Progressive and Regressive Taxes and Marginal Tax rates

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 6th, 2014

Economics 101

(Originally published July 9th, 2012)

The Beatles fled Britain to Escape a Confiscatory Top Marginal Tax Rate of 95%

George Harrison wrote Taxman.  The song appeared on the 1966 Beatles album Revolver.  It was an angry protest song.  For George Harrison was furious when he learned what exactly the progressive tax system was in Britain.  In the song the British taxman is laying down the tax law.

Let me tell you how it will be
There’s one for you, nineteen for me
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

That’s one for you, Mr. Harrison.  And nineteen for us.  The government.  Meaning that for every £20 the Beatles earned they got to keep only £1.  This is a 95% top marginal tax rate.  A supertax on the super rich imposed by Harold Wilson’s Labour government.  So if the Beatles earned £1 million because of their incredible talent and hard work touring in concert, working on new albums in the studio and making movies, of that £1 million they got to keep only about £50,000.  While the government got £950,000.  If they earned £10 million they got to keep about £500,000.  While the government got £9,500,000.  As you can see 5% is a very small percentage.  Which is why George Harrison got so angry.  The harder they worked the less of their earnings they were able to keep.

Is this fair?  George didn’t think so.  Nor did his fellow Beatles.  For they fled Britain.  Moved to another country.  Becoming tax exiles.  For they were little more than court minstrels.  Who the government forced to entertain them.  Earning a lot of money so they could take it away.  To help pay for an explosion in social spending Harold Wilson unleashed on Britain.  Socializing the UK like never before.  And all those social benefits required a lot of taxes.  Hence the progressive tax system.  And marginal tax rates.  Where the super rich, like the Beatles, paid confiscatory tax rates of 95%.

The Top Marginal Tax Rate was around 70% under President Carter and around 28% under President Reagan

As social spending took off in the Sixties and Seventies governments thought they could just increase tax rates to generate greater amounts of tax revenue.  For governments looked at the economy as being static.  That whatever they did would result in their desired outcome without influencing the behavior of those paying these higher tax rates.  But the economy is not static.  It’s dynamic.  And changes in the tax rates do influence taxpayer behavior.  Just ask the Beatles.  And every other tax exile escaping the confiscatory tax rates of their government.  Because of this dynamic behavior of the taxpayers excessively high tax rates rarely brings in the tax revenue governments expect them to.

Even when it comes to sin taxes government still believes that the economy is static.  Even though they publicly state that taxes on alcohol and tobacco are to dissuade people from consuming alcohol and tobacco.  (The U.S. funded children’s health care with cigarette taxes clearly showing the government did not believe these taxes would stop people from smoking).  Perhaps some in government look at sin taxes as a way to discourage harmful habits.  But the taxman sees something altogether different when they look at sin taxes.  Addiction.  Knowing that few people will give up these items no matter how much they tax them.  And that means tax revenue.  But unlike the progressive income tax this tax is a regressive tax.  Those who can least afford to pay higher taxes pay a higher percentage of their income to pay these taxes.  For sin taxes increase prices.  And higher prices make smaller paychecks buy less.  Leaving less money for groceries and other essentials.

Most income taxes, on the other hand, are progressive.  Your income is broken up into brackets.  The lowest bracket has the lowest income tax rate.  Often times the lowest income bracket pays no income taxes.  The next bracket up has a small income tax rate.  The next bracket up has a larger income tax rate.  And so on.  Until you get to the high income threshold.  Where all income at and above this rate has the highest income tax rate.  This top marginal tax rate was around 70% under President Carter.  Around 28% under President Reagan.  And 95% under Harold Wilson’s Labour government in Britain.  An exceptionally high rate that led to great efforts to avoid paying income taxes.  Or simply encouraged people to renounce their citizenship and move to a more tax-friendly country.

When the Critical Mass of People turn from Taxpayers to Benefit Recipients it will Herald the End of the Republic

Progressive taxes are supposed to be fair.  By transferring the tax burden onto those who can most afford to pay these taxes.  But the more progressive the tax rates are the less tax revenue they generate.  What typically happens is you have a growing amount of low-income earners paying no income taxes but consuming the lion’s share of government benefits.  The super rich shelter their higher incomes and pay far less in taxes than those high marginal tax rates call for.  They still pay a lot, paying the majority of income taxes.  But it’s still not enough.  So the middle class gets soaked, too.  They pay less than the rich but the tax bite out of their paychecks hurts a lot more than it does for the rich.  Because the middle class has to make sacrifices in their lives whenever their tax rates go up.

As social spending increases governments will use class warfare to increase taxes on the rich.  And they will redefine the rich to include parts of the middle class.  To make ‘the rich’ pay their ‘fair’ share.  And they will increase their tax rates.  But it won’t generate much tax revenue.  For no matter how much they tax the rich governments with high levels of spending on social programs all run deficits.  Because there just aren’t enough rich people to tax.  Which is why the government taxes everything under the sun to help pay for their excessive spending.

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

Don’t ask me what I want it for
If you don’t want to pay some more
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
And you’re working for no one but me.

This is where excessive government spending leads to.  Excessive taxation.  And confiscatory tax rates.  Taking as much from the wealth creators as possible to fund the welfare state.  And as progressive tax systems fail to generate the desired tax revenue they will turn to every other tax they can.  Until there is no more wealth to tax.  Or to confiscate.  When the wealth creators finally say enough is enough.  And refuse to create any more wealth for the government to tax or to confiscate.  Leaving the government unable to meet their spending obligations.  As the critical mass of people turn from taxpayers to benefit recipients.  Heralding the end of the republic.

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Progressive and Regressive Taxes and Marginal Tax rates

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 9th, 2012

Economics 101

The Beatles fled Britain to Escape a Confiscatory Top Marginal Tax Rate of 95%

George Harrison wrote Taxman.  The song appeared on the 1966 Beatles album Revolver.  It was an angry protest song.  For George Harrison was furious when he learned what exactly the progressive tax system was in Britain.  In the song the British taxman is laying down the tax law.

Let me tell you how it will be
There’s one for you, nineteen for me
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

That’s one for you, Mr. Harrison.  And nineteen for us.  The government.  Meaning that for every £20 the Beatles earned they got to keep only £1.  This is a 95% top marginal tax rate.  A supertax on the super rich imposed by Harold Wilson’s Labour government.  So if the Beatles earned £1 million because of their incredible talent and hard work touring in concert, working on new albums in the studio and making movies, of that £1 million they got to keep only about £50,000.  While the government got £950,000.  If they earned £10 million they got to keep about £500,000.  While the government got £9,500,000.  As you can see 5% is a very small percentage.  Which is why George Harrison got so angry.  The harder they worked the less of their earnings they were able to keep.

Is this fair?  George didn’t think so.  Nor did his fellow Beatles.  For they fled Britain.  Moved to another country.  Becoming tax exiles.  For they were little more than court minstrels.  Who the government forced to entertain them.  Earning a lot of money so they could take it away.  To help pay for an explosion in social spending Harold Wilson unleashed on Britain.  Socializing the UK like never before.  And all those social benefits required a lot of taxes.  Hence the progressive tax system.  And marginal tax rates.  Where the super rich, like the Beatles, paid confiscatory tax rates of 95%.

The Top Marginal Tax Rate was around 70% under President Carter and around 28% under President Reagan 

As social spending took off in the Sixties and Seventies governments thought they could just increase tax rates to generate greater amounts of tax revenue.  For governments looked at the economy as being static.  That whatever they did would result in their desired outcome without influencing the behavior of those paying these higher tax rates.  But the economy is not static.  It’s dynamic.  And changes in the tax rates do influence taxpayer behavior.  Just ask the Beatles.  And every other tax exile escaping the confiscatory tax rates of their government.  Because of this dynamic behavior of the taxpayers excessively high tax rates rarely brings in the tax revenue governments expect them to.

Even when it comes to sin taxes government still believes that the economy is static.  Even though they publicly state that taxes on alcohol and tobacco are to dissuade people from consuming alcohol and tobacco.  (The U.S. funded children’s health care with cigarette taxes clearly showing the government did not believe these taxes would stop people from smoking).  Perhaps some in government look at sin taxes as a way to discourage harmful habits.  But the taxman sees something altogether different when they look at sin taxes.  Addiction.  Knowing that few people will give up these items no matter how much they tax them.  And that means tax revenue.  But unlike the progressive income tax this tax is a regressive tax.  Those who can least afford to pay higher taxes pay a higher percentage of their income to pay these taxes.  For sin taxes increase prices.  And higher prices make smaller paychecks buy less.  Leaving less money for groceries and other essentials.

Most income taxes, on the other hand, are progressive.  Your income is broken up into brackets.  The lowest bracket has the lowest income tax rate.  Often times the lowest income bracket pays no income taxes.  The next bracket up has a small income tax rate.  The next bracket up has a larger income tax rate.  And so on.  Until you get to the high income threshold.  Where all income at and above this rate has the highest income tax rate.  This top marginal tax rate was around 70% under President Carter.  Around 28% under President Reagan.  And 95% under Harold Wilson’s Labour government in Britain.  An exceptionally high rate that led to great efforts to avoid paying income taxes.  Or simply encouraged people to renounce their citizenship and move to a more tax-friendly country.

When the Critical Mass of People turn from Taxpayers to Benefit Recipients it will Herald the End of the Republic

Progressive taxes are supposed to be fair.  By transferring the tax burden onto those who can most afford to pay these taxes.  But the more progressive the tax rates are the less tax revenue they generate.  What typically happens is you have a growing amount of low-income earners paying no income taxes but consuming the lion’s share of government benefits.  The super rich shelter their higher incomes and pay far less in taxes than those high marginal tax rates call for.  They still pay a lot, paying the majority of income taxes.  But it’s still not enough.  So the middle class gets soaked, too.  They pay less than the rich but the tax bite out of their paychecks hurts a lot more than it does for the rich.  Because the middle class has to make sacrifices in their lives whenever their tax rates go up. 

As social spending increases governments will use class warfare to increase taxes on the rich.  And they will redefine the rich to include parts of the middle class.  To make ‘the rich’ pay their ‘fair’ share.  And they will increase their tax rates.  But it won’t generate much tax revenue.  For no matter how much they tax the rich governments with high levels of spending on social programs all run deficits.  Because there just aren’t enough rich people to tax.  Which is why the government taxes everything under the sun to help pay for their excessive spending. 

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

Don’t ask me what I want it for
If you don’t want to pay some more
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
And you’re working for no one but me.

This is where excessive government spending leads to.  Excessive taxation.  And confiscatory tax rates.  Taking as much from the wealth creators as possible to fund the welfare state.  And as progressive tax systems fail to generate the desired tax revenue they will turn to every other tax they can.  Until there is no more wealth to tax.  Or to confiscate.  When the wealth creators finally say enough is enough.  And refuse to create any more wealth for the government to tax or to confiscate.  Leaving the government unable to meet their spending obligations.  As the critical mass of people turn from taxpayers to benefit recipients.  Heralding the end of the republic.

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The French Socialists to Advance Policies that will drive the Wealth Creators out of France

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 1st, 2012

Week in Review

No one likes austerity.  Even the nations who agreed to it to join the Eurozone.  Back when they were joining they all said they would keep their deficits and debt within Eurozone requirements.  But after a prolonged recession few are willing to cut back on government spending.  In fact, in France, they’re going to increase government spending by beating up on the rich (see Adieu, la France posted 6/23/2012 on The Economist).

AFTER the French Socialists last came to power in 1981, under François Mitterrand, the new government went on a spree of nationalisations, taking over 36 banks and several industrial groups, before quietly abandoning the policy and even reprivatising a few firms. Small wonder that French bosses greeted François Hollande’s election as president with more than a frisson of foreboding. What would the Socialists do this time…?

Even before the parliamentary elections on June 17th, at which the Socialists won a majority of seats, rhetoric against factory closures had been mounting…

Michel Sapin, the labour minister, has promised to make it so expensive for companies to lay off workers that it will no longer be worth their while. Firms that fire people while still paying dividends may be penalised. Another planned ruse is to force companies to sell factories, presumably along with the brands manufactured there, to competitors rather than close them down…

[The Socialist] party’s most popular campaign promises was to tax incomes of more than €1m at a marginal rate of 75%. The likely consequences will be much less admired. Some big companies will leave France or move management abroad in order to shield their executives from the tax. That will lead them to invest and hire more overseas rather than at home. Already, top foreign executives no longer want to join French firms. A new extra tax on dividends has further angered the business world…

But the most important consequence of stratospheric taxes will be less visible, at least at first. Marc Simoncini is one of France’s best-known entrepreneurs—and one of the few business leaders to denounce the new measures publicly. Why, he recently asked, would anyone want to start a business, invest and succeed in the most taxed country in the world?

Tax is not the only threat to executive pay. Last week Pierre Moscovici, the finance minister, announced that pay for bosses of companies in which the French state holds the majority of shares will be capped at a flat rate of €450,000, or roughly 20 times the wage of the lowest-paid worker… In some cases it will lead to a 70% pay cut… Measures to limit pay at fully private firms are expected before long.

Most French business leaders don’t think that the government is deliberately targeting them. They reckon that its motives are purely political—and that the Socialists are simply not aware of the damage their plans will do (most ministers have hardly any experience of business).

Behold class warfare on a grand scale.  This is socialism.  This is what being ‘fair’ is.  This is egalitarianism.  Everyone is equal.  Except the rich and successful.  Who the state enslaves.  To serve the people.  By forcing these executives to continue to do what so few people can do.  Run these big corporations profitably.  But they won’t reward them for their unique talents.  No.  Instead, they’ll enslave them.  Force them to keep producing wealth.  To keep creating jobs.  But to do so for a paycheck that’s less than most sports stars, movie stars, singers, writers, reality stars, etc., get.  Because these executives don’t earn their pay like these people who contribute so much to the world’s economies.

The Socialists believe these rich executives don’t do anything worthy for their pay.  That these corporations run themselves and only create wealth because of the workers in the trenches.  These are the important people.  Of course if they don’t need these rich executives why not just fire them?  Let these corporations spontaneously produce wealth and create jobs?  Because even the Socialists know that these rich executives are the only ones who can run these corporations and produce the wealth they so want to confiscate.  And if they fired these rich executives and tried to run these corporations themselves there would be no wealth to confiscate.  Because they have no business experience.  And they would only run these companies into the ground.  Just like the Soviet state planners did in the Soviet Union.

How did they get here?  Their social democracies.  Cradle to grave state welfare.  The people like it.  They love the free stuff.  The problem is it’s free only to them.  Someone has to pay for it.  Primarily those who work for the rich executives.  And the rich executives themselves.  Via confiscatory tax rates on the wealth they create.  But as they drive out these wealth creators from the country what will they tax?  As populations age there are more people consuming government benefits than there are paying for them.  Which means they need to raise tax rates ever higher.  Going so far as to nationalizing businesses.  Eventually there comes a point where even class warfare won’t work anymore.  Because there just won’t be enough wealth left in the country to tax.

These policies are not likely to make things better in France.  It may feel good for a little while to punish the rich.  But punishing the rich won’t reduce your taxes.  Or improve the economy so you can advance into a better and higher paying job.  But it makes good politics.  Which is why these politicians can win elections.  In Europe.  And in the United States. 

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Government Spending

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 18th, 2012

Economics 101

Money is a Temporary Storage of Wealth used to Reduce the Search Costs in the Barter System

What came first?  Money?  Or the things we buy with money?  Here’s a hint.  Once upon a time there was no money.  Yet we still had things.  We bought things without money, you ask?  Yes.  We did.  And we bought things the only way we could before there was money.  We traded.  We bartered.  We traded things.  Things we built.  Things we grew.  Things we dug out of the ground.  Things.

These things had value.  Value we created with our labors.  Either by digging something valuable out of the ground.  Growing something of value.  Or making something useful that people valued.  And something people were willing to trade something they produced that had value.  These people created value.  They created wealth.  They were wealth creators.  And when they come together to trade the valuable products of their labors they were trading wealth.  After their bartered trade all parties in that trade walked away believing they came out ahead in that trade.  For each walked away with something they valued more.

But the barter system proved to be inefficient.  As the economy became more complex there were so many things to trade for.  And people valued some things more than they valued others.  Which sometimes made it difficult to find someone to trade with.  Search costs increased.  People spent more time looking for people to trade with than they did producing wealth.  Which is why people created money.  A temporary storage of wealth.  Using money greatly reduced search costs.  Instead of finding someone to trade with that also wanted what you had to trade all you had to do was find what you wanted.  Then trade your money for it.  Then the seller could take that money and trade it for something he wanted.  Regardless if the person was interested in anything he produced.

Ultimately People don’t want Money, they want the Things they can Trade Money For

No one likes paying taxes.  They’re one of those necessary evils to live in a civilization.  Because they are the only way to pay for public goods.  Early public goods may have consisted of a granary to store food.  And an army.  To protect your civilization from the hostile environment around it.  Government could tax the grain producers by taking a portion of their crops for the public granary.  And to feed the army.  They could tax the shoemakers and take some shoes for the army to wear.  And so on.  The government would tax the producers by taking a small percentage of what they produced to provide the public goods.   

Money changed this a little.  Instead of shipping a portion of grain from all the grain producers to the public granary the grain producers paid their taxes in money.  For it was easier to collect money from all the grain producers than it was collecting grain.  Then the government would use that tax money to purchase grain to fill the public granary.  Even having the local grain producers compete with each other to fill that large public purchase of grain at the lowest price.  Just like buyers and sellers used money to make their trades easier so did government use money to make public spending easier.  But one thing didn’t change.  Money was only a temporary storage of wealth.  The buyers and sellers created wealth.  And the government took a portion of the wealth they created.

This is a crucial point in understanding government spending.  Money isn’t what’s important.  It’s those things of value the wealth producers create that is important.  Because ultimately people don’t want money.  They want the things they can trade that money for.  Those wonderful things creative wealth producers bring to market.  Things government does NOT produce.  Even though they can print money they cannot produce these things of value.  Other people do.  Other people who incur costs.  Who pay for supplies.  And provide pay and benefits to their employees.  Which is why they don’t like paying taxes.  Because it leaves them less to spend on their business.  Or on themselves.  And they don’t like the government printing money.  Because money is a temporary storage of wealth.  And when you arbitrarily increase the amount of money in circulation for the same amount of wealth in the economy you cause inflation.  More dollars chasing the same amount of goods.  So the dollar is worth less than it was before the inflation.  And because the dollar is worth less it takes more of them to buy what they once did.  Meaning prices increase.  Which is why people don’t like inflation.

A Country never went Bankrupt by Spending too Little

So even though the government has the power to print money responsible governments don’t.  Because inflation causes a lot of economic damage.  So governments rely on taxes to fund their public goods.  But excessive taxation also causes economic damage.  By pulling wealth out of the private sector.  Leaving business owners with less.  And increasing the cost of business.  Making it difficult to hire more people.  Which lowers economic activity.  For the more people who work and earn a paycheck the more people are in the market place buying things.  So it’s important for governments not to tax too much.  Which means they shouldn’t spend too much.

Of course that’s easier said than done.  Because people tend to vote for politicians that give them free stuff.  Which is why politicians love to spend.  And to tax.  Tax and spend.  And during good economic times when government coffers are flush with cash they tend to spend more.  And tax more.  Because they can.  But they all run into the same problem.  Government raises revenue on economic activity.  By applying tax rates on income, sales, value added, property, etc.  The government collects a small percentage on these items based on the tax rate.  When income, sales, value, etc., are large that tax rate generates a lot of revenue.  When income, sales, value, etc., are low that tax rate generates a lower amount of revenue.  And when governments spend too much during the good times they raise their spending obligations.  Based on that robust economic activity.  But when the economic activity becomes less robust there is a problem.  Tax revenues fall.  Because those tax rates are taking a percentage of a smaller income, sales, value, etc.  So tax revenue falls while those spending obligations remain the same.  Leading to a budget shortfall.  Which leaves them with two choices.  Cut spending.  Or borrow money.

Well, people rarely vote for people that take stuff away from them.  So the politicians borrow money.  And they keep borrowing money.  Because their spending obligations were based on the rosiest of projections of economic activity.  Which rarely happens in real life.  So they borrow.  And they borrow more.  Soon they have to borrow to pay the interest on what they’ve borrowed previously.  Soon the debt grows so great that the credit rating agencies lower their credit rating.  Making future borrowing more expensive as they have to pay a higher interest rate.  Some may turn to higher tax rates.  But that also lowers economic activity.  Which reduces overall tax revenue.  Some may turn to printing money. Which also lowers economic activity.  And overall tax revenues.  By causing inflation.  And raising prices.  Which eventually leads a country down the road to bankruptcy.  And on their knees begging for a bailout.  Which is the ultimate destination for all nations with excessive government spending.  To throw themselves on the mercy of those countries who have lived within their means.  Which rarely ends well.  Because they expect the bankrupt country to start living within their means.  Meaning austerity.  Which the people accustomed to generous government spending are not too keen on in the least.  And often reply to austerity demands with a little rioting in the streets.

There is one simple way to avoid all of these troubles, though.  All a nation has to do is NOT spend so much.  If they do then they will never have a financial crisis.  For a country never went bankrupt by spending too little.

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Rent-Seeking

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 11th, 2012

Economics 101

Wealth Creators Freely met and Made Trades they felt were Mutually Beneficial

The human race started as subsistence hunters and gatherers.  Our ancestors spent all of their time hunting.  And gathering.  If they were successful they propagated our species.  Making it possible for us to be here.  If they weren’t their family tree was a barren one. 

So that was life.  A rather short and brutish life.  Except that part about propagating the species.  And we lived that way for some 2 million years.  Eating.  Fleeing.  Fighting.  And, of course, propagating.  As we grew more intelligent we did a lot of things that ushered in the modern world.  But perhaps the single greatest advancement that brought on the modern age was our evolution from hunters and gatherers to farmers.  Everything followed from this.  We learned to live together in cities.  And we increased crop yields so much we created food surpluses.  Which gave us time to do other things.  It allowed the rise of artisans.  A middle class.  That built things and traded them for their food.  These new goods helped produce more food.  And the greater food production allowed more people to do other things.  Creating a complex economy.  Where people traveled to market with the things they created.  And traded them for the things other people brought to market.  We traded things of value for other things of value.  Because these traders, these wealth creators, each created something of value.

These wealth creators freely met and made trades they felt were mutually beneficial.  Each felt they came out a winner after their trade.  For they each received something they valued more than what they traded away to get it.  Which means going to the market was where to go to get valuable things.  Which provided an incentive to make more things so you could take them to market.  And trade for things you valued more.  As everyone did this the overall wealth in the economy increased.  People specialized.  Focused on what they were good at.  To produce as much as possible so they could trade for more.  And because they specialized they improved quality.  And used the available resources as efficiently as possible.

Rent-Seeking People took more Wealth from the Market than they Brought to It

There are many competing schools of economics.  But if you go back to where it all began what you find is laissez faire free market capitalism.  Where the profit incentive drove people to create wealth.  Which they then traded for the things they didn’t make.  Then things started to change.  Some people didn’t want to work hard and innovate.  And bring new things to market.  What they wanted was influence.  Privilege.  And a rigged market.  So they could get more in trade than the value of the things they produced for trade.  One of the first vehicles used for this was the artisan guild.

In medieval Europe if you wanted to be a blacksmith you had to join a guild.  If the guild accepted you a long apprenticeship awaited you.  But the guilds denied more people entry than they allowed.  Why?  To limit competition.  So blacksmiths could keep their prices high.  At any given time a city, town or village had a very limited number of blacksmiths.  The guild worked to keep it that way.  For the last thing these blacksmiths wanted was other blacksmiths opening up shop.  Putting more goods onto the market.  And lowering prices.  No, the guild wanted to fix prices above their market value by keeping would-be blacksmiths out of the trade.

The economic term for this is rent-seeking.  Which is sort of the opposite of profit seeking.  In profit-seeking people create wealth to trade (or to pay) for other wealth.  They work hard to earn more so they can buy more.  Both buyer and seller add wealth to the economy.  Not so in rent-seeking.  In rent-seeking you try to garner more wealth not by working harder but by using the power of government.  By getting tariffs placed on foreign competition.  By getting prices fixed above market prices.  By getting onerous regulations enacted to hurt your competition.  By restricting entrance into the industry thus limiting domestic competition.  Such as the guilds did for those medieval blacksmiths.  This interference into laissez faire free market capitalism reduced economic activity.  Because rent-seeking people took more wealth from the market than they brought to it.

The Government caused the Great Depression by Favoring Rent-Seeking over Free Market Capitalism

Some say a better name for rent-seeking is privilege seeking.  For that is what they are seeking.  Special privilege so they don’t have to compete in the free market.  For the cost of a little lobbying can remove the need for innovation.  Maintaining the level of quality.  Or satisfying customers.  For if you have a government-imposed monopoly you don’t have to do any of those things because the people don’t have anywhere else to go.

Rent-seeking is rife in crony capitalism and state capitalism.  Neither of which is true capitalism.  These companies are granted monopolies (or near monopolies) by the government in exchange for political support.  Which they can afford when they can sell their goods above market prices.  They get rich.  Their cronies in government get rich.  But the consumers suffer.  As they have to pay higher prices. Suffer poorer quality.  And less innovation.  Rent-seeking is common in the older industries.  Particularly ones with strong unions.  Who have negotiated costly wage and benefit packages.  Which they can afford to pay until new innovation and new competition enters the market.  Putting out a higher quality product at a lower price.  Prices so low that an old firm saddled with a costly union wage and benefit package simply can’t sell at and pay their bills.  So they go to government.  And lobby for privilege.

What typically happens is that they delay the inevitable.  All the protected industries in the U.S. have failed.  Textile.  Steel.  Even the automobile (well, two of the Big Three have failed.  Ford hasn’t).  For when you take more wealth from the market than you bring to it you’re just transferring wealth.  You’re not creating it.  Which is a problem.  Because you have to create wealth to increase economic activity.  So when you protect an industry you’re just pulling wealth out of the private economy and transferring it to the rent-seekers.  Who give so little in return.   Which results in a decline of economic activity.  And if it spreads enough it can and has caused recessions.  Even a Great Depression.  Such as when domestic industries lobbied government to enact the Smoot-Hawley Tariff.  Which launched an all-out trade war.  All because the government favored rent-seeking over free market capitalism.

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When Democrat Policies Fail and they Fall in the Polls they Scramble to Endorse Reaganomics

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 5th, 2011

Democrats have Blamed every ill known to Mankind on Reaganomics

The Left hates Ronald Reagan.  Proclaimed the era of Reagan was over.  No more were these Reagan Republicans going to screw over the poor so the rich can live a better life.  Yes, they hated this man with a passion.  And everything he stood for.  This supply-sider of the Austrian School.  He and is unfunny Laffer Curve.  This cold-hearted tax cutter.  But now they love him.  Why?  Because he supported taxing the rich.

I’ll pause a moment for those of you who have fallen out of your chairs.  Ready?  Good.

You know Congressional Democrats are grasping at straws to promote their policies when they claim their archenemy would have supported them, too.  You know why they’re trying, though, don’t you?  If you listened to the protesters on Wall Street you should know.  With their control of public school teachers and college professors (both dependent on taxpayer money for generous pay and benefit packages), they can revise history.  And keep kids ignorant.  Hopefully keeping them oblivious of things they don’t want them to know.  Such as the true legacy of Ronald Reagan (see MILLER: Ripping off the Gipper by Emily Miller posted 10/4/2011 on The Washington Times).

Liberals are trying to twist Ronald Reagan’s words to muster support for raising taxes. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s press office sent a memo on Monday to congressional Republicans claiming they’d found evidence proving that President Reagan was the real inspiration for President Obama’s tax-the-rich “Buffett Rule.” The California Democrat posed the question: “What would Reagan do?”

The correct answer is: He would cut taxes. Mrs. Pelosi’s memo sends people over to the liberal Think Progress website, where a video montage interweaves clips of Mr. Obama and Reagan saying apparently similar things about tax rates. “We’re going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share,” said the Gipper.

You’re supposed to think that’s just what Mr. Obama is doing, but the liberals edited out the context of the 40th president’s remarks. In a June 1985 speech at an Atlanta high school, he called for a total overhaul of the tax system. He wanted loopholes closed to lower the tax rates for everyone, for a net reduction in the tax burden. Congressional Republicans point out that’s precisely the opposite of what the Democrats are now trying to do.

You see, the Democrats can’t rely on telling the truth to pass their policies.  Because their policies only benefit those in government.  And those who live like parasites on the wealth creators.  Such as those protestors on Wall Street.  Who want the wealth of the wealth creators.  But want no part of capitalism which created that wealth.  And are too ignorant to understand that you can’t have one without the other.

Thank you public school teachers and college professors.

So they must lie.  Revise history.  To try and fool people into believing that their policies are just like Ronald Reagan’s.  And apparently hoping people don’t remember that Democrats have blamed every ill known to mankind on these very same policies.  ReaganomicsTrickledown economics.  The scourge of mankind.  But the majority of Americans apparently love the big lug so they’ll swallow back their bile and say, hey, we love him, too.  And hope that the grimace on their face doesn’t look as bad or as painful as it feels.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac created America’s Financial Mess, not Wall Street

So where did these Wall Street protests come from?  Where did the primary impetus come from?  Apparently Canada.  Thanks, Canada.  As if the corrupting influence of Terrance and Phillip wasn’t enough already.  So I guess we have to Blame Canada (Warning:  Blame Canada contains adult content) for this, too (see Occupy Toronto leaderless, unfocused but hopeful by Dana Flavelle posted 10/4/2011 on the Toronto Star).

The Wall Street protests were inspired by Canadian anti-consumer magazine Adbusters.

Editor in chief and co-founder Kalle Lasn said he’s been calling for this kind of protest movement for 20 years.

It’s finally happening because people are angry with the financial fraudsters on Wall Street who created America’s economic mess and largely went unpunished, he said in a telephone interview from Vancouver.

But that isn’t who created America’s financial mess.  It was government.  Specifically the government sponsored enterprises (GSE) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  If it wasn’t for them buying and/or guaranteeing risky subprime mortgages there would have been no subprime mortgage crisis.

That was government policy.  Putting as many people into houses as possible.  Even if they couldn’t afford them.  That wasn’t Wall Street.  Wall Street was merely an accessory after the fact.  Aiding and abetting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  By selling those toxic subprime mortgages in collateralized debt obligations (CDOs).  Promoting them as high yield yet low risk.  Because they were backed by mortgages, historically the safest loans in all of America.  So investors bought these.  Not knowing how risky they were.  But you know who knew how risky they were?  The GSEs Fanny and Freddie.  Because they bought them.  And remember what the ‘G’ stands for in GSE.  Government.

If you removed government from this equation mortgage bankers would not have approved these risky subprime mortgages.  Because that risk would have been on their books.  But when government said ‘don’t worry  we’ll take that risk off of your books’ what did they have to lose in approving risky subprime mortgages?  Less harassment from the government for not approving mortgages for the poor and minorities who didn’t qualify?  Yeah, like they were going to miss that harassment.

If these protestors want to protest those responsible they should protest government.  Not Wall Street.

Damn Canadians.  If it’s not making our kids fart and curse they’re getting them to protest the wrong people.  (Editor’s note:  We like Canada and Canadians.  And mean them no disrespect.  We’re just having a little fun with the movie South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.  In which incidents lead to war between Canada and the U.S.  A premise so ridiculous that it’s funny.  For Canada and the U.S. have been the best of friends.  And will always be the best of friends.)

The more Public Sector Union Employees paying Dues the more Money is collected for Democrat Coffers

Perhaps that’s the problem.  Too much government.  The federal government has grown into a behemoth.  On top of thousands and thousands of local governments throughout the country (see Infographic: Local government by the numbers by Mary Mahling and Carla Uriona posted 10/4/2011 on Stateline).

There are 89,476 local governments in the United States. They include counties, cities, villages, towns and townships, as well as special districts that handle utilities, fire, police and library services.

That’s a lot of government.  And there’s only one way to pay for a lot of government.  With a lot of taxes.

So we have government upon government upon government.  Surely with all that government we must be getting some value for all of these taxes.

More than two centuries of American democracy have resulted in a profusion of governments at the local level, not only cities and counties but villages and townships, park districts and sanitary districts and a host of others. To those trying desperately to bring a state’s budget into balance, many of these are useless anachronisms incapable of providing any service that could not be provided higher up the governmental chain. But to the tens of thousands of people who hold office in these local entities — and to millions of citizens who live within them — multiple local governments are a crucial piece of evidence that American democracy reaches down to the grassroots level.

Apparently not.  And don’t call me Shirley.

They just provide a lot of jobs for the unemployable.  By taxing the wealth creators.  And redistributing it to people whose job is a duplicate of one at another level of government.

They do serve a purpose, though.  Being totally funded by taxpayers, they have a vested interest to keep raising taxes on the taxpayers.  Which is, of course, helpful to Democrats.  So the more local governments the better.  The more public sector union employees paying dues the more money finds its way into Democrat coffers.

Any Attempt to Quantify Human Behavior will Ultimately Fail

And then you have academe.  And Keynesian economists.  Furthering the growth of government with their government-spending Keynesian economics (see Tis The Gift To Be Simple by Paul Krugman posted 10/5/2011 on The New York Times).

To be sure, IS-LM is an attempt to squeeze a dynamic economy into a static model, which is why people like me usually cross-check our conclusions with something intertemporal. But it’s actually a pretty darn sophisticated approach — as demonstrated by the fact that economists who dismiss or attack IS-LM as too simplistic or something almost always end up making assertions that are much more simplistic than IS-LM, if not falling into outright logical fallacies. In fact, I can’t think of a single exception to this rule: every attack on IS-LM I’ve ever seen (as opposed to suggestions that we should also look at more complex models) was followed by some kind of empirical or logical howler.

I have a criticism.  Any attempt to quantify human behavior will ultimately fail.  Because you can’t quantify human behavior.

Economics belong to the branch of science we call social sciences.  That is, it’s not real science.  Because the wildcard is that human behavior can always produce some unintended consequence to government action.  Such as Prohibition giving us organized crime.  Whereas the equations of science typically don’t.  We can use science to build bridges, buildings and airplanes.  And they work pretty much as planned.  Without any unintended consequences.

You can’t represent human behavior by mathematical formulas.  We know some behavioral responses.  Such as sex in advertising gets men’s attention.  But that’s a base primeval instinct.  There’s not a whole lot of thinking going on.  Not so in a complex economy.  Where there is a lot of thinking going on.  Keynesians like to think the economy is as simple as impulse buying at the point of sale checkout aisle.  Put more candy on display and you sell more candy.  Not so with buying a house.

Everyone will like to own a beautiful home.  But people won’t buy a house on impulse.  Not when there’s record unemployment.  And talk of a double-dip recession.  Because if you learned anything from the subprime mortgage crisis it’s this.  Too much debt is bad.  And there is no such thing as a guaranteed job.  Playing with interest rates won’t change that.  Only time will.  When enough time has passed to let people feel secure in their jobs again.  Then and only then will they consider taking on debt again.  No matter what the IS-LM model predicts.  Because you can’t quantify human behavior.

The Wall Street Protestors with Student Loan Debt Probably don’t have Science or Engineering Degrees

All government policy is social science.  It’s not an exact science.  That’s why strange things happen.  Unintended things.  Whenever government tries to influence behavior.  And when government tries they have a track record of failure.  Which is why they don’t run for reelection on the success of their policies.  They run on the success of someone else’s (Ronald Reagan’s) policies.  And say that their policies are the same.  And they are except with a few minor changes.  And by ‘few’ I mean they couldn’t be any more different.  So they lie.  Or they just demonize their opponents.

But our kids are blissfully ignorant.  Thanks to public school teachers.  And college professors.  Who care more about improving their taxpayer funded pay and benefits than education.  That’s why government grows.  And why we have degrees like women’s studies.  And poetry.  Degrees that offer no hope for employment in a capitalistic economy.  For what business that relies on pleasing their customers (like Apple does consistently) need people with these skills?

No.  They need people with science and engineering degrees.  You know, the hard ones.  So the kids who took the easy route in college must depend on teaching others their worthless knowledge.  Or get a government job.  Which has a lot to do with the anger of these protestors who have huge student loan debt.  And no job.  Because if they hate capitalism you can guess what their degrees are in.

(Editor’s note:  This was written before news of Steve Jobs’ passing broke.  Our condolences go out to his family.  We decided to leave the Apple reference in as a tribute to Steve Jobs.  He was one of America’s greatest entrepreneurs.  The world is a better place because of him.  For the gifts he gave us.  And the inspiration he gave to the next generation of great entrepreneurs.)

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LESSONS LEARNED #4 “Wealth ain’t money; money ain’t wealth.” –Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 11th, 2010

WEALTH COMES FROM human capital.  People making things or doing something.  And it’s what they make or do that has value.  They trade these valuable things and services for other valuable things and services.  The more complex and diverse these good and services got, though, the more difficult it got to trade them.  Money came into use.  Instead of trading directly, you could trade for money.  Later, you could take that money and trade (i.e., shop) for what you wanted.  Money was not the end; it was the means to an end.  Trade.

This is important.  It’s the goods and services that are valuable.  Not the money.  We don’t want money; we want the goods and services that money will buy. 

The producers of these things and services are wealth creators.  Those who don’t produce things or services are wealth consumers.  Farmers, craftsmen, truck drivers, entrepreneurs, etc., are wealth producers.  Thieves, the lazy, government, etc., are wealth consumers.

THE DECLINE OF the Roman Empire began in the third century.  With a military flung across the known world and a bloated government bureaucracy, she was engaged in some serious deficit spending.  The government was trying to expand the purchasing power of her money.  They just weren’t collecting enough in taxes.  And the tax rates were pretty close to confiscatory.  I mean, they taxed so much that there just wasn’t anything left to tax.

The silver denarius was the main money used by the Romans.  When first introduced, it was approximately 95% silver.  They kept debasing it until it contained less than 1% silver.  With less precious metal (silver) in each coin, they were able to make more coins.  But this did not create more wealth.  The wealth producers weren’t producing more wealth.  With more money chasing the same amount of goods, prices soared.  And the value of the silver denarius plummeted.

The silver denarius became worthless.  No one wanted to exchange their goods and serviced for it.  The Romans wouldn’t even accept it for tax payments.  And it was their own coin!  If you had gold, you paid with gold, for gold was still gold.  Precious and scarce.  Unlike the silver denarius.  If you didn’t have gold, then you paid ‘in kind’.  You gave the government some of the valuable things you created with your human capital. 

Having destroyed their medium of exchange, they cut out the ‘middleman’.  Instead of collecting tax coins to buy those things of value the empire needed, they collected those things of value directly.  The efficiencies gained by the use of money were lost.  And, well, we see why this Roman period has the word ‘decline’ in its title.

IN THE VERY beginning of the United States, everything was brand new.  The federal government.  The federal budget.  And the federal debt.  Well, the debt itself wasn’t brand new.  It was the states’ Revolutionary War debts assumed by the federal government.  And to help pay off this now federal debt the new nation introduced its first ‘sin’ tax.  On whiskey.  Well, sort of.  It was placed on the producers, not the consumers of whiskey.

This reminded many Americans of Parliament’s taxes on the colonists.  Taxation without representation they had cried then and rebelled.  Americans don’t like taxes.  Who does?  So they would rebel once again.  The only problem was that it was different now.  It was taxation WITH representation.  It was a tax levied by the new American government, not by British Parliament.

But they rebelled despite this difference.  We call it the Whiskey Rebellion.  Because it was, well, I guess that goes without saying.  With memories of Shays’ Rebellion (poor farmers in Massachusetts rebelling against debt they couldn’t pay off and high taxes) still fresh in their memory, government moved swiftly to put this rebellion down.  And they did.

Farmers in Western Pennsylvania said that the tax wasn’t ‘fair’.  But why?  Didn’t it only tax whiskey?  And wasn’t limiting whiskey consumption a good thing?  Well, the problem was the lack of money to facilitate trade.  And the lack of roads.  The farmers in western Pennsylvania (grain farmers) had good farmland.  And good crops.  What they didn’t have was a good way to sell those crops.  Not as grain, at least.

What can you make from grain that is ‘valuable’ and easier to transport than grain?  You guessed it.  Whiskey.   And this is why it was not ‘fair’.  Farmers converted excess grain (something of value) into whiskey (something of greater value).  Whiskey was more portable than grain.  Smaller amounts of it equaled the value of larger amounts of the raw grain.  Whiskey was more durable than grain (it aged, grain rotted).  It took farming PLUS distillation to make whiskey so whiskey was scarcer than grain.  So they used whiskey to trade for things of value they wanted.  It was a medium of exchange.  Because there was little money available, those farmers used whiskey as money. 

It wasn’t a ‘sin’ tax to the famers.  It was a tax on their money.  It was, therefore, a tax on everything they purchased with that money.  It was a national sales tax.  Or a national value-added tax (VAT).  That only they were paying.

ANYTHING THAT HAS the attributes (scarce, divisible, stores value, etc.) of money can be money.  It’s that thing that helps facilitate trade between the wealth producers.  It’s a medium of exchange.  It allows people with human capital to produce more goods and services.   And that’s what it’s all about.  The goods and services.  It’s what we want.  Not the money.  We want the house, car, TVs, cell phones, etc.  We’d rather have those things than the money.  It’s why we trade the money for them.  We trade our human capital for money.  Then trade the money for the stuff we want.  Goods and services created by other wealth-creators using their human capital.

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