Good Gone Wild? Feel-Good Economics Just Don’t Add Up
We woke up this morning with our mind astir. Something’s been bothering us, and it finally popped its ugly head out of its hole.
It’s the fattened conglomeration of recent conversations, some disturbing headlines and a whole lot of pondering.
It has us worried.
Not for us… but for our economy.
Take these headlines, for example.
A ‘meat tax’ on red meats could be coming to the UK – what you need to know – Manchester Evening News
Why Payments Firms Are Often the First Line of Defense Against Hate – Barron’s
More Cities Want to Embrace ‘Democracy Vouchers’ – CityLab
On their own, these tales of good gone wild don’t tell us a whole lot. We won’t lose sleep over any one of them.
But once we see how they’re all woven together into a tapestry of trouble… our eyes just won’t close.
Feels So Good Bad
Take the meat tax, for example.
It turns out that if we eat a lot of meat, we just may get sick. Whodathunkit?
We’ve all known for quite a while that red meat is linked to increased rates of heart disease, cancer and even diabetes. But to the wide woe of the feel-good crowd, we still eat meat.
The world gives us a choice… and we choose what we will.
But that’s not good enough. Some humans simply must control other humans. So they’ll force us to eat less meat… drink less soda… and pull the straws out of our cups.
In the case of the above-mentioned meat tax, the fine folks at Oxford University say nearly doubling the price of processed meat could save as many as 220,000 lives each year.
But we’d pull the airy minds of these academics back to earth by reminding them a lack of exercise is far harder on the heart than a warm chunk of beef. Shall we tax the lazy, too? How about we double the tax on sofas… or, better yet, classroom seats?
Ah, no… that’s crazy talk.
We’re not working in a realm of commonsense economics. This is 2018. This is feel-good economics.
That’s certainly the case with our second headline about payment firms and their selfless quest to end hate.
You Can’t Say That
First, they kept guns out of our hands (at a success rate that only a politician could tout). Now payment firms are protecting our feelings from the meanies on the internet.
The Barron’s piece starts with a mention of the synagogue shooter in Pittsburgh. The crazy nut was posting offensive content on a website called Gab.
The site was proud of the fact it didn’t censor its users’ content. Anything goes… and anything certainly went.
But that’s not our point.
Our point is that the site was nearly immediately yanked off the web after the shooting. It wasn’t the government… it wasn’t angry citizens that took the site down… nope, it was more feel-good economics.
The companies that support the back end of the site said they’d no longer provide their services to such a site.
But keen-eyed observers were quick to point out that far more hate is spilled on Instagram in a day than was spread on Gab in a month. And as Barron’s reports, “No payments company is going to try to cut off the $440 billion market cap social media giant.”
Again, we’re no longer dealing with the sort of commonsense economics that builds a great society… it’s feel-good economics.
If it feels good… do it.
Keep that idea in mind as we examine our third headline. It’s a doozy.
The Voter Tax
You see, the tax-happy folks in Seattle weren’t all that excited about the way politicians spend their way to office. We all know the man with the deepest pockets wins.
But instead of doing the hard work and truly changing the system… Seattle did what Seattle does best. It swooped in and grabbed some campaign cash right out of the pockets of its tax base.
It launched a $3 million-a-year property tax, sliced up the proceeds into $100 allotments and mailed “Democracy Vouchers” to each of its citizens.
That’s right… it raised taxes so underdog politicians had a better shot at office.
It’s feel-good economics at its worst.
Of course, it failed immensely. Most folks (more than 95%) tossed their vouchers in the trash. The few that did use their vouchers hardly put a million bucks into the campaign system…
Meanwhile, the bureaucracy to run it all cost far more.
And yet – as the headline warns us – more cities are eager to give the idea a try.
Why? you ask.
Because, darn it, it just feels good.
Again, on their own, these headlines have some merit. But put them side by side and read one article after the other and we see something dangerous.
It’s the death of our beloved Liberty.
And it’s not dying at the hands of a government gone wild… it’s dying because the laws of the economy are changing.
Common sense and its math-driven sensibility have been shoved aside.
Now we’re dealing with feel-good economics… and the numbers don’t add up.
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