Saturday, May 26, 2007

Psychics, astrologers, politicians and other con men.

Astrologers and psychics know how to tell people exactly what they want to hear. It is one way they succeed in bilking people out of money. And to be safe they often tell people things which are opposites at the same time.

“I sense that you have a warm sense of humor but can also be serious. You are generous but know where to draw lines. You do enjoy the company of people but also need your alone time.”

People eat up that sort of fraud. It’s fraud because virtually anyone you say this to will nod their head in agreement. This sort of “reading” is the hallmark of the conman. So what does Barack Obama say?

"Don't get me wrong. The people I meet in small towns and big cities, in diners and office parks, they don't expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead and they want to. Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or the Pentagon. Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.

No, people don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice."
You read the first paragraph and you have someone talking about how government needs to be limited and people need to be free to solve their problems. You get to the second paragraph and he’s talking about the necessity of expanding government more into the social realm to help people solve their problems. Does he do psychic readings as well?

What is odd is his remark: “And they want that choice.” What is the choice precisely? And who makes it? The great problem in state-imposed solutions is that it stripes people of choice entirely. If the state decides to solve the “head lice” problem or “smoking” or “obesity” or anything that someone says is a problems choice disappears.

When government stepped in to solve the smoking problem, partially caused by their own subsidies to tobacco, they pushed through measures which destroyed choice. They imposed higher taxes on smokers with no choice of not paying allowed. They offered programs to smokers and all of us, non-smokers alike, pay for it with no choice given. They push measures which ban smoking in private establishments overriding the choice of the owners of those establishments.

Government can’t give people choices. It can only restrict choices. If it bestows the “choice” of having X on someone by giving them a subsidy it does not increase choices. To give this person X it must strip others of some of the choices they have. Otherwise it has no way to pay for that which it gives. In fact it must strip away more choice than it bestows.

Each dollar in my pocket represents an ability by me to make choices about my life. The more dollars I have the more choices I can make. The fewer dollars I have the fewer choices I can make.

If the state bestows $100 of choices on someone they must first take the $100 from someone else. Normally that is seen as breaking even -- any new choices created come at the expense of choices denied others. But government is not that efficient it doesn’t give out $100 worth of choices for each $100 it strips away.

Often the state needs to take $200 in order to bestow $100. There is a vast, unproductive bureaucratic order that consumes resources while redistributing choice in society. It costs to confiscate choice, costs to account for the funds, costs to redistribut the funds. So for government to hand out $100 worth of benefits on one hand it must take far more than $100 with the other hand. The redistribution of choice must reduce the total amount of choices available.

Government help is similar to a doctor giving a patient a blood transfusion from his left arm into his right arm but along the way the doctor keeps half the blood. At best the patient ends up slight anemic. Continued long enough the patient could be in serious trouble.