To combat climate change, we need to break our addiction to consuming oil, while developing countries need to break their addiction to selling it. We need a different lifestyle model . . . . —Thomas L. Friedman
The biggest problem with our bounty of coal is not what it does to our mountains or the atmosphere, but what it does to our minds. It preserves the illusion that we don't have to change our lives. Given the profound challenges we face with the end of cheap oil and the arrival of global warming, this is a dangerous fantasy. — JEFF GOODELL
The above two quotations are from side by side op-ed pieces in The New York Times of June 23, 2006. They read like an orchestrated effort to make people feel guilty about a way of life in which man-made power eliminates most of the drudgery of life and makes possible light, heat, refrigeration, air conditioning, television, computers, and high speed travel, among many other things. This power, of course, is derived mainly from oil and coal. Much of it could be derived from atomic energy, but that is denounced even more than oil and coal. Man-made power, and the Industrial Revolution that spawned it, is what the pleasure-hating crew at The New York Times wants us to give up, along with years of our lives.
There is more ignorant and destructive verbiage in the same issue of this newspaper, this time on The Times’ editorial page proper:
Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed an estate-tax cut that is a repeal in everything but name. The so-called compromise would exempt more than 99.5 percent of estates from tax, slash the tax rates on the rest and cost at least $760 billion during its first full decade. Of that, $600 billion is the amount the government would have to borrow to make up for lost revenue from the cuts, which would benefit the heirs of America's wealthiest families, like the Marses of Mars bar and the Waltons of Wal-Mart Stores. The remaining $160 billion is the interest on that borrowing, which would be paid by all Americans. — “A Look at Republican Priorities: Comforting the Comfortable”
The Mars candy company (Milky Way, Snickers, M&Ms, etc.) and Wal-Mart are great benefactors of mankind. The first provides the pleasure of delicious candy at a price practically everyone can afford. The second provides an enormous array of goods at the most economical prices possible. The owners of these companies, and of all others like them, deserve every penny they have made and the right to pass all of their wealth on to the heirs of their choice.
If their heirs are allowed to receive that wealth, it will most likely continue to be invested in the provision of excellent goods that people want and need. If, instead, the wealth is diverted to pay taxes to finance welfare-state spending, it will certainly not remain invested in the provision of such goods, because it will end up in the hands of welfare-state clients and in such things as “bridges to nowhere” and other ridiculous pork-barrel projects currently financed by taxes.
The heirs should not be blamed for budget deficits. All they want is what is rightfully theirs—wealth that has been earned by those eager to pass it on to them. The budget deficits are created by massive government spending. Whoever is concerned with budget deficits, must urge the reduction of government spending to eliminate them.
Whoever is concerned with the plight of welfare-state clients deprived of government support, must urge the freedom of the individual to find employment on the best terms the market has to offer and his freedom to be supplied by the most economical suppliers he can find. This means the wholesale abolition of restrictions on production and exchange, from agricultural subsidies to zoning laws.
But here again, The Times shows itself to be the enemy of human success. It urges a forty percent increase in the minimum wage, a measure that that will inevitably deprive large numbers of people of the possibility of finding any employment and thus of gaining the skills and experience that might qualify them for better-paying jobs later on. In its ignorance and moral pretentiousness, The Times declares:
At the same time that Republicans are fighting to exempt the richest estates from taxes, they are blocking a raise for the nation's poorest workers. . . . Senate Democrats tried unsuccessfully this week to raise the federal minimum wage, which stands at just $5.15 an hour. It has not been increased in nearly a decade, and at its current stingy level, the rate flies in the face of Americans' belief that those who work hard and play by the rules will be rewarded. — “A Look at Republican Priorities: Afflicting the Afflicted”
The Times (and the Senate Democrats who are its heroes), is apparently ignorant of the well-established elementary principle of economics that the higher the price of anything, the less of it that will be bought, and that the same principle applies to wages. The fact that the minimum wage has not been raised in almost a decade is one of the reasons that the United States does not have the unemployment rate of France or Germany.
If The Times understood the principle that the higher the wage, the smaller the number of workers sought, it might also realize that the way to raise the wage rates of low-paid workers, would be to repeal the laws and regulations that enable labor unions and professional organizations to obtain artificially high wage rates for their members.
The inability of more-skilled workers to obtain employment in jobs commensurate with their skills, because artificially high wage rates hold down the quantity of their services that employers seek to buy, is responsible for an artificially large supply of labor competing for lower-skilled and unskilled jobs. And this larger supply requires that wage rates in the lower end of the labor market be lower than they would have to be if the middle and upper portions of the labor market were free and could thus employ all the labor they should employ.
Wage rates everywhere are also needlessly depressed by all of the allegedly “free benefits” that employers are made to pay for. These alleged free benefits include employer contributions to Social Security and Medicare, providing maternity leave, holidays, and paid vacations, and meeting the requirements of job safety laws. Their cost is as much a part of the cost of employing a worker as is his take home wage. It would make no difference to employers if the workers received the cost of these “free benefits” as actual take-home wages instead.
The Times doesn’t care to know any of this. Instead, it prefers what it considers to be the “moral high ground” of everyday contemptuously looking down its long, supercilious nose and sneering at the capitalist economic system, those who make it work, and those who enjoy its benefits.
This article is copyright © 2006, by George Reisman. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute it electronically and in print, other than as part of a book and provided that mention of the author’s web site www.capitalism.net is included. (Email notification is requested.) All other rights reserved. George Reisman is the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics.