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.

WSJ letter about defense spending (basically)

Dear Editor,

The letter “Ronald Reagan vs. the GOP” says recent administrations and lawmakers have failed to invest in a strong national defense.

With our so-called defense spending at nearly the total of all the other countries combined on earth, doesn’t it seem like it’s time we investigate what we are defending or the efficiency of our defense structure?

Let’s not forget that excessive military spending with a lot of help from the inefficiency of socialism instigated the collapse of the USSR. Sound familiar?

Fritz Groszkruger

WSJ Liz Truss Letter

BTW, I couldn’t find the article in the on-line version.

Dear Editor,

“Truss’s Libertarian Dream Manifested as a Nightmare,” (Oct. 22-23 Journal) helped shed some light on how Liz Truss’s reforms produced such disastrous results.But we have to actually read the article.

The tax cuts and deregulation would be, “… paid for not with spending cuts, but with debt.” To bury such crucial information in the ending of the article borders on dishonesty and a false accusation of failure of limited government, or libertarianism.

Rerun Column…

… with this note:

I get very little feedback on The Alternative. It’s disappointing. I can’t imagine so many people agree with me or see no need to dispute what I write. Please break the ice. Have some confidence in your opinions. Exchange ideas to make an attempt to find the truth. Write a letter to the editor, or at least to me.

I’m sorry but this is a rerun from 2009. I was so flabbergasted at the corruption I was going to write about that I decided to do more research later.We subscribe to Netflix DVD which has a much bigger inventory than the streaming service. I’m an old guy and don’t appreciate the computer crutches and fluffy plots I’ve seen in recent movies. So here’s a sample of my taste in movies and try not to be spoiled.

“Shenandoah” (1965): When Jimmy Steward died a few years ago, Rush Limbaugh neglected to mention this emotional film. In it, a Virginia farmer tries to keep his sons on the farm instead of fighting in the war of northern aggression (also known as the Civil War, even though the South wanted to secede, not change the North). I don’t imagine Rush, who never experienced war himself, cared for a movie made by a real war hero that exposes the impact of war on families. On a personal note, when I was a kid, Doug McClure worked in my dad’s office posting stock quotes on a board while trying to start a movie career. He played one of Stewart’s sons.

“Europa Europa” (1990) R: Based on the autobiography of Solomon Perel. Perel is a Jew whose parents were captured in the Nazi invasion of Poland. He changes his name and joins the Hitler youth as a way to survive the Holocaust. He climbs the Nazi ranks while trying to conceal his Jewishness. A thriller with some humor, this is in German with English subtitles. It’s worth the hassle.

“The Bellboy” (1960): This crazy movie is Jerry Lewis’ first shot at directing. It’s basically a series of skits as Jerry plays a mute bellboy in a fancy hotel. There’s nothing political about it. If you don’t laugh out loud, call the EMTs.

“Blood and Oil: The Middle East in World War I” (2006): To understand what is going on in the world today we need to know history. It should surprise no one that fanatical Islamists are not the only reason Western countries can’t keep their hands to themselves. Life is more complex than us versus them.

“Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India” (2001): Bollywood does what Hollywood has lost the ability to do. This Indian masterpiece is highly entertaining. It’s a musical about arrogant British colonists (is there any other kind?) taxing farmers into poverty. The farmers challenge the imperialists to a game of cricket, the stakes being no tax for three years or a doubling of the present draconian rate. The rag-tag group of farmers don’t seem to have a chance against the sophisticated Brits; the perfect ingredients for a classic sports movie. It’s long. It took us three nights and it’s in Hindi with subtitles. You’ll get used to the subtitles and if you miss some it doesn’t matter.

“Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life” (1925): Merian C. Cooper, who later invented Cinerama, filmed this documentary about Persians migrating to greener pastures through raging rivers and over 12,000 foot mountain passes. Amazingly shot in 1925, this is a silent film with witty titles occasionally flashed to tell us what we are already thinking. The Bakhtiari, 50,000 strong, take their families and a half million head of stock on this hike twice a year. I couldn’t help but think how one of these family values role models would compare to the Western politicians who belittle these people as evil or sub-human. Michael Moore should see this to find out what a real documentary is.