Political Inconsistency/Cultish Behavior
Posted by kenpruitt666
You know, for some people economics is this mathematical science that allows people to predict the state of the future economy. For others, economics is the “dismal science”, i.e., a pseudo-scientific philosophy which rarely (if ever) tells us anything about the real world or makes accurate predictions. For myself, I can fully understand the latter group’s frustration with economics. How many economists told us, for instance, back in 2005-2007 that the economy was doing great, it was going to go even higher, etc.. And bear in mind that all of these economists had very sophisticated equations and models to back their arguments.
To me, economics isn’t a series of math equations or econometric models that predict the future. To me, the science of Economics is observation; it is acknowledging that humans act, i.e., utilize means to achieve pre-determined ends, and deducing from this the most logical conclusions that the actions themselves imply. Once you take and apply this method, you will understand precisely why the empirical/mathematical methodology utterly fails its purpose within the science of economics, but we will save the finer points of that conclusion for later. For right now, however, it is necessary that we take a few cases of complete hypocrisy regarding certain political issues that, at first glance, have nothing to do with each other. We will deal with two issues at the end in which the connection will be painfully obvious.
Rent Control/Minimum Wage:
These two issues, to the untrained eye, have next to nothing in common. Rent control is an act by which the amount of rent that can be charged by a landlord is capped, while Minimum Wage is an act by which employers are forced to pay their employees no lower than a given amount. Proponents of the Minimum Wage will argue fiercely that we need Minimum Wage regulations in order to enforce a “Livable Wage”, to keep the big guys from exploiting the little guys as “Slave Labor.”
Rent Control, however, has little to no supporters. Hardly anyone supports the idea of Rent Control. In fact, in 2011 when Jimmy McMillan, the RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH guy, got evicted from his rent-controlled apartment, The Young Turks ran a segment on it. Cenk Uygur, who everyone knows is my FAVORITE news personality *sarcasm*, had this to say regarding Rent Control.
Quote from Cenk Uygur: “Now, it’s interesting because I actually think that Rent Control is not the right policy, and I think it’s created a lot of weird consequences because of it in New York; people holding onto apartments forever and doing all these shenanigans to pass it to people they know, yada yada yada.”
Of course, Cenk’s analysis doesn’t even cover a fraction of the problems regarding Rent Control, but this has nothing to do with what Rent Control and Minimum Wage regulations have in common at their core (besides being regulations, of course). The truth is, they are both price controls. Rent Control is a downwards control on Rent, Minimum Wage is an upwards control on wages. Price controls, ultimately, have the same effect no matter where in the economy they’re applied, i.e., Demand exceeds Supply and you have shortages as a result. In the case of Rent Control, it destroys existing housing, in the case of Minimum Wage, you doom a portion of the labor force to be unemployed indefinitely. But notice, Cenk Uygur is a fervent supporter of the Minimum Wage, but he opposes Rent Control as not being the right policy even though they are both, at their core, the exact same principle applied in two different directions.
Ok, now this one is a head-scratcher. How can immigration possibly have anything to do with New Technology? How can someone be a hypocrite by supporting one but not the other?
The answer is simpler than it first appears. One needs only to consider what the ultimate effects of Immigration and New Technology are to see what they have in common. Immigration is that process by which people from foreign lands migrate from their home country in order to set up residence in another country. The effect this has on National Labor is immediately seen; the native laborers must compete with the laborers from the foreign lands for employment, thus driving down wages. The Protectionist exclaims that this is horrible; immigration should be restricted in order to protect National Labor against foreign competition. Why? Because Foreign Labor is willing to work for less than Native Labor. This competition creates unemployment for the Native Laborers, which puts us, ultimately, in a state of dependency on Foreign Labor and Foreign Investment.
New Technology, or Labor-Saving Devices if you prefer, is almost universally embraced (with a few notable exceptions). This wasn’t always the case, however. It used to be that new technology was frowned on. It was seen as the rich finding a way to squeeze the poor by laying them off and keeping the excess profits all to himself. it used to be argued, for instance, that if a machine were invented that would do the work of two workers as opposed to one, the employer would fire one of the two employees (the other would run the machine), and as a result, his income would be absent from circulation and the economy as a whole would suffer for it. Like I said, however, hardly anyone holds this position anymore.
What Immigration and New Technology both have in common is the means by which they operate in the market, and their ultimate effects. New Technology must, initially, compete with existing labor for the right to be used in place of the existing labor. If the New Technology is proven to be effective at the purpose for which it was designed, it begins putting pre-existing labor out of work, and while New Technology does create unemployment in the short-term, in the long-term however we are all better off for it.
Immigration has the same immediate competitive effects. The cheaper Foreign Labor, if it is effective, will put Native Workers out of work. The short-term result in both Immigration and New Technology regarding competition is the same. Ah, but the protectionist would be quick to intervene, “Your proposition is incredibly misleading! Sure, I cannot deny everything you’ve said thus far regarding the effects of Immigration and New Technology as you’ve said it, but you’re forgetting that New Technology doesn’t increase the population by one per new worker! New Technology doesn’t create new burdens on the tax-payer for school/emergency room fees!” I’m sorry to break this to Mr. Protectionist, but New Technology does in fact increase the population, just not in the immediate.
Immigration gives you in the short-run, regarding population increases, that you would’ve had with the New Technology. As the means of production become more efficient, we get greater returns for our labor, most notably in agriculture. More food = more energy for people to make babies. More energy for people to make babies = increase in the population. New Technology and Immigration, therefore, have the exact same long-term effects. It is therefore utter hypocrisy to oppose one on the basis that it creates unemployment, but defend from the other just such a criticism when they both have, in the long-run, the exact same effects.
The War on Drugs/Gun Control:
This is the one I mentioned earlier who’s connection is glaringly obvious. The War on Drugs is considered by many (including myself) to be a colossal failure; a government boondoggle in which billions of dollars has been wasted by housing otherwise harmless people in government-funding prisons, and is responsible for the rise of violent cartels (most notably in Mexico). The case for criminalization runs from “it’s harmful for you and society” to “you can’t be trusted with it”.
Remind me, along what lines does Gun Control go again? Oh yeah… “It’s harmful for you and society” to “you can’t be trusted with it.” The War on Drugs fails for the precise reason that if enough people want an illegal product, there will be a Black Market for said product. Just as in drugs, so too in guns. The same economic principles are at play in both cases, but notice one is being picked in favor of the other, even though the long-term effect of both policies is exactly the same. Once again, it is sheer hypocrisy to favor one over the other.
The reason these people are contradicting themselves to such an extent is precisely because of their methodology; namely, the mathematical/empirical/statistical/positivistic methodology. The core problem with this doctrine, in my opinion, is the fact that in its line of reasoning, there isn’t any room for any sort of absolute truths. You have a hypothesis, you test the hypothesis, if your hypothesis comes through, you provisionally accept it. But even if your hypothesis comes through, this line of reasoning forces you to remember; it’s just a hypothesis and it could be overturned by the next experiment. As a result of this emphasizing what is seen, what is unseen is completely neglected, and if you point this out, they simply blast you for being “un-scientific”.
This sort of behavior, and line of reasoning, cannot be classified as anything but Cultish.
Posted on June 30, 2013, in Economics, Political Philosophy and tagged Austrian School, Economics, Immigration, Politics, Praxeology, Protectionism, Socialism. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.