Random Absurdities, Pt. 2.



By Mike Cronin

It’s OK to kill our (human) enemies, but we dare not name them.  On the other hand, we have no compunction about conducting war against all sorts of things that aren’t enemies: Terrorism is a tactic used by our aforementioned unnamed enemy, but terrorism itself is not an enemy. Drugs are a commodity sold by enemies taking advantage of the risk/reward conditions our drug laws create, but drugs themselves are not an enemy. Poverty is a condition often perpetuated by people who refuse to accept that they are responsible for the choices they make.  Poverty is not an enemy, but the “War on Poverty” often treats the most productive among us as foes.

The “Occupy Wall Street” types who made a stink a few years ago railing against capitalism were often seen wearing name-brand clothing, drinking coffee from famous-brand cafes, and calling and texting each other on smart phones.  How can one accept an anti-capitalist argument from spokes-dudes wading up to their necks in the products, goods, and services created at the hands of some of our most effective capitalists?

Scientifically speaking, anything with a carbon molecule is organic. Virtually all of the food items we eat, with the exception of water, salt, and trace minerals, are organic in the most factual sense possible: they contain carbon atoms and molecules in the structures of carbohydrates and proteins.   The idea that a vegetable or box of cookies or a can of soda might not be legally “organic” when they are factually “organic” is a semantic absurdity fostered by the pipsqueaks of panic.

Ditto for “genetically modified organisms” (GMOs).  Virtually every domesticated food plant and animal produced and consumed today is a result of genetic modification that has been going on since the dawn of agriculture.  Here again, the pipsqueaks are pandering to fear.  It makes no difference to your body if a tomato or grape or a chicken was modified over many generations in the field or one generation in a test tube.  You are going to eat the stuff, draw energy from it, and eliminate it, not blend it into your genetic code. Eating “Franken-food” will not cause you to turn into a shambling mutant!

I am reliably informed that airline pilots for most of the big domestic airlines (American, United, Delta) are paid by the hour, from the time the jet is pushed back from the gate at the departure airport until the door is opened at the arrival airport.  Is it not absurd to incentivize your highest-paid hourly employees to NOT be efficient in an industry with such low profit margins that attention to efficiency is essential for financial success?

The concept of “white privilege” has been instigated as a way to induce guilt in white people for (supposedly) causing, or at least not having to suffer, the woes (real or imagined) of every other demographic. It is a racist concept, and it absurd.  It is racist because it attributes advantage to whites solely on the basis of their skin color.  It ignores the fact that there are many non-white people who attain as many, or more, rewards and advantages in their lives than most whites.  It is absurd when applied to Americans because all of us in the US enjoy far more “privilege” (in the form of better living conditions, more freedom, and more opportunities for some, and sadly, also in the form of government handouts for others) than most people in most countries around the world.  The constant stream of immigrants pouring into this country (legally and illegally) aren’t coming here seeking to be oppressed by the man!

We are supposed to take it for granted that income inequality is a bad thing and accept all kinds of wealth redistribution schemes to help resolve it.  There is never any allowance for the possibility that income inequality might be a direct result of ingenuity inequality or effort inequality. That would mean that people are responsible for their own achievements (or lack thereof).  We can’t have that – it would be absurd!

Your Income: Earned or Distributed?


By Mike Cronin

When you received your pay check, was it because you earned it by trading your time and skill for money, or because it was just “distributed” to you?  I suspect you answered that you earned it. Most of us do. That’s why talk about the vast “income inequality” in our country can be very misleading.

When a statistician talks about income distribution, he or she is referring to how income brackets fit in a bell curve, like in the chart above.  When a politician or a pundit talks about income or wealth distribution, we are supposed to just act as if our money has been unfairly distributed and not earned, and  certain adjustments are necessary to make things “fair.”  These adjustments take the form of taxes, if you “received” too much, or hand outs and benefits, if you “received” too little.

The statisticians’ usage of the term distribution is neither bad nor good, it’s just math. The politicians’ and pundits’ usage of the term distribution is insidious, because it sounds so fair, but it drops contexts in at least two ways.  Every dollar that is “given” by the politicians to those who didn’t have “enough” income “distributed” to them, either:

  1. Had to be taken away from those who had produced it, then “redistributed” to the “have nots;”
  2. or, it had to be minted, printed, or digitally conjured up out of thin air and “pumped” or “quantitatively eased” into the economy.

The first is literal and direct theft (though we call it income taxes) and the latter is indirect theft, because it steals value from our existing money. (Full disclosure: I work for the government, so almost my entire income during my working life has come from your taxes – and my own. The part of the government I work for is clearly derived from the enumerated powers in the Constitution, and I favor The Fair Tax vice the confiscatory taxation system we have today. Decide for yourself whether I am a hypocrite. The thought has given me pause from time-to-time.)

So, statistically speaking, we have a vast disparity between the highest income earners and the lowest. That does not mean income distribution is unfair, because it does not mean that the “haves” with huge incomes somehow just got lucky and received an unfairly large distribution of money. Maybe they earned it, maybe they inherited it, maybe they embezzled it. The fact that they have It is not proof that they got it unfairly. Likewise, the fact that “have nots” at the low end of the income bell curve don’t have more doesn’t mean that they have somehow been cheated. Perhaps it means that they can work hard, gain skills, and climb into higher income brackets.