Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Two essays

I wrote these for The Edmund Burke Institute a while back and put them here because because I liked them long after I wrote them. Nick Sorrentino at http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org gave the first one considerable publicity. Even in the light of the Arab Winter it does a job.


This is Mohammed Bouazizi and He Started a Revolution

Strange that a conservative website call attention to him but Mohammed only wanted to be allowed do the job he had carved out for himself, selling vegetables from a handcart. 
He was the breadwinner for his family off eight. His ambitions to own a pick-up truck which would bring quantity and speed to his small operation, improving his family's lifestyle, mark him as an a grocer, if not from Grantham, from some same country of the mind. Those ambitions made young Mohammed a capitalist in a society dominated by state socialist mouthings, under the cover of which the ruling elite operated a vicious, corrupt kleptocracy.
On December 13th a policewoman from Tunisia's notoriously corrupt police force confiscated his handcart and supplies, insulted and fined him. 
His livelihood in the balance he tried to get the cart back at the municipal headquarters. When that failed the 26 year old returned with a can of petrol. 

Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight, took nearly a month of lingering agony to die and started a revolution that has been named The Arab Spring.

The dictators, including Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia who was ousted on the 14th of January, ten days after the young man's death, all have in common corruption, state interference and a refusal to allow the people economic freedom.

 All of them play from a socialist game plan that insists the state knows better than people's own voluntary choices in free markets. They all rob billions of dollars from countries they refuse to allow grow or develop.
Mohammed Bouazizi wanted to the freedom work, invest and earn. Mohamed Bouazizi was a capitalist who wanted not to be trapped in poverty. Tragically for him that was not possible in the corrupt kleptocracy of Tunisia. 

Economic freedom is the answer to poverty. The Heritage Foundation defines it as:
Economic freedom is the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labour and property. In an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please, with that freedom both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state. In economically free societies, governments allow labour, capital and goods to move freely, and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself.

Not content with merely defing economic freedom the Heritage Foundation research and publish a league table of countries economic freedom. In the Index of Economic Freedom published in January Tunisia was ranked 100th. Ireland was ranked 7th place.
These measurements matter. The The Heritage Foundation again: Countries that score well demonstrate a commitment to individual empowerment, non-discrimination and the promotion of competition. Their economies tend to perform better, and their populations tend to enjoy more prosperity, better health and more positive measures on a variety of quality-of-life indices. A score of 80 or higher merits the designation of “free economy.” Those who score in the 70s are considered “mostly free,” those in the 60s “moderately free,” those in the 50s “mostly unfree” and those that score less than 50 “repressed.”
Tunisia scored 58.5 while Ireland scored 78.7. There is no room for complacency because we were down a whopping 2.7 on 2010. We do not want to be converging with the worst but emulating the best economies.
If the Tunisia really wants to honour the man whose sacrifice gave her back her freedom then claiming a top ten place on the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom would be a practical, real and suitable monument to a young man that wanted to drive his vegetable barrow. We in Ireland should remember the price that is paid for the lack those freedoms in the form of national poverty. We can care for our own prosperity by caring for our economic freedom. It won't involve self immolation, merely bring some pressure on our politi cians to move in the right direction. Recognising calls for special treatment and protections for some groups in the economy s a way of robbing the rest of us helps too.
This is Mohammed Bouazizi, he started a revolution and he is a hero to anyone who believes in freedom



Viva Las Vegas!

Nothing gives as good a view of the gulf between those who believe in economy controlled by an all wise benevolent state and those who believe in private capital and a free economy as The Two-Mile Borris Casino. If you were to dream up a litmus test for the difference you could not do better than a schlock fest gambling casino in rural Tipperary.

It rings every bell, pulls every rat's tail of the statist crew, stirs every paternalistic twitch in their chicken hearts. 
Gambling? Save the poor infants from the road to ruin. 
Tipperary? So unsuitable, so rural, so lovely, ooooh look daddy there is a peasant in that field and he has a tractor! 
A replica of the White House ? Oh the sheer utter vulgarity of the thing, we would be so much more tasteful. 
Private capital being invested to make a return? Not while the leftists know better!
And there lies the nub of their problem.

While the sensible of us go about our own business in the secure knowledge that the owners of capital, will, in general, make better decisions about its use than some commissar for state investment and happy to let the private enterprise do what it does, if left to its own devices, make us all better off, the left-wing-state-knows-better crew explode in disgust because they KNOW BETTER.
They know how to invest the considerable capital (€460 million at last estimate) much, much better than its owners and so protest loudly and shrilly at its waste. Clearly the notion of private property ceases to exist at large sums and the very notion that neither they nor the state has anything like a record of doing anything but wasting confiscated capital is irrelevant.
But it is not just the Economic know-betters that are out spouting. An Taisce, that repository of statist wisdom has, as one would expect, come out strongly against the plan waving the “sustainability” card. Sustainability is of course, the super-Pokemon, meaning whatever the user wants it to mean and killing all discussion when played. It comes bearing little wisps of CO2 and and the noxious stench of hypocrisy.
The Well Meaning Know Betters are now in full rant. The project is seen as everything that is bad and rotten and must be eliminated in the New Ireland Workers Paradise. If it was not bad enough that these horrid people were building a casino, they will encourage others to drive cars to get there! Oh the horror, the greenhouse gases! The letter's paper to the pontificating Irish Times is the platform of choice for many of WMKB brigade.
In a rant of studied passion and even more studied economic ignorance an Emer Colleran asks “Do we need a Las Vegas-style casino when so many of our people are out of work and trying desperately to meet their mortgage repayments and feed their children?” An Austin Power (no not the Mike Myers character, that was Powers, final “s” pronounced, pay attention) asks plaintively “Do we not have enough monuments to our Celtic Tiger folly?”.
Best of all is the lecture on economics from a slightly demented Public Choice view point of one Peter Malone “It must surely be the case that private spending on gambling must be one of the most economically unproductive forms of output. In terms of economic welfare, gambling is surely a dead loss. At this time of constrained private demand, why is the Government facilitating such a large extraction of capital from the private economy (and into the pocket of Mr Quirke) when this money could be put to much better economic use?”
Don't you just love the idea that the Government could appoint an expert like Mr Malone to the job of Investments Commissar and he would sort things like that out. He or his ilk would find productive uses for “a large extraction of capital from the private economy” Down with private property! Down with Greedy Capitalists! Viva the heroes of '68!
I am told that Europe is under-casinoed by a Man Who Knows Gambling and that it Two-Mile Borris could do well. In truth I neither know nor care. If men want to invest their money that is their business. If it does well they will make more money. If it does badly, as many a business started with high hopes and hard work does, then they will lose money.
It is their business, their risk, their money. We all prosper when private capitalists invest their own private capital in projects and ideas that they believe will work. They are not always right BUT it is their money and Government has neither the right nor the ability to do that job. Just as the value of any good or service is what pepole are willing to voluntarily pay for it so to the the same system of voluntary exchanges we dub "the market" can decide what is worth investment and what is not. Government and the WMKB brigade interfere with this process to all our peril and poverty. If Mr Quirke and his co-investors are stopped in Two-Mile Borris by the WMKBs the investment can go elsewhere . The reaction from the left would alternate between "Good, better poverty than freedom" or "We must make the export of investment illegal". Either response are a road to ruin but ruin rarely bothers the WMKB as they can usually afford it better than the rest of us.
The question we must ask every objecting voice is simple “Do you believe that somebody has the right to their OWN money, to make their OWN decisions in their OWN business?” 
If not then why not and how not? To what extent is the coercion of the state to be extended to change those rights? Who is to make the investment decisions if not the owners of the money? 
These may seem such simple and basic questions as to be nearly pointless but they are real and necessary. Either we believe that the investors in Two-Mile Borris White House Schlock Fest have the RIGHT to invest their money in a business as they see fit, or we do not. If not, then we believe we are owned by the state and serve not our own ends but that selected for us by the Commissars.
The beauty of the Two-Mile Borris test is it's all encompassing nature. Taste, paternalism, climate change, productive use of capital, they are all in their in one lovely Blue and Gold test tube. The Left in all their statist guises hate Two-Mile Borris and all it represents.
As for me I raise a glass to those brave and sturdy men who have €460 million and are willing to spend it in the hope of making more. I love their courage, their willingness to have a go and their unbridled capitalist optimism but mostly I love the poke in the eye to the WMKB brigade and the litmus test for freedom that they have inadvertently established. Viva Las Vegas!

(I originally wrote that the casino was planned for Borrisokane and am indebted to Simon Tuohy  for the correction: it is off course planned for Two-Mile Borris. The essay has been corrected to reflect the facts.)

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