Ringing the Bell for Capitalism


Am I a weirdo for anxiously anticipating this season because I volunteer for the Salvation Army? Isn’t my attitude contrary to the selfish side of human nature?

From my little survey at the entrance to Fareway, I don’t think people are all that bad. There are some who appear to need money for shoes, putting paper money in the kettle. It is quite heartening; like seeing Al Gore driving a Geo Metro.

Unlike the mythological conservatives portrayed in the media today, I don’t hate poor people.

In fact, I was a poor person at one time. As mentioned in a column one year ago, I had plastic instead of glass on my windows of an abandoned house, hauled water in five gallon buckets from a creek and never dreamed of going to a movie, flying on an airplane or starting a family because I couldn’t afford it.

In an editorial in a local paper it was mentioned that a great many in this country want to discourage the poor from applying for help unless they are desperate. What does desperate look like compared to the conditions I just described? By the way, I was perfectly happy carrying water and feeding a wood stove in a house with a thirty degree variation in temperature between ceiling and floor, for a while. Then I got tired of it so I moved and got a different job.

Maybe these meanies who have different standards for “desperate,” endured conditions the so-called poor of today haven’t dreamed of and were too proud to ask for help. So they don’t think taxpayers should be tapped for assistance until people are truly desperate.

The editorial I mentioned above was about the small portion of Pope Francis’ “apostolic exhortation” where he criticized “trickle-down” economic policies and failed capitalism as widening the gap between rich and poor. The editorial goes on to say more laws are needed to control unbridled capitalism because of these failures.

The question is, are the failures of capitalism caused by unbridled capitalism or by the bridle? What if the failures were caused by manipulation or interference, rather than by freedom? Adding more regulation would make matters worse.

After calling for more “vigilance” by the states for “the common good,” the editorial gets to the real meat of the issue, “the free market isn’t really free anymore,” and is rooted in “crony-capitalism.” How can there be so much criticism of free markets that don’t exist and haven’t since before WWI?

The concept of opportunity cost I learned about at Iowa State can be used to explain the widening gap of wealth that we (so obviously) are experiencing today.

It is not a problem created by capitalism. It is crony-capitalism, where costs are shifted to society in general to benefit special interests. The sheeple are convinced these costs benefit the common good as they are being robbed.

If the Pope and the media really care about the poor, there are some things widely ignored that they should focus on instead of gouging the rich folks who actually do lift up the poor by employing them for productive purposes.

“Renewable energy” is a prime example of malinvestment which drains away capital badly needed for economic growth that would trickle down to those in need. Real gas gets better mileage than ethanol blends and wind power is outrageously more expensive than coal power. Yet our dear crony-capitalist governor travels around lobbying to “save jobs.” To claim that these misguided “investments” benefit the populous of Iowa, ignores the fact all the people of Iowa are paying more for energy just to benefit workers in these industries. Some of these workers’ wealth may trickle-down but there’s no way there’s enough of that to outweigh such broadly inefficient energy costs.

Artificially low interest rates provided by Federal Reserve bond buying and fractional reserve banking also hurt the poor in under-appreciated ways. The value of cash savings of middle class and retired families shrinks to benefit the big banks and crony-capitalists at the receiving end of the new money. This is reflected in higher prices and then mistakenly blamed on greedy merchants or corporations.

The “covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience” the Pope mentions is probably better assigned to those receiving government largess, whether corporations or low income assistance, than CEOs and independent business people whose products are chosen purely for their benefits to customers.

Whether our concerns are for the desperately needy or just those stuck in a subsistence rut, the answer is not further soaking of the rich but of restricting access to productive citizens’ wealth through government central planning and encouragement.

The gap between the rich and the rest of us has widened in direct proportion to government spending. The connection should be obvious. The call for more of the same either shows ignorance or bad intentions. Capitalism is what enables prosperous countries to lead the world in charitable giving.

Don’t let your generous side be hijacked by the welfare state. Give freely to a private charity and let’s put the crony-capitalists out of business.

Debatable Facts Require a Principled Stand

I’m not an investigative journalist. I don’t have the time around farming, which I love more than writing. Although, as my tired old bones cause me to put a pipe on a wrench handle more often, I look toward the day when I can write about facts I discover myself rather than rely on the claims of my enemies. For the record, my enemies are lobbyists.

In the “big oil” versus bio fuel debate, for example, I read an Associated Press (AP) article claiming environmental hazards from ethanol. I’ve also read much about the benefits (environmentally) of ethanol from owners of ethanol plants and politicians who recognize the value of big oil as a villain. We could easily suppose AP does favors for big oil. We could also presume corn growers like Bill Northey and ethanol producers like Charles and David Koch have some influence on media and politicians in Iowa. But those are just suppositions and presumptions made by my enemies.

So I think it is best to take at face value the supposed facts presented by either side. Both sides are just playing the system the best way they can to win booty in the piracy of politics. There might be some who actually believe ethanol will save us from dependance on foreign oil, assuming trade (which is the only proven path to world peace) is a bad thing. And there might be some who think it is the U.S. government’s responsibility to insure oil companies never pay the true cost of a product enabled by empire.

Those who do have faith in the positions taken by big oil or ethanol devotees are suckers taken in by propaganda. The great debate about which is the better fuel centers on anything except how that debate should be won. In the world of science new discoveries can change things overnight. So basing policy (defined as government positions that cost and control us) on detailed facts or theories can prove to be a mistake the day after it was considered indisputable.

That is why it is so important that the market decide. The owners of oil infrastructure or bio fuel production should be the ones who bear the cost of getting their product to market and not a penny should be coerced from taxpayers for those purposes. That is how the risks and rewards borne by producers and beneficiaries should direct us to the proper mix of energy products.

The very idea of a Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) should make patriotic Americans grab their torches and pitchforks and storm the castle. The mere mention of our brave soldiers defending foreign governments and oil companies should have us sending back our tax forms signed “no thanks!”

Government setting sales targets or defending Americans outside our borders are both illegal according to our Constitution, besides being impractical and wasteful. Those who decry ideals as being a hindrance to progress should take notice: The Constitution is ultimately a practical document. By preventing government “investment” and requiring a congressional declaration to go to war, it was designed to restrain a government that can be manipulated by thieves and con artists.

I cannot favor an RFS or our military directed to defend big oil at taxpayer expense. A government which is used to do the opposite of its intended purpose (defending individuals from force and fraud) needs to be reigned in.

If I were an investigative reporter, I would seek out the connections between the beneficiaries of energy policy and the policy makers. I don’t have time, but I can recognize when my rights are being violated by big oil and the bio fuels lobbies.

By the way, there is a chance coming up for each of us to defend our property. Rock Island Clean Line may try to use eminent domain for land to put a power line across Iowa. Eminent domain, by definition is the practice of taking land without the owner’s consent. Fair market value can only be legitimately determined by the agreement of both parties. Don’t get caught up in details. Take a stand.

Tuesday, December 17th at 7:00 pm in the Latimer Community Center.