About This Blog

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was the greatest economist of my time. His greatest works can be accessed here at no charge.

Mises believed that property, freedom and peace are and should be the hallmarks of a satisfying and prosperous society. I agree. Mises proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the prospect for general and individual prosperity is maximized, indeed, is only possible, if the principle of private property reigns supreme. What's yours is yours. What's mine is mine. When the line between yours and mine is smudged, the door to conflict opens. Without freedom (individual liberty of action) the principle of private property is neutered and the free market, which is the child of property and freedom and the mother of prosperity and satisfaction, cannot exist. Peace is the goal of a prosperous and satisfying society of free individuals, not peace which is purchased by submission to the enemies of property and freedom, but peace which results from the unyielding defense of these principles against all who challenge them.

In this blog I measure American society against the metrics of property, freedom and peace.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Food Regulation: The Canary In The Mineshaft?

Articles like David Limbaugh's "Just When You Thought Our Fiscal Nightmare Couldn't Get Any Worse" at Human Events are scary. I found the article via Maggies Farm and Doug Ross.

Limbaugh's article spells out the fiscal and monetary mess we face in this country. I am moved to make a couple of observations.

First, the economic problems the country faces are real. Glenn Beck and others have been criticized for fear mongering, i.e., exagerating the problem and the danger. Beck's perfect storm scenario is indeed the worst case. He predicts food shortages, violence in the streets and martial law. I will deal with the food shortage issue in a moment. Regarding martial law, I predicted four years ago and I still predict that martial law will be declared in this country before Obama's first term ends. But back to the economic problems we face. Unemployment is high. Monetary inflation is policy. Public debt is at World War levels. The dollar faces imminent collapse. Austrian economics has been predicting this crackup for many, many years. the day of reckoning is at hand. And politicians in Washington either do not know what to do or know and will not do it.

Second, are the current President and his sycophants merely economically stupid or, as Rush Limbaugh alleges, purposely steering the nation on the road to disaster? I happen to believe both. Mr. Obama is a trained socialist. He is ideologically married to the leveling Marxist philosophy of from each according to his ability and to each according to his need. I make this judgement based on Obama's rhetoric, background and policies. I do not pretend to know his motives. But I can speculate.

I believe Obama sees the United States as the last bastion of “unreformed” capitalism. By that I mean capitalism which has not been “gentled” by European-style “compassionate” progressivism. In my previous post I discuss the private market versus the public market. The U.S. is probably about 60% public and 40% private, and this is a conservative estimate. The public market is growing everyday by leaps and bounds. Obama will not rest until the public market comprises over 90% of the American economy. He probably operates under the illusion that when the mighty engine of American capitalism is “harnessed” by having its vast wealth redistributed, not only this country but the entire world will experience an economic new morning of prosperity. Of course he does not realize that the wellspring of American production, wealth and prosperity is the private market. By destroying the private market he destroys the greatest productive engine the world as ever seen. With it he destroys the prosperity Americans take for granted.

What better way to rapidly expand the public market than by allowing a fiscal and monetary crisis to bloom? Keep in mind, American voters lean heavily to the left. Arguably Dwight Eisenhower was our last conservative President. Slowly but surely we have been electing Presidents who are more and more liberal. Obama is simply the latest, though the most fervent. However, we almost elected Al Gore and John Kerry, men who rival Obama's leftism. When a fiscal and monetary crisis hits, when Americans' steady supply of goods and services becomes tight, when the dollar collapses, the American public will eagerly sign on to any "emergency" measure Obama suggests will save the day. There is no greater danger in this country than that presented by ignorance and fear in the populace AND a leftist community organizer in the White House eager to pander to both.

Third, mitigating the effects of a fiscal and economic crisis is the tenacity and resiliency of what's left of the private market in the United States. From personal experience I can testify that business, most especially small business, will not go quietly into the night. Small businessmen are used to adversity. They are fighters. They have cash reserves. Never count them out so long as they draw any breath at all. Small business men and women are the spine of our economy. If the destructive policies of the left can be overcome, small businesses will be the institutions that save us.

Fourth, there are wildcard forces at work in this nation that may be too powerful even for small business to resist. There is the mainstream media that is as economically illiterate as the American public and almost as ideological as the President. They cheerlead Mr. Obama's policies and coverup his flaws. And when economic crisis strikes, they will pimp the President's plans. This is a media caught up in meaningless and shallow celebrity, reality TV and courtroom drama. A fearful public doesn't have a chance against them.

Then, there is the popular culture. This is not the America of your grandfather or of your father. This is a nation of risk-averse and righteous individuals who are spoiled rotten. They feel they have a right to be comfortable. They have never experienced hardship. They are caught up in the fluff of modern culture: toneless jungle beat music with sappy, sexual lyrics, hollow social media blabbering, self-mutilation, selfless political correctness, artificial politeness, and a savage and unending stream of video and audio violence. Flash mobs are all the rage, and flash mobs that turn violent are merely an exciting curiosity. What will such individuals do when their toys and other of life's more essential necessities (like food, jobs and government welfare payments) are taken away? We need only look to Greece, Spain and Britain for the answer. In the face of wanton and greedy anarchy, small businessmen will react like the rest of us. They will pack up their things and take cover.

Fifth, in my opinion the canary in the mine shaft that will signal the beginning of this misery is food production and distribution. By and large, despite some federal oversight, the food industry is a thriving member of the private market. So long as it is left alone, it will be tenacious and resiliant. However, once the government begins to pay serious attention to the food industry, once it starts to hamstring it with overbearing regulation (see the latest nutritional and labeling requirements that threaten to remove certain, popular food types from the market), be they environmental, nutritional or egalitarian, production and distribution will slow. Shortages will hurt. Public complaints will be heard. Price controls and rationing will be the death knell of the industry. The canary will die.

What are the chances such calamities will befall us? You have eyes and a brain. Decide for yourself.

1 comment:

John Galt said...

Excellent piece, Sherman.

It has the inner strength for several single pieces within the issues touched in the article.

The debate concerning weather Barack Obama's policy inefficiencies are by design or by ignorance has been going on for the last two years. It still begs for a good analysis and scrutiny with some empirical support.

Let us know (with some head time) if you produce anything like that.