Red-Ink Budgets Rooted In Our Red-Ink Thinking

By Bradley Harrington

“The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” — Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to John Taylor,” 1816 —

WTE3 Column #84 Illustration -- Red-Ink ThinkingLast week we determined that few, if any, of our state legislators grasp that the only clear path out of Wyoming’s budgetary woes is to “CUT SPENDING” (“Even blind squirrels trip on acorns every now and then,” WTE, Feb 4).

Now, as proof that Gov. Matt Mead doesn’t get it any better than our legislators do, consider this:

“He [Mead] said that revenue streams that spike and plummet leave the state’s agencies and communities that depend on state funding in a constant peril of uncertainty in the boom-bust economy … ‘We can’t be telling people you have enough money for 100 people in a nursing home in year one, then in year two, say we only have enough for 50,’ he said.” (“Wyoming governor supports ENDOW policy of not advocating on taxes,” WTE, Jan. 20.)

Well, it’s real easy for our state politicians to blame our budget problems on “boom-and-bust” cycles, but that’s not what the figures tell us. Consider these Wyoming spending figures since 1976, for instance, in biennial increments:

Wyoming State Expenditures:

■ 1976: $700 million
■ 1978: $800 million
■ 1980: $1.2 billion
■ 1982: $1.8 billion
■ 1984: $2.2 billion
■ 1986: $2.5 billion
■ 1988: $2.3 billion
■ 1990: $2.4 billion
■ 1992: $2.7 billion
■ 1994: $2.8 billion
■ 1996: $3 billion
■ 1998: $3.3 billion
■ 2000: $3.7 billion
■ 2002: $4.3 billion
■ 2004: $5.1 billion
■ 2006: $6 billion
■ 2008: $7.5 billion
■ 2010: $8.7 billion
■ 2012: $8.7 billion
■ 2014: $8.9 billion
■ 2016: $9.9 billion

(From www.usgovernmentspending.com.)

Well, I certainly see plenty of “booms” in state spending, but — except for a small slowdown in 1988, erased by the next biennium — I’m looking in vain for any “busts” to be found anywhere.

So, do our budgetary “boom and bust” cycles come about because of the fluctuations in energy prices? Or is it that state spending simply climbs to meet incoming revenue, regardless of “boom” or “bust” — and then ends up being caught short when the next “bust” hits?

The facts clearly point to the latter, but you will hear little more than crickets chirping when you question your state politicians on this. No, they will continue to blame our economic woes on a “lack of economic diversification” or on “uncertainties” in our “revenue streams” — anything other than admit that we’re in this fiscal mess because state politicians can’t keep their hands off the spending throttles.

Because, you see, in even the worst possible of “boom and bust” budgets, it’s always possible to make things balance — simply by using your average incomes and expenditures as your guide.

If, for instance, to use Mead’s example, the state has funding for 100 nurses this year and only 50 the next, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that you fund 75 for each year, the average of the two.

So, when state government gets extra income during the “booms,” what SHOULD it be doing? Setting those dollars aside for the “busts” coming down the road — NOT blowing it on spending increases not warranted by one’s average income streams! Yet this is exactly the course Wyoming state government has taken for decades — and now these people want to lecture us about “diversity” and “economic uncertainty”?

And then, to top it all off, some of our “leaders,” such as Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, seek to “fix” this problem with tax increases? To hold YOU as responsible, at the point of a government gun, for their failures and errors? You have GOT to be kidding me.

Now, on top of all of this, let’s throw in a couple of other facts to consider as well:

■ Wyoming, as a state, is outstripped only by Alaska in per-capita government spending; for 2016, they spent $14,290 per person to our $13,477. And the national average? Less than half of what we spent, at $6,683.44.

■ Wyoming, additionally, has the highest per-capita proportion of government workers as well, with fully 22.4 percentage of its population in 2015 employed by government at all levels (the national average was 14.2 percent).

So, clearly, there’s plenty of room for cutting spending everywhere you turn — and it’s about time we turned to it.

That’s not going to happen, however, while we remain mired in excuses and obfuscations. Yes, there’s a huge deficit looming for our State Legislature in the coming weeks — but the real “shortfall” here doesn’t involve money, but our red-ink modes of thinking instead. And who knows when any of that will ever end up in the black?

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:  bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on February 11, 2018. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.

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Even Blind Squirrels Trip on Acorns Every Now and Then

By Bradley Harrington

“What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom.” — Adam Smith, “The Wealth of Nations,” 1776 —

WTE3 Column #83 Illustration -- Property Tax Wrecking BallIt isn’t often that our state legislators get it right, but  — in the fashion of the proverbial blind squirrel that trips on an acorn every now and then —  it DOES happen occasionally:

“After nearly a year of work, Wyoming lawmakers let controversial sales and property tax proposals die silent deaths in less than a minute Wednesday … It was something of an anticlimactic end for the four bills that would increase taxes in an attempt to diversify the state’s revenue streams.” (“Legislative committee won’t sponsor property, sales, tourism, tax bills,” WTE, Feb. 1.)

As tax-increase bills for Wyoming, every one of these bills greatly deserved the deaths doled out to them. One of them in particular, however, really merited a good skewering: The property tax increase bill, which would have raised property taxes on residential property in Wyoming from 9.5 percent to 11.5 percent.

While this might seem to be a “slight” increase of only 2 percent, don’t be fooled by that hype. As Cathy Ide of the Wyoming chapter of “Campaign For Liberty” put it recently, that would actually by a property tax increase of 21 percent instead.

How’s that again? Ide explains, and her explanation warrants a detailed look.

In a “real-life example of what the legislature’s proposed 2 percent increase does to a residential property with a market value of $326,983 in Natrona County (Natrona County’s mill levy is 72.89),” Ide calculates that “Fair Market Value times 9.5 percent times Local Mill Levy Rate/1000 = Property Tax.” Filling in those figures, you get: “$326,983 times .095 times 72.89 divided by 1000 = $2,264.25.”

Once that 9.5 percent figure becomes 11.5 percent instead, however, things change quite a bit: “Now,” Ide states, “let’s plug in the ‘itty bitty’ 2 percent tax rate increase for the same property: $326,983 times .115 times 72.89 divided by 1000 = $2,740.89.”

And, once you take the difference between these two figures and divide it by the original, you get: “An increase of $476.64 — a whopping 21 percent increase in your property taxes!” (“Action needed to stop Wyoming property tax increase,” Cathy Ide email, Jan. 24.)

Neat trick, huh? Upon doing a little bit of calculator work myself, I was able to determine that this 21 percent increase would have applied to ALL homes with that mill rate, regardless of their value … So … Goodbye and good riddance!

Despite the fact that the Joint Revenue Committee exercised good judgment in whacking this tax trash, however, there’s still a few concerns to discuss, as the news story makes it clear that at least two people on that committee don’t get it after all:

“With Wyoming tapping into savings, drawing down the balance while there’s less going in, Revenue Committee co-chairman Sen. Ray Peterson, R-Cowley, said the state will need to take diversifying its revenue streams seriously. ‘One person asked me down here Monday night, when are we going to get serious about addressing our shortfalls and revenue streams in Wyoming,’ he said. ‘I said, ‘I’m convinced it will be when we have no savings left.’ ‘When we’re broke,’ Madden [co-chairman Mike Madden, R-Buffalo] added.”

Really, gentlemen? In case you haven’t noticed, we’re ALREADY BROKE, we have been for quite a while now, and I can’t help but wonder when you two are going to figure that one out: You’re $800 million in the hole for the biennium, and looking at spending a good chunk of a paltry “rainy day” savings that doesn’t even equal what Wyoming receives from the Feds every single year (about 34 percent of its budget, or well over $2 billion annually).

And the Feds, the magic fount of those transferred dollars? Why, they make Wyoming look positively benign in comparison, with $20 trillion in debt and $112 trillion in unfunded liabilities. What are you gentlemen going to do — and whose wallets are you going to look to be raiding — when that “revenue stream” ends up in the bit bucket, as it inevitably must?

So, in the interests of true fiscal responsibility and integrity, legislators, here’s a plan that’s guaranteed to get us out of this mess: CUT SPENDING!

Just in case you didn’t catch that, let me repeat myself: CUT SPENDING!

Instead of taking that tack, however, all you two can think of is plundering the Wyoming taxpayers on an ever-wider scale. So, here’s my recommendation for this year’s legislative session: Instead of tripping over more acorns, how about tripping over a budget ax instead?

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:  bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on February 4, 2018. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.

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“Ballistic Missile Threat” Spurs Range of Thoughts

By Bradley Harrington

“Why don’t we listen to the voices in our hearts? / ‘Cause then I know we’ll find we’re not so far apart / Everybody’s got to be happy, everyone should see / For we know the joy of life and peace that love can bring …” — Uriah Heep, “The Wizard,” 1972 —

WTE3 Column #82 Illustration -- Barbie and I's RideIt isn’t often when you have to seriously consider the possibility that one of your daughters is about to be atomized in some kind of nuclear attack, but I was given that opportunity just last Saturday, when SamiJo, who lives in Volcano, Hawaii, texted me this:

Emergency Alert! BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

Which, of course, was followed up immediately by a phone call: “What the Hell is going on, Brad?” my stepdaughter asked me. “Is this for real? Should I seriously seek shelter?”

“You’d better,” I said. “Find a tunnel, anything. Get moving, take your phone with you, and I’ll call you back in a few.”

Luckily enough, I was already sitting in front of my computer. Searching Google for “Hawaii missile attack” yielded no meaningful results, so I typed in part of the message instead: “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii.”

That brought up a story out of the UK, informing me that everyone in the entire state of Hawaii had just received that text on their phones. The story even had a picture of the same alert I now had on my own phone, so … The alert was real. But was it true?

I called SamiJo back. “Keep heading for cover, Pretty Girl,” I said. “I can’t verify if it’s a legitimate alert or not. You’d better assume it is, until we hear otherwise.”

And there I sat, wondering if this was the last time I was ever going to speak to SamiJo again. Visions started swirling in my mind: Mushroom clouds over Hawaii, cities exploding, oceans boiling … And my daughter disappearing into a cloud of dissipating vapor …

“I love you, SamiJo,” I burst out. “No matter what happens, whether you’re still here in 20 minutes or not … I love you like crazy!”

Thankfully enough, however, about 20 minutes later, Hawaii got an announcement that the alert was bogus instead of having to suffer atomic incineration.

That didn’t change my experience of those 20 minutes, however: What if it HAD been true? What if, instead of being a cluster of gorgeous islands, Hawaii was now reduced to a series of blown-out craters on the floor of the South Pacific? With my daughter dead, along with another 1.5 million people?

We take so many things for granted, don’t we? Had I been as close to SamiJo as I could’ve been? Had I loved her enough? Was I ever going to have the opportunity to love her some more, again?

Thankfully, this time, yes … But which one of us knows what lies down the road just a few steps into the future? What man or woman among us can see all ends? Who can say who will suddenly disappear out of our lives forever, for whatever reasons, and have we had the kind of relationship and said the kind of things we need to say to those individuals, while they are still here?

Life is such a fragile and delicate gift, isn’t it? A number of years ago, back when my dad Byron Harrington was suffering from the cancer that finally killed him in 2004, we were talking about things …

“Was it a worthwhile trip, Dad?” I asked him. “I know you hurt, and you want to go … But would you have turned this ride down if you’d been offered the choice? Would you have passed on the opportunity to experience existence?”

His eyes grew thoughtful, and he paused before he replied: “I never thought of it like that before,” he said. “But, since you put it that way … NO! I’d never have missed this ride for anything. Not in a million years.”

So, yes, Hawaii’s bogus missile alert WAS an “opportunity” … An opportunity for me to reflect on the fact that this ride ain’t gonna last forever, so maybe I should be paying a bit more attention to just where I’m headed and how I’m getting there.

However, Dear Readers, do those risks mean that we should live our lives in constant fear? Should we be timid, worrisome and overly careful instead?

Not on your life! Ride, and ride in style! Just make sure you hug your fellow loved riders every chance you get , before the ride’s through …

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:  bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on January 21, 2018. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.

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The Gift of Sight, and the Gift of Paying it Forward

By Bradley Harrington

“I can see clearly now the rain is gone / I can see all obstacles in my way / Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind / It’s gonna be a bright, bright sun-shiny day …” — Johnny Nash, “I Can See Clearly Now,” 1972 —

WTE3 Column #81 Illustration -- Paying it ForwardImagine, if you will, a developing cloudiness to your vision, a slowly-dropping veil of ever-increasing darkness, as if someone were out turning off the lights of your world … You do your best to see, but things just keep getting dimmer and duller.

So, you finally go to your eye doctor, where you are told that you have cataracts — but that they can be removed with laser beams, with new lenses actually installed directly into your eyes, thereby restoring your vision.

And the price tag for that work? About $10,000.00 … Which you don’t have, as well as no insurance either, which you haven’t been able to afford. And, finally, you have the doctor’s advice that you’ve got about six months to fix those lenses before the damage is permanent.

What to do?

Well, in my case, I seriously, for the first time in my life, actually thought about robbing a bank — because the person whose eyes couldn’t see any longer was my wife, Barbie Harrington, and somehow, someway, I had to get them fixed.

Well, we could apply for “welfare” … We chose instead to investigate some voluntary grant applications offered by some of the local businesses and charities here in Wyoming, and our two daughters, SamiJo and Kaitie, with the help of other friends, mobilized their efforts to organize a Silent Auction, with donated items, to help raise the needed funds as well.

And, a few months later, with the help of friends, family and community, we raised those funds. Barbie had her first eye operated on back in December, and her second eye received the treatment just a few days ago.

“I can see clearly now!” she bubbled yesterday.

“The gift of sight I’ve been given,” she continued, “is much different than having your light bill paid, or of receiving a free turkey dinner … I can actually see the shapes of my grandchildren’s’ eyes … the angles of their cheekbones, their pointy little chins … The gift of sight I’ve been given is right up there with the gift of life itself.”

So … How, in such a situation, do you ever thank the people who have helped you? How do you ever repay such a debt?

Well, when it comes to paying people back, Barbie’s an expert: “You don’t pay it back,” she told me the other day … “You pay it forward.” And immediately started working on some of her other charity issues, to do just that, while I was left to ponder the realities of true charity vs. government “help.”

TRUE charity, not the dehumanizing “welfare” lines the state would shove you into — and, for the sake of intellectual consistency and integrity, let’s take a look at some of the differences:

■ “Welfare,” funded as it is through taxes, is based on the idea that you have no right to your own money — but that you DO have, apparently, some “right” to the wealth produced by others instead. (How’s that again?) Charity funds, on the other hand, are raised voluntarily, with the full consent of all donors; there is no state force employed anywhere in such operations.

■ “Welfare,” based as it is on the destruction of private property rights, can only create progressively-worsening scenarios of “help” coupled with totalitarian control. Voluntary charity, on the other hand, actually gives people the help they need to survive.

■ And, of course, there’s the personal and social bonds that are created by that help that never come into existence through government “aid,” since your “donors” are in reality the faceless victims of government property theft, not people who are actually interested in helping you at all.

Yet, we are told, “welfare” is the wave of the future … Despite the fact that such practices can be proven to be highly destructive to all involved, as well as being completely inconsistent with the fundamental ideas of the United States of America.

So, when it comes to “welfare” — we’ll starve first, thank you anyway. Luckily enough, with the help of a lot of friends, family and others far too numerous to name here, that wasn’t necessary in this case. THANK YOU for all of it! You saved Barbie’s eyes, and how on Earth do I ever thank you for that???

“You don’t,” Barbie said, placing her fingers over my lips. “You pay it forward.”

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:  bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on January 14, 2018. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.

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The ENDOW Gravy Train: Rolling to Your Town Soon

By Bradley Harrington

“You can’t push something that’s going faster than you are.” — Byron Harrington, “Social Discussions,” 1975 —

WTE3 Column #80 Illustration -- ENDOW Gravy TrainLook, people, I’m not trying to beat up on Wyoming’s “Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming” (ENDOW) bureaucrats, I promise you that; I’m really not, OK?

But it’s really hard to resist, especially when their reports keep saying stuff like this:

“Ten recommendations represent a mix of legislative and executive actions … Of the 10 proposals, four have funding requests … Improve and expand Wyoming’s commercial air service ($15 million); improve access to broadband and technology ($10.35 million); establish a Wyoming research and innovation fund ($6 million); and build Wyoming’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by creating a dedicated organization called Startup: Wyoming ($5 million).” (“Air service rises to top of ENDOW recommendations for economic diversification in Wyoming,” WTE, Jan. 3.)

And just what, exactly, is an “entrepreneurial ecosystem”? The story doesn’t say, and ENDOW’s report fails to define it as well. It’s quite clear from ENDOW’s “investment” recommendations that they’re out to spend a good chunk of taxpayer dollars to manage it, however, so let’s take a look:

“Commercial air service ($15 million)”: Now how is spending $15 million going to result in air travel? By paying an airline that money to fly here? If so, then we’re going to need to keep paying them, year after year — and what we’ll end up with is a bigger, more intricate version of what we have right here in Cheyenne right now: An “airline,” Great Lakes Aviation, that receives $50 million a year from the Feds but can’t pay their lease payments or fly out of town more than once a week.

“Improve access to broadband and technology ($10.35 million)”: Here, the ENDOW report states that “The Executive Council believes deployment of broadband is best achieved by the private sector,” but that doesn’t stop ENDOW from meddling anyway, establishing a “Broadband Advisory Council” whose “focus will insure that broadband development will be at the forefront of the state’s economic diversification efforts.”

So, after paying for this make-work “council,” what’s the rest of the $10 million for? To get an ISP to set up service here that doesn’t exist already, or to subsidize an Internet connection for every Wyomingite who’s chosen to live on the side of a mountain out in the hinterlands? Some of both: A proposed “Wyoming broadband grant fund” will be established which will “facilitate direct investment in broadband infrastructure, particularly in rural areas without adequate access.”

“Establish a Wyoming research and innovation fund ($6 million)”: Which ENDOW bureaucrats will be deciding what “research” consists of, or of how “innovation” will be defined? And how will this money be spent, other than in funding more ENDOW bureaucrats to figure it all out? On a “Wyoming Research and Innovation Fund” intended “to build Wyoming’s research and development base and to attract additional federal research and development funds.” A guaranteed corporate soup-line in the making, as contenders will soon be vying with one another as “innovators” in order to receive the “free” state and federal dollars. Whether they’ll actually be producing anything worthwhile is in doubt; otherwise, they’d be producing it already.

And, finally, we’re going to:

 “Build Wyoming’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by creating a dedicated organization called Startup: Wyoming ($5 million)”: Contending that “Wyoming’s innovation economy is limited by the absence of a statewide startup ecosystem,” ENDOW intends to create “a dedicated organization called Startup: Wyoming to provide capital access funds for startups.” ENDOW, obviously, perceives itself as ready and competent to move into the arena of business development — and it intends, through “Startup: Wyoming,” to pick the winners and losers.

What’s the one thing all of these ENDOW bureaucrats continue to miss, report after report, that even the dullest student of “ecosystems” could tell them?

That an “ecosystem” is determined not just by the natures of its members, but also by the interrelationships of those members to all other members. An alteration in, say, the population levels of mussels on a particular area of the California coast, for instance, will have multiple cascading impacts on other life forms in that area as well.

Yet these bureaucrats, and with some very smart and well-educated people among them too, never bother to examine the impacts of their spending and their participation: Namely, that their plunder has to be forcibly ripped out of the wider “ecosystem” first, thereby creating huge holes in the entire Wyoming production spectrum that would not have existed in the absence of such plunder.

Failure to pay attention to such details would get a real ecologist fired; with the ENDOW Gravy Train, however, it’s simply “business” as usual, and the train keeps rolling on …

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:  bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on January 7, 2018. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.

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A New Year, 2018: And the Search for Truth Continues

By Bradley Harrington

“The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is Reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall.” — Thomas Paine, “The Age of Reason,” 1794 —

WTE3 Column #79 Illustration -- Search for TruthBack one day shy of a year ago, I said that “As we now ponder the problems facing us in this New Year of 2017, it might sometimes seem as though the issues we face have grown to insurmountable proportions,” but that “nothing is EVER “insurmountable”! It’s only a question of whether we choose to use our minds …” (“The indomitable power of our minds,” WTE, Jan. 1, 2017).

Well, I’ve always believed in leading by example, so … How well did I use my mind over the last year, now that the New Year 2018 is upon us? And how about the things such uses make possible? How successful was I at achieving my values? Of loving my loved ones? Of standing up for what’s right and opposing what’s wrong?

And wider, still: As I look back upon all of the “New Year’s” I’ve experienced, I often wonder about the hopes and dreams of some of those earlier me’s. One New Year’s, in particular, stands out in my mind, and I can still remember the young teenager that was me, 16 years old back in 1975 …

It was a “New Year’s” party with a bunch of my friends, and it was about to become 1976. But I’d just quit high school, right before the beginning of the Christmas break, because I was bored to death and preferred working (cooking) in restaurants instead.

I still remember the feeling I’d had, that day I decided to drop out … That I was actually doing it so I could move forward with my life, with my own reading agenda that is, which was being greatly hampered by the endless hours of mindless rot I was being spoon-fed at Southfield High School.

And I still remember, that New Year’s Eve, thinking about the various paths I wanted to seek: I hadn’t made up my mind yet what I “wanted to be when I grew up,” but I knew I wanted to complete my overall understanding of the world in which I found myself.

What I wanted, more than anything else in the whole wide world that New Year’s Eve 1975, was the truth — whatever that might be, wherever I might find it. Why would I ever want to seek, or allow myself to believe, falsehoods? That was what made my schooling such a contradiction: It actually clashed with that search, both in terms of its content as well as its methods. I had to end both.

Learning on one’s own is often harder, of course, since errors tend to magnify before being corrected — but I trusted my own mind; I didn’t trust the classroom swill at all.

Well, here I am, exactly 42 years later — did I achieve any of the goals my earlier self had set back on New Year’s Eve 1975?

Well, some things, yes … Other things, no. I never really did “grow up” and “get a job,” in the sense of setting out deliberately to end up in a certain career; to the contrary, I chose instead to wander around. Restaurants, sales, newspapers, construction — and then, finally, back in 1986, the computer field which I remain in today. A career I never even thought of back in 1975, inasmuch as the school computers back then took up several rooms and didn’t interest me much.

In the key areas, however, in the search for truth — in gaining real knowledge along with a code of values to guide my choices and actions — I succeeded beyond what I would have thought, back then, was possible. Philosophy was the key for me, the science that gave me sight … For what IS “a code of values to guide your choices and actions” but a theory of ethics? And how is one to arrive successfully at such contemplations without first understanding both the nature of the world in which we live (metaphysics), as well as being able to meaningfully differentiate truth from falsity (epistemology)?

Nor has it always been an easy journey, for my path to truth has often led me to radical and heretical opinions not shared by the large majority of my fellow humans.

Oh, well … I was pretty much a loner at 16 and I’m pretty much a loner at 58, too. If “acceptance by society” still means sacrificing both consistency and intellectual integrity, I’ll STILL pass in 2018, just as surely now as I would have back in 1975.

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:  bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on December31, 2017. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.

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ENDOW Controls: Chimps Pounding Out Shakespeare

By Bradley Harrington

“There is a tendency in a free market toward the establishment of a uniform rate of profit on capital invested on all the different branches of industry … The reason is that investors naturally prefer to earn a higher rate of profit rather than a lower one.” — George Reisman, “The Government Against the Economy,” 1979 —

WTE3 Column #78 Illustration -- Chimp at TypewriterLast week, I said that government controls on our economy, by “further muddying the waters of economic calculation … further destroy the possibility of even engaging in such calculation at all” (“ENDOW bureaucrats show ignorance on economic calculation,” WTE, Dec. 18).

Such controls achieve this effect because they interfere with the normal and natural workings of a free market — the pricing operations of which, when left to themselves, always act to balance supply with demand in all the various sectors of our economy.

This happens, ultimately, as a result of profit rates. If TVs are being overproduced and undersold, for instance, while refrigerators are priced high because the supply is a bit short in relation to demand, then capital will flow out of the first sector and into the second, as there is a greater profit rate to be had in refrigerator production as opposed to that of TVs.

That shift of capital, in turn, functions as a corrective mechanism for the imbalance — for, as production dollars flee TVs for refrigerators instead, TV inventory will drop while refrigerator inventory will rise. This, in turn, causes TV prices to decrease while refrigerator prices increase. And ever the two will gently rise and drop in relation to one another, constantly seeking profit rate equilibrium.

This principle of profit rates as applied to prices, moreover, works in relation to ALL sectors of the economy, regardless of the actual product or service; it is a general principle applicable to all areas of production of any kind.

Observe also that this system functions, like a thermostat, entirely on its own; Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” works independent of the need for any kind of management or control.

As a self-regulating system, it’s the market forces themselves that breed their own corrections. It’s the reason why nobody ever has to figure out if we have too many teachers vs. not enough construction workers, or too much sugar vs. too little steel.

Next, observe what such workings make possible: An entire economy constantly seeking equilibrium within itself, whereby millions of prices act to stabilize not only each of the millions of sectors within that economy, but also all of the billions of interrelationships each of those sectors have with every other sector.

And, finally, observe that all of this takes place billions of times a second, with the impact of all feedback mechanisms taking place immediately, and in ways that not a single one of us could ever even hope to grasp.

The beauty and justice of the market, however, is that none of us NEED to grasp it all; we only need to comprehend what’s going on in “our neck of the woods,” i.e., in the economic sectors that directly concern our own production and consumption. And it’s just those factors that each of us, individually, happen to have expert knowledge about.

A market economy, in other words, grants us all ultimate power over our own resources, planning and economic calculation — but no power over anybody else’s. We “vote,” with our dollars, only on what we’re competent to vote on — and what we are actually calling an “economy” is nothing more than the aggregate sum of all the choices, decisions, productions, consumptions and actions that take place within it.

So, since an “economy” is nothing more than the summation of all of what we do with one another — then doesn’t it necessarily follow that anyone who wants to regulate it, seeks control over at least a portion of those individual transactions? Over what YOU peacefully do with YOURS? By what right? By what standard?

And, when political figures, such as Wyoming ENDOW bureaucrats, decide they’re not happy with the way the free market allocates resources and that it’s time THEY started managing things instead — by what right? By what standard?

What on Earth would ever give our ENDOW bureaucrats the arrogance to presume they can even figure out what those market forces are, anyway, much less how they’re all supposed to be interrelating with one another?

You might as well expect a chimp to sit down at a typewriter and pound out the works of Shakespeare. And if the people of Wyoming decide to stupidly pitch another $37.5 million down this rabbit hole, then we’ll all be chimps– and chumps — as well.

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:  bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on December24, 2017. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.

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