Forget Politics – Think Economics

Politics is too much.  It’s just too big.  So many issues, policies, personalities, feelings, fears, doubts, lies, propaganda.

Everything is hyped and overstated.  The political and cultural divide grows wider and deeper by the day.  In the jumble and tumble of daily politics and market-driven “news” it’s so hard to stay focused on what is real and important.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes for me all of the posturing and gamesmanship gets to be too much – too damned much to digest and bring to any kind of focus or certainty or closure.  Too much grey area and not enough black and white facts. It’s no wonder so many people tune out and continue their lives in blissful disengagement.  I’m not able to do that (you probably aren’t either) and I find myself sometimes needing the “click” of a padlock – the binary knowledge that I know something is right, and imperative, period.

About every ten years or so I come full circle back to what I know in my guts to be true about life, and how we as Americans (and for that matter as human beings on planet Earth)  are wired to make the right choice and do the right thing.   And the path revealed is not political. It always comes back to economics.

To hell with politics.  Every human being on the planet – basket weaver in India, farmer in North Dakota, factory worker in China, soldier in North Korea – has this in common:  we get up every morning and set out to improve the standard of living for ourselves and our families.  Period.

Isn’t this true?  Can you disagree?  We all want a little bit better life for ourselves and the ones we love.  It is a universal truth – a metaphysical fact.  Forget religion.  Forget political party.  Forget culture, education, race, gender, age, nationality.  We all want the same thing.  Better food.  A nicer house.  Less hard labor.  More quality time with our loved ones.

We, the people of the United States of America, have been a beacon of inspiration and righteous success since our nation’s noisy and unconventional birth.  We have improved the standard of living for not only ourselves but also for people all over the world on a quantum scale ever since we became a “thing” in 1776.   We have set the standard.  We are the land of opportunity, the place to be, the bad go-getters and the mean motor-scooters.  We have what it takes.  We know what it’s all about.

Don’t we?  Lately we aren’t so sure.  I mean we did, but do we still?

We Americans have generally credited our political system for our success – our Constitution, our three branches of government with built-in checks and balances, our Bill of Rights, etc.  Great.  It’s all good.  But there’s more to it.

I submit that our American success story is the result of our economic system – free enterprise and free markets, equal opportunity, and minimal government intervention.

Because the truth is:  every human being is ruled by self-interest.

It’s not a bad thing.  We work hard to provide for our families.  We help those in need because we know we may, ourselves, some day need help.  We look for ways to meet the wants and needs of others in the market because that will reward us, as well as them.

Some will say that free markets favor the greedy and unscrupulous.  But America, born a Christian nation, avoided that problem.  We trusted each other.  We were raised to be moral, honest citizens.  We believed in fairness.  Our word was our bond.

As long as America is a Christian nation, and makes decisions based on economic merit, and values honesty, we will be fine.  But we must each shoulder our responsibility.  For every political issue or question we should consider: will this course of action help improve the standard of living for all Americans?  And will it be fair to all Americans?

Anything outside that simple framework just really doesn’t matter.  Try looking at any political issue or question in these terms.  Improved standard of living + fairness/honesty (Christian morality).  The correct path becomes pretty obvious.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

I’ve got to get it somewhere
I mean, you never know, maybe
You’re dreaming

Too Much – Dave Matthews Band


The always awesome Dave Mathews Band:  it’s just Too Much!  Especially drummer Carter Beauford.

Profit! What a Concept!

GoodJobI recently visited with a high school “job coach”.  This instructor works with local businesses who provide part-time jobs for students to give them an introduction to the working world.  Many years ago as a high school business teacher I had a similar program – back then it was called “distributive education.”  I found it to be a great learning experience for my students, and some moved right into good jobs with their sponsor employers upon graduation.

I asked the job coach what kind of preparation the student receives before embarking on the job.  It was not a trick question, but the teacher was caught by surprise, and really didn’t have an answer.   I admitted that my recent experience with school jobs programs as an employer had not been very enjoyable.  The student-workers I was assigned were arrogant, lazy, and not really interested in learning anything.  It may have just been the luck of the draw.  I did my best to get them on track.

At the end of our visit, I offered a suggestion to the instructor.  Having been on both ends of the equation – as an employer and a job coach – I think the most important wisdom one can impart to a student, or any job seeker, is an understanding of why a business exists.   Most students (and adults for that matter) when asked “why is that grocery store there?” will answer “because we need food.”

And there lies the problem. 

I gave my new job coach friend the correct answer:  that grocery store exists to make a profit for its owner or investors, who seek to feed their families and improve their standards of living.

It’s a subtle, but important distinction.  Yes, we need food.  But that doesn’t mean someone else is required to give it to us.  Free markets only work when each of us offers something of value to someone else.  We must all be producers of wealth or added value.  Those who succeed understand this concept clearly.  Want to make $5 million a year throwing a baseball?  You had better be good enough that people will fork over big bucks to watch you.  Do you want to own a business?  You’ll do great as long as you offer what a customer wants to buy, at the right price.

Do you want to have a job?  Then you had better understand that the only reason someone else will pay you is if you help them make a profit.

And that was my suggestion to the job coach.  “Make sure your student goes to the job with the knowledge that his or her purpose is to make money for the employer.  And that employers share their profit with their employees – the more you contribute to profit, the more you will be rewarded.  The employer owes you nothing, but he is always looking for somebody who will help him make money.  When you both are making more money, and spending it, the economy grows and everybody does well.”

A light bulb lit above the job coach’s head.  “Why, I never thought of that!  What a great idea!”

Yes, it’s a great idea.  It used to be what made the world go around.  Some may think it’s “old school”, but I’ll put my money on free enterprise, supply and demand any day of the week.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side
Big Time, I’m on my way, I’m making it,
Big Time, I’ve got to make it show yeah!
Big Time, so much larger than life,
Big Time, I’m gonna watch it growing!
Big Time, my car is getting bigger!
Big Time, my house is getting bigger!

Big Time – Peter Gabriel

One of the quirkiest, and most popular, videos ever!