Lazy Sunday IX: Economics, Part I

I followed a fairly standard political-philosophical trajectory to where I am now. Back in my salad days, I was a big Milton Friedman fanboy (in many ways, I still am).  His works, particularly Capitalism and Freedom, compelling made the case for many things I already believed, and made me love liberty even more.

I skewed heavily into libertarian territory (without every fully becoming a capital-L Libertarian), and came to believe that, in most cases, free markets could (and, in some golden future, would) solve virtually all of humanity’s problems, as history Whiggishly improved more and more with each passing year.  Efficiency would free humanity from drudgery, and we’d all have plenty.

Indeed, that is, in many ways, the story of the modern West:  greater efficiency and economic fluidity has yielded material wealth unparalleled in human existence.  Capitalism works quite well at alleviating material misery.

But there’s the rub:  as I’ve grown older, gradually amassing a nest egg and hustling constantly, I’ve come to understand that, as nice as material abundance is, it is a false god (as is the neoliberals’ lust for ever-greater efficiency).  Despite our great wealth and our cheap, shiny, plastic baubles from China, America’s are culturally, morally, and philosophically miserable.

So, for the next two Sundays I’ll be featuring posts on economics, a topic I believe should be regarded as one of the humanities, rather than a social science.  I still believe capitalism is the best possible economic system ever devised, and does a great deal to secure liberty for individuals and nations (as Milton Friedman wrote, economic freedom is a necessary precursor to political freedom).  That said, I’ve adopted Tucker Carlson’s formulation that capitalism should work for us, not the other way around.

To that end, here are this week’s pieces on economics:

  • 4.8% Economic Growth?!” – this very short post relaunched this blog.  The TPP 3.0 Era, as I call it, kicked off with my move to WordPress.  It trumpets the incredible growth of the Trump Administration and its economic policies. After years of sluggish “recovery” under President Obama, the Trump Renaissance breathed fresh life into our moribund economy.
  • Q&A Wednesday – Tax Cuts, Trade Wars, Etc.” – I adapted this post from a response I wrote to some Facebook comments from two of my most loyal readers.  It details my evolving views on tariffs—essentially, that instead of opposing nearly completely, I now see their utility.Towards the end of this essay, I address an idea I’ve been kicking around:  that it’s better to subsidize workers through protective tariffs (thereby giving them work, and a sense of purpose) than simply to hand out money or administer costly welfare programs.

    I developed that idea more fully in the next essay on this list.  It goes to the idea that people—and, I would argue, specifically men—derive a great deal of their sense of self from their work.  This understanding is closer to the term vocation than it is merely to “work,” the distinction being that vocation is work that is both productive and fulfilling—it’s work in a higher sense, beyond merely providing for one’s basic needs.

  • The Human Toll of Globalization” – this post was inspired by a lengthy Breitbart piece about the costs of globalization, and is of a piece with the previous essay.  Therein I explored the idea, mentioned directly above, that work is ennobling, and its benefits go beyond a paycheck.  There is a quiet, affirmative satisfaction to doing something and doing it well.  Why else would I blog daily with zero revenue?
  • Global Poverty in Decline” – lest you think I’ve jettisoned the old Friedmanian views completely, this short post—based on a Rasmussen Number of the Day—deals with the decline in global poverty in the last few decades.  That decline is, truly, astonishing.  A good chunk of it came with economic liberalization in China, which has come, in part, at the expense of the United States, but it also reflects the benefits of economic liberty across the globe, particularly in the former Soviet bloc countries.For all the potential moral hazards of excessive material wealth, there’s no denying the inherent morality of a system that prevents starvation, malnutrition, and homelessness, all with only minimal government coercion and interference.  That’s pretty remarkable, and one reason we should be careful to protect capitalism, even as we seek to rein in its more destructive tendencies.

That’s it for this XXL (that’s “Extra-Extra-Large”) edition of Lazy Sunday.  Enjoy!

–TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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