May 2008 - Posts
Many people perhaps dream of an executive position in a wealthy, well-to-do business. To manage and direct people! to be the boss. But few people are. The reason should be obvious: it takes a certain kind of skill and talent to successfully direct the fortunes of a business that captures a certain sector of the market and appeals to a mass of people.
Yet far many more people have the skill and talent to sit back and criticize others, especially if they are wealthy. But few people are in a more prestigious position to criticize others, such as Kathie Lee Gifford. Only a few minutes ago was she hosting The Today Show, holding a newspaper up and pointing to the questioning of oil executives, stamping her frustration about their excessive personal earnings. This followed her coverage of the recent decision by airlines to charge a new fee of $15 for the first bag checked on an airline, which this forthcoming charge is tied to rising gas prices. And the news reports Kathie displayed on her show referred to "skyway robbery." Indeed, a voluntary exchange between business and consumer for a nominal fee for the rising cost of business is robbery!
I wonder how "excessive" Kathie's earnings are to sit in a chair for hours on a day and offer her unfounded accusations. Of course, airlines aren't engaging in robbery, and oil executives are not making more than they should at the expense of the public. Their prices, which the public accepts and drives, are part and parcel and largely symptomatic of government intervention. Inflation, the blocking of new refineries, gasoline taxes, and an interventionist foreign policy are the catalysts of oil executives and airline managers asking for higher prices, which the public accepts.
Ron Paul was every so often questioned during his more public run for the White House about his environmental stance. Is the United States government supposed to drive alternative energy? No! he always said, the market should drive energy. If the price of gas becomes too much a burden on people then the market will seek alternatives on its own. The government, has no role in energy, as it does not with anything else. Education of this point is the starting point for tomorrow's show.
Greed is a deadly sin, and it is an oft-propagated malapropos market malapropism. This will be a short post with one question.
How can sellers be greedy when buyers determine prices?
I am now an official graduate of Iowa State University. Yes, a government public university. I feel accomplished, rightfully so, for graduating with a degree from an institution of "higher learning." My mother is proud of me. Am I proud? Yes/no. I'm proud of my hard work and intellectual progress. I'm not proud of doing it at the expense of others who were extorted to fund my education. I certainly did not feel as proud as I should have during my graduation ceremony, which was an exercise in state idolatry.
The worshipping began fairly quickly with the "presentation of the colors," which was a 15-second staring contest with the American flag in silence. Following that was the chant of the country, the National Anthem. You know, that thing that says "the land of the free."
Following this, the student speaker was introduced. His credentials were staggering. He was a double major in political science and psychology, interned with an Iowa senator and worked with a lobbying group. What a great student, so eager to assist the State and lobby on its behalf to use other people's money! What a free land. And then the student speaker offered a wonderful speech that "said something different" with the usual platitudes about college life.
Then came the faculty speaker, head of the university's political science department. A man who appeared on CNN in NY Times Square, once! This was the highlight of the night. It was a 15 minute message of doom and gloom to the graduating class about all the ills of the world and how so many things are wrong. "We're facing a food shortage," or "oil prices are continuously rising," and a bunch of other things in between global warming and global cooling that our generation has to fix because we can't "take it easy"—and apparently make the world worse like his generation, "the generation of the 60s," did.
The highlight of this highlight speech was the plug for his own profession. "Politics is important because that's where decisions are made," he said. At this point I nearly rose from dozing off to shout, "You mean the market is where decisions are made!" I have always held a great disdain for the bromide that politics are "important because that's where decisions are made." My former news editor held to this profession, despite being a libertarian. No, politics is not, nor should it be, important because that's where decisions are made. Decisions shouldn't be made there in the first place; they should be made in the market, where real choices exist and where real voluntary exchange occurs.
There are some graduates who witness a moving ceremonial speech at their commencement. Those are the ones who will likely remember it for years and tell people about their riveting experience. Mine was not riveting, but I'll remember it because it was so filled with despair and the call for more politics. And I will tell people, as I am now, to say, "No! No more politics; things are bad enough."
But I lied. The doom and gloom speech wasn't the highlight. The highlight was crossing the stage, shaking hands, only to step off stage and receive a nice picture ... not in front of the university's logo or anything to do with the university. No, everyone had the great national pleasure to have their picture taken in front of the American flag and the Iowa state flag. All thank the state for our education! It could not have happened otherwise!
Other than the state worshipping, the ceremony was nice. I just wish I could've worn something other than a gown ... like those military men who were allowed to wear their fancy military clothes and received special recognition for their departments of military, navy, and other useless armed forces science departments. All hail the state!
It seems Hollywood may take a few years to catch up to the message of Ron Paul. Below is my gist of the newest Hollywood blockbuster, the superhero movie Iron Man, in bullets. Here's a quick synopsis: The main character, Tony Stark, heads a successful arms company, Stark Industries. He is captured by guerillas in Afghanistan and he subsequently escapes via his first creation of the Iron Man. During his capture, Stark realizes an ugly part of war: the enemy can end up with the same weapons as the good guys. In this case, the weapons Stark produces for the U.S. military end up in the hands of the Afghan guerillas. Upon his return to America, Stark has a revelation: Arms dealing is bad. As figurehead for his company, Stark holds a press conference to announce his change of heart. However, everything's not so simple and rosy. Stark's partner-in-business, Obadiah Stane, is too greedy for the profits of war to let Stark do as he wants. Thus is the protagonism/antagonism of the film, setting the stage for the epic showdown.
So here are the messages the film conveys.
- War itself is not bad—only war profiteering and arms manufacturing is bad.
- Greedy war profiteers are responsible for arming bad men around the world.
- Problems of war will stop if you simply remove the bad men. There is no other source of the problem.
- U.S. involvement in the Middle East is good because many bad men exist there.
And here are the messages the film doesn't convey.
- The problems in Afghanistan are part and parcel because of U.S. involvement in the area.
- War profiteering on the part of greedy businessmen is boosted by the war profiteering of a country's military policy.
Iron Man would be the first big-hit movie of the summer for the ilk of John McCain or Hilary Clinton; i.e., those who don't believe in the message of Ron Paul that turmoil in the Middle East is facilitated by the United States government. So for now, until the message sinks in, moviegoers can plan on seeing more movies that rely on the stereotypes that the Middle East needs the United States, that big business is greedy and corrupt (especially the arms industry), and that war itself is not bad but only the existence of powerful weapons. I'm sure the counter message would sink in faster had Ron Paul advanced further into the minds of American philosophy and politics, but this is why people, part and parcel, enjoy movies: for fantasy. Sometimes believing in superheroes is easier than electing one.