Author’s Note: This is the first in a series of short posts which will seek to rebut popular, but wrong, economic beliefs.
One of the positive indicators of our so-called economic recovery bandied about not only in the media but also by our monetary lords and masters at the head of central banks is the idea that rising prices are a sign of economic recovery. This mistaken belief is part of a wider myth that views the economy as little more than a giant number – a number which, if going up, means things are good and getting better, and if going down means the situation is bad and getting worse.
A distinct disadvantage of advocating for a society free from state interference is that winning either the rhetorical or emotional battle is a lot more difficult. Democratic socialists and redistributionists can effectively wear their bleeding hearts on their sleeves, forever declaring their care for the poor, the sick, the elderly, or whichever group is in need of their pitiful platitudes at any particular time. Libertarians, on the other hand, appear to advocate for nothing more than greed and selfishness by calling for the right of every person keep own his/her income. Surely this would be the slippery slope to each of us ferreting ourselves away in an increasingly atomised existence?
The Christmas shopping period – one of the busiest in the year for the retail industry – has begun with a starter pistol on so-called “Black Friday”, with the culmination due in the January sales. The period of celebration, feasting and gift-giving is critical to the annual revenue and profits of hundreds of consumer-facing industries, with the volume of spending increasing by more than 50% according to some estimates.
Conventional thinking about social, political and economic matters tends to narrow the options available to a set of policies advocated by two, possibly three political parties of scarcely dissimilar ideologies. Any genuinely radical approach concerning these topics is abandoned given that the fundamentals are deemed to be beyond question. Thus, alternatives to these entrenched matters – such as whether the state should have any positive role at all in anything – are seldom given the light of day, let alone the opportunity of being debated.
In the mainstream debate both for and against a free market, one notion that seems ubiquitous is that the free market is predicated upon individual choice. Consequently, those in favour of such a market are likely to argue that the more choice there is the greater the competition between firms, leading to increased economic efficiency as those firms seek to meet their customers’ needs for the lowest possible cost. On the other hand, opponents will counter that choice can be wasteful, costly, inefficient and overwhelming, particularly when it concerns supply of provisions as basic as water. They might suggest further that choice is often an illusion conjured up by private companies that basically operate in a profit-maximising cartel.
The “nanny state” is one of the most irritating traits of statism affecting people’s daily lives directly, and one that has been growing ever more matronly over the past generation or so. In fact, if you think it is bad today, The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (which, apparently, presents a “united front” of the medical profession) was complaining nearly ten years ago that doctors were seeing the consequences of unhealthy diets. Needless to say they recommended whole raft of interventionist measures to curb this apparent problem:
It almost goes without saying that the spying and security state has metastasised over the past twenty years or so, and is only likely to get worse as states look to exploit digital technology to further their regimentation and control of society.
When perusing much public discourse concerning those in government and those who, say, are businessmen and entrepreneurs, one of the more striking aspects is how their economic roles and motivations are viewed as the complete opposite for what they really are.
The virtue of altruism is held in immeasurably high esteem in our society today. Selfless benevolence is regarded as the pinnacle of human endeavours, with societies and cultures often reserving their most coveted honours and elevations for people who have apparently demonstrated a level of unparalleled generosity.
In a recent article for Free Life, I noted that, for me, the urge to pen a rebuttal to the work of others come not from trawling through the drivel of a statist, leftist or mainstream pundit. Rather, it comes in response to a libertarian who has spouted some piece of nonsense in spite of being in a position to know better. Today, we will address something similar of this ilk in the realm of economics from Alistair MacLeod, Head of Research at Goldmoney.