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Do You Believe in Magic?

People who really believe that trade restrictions prevent domestic unemployment or raise domestic wages – people who really believe that minimum wages raise the incomes of low-skilled workers without causing any loss of employment or worsening of other terms of these workers’ jobs – people who really believe that government-mandated family leave leaves workers better off – are like people who attend magic shows and really believe that the magician causes a rabbit to materialize out of the thin air within the magician’s hat.

“Wow!” exclaims an audience member.  “I saw with my own eyes the magician pull a rabbit from a hat that only a moment earlier was empty!  And also, the magician assures me that that’s what he did.  He wouldn’t lie to me.  So it must be true that the magician pulled a rabbit miraculously from his hat – that he bends reality to his will.  I’m impressed!!”

These people believe their eyes.  And why shouldn’t they?  The empirical record, after all, is stuffed with rabbits being pulled from magicians’ hats – hats that audiences saw were empty just moments before live rabbits were pulled from them.  What’s not to believe?

Of course, the rabbits do indeed come from somewhere.  Naive audience members either actually believe, or they choose to believe, that the rabbits are indeed conjured out of thin air by the marvelous, smiling magicians.  Sensible audience members, in contrast, understand that much that is relevant is unseen by the audience – and that that which is unseen is key to the full story.

Digging directly into the behind-the-scenes arrangements, or using reason to piece together a plausible explanation of the likely cause for the rabbit appearing to have been conjured out of thin air, is necessary in order to adequately understand what’s really going on.  If the magician’s armed guards, or even just your need to get home quickly, prevent you from actually peering at the magician’s props and searching behind the curtain and under the stage – and, thus, prevent you from actually seeing the devices that enable the magician to make it appear to conjure rabbits out of thin air – you would not announce your agnosticism about whether or not rabbits are actually conjured out of thin air.  The fact that you haven’t at hand any empirical evidence of what is unseen doesn’t mean that a large chunk of a relevant ‘unseen’ doesn’t exist.

What is seen when trade restrictions are imposed are some specific jobs saved.  What is seen when minimum wages are imposed are some flesh-and-blood low-skilled workers being paid the minimum wage.  What is seen when government dictates that employers must offer some minimum number of days of paid leave is some employers offering, and some employees using, such leave.

“Wow!” exclaims a ‘Progressive.’  “I saw with my own eyes the politician protect some jobs from imports, cause low-skilled workers to be paid the minimum wage, and ensure that other workers get some stipulated amount of paid leave!  And also, the politician assures me that that’s what he did.  He wouldn’t lie to me.  So it must be true that the politician actually did these things – that he bends reality to his will.  I’m impressed!!”

The sensible person understands that the politician cannot do these things.  It’s a magic trick.  The politician makes it appear as if he or she works miracles by hiding from the credulous public, pundits, preachers, and professors the actual sources of the government-created apparitions.

What is hidden from the sight of the public when trade restraints are imposed are the resulting higher prices and lower qualities of consumer goods, as well as the jobs destroyed and not created as a result of the trade restraints.

What is hidden from the sight of the public when minimum wages are imposed are the workers who lose jobs because they are priced out of the market, the reduction in the hours – and the worsening of the employment conditions – of many workers who keep their jobs, and the artificiality of the heights of the incomes going to white teens from the suburbs and paid for, in effect, by unemployed teens from the inner city.

What is hidden from the sight of the public when government mandates paid leave are the jobs thereby destroyed, the jobs thereby never created, the lowering of base pay, and the worsening of other terms of employment.

And the gullible, dupable ‘Progressives’ and the public believe the magic to be real.  What a great gig for the politician-magicians.