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What’s Fair About Equal Outcomes?

If you’ve been using the MPI website for any length of time you’ve probably come across the phrase “Equal people are not free and free people are not equal.” The point of that saying is that no society can guarantee equal outcomes for its members, and trying comes at the cost of freedom.

The reason is that people bring different attributes, talents, aspirations and even luck to the table. Equalizing those things means artificially holding some of them back and propping some of them up; in other words, taking away their freedom to succeed or fail or even to dream.

Enforced equality of outcomes would mean forcing beautiful people to wear masks, holding down stronger people with weights, depriving athletes or actors of the ability to use their talents and more. I think we can all agree that wouldn’t be fair, so why is it fair to deprive risk-takers, hard workers, and innovators of what they produce to make them equal with those who have worked less, taken fewer risks, or just aren’t blessed with the same skills and talents? Clearly it isn’t.

Attempts to equalize outcomes are the inevitable results of envy or of seeing the world as zero-sum. The envy argument speaks for itself. If you believe your failures are the fault of others, it’s not much of a leap to wish  punishment on them. That’s hardly a fair or moral argument.

But those who believe in a zero-sum world think that winners must equal losers, and so the losers must be made whole. That’s not the way our world works. Nobody is worse off because Bill Gates is a billionaire. In fact, millions of people’s lives are much better because he had the incentive to bring PCs to the masses; and those who followed him and got rich building apps and hardware and businesses made even more people better off. They didn’t take slices of the pie away from others, they created their own slices and grew the pie for everyone else in the process. We should encourage that, not punish it.

There’s a myth out there that so-called progressives are more compassionate than free marketers and care more for those who can’t or won’t take care of themselves. It’s a myth because free markets are what raise everybody’s standard of living. Rather than trying to equalize outcomes by bringing down the rich, those who believe in the power of free enterprise want to raise up the poor. That includes the freedom to succeed, but also taking responsibility for failure. A reasonably regulated free market with a safety net befitting a civil, prosperous society has proven again and again to bring about the best outcomes for the most people. That’s the moral high ground.

Freedom and free markets bring prosperity, which makes civil society and safety nets possible. Poor people and poor countries don’t take care of those who can’t afford to take care of themselves. They don’t take care of the environment. And they don’t respect the rights of their citizens. They can’t. They’re trying to feed and shelter themselves and their families. Civility and charity require prosperity, and the most prosperous nations in the world embrace free enterprise. That’s why free markets are not just effective, they’re moral and fair.

If you want to read up on these and other arguments favoring freedom and free enterprise with both moral and economic arguments, here are a few places to go, all of them free and at websites you should explore at any rate:

  • For the basics from the greats, Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law” is still the classic. You can read it in an evening.
  • To learn why central planning doesn’t work and politics turns basic economics on its head read Friedrich Hayek’s The Road To Serfdom. It’s a slog, though, so a nice weekend book that covers it all would be Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson.
  • Again a bit of a slog, but John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty is one of the best treatments around of the tradeoffs required in a republican or democratic (notice the small ‘r’ and ‘d’ there) society to maintain freedom while exercising the responsibilities of citizenship. I don’t agree with everything he came up with, but he makes his points well and takes a realistic look at at an idealistic concept.

And finally, Arthur Brookes The Battle and Stephen Moore’s Who’s the Fairest of Them All are concise contemporary reads with both arguments and lots of data to support their basic points that freedom to succeed is both fair and moral. They’re not free, but I’ll loan you a copy if you want.

Happy reading!

Business needs to pick a side-free enterprise or free loading

You’re going to hear a lot more from us on this topic, but it’s time for business and industry to come out and say what they think about the government’s impact on their investment, hiring, and marketing decisions; and what they think about government picking winners and losers.

The first industry that does this will be embraced with open arms by the same majority of Americans who have picked a side and sent politicians to Washington and Helena with mandates to bring this country and state back to the basics that made them both great: free people, free enterprise, and limited government.

Ford may have made the decision and is picking a side with this ad. (video frame may not display in some browsers)

The GM/Chrysler bailouts are going to cost taxpayers around $16 billion. So-called “stimulus” projects wasted billions more. “Green job” subsidies are a huge black hole of political favoritism and picking winners and losers, as we’re already seeing with the Solyndra debacle (or crime). The National Labor Relations Board wants to tell Boeing where it can and cannot build manufacturing facilities. I could go on and on.

The point is that industries and businesses that stand up and say they’ll give up special treatment in return for government stopping overregulation and picking winners and losers will find a lot of allies. And those who don’t will find their customers going elsewhere.

New Angle on Ending Our Oil Dependency

This comes from an organization called Secure Our Fuels. I frankly don’t know much about them and am talking about their efforts here on the blog because I don’t have time to dig into their background or independently verify their numbers. They’re also running ads in Montana so they obviously have an agenda. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that so long as what they’re saying is truthful and fair, and we have no indication that it isn’t.

So with that namby pamby introduction, just what’s their point that’s worth talking about here? It’s mainly that Congress is looking at cutting off 90% Montana’s gasoline supply. Well, not cutting it off but making it come from someplace else and making it more expensive. I’m going to selectively cut and paste a little rather than trying to paraphrase or quote. The bold is mine. You can get the full text at their web site.

“New Campaign Seeks to Educate Montanans on Negative Impacts of a Nationwide Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS)

“In any form, a Low-Carbon Fuel Standard would represent a major blow to America’s economic health and strategic position,” said CEA’s Michael Whatley, a leading expert on LCFS proposals. “That’s because the energy we import daily from friends like Canada would essentially be prohibited from crossing our border. If these abundant resources are cut off, our dependence on unstable regions of the world would skyrocket, and so would the price American consumers pay at the pump.

Added Whatley: “More than 90 percent of the oil Montana consumers depend on each day comes from Canada – energy that would be banned from crossing the U.S. border under an LCFS. As such, this campaign seeks to alert everyday Montanans about the serious implications of this policy, and enlist their support in ensuring it does not come to pass.”

So tell me again how we’re supposed to get off foreign oil (I don’t count Canada as foreign. They drink LaBatt’s for crying out loud)? What happens to people who are just getting by when their gas bills skyrocket? Where’s all that compassion for the little guy?
Just one more brick on the double-talk pile from people whose real agenda is to control how we live, what we buy, how we drive, what we pay, what we say, and everything else. They say they want to reduce our energy dependence, but what they really want to do is reduce our energy, no matter what the cost to our economy.

There is no credible evidence that “green” jobs will outnumber jobs lost if energy prices skyrocket, as they inevitably would under proposals like this and its cap and trade bretheren. If there’s a market for this stuff the private sector looking to line its own evil pockets will find and satisfy that market, and satisfly consumers and manage the resources behind it in the process. Anything else is just robbing from Peter to pay Paul, with special interests and Washington insiders deciding who’s Peter and who’s Paul.

They’re just so much smarter than us. If only we’d just sit back and not worry our pretty little heads about anything but paying our taxes life would be good. Well, it’d be good for the insiders and special interests making the rules. The rest of us can eat cake.