Rent Seekers

I was lying in bed the other night visualizing a knife cutting through the skin on my knee and then a saw cutting the joint free from my leg bones. Wow. Back when I was part of the invention of the modern skateboard (fiber wheels from discarded skating rink shoe skates on a piece of plywood) I was proud of my bloody knees. They showed I was pushing the limits, a badge of honor.

Now I’m glad I have a well-trained doctor with a Tesla instead of pavement working on my knees. I’m glad he qualified for his advanced education instead of being displaced by someone else because of what they looked like.

It’s a problem bigger than a few instances where affirmative action might help a disadvantaged person move up the economic ladder. The case of my doctor isn’t so much different from the fuel in your car, your electricity, or your security. They could all be the product of personal choices between all involved, or they could be hobbled by the monkey wrench of government intervention, adding cost to benefit less efficient players.

In the science of economics “rent seekers” are those less efficient players who gain a foothold in our personal lives through government intervention based on the myth that ordinary people are not smart enough to know what is good for them. What separates the chosen planners from the rest of us are connections (and contributions?) such as Trump’s friends in the metals industry that had him putting tariffs on imports. The users of that steel and aluminum had to raise prices for consumers.

Those foreign producers arrived at their dominance through various means that ultimately benefited all of us. We should have appreciated their feat instead of punishing consumers and rewarding rent seekers.

More than half the corn grown in Iowa is used to produce ethanol, even though corn is food and oil is not scarce. The scarcity of oil was put in further doubt at Gas Resources Corporation where scientists mimicked abiotic oil, that is, oil that is produced with minerals instead of dead plants and animals. That fact indicates an endless supply of oil. Couple that with research that shows CO2 is not responsible for global warming and we see flight from oil as being even more ridiculous. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t benefit by using the cleanest technology to make our air fit to breathe.

Ethanol fuel exists because of corrupt government officials. If the drought continues and politicians expand wars, we will wonder why we are growing corn for fuel. If we wonder and it makes us think, we will throw the bums out who have intervened in what could be a beautiful system of mutual cooperation. Who is to know what other crops may have flourished without corn subsidies crowding out any potential for such things?

A solar farm in Indiana is being built because of the same thing. Mammoth solar project will cover 13,000 acres of prime farmland and cost $1.5 billion as reported by The Guardian, in a state that is the 11th cloudiest in the nation. Federal tax credits allow Mammoth to rent the land for $1,000 per acre.

Carbon capture pipelines will cost taxpayers $23 billion through federal Section 45Q tax credits. Pipeline owners have obvious connections with government officials. Soil profiles built by centuries of natural processes will be destroyed for nothing but the tax credits for a few rent seekers.

U.S. intervention in the politics of Ukraine and Russia have drained American resources, stopped grain shipments to impoverished third world countries and promise a frigid winter for Europe. To recognize that for what it is, does not make you pro-Putin. It makes you a patriotic American.

The bottom line in all these stories is that without government intervention we will get along fine. Everything that touches us will be higher quality, less expensive, and when fraud or theft occurs, the government (freed from managing and planning) may have time to actually do its job.

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