These last few weeks I’ve been keeping watch…waiting to see how often the fundamental truth of economics is mentioned. It’s a law, not a theory, that has never been violated in all of history save, though Abraham doesn’t refer to it, perhaps in the Garden of Eden. Remember it? They taught it in the first economics lecture and then ignored it. Don’t feel bad if nothing comes to mind. Nobody mentioned it in the over two months I’ve been watching. Nobody on the internet and nobody on the radio or television wrote or spoke of it.
The truth is this: Economics is the study of scarce resources. Dig even a moment longer and you will realize that this means that there is never enough of anything available to satisfy people in general. Indeed if you read fellows like Suetonius, an historian who tells stories worthy of the National Rag, you discover that no truly rich person was ever individually rich enough to be satisfied. Read on to the so called “robber barons” and you may conclude, as I have, that Andrew Carnegie was satisfied. But then he gave away organs, and libraries, and teacher pensions, and even the odd rowing ponds in one of which I used to wade.
So, I wondered, if nobody thinks about this in public does it matter? And there, boys and girls, I discovered a dividing line between Republicans and Democrats which I suggest you ponder carefully. Republicans, on the whole, believe that there are absolute rules of economics, politics, and business with which we diddle at our peril. Democrats, again on the whole, believe that rules are arbitrary and temporary and can be adjusted as needed by bright folks of “good heart”
That means we disagree, in economics and other things, about fundamentals, the basic stuff of our political approaches. More to what is reported today… we can not even begin to agree as to where to start a discussion. We can’t even agree as to what is a right. Republicans, if you will, believe that rocks fall down. Democrats, especially the humanist sort, believe rocks fall where we legislate. That’s why there are “dog” Democrats today but “Liberal” Republicans have generally disappeared.
I went down to the pier here in Portland. Maine for the first “Tea Party” rally. I stare at the tea bag I was given to pin on my coat as I write. It was the first political event I attended since 1969. So I’m an old guy. Most everyone I talked with was lots younger than me. One girl, about 16, impressed the heck out of me. And it was she who asked me about scarcity. Where do the Democrats create all the money, all the wealth? I asked her if she had three or four hours to spare. She was off to a dance that weekend so I sent her (Email – I’m not an entire antique.) a list of good things to read. About three months later I got a reply. “Oh S**t!” So I sent a reply: “Now you know how I feel.”
What I have learned from this is that all the blathering media, whatever adjective you may apply, restores my and my fellow honest citizens’ faith in our founders. There is a divide upon which most of us fall on the republican side. Let us market (as a former management prof. I refuse to say sell) ourselves in those terms. It is not the convenient words of current political discourse, as used by all the media types of both sides, that describe most Americans. There are realists and dreamers. Get that boys and girls: “Realists and Dreamers”! Our founders were realists. Refusing monarchies, they knew just what a mess dreamy representative government could be. They, as I, had read L’Encyclopedie (Diderot and Voltaire).
It is far too easy to be dreamy about economics, especially about it being a mere snap of the fingers that separates us from all our individual dreams of health care. The Democrats are right in their economic analysis: things can be cheaper and more plentiful for all at the same time. But their eyes fog over and they see gracious purple visions when someone says this can be done without reining in the lawyers and refusing, sometimes, extra-expensive treatments. My dying documents say this. My attorney assured me they do. I couldn’t put it in simple words of my own. These are my words: “If I am bound to die plug me into whatever and feed me ‘happy drugs’. Don’t work too hard keeping me alive but let me be entertained as my body, or brain, or whatever, drifts away. But do keep me clean, cleanly dressed, and temperature-comfortable. And sneak me a nifty snack from time to time. Don’t let my family get bent because I am somewhat round the bend.” I wrote this when I knew what I was doing. I fought over a clause about having flowers. I’m none too fond of flowers and wanted any sent for me to be diverted to folks who would enjoy them. Turned out that was a very expensive clause in DC at the time.
This last, the longest paragraph of this essay, is dedicated to sending flowers sent to me to others because I don’t want them. That’s dreamy thought at work messing us all up.
I suggest we Republicans go back to the realism of our founders. Read Lincoln. And read the fellows who got him to run for President. Especially read those folks if you are black. And then for the hide-bound constitutionalists like me… read deeper. Let us advance from the turf we invented to meet the needs of ordinary folks.
To finish. We are fundamentally realists. They are dreamers.