Patterico's Pontifications


Jeff Spross and His “Killer” Real-World Policy

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:12 pm

Jeff Spross at The Week has a piece titled How to turn Frank Underwood’s America Works program into a killer real-world policy. The irony is deep but unintentional, for Spross’s suggested policies, taken to their logical extreme, have been tried . . . in the Soviet Union, China, and elsewhere — and they have literally killed millions of people.

Now that’s a “killer real-world policy”!

The piece is worth my time to debunk, because its ignorant fallacies are representative of the sorts of misconceptions that are destroying this country’s prosperity and freedom.

Spross’s dross uses as its springboard a proposal made by the fictional president of the series “House of Cards,” starring Kevin Spacey. (Season 3 was just released, and I binge-watched the first six episodes Thursday night. It is quite entertaining!) In an effort to create a grand program that might secure his political standing, Spacey’s presidential character proposes a giant jobs program, to be funded by equally giant cuts in entitlements. (Yes, it’s a fictional show.) Spross says that the cuts to entitlements would be horrible, but that government throwing billions of dollars into creating jobs is genius:

But first, the merits of America Works. In recent decades, lawmakers have tried to indirectly cajole the private sector into job creation, through subsidies and tax cuts and the like. But if jobs are what we want, then why not just have the government create them itself? In policy circles, it’s called a jobs guarantee.

Actually, in policy circles, it’s called socialism. But look at me, interrupting ignorance in the process of revealing itself:

There are different possible approaches; subsidizing businesses to hire at specific salaries, doing the same through the nonprofit sector, or hiring for government jobs directly. Here in America, for example, we need to build massive amounts of green energy generation, revamp public transit, upgrade our infrastructure, and we have an entire city — Detroit — that needs to rebuild basic civic services. There’s plenty of government work that needs doing. But what it boils down to is Frank’s idea: a big federal spending program to give paid work to people who want it.

Oh, Good Lord.

Listen closely, Mr. Spross. The reason jobs in the private economy are a good thing is because we know they’re a good investment. In other words, what the workers produce is worth the amount of money spent to pay the workers. How do we know this? Because businesses are giving people the jobs. Businesses would not give people the jobs if they couldn’t make a profit.

Sure, sometimes businesses make mistakes. When they do, they either fix them, or go out of business. But in the long run, it is a truism that, for any business that survives, the business is getting at least as much from the worker as the business is paying.

Again: in the private economy, the job is worth the cost. Always.

You can’t say that about government jobs — whether the government is the direct employer, or merely subsidizes private jobs. Once the government interferes with the market system for determining whether a particular wage is worth paying, there is no longer any way to tell whether the benefits are truly worth the cost. You can make a guess, but it is only a guess. It is not a truism, the way it is a truism that a free-market job is either a) worth the wages, or b) given by an employer who will go out of business.

That is why the number of government jobs should be restricted to the lowest number possible. Only those jobs that serve the function of protecting our citizenry from aggression, whether internal or external, can be tolerated. All other jobs should be handled by the market economy.

This is not mere theory, folks. It is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

You see: the world has already tried an economy where jobs are allocated by government rather than the market. Karl Marx assured the world that socialism would be more efficient, because those lazy capitalists would finally be forced to work. We would live in a utopia where people enjoyed more leisure than ever. Exploitation would be a thing of the past, and world history would essentially come to an end, as the struggle of the worker for equality would be resolved.

Tens of millions died as a result. This is not a debatable proposition. It is a matter of historical fact. Whether we are talking about the millions upon millions exterminated under Stalin, or the tens of millions who died in Mao’s Great Leap Forward, communism and socialism are . . . killer real-world policies.

I don’t want to exaggerate the effects of Spross’s proposal. I am not saying that a jobs program like that proposed would immediately result in millions of deaths. The reason is: we don’t (yet) have socialism in the United States, as Austrian economists like Ludwig von Mises would define it. In a socialist system, the government owns the means of production. Rather, Spross favors what Mises called a “hampered market economy” — one far more “hampered” by the government than the one we currently have.

But the more hampered a market economy is, the more it slides towards socialism. Indeed, ownership of the means of production is irrelevant if the government can tell you what to do with it. In a fascist system, private citizens largely maintain nominal ownership of the means of production, but the government directs them as to how they can use it. The effect is the same as socialism, which is why fascism is a form of socialism, as George Reisman has explained in his excellent essay Why Nazism Was Socialism and Why Socialism Is Totalitarian. (It’s just 99 cents at the link, if you’re interested.)

The more government controls the economy, the fewer market transactions can take place, which reduces both prosperity (because eliminating the mutual benefits of free-market transactions decreases prosperity) and freedom (because people are no longer allowed to do what they want).

And that is why the grandest jobs program of all, pure socialism (or communism), decreases prosperity and freedom to minimums so intolerable that people start dying by the millions.

In the end, Jeff Spross is advocating policies that would result in more human misery. It is symptomatic of everything that is wrong with this country that he believes this disastrous proposal would help.

Inclusiveness: It Depends On Who Or What Is Involved And Who Is Defining It

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:53 am

[guest post by Dana]

Inclusiveness, from universities to the president, it’s all the rage these days. Any object, any person, even any law that might offend, hurt the feelings of, or make our nation a seemingly less inclusive place must be removed, denied, altered. Of course, one man’s inclusiveness is another man’s exclusiveness.

In the name of cultural inclusiveness, some vapid puffs at the University of California at Irvine voted to ban the American flag:

UC Irvine’s student council has voted to ban the U.S. flag, and any other nation’s flag, from the lobby of their offices to make the common area “as inclusive as possible.”

According to one student who attended the council meeting, the debate was about the freedom of speech versus inclusivity.

Some students who did not support the resolution were concerned with appearing non-patriotic as well as pointing out the irony that the world’s most iconic and enduring symbol of freedom could only be banned because of the blood shed to protect the freedoms and rights it represents.

Clearly having devoured a big heaping plate of bash-and-blame America, the collective misguidedness of these students culminated in a tediously pedestrian resolution listing 25 reasons why the American flag should be excluded from their lobby lest the mere sight of it prevent anyone from feeling included:

After citing freedom of speech as a “valued right that ASUCI supports,” the resolution states that “freedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible can be interpreted as hate speech.”

The resolution concludes with the following: “Let it be resolved that ASUCI make every effort to make the Associated Students main lobby space as inclusive as possible. Let it further be resolved that no flag, of any nation, may be hanged on the walls of the Associate Student main lobby space.”

At UCLA, the student council was set to confirm student Rachel Beyda to the council’s Judicial Board, until, in a move of withering non-inclusiveness – or what is commonly referred to as anti-semitism – a member of the student government demanded Beyda answer this question:

“Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?”

Although the president attempted to stifle the “inappropriate” question, he was outnumbered as other council members demanded Beyda answer.

For the next 40 minutes, after Ms. Beyda was dispatched from the room, the council tangled in a debate about whether her faith and affiliation with Jewish organizations, including her sorority and Hillel, a popular student group, meant she would be biased in dealing with sensitive governance questions that come before the board, which is the campus equivalent of the Supreme Court.

The discussion, recorded in written minutes and captured on video, seemed to echo the kind of questions, prejudices and tropes — particularly about divided loyalties — that have plagued Jews across the globe for centuries, students and Jewish leaders said.


The council, in a meeting that took place on Feb. 10, voted first to reject Ms. Beyda’s nomination, with four members against her. Then, at the prodding of a faculty adviser there who pointed out that belonging to Jewish organizations was not a conflict of interest, the students revisited the question and unanimously put her on the board.

(Because apparently revisiting the anti-semitic and exclusionary question – without identifying it as being anti-semitic – could somehow change the bigoted heart and mind that formulated and articulated the question in the first place…)

And just yesterday, the president himself invoked an inclusive America when discussing the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” and the march in Selma. Using the opportunity to shamefully pander to future Democratic voters and their parents, he suggested that deporting illegal immigrant children would “violate the spirit” of the civil rights movement:

The notion that some kid that was brought here when he was two or three years old might somehow be deported at the age of 20 or 25, even though they’ve grown up as American, that’s not who we are.

That’s not true to the spirit of what the march on Selma was about.

When you think about the principle that was upheld that day and in subsequent days at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, it was the promise of an inclusive America, it was the promise of an America where everybody was equal under the law.

Today we are inclusive. Except when we aren’t.


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