Essays by Herb Meyer
Flat Earth Economics
Ricochet — October 27, 2014
Any politician who said the Earth is flat would get booed — and probably laughed — off the podium. Everyone in the audience would know the Earth is round, and would realize that any politician who doesn’t grasp this basic fact of how our universe works is too stupid to entrust with their future.
But what would happen if a politician said something about how our economy works that is equally wrongheaded? Would he get booed and laughed off the podium? Or would he get a standing ovation? Obviously, it would depend on whether the audience understands how our economy actually works, and would realize what they’d just heard was nonsense.
Last week, while campaigning in Kentucky for Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, Bill Clinton said: What’s being a senator about, anyway?…Nobody can tell me it’s not a senator’s job to create jobs.
Really? When’s the last time you got hired by a senator?
In a free market economy like ours, jobs are created by the owners and managers of businesses, and by entrepreneurs who are starting new businesses. A senator’s job is to create conditions in which business owners, managers, and entrepreneurs thrive. When they thrive, they create jobs for all the rest of us.
An economy is a kind of operating system, which means that if you want it to do something you have to go about it the way the operating system is designed to operate. Just think of the electronic device you’re probably using to read this essay — your computer, tablet, or cell phone. It’s got an operating system built into it, and that operating system determines how you browse the Web, click on a site, open a page and scroll through it. There’s no Republican way to do this, or Democratic way, or even a Libertarian way. If you don’t like how your operating system works, you simply get a different device. Trade in your iPad for one of those Microsoft Surface tablets, or dump your iPhone for an Android. But whichever device you’ve got, you do things the way its operating system requires, or nothing happens.
So, why aren’t we creating enough new jobs for Americans? Because too many of our elected officials have no grasp of how a free market operating system works. They’re like a bunch of flat-Earthers trying to launch a rocket into orbit; nothing they try works, and they’re too stubborn, or too stupid, to realize they’ve got it all wrong. What’s so depressing, and so worrisome, isn’t that Bill Clinton has no grasp of how a free market economy works; neither does Hillary, who said virtually the same thing to an audience the next day. What’s depressing and worrisome is that no one in either audience started booing or laughing when the former president, and then the former senator turned Secretary of State and leading contender for the White House in 2016, said something so preposterous.
And here’s the lesson for conservatives: to win elections, we’ve got to have an accurate grasp of what the voters understand. Even the dumbest and least educated among us knows the Earth is round, and that the planets revolve around the sun. But the sad truth is that a huge percentage of Americans — even those among us with college educations — simply don’t know how a free market economy works. And until they do understand this operating system, conservative policies on taxes, regulations, health care and all the rest just won’t make sense to them. So they’ll keep voting for candidates who won’t be able to accomplish what they promise, such as creating more jobs.
Perhaps we should worry less about getting control of the Senate, and turn our attention to getting control of our local school boards.