The Republican presidential debate on 10 November 2015 did little to enlighten me on how these candidates view the role of American government in the economy.
Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas, shared with us that he intended to eliminate four or five agencies along with a plan for reducing taxes.
Donald Trump, while reiterating the need for a physical wall between the United States and Mexico, also shared with the viewers his plan to cut taxes on the middle class while raising taxes on his wealthier friends.
Just about everyone had a tax plan that they argued would help put more money in the pockets of Americans while businesses, freed from onerous regulations, would be free to spend more on hiring American talent because they would have an incentive to stay in the United States and conduct business. The rhetoric of tax reduction and reducing the size of government was not surprising last night and quite frankly had me bored by about the 75th minute of the debate. So bored had I become that I even declared on my personal Facebook page that this debate would be the last political debate that I would ever watch.
Not that the moderators did a poor job. On the contrary, Gerald Seib, Neil Cavuto, and Maria Bartiromo did a very good job keeping the discussion on the economy and, to the relief of Ben Carson, were wise enough not to ask any questions requiring one to recall what they said in high school.
The poor performance was actually delivered by the candidates. None described America’s actual politico-economic system. They all decided to fall back on the parlor trick of watering down a complex topic of the economy to one of taxes and jobs. Study economic history and you’ll see that the economy has never been just about taxes and, in my opinion, hs not much of anything about jobs. Whether in Benin, Brazil, Cuba, Ghana, Russia, or the United States, the economy has always been about extarcting and managing resources. For a nation-state’s economy, it has been specifically about the extraction and management of resources for the benefit of the elite few that lay ultimate claim to or try to exercise authority over resources. It is the “who” or the “final benefit” that is always left out of the equation.
A discussion about jobs and taxes are nothing more than the red meat politicians throw at the electorate to get a vote. Jobs and taxes are packaged as a narrative for sale to Joe Six-Pack with the hopes that Joe ascertains enough benefit from the offer. Joe has no idea as to the package’s true cost. He doesn’t do enough homework because the cost of gathering the information is too much; too time consuming. It’s easier for him to digest the job projections and go “yeah, yeah” when he hears he may get a 20% reduction in his taxes or get a rebate check of $300 so he can go out and buy a sofa. Any gains to Joe would be as short term as the aggregate output gains to the nation-state.
Rather than buying into the politician’s definition of the economy, Joe Six-Pack should base a decision on what the economy is by simply looking at himself as an economic unit. To be a successful individual economic unit, Joe will have to first first ascertain his resources, his capital, not from the consumer-based view of a policy paradigm based on jobs and taxes, but from a producer-based paradigm based on having the resources necessary for sustaining myself. Do I have land, minerals, air, sources of energy upon which I can sustain myself? If not, where can I extract these resources? How best do I manage them so that I can sustain myself?
At this point you are probably saying, “Is this guy recommending we go back to the Dark Ages?” No, I’m not. However, the concept of self-reliance should never be abandoned especially if you believe that you are in the best position to make the best economic choices for yourself.
Today’s technology is providing the tools necessary for increased self-reliance. As renewable energy technology improves, more Americans are opting for supplying their own energy needs. Making more unlicensed spectrum available means using more innovative devices at home that can enhance your productivity or your leisure. Technology can make transportation a resource versus the consumption of a final good. Why buy a car that sits most of the time idle when technology allows you to access transportation on demand?
As much as the Republicans talk about personal and economic freedom, their narrative on the economy boiled down to “this is what we can for you.” We, government, can reform your taxes rather than freeing you from them. We, government, can create jobs rather than you creating your own commercial value and selling that value on an open market.
The GOP repeated the same mantra as the Democrats. We will continue to monopolize the resources you need to be self-sustaining while sending a little chump change your way.