Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tough Road Ahead for US and Europe

Bad policy has a way of surviving, even though the results of bad policy may be plain for all to see. The US and the Western countries have managed, by government policies (political policies) to destroy the vibrancy of their economies. Perverse incentives and irrational agency costs so pervade these economies that real economic growth of the kind seen in the nineteenth and twentieth century is not likely to ever return.

Many in the Western world applaud the collapse of their own economies. They see economic growth as damaging to the well being of the population. Those who take this view are usually pretty well insulated from the downside of stagnant economic growth. But most of the citizenry are not insulated from that downside. Unemployment and under-employment mostly afflict folks that have no real way to protect themselves. In the US, minorities suffer the most from the collapse of the economy; white college graduates suffer the least.

John Maynard Keynes was, in my opinion, the greatest economist in history. Strangely, what passes as "Keynesianism" is an absurd, foolish set of doctrines that are routinely taught to undergraduates that suggest that wasteful government spending can lead to wealth. Keynes never believed anything of the sort as a perusal of his work would suggest. But, who reads Keynes these days? If you read Keynes, you will quickly run across the notion of "animal spirits" that motivate entrepreneurs to do the things that spur real economic growth. Where is that taught in the modern academic establishment?

In his classic "Treatise on Money," Keynes used the term inflation to mean mostly growth in the money supply. He was certainly no believer in the so-called trade-off between unemployment and inflation. He was aware of what happened in the 19th century when powerful economic growth carried Britain and the US to the pinnacle of power amidst more or less constant deflation (how can that be?). Keynes saw "pyramid building," which he cited in his 1935 work "The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money" as a device to encourage business, not as Obama and his advisers see it, as a substitute for the private economy.

The media labels the Obama Administration as Keynesian. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Obama Administration basically believes in transfer payments to their political allies and throwing money down rat holes. Keynes would have been appalled. He probably would have joined the Tea Party.

The truth is that no amount of government spending or targeted tax cuts can do any good. They simply waste (future) taxpayers money and make things worse. Government is stifling entreneurial activity in the US and in Western Europe. It is that simple. Incentives do matter, contrary to what Obama and his folks think. Businesses are not the enemy, contrary to what Obama and his folks think. Until policies change, the future lies with Asia and parts of the world not bent on destroying private enterprise, but bent on encouraging it.

Just attend a movie in the Western world and you can see the stereotypes. Businessmen are always crooks and left-leaning lawyers and college professors and students are always the good guys. Businesses are portrayed constantly in the media as instruments of environmental destruction and unfeeling masters of downtrodden employees. Our modern literature portrays the same images. Pick up a college newspaper, anywhere in the country, you get the same message. College, student-run, newspaper columns spend most of their time counting up ethnic and social noses to see if they are all represented properly and if there are enough centers and resources sucking up tuition money to promote their agendas. Most of these latter efforts simply create divisions and animosities amongst people where there previously were none.

In short, the culture no longer believes in free enterprise. If you are rich enough or comfortable enough or have enough job security, then what do you care about people that can't find work or are in danger losing their job. In a sense, it is the preoccupation with pipedreams, that enables the liberal elite to ignore the economic plight of the average American or Western European. The average guy is pummelled by the government-only approach to the economy. But, what do Obama and his group care, except for their interest in re-election.

The controversy over the Boeing plant in South Carolina typifies the way this game is cynically played. The Obama Administration could care less if thousands of jobs are shipped out of the country so long as no non-union employees get hired in South Carolina by Boeing. It is not enough to be an American citizen to merit Obama's interest, you have to be a prospective union member as well. Obama could stop the travesty going on in the Boeing plant dispute, but he chooses not to. That tells us a lot about Obama.

In the end, you have to decide what kind of economy you want. China and Asia are choosing to have a dynamic economy with rising standards of living and increasing economic power. The US and the West have thrown in the towel and prefer political theater to economic progress. Not a pretty picture for those that need jobs and a future in the Western world.