Economics is hard

by Russ Roberts on July 9, 2009

in Inflation

You could teach on course on the errors in this poster (HT: michelediane). Assuming it is real and that someone or some group in 1943 thought this made sense or that people would think that it did, is a testament to how hard economics is.

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dave smith July 9, 2009 at 7:42 pm

It looks like government propaganda.

Fred July 9, 2009 at 7:51 pm

Shows it has always been hard to teach economics to government bureaucrats. This is the grand daddy of Gerald Ford's Whip Inflation Now campaign.

Justin P July 9, 2009 at 8:29 pm

How could it be wrong Russ, it was approved by the US Government of FDR?
Wasn't he the greatest evah!!!

/snark

I'm convinced that politicians actively promote economic and historical illiteracy. As long as the masses are kept ignorant, it's much easier to feed them misinformation and lies, like the granddaddy…we can inflate and spend our way to Utopia!

So how about another Stimulus, bigger than the first!!!!

Justin P July 9, 2009 at 8:29 pm

How could it be wrong Russ, it was approved by the US Government of FDR?
Wasn't he the greatest evah!!!

/snark

I'm convinced that politicians actively promote economic and historical illiteracy. As long as the masses are kept ignorant, it's much easier to feed them misinformation and lies, like the granddaddy…we can inflate and spend our way to Utopia!

So how about another Stimulus, bigger than the first!!!!

DAVE July 9, 2009 at 8:34 pm

All that said, you can never get away with this kind of thing today. Never.

Justin P July 9, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Sorry for the double post…=\

John Papola July 9, 2009 at 9:04 pm

wow , that's a frightening poster.

R. Pointer July 9, 2009 at 9:42 pm

I just finished a wonderful chapter by Robert H. Bates in Perspectives in Positive Political Economy. In it he illustrates a nice way of thinking about politicians; he say that Olson (1965) isn't the only way of thinking about interest groups and politicians. For Olson, IGs lobby Pols for special favors and gain at everyone elses' expense.

It could be the other way around – a politician distorts a market thereby creating a shortage (supply is less than demand) then using his position to ration to favored parties the remainder. In this way the interest group is a creation of the politician. Using this logic, Politicians understand economics just fine, they just have really screwed up incentives to deprive us of the public goods of rule of law or market prices.

Unit July 9, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Well, 66 years later and you get this:

http://www.newrules.org/retail/news/death-category-killers

talk about not learning….

Dane July 9, 2009 at 10:22 pm

Devil's advocate position here, respectfully tendered:

I'm trying to imagine WWII waged without massive government manipulation of markets, wages, freedom, etc.

It's hard to do.

Methinks July 9, 2009 at 10:22 pm

R. pointer,

It could be the other way around – a politician distorts a market thereby creating a shortage (supply is less than demand) then using his position to ration to favored parties the remainder. In this way the interest group is a creation of the politician.

Don't you think you may be giving politicians too much credit. Usually, the distortion and associated shortages or over-supply occurs as an unintended consequence of some central planning attempt or other. Thus, the market distortions are not the goal but a consequence of politicians pursuing their own self interest. Interest groups, however, exist in the absence of politicians. Politicians can enhance the ability of interest groups to achieve their objectives by way of rent seeking rather than through more productive means, but I don't think interest groups are necessarily created by politicians.

Ray Gardner July 9, 2009 at 11:02 pm

My own theory is that people have an emotional attachment to their intuitive thoughts. When something mildly counter-intuitive comes along, they can choose to stop and think about it, or they could treat it as noise, and refuse to listen, even if they continue to engage in a conversation or debate.

The explanation of why minimum wage – for example – is so bad is not exactly rocket science, and it has some history to back it up, but of course, just try to explain it to someone who has made up their mind.

hutch July 9, 2009 at 11:24 pm

"we will pay our taxes willingly, without griping…no matter how much in taxes our government needs."

where do you start with that?

"A United States War message prepared by the War Advertising Council; approved by the Office of War Information"

it was definitely a good p.r. move to relabel it as defense.

R. Pointer July 9, 2009 at 11:38 pm

Methinks,

I don't think it matters if they do it consciously or not. The empirical results are the same. It is not important to see inside the mind of the politician. But that said, there are plenty of examples in developing countries of politicians developing imbalances to create patron-client networks.

Boss-machine city politics in the 19th century was such in the US. Create a regulation where you limit access to a right, say a liquor or business license, then pick winners and reap the political rewards.

Secondly, think about interest groups without politicians… that would be impossible. Someone has to have political power to reward collective action.

Lastly, this is Bates' formulation, not mine. But I do find it compelling.

R. Pointer July 9, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Olson talks about political entrepreneurship. If I start a union, like Jimmy Hoffa, how is it any different than Barney Frank taking advantage of his ability to create selective incentives for his own interest groups.

What is the difference between a political party and an interest group then?

Methinks July 10, 2009 at 12:11 am

Interesting points, R. Pointer.

I don't think it matters if they do it consciously or not. The empirical results are the same.

I think it matters if they do it consciously only because the implications are more sinister.

Christopher Renner July 10, 2009 at 1:23 am

To be honest, I'm finding it a challenge to discern the flawed economic thinking in that ad (the arrogant condescension of the government in referring to "the little people" and nagging about paying taxes is obviously bad, but that's more of a problem for political philosophy, no?)

The ad is essentially trying to promote tolerance among the civilian populace of a shortage of goods and services, at the then-current nominal price; it's also trying to cause a shift of demand with respect to time.
Assuming the necessity of the war effort, and assuming that the shortages and delayed demand were not going to last into peacetime, this doesn't seem that unreasonable.

Wouldn't the most likely alternative to civilian rationing have been materiel shortages in the military? I know the military can create waste just as much as any other public organization, but it seems to me that in the instance of WWII that could have been indulged in the short run.

seanooski July 10, 2009 at 7:19 am

Reducing your debt and building your savings are good things to do, right? Certainly not the advice from the political class these days.

Martin Brock July 10, 2009 at 7:31 am

Frighteningly amusing. Only the "little guys" are expected to make all of these sacrifices to defeat the Enemy, and the sacrifices are all about funneling resources to the not so little guys at the center of the state.

No wonder the sixties followed the fifties.

Steven C July 10, 2009 at 10:27 am

I agree with Christoper Renner.

One of the great fears of the wartime Roosevelt administration was price inflation of consumer goods.

Millions of previously unemployed/underemployed workers with paychecks and little to purchase.

The chief reasons for wartime rationing and for income tax withholding (a WWII invention sold as a "war time" measure) was to reduce discretionary income. Selling bonds and stamps was another method to soak up excess money.

The times and the mind set of the 1940s were unique. And for all the flaws of the Roosevelt Administration, they got the one big thing right.

vidyohs July 10, 2009 at 11:06 am

I guess I am the odd man out, again. I can not focus on the economic message other than to see the assumptions in the numbers where numbers are used.

While Russ could teach a course in economics based on that poster, I could teach one on political and social propaganda.

Reading the thing does the same thing to my senses that hearing a fingernail drawn across a blackboard did, it raises my hackles and makes me want to bludgeon the creators.

The title alone is enough: "We're just little people". The text is obviously written by someone that has the mindset that there are "little" people and "magnificent" people. And, of course the magnificent ones are those who hold public office or are employed to serve those offices. The implications contained in just the title and the first three lines of text are, when blithely accepted as true (which undoubtedly were) are the words that create sheep from human stock. Yet it gets worse with this conversion of people to sheep.

Yeah, we'll pay our taxes no matter how much the government needs. Baaaa! Baaaa!

Yeah, we'll take excellent care of ourselves; meanwhile still sending all that is asked to those magnificent creatures who we are also paying to take good care of us, and God forbid we should ever stop and think about the stupidity of that! Baaa! Baaa!

If "they" were going to take good care of themselves, they certainly didn't need to be funneling large portions of their income to D.C. supposedly for that same care. Baaa! Baaa!

While I maintain that capitalism may have been the first tool ever invented by man, certainly stupid denial was the second.

Eric H July 10, 2009 at 11:08 am

The most obvious thing to me that's wrong with this ad is the whole "let's keep prices down" thing. If a good has a high price, those consumers to whom that good's marginal utility is lowest won't buy it. High prices encourage rationing. Why would a nation engaged in "total war" want low prices?

Martin Brock July 10, 2009 at 11:12 am

The "big one" is a rhetorical device, not a precise solution to a specific problem.

The poster is full of internal contradictions. First, it claims that "little people" have "too much money" in their paychecks, so they'll bid up prices.

It doesn't claim that statesmen have too little money to wage their imperial campaigns, though that's what it's really saying. The "little people" must pay taxes and buy war bonds submissively, i.e. they must surrender authority over their produce to the state, so it can organize men to kill people and destroy things.

Second, it claims that if rising prices absorb the "excess money", then workers will respond by "forcing up wages".

But why would workers force up wages? Because they can't buy as much as they expected, because prices rose?

So why wouldn't workers force up wages as their taxes rise? Why wouldn't workers force up wages to keep their consumption up as they buy war bonds?

No law of economics implies that workers may "force up wages" to compensate for a temporary period of inflation. The state may force up taxes (if it really is the state, if its subjects fear it sufficiently), because a state is a monopoly of force by definition, but workers have no arbitrary authority to "force up wages".

Everything after this "force up wages" assumption is bullshit. Unless monetary authorities expand the money supply excessively (more rapidly than real economic growth permits), "excess money" has a limited inflationary effect. Prices generally could rise temporarily but not indefinitely.

Martin Brock July 10, 2009 at 11:13 am

The preceding post addresses Steven C.

Martin Brock July 10, 2009 at 11:20 am

High prices encourage rationing. Why would a nation engaged in "total war" want low prices?

The whole point of the poster is to rationalize rationing regardless of individual perceptions of marginal utility, at least the individuals in the "little people" category. The policy doesn't simply lower consumption by these people. The policy lowers their consumption relative to the consumption of other people.

Daniel Kuehn July 10, 2009 at 12:30 pm

I don't know if this is illustrative of how hard economics is because I don't know that it's a statement about economics at all.

As many have pointed out this is political propaganda. Or somewhat more charitably, this is an effort to mobilize a population to fight against a fascist that had gained control of all but a few pockets of Europe, and whose allies were making tremendous progress in Asia and Africa.

Yes, higher prices would also reduce production – but it would keep the money in the market, and as I think even libertarians will agree – the market doesn't provide for the common defense very effectively (another one of those market failure thingums). So "we" (whoever "we" may be in this case) decided that an agent of collective action needed to use vast amounts of resources to fight the fascists. THAT was the goal – not reducing consumption for the sake of reducing consumption without price increases.

Since the goal is to increase public provision of national defense (something that does not respond to the price mechanism), it would be both counterproductive and inequitable to reduce consumption based not only on marginal utility, but also on ability to pay. That wouldn't provide for the common defense, AND it would introduce significant inequality in the name of reducing consumption, when there isn't really even anything inherently desirable about reducing consumption!

NRA attempts to dictate prices in an attempt to revive the economy were ridiculously ignorant of economics, I'll agree with that. Wartime attempts to dictate prices to ensure that we remained the arsenal of democracy was an entirely different issue. It was a strategy specifically cognizant of the limits of the market, a strategy that was interested in raising revenue – NOT efficiently rationing consumption for the sake of rationing consumption, and – if you really are an enemy of statism – a justifiable if not justified strategy (IMHO).

Daniel Kuehn July 10, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Martin Brock -
RE: "It doesn't claim that statesmen have too little money to wage their imperial campaigns, though that's what it's really saying."

What, exactly, was "imperial" about driving the Nazis and their allies out of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Morrocco, Tuniaia, Algeria, Czechoslavakia, Poland, Liechtenstein, Ethiopia, Denmark, Hungary, Macedonia, and China NOT TO MENTION Germany, Italy, and Japan themselves.

I'll allow for a lot of latitude in second-guessing what should have been done in the 30s and 40s… but I completely fail to understand how this is an imperialist war on our part. Whatever pitfalls the United States fell into in the postwar period, I don't see how WWII was anything less than the definition of anti-imperialism on the part of the Allies.

Daniel Kuehn July 10, 2009 at 12:43 pm

My apologies to wherever else the fascists left their mark, but that I forgot to mention.

Sam Grove July 10, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Daniel,

What people believe about WWII (and WWI) are pretty much the result of incessant and prolonged propaganda.

Does it not seem interesting that, though it was the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces that altered public sentiment in favor of entering the war, our military attention first went to Europe.

Deal making, of course.

U.S. presence in the European theater drew German forces from the Russian front. That was an assist to the communist allies.

The Russian front was 70% of the war theater on the European continent.
The German effort was essentially doomed once they decided to take on Russia, but our involvement there allowed an even more dangerous foe to survive the war in better shape than if we had devoted our attention first to the pacific theater.

I could bother to tell you about FDR's efforts to provoke Japan into attacking us, but this in not an appropriate forum.

You might check out Richard Maybury's books on the world wars.

but I completely fail to understand how this is an imperialist war on our part.

Check out the results: we are now an empire with 800 military bases in over 130 countries, mostly as a result of our participation in WWII.

Daniel Kuehn July 10, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Sam –
Agreed on pretty much every count. This is why I said (1.) that there's a lot of latitude to criticize policy making in the 30s and 40s, and (2.) we've certainly had our fair share of imperial campaigns after WWII. I don't have a shred of a doubt on either of those points.

But maintaining bases in allied countries abroad, while it certainly has elements of imperialism (like I say – I make no excuses for postwar America), doesn't hold a candle to the imperialism of the fascists that came to power in the 20s and 30s. I've been an opponent of the Iraq war from the beginning, I'm an opponent of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and I'm certainly an opponent of a variety of other imperial misadventures that we've embarked on. But insofar as we are running an empire, it is a fundamentally different empire than the one we rolled back in WWII, and I would say that it is even fundamentally different from the empire it displaced (the British empire).

WWII may have set the stage for post-war imperialism of a sort as a reaction to a new authoritarian adversary and an international power vaccuum – but that doesn't mean that the war itself wasn't an anti-imperialist endeavor.

Daniel Kuehn July 10, 2009 at 1:20 pm

And, I should add to drive the point home, that even if it WERE an imperialist campaign, the vignette that Russ provides is an example of fundamentally geopolitical policymaking, NOT economic policymaking, nor is it symptomatic of a misunderstanding of economics (and certainly there were many such misunderstandings in the Roosevelt administration).

Sam Grove July 10, 2009 at 1:54 pm

But maintaining bases in allied countries abroad, while it certainly has elements of imperialism (like I say – I make no excuses for postwar America), doesn't hold a candle to the imperialism of the fascists that came to power in the 20s and 30s.

Certainly the American people harbored no imperialist sentiments, but we're talking about politicians here.

Our main allies in both WWs were the largest colonial empires in the world, well, pretty much the only colonial empires.

Hitler aroused popular sentiment by promising more "living space" for Germans (and revenge on those that had imposed the Treaty of Versailles on Germany after WWI).
Japan, too, was interested in building a colonial empire…just like Britain, France, and Spain had done.

IOW, the war was mainly between established empires and upstart empires.

Sam Grove July 10, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Yes, the poster was obviously prepared by the propaganda department and not by an economics professional, but it still illustrates his point that either those who prepared it were challenged in economic thinking, or its intended targets were, or both.

Sam Grove July 10, 2009 at 1:58 pm

If U.S. involvement was anti-imperialist, then why did we rush to help defend the largest empire extant?

Daniel Kuehn July 10, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Sam -
RE: "If U.S. involvement was anti-imperialist, then why did we rush to help defend the largest empire extant?"

This speaks directly to what I was thinking about responding when I read your 1:54:46 response, so good question – let's engage it.

I don't know if you're talking about the Soviets or the British here, but I'll address both. In the case of the Soviets, I don't think the alliance with Stalin can be thought of as anything other than a case of "my enemy's enemy is my friend". The eastern front may not have opened by the time Britain entered, but it certainly was by the time we did. A war with the Nazis necessarily meant a war in which we were allied with Stalin. And at the time it was the Nazis the posed the immediate threat to civilization – not the Soviets. But I don't think anyone in either London or Washington relished the idea of an alliance with the Soviets. What would you have us do – parachute into Leningrad and provide support for Army Group North while simultaneously storming Normandy? No. The best course of action was to let the dictators wear each other out and push into France and Italy. The fact that Roosevelt and Stalin would sit at the table together doesn't mean that Roosevelt had any coincidence of interests with Stalin besides the defeat of Hitler.

Now – if you mean the British Empire, I'd request some clarification. Are you suggesting that the British Empire should be considered comparable to the Nazi Empire, such that no alliance with the British was legitimate in a war that was truly against Nazi imperialism? I just don't see it. "Empire" is a very loaded word. Even if we'd stayed isolated through the war, we would still be "imperial" in the sense that we already conquered and were growing fat off of an entire continent.

I suppose I'm balking at the use of the word "imperial" in the same way that I balk at the word "statist". Insofar as anyone is comfortable with the idea of a state, they can be considered a "statist". Indeed – in a recent post it was repeatedly argued that libertarians aren't anarchists and they're not opposed to rules – and since they aren't anarchists, I assume that means that they're supportive of certain limited government rules. Well, in that sense libertarians are "statists" just like neocons are. It is in this sense that I would say the British were "imperialist", compared to Nazi imperialism.

Practically speaking, fighting the Nazis necessitate allying with the Soviets and the British. Philosophically speaking, I don't believe we should make the perfect the enemy of the good. I'm not shying away from calling the British and the Soviets imperialist – or even the Americans. But the purpose of the war was to reduce the imperialist character and structure of human relations – not to increase it.

Sam Grove July 10, 2009 at 2:55 pm

But the purpose of the war was to reduce the imperialist character and structure of human relations – not to increase it.

Let me rephrase your statement here: The purpose of U.S. entry in WWI…

I doubt it. Otherwise we would not have ceded half of Europe to Uncle Joe.

That may have been/be what U.S. citizens believe was the purpose of U.S. entry into the conflict, but I rather think FDR's purpose was strategic in nature.

Daniel Kuehn July 10, 2009 at 3:13 pm

RE: "I doubt it. Otherwise we would not have ceded half of Europe to Uncle Joe."

Yes… clearly the interest of liberty would have been served by pushing forward in a potentially losing battle and risking all of Europe… OR – avoid a Russian totalitarian controlling half of Europe in favor of a German totalitarian controlling all of it… OR…

Look, I don't know the feasibility of these decisions at the time. Maybe Patton was right and we should have just kept going. But saying "we won't survive pushing this to the gates of Moscow" seems to be something fundamentally different from saying "we like Soviet imperialism". That's just me.

Granite26 July 10, 2009 at 3:27 pm

In a situation where the government is consuming a great deal of production, and taking a large number of producers and sending them overseas, rationing may be the best way to make sure the 'little guy' isn't priced out of the market for basic necessities.

It's a situation where the wealthy can afford to take up so high a portion of goods that the poor are left out in the cold, and the market does not have any excess capacity to adjust for it.

That being the case, price controls justify the rationing that is the governments goal in the first place, without the large externalities of bilking the poor long term.

So what if it's not sold 100% honestly.

Martin Brock July 10, 2009 at 3:43 pm

What, exactly, was "imperial" about driving the Nazis and their allies out of France, …

The substitution of Liberal Democratic imperialism for National Socialist imperialism is still imperialism.

I'll allow for a lot of latitude in second-guessing what should have been done in the 30s and 40s… but I completely fail to understand how this is an imperialist war on our part.

It was imperialist, because we sought forcibly to impose a systematic order, "liberal democracy", on territories governed under other labels before the imposition.

That the states we sought to displace were also imperially imposed doesn't change this fact. That they were "more evil" than states we sought to substitute doesn't change the fact either. "Good" imperialism is still imperialism.

The neocons at least are honest in this regard. They freely concede that they seek "benevolent hegemony" and a "new American century", not a "liberal" century but a century dominated by American power and American standards and institutions, which they regard as morally superior to other standards.

Neocons understand history in terms of imperial domination, believing that some imperial power or another must dominate and that we must therefore play a role in imposing "good" powers over "evil" powers. I don't agree with them, but at least they're honest about it, none of this incredible pretense of dominating the globe to "liberate" it. Mussolini said the same about fascism, you know.

Whatever pitfalls the United States fell into in the postwar period, I don't see how WWII was anything less than the definition of anti-imperialism on the part of the Allies.

Then you have a very Orwellian understanding of "anti-imperialism". Invading and occupying countries to establish friendlier states is not "anti-imperial". You might call it "counter-imperial", countering one empire with another, but it's hardly "anti-imperial".

Perry Eidelbus July 10, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Here's a story — a true story — about rationing during the war, and government's brilliance in allocating scarce resources.

My father was stationed at the end of the war at an base in Massachusetts. I don't know which one, but it served what was then called the Army Air Force, and it was used to house German POWs. The POWs were used for various work, including serving meals to American officers. One reward for kitchen duty was eating any leftovers.

My father, a warrant officer, observed one of "the dirty krauts" open a can of pineapple, dump it on a plate, and proceed to eat it all by himself. To us today, that's no big deal, but keep in mind back then that such tropical fruit was very hard to get! And here was the enemy, enjoying what was a mostly unattainable luxury for Americans (unless you were wealthy enough to get some on the black market).

Martin Brock July 10, 2009 at 3:53 pm

But maintaining bases in allied countries abroad, while it certainly has elements of imperialism (like I say – I make no excuses for postwar America), doesn't hold a candle to the imperialism of the fascists that came to power in the 20s and 30s.

It holds a candle to the imperialism of the Treaty of Versailles, doesn't it? Do you think the fascists and national socialists invented imperialism? Weren't they only reacting to it, seeking to substitute one empire for another? You basically say that the U.S. was reacting to imperialism, but how is that "anti-imperial"? Haven't empires been reacting to empires in Europe since the Roman conquest, at least?

Washington would have no trouble recognizing U.S. imperialism for what it is.

Martin Brock July 10, 2009 at 4:07 pm

… nor is it symptomatic of a misunderstanding of economics (and certainly there were many such misunderstandings in the Roosevelt administration).

The poster explicitly states that workers could "force up wages" in response to an excess of money driving up other prices. This assertion reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the inflation. There is no "wage/price spiral" unless monetary authorities continually fuel it.

Without this fuel, the monetary excess described in the poster would disappear in a short time, replacing prices with somewhat higher prices at a new equilibrium. With prices a bit higher, the inflationary pressure subsides unless creditors fuel it further by authorizing employers to raise wages anticipating still higher revenue from still higher prices.

This "spiral" is an artifact of monetary policy, not the "force" of laborers desiring higher wages. Laborers always desire higher wages.

What the poster really advocates is cooperation with an effort to shift authority to consume away from "little people" and toward state planners waging war against the Enemy. Inflation has nothing to do with it. The "economics" spin is total BS.

Daniel Kuehn July 10, 2009 at 4:08 pm

RE: "The substitution of Liberal Democratic imperialism for National Socialist imperialism is still imperialism."

So there's nothing imperialist about driving the Nazis out?

Because I'm assuming that what would replace the National Socialists wasn't exactly a policy decision left to Roosevelt.

Daniel Kuehn July 10, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Martin Brock-
RE: "Washington would have no trouble recognizing U.S. imperialism for what it is"

Have I said that the US isn't imperial? If I didn't I meant to. But I thought I claimed that.

Perry Eidelbus July 10, 2009 at 4:24 pm

Granite: did you ever consider that the fundamental sin is that the government controlling so much production in the first place? Everything else is a result. You must look to the beginning.

Because of the war machine, there was no ability for Hawaii farmers to grow pineapples to meet demand on the mainland, for example. Even if you talk about so-called "necessities" like milk and bread, prices are still a necessary mechanism so that both producers and consumers can attempt to calculate their own questions of "How much and at what price?" You can advocate controls like price ceilings or rationing, but those are quasi-necessary only because of government's interference in the first place.

I'm putting aside all politics of the war, by the way. Being half-Filipino on my mother's side (and her father was a hero from fighting the Japanese), I have strong feelings about the war as a necessity. However, today we have the ability to look dispassionately at the economic forces.

Now, in all things, people who are economically more successful (you call them "the rich") by definition will be able to consume more resources than others. This is the incentive for every individual to produce as much as he can, thereby increasing his ability to exchange his goods and/or services with others for their own production. The alternative is for government to ration an equal portion to everyone, which historically has proven disastrous.

When government doles out equal shares, goods like a pineapple can be split. But when the per-individual share becomes too small be useful or desirable, or if it's a service that can't be divided (e.g. hiring a mechanic or a doctor visit), then government will have to decide arbitrarily (often politically). Given the choice between this or free-market pricing, I'll take the free market any time. I may not have perfect control over my personal economic production, but I can influence it as best as I can. I can't say the same about a government rationing system unless I happen to be in the nomenklatura or other privileged class.

Life may not be fair, but I can do my best to increase my own opportunities. I don't want my family to have the same odds (read: "poor odds under government rationing") as anyone else.

Martin Brock July 10, 2009 at 4:51 pm

So there's nothing imperialist about driving the Nazis out?

Driving the Nazis out in favor of some competing systematic order was just as imperialist as driving out any other power would have been. That the Nazis themselves drove powers out earlier doesn't change this fact.

Because I'm assuming that what would replace the National Socialists wasn't exactly a policy decision left to Roosevelt.

Roosevelt himself was never a state or the Alliance of states. He was only an executive head of one state. I don't reduce statecraft to the personalities of statesmen.

I like Roosevelt personally, but that's irrelevant. He was a Sherlockian (like me). He discovered an original proof of the Pythagorean theorem. He overcame terrible challenges to his health. He inspired optimism under almost impossibly pessimistic circumstances. He lived for a while near Worcester in the U.K., one of my most beloved places. He was even far more "liberal", in the classical sense, than he's often given credit for. It's all irrelevant.

The policy decision was left to the Allied powers, including the Soviet Union of course, who redrew maps across Europe and Asia, wrote a new constitution for the Japanese and the rest.

Martin Brock July 10, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Have I said that the US isn't imperial? If I didn't I meant to. But I thought I claimed that.

I didn't mention what you said. I alluded to things Washington said. You may say that the U.S. isn't imperial. You may say anything else you like, but I suppose Washington understood the long history of imperialism in Europe better than you.

Sam Grove July 10, 2009 at 5:44 pm

"The NAZIS are going to take over the world" is wartime propaganda, not to suggest that they were OK folk though.

We've been fed images of the invincible German war machine, but that was really not the case. I, too, had this impression from watching many war movies throughout my youth.

It was England that declared war on NAZIS Germany, and despite the provocation of the U.S. aiding Britain materially, Germany did not declare war on the U.S. until after the U.S. declared war on Japan, and Japan on the U.S., as per the German treaty with Japan.

vidyohs July 10, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Sam,

Two things, buddy. Re: NAZI Germany and their plans, their science, their goals, and their ability, being overplayed in your imagination and in movies. Tain't so, my friend, not overplayed at all. Had the Allies delayed six months in confronting the Germans in North Africa and denying them a major source of oil, had the Germans another six months of leeway in order to put the atomic bomb into production, had they been able to get those jet fighter aircraft they had off the ground and into combat in quantities, the war could have taken a very serious turn. I am sorry, Sam, but in the course of my training and work I have seen documents that detail just how close it was and what was intended by Germany after conquest had been completed. I just erased two sentences and will leave it at what I have already said.

It all hinged on the idiocy of Hitler in opening that second front with Russia before taking care of business in Europe proper.

Second thing. I have seen those numbers, 800 military bases in 137 different countries before, and I still question them. To get to that number one would have to apply the term "military base" to Embassy guards, weather stations maybe? I'd love to see those claimed bases laid out in detail as to what countries and what specific locations are being cited as military bases. Of course on seeing that claim one automatically discounts the home country the USA and thinks, foreign nations. Including the USA, maybe we do have 800 military bases in 137 different countries….but so what if the vast majority are here at home?

Show me documentation for that Sam, please.

Gil July 11, 2009 at 1:46 am

How quaint many Libertarians are like Martin Brock and Sam Grove. "The West is inherently wrong, esp. Britain and the U.S.A." If you both want to play semantics and say that Germany and Japan were 'provoked' before and during W.W.2. then by inference then the Allies were the criminals and the Axis were the 'good guys'.

"'The NAZIS are going to take over the world' is wartime propaganda, not to suggest that they were OK folk though." – Sam Grove.

Naw. They were just swallowing up Europe. It's all good.

"Driving the Nazis out in favor of some competing systematic order was just as imperialist as driving out any other power would have been. That the Nazis themselves drove powers out earlier doesn't change this fact." – Martin Brock.

So criminals can't be punished because their freedoms and rights are trampled upon by the use of force? Once again, unless Libertarians are anarchists, then they have a systematic order that may compete with other orders.

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