Tuesday, February 14, 2006

It Doesn't Take an Economic Genius. . .

I'm no economics expert. I did well in economics in high school and college, but hated both classes. It was boring; it was rote; it was so disconnected with reality. I usually can remember things because I find facts interesting; I didn't find economics interesting, so I didn't retain much of it. My high school economics was okay, but the book was dry. My college economics course. . . *shudder*

It was an evening class, which didn't help matters. The teacher had a thick accent that was hard to understand, and she had handwriting that resembled hieroglyphics; these two factors made the class hard to follow. The teacher told us that she would be 10 minutes late to class every day because she refused to leave her house more than an hour before start time, and she told us to just wait for her. Half way through our class we also had a smoking break since the teacher was an addicted chain smoker. It was kind of amusing, but sad. Take a 75 minute class, subtract 10 minutes off for starting late, then 5 minutes for a smoking break, and we have a 75 minute class that really only meets for 60 minutes. You would think an economics teacher would realize the problems with this, especially as relates to her pay scale.

Most notable, though, the class was just disconnected from real people and real life.

By the end of the semester I twitched if someone mentioned IBM, peanut butter, coke, or Kroger. Every "real-life" example given in lecture related to one or more of those four things. Did you know that the price of peanut butter at Kroger can rise from $2 to $8 in the course of a few days. Did you know that evidently everyone works an IBM computer job? We were actually told by the teacher that there shouldn't be any complaints about homework because we can just do it at work since we don't have anything else to do there anyway. So much for the waitresses, the cashiers, and those of us who don't have jobs. Oh, and since women entering the workforce stimulates our economy and raises our GNP, that is sufficient reasoning that all women should work. Glad we got that straight.

So, needless to say, I didn't relish my economics education a great deal, and what doesn't interest does not stick for long. All that to say, I'm not well-versed in economics, though I wish I was.

However, I am sharp enough to realize how utterly ridiculous this nonsense is. I realize the United States has long ceased to be a free market, but this is just plain stupid. Regardless of the moral implications of selling "emergency contraceptives," it just makes absolutely no sense to require a pharmacy to sell them. If you're unhappy with the offerings, go somewhere else. That's what competition is. It doesn't take an economic genius to figure that out.


Adrian C. Keister said...

Yes, quite ridiculous. Whenever the government steps into the free market, it messes things up. Routinely, and without exception.

Book time: Human Action, by Ludwig von Mises, and Man, Economy and State by Murray Rothbard. Both of them are economists of the Austrian school. Their approach is quite different from your class. I think you might just identify with the Austrian school. They start with some assumptions, and use axiomatic-deductive reasoning (sound familiar?) to reach conclusions. I once wrote a paper in which I attempted to show that the basic assumptions of Austrian economics are compatible with the Bible. It's great stuff, I think.

In Christ.

Ben Garrison said...

Well, let's be honest, if we were a free market economy, we would probably have low-wage labor just like in China/Indonesia/Malaysia/etc., Standard Oil would have a vice grip on the oil industry, Microsoft would be much bigger and scarier than it is now, private corporations would also be allowed to have "blacks only" areas of their businesses. Obviously it makes sense to temper the free market when it isn't going in the right direction.

I think in their minds, the free market works against freely available contraceptives, since walmart stocking them may result in them getting boycotted. =P

Not saying that I agree with them, but from their perspective, it does make sense.

Susan said...


You're like a walking book recommendation. It's absolutely hilarious! And helpful, so don't stop with the recommendations, sil-vous-plait :). Which of the two books is shorter? Axiomatic-deductive reasoning. . . now that's up my alley.


I guess it would depend on what kind of free-er market economy we're talking about. I don't think free market = low-wage labor, though it often leads to that.

Haha, if Microsoft was bigger and scarier, then you'd get paid more, right ;)?

There is a huge range of types of government restrictions, and I think requiring a store to sell something is over-the-top. It's one thing to make a store not sell something, but another to make a store sell something.

Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Ben.

I'm not sure I agree, Ben. I do not think that a free market implies low-wage labor. Your example of free-market low wages is not good, because China does not have a free market. (Communist governments, almost by definition, do not have free markets.)

In the thought of the Austrian school, the free market plus entrepreneurial risk is inherently self-correcting. As an example, look at the way Rockefeller was, well, not quite humiliated, but certainly taken advantage of, by small business owners. Rockefeller couldn't stand for there to be another oil company besides his. So what did the entrepreneurs do? They would start up some small, profitable oil company, and then sell out to Rockefeller at an enormous profit. Monopolies are inherently self-destructive in a truly free market. Another concept in the Austrian school is what they call trickle-down economics: when the rich get rich, the poor get richer. Why is that? Because the rich want to get even richer. So they invest in companies, causing growth in the companies, who then hire people: the poor.

Basically, any time, any time the government intervenes in the economy, they mess things up. They get it wrong. So they try to fix it, but they only make it worse.

Incidentally, that's why it's so funny when people either blame the President for a bad economy, or praise him for a good one. He has no control over the economy. Perhaps some of his actions exert somewhat of an influence, but that's it.

In Christ.