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Envy Kills – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Envy Kills – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance Hat
Jeffrey A. Tucker
June 25, 2017
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The gunman who attempted to slay Republican Congressmen at a baseball practice had a Facebook feed. Before it was deleted, everyone could read his vitriolic attacks on the rich, his denunciations of capitalism and corporate culture, his calls for high taxes and wealth redistribution, and, of course, his push for Bernie Sanders to be the ruler of us all. We all know the litany of gripes that drove him.

And yet, when the folks at National Public Radio were reflecting on his motives, the hosts declined to speculate. They feigned to be completely mystified how a happy, charming, good soul such as this could have turned to violence. Had the tables been turned – say an alt-right agitator had shot up a civil-rights protest – there would have been no question about the motivation.

One reason for the failure to connect the dots here concerns the loss of awareness of the destructive effects of envy. When was the last time you heard a sermon against it or observed a media figure casually recognizing its evils? Condemnation of envy as a motivating force for the destruction of life and property has nearly entirely vanished from the culture. This is probably because so much of modern public policy is based on it and depends on encouraging it. What was once one of the seven “deadly sins” is now a baked-in part of our public ethos.

What Is Envy? 

Let’s return to the classic understanding of what envy is. It is part of the general vice of looking negatively upon the success of others. It is different from mere covetousness. To be covetous means to desire something that is not yours to have. It is also different from jealousy, which means to look upon the success of others and wish it were yours too. Jealousy can lead to emulation and that can be good. It is not the same as zeal, which is to feel inspiration from the good fortune of another to adapt your own life to also experience good fortune. (This commentary is taken straight from St. Thomas Aquinas.)

Envy is distinct from all these. It observes the excellence of others and desires it to stop. It sees the fortune of another and aspires to punish it. Envy is actively destructive of another’s successes as an end in itself. It is not even the case that the realization of envy brings happiness to the person who wants to harm others. It merely achieves the goal of satisfying the anger you feel when looking upon the happiness of others. It tears down. It harms. It hurts. It crushes, smashes, and kills. It begins with resentment against others’ achievements and ends in the infliction of personal harm.

To review, you notice a nice house. To say, “that very house should be mine,” is to be covetous. To say, “I want to buy a house like that,” stems from jealousy which leads to emulation. To say, “I aspire to a life in which I can afford a house like that,” is zeal. Envy is to say: “I want to burn down that house.”

Envy is a ubiquitous problem but it is not felt by everyone. Let’s say you have a person with a naturally aspirational personality. He or she looks at life as a trajectory of opportunities for success; it is a matter of will, intelligence, and creativity, and he or she believes in all those things. There is no room for envy in this person’s heart. The success of another serves as inspiration and drive to perform, not tear down.

But let’s say another person has no such outlook. He or she imagines himself to be intellectually limited, unskilled, uncreative, bound by a restricted personality or a lack of will. In this case, life seems like a series of routines not to be disrupted, and begins to resent others who pass him or her by in the struggle to achieve. This person is ripe for feelings of envy, that is, the desire to harm others who perform better than their peers.

Every successful person has to deal with the problem of encountering the envy of others. You might begin your career thinking that your excellence will be rewarded. You find that it sometimes or often is. At the same time, it incites envy as well, and you have to deal with knives in the back, hidden attempts to undermine you, plots and conspiracies to stop you from advancing. It is a sad fact but a reality every successful person has to deal with.

Medieval mythology described envy as the “green-eyed monster” because it looks at any sign of wealth with an aspiration to bring an end to it. The legend of the “evil eye” goes back to antiquity and denotes the profound fear all people have felt concerning envy. In Judaism, the rabbis taught to favor the “good eye” which calls for us to rejoice in the fortune of others, while the evil eye is the opposite impulse.

The world’s most famous anti-envy charm comes from Turkey, Greece, and Egypt. It is the Nazar, a glass eye in blue, black, and white. The idea of this charm is that it looks back at the evil eye and neutralizes its influence in your life. So far as anyone knows, it originated in the 15th and 16th century, which is not a surprise given the rising wealth of the Ottoman Empire. The merchants felt envy, and, as wealth grew, so did everyone else. This culture learned that popular hatred of wealth was something to fear, because it truly threatened the basis of people’s livelihoods. Even today, you see the Nazar in the cars, homes, boats, and keychains of average people. Even the Istanbul airport features a huge Nazar above the baggage claim.

The Politics of Envy

At some point in the 20th century, we normalized envy as a political idea. Down with the rich! His success must be punished! The 1% must be pillaged! Redistribute the wealth! All these ideas trace to an ancient idea that was widely seen not as a virtue or a good motivation but rather a socially destructive sin.

Indeed there is a burgeoning academic literature that seeks to rehabilitate envy as a motivator (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). It leads people to oppose unfairness and inequality, and hence builds the kinds of political institutions that many progressives favor. To be sure, there are good reasons to be upset and yell at the immorality of unjustly acquired wealth, but keep in mind that the problem here is not the wealth as such but the means of acquisition.

Real envy makes no distinction: it is unhinged loathing that ends in destruction. It seems like an implausible thing to do, take a sin and convert it to a political virtue. But there is a hidden truth here that people are unable to face: modern political institutions are in fact built on an ancient vice, institutionalized and unleashed.

Envy can seem relatively benign when it is embodied in political institutions. This is why Bernie Sanders can imagine himself as a preacher not of violence but of peace. “I am sickened by this despicable act,” he said of the gunman on the baseball field. “Let me be as clear as I can be. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society….”

But what about whipping up masses of people who shout for the violence of the central government to loot and pillage people merely because they are wealthy? Some forms of violence are apparently acceptable.

If you teach with every speech and every article to sow hatred and encourage people to blame others’ successes for their own plight, you are playing with fire. Sometimes the seemingly benign veneer is torn off and this ends in bloodshed.

Both sides of the great ideological splits of our time are rooted in vices. While we are quick to recognize the evil of race and religious hatred, we do not like to think about the insidious effects unleashed by hatred of wealth and success. Maybe it is time for the Nazar to make its way from the Ottoman region to our own. We need some protection from the evil eye that modern politics is working daily to unleash.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

Why Does the Afghanistan Quagmire Never End? – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Why Does the Afghanistan Quagmire Never End? – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance Hat
Jeffrey A. Tucker
June 24, 2017
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What exactly is the US military doing in Afghanistan? I’m hardly alone in wondering. The confusion is so widespread that opposition has bled into public indifference. After a decade and a half – six years longer than the US had troops in Vietnam – it’s just something we do.

What we are doing and why is another matter. Initially, the invasion had something to do with finding those responsible for 9/11. After that, there was never a clear answer, and so people who care turn to conspiracy theory, and understandably so.

Actually, Afghanistan has been on my mind much longer. I recall when the Soviets were trying to remake the country, and we Cold-War kids reveled in their failure. That they ever attempted such a thing in this vast country of seasoned warriors and fierce tribal loyalty seemed to underscore the bankrupting arrogance of the Soviet regime and the unrealizable delusion of communism.

As a kid, I wondered how the Russian people put up with it, knowing that their own government was sending its citizens to this vast and dangerous country, putting their lives at risk, killing and being killed, for no apparent reason. I recall feeling proud to live a country where the government would not do such a thing.

Such naivete.

Today, we mostly try not to think about this war, unless a friend or family member is directly affected by it.

The Determined General

For this reason, it’s a great thing that Netflix’s 100-million subscribers have the opportunity to watch War Machine, a Netflix exclusive written and directed by David Michôd, and starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Hayes, John Magaro, and Emory Cohen. It is being advertised as a comedy but the reason is unclear. It is not particularly funny, unless you find humor in watching confused human failures unfold under impossible conditions.

It is based on the true story of General Stanley McChrystal, a forgotten figure today but briefly in the news in 2010. A story in Rolling Stone revealed the drunken aimlessness of the forces under his one year of command in Afghanistan. The story was a personal humiliation for him and he retired to teach classes at Yale University and run his own business consulting firm.

The film is a respectful and penetrating analysis of the mindset that drives missions such as the war in Afghanistan, the pretension that courage, determination, and will can in any way substitute for a lack of realism and clarity about mission and purpose.

In the film,  Gen. Glen McMahon (Brad Pitt) arrives fresh from some victories in Iraq, ready to take on the job of winning the war in Afghanistan. He is full of bravado and ready to whip the demoralized and cynical troops into shape. He has his full entourage in tow: press secretary, scheduling agent, trainers and assistants, and various other toadies and flatterers. Here is a picture of military greatness.

He lets it be known that a new boss is in town, and this one surely has the experience, prowess, and determination necessary to turn this war around.

The troops start to ask questions about precisely what they are supposed to be doing in this far-flung corner of the world. For starters, who precisely is the enemy? It seems that most every native of this country wants the Americans out. Every second civilian would gladly pull the trigger to kill an American soldier if he could. If the Americans are really there to serve the people and defeat the enemy, it becomes a problem that most everyone, so far as anyone can tell, is on the spectrum somewhere in between.

The general retorts that the goal is to make Afghanistan democratic and bring the people roads, schools, and jobs. But the soldiers caution that democracy doesn’t seem to mean the same thing here as in the US. People generally vote for the person the tribal leader picks, and no one is willing to acquiesce to the dictate of the person who wins if it turns out not to be their choice.

That is not a crazy view, if you think about it. It takes some degree of civic indoctrination to make people believe they should be ruled by someone they can’t stand.

Forging Ahead

Still, the general is fearless and undeterred by these cautionary notes. To his way of thinking, all that is really missing around this place is an iron will to succeed. He has exactly that. He eats only one meal a day. He sleeps four hours at night and no more. He runs 6 to 7 miles every morning. He is a pillar of discipline, hard work, and focus. Surely he is the right man for the job. And surely there is no job beyond mastery under his command.

He gets to work, starting with…meetings. And more meetings. There are Skype calls with D.C., various commanders to glad hand, logistics to master, and plans to be made. At some point, he meets with the president of Afghanistan, hand picked by the Americans. It turns out that he is just a figurehead whose health is not good. He spends much of his day and evening watching American movies on his VCR and large screen TV. The general consults him regularly, and the president routinely approves whatever he wants to do.

The film provides a compelling picture of the core problem in Afghanistan, a vast country, dangerous terrain, absolutely no central place of control, and a massively diffuse structure of authority. The American troops have no trouble suiting up, slinging around some serious weaponry, and driving here and there in military trucks. What precisely that accomplishes is unclear. Yes, the Americans technically control the ground underneath the wheels of their trucks but that’s about it.

You are halfway through the movie when you realize that…nothing much is actually happening. Everyone is working hard, going through various routines, meeting with each others, getting briefed and giving briefings, staying in contact. Always the general steels himself for battle with his eating, sleeping, and running routines.

Just at the point the audience realizes that nothing much is happening, General McMahon seems to realize it too. He has heard that the Southern territory of the Heldman province had been completely lost to the Taliban. The general decides that this should be the focus of his efforts. He will show that the Americans can win here, and this will change the direction of the total war. And let there be no question: under his blessed leadership, American will win.

Strike that Sword

In real life, this was known as Operation Strike of the Sword, and became legendary as a real turning point in the war, with the full entrenchment of a new realization: this war cannot and will not be won. The operation involved some 4,000 American troops, 460 soldiers from Afghanistan, and some logistical support from Europe allies.

This part of the film is a genuine achievement for its harrowing realism, terrifying aloneness, and randomized violence and treachery. As it opens, American helicopters drop off the troops in the dead of night, somewhere in the desert, and they move in for hours and finally reaching what seems to be a ghost town by sunup. Already days before, the Americans had dropped leaflets telling all civilians to evacuate, so the troops just assumed that anyone remaining was an enemy combatant.

The soldiers move from building to building with a slow burning sense of inner terror. What exactly are they seeking to do around here anyway? They are trying to stay alive, that’s for sure. But who are they trying to subdue? There doesn’t seem to be anyone around, until one soldier is hit by a sniper bullet. Here matters get real and they stake out positions on a roof and start shooting back at nothing in particular, and dropping small-scale explosives on buildings.

I’ll stop the narrative here to avoid spoilers.

What I appreciated most about this presentation was what seems to be its realism, a gripping visual of the sheer aimlessness of this mission. The soldiers are all trained and suited up for conventional war but this war is anything but conventional.

A Failing Empire

War Machine is nowhere near the epic quality of a film like Apocalypse Now (the devastating film about Vietnam) but each leaves you with a sense of what has gone incredibly wrong in US war missions abroad. Apocalypse leaves the viewer with the sense that this was the wrong mission at the wrong time, conducted in the wrong way.

War Machine’s critique of the Afghanistan war has further reaching implications. On one level, it is a fantastic illustration of the principle that courage, strength of will, and dogged determination do not suffice to make fantasy reality. More broadly, the film seems to reveal an entire empire in decline, a machine that runs off a memory of some past heroism that has absolutely no relevance in the 21st century. The subplot of the general’s own marriage (a heartbreaking story) seems to serve as an allegory of the American empire itself: it has all the old form but none of the substance.

It does raise the question again: what precisely are we doing there? So long as I’ve been on this earth, the United States has been involved in one main war and one or two smaller wars. It never seems to end.

Is there some checklist in Washington somewhere that says that this must always be true, no matter what, and everything else is just an excuse? Is this what justifies the budgets, the funneling of tax dollars from the revenue agents to the military contractors and to the military bureaucracies, so that everyone can get their cut and so the status quo can last long after it ceased to have much relevance?

If there is any truth to this suspicion, it becomes clear that it doesn’t actually matter that there is no way to win the war in Afghanistan. The point is not to win but rather to keep the appearance of fighting going as long as possible. After all, if this can go on for 16 years, why not 20? Why not 50 years? Maybe Washington has discovered that a quagmire is not a failure or a defeat but rather an opportunity.

Patriots, please forgive me such dark thoughts. I await a better explanation.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

How To Survive a World of Instant Feedback – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

How To Survive a World of Instant Feedback – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey A. Tucker
******************************

I first started writing before the Internet existed. We all wrote for an audience we mostly had to imagine in our minds.

The only way to give an author feedback was to write a letter, put it in an envelope with an approved stamp, and give it to a government employee who would slog across the land and then drop it at the writer’s physical locale a week after he or she wrote the initial piece. People did it but not that often.

Yes, I know there are people reading this who find this hilarious and embarrassing. It seems as long ago as the War of the Roses. Actually it was that long ago. But the distance between then and now seems like eons. That how much and how quickly we’ve advanced.

The dark ages: everything before 1995.

Because no one really knew what readers were thinking – actually hardly anyone knew anything about anything in retrospect – you had to assume some rule of thumb about any feedback you were lucky enough to get. I assumed that one letter equalled the views of one thousand readers. Two letters saying that same thing represented five thousand readers. Three letters with the same opinion suggested near unanimity: this is the view of every reader.

Now We Know Everything

Times have dramatically changed. I could right now post a thought and get hundreds of reactions within a few minutes. There’s no shortage of input, that’s for sure. There’s email of course, but also comment boxes, forums, social media posts, and lightning-fast Twitter interactions.

Twitter is often called a cesspool of toxicity. This is mostly untrue. It’s just that the toxic parts stand out in our minds because they have a bigger impact on our psyches.

This is how it is with all feedback. I once knew a world-famous soprano who received her fans following concerts. One hundred fifty people would tell her she was fabulous and amazing. One person would say: “You were fine but it wasn’t your best night.”

Guess which comment she remembered?

So too on Twitter. Not all commentary is thoughtful. In fact, no matter what I post, unless it is completely innocuous, I’m very likely to face a flurry of outraged opinions, some of which is laced with profanity and some of which trends toward the deeply disturbing. These are the reactions we tend to remember. They rattle, shock, and alarm us. They give the impression that humanity is a teeming mass of angry, unthoughtful, and even cruel people.

It’s mostly an illusion. But it takes some experience to figure out why.

Everyone Hates You

We live in a highly partisan world generally divided between right and left, and each side is ready to pounce on anyone it perceives to be an enemy.

One day this week, I was simultaneously hammered by the left and right, and it made an interesting study in contrast.

The Twitter Left

I had written a defense of “child labor,” which is to say I wrote against laws that forbid tweens from getting a paying job as a supplement to education they are otherwise forced by government to endure. This would be a wonderful opportunity for them, and give them an awesome preparation for life. The law forbade this back in the 1930s. Today, kids are basically banned from working or face such hurdles as to make it not worth it. They can’t really be fully employed until the age of 18.

To me all of this is rather obvious, and I don’t get why I seem to be one of the only people on this beat. Regardless, the article took off and received 100,000-plus views. Some of the readers were dedicated leftists, who regard the legal abolition of “child labor” to be one of the great signs of progress in the world.

The flurry of loathing began. I was called out for being a bad person, a cruel person, a man with a heart of stone, a complete jerk who lacks a shred of human decency. In each case, I would reply asking my accuser to explain why he or she is saying this. They would respond with shock: “for God’s sake, man, you are defending child labor!”

Again, that only raises the question. One person said that I dreamt of throwing kids back in the salt mines. I don’t even know what that means. Is there a salt mine around here that is looking for 12-year old inexperienced kids to exploit? Actually, I’m thinking more of kids working at Chick-Fil-A or Walmart or a lawn company.

Anyway, this seems to be a left-wing penchant. Anyone who disagrees with their policies is a bad person. End of story.

The Twitter Right

Then you have the far-right, the sector of Internet life that has most mastered the art of trolling. Users in this camp don’t tend to use their real names. They create dozens of sock-puppet accounts. They send blast after blast designed to make the recipient feel as if he or she is being bombarded.

The same day as my child labor piece came out, I tweeted that I had doubts about the theory that Seth Rich was shot for leaking DNC emails. I raised the problem that there is a lack of evidence to support the theory. If you know about this conspiracy theory, there are hundreds of thousands of people who believe, thanks mostly to Sean Hannity, that there is a huge coverup going on, and that someone in the Hillary Clinton camp is guilty of outright murder.

I have no special intelligence on the topic. I was only asking what I thought were intelligent questions.

Then came the bombardment. I was accused of being a toady of the Democrats. A dupe. A snowflake. An apologist for Clinton. A cuck. A member of the mainstream media. In the pay of the deep state. And so on. Then the memes started. Here is where things get wicked. They use your face and plant it in cartoons, being thrown out of helicopters, being burned alive in gas chambers, and so on.

What you discover from Twitter is that when you are trolled by the right, you are only one degree separated from real Nazis. Of course they say that they are not really Nazis. They are only ironic Nazis, people using free speech to annoy the left with extremist rhetoric that is not authentic but only play acting.

As if ideas don’t matter. Of course they matter! No one wants to wake up in the morning to 150 notifications from Nazis. That will indeed take your breath away and get your heart pumping. It is supposed to. That is precisely what it is intended to do. If you then go public and write a bleating post about the rise of Nazism in America, they all cheer because that is what they hope for.

How To Deal With It

Dealing with instant feedback from anyone in the world is something new. It is no longer the case that three interactions with the same opinion represent multitudes. It could mean only three people. Even 300 interactions means only 300 interactions. There are 328 million people on Twitter.

Keep that in mind.

Other strategies I use include retweeting insults (this very much confuses your tormentors), calm and rational argumentation, and of course blocking. I feel like I block constantly. It’s not actually true: last I checked, I’ve blocked 140 people and have 26,000 followers. That’s not a huge army of trolls. That’s really a minor annoyance, even if it feels otherwise.

Most of all, I would suggest feeling nothing but gratitude for the spread of information technology. People complain constantly about fake news, internet trolls, hate armies, and so on. But you know what’s worse? Living in the dark ages. No one wants to go back.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

He Was a Middle-School Loan Shark – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

He Was a Middle-School Loan Shark – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
******************************

It came out in passing last night, in discussions with a smart 17-year old, that he got in deep trouble in middle school. He was accused of loan sharking, and forced to do detention.

See if you think there is anything wrong with what he did.

The middle-school cafeteria had candy machines. Every candy cost a dollar. My friend carried extra ones with him. He would buy candy, and immediately people would ask if he could loan them money. He did. More and more people asked. He continued to loan people money, and only some would pay him back. His charity was losing him money.

So he had an idea. He would loan anyone a dollar. However, the next day they had to pay him two dollars. This was great because it weeded out people who were not serious about their candy needs, and got rid of those who had no intention of paying him back. His idea helped to ration his scarce resources. It had the additional advantage of making him some money, which incentivized him to make funds available.

Everyone was happy. He made money. They got their candy. Most everyone paid him back. If he began the week with $5, he ended the week with $10. This was nice. No one was hurt.

If a person was late in paying, he added an additional dollar for each day. Otherwise, why would people pay sooner rather than later? So if you borrowed one dollar on Monday, and didn’t pay until Friday, you would owe $5.

Of course he did have to start keeping books on who borrowed from him. He would sometimes have to hunt them down the next day. Sometimes people need gentle reminders, of course. Mostly people paid.

He was also rather merciful. Once a person got behind by three full weeks. She technically owed $15 on a $1 loan. He came to her and said, “let’s settle this debt today. I’ll take $10 and we can call it even.” She was relieved and happily paid.

My friend was making lots of money. And why? Because many students wanted candy and failed to make the proper financial preparations to purchase it. He was there to facilitate an exchange. They would get candy now, which is what they wanted, and he would be rewarded for anticipating their desires.

So far, I see nothing wrong with this at all.

However, you could express this in more severe terms. People often criticized payday loans for charging an annual percentage rate of 100-700%. Scandalous, right?

Well, think about the rate my friend was charging. It turns out to be 26,000%, based on $1 per weekday.

Keep in mind that we are talking about a 13-year old kid here. This is not exactly a member of the Medici banking family here. He was just trying to help people with a two-party win.

But as his financial holdings grew, and his practices became more formalized, his business became ever more lucrative. That’s when news of his empire began to leak to teachers and parents.

Predictably, there was mass outrage. He was hauled in and accused of “loan sharking.” There was a trial. He was declared guilty. He was put on detention and humiliated publicly.

Once he was out of the picture, kids no longer had any means of getting financing for their candy fixes. They just stood in front of the machines staring blankly. It’s hard to see how the overall middle-school economy was improved by this crackdown.

The response of the parents and teachers was a typical example of mob behavior against intelligent capitalist practices. It’s been going on for hundreds of years, particularly hurting people who make money with their minds through financial savvy.

This was the basis of anti-Semitism from the Middles Ages through the Nazi period, since, as Milton Friedman has explained, Jews have traditionally specialized in the enterprise of money-lending.

And it goes on today, with all the frenzy against usury, payday loans, pawn shops, and so on. Even the Occupy movement sampled some of this populist outrage against money-making.

Damnant quod non intellegunt. They condemn what they do not understand.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

Kicking Out the Coders Is Not a Good Way to Reform Immigration – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Kicking Out the Coders Is Not a Good Way to Reform Immigration – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
******************************

Coding is a job you just can’t fake. Your stuff either works or it doesn’t. You can either do the job or you can’t. So ranking people according to skill is much easier. It’s a profession that is intensely competitive, and clearly not for everyone.

I can remember so well sitting around the lunch table with some employees at Google’s headquarters. Forty-five minutes in, everyone started getting antsy to get back to work. In the blink of an eye, they disappeared to get back to their desks. They are profoundly aware that performance is everything, and other great performers are ready to displace them at anytime.

Because the US is the world center of digital tech development, the demand for high-level coders has never been higher. Companies who employ workers don’t give a flying fig about your nationality. They want your talent now, from wherever you hail.

The Way In

US immigration policy has long accommodated this demand through a program called the H1-B, which pertains to skilled workers. The program permits 65,000 people with a college degree, and 20,000 with higher-level training, to work in the US for three years, during which time they can apply for green-card status. It is a harrowing life for those chosen, but it is better than being on the rejection list.

Each year more than a quarter of a million people from abroad file applications, some as thick as six inches. The chances of getting picked are good enough to keep hopes high but bad enough so that no one banks on getting in. And guess who picks the winners? It’s a lottery. A computer.

The whole system is ridiculously irrational, cruel, and self defeating, even if you believe in an America First immigration policy. Denying talented people jobs, infringing on the rights of businesses to hire whom they want, is an innovation killer. It causes the US to lose its competitive advantage, lowers economic growth, and denies all of us access to cool innovations that would otherwise make our lives better.

Even for the many critics of immigration, this program should pass muster. These people are not security risks. They aren’t going on welfare. They have the strongest possible incentive to acculturate, obey the law, and contribute mightily to American enterprise. What’s not to like?

The Way Out

So, yes, the program needs dramatic reform: it should be expanded many times over. However, the worst way to reform it is to restrict the program. In fact that seems unthinkable. And yet, we are learning with the Trump administration that nothing is unthinkable. Restricting the number of coders who have access to the H1-B program is exactly what the government is doing right now.

In recent days, immigration authorities announced a seemingly small change in what applications will be considered valid. No longer will coding be considered a “specialty occupation.” Further, the Justice Department announced that it will be conducting close investigations of tech companies that rely on the H1-B program for its coders. They are looking to make sure that companies are not denying Americans jobs in the search for quality candidates.

On the first point, this is a completely arbitrary administrative change, enacted without any Congressional vote or public comment. It’s the very embodiment of an independent bureaucracy run amok and acquiescing to political pressure from the regime in power. As for the investigations, here is a clear example of a hard truth: restrictions on immigration ultimately give more power to the state to oppress its own citizens.

What’s especially bizarre here is that this program has absolutely nothing to do with the nightmare scenarios of teeming masses of pillaging, raping terrorists pouring in across leaky borders that formed the basis of Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric during the election. He did criticize the H1-B program in passing but most observers figured that he was once again out on his usual limb, speaking on issues about which he knew nothing.

What’s more, there is not even a job displacement issue here. If Google wants to hire a programmer from abroad, it can do so with the H1-B program or simply by contracting abroad (which is not currently restricted, thank the Lord). As an American citizen coder, with whom do you want to compete? A foreign resident making $200K or a foreign worker paid $100 an hour? The former represents a much higher cost to American business, so the arrangement gives the greatest possible advantage to existing citizens. (Special thank you to FEE president Lawrence Reed for making that point to me.)

In the first months of the Trump presidency, we’ve yet to see any action on health care or taxes, two issues that drove millions to the polls to vote for him. But on immigration, there’s been plenty of action. The bureaucracy is on overdrive, denying visas, keeping out qualified workers, instituting new forms of country exit controls, and even mandating forms of extreme vetting that could compromise your own communications with your friends in Europe and the UK.

On this topic, there seems to be absolute focus. But to what end? Success will only lead American business to be less competitive, less innovative, less able to forge a brilliant future for all of us. What is the goal here? Just to keep people out? How can anyone truly believe that this objective alone is a path toward greatness?

Even for critics of immigration policy, the H1-B program represents the right kind of immigration. It is about skills, invitation, and the right of business to employ the most talented people. Something has gone very wrong with an administration that seeks to dismantle something that should obviously be dramatically expanded.

Here’s a final issue that irks me. Government is demanding the most extreme forms of vetting, investigation, and compliance on the part of business, even as no one is more affected by labor choices than business itself. But as for itself, the government is completely satisfied with the most random system of all for selecting who gets in and who is kept out. Government has outsourced its job to a pair of dice.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

Welcome Aboard, But First US Marshals Will Scan Your Retina – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Welcome Aboard, But First US Marshals Will Scan Your Retina – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
******************************
For some 15 years, airport security has become steadily more invasive. There are ever more checkpoints, ever more requests for documents as you make your way from the airport entrance to the airplane. Passengers adapt to the new changes as they come. But my latest flight to Mexico, originating in Atlanta, presented all passengers with something I had never seen before.

We had already been through boarding pass checks, passport checks, scanners, and pat downs. At the gate, each passenger had already had their tickets scanned and we were all walking on the jet bridge to board. It’s at this point that most people assume that it is all done: finally we can enjoy some sense of normalcy.

This time was different. Halfway down the jetbridge, there was a new layer of security. Two US Marshals, heavily armed and dressed in dystopian-style black regalia, stood next to an upright machine with a glowing green eye. Every passenger, one by one, was told to step on a mat and look into the green scanner. It was scanning our eyes and matching that scan with the passport, which was also scanned (yet again).

Like everyone else, I complied. What was my choice? I guess I could have turned back at the point, decline to take the flight I had paid for, but it would be unclear what would then happen. After standing there for perhaps 8 seconds, the machine gave the go signal and I boarded.

I talked to a few passengers about this and others were just as shaken by the experience. They were reticent even to talk about it, as people tend to be when confronted with something like this.

I couldn’t find anyone who had ever seen something like this before. I wrote friends who travel internationally and none said they had ever seen anything like this.

I will tell you how it made me feel: like a prisoner in my own country. It’s one thing to control who comes into a country. But surveilling and permissioning American citizens as they leave their own country, even as they are about to board, is something else.

Where is the toggle switch that would have told the machine not to let me board, and who controls it? How prone is it to bureaucratic error? What happens to my scan now and who has access to it?

The scene reminded me of movies I’ve seen, like The Hunger Games or 1984. It’s chilling and strange, even deeply alarming to anyone who has ever dreamed of what freedom might be like. It doesn’t look like this.

Why Now?

I’ve searched the web for some evidence that this new practice has been going on for a while and I just didn’t notice. I find nothing about it. I’ve looked to find some new order, maybe leftover from the Obama administration, that is just now being implemented. But I find nothing.

Update: a reader has pointed me to this page at Homeland Security:

As part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) border security mission, the agency is deploying new technologies to verify travelers’ identities – both when they arrive and when they leave the United States – by matching a traveler to the document they are presenting. CBP’s goal is to enhance national security and protect a traveler’s identity against theft through the use of biometrics.

Biometric information (such as finger, face, or iris) measures a person’s unique physical characteristics. CBP incorporated fingerprints for biometric identification and verification in 2004, and is now testing facial and iris imaging capabilities to help improve travelers’ identity protection, the integrity of our immigration system, and our national security.

I happened to be on the “one daily flight” that gets exit scanned.

Another change has to do with new rules for Homeland Security just imposed by the Trump administration. They make deportation vastly easier for the government. I have no idea if these rules are the culprit for intensified emigration checks.

What people don’t often consider is that every rule that pertains to immigration ultimately applies to emigration as well. Every rule that government has to treat immigrants a certain way also necessarily applies to citizens as well.

Chandran Kukathas is right when he says that “controlling immigration means controlling everyone.”

Regulating immigration is not just about how people arrive, but about what they do once they have entered a country. It is about controlling how long people stay, where they travel, and what they do. Most of all, it means controlling whether or not and for whom they work (paid or unpaid), what they accept in financial remuneration, and what they must do to remain in employment, for as long as that is permitted. Yet this is not possible without controlling citizens and existing residents, who must be regulated, monitored and policed to make sure that they comply with immigration laws.

To be sure, there might have been some tip off that security officials received that triggered these special measures for this flight only. Maybe they were looking for something, someone, in particular. Maybe this was a one-time thing and will not become routine.

The point is that it happened without any change in the laws or regulations. Whatever the reason, it was some decision made by security. It can happen on any flight for any reason. And who is in charge of making that decision?

On the plane, finally, my mind raced through the deeper history here. Passports as we know them are only a little over a century old. In the late 19th century, the apotheosis of the liberal age, there were no passports. You could travel anywhere in the world through whatever means you could find. Nationalism unleashed by World War I ended that.

And here we are today, with ever more controls, seeming to follow Orwell’s blueprint for how to end whatever practical freedoms we have left. And we are going this way despite the absence of any real crisis, any imminent threat? The driving force seems to be this: our own federal government’s desire to control every aspect of our lives.

Think of it: there might be no getting out of the country without subjecting yourself to this process. It’s a digital Berlin Wall. This is what it means to put “security” ahead of freedom: you get neither.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

P.G. Wodehouse Knew the Way: Fight Fascism with Humor – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

P.G. Wodehouse Knew the Way: Fight Fascism with Humor – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
******************************
One of my favorite characters from 20th century pop fiction is Roderick Spode, also known as Lord Sidcup, from the 1930s series Jeeves and Wooster by P.G. Wodehouse, and hilariously portrayed in the 1990s TV adaptation starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. He perfectly captures the bluster, blather, and preposterous intellectual conceit of the interwar aspiring dictator.
 ***
Back in the day, these people were all the same, whether George Lincoln Rockwell in the US, Oswald Mosley in the UK, or more well-known statesmen in interwar Europe. They were nativists, protectionists, longed for dictatorship, and believed that science had their back.
***
Rather than a tedious denunciation, Wodehouse gives us something more effective. He created a composite and caricature of all of them and turned it to hilarity.
 ***

Books about Nothing

Like Seinfeld, Jeeves and Wooster was “about nothing” but managed compelling cultural commentary that shaped the way a generation saw the world around them. It chronicled the amusing superficial lives of third-generation English upper class, lovable people with declining financial resources but too much dignity to take on the task of actually earning a living. There is a strong liberal spirit running through the whole series.

Roderick Spode is a character who makes appearances at odd times, making speeches to his couple dozen followers, blabbing on in the park and bamboozling naïve passersby, blowing up at people, practicing his demagogic delivery style. A handful of people take him seriously but mostly he and his “brownshort” followers are merely a source of amusement and annoyance to the London scene.

Why shorts? It seems that by the time he started ordering uniforms for his followers, there were no more shirts left. Red, brown, and black were already taken. Plus the company he contacted only had affordable shorts, so brown shorts it would be. So the required eugenic theory of his group naturally surrounded knees. He wanted everyone’s knees compulsorily measured:

Not for the true-born Englishman the bony angular knee of the so-called intellectual, not for him the puffy knee of the criminal classes. The British knee is firm, the British knee is muscular, the British knee is on the march!

The television series made him less British than German in aspiration. Here is his first speech in the television series, in which proclaims the “right, nay the duty” of every Briton to grow his own potatoes.

And here he is proposing mandatory bicycles and umbrellas for all free-born Britons. A fellow standing around says, “I say, I’ve never quite thought of it that way.”

Spode is also secretly a coward. In his other life, he is the owner, by virtue of family inheritance, of a shop that designs intimate clothing for women. He is desperate to keep this a secret, believing this profession to be incompatible with the career ambitions of an aspiring dictator. Anyone who knows this secret about his life has deep control over his psyche, with only the threat of revelation keeping him under control.

They Are Ridiculous

The entire caricature was a humiliation for the fascists of the period because it spoke truth. Their plans for economic life are ridiculous. Their eugenic theories are pseudo-science. Their pretensions to command a massive following are completely wrong. And in their private lives, they are just like everyone else: they aren’t demigods or elites or superior in any sense. They are just dudes who are exploiting public curiosity and fear to gain attention and power. They are trolls.

Humor is a great method for dealing with clowns like these, as Saturday Night Live has recently rediscovered. At the same time, we are mistaken to think they are not a threat to civilized life. In real life, Mosley in the UK and Rockwell in the US were a serious menace, as much as the establishments they opposed.

The statist Left and the statist Right play off each other, creating a false binary that draws people into their squabble. People need to understand, as F.A. Hayek emphasized in Road to Serfdom, that the fascists and communists are really two sides of a split within the same movement, each of which aspires to control the population with a version of a central plan.

It’s a question of how best to deal with them. Ideally clowns like this would be ignored, left to sit alone at the bar or at the park with their handful of deluded acolytes. That’s how Wodehouse presented his fascist – just as a silly distraction whose only value is a good joke. However, this is not typically how people do deal with them. They are so offensive to people’s ideals that they inspire massive opposition, and that opposition in turn creates public scenes that gain a greater following for the demagogue. This cycle continues to the point that the entire political landscape becomes deeply poisoned with hate and acts of vengeance.

When thinking of how genuine lovers of human liberty should deal with such settings, I always fall back on Ludwig von Mises from 1927.

It is often maintained that what divides present-day political parties is a basic opposition in their ultimate philosophical commitments that cannot be settled by rational argument. The discussion of these antagonisms must therefore necessarily prove fruitless … Nothing is more absurd than this belief … Rhetorical bombast, music and song resound, banners wave, flowers and colors serve as symbols, and the leaders seek to attach their followers to their own person. Liberalism has nothing to do with all this. It has no party flower and no party color, no party song and no party idols, no symbols and no slogans. It has the substance and the arguments. These must lead it to victory.

It can be the hardest thing in the world to remember this in the midst of political upheaval and antagonisms. People tend to believe they must join the Left to defeat the Right or join the Right to defeat the Left, forgetting that there is a third option: rule by no party and no one, but rather by universal self-rule and the society of freedom first and always.

It’s the tragedy of real-world politics that we keep moving through these phases, trading one style of central plan for another, one type of despot for another, without understanding that none are necessary. True defenders of liberty get it. That should inspire us to smile from time to time.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

Ayn Rand’s Heroic Life – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Ayn Rand’s Heroic Life – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
******************************

I first encountered Ayn Rand through her nonfiction. This was when I was a junior in high school, and I’m pretty sure it was my first big encounter with big ideas. It changed me. Like millions of others who read her, I developed a consciousness that what I thought – the ideas I held in my mind – mattered for what kind of life I would live. And it mattered for everyone else too; the kind of world we live in is an extension of what we believe about what life can mean.

People today argue over her legacy and influence – taking apart the finer points of her ethics, metaphysics, epistemology. This is all fine but it can be a distraction from her larger message about the moral integrity and creative capacity of the individual human mind. In so many ways, it was this vision that gave the postwar freedom movement what it needed most: a driving moral passion to win. This, more than any technical achievements in economic theory or didactic rightness over public-policy solutions, is what gave the movement the will to overcome the odds.

Often I hear people offer a caveat about Rand. Her works are good. Her life, not so good. Probably this impression comes from public curiosity about various personal foibles and issues that became the subject of gossip, as well as the extreme factionalism that afflicted the movement she inspired.

This is far too narrow a view. In fact, she lived a remarkably heroic life. Had she acquiesced to the life fate seemed to have chosen for her, she would have died young, poor, and forgotten. Instead, she had the determination to live free. She left Russia, immigrated to the United States, made her way to Hollywood, and worked and worked until she built a real career. This one woman – with no advantages and plenty of disadvantages – on her own became one of the most influential minds of this twentieth century.

So, yes, her life deserves to be known and celebrated. Few of us today face anything like the barriers she faced. She overcame them and achieved greatness. Let her inspire you too.

Kudos to the Atlas Society for this video:

Must We Pick a Side? – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Must We Pick a Side? – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
******************************
The wildly contentious election of 2016 seems to have inculcated certain habits of mind. We are tempted to believe that our role as citizens is like that of a sports fan. We need to choose a team and stick with it, no matter what. Our team needs us.If we lend our voices in support of the other guy, we are betraying our team. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. My friend is imperfect, but to admit this publicly is to weaken our side. It’s a test of loyalty. Therefore bring out the face paint, the jerseys, and the Vuvuzelas, and let’s fight, fight, fight!

Every day, the media exploits this model, giving us combat spectacles of left vs. right, party vs. party, this person vs. that person. This drives ratings, which is evidence that people find it intriguing. It allows spectators to participate by shouting at the TV, yelling at the radio, posting angrily on social media, having sub-tweet wars, and so on. We mimic what we see in these venues and even begin to talk like the vituperative and viral voices that fill up our feeds.

Go Team!

That turned on a light for me. I realized that there is something insidious about any approach that requires you to shut off the critical capacity of your intellect. The truth is not embodied in any political faction. If I expected to think with integrity, I had to go my own way. Realizing this was a hinge in my life, I never looked back.

The Friend/Enemy Model

To be sure, putting your brain on the shelf for political advantage has a long philosophical tradition behind it. There are of course the Marxists, who tag people as exploiters or the oppressed based on class identity – and their modern successors who apply these designations, to the point of absurdity, to a huge range of characteristics of race, sex, religion, physical ability, and gender identity. To them, life can be nothing but conflict.

But it’s not just a left-wing problem. Have a look at the work of Carl Schmitt – a right-wing Hegelian/Nietzschean – and his 1932 essay “The Concept of the Political.” (If you already know something about the situation in German academia in 1932, you can guess the rest.)

To Schmitt, to be political is the highest calling of the human person, and this always means separating people according to friends or enemies. He despises classical liberalism and economics precisely for the reason that they attempt to obliterate the friend/enemy distinction, replacing it with trade, cooperation, and forms of competition in which every competitor wins.

On what basis does politics make the friend/enemy distinction? Schmitt says it has nothing to do with norms or even high theory. “In its entirety,” he writes, “the state as an organized political entity decides for itself the friend-enemy distinction.”

But what does it mean to be an enemy? It refers to “the real possibility of physical killing.” Without bloodshed, it means nothing, which is why “war is the existential negation of the enemy. It is the most extreme consequence of enmity.”

So let’s review. To be political is the essence of life, according to Schmitt. The core of the political means to be willing to kill enemies. Therefore, we might conclude from his writings, death itself is the essence of life. Thus did Carl Schmitt become the leading philosopher of National Socialism and the intellectual font of what became the Holocaust.

Elections and Warfare Sociology

It’s true that the friend/enemy model makes sense to many people during the election season. We are all empowered with the vote. We feel a great sense of responsibility for how we use it, despite overwhelming evidence that your one vote will not swing an election. It’s mostly symbolic, but it matters, because people like participating in the democratic process, gaining power for friends and obliterating the enemy.

But the election is over. Why does this attitude persist even though no one in politics and government will be asking for our presidential vote for another four years? It’s a kind of addiction, a mental habit that gives us considerable pleasure. Maybe it’s primal, an instinctual form of low-grade violence that Freud suggests we need to overcome to have civilization.

In practice, what does blindly cheering for one team over another in politics achieve? Nothing good, in my view. It becomes psychologically debilitating to expend so much time and energy on it. Indeed, politics pursued in this fashion is poison to the human spirit. It relies on sustaining a level of hate that is toxic for anyone who wants to live a full life.

The Problem of Trumpism

The problem is compounded by the lack of intellectual coherence at the top of the ruling party. It’s not exactly a new problem, but it is unusually poignant in the case of Donald Trump. We haven’t seen this level of nationalist rhetoric in my lifetime, and it pertains to the core functioning of American economic life. The lack of appreciation for the intellectual and political achievements of free trade is palpable. Adding to that, he seems to be pushing for expensive infrastructure spending, more military pork, and an immigration policy that would certainly require extensive surveillance of American businesses.

At the same time, he has said some wonderful things about deregulation, tax cuts, bureaucracy downsizing, education, and health care, proposals dear to any liberty lover’s heart.

At best, then, the agenda is confused. So people are weighing the relative benefits and costs. Will the benefits of tax cuts be so great as to make up for the downside of new tariffs? How bad will the immigration controls be compared with the supposed benefits to national security? And so on.

This is not just an intellectual exercise. The end game here is to answer the critical question: should we favor this team or oppose it?

Think for Yourself

I suggest that this is the wrong way to think about the matter. We should not obsess over the question of whether we should cheer Trump or condemn him, become his fans or swing into opposition, defend him against enemies or become his enemies.

There is another approach. It is not easy in a hugely partisan political environment, but it is the right one. Stay independent, think clearly, watch carefully, adhere to principle, speak fearlessly, praise when good things happen and oppose when bad things happen, tell the truth as you see it, and otherwise be ever vigilant in defense of rights and liberties, yours and everyone’s. To be steadfast and honest in these times is the height of political virtue.

“At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare,” says Lord Acton, “and its triumphs have been due to minorities.”

So, yes, by maintaining your objectivity and principles in these times, you will be in the minority. But you will be a friend of freedom, and you could make all the difference.

Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

A Plan to Make Me Great Again – Article by Jeffrey Tucker

A Plan to Make Me Great Again – Article by Jeffrey Tucker

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey Tucker
******************************

I was out shopping for a sweater this weekend and I ran into Donald Trump, who told me that I should stop outsourcing my job.

“You should be knitting your own sweaters.”

I explained that I’m not very good at knitting. I have other things to do, in any case. This whole idea strikes me as a huge waste of time. I just can’t see myself sitting at home doing knitting. It’s true that this would give me a job, but it is not a job I want, especially since someone else wants to do it for me.

But he strongly disagreed, explaining that the problem with this country is that we keep taking away our own jobs and keep giving them to other people, who then get the money. This is a bad thing. This is why we are all suffering so much.

I persisted with objections, so he proposed a deal. If I continue to outsource my job, I will have to pay him a 35% tax, which means that if I spend $50 on a sweater, I will need to send him $17.50. That’s a bummer, we both agreed.

Instead, he said, if I take up sweater knitting, he will reduce my income tax rate to a flat 15%, plus exempt my sweater-making from all existing regulations. I would be free to make any sweater I want. The catch is that I have to knit sweaters, because doing that will make me great.

“Just think of it,” he said, “Jeffrey Tucker is open for business!”

In some ways, this sounds pretty sweet. A bit goofy but OK. It’s awkward but I’ll take up knitting on nights and weekends, producing at least one sweater per month. I will continue to do this in order to earn the promised benefit.

Also, I’ll stop buying sweaters at the store and thus end my addiction to outsourcing my production. It’s true that I have given up a huge amount of my freedom over how I spend my time and use my resources (I have to buy all those yarns and needles), but, on the plus side, I avoid a punishing penalty, pay lower taxes, and obey fewer regulations.

The deal doesn’t strike me as very efficient, but, as Trump said, this focus on efficiency over greatness is precisely what has gone wrong in this country.

Sometimes I wonder why his version of greatness should prevail over mine, but, hey, he is the President.

One Month Later

I finally finished my first sweater, and I’m a bit behind on other things. I gave up my job driving Uber. I stopped selling stuff on eBay. I was doing volunteer work for a local charity and I had to give that up too. But at least now I have a sweater. Maybe I can make money at this after all.

I tried to sell it but I couldn’t find any buyers. It turns out that everyone else who needed sweaters had made a similar deal. They too had been persuaded to become great by knitting their own sweaters. We had all become sweater-self-sufficient.

I hope they aren’t feeling as poor as I feel now.

I gradually came to realize something. If you cooperate with others, share the work, find out what you do best, trade with others, and make your own decisions about what you want to insource versus outsource, you can eventually find the best strategy for using your time and resources well.

As Adam Smith proved so long ago, a key to prosperity is the expansion of the division of labor, that is, finding ways to benefit from the talents of others wherever they happen to be. I can only do this if I am truly free to buy and sell based on my own evaluation of what benefits me the most. And under this system, what benefits me also happens to benefit everyone.

This system, which we can call free trade, has the added benefit of creating a kind of community feeling. Peace. Prosperity. There is something great about that after all.

Jeffrey Tucker


Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education and CLO of the startup Liberty.me. Author of five books, and many thousands of articles, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. Email.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.