Trump Economics?

Following the election of Trump, I became apolitical. My current view on politics is similar to my current view of the night sky – it is there but I only gaze up in wonder every now and again. I want Trump to do well because we should always root for our leaders to make the right decisions. However, it seems that whenever I do gaze up into the twinkling lights of Washington – I suddenly get a crick in my neck. In the past, I posted about Mike Rowe and his views on voting. Basically, he doesn’t think everyone should vote; only those individuals who are informed and educated enough to respect the privilege. In his article, he references a book that everyone should read to get a sound understanding of economic policy: Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. Hazlitt wrote this book in 1946 and it has sold over 1 million copies in the past 70 years. Suffice it to say, this book’s principles are solid and are still applicable to today’s economy. I say this because economics is many times a political subject.This book is not tainted by left or right wing media and it disproves many fallacies which are commonly used to wrongly steer our decisions. I’ll explain one of the biggest and most encompassing fallacies of all – putting America first at the expense of everyone else.

Imagine a little boy playing baseball and accidentally breaking a window. His friends all crowd around with their jaws gaping and they immediately start a philosophical conversation about the economic implications of the event. The first obvious line of thought is that a new window will have to be purchased. One boy exclaims that this will be beneficial to the window installer and hence stimulate the economy. All the boys agree and use this line of argument when confronted by the angry home owner. The home owner will have to spend 100 dollars to fix the window. The man listens to the boys but then says he was just about to use that 100 dollars to buy a new golf club. The boys learn an important economic lesson. Certain policies that appear to help, actually have a reciprocal effect of hurting others. Humans have a hard time with economics because we focus on the winners and not the losers. It is easy for us to see jobs being created but it is hard for us to imagine jobs or purchasing power being lost.

Let’s imagine that America put itself first in all trade deals. From the example above it is a fallacy to think this will benefit us because there is always another group which suffers. In this example, the domestic America manufactures may have better protection and hence better sales. But what about the American manufactures who export products to other countries? They no longer can profit from the open trade agreements and hence lose out on business. Countries around the world would have less reason to buy from America and thus would take their money elsewhere. Additionally, these policies promote greater inefficiencies which in the end reduce American purchasing power, real wages, and production potential. The negatives are overlooked because it is easy to see new manufacturing jobs, but hard to see the world economy shifting. To put it another way, policies which benefit 12.3 million American manufactures, in the long run, will hurt the other 140 million American workers.

Whats’s the win-win economic policy? The best economic policy in the long run is to have open trade. This will benefit the most efficient American manufacturers and allow Americans to have the greatest purchasing power. It will also allow other countries to buy more American products which will stimulate greater production and job growth. These policies are in fact usually trumpeted by Republicans. Ironically, Trump is pushing for more Democratic protectionist views. These aforementioned economic policies are proven effective and it only takes one to read about the sad history of protectionism to quickly understand their soundness. Hazlitt, in 1946 wrote this quote several times in the book.

“…those who are ignorant of the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Unfortunately, demagogues go for the policies that appear to be sound but usually only help specific groups in the short term. We are a globalized world and we need economic policies that benefit all sectors. We can do this in a responsible way that facilitates environmental projects, new job training, and stability in developing countries. There is no first place when it comes to economics. There is no benefit of putting America first – our strength comes from the strength of others.

The Top 3 Ways to Improve America’s Democracy

This past week was quite eventful. Donald Trump won the presidency and a lot people were either extremely happy or extremely sad. We are all losers when it comes to America’s election process. Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or even Coreitarian I have some well thought out suggestions for all elections in the future.

  1. Pass a law that requires a small fee for all political posts/statuses on Facebook 

    Remember back in the 2000’s when your crazy uncle use to send you those chain emails that usually went like this …send this email to 5 more people if you love Jesus. If you don’t you will be cursed by an evil demon!!!! These emails usually got relegated to the junk folder immediately and most rational people ignored the all caps titles with the tabbed recipient list that went on for 100 lines. Fast forward to 2016 and those chain emails have evolved into the everyday posts that inundate Facebook. Over the past year I have probably seen over 1000 political posts that are churned out, most likely, from Dr. Evil as a plot to destroy all relationships and the world as a whole. These posts have no sources and usually include a grainy picture with a tag line like “Life’s a Bitch…Don’t Elect One,” or “Build a Wall Around Trump, I’ll Pay For It.” We all know these posts are stupid and don’t convince anyone to vote for the opposite candidate. In the end they only make us more divided through annoyance. To fix this I think there should be a five dollar charge for each post that is political –  this would exponentially decrease their frequency and make the election process much less miserable. The money will be used to help starving children in Africa. Eventually, we can just go back to what we use to do on Facebook: stalking people’s pictures, wishing we wouldn’t have accepted Grandma’s friend request, and laughing at stupid videos of cute animals.

  2. Everyone must take a “Test” to be eligible to vote***(See note on bottom) 

    At current, the only requirements to vote in the United States are your age (18) and that you have some sort of identification (in most states). This is an absolutely awful idea because a democracy depends on an educated populous. Back in the day, the electoral college was implemented because the Founding Fathers feared that an uneducated-demagogic population would elect someone unfit for the presidency. That is why they appointed the most sound-minded-well-respected individuals to the electoral college – being the only votes that really mattered. Today, the electoral college is more a symbolic gesture that is the worst of both worlds – it doesn’t allow appointed electors the ability to vote their will/conscious and it also doesn’t allow them to vote according the overall popular vote. To fix this problem I think we should first get rid of the electoral college and fix the problem of “uneducated” voters by requiring a test. We already take tests so we can drive, carry fire arms, and graduate High School. Why not take a test to decide the most powerful office in the world? The test would entail intermediate principles of government, economics, and history. It would also state the candidates’ policies and relevant facts about their efficacy. These facts can be compiled from a bipartisan panel – informing the test taker beyond mere Facebook posts. Of course, a lot of people will fail the test and a lot of people will be too lazy to take the test. Good. This country should be led by competent leaders who were elected by well-informed educated citizens.

  3. Require both candidates live in the White House together after the election 

    Trump and Hillary said a lot of nasty things about each other on the campaign trail. Now imagine that after they said those things, they would have to share the same bathroom for the next four years. Would they change their strategy? Maybe tone down the hate and focus more on policy? Moderate their comments to ensure their toothbrush doesn’t end up scrubbing the toilet? Of course candidates would stay in separate rooms but all meals and facilities would be shared; extra precautions would be taken to keep Bill from sneaking into Melania’s room. Overtime I believe both candidates would become closer, talk more policy, and reach more middle ground in their beliefs. A perfect example of this in real life is a college dorm. Roommates may come from different backgrounds, but when forced together they usually learn new things and grow from the experience. This idea is literally the antithesis of our current daily interactions which are usually through the computer and lack the empathy of face-to-face interactions. We could even extend this principle to congress and have some sort of Red/Blue bunk bed arrangement. I happily imagine conversations going late in the night about the pros and cons of building a wall and the economic theories of trade deals.

To wrap it up, this election made me depressed. I am however staying optimistic and giving Trump the benefit of the doubt. He is my President and one day I will write a blog post about his time in office. I pray that it is one commending a job well done. Who knows, he may implement some of my election policies.

***After writing this it was pointed out to me that this sounds like the days of Jim Crow. I do see the similarities but I didn’t intend it to disenfranchise any minority groups. In a perfect world, where everyone received an equal education and rights, the test would probably work. Since we don’t live in a perfect world my realistic alternative to the test is making election day a national holiday – so everyone can take some time and study up before they go to the polls. 

Tomorrowland

In the year 2050 I will be 60 years old. It seems like a long time from now but I know the date will suddenly slam me in the face along with familiar phrase, “where did the time go?” It seems like all the predictions of today are framed around the year 2050: the global population will double, the earth will be 3 degrees warmer, we will need millions more pounds of food, Donald Trump will be in his 8th term as Supreme Leader. It makes me scared because none of the predictions are positive and I worry about the abuse we are putting upon our planet. Obviously, global warming is a big deal and something everyone needs to be educated about. To better understand how we have caused this precarious situation I read The Prize and The Quest by Daniel Yergin. I already talked about The Prize  which summarized the last 150 years of oil in a previous postThe Quest talks about the oil industry of today and how we need to transition from oil to more earth-friendly sources of power. Using the information that I learned from The Quest, I want to write a letter to my future 60 year old self…

“Hey you older frick! I hope that you have had an excellent 34 years since the time this blog post was written. Is the world as crappy as we thought it would be? I hope Justin Beaver isn’t running for President. Anyways, I want to write some of my predictions for what 2050 looks like. You are currently driving an all electric car that is charged by solar panels installed at the house; ideally, there is a very high efficiency battery that powers all your electrical needs throughout the day even when there is no sun. Charging the car is fast and easy because stations are ubiquitous across the country. Utility bills are nearly non-existent because the house is built to optimize heating and cooling throughout the year. Worldwide carbon dioxide emissions are now decreasing each year and there are large government sponsored initiatives to remove the existing carbon from the atmosphere and oceans. Sadly, i’m guessing these initiatives only came after drastic damages to worldwide agriculture, coastal property, and most importantly-Wall Street’s trading computers. Are there still coral reefs? Do we still have our beautiful snowy days? Will our grandchildren have a promising future? I want to believe that the US now receives most of its power from solar, wind, biomass, nuclear, and natural gas. The Middle East is a center for banking and finance, now that their revenues come mostly from overseas investment funds. Maybe there is less turmoil with terrorism because oil no longer funds their operations. The developing nations in 2016 are probably much-more developed by now and may be the last countries depending on oil. Society as a whole is much more concerned about conservation and there are concerted efforts to bring carbon levels back to pre-industrial averages. The whole world has united in its effort to reverse global warming and they predict by 2100 that the earth will finally have normal levels of greenhouse gases. What an awesome time to be alive!  Of course i’m sure there are many problems in 2050: poverty, crime, starvation, and illness to name a few. Heck Kim Kardashian still probably has a reality TV show. At least, the climate issue is being addressed and you will have many more beautiful years on a healing planet earth. 

What can we do in 2016 to help reverse Global Warming? Below are three practical steps.

  1. Offset your carbon footprint by supporting programs that aim to reverse global warming: carbonfund.org
  2. Update your house with energy efficient appliances, lighting, and insulation. It will safe you money every month and decrease energy usage significantly.
  3. Lose weight: when you weigh less you use less fuel, eat less energy intensive food, and you just feel better. Win-Win.