Defanging the Three-Headed Monster Wrecking Our Economy

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

America's economic policies are at a crossroads. Devaluation of the currency is raising the costs of goods, real wages are down, and the Federal government seems helpless to do anything about it. The answer may be for the Federal government to stop trying to do anything about it. 

The American Institute for Economic Research's Art Carden recently described the three heads of the beast that have delivered these awful economic policies. Let's take a look at those three heads.


First, we don’t know what to do. It is a revelation to many economics students that policies like minimum wages, rent controls, laws against “price gouging,” and tariffs on goods made in foreign countries hurt the people they are intended to help. People don’t appreciate how well markets work, they don’t know how poorly communism has fared, and they don’t understand just how much better off we are than our ancestors were.

This is happening, frankly, because our systems of education have utterly failed. Too many of our local school systems have gone all-in for gender ideology, and are graduating students who are incompetent in mathematics and who are functionally illiterate. It's not surprising, then, that we have likewise failed to teach a complex subject like economics; specifically, the historical failures of socialism and the idea that no central planner or group of planners can ever hope to meaningfully control the economic decisions of billions of people making trillions of economic decisions every day. Those decisions range from deciding to buy a candy bar or deciding to buy a home.


Why live at your own expense when you can live at someone else’s? This, incidentally, is precisely how Frederic Bastiat defined government, as “the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” A lot of us may not realize we’re doing this. People would recoil in horror at the idea of breaking into a neighbor’s house and stealing the cash in his wallet. They vote enthusiastically, however, for policies that take a slice out of his paycheck.

The siren song of Free Stuff appeals to far too many. But it's not the role of government to shield people from the consequences of their own bad decisions. And this, frankly, may be the hardest part of the beast to take out; imagine a politician whose primary campaign platform is "no more free stuff; if one does not work, one does not eat," as opposed to a leftist pol whose platform is the same old, "I'm gonna soak those rich SOBs and give you more of their money!" The first may be elected in some of our deeper-red areas, but in the major cities, that's honestly hopeless. Too many people have bought into the politics of envy for too long.

It's hard to run against Santa Claus.


Arrogance is our political beast’s third head. Arrogance comes with thinking the world is a simple place that would be easy to fix if we only had the political will to put the right people in power or make the right policies.

This may be the worst of the three. It's a pernicious and dangerous attitude. The worst argument the Left has, when confronted with the many and various failures of socialism, is to claim that "this wasn't real socialism." The problem, of course, is that those examples are exactly what real socialism does, how it inevitably fails. But the Left insists that, if we only put the right Top Men in charge -- and they say that meaning themselves-- that somehow, like Bullwinkle pulling a rabbit out of a hat, somehow this time it really will work. And it never does.

The GOP should see an opportunity here. How should they work to slay the three-headed beast? Liberty, of course. Promise deregulation. Promise lower tax rates. Promise smaller government. Promise that people will be able to keep more of what they earn. Promise to make it harder for looters and moochers to coast in neutral. Promise to get the government out of education. And, while you’re at it, talk about bringing order back to our major cities so that they can prosper once again, and maybe also talk about eliminating some extra-constitutional Federal departments and agencies.

Then deliver. Talk is cheap. Action is priceless.

Mr. Cardon concludes:

Can we slay this three-headed monster? Doubtful, but there is reason to be optimistic. The last three centuries of rhetorical, institutional, and cultural change have clapped it in irons to the benefit of a world that is rapidly making poverty history. Even with these handicaps, it still does a lot of damage; however, if we can bind the monster even faster by eschewing political relations and embracing commercial relations, we can reduce its threat to our freedom and flourishing.

We may be able to reduce the threat, but we'll never eliminate it. That's not possible. Maintaining liberty requires constant vigilance, it requires jealously guarding our freedom; it also requires knowing that every election is important and that every threat to our liberty, no matter how nonsensical, has to be taken seriously.

Freedom. That's the key. That's always the key.


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