Good Reading

P.J. O’Rourke asks, If the 1% had less, would the 99% be better off?  I think the answer is no.  At the end, O’Rourke writes:

Yes, it’s upsetting that some people have so much while other people have so little. It isn’t fair. But I accept this unfairness. Indeed, I treasure it. That’s because I have a 13-year-old daughter And that’s all I hear, “That’s not fair,” she says. “That’s not fair! That’s not fair!” And one day I snapped, and I said, “Honey, you’re cute, that’s not fair. Your family is pretty well off, that’s not fair. You were born in America, that’s not fair. Darling, you had better get down on your knees and pray that things don’t start getting fair for you.”

Thomas Sowell explains why gridlock is good:

The media and the intelligentsia seem obsessed with the idea that government intervention is necessary to get the economy out of the doldrums. This is certainly the prevailing dogma but it is contradicted by history. Yet who reads history any more?

If you look back through history and compare what happens when the federal government intervenes during a downturn in the economy with what happens when the government leaves the market free to work its own way back, doing nothing has by far the better track record.

First of all, this country existed for a century and a half without the federal government intervening to save the economy. No downturn in all that time was as severe or as long-lasting as the downturn that persisted throughout the decade of the 1930s, when both the Hoover administration and the Roosevelt administration intervened on an unprecedented scale.

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“My wealth does not create your poverty.”

In Russ Roberts’ take on Occupy Wall Street he points us to P.J. O’Rourke characterization of wealth:

But as the writer P.J. O’Rourke has said, wealth is not a pizza. If we’re sharing a pie, and you get a bigger piece, that does not mean that I have less to eat. It depends on what happens to the size of the pizza. Ten percent of an enormous pizza is more filling than all of a tiny one.

For those who think of wealth as a fixed pie, I don’t think the ‘pizza-size’ analogy helps them see what’s really happening with wealth, because they still view it as one pizza to be divvied up somehow.

What P.J. O’Rourke actually said (btw, I recommend his book On The Wealth of Nations) is better than the ‘pizza-size’ analogy (emphasis and numbers added):

Wealth is not a pizza where, if I have too many slices, you have to eat the Dominos box. [1] My wealth does not create your poverty. Your wealth does not create my poverty. They’re separate questions. [2] And we can generate more wealth.

O’Rourke makes two excellent points, as numbered.

Point 1:  Your wealth does not mean I have less wealth.  This is the point that the ‘pizza-size’ analogy misses.

Point 2:  We can create more wealth, which is the ‘pizza-size’ analogy again.  But, it’s helpful to understand point 1 before thinking about point 2. Instead of thinking about the size of the pizza, though, maybe we should just say that we can make more pizzas.

Unfortunately, both points are counter intuitive and that’s why we have such debate on the issue of wealth.

When you hear someone say things like ‘wealth is concentrated’ or ‘1% controls some large percent of wealth’, ask yourself where did that wealth come from?