Friday, August 17, 2012

BBQribsNOnapkin Replies In My Comments

You may recall BBQribsNOnapkin from an earlier series of exchanges we had in the comments section of The Huffington Post.

In one of my responses I sent a link here, and he (I assume its a he) kindly replied in my comments.

Let's have a look (my comments are in bold):

I’m honored to have landed a spot on your blog. Be careful about calling a back and forth in the HP comments section a debate though. I think of it as more of a sound bite shouting match to see who blinks first. Moreover the medium of communication used to facilitate these debates (typing out, thinking, waiting, typing out, etc.) has absolutely done damage to the traditional discursive environment because no one is ever put on the spot and evidence for competing views can be cherry picked mercilessly, all well remaining completely nameless.

Definition of debate:  2. To engage in argument by discussing opposing points.
3. To engage in a formal discussion or argument.
I understand your point about calling our exchanges in a comments section "debates," do you suggest a better word?

I admire your persistence, not falling into troll traps (baiting you with reinstituting slavery, tinfoil hats, and whatnot), evidencing your arguments with competing ideas, and your willingness to not hide behind the veneer of anonymity.

When I first commented at the HP, and in person during Wisconsin's recent recall day, I was amazed at the responses I got.

I knew that I would be arguing, and every time I debate in person my opponents get mad and call me names, but I was still a bit surprised at the responses to my comments.  (Even in debates in college classes resulted in my opponents calling me names.)

Let me say that our back and forth has been quite enjoyable and I will concede that, in getting me to spend more time thinking on this issue, you have certainly made me reanalyze my own position. The argument you’re making is a difficult one because it requires greater consideration of higher level concepts (why a rising tide doesn’t necessarily raise all ships) in the face of simpler, lower level concepts (more money in someone’s pocket = good).


One of the reasons that I wanted to  put a contrary opinion on a liberal website was to see if the reports of the left not at all understanding the right's reasons were true.  If we turn on anything, outside the internet, and except talk radio and Fox news, we get to hear the liberal perspective.  I wanted to see what the responses would be to a position that some may not have ever heard of.

I don't know that my arguments require understanding of higher level concepts.  The complications often arrive in disputes, and are unnecessary.

To get a basic understanding of economics you don't even need to understand charts and graphs, just some logic, and that open mind many on the left accuse me of not having.

Read Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams.  (Jewish World Review's website arranges their columns best, I think.)  Their columns have "facts and stats" but are mostly filled with common sense and logic.

In Thomas Sowell's book "Basic Economics," I don't remember finding a chart or a graph.  With that book you can understand the basics of economics simply.

[BBQ- if you would like to read Basic Economics, I would even be willing to buy it for you, let me know in email.]

One thing that I always wonder about is the dislike some have for money.  Money is a medium of exchange.  Without money we would need to trade the goods and services we produce for the things that are produced by others.  The money people have, so long as it was gotten through work and not theft or handouts, is a symbol of productivity.  The more money people have the better able we are to buy the things we need and the more leisure time we have.  (I'm not altogether happy with this argument in favor of money and I will need to work on it.)

If you look at the discount rates of the two arguments economically you’ll always be at a significant disadvantage because “raising the minimum wage” deals with the immediate present (discount rate = 1) and the social and financial benefits of eliminating it deals with the future (discount rate = 0).

One of the big arguments republicans use against democrats is that democrats promise to give something to the citizens for nothing.  This cannot be the case because someone needs to create and provide those things.

An advantage that democrats have is that they can point to roads, bridges, and social security and say I gave you that.  What we cannot see is what would have been created with the resources used to create those things had they been left in the hands of the people who created them.

Let me put it another way: When someone shoots a bunch of people everyone can say look how bad guns are they killed people.  When a gun is used in self defense often no one is killed.  There is no way to know how many would have been saved.  And which story makes the news: shooter kills a bunch of people or gun owner saves someone's life?

Have a look at "The Broken Window Fallacy" for a better understanding than I may be able to give you.

We can see the benefits of a minimum wage, we cannot see the jobs that were not created because of it.

I see that you recognized I immediately identified Walter Williams as a Libertarian economist famous for taking property rights to extreme ends (the ability to sell ones organs, as I cited for example) and used him as a strawman. Since your blog is oriented towards developing and honing your arguments towards better penetrating liberal logic, I think you are correct in your notion that you should tailor your argument towards the immediate social benefits of reducing the minimum wage rather than the potential long term economic benefits. But even still I don’t know that that will be sufficient.

You say extreme ends, but his argument is the best way to know if you own something is to see if you can sell it.  Here is one article, of his, on the subject.  

(As I will describe out in a post next week) I have changed my mind on only one political issue since I've had opinions on them.  I changed my mind after reading Ron Paul's "Liberty Defined".  Many conservatives do not like Ron Paul's stance on foreign policy.  I didn't like it until I came to understand it.

Read Williams' article on organ donating.  Its in his words, not what some opponent has claimed his words to be.  (I know he's got abetter article on the subject but it is not obviously titled so.)

The Road To Freedom by Arthur Brooks is all about making the moral case for free markets.  When he makes the case for them at the beginning of the book, he does a great job.  (Later I will be posting my disagreement with his opinions on monopolies.)

There are even short term drawbacks to a minimum wage: its harder to get your first job if your potential employer must pay more than you are worth.  Here is perhaps another version of "Minimum Wage, Maximum Folly."

"For example, let's go back several decades and pretend you produced automatic dishwashing machines. Your salesmen put on a sales pitch, but restaurant owners say: "Why should we buy your costly machines when we can hire people to wash dishes for $2.00 per hour? It isn't worth it." You would benefit from Congress raising the minimum wage to say $4.00 per hour. Why? It raises the cost of restaurant owners using people to wash dishes. Thus, they'd have greater financial incentive to buy dishwashing machines from you."

A central theme of the Libertarian position is the question, “Does it make sense to anyone that a business will hire more employees when they cost more?” and the problem is the argument is somewhat specious. To the point, no, of course it doesn’t make any sense that a business would hire more employees when they cost more and Pareto efficiency speaks to this, but it fails to account for inefficient aggregate macroeconomic outcomes that result from seemingly rational individual micro-economic actions i.e. general glut. General glut of course leads to under consumption which in turn affects that same business owner (that’s what we see in today’s job market IMO).

I don't know that that's a central theme.  I think that that is just a rhetorical question.

A more accurate central theme of libertarians, I think, is described in a article, "Winning Arguments."

"The other day I had a chat with a neighbor friend. He posed a rhetorical question, “You do believe some taxes are necessary, right?” Rather than debate the merits of this or that tax, this or that function funded by taxes – I merely replied that as a non-violent person I am opposed to the use of violence, for any reason except in self-defense. I therefore oppose, I told him, the violent taking of other people’s property for any purpose whatsoever. That while I might prefer this or that outcome, I would rather people dealt with one another on the basis of persuasion and mutual free consent – and not at gunpoint."

Another hurdle to your argument is that Libertarian ideas are developed from the perspective that the social contract is non-existent and/or shouldn’t exist. Personal freedoms and personal responsibility is the mantra (feel free to correct me if I’m misinformed, of course). But to that end, and I briefly addressed it in the same HP comment thread to another poster, people are not personally responsible and whether or not we like it, those of us who are responsible ultimately shoulder their failings.

I disagree with your assessment of the libertarian position.  Personal freedom and liberty is better than force being used against us.  The article at describes it better than I can.

From Dr Tim's Moment of Clarity (even though we are both "Tim" we are not the same person.):

"The list of victimless crimes can go on for pages without ever having to get into the juicy stuff, but it is when we confront the lurid that liberty’s mettle is sorely tested.  Freedom to choose demands the courage to let some people choose badly some of the time.   

If prostitution is the price to pay to have free markets, we are better off to tolerate the whores.  If pornography is the price we have to pay to insure that we can always buy “Atlas Shrugged”, then the presence of smut merchants is oddly comforting.  The risk of addiction is preferable to government choosing our intoxicants for us."

I like that one line a lot: "Freedom to choose demands the courage to let some people choose badly some of the time."

 Does that mean that I should be expected to take care of them for their failures? No, of course not. But what of when their failure to take personal reasonability manifests itself as a tangible, personal problem for me? It could almost be phrased as Does it make sense that I should be compelled to pay for the social services (Section 8, Welfare, WIC, Prison, “free” Legal Counsel Fees etc.) these people rely upon because I don’t pay them enough to do it themselves?

In response to this article, I say, "reread those last two links."

The world isn't perfect, and freedom is better than force.

The primary (i.e. “Simple”) argument seems to be that they are disenfranchised because they lack the appropriate financial means and are depressed by low wages ergo you and I, the tax paying public, are forced to subsidize their failings. Which brings us to minimum wage, the gap between that and the “living wage”, and what it translates into for you and I, the tax paying public.

The first few chapters of "The Road to Freedom" goes into this.  Giving stats for the fact that when the government is the one helping the poor, many people think that they do not need to donate or volunteer as much because the government is doing it for them.  The author also suggests having a "safety net" for the poorest.  (I haven't made up my mind on the subject yet.  Although a simple check to the poor is more honest, and cheaper than the current unsuccessful mess we currently have.)

Concerning the $1.48T cited as going toward programs that help the poor, I disagree with the position that Social Security ($725B) and Medicare ($480B) are programs for the “poor” considering they are insurance programs (I’m sure we’ll disagree about this) paid into by their users. Medicade ($275B) absolutely is a handout. So with that in mind it significantly modifies the concept of sending a $30K check to every one of the 49.1M poor (that’s a good visual though), which is further predicated on the idea that they would be responsible enough in the first place to have free money sent to them, which they aren’t.

Somewhere I have "The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal".  I am fairly sure that Social Security was originally meant for the poor.  (If I remember, I'll get back to that.)  In any case, SS is a Ponzi Scheme.  (I recommend Paul Ryan make a sign to hang around his neck during this campaign: "My plan will not effect anyone currently 55 or older.")

Would you be suggesting that medicare was created to help the rich pay for their medical expenses?

Note also that I did not include unemployment benefits in that total, because they were not separated from other things in my source.

Even if we agree to could the poor aid programs you agree with, (don't forget affordable housing, food stamps, etc), giving each poor person a check would be much more honest, than our current mess.  Even if the check is only for $11,000 the poverty level according to the government.  Also no bureaucracy, or corruption.

To China’s…China is a very, very interesting example. To speak of their phenomenal growth as merely a function of free enterprise without mentioning and accounting for the massive role of the three decade long Maxist-Leninist structural investment program on the part of the Government is like having your cake and eating it too. Not to mention all of their economic and commerce sectors are regulated by the Government, including the banking and financial sectors. So the question for China then becomes How much does the free market have to do with their economic success when all of the processes regulating the market are controlled and regulated by the Government?

The article in my last reply is worth another read.  

"Free enterprise has raised the average manufacturing wage in China from 58 cents per hour in 2000 to nearly $6 per hour today.  Let’s connect the dots for the UW grads: government lets go of the rope, 43 million new businesses are formed, the economy is 70% liberated, and wages go up 10-fold in a decade.  Get it?"

The argument that he makes, is that countries with lots of government, like North Korea, older China, and the US, do not do as well as the countries that are becoming more free.  China and India are becoming richer faster than anywhere else.  And they are doing it at precisely the time their governments are reducing their control.  For the other side: Sweden is often used a the example of a good socialist country, but it is stagnating, at best, economically.

More free = more quality of life, more money
Less free = North Korea, Cuba, Soviet Union, etc. (Shall I note the death tolls for the less free countries?)

From Dr. Tim's Moment of Clarity:

"But to truly understand the genius of capitalism and the stupidity of socialism you need to go a lot farther back in time; either 9,000 or 35,000 or 60,000 years depending on your belief about the origin of the species.  Because President Obama did stumble into one profound truth in his assault against the right half of the bell curve – lots of people are smart.   

Humans have always been smart and always worked hard, just like the man said.  Our brains are no larger today and we certainly exert ourselves at a tiny fraction of what it took to survive in previous millennia.  Economic exchange has been around forever, likewise for language, communication, and invention – humans have been smart and hard working economic beings for tens of thousands of years.   

And yet all of the trappings of modern living that we have come to depend on have just come into being in the past 200 years.  Ask yourself why.  Why did this not take place in any of the other two-century stretches in the history of our species?  They were smart, they worked hard, they understood mathematics, and the iron and oil and coal was right there in the ground the whole time.  What changed?    

America - that’s what changed. 

For the first time in the history of the world, the person who “built it” got to keep it.  Liberty – that is all that it took to free the unlimited human capacity for enterprise and advance the living standards of the human race beyond comprehension. "

We did not have a choice of weather or not to use things like public roads, they were forced upon us.  Are roads run well, or are they full of potholes, speed limits that are too low, and full of dangerous accidents?  Had a private market been allowed to build, and maintain the roads, I bet they'd be much better.

Prior to public roads, etc. there were private sources of transportation.  Was the west "won" by use of highways? Or private trains?

If the infrastructure came from communists, why did the freer countries of America and Great Britain have trains, etc., first?  Where were they invented?  Can you name a comparable great achievement from the communists? 

So here’s my position in summation: Taxation for social services comes from the rationale that those who rely upon the services are depressed because of unfair wage regulations that do not reflect the wage requirements needed to meet those minimum human needs.

"unfair wage regulations"

Often the problem is caused by the government and then we want the government to fix throw more money at that same problem.  How much has education improved in this country, with the government's "help"?

I recently watched a BBC special of a London Bus Driver who went to the Philippines for a week to work as  jeepney driver.  We look at the poor and say, "how can we help?"  What we should ask is, "How did anyone rise out of poverty to become as wealthy as the west is today?"

Two hundred years ago Americans were no better off than that poor jeepney driver.  And yet, for a while, America was free.  Someone who had an idea, and worked hard, could go as far as he was able.  No one was holding him back.  There were, at first, few rules and regulations.  There was no income tax for more than 100 years.  There were also no public roads, Social Security, unemployment, food stamps, OSHA, labor laws, etc.

And what was the result?

Most people who were able made their way here and made America the greatest country in the history of the world.  It wasn't perfect, but it was better than anywhere else has ever been.

What better way to eliminate that argument, and the compulsory taxation for social services, then to raise the minimum wage to a level that proves they’re not needed? It’s much more difficult to make a case that someone needs free X, Y, or Z because “they don’t make enough” when full time work for anyone, anywhere, provides a wage that proves that not to be the case.

"Which allows an American Samoan worker to have a higher standard of living: being employed at $3.26 per hour or unemployed at a wage scheduled to annually increase by 50 cents until it reaches federally mandated wages at $7.25? You say, "Williams, that's a stupid question. Who would support people being unemployed at $7.25 an hour over being employed at $3.26 an hour?" That's precisely the outcome of Congress' 2007 increases in the minimum wage. Chicken of the Sea International moved its operation from Samoa to a highly automated cannery plant in Lyon, Georgia. That resulted in roughly 2,000 jobs lost in Samoa and a gain of 200 jobs in Georgia."

from here


Thanks for responding.   This was more fun, and interesting, than any other political "thing" than I have ever previously experienced.

If you wish to reply to anything that I have wrote here, I would be happy to have you guest post.  Or if you have your own website or blog, then I would be happy to move to there.


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