Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bring Back TANSTAAFL (tans-t-awful)

We interrupt Dog Week to bring you this Public Service Announcement:

No, this is not about a new dog crossbred between a Black and Tan and a Neopolitan Mastiff (although I’m sure that would be quite awful, not to mention saggy), this is about the pithy wisdom of earlier days, There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

What happened to the people who used this expression? Those people who more than made up for what they lacked in grammatical understanding with simple economic understanding? The people who didn’t take, let alone expect, hand outs?

Richard Maybury, in his book Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? explains simply the following terms whose definitions seem to have gone the way of TANSTAAFL. They have been lost to the quaint idea that was America.

A welfare program is the practice of giving things to poor people. Modern governments also have welfare for rich people; that kind of welfare is called a subsidy.

The way all governments, including the Roman government, get the money they want is by taxing people. Taxing mean taking money, by force if necessary…

So how did we end up here, discussing not the complete and utter insanity of a government bailout of any kind, but a $900 billion “stimulus” package to be doled out by the government? Instead of understanding that every dollar taken by the government to give out to entities chosen by the government is a dollar not invested back into our economy, but forcibly redistributed? That every dollar expropriated through taxes is a dollar not used to create a real, for-profit job? That every dollar seized by our government is diverted through government projects so people can feel good about America?

While our leaders try to bicker about who gets what, most people seem to be sold on the idea that this unprecedented amount of money the government is proposing to give away is a necessary evil. Necessary for what – the complete nationalization of our industries?

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, people. For every dollar the government takes from us, there is one less of our earned dollars that we get to apply toward our own lives, liberty, and pursuits of happiness. One more dollar to support the state. One less dollar to support our individual values. One less dollar invested in ideas that made America great.


Amy said...

I love this! Thank you! I know you are interested in economics, but I am not, and the reason is that all macro-economics ignores TANSTAAFL. Without TANSTAAFL, it's all just a bunch of jibber-jabber to me.

Seriously, I suppose there might be a reason to study macro-economics, but what is passed off as such right now is so far removed from reality, I don't even know what economics would look like in a rational culture.

Anyway, yeah! You said it! Along with John Allison's speech, I really needed that. Thanks.

Kevin said...

The widespread and willful ignorance is appalling. It is not only that there is a lack of understanding of simple cause and effect. It is just an irrational hope that if they can continue to get away with it and eventually somehow someone will figure out a way to make it work.

Lately I have been struggling with how they, the elected officials and all their screaming supporters, can all fail to see something so blatantly obvious.

Beth said...

Well said.

LB said...

Thanks for reading and for the encouraging comments.

I’m interested in economics only insofar as it has become apparent to me that the government has taken over the economy of the country – and with enthusiasm rather than any real opposition!

I understand that reality prevails, but I’m getting antsy about when that might happen and how destitute we must all become before then: before the knowledge that government intervention in the economy will yield only negative results is prevalent. Even though I’ve long understood that the proper role of government is limited to the protection of individual rights, I had never really given any thought to the importance of the separation of economy and state until recently.

It’s all very disconcerting.

Clearly, I'm not beyond the slogan stage of my understanding. TANSTAAFL encapsulates a few things nicely. Now I’m working on understanding the long-term effects of Federal Debt. I’d like to update Maybury’s charts on Federal Debt and job creation. Perhaps this has been done and I’ve already seen it but didn’t understand what I was looking at. Oddly, for someone who dislikes economics, I may become quite familiar with the General Accounting Office.