By QMC, USN (Ret)
It’s so nice to be insane
No one asks you to explain
From “Angie Baby”
Written by Alan O’Day
(Note: For those who, unlike Senator Sanders and myself, are not afflicted with geezerhood, or despite being old enough, are otherwise unfamiliar with Helen Reddy’s 1974 #1 record “Angie Baby,” you can read the lyrics here, or watch a performance here. Doing so may make some of the references below appear slightly less nonsensical.)
It seems that a lot of Americans live their lives in the blather they hear in the news on the TV. When a young person doesn’t have any brains, that’s a really nice place to be. Politicians appear in their rooms each night, and they promise, if not to whirl them across the floor, then merely to solve all of their problems, and relieve them of that pesky little task of thinking and doing for themselves. But, of course, they always seem to fade away when reality taps on the door. Are people living in a world of make-believe? Well, maybe.
Someone who’s been peeking in a lot of rooms lately is independent Socialist Vermont senator and Democratic Party presidential candidate (I’m not sure how that works) Bernie Sanders. Just vote for me, and everything will turn out cool. I’ll show you how to have a good time.
Okay, far be it from me to have you think that I believe that Senator Sanders is “a little touched, you know.” Actually, I think that he’s quite sane, and knows exactly what he’s about. There’s an old saying that goes something like “those that can, do; those that can’t, teach.” To that I might add, those that can do neither become politicians. As per usual, it comes down to …
Simple Fact of Life #1: People can almost always be counted on to act in their personal self-interest.
Politicians serve their self-interest by attempting to convince the unwashed masses that it is in their self-interest to vote them a ticket onto the government-political-corporate-media-donor-lobbyist gravy train. For leftists like Senator Sanders, the tried-and-true sales pitch is to promise the rabble that you’re going to give them stuff. And when I say “stuff,” you know that it comes down to money. Money that Bernie doesn’t have. Money that he has to take from whoever actually earned it. But hey, what’s a little plunder among friends, as long as it’s for the greater good. “Greater good” being defined as Bernie’s ride on the train.
But since we’ve seen that Senator Sanders isn’t saddled with the burden of insanity, that means that he’s not accorded the privileges that go with carrying that burden. So, Bernie, there are a couple of minor things that I’m going to have to ask you to explain. Before I do, let me put some things out there.
Simple Fact of Life #2: Money is not actual wealth.
Actual wealth is the commodities, the goods and services, that people have, and are willing to trade for commodities that others have. Money is a medium of exchange, and a tool for assigning relative value to very different types of commodities. For instance, how many hamburgers equal one Helen Reddy performance of “Angie Baby.”
Simple Fact of Life #3: Actual wealth is constantly being produced and consumed.
This applies to all forms of wealth. When a commodity is consumed, it loses its value, and can no longer be considered wealth. The most obvious example of this principle is food. Valuable before it’s eaten, but then it’s gone, and the profits generated by its production and consumption must be invested in producing more food to replace it. A perhaps less obvious example might be the latest Hollywood blockbuster. When it’s first released, millions of people may want to buy (trade their commodities for) a ticket to see it. But then it’s largely consumed, as few people will pay to see the same film over and over. (I think that even “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” has lost most of its value.) After PPV, DVD, etc., the once-valuable commodity has become relatively worthless. But the profits generated will produce the sequel (new wealth), and the economic cycle continues.
So, Senator Sanders, let me pick out a couple of things that I’d like to ask you to explain. I could ask a lot more questions, but I don’t have the time or ambition to write that much.
First, you have said that we must increase the minimum wage to $15/hr over the next several years. Would you please explain how paying somebody more money to do the same job creates more actual wealth? Will that pimply faced kid flip twice as many burgers for $15 as he did for $7.50? I don’t think so. And what about his supervisor, who’s now making $11/hr? Will he be content to earn the same as paper-hat boy? Or will his pay increase to $18.50? If not, what’s the incentive for the newbie to learn the skills required to advance to a better-paying job? And if everyone’s pay goes up proportionally, doesn’t that just increase the dollar cost of the production of the same amount of actual wealth? Does it not follow that I, your humble middle-class truck driver, will have to trade more of the wealth that I produce to get that burger? Do I also get a mandated pay raise, even though I already earn well over $15/hr? I didn’t think so. And don’t try to tell me that those evil rich people will pay for this. They don’t eat that large of a percentage of the nation’s hamburgers. Here, I used the example of a burger-flipper, but the same principle applies to all forms of the production and consumption of wealth. So when burger boy has to pay more for the wealth that he consumes, how have you made his life any better? The answer is that you haven’t. What you have done is nothing more or less than to facilitate the plunder of the middle class. You know, those people who you somehow manage to claim to care about without bursting into uncontrollable laughter.
Senator, you claim that healthcare is a right of citizenship. Well, I agree with you on that one. Everyone has a right to healthcare. Everyone also has the right to own a Rolls Royce. What those two commodities have in common is just that. They are both commodities. They are both the result of someone’s labor in the production of wealth that is to be consumed. The only way to give wealth to somebody who has not produced it, and therefore has no commodities to trade, is to plunder someone who has produced it. Is this your idea of justice?
Frederic Bastiat, the French economist and philosopher, wrote in “The Law” (1850), that the basis for all injustice is plunder, the taking of the fruits of the labor of the producer of wealth for the benefit of the non-producer. Whether of the many by the few, or of the few by the many, plunder equals injustice. Now, the concept of justice is difficult to grasp, since in some respects it can’t really exist. Justice is in many respects like cold or darkness, neither of which actually exist. Cold is the lack of the molecular motion which we measure as heat. Darkness is the absence of the electromagnetic radiation which we observe as light. So cold and darkness are not things, but rather a lack of things. So too with justice. As Bastiat observed, the only way that there can be justice is for there to be no injustice.
So, this is where we are. The political class seeks to plunder (since they don’t produce anything that can reasonably be called wealth) the nation by promising the riff-raff that they can join in the plunder, assuming (sadly, rightly) that they won’t realize that they are the ones who are being plundered. Is that about right, Bernie? Hillary?
What’s happened to the Democratic party? How did they become the party of gimme, gimme, gimme. As I mentioned in my opening note, I’m something of an older guy. In the first presidential election that I was old enough to be interested in, I, alone among my family, favored the Democratic candidate. That guy won, and at his inauguration, said this:
Can you imagine Bernie Sanders, or any Democrat for that matter, speaking those words today with a straight face.
Neither can I. That would be living in a world of make-believe. Well, maybe.