Let The Markets Run Free

Subsidies, tax breaks, tax hikes, government run monopolies, the list goes on and on.  It seems like the government simply doesn’t want people to prosper, given that (partial) list of disincentives towards growth they constantly are pushing for and enforcing every day.

The real reason the government hates free markets is that, unlike most voting Americans (who, it should again be noted, PAY THEIR SALARIES), free markets cannot be fooled for any real period of time.  You might get someone with insider information who makes a quick hit, but that practice is illegal and subject to penalties.  Or you might get the occasional “speculative” run up in stocks, commodities, housing, or any other product or service for purchase.  But in the end, things tend to settle as they should.

This “markets can’t be fooled” approach works better as the market in question gets deeper and deeper.  The more money moving around between investors and buyers and sellers, the more accurate the reading (price) will be.  Take the sports betting market.  Anyone who thinks they can do better than the point spread at picking winners over any significant period of time is on another planet.  The reason is simple: a whole lot of knowledgeable people are risking lots of money on the outcome.  Every detail is analyzed impartially, and any mistake can be capitalized on by someone else, be it a rival bettor or the sportsbook itself.  Same with the stock market.  Do you really think Exxon or General Electric stock is priced very far from its “true value?”  Of course not.  The price of widely held stocks is very accurate, taking into account all relevant information about the company’s history, current and future profits, potential for buyout, etc etc.

Basically, it boils down to: Do you really think you can outsmart thousands and thousands of other people (and entire institutions) who have more knowledge, information, money, guts, and history than you?  For some odd reason, the government thinks it can.  It tries to set prices, manipulate entire industries, and basically defy the laws of supply and demand.  This can work for short periods of time, but eventually the cream rises and we find out the true value of whatever we have in question, be it an asset, a service, a stock, a sports team, or anything else.

How does this relate to the politics of today?  Well, let’s take the price of commodities.  Gold and oil are soaring to new highs it seems every day.  Is this a coincidence or something else?  I would tend to trust the markets and what they are telling us, namely that the US dollar is heading for steeper and steeper lows, and thus there is a “flight to quality,” or assets with actual value beyond paper currency backed by nothing more than empty promises.

The government cannot stop the huge demand for such goods and services as “illegal” drugs, gambling, prostitution, guns, alcohol, pornography, and cigarettes.  People demand these things the same as they demand baseball tickets, hamburgers, books, and new tires.  If anyone bothers to notice, there is no “street crime” or violence associated with buying cigarettes or pornography or alcohol.  Honestly, to me it looks like the government wants underground crime to flourish.  How else can you explain it?  If we simply make drugs, prostitution, and gambling legal, the underground demand for these would disappear immediately. Do you see people in Las Vegas calling their bookie to place a bet?  Why would you, with the risk of getting killed or stiffed on a payment, when you can do it legally in a state run, licensed casino?

It’s the exact same logic with drugs and prostitution.  Why would someone buy heroin or marijuana from a shady person on the street when they could get something that at least is safe from potentially fatal added ingredients at the store?  Why would anyone shoot anyone else over a drug deal when you can just do it in a store?  Why are we wasting billions every year when we could be taxing these products and bringing in more money to the government?

Common arguments in favor of the “war on drugs” are that everyone would start using drugs and it would legitimize the activity.  Also “drugs are dangerous.”  That is precisely why we need (limited) government regulation of them!  Anyone who wants to use drugs now certainly can do so.  Any high school or college student who wants marijuana, heroin, pills, cocaine, etc. can get it fairly easily if they want it.  I would also tend to strongly disagree that all drugs are as dangerous as the feds would have you believe.  Long term, marijuana is no more harmful than smoking cigarettes.  Cocaine and heroin are addictive, but so are cigarettes.  Where exactly do we draw the line between what is “too dangerous?”  And when did the government all of the sudden become a de facto God, able to decide your lifestyle just because it deems it “dangerous?”  If people want to use heroin, they are going to do it, and the system as it is set up will not stop them.  So why don’t we look at other alternatives?  Maybe because that would involve a rational, full debate of the issue?

Ending addictive drug habits is a noble goal to be sure.  Drugs can ruin entire families.  They are potent and have a dangerous allure to them.  But the way we are going about the so called “war” on drugs just isn’t working.  We need to make up our mind, and it comes down to a choice of personal freedom or complete knowledge.  If we really want to get rid of all illegal drugs, we should simply test everyone in the country once a week.  That would end it once and for all, right?  Of course not, which is why a plan like that is absurd.  It’s just another case of the government lying to the people.  “Drugs are a horrible problem and need to be stamped out completely” really means no such thing.  Fact is, drugs can’t be stamped out completely.

A quick aside, today I realized that Barack Obama actually does have a leg up on John McCain, but not for the reason anyone is mentioning.  I think Obama’s lack of government experience is actually a huge plus, given the way the federal government operates.  Less time around it would maybe make Obama a bit immune to its perils.  Alas, he won’t take advantage of this blissful ignorance, as he is proposing all sorts of tax hikes, health care reforms, and who knows what else, all in the name of an ever expanding government.