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Economics in One Article

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who is not the only socialist currently running for the U.S. Presidency, but who is the only candidate honest enough to openly say that he’s a socialist, has recently gotten a bunch of buzz in some circles for saying this:

You can’t just continue growth for the sake of growth in a world in which we are struggling with climate change and all kinds of environmental problems. All right? You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country. I don’t think the media appreciates the kind of stress that ordinary Americans are working on.

Kevin Williamson has written a brilliant summary of what is wrong with Senator Sanders and his ideology. It is well worth reading even if you already know the topic well.

Here’s a link: Bernie Sanders’s Dark Age Economics

I have heard one friend refer to the essay as “Economics in One Article” and there’s some truth to that. It’s very well written, very general, and filled with amazing quotes, such as this one:

Markets adapt to political changes, and the hierarchy of values that distinguishes between an hour’s worth of warehouse management, an hour’s worth of composing poetry, an hour’s worth of brain surgery, and an hour’s worth of singing pop songs is not going to change because a politician says so, or because a group of politicians says so, or because 50 percent + 1 of the voters say so, or for any other reason. To think otherwise is the equivalent of flat-earth cosmology. In the long term, people’s needs and desires are what they are; in the short term, you can cause a great deal of chaos in the economy and you can give employers additional reasons to automate rote work. But you cannot make a fry-guy’s labor as valuable as a patent lawyer’s by simply passing a law.

Do give it a read. You may be linking to it for years to come.

EDITED TO ADD: A friend pointed out this important message from the Bernie Sanders Save The Children Fund:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fspZiT8TdBE&w=560&h=315]

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26 comments to Economics in One Article

  • roystgnr

    That was a great bit in Lucifer’s Hammer. How do socialists not notice how old the socialist complaint is that capitalism creates too much stuff? More importantly, how do they not notice how frighteningly good socialism is at fixing that “problem”?

  • Paul Marks

    If people really want to protect the environment they should support PRIVATE PROPERTY and VOLUNTARY INTERACTION.

    However, Greenism is not really about protecting the environment – it is about power and control.

    Which is why statists such as the Senator from Vermont love it – it is a perfect excuse for what they want to do anyway.

    Hillary Clinton (and co) are the same.

  • John Mann

    If Bernie Sanders really wants to feed hungry children in the USA, he doesn’t need to take action to regulate the deodorant market. All he needs to do is to use the US Navy to take the hungry children to Venezuela where they can be fed.

  • Lee Moore

    But you cannot make a fry-guy’s labor as valuable as a patent lawyer’s by simply passing a law.

    Actually that’s one of the few things you can do by passing a law. The labour of a patent lawyer’s is wholly a creation of statute, and its value can be reduced to zero simply by abolishing patents.

  • Laird

    “How do socialists not notice how old the socialist complaint is that capitalism creates too much stuff?”

    Have you not noticed how old Sanders is? He’s the typical elderly socialist: he hasn’t learned anything in 50 years, and what he learned then is wrong.

  • Gareth

    You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country.

    What a plank. Children are hungry despite consumer choice not because of it.

  • Plamus

    Ah, Bernie… I’ll just leave this here.

  • Mr Ed

    Plamus, Mr Sanders at least had this to his credit, per your post.

    Sanders called for the “abolition of compulsory education” during his four statewide runs in the 1970s as a member of the Liberty Union party.
    As a Liberty Union candidate, he called for legalizing hitchhiking:

    So like a stopped clock, he can be right twice a day.

  • llamas

    @ Lee Moore, who wrote:

    “But you cannot make a fry-guy’s labor as valuable as a patent lawyer’s by simply passing a law.

    Actually that’s one of the few things you can do by passing a law. The labour of a patent lawyer’s is wholly a creation of statute, and its value can be reduced to zero simply by abolishing patents.”

    Not in the US, you can’t, since patent (and copyright) are specifically mandated in the Constitution and cannot be brushed away by mere statute.

    llater,

    llamas

  • CaptDMO

    roystgnr
    “..More importantly, how do they not notice how frighteningly good socialism is at fixing that “problem”?”

    “…in a world in which we are struggling with climate change and all kinds of environmental problems.”
    Socialism (by any other “justice”, economics, humanities, political “science”, or “warrior” name) has a history of drastically reducing the numbers of the pesky “anthros” contributing to those issues as well.
    Oddly, Vermont, (especially northern Vermont) seems to be a polite society.

  • bloke in spain

    “You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants”
    Well, no you don’t. You need the single, perfect, underarm deodorant. Which is what the underarm deodorant industry is working towards & why you currently have a choice of 23. So you can choose which is the best one. The important thing being, you have that choice.
    Do your bit. Make your choice & buy deodorant. Only through your efforts will perfection be achieved.

  • Not in the US, you can’t, since patent (and copyright) are specifically mandated in the Constitution and cannot be brushed away by mere statute.

    Constitutions are just laws. Mere laws even.

  • Tedd

    That really was very good, and very quotable.

    Lee, you missed the point: even if you abolish patents and thereby reduce the patent lawyer’s salary to zero it’s still not equal to the fry-guy’s. Unless he becomes a fry-guy, but then you’d have a disgruntled asshole running your fryer, who you would pay less than a normal person so: still not equal.

  • Mr Ed

    llamas

    Not in the US, you can’t, since patent (and copyright) are specifically mandated in the Constitution and cannot be brushed away by mere statute.

    This mandate:

    Article 1, Section 8 (part)

    The Congress shall have Power To…

    To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited
    Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings
    and Discoveries;

    It empowers the Congress to make laws, it does not require that the Congress shall make any such laws, so the Congress may, from time to time, simply sweep away patent (in the Federal jurisdiction) until a future Congress decides otherwise.

    Can the States fill the vacuum? Presumably yes, as this matter is not reserved to the United States, it is granted to it, and not prohibited to the States, unless I need to dig a bit more.

  • lucklucky

    “But you cannot make a fry-guy’s labor as valuable as a patent lawyer’s by simply passing a law.”

    Patent layer only exist because of the law, fry guy labor doesn’t…

  • lucklucky

    The most extraordinary phrase of Sander is this: “I don’t think the media appreciates the kind of stress that ordinary Americans are working on.”

    Also i suppose that Sanders also doesn’t like there are 23 newspapers and magazine in US… like all Socialists it is about engineering scarcity, destroying choice and options for power.

  • Laird

    An excellent article indeed. Thanks for sharing it.

  • llamas

    @ Mr Ed – well, that’s a rather – unusual – interpretation of the US Constitution. You’re suggestiong that the Enumerated Powers are actually the Enumerated Suggestions, and that the Congress actually doesnvt have to do – anything. While I might agree that the world would be a better place if the Congress did a lot less, the general interpretation of the intent of the Constitution is that specific descriptions of the things that the Congress is empowered to do – from post offices to bankruptcy law to naturalization to Federal courts to patent and trademark – incorporates a duty to actually do those things. Somehow, I doubt the Framers left off the last clause that said ‘. . . but they don’t have to.’

    llater,

    llamas

  • Mr Ed

    llamas

    Somehow, I doubt the Framers left off the last clause that said ‘. . . but they don’t have to

    Well, it’s quite straightforward, a power to do something is not an obligation to do it. Hence the Lord’s Prayer ‘……And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…’.

    We may do things that we need not do. The Congress may be tempted to use its powers, all to frequently, and too expensively, but it need not do so.

    You’re suggestiong that the Enumerated Powers are actually the Enumerated Suggestions, and that the Congress actually doesnvt have to do – anything

    You appear to have fallen into error there, are you implying that a power to act equates to an obligation to act? It seems to me that you are making an impermissible extrapolation from my comment. I’m simply saying what the Constitution provides that the Congress has the power to do, and that is that. That a group of men may have the power to piss in a pot and drink from it does not require them to do so.

  • Laird

    Llamas, I think Mr Ed’s interpretation is correct, and not at all “unusual”. Having the power to do something doesn’t generally create a duty to do it; quite the opposite, in fact. Otherwise the Framers would have included the word “shall” (a word with which they were quite familiar) somewhere in that clause. As a practical matter they are indeed “enumerated suggestions”, as you say.

    As a further (and very different) illustration of this principle, I offer Article III, Section 1: “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” There is no obligation to create any such “inferior courts”, or any specific type of court. Hence we have not only the familiar trial and appellate courts (organized into districts which change from time to time at the discretion of Congress) but also specialized courts like the Court of Claims and the Tax Court. But Congress also has the inherent power to limit those “inferior” courts, and to remove certain types of cases from their jurisdiction. It has done so before and likely will again, and there is nothing unconstitutional about it. We once had a federal “Court of Customs and Patent Appeals” which was abolished outright in 1982 (and its docket transferred to the newly-created Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit).

    When was the last time you saw a “post road”? Why is there no longer any “obligation” to maintain them along with post offices? And for that matter there is always discussion about abolishing the Postal Service, and while there are plenty of arguments raised against that I’ve never heard a claim that such action would be unconstitutional. Congress has no obligation to create copyright laws, merely the power to do so if it chooses. And it can certainly change its mind.

  • Julie near Chicago

    It’s a huge error to suppose that the Constitution implies (per intent of the framers, the signers, or the general public at the time) that the Government must do whatever it is empowered to do, even if the statutes enacted stay within the bounds of the Enumerated Powers.

    Coupled with the normal tendency to expand the meanings of words till the words encompass the Universe, thus becoming meaningless, as well as with some tendency to take words over and use them to refer to something completely different from what they heretofore meant, the doctrine that “Government must do what Government is Constitutionally empowered to do” is one of the fundamental ideas underlying the doctrine of the “Living Constitution” in the sense that the lefties use term.

    In other words, Mr Ed and Laird are right, and for a really unusual occurrence I disagree with llamas.

    And as is pointed out above, in general the fact that a party “can” (is capable of, has the power to) or “may” (is allowed to) do something does not imply that the party (any person or any group) MUST do it. I CAN have corn pancakes for supper tonight, but that doesn’t mean I HAVE to.

  • Alex

    In addition to the persuasive arguments above by Mr Ed, Laird and Julie I offer the Necessary and Proper clause. If it was the case that the Enumerated Powers were Enumerated Obligations then there would be no need for that clause which explicitly states that Congress “shall have power” to make laws to execute the Enumerated Powers. This clause was a point of contention between the Federalists and the anti-Federalists precisely because the anti-Federalists were concerned the clause would grant Congress limitless power. I think it might be reasonably concluded that the anti-Federalists were right, though whether the States would have survived and become a shining beacon of liberty (until relatively recent times) without the clause is a very valid debate to be had.

    The definitive example of the abuse of the Necessary and Proper Clause is McCulloch v. Maryland, in which Chief Justice Marshall began the slippery slope the anti-Federalists had been concerned about (my emphasis):

    We admit, as all must admit, that the powers of the Government are limited, and that its limits are not to be transcended. But we think the sound construction of the Constitution must allow to the national legislature that discretion with respect to the means by which the powers it confers are to be carried into execution which will enable that body to perform the high duties assigned to it in the manner most beneficial to the people.

  • Alex

    Hmm, emphasis elements inside blockquotes have no styling to distinguish them. I should have used strong emphasis (bold).

    We admit, as all must admit, that the powers of the Government are limited, and that its limits are not to be transcended. But we think the sound construction of the Constitution must allow to the national legislature that discretion with respect to the means by which the powers it confers are to be carried into execution which will enable that body to perform the high duties assigned to it in the manner most beneficial to the people.

  • Lee Moore

    I’d offer an even simpler illustration. The Constitution grants the Congress the power to declare War. It seems unlikely that this requires the Congress to seek out enemies to declare War on, to forestall the appalling possibility that a period of unconstitutional peace engulf the Union.