energy discharge burns the bus bars, vaporizing the copper and thus causing an explosive volumetric increase, the arc blast, conservatively estimated, as an expansion of 40,000 to 1. This fiery explosion devastates everything in its path, creating deadly shrapnel as it dissipates.

Yes, arc flash is so dangerous that there are costly and time-consuming OSHA regulations when working with or operating 480V equipment.  Safety programs.  Short circuit studies.  Arc flash calculations.  Employee training.  Warning labels showing the arch flash radius where personal protective equipment is required.  And personal protective equipment (gloves, face shields, fire-resistant clothing, fire-suits, etc).  Depending on the level of hazard.  Determined from the studies and calculations.

So working with 480V is dangerous.  But guess how they’re going to address the problems of electric cars in Oregon?  That’s right.  By installing 480V charging stations for ‘quick’ half-hour charges (see Oregon’s electric highway by Michael Vaughn posted 6/11/2011 on The Globe and Mail).

The Oregon Department of Transportation has announced it’s going to install Level 3 DC fast-charging stations along that portion of the highway.

Level 3 is the key. Level 1 chargers use 110 volts from a regular home outlet and charge a vehicle overnight. Level 2 uses 240 volts, like a dryer or stove, and charge a vehicle in three or four hours. Level 3 uses 480 volts and the heavy juice can take a Nissan Leaf’s 45-kilowatt battery from near empty to 80 per cent in half an hour.

And if there is an arc while you’re connecting or disconnecting, it can incinerate you.  Unless the OSHA regulations for worker safety are just a waste of time and money.  (Note:  Most arc flash standards are for AC voltages.  DC arc flash safety standards were developed after the AC standards.  Both are dangerous.  And both AC and DC will be present in these DC charging stations due to the long distances between stations.  DC does not work well over long distances.  So the charging stations will probably have an AC to DC converter built in.)

However, there are fewer than 50 electric cars registered in all of Oregon, so why do it?

John MacArthur, of Oregon Transportation Research Consortium, says the installation of fast-charging stations will build acceptance for electric vehicles by making it possible for people to take trips beyond the typical range of 100 miles. These stations will be spaced 30 miles apart and located close to the interstate around gas stations, restaurants and restrooms. You need to do something during that half-hour recharge.

Why do it?  To make us do something we don’t want to do.  Unlike Apple and Microsoft who can.  And they can do it without massive government spending.  Or make us wait for a half hour until we can use their product again.  A lot of which runs on easily replaceable batteries.  Which comes in handy during a power outage.  That and a car with an internal combustion engine so you can drive someplace that has power to wait until your power is restored.  Which you couldn’t do if you had an electric car.

The Private Sector Functions According to our Will 

The best things in life come from the private sector.  The things we don’t like tend to come from the public sector.  The influence of the public sector on the private sector increase consumer costs.  And creates barriers in some markets.  Which also increases consumer costs.  And government regulations and policies are often attempts to make us do something we’d rather not.  Like drive an electric car. 

So it’s not hard to see why the private sector is such a greater success than the public sector.  The private sector functions according to our will.  The public sector operates against our will.  That’s why there’re incentives and competition in the private sector.  And why there aren’t in the public sector.  Because one gives us what we want.  The other doesn’t.  Unless you want long lines, poor service and high costs.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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