Monday’s post made an oblique reference to a few of my old go-to bits about politicians and your money. I thought it would be both wise and nostalgic to revisit those old friends, always timely and illustrative of so much of the political world. The statements are related, and reveal similar things about the modern statesman.
Statement number one: “I possess the ability to make something out of nothing.”
This is the real-world translation of most of what your elected office holders and candidates for said offices promise to bring you at some point in the future. Whether it’s health care, jobs, educational opportunities, parks, roads, bridges, or anything in the form of government spending, you may have been led to believe that such things simply arise from some magic elixir concocted by our wisest political representatives. I hope this does not come as a shock, but you have been misled. Perhaps you were thinking that somehow the world could be arranged so that statement number two were also feasible:
“I possess the ability to make some people better off without making anyone else any worse off.”
This is one of my favorites regarding transfer payments from one citizen to another (though it’s never described as such by its proponents). Increases in the minimum wage, or any rise in one price without considering effects on other prices, fall prey to this deceit as well.
Such one-eyed optimism brings us to our final statement, perhaps the most beautiful of all: “I will spend other people’s money on you without spending any of your money on anyone else.”
So delightful in its logical simplicity, I’ll admit I heard this one first from Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. There is simply no good comeback to this one, unless you are comfortable with a response validating theft. And when presented with a response denying such, simply refer to either Statement One or Statement Two. Or to borrow another phrase from Friedman: “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”
When reading the news today or any day, think about how many times you could substitute the above phrases for what appears as “journalism” or statements from our elected representatives. One thing’s for sure, political advertisements would be a lot more succinct.