Why I think Bitcoin’s price is so high and why I think it is a bubble approaching the bursting point.

The price is so high because so many people do not have a good conceptual understanding of how speculative financial bubbles work. All they see is the price of an asset continually rising and they don’t want to miss out. What they don’t realize is that a point of saturation is eventually reached where most that want to buy have already done so. And I think we are getting close to reaching that point given the current ‘hotness’ of the topic in regular mainstream non-financial news and forums.

Once all these newbies have jumped in that are going to jump in, then they just sit back and watch their computers and say “OK, let’s see it rise!” But the only thing that had been driving the price higher was from all the demand from all those Bitcoin newbies versus the supply from willing sellers. But with everybody already in that is going to get in, the balance shifts to a heavier supply of those wanting to sell than those wanting to buy. That is the point where the bubble bursting point approaches.

Now, as the trading price starts to steadily slide people say “Uh oh, let’s cut our losses and sell”. But if everyone wants to sell at the same time with few buyers, then you have a bursting of the bubble — a crash in the price of the asset. And the price doesn’t settle until it reaches a price where the asset’s intrinsic value is seen by the end users of that asset as worthwhile. For instance, after the tulip bulb bubble burst, I imagine the price of the bulbs settled back down to a price that gardeners were willing to pay for the bulbs.

To determine the non-bubble fair value for any asset, you need to be confident there is enough demand from a market of buyers who will say “sure I’ll pay that much for such and such an asset because I really want it or need it or know of somebody else that I can sell it to who really wants it or needs it for its intrinsic value.” But it’s hard to gauge Bitcoin’s intrinsic value even if it does have some useful value in a transaction, because while the number of Bitcoins may be necessarily limited, the number of other virtual currencies that use the same or basically the same blockchain technology that provides that usefulness, is not limited.


Democratic Party

By Glen Wallace

From an ideological standpoint I don’t really understand political parties in the first place. I would much prefer a non partisan political process where all elections from local to federal involved ranked choice. Then, from there I would like to see a de escalation of the importance of the role of elected representatives and increase the role of referendums on all levels to the point where we are more of a direct democracy. But, given where we are now, I also believe in being resourceful with the current setup. Jumping to the issue of Brazile’s book, it doesn’t sound like she ever did say the primary election itself was rigged, just the primary campaign. I mean, neither Donna nor anyone else that I’m aware of has ever asserted that the primary voting machines were rigged against Bernie and for Hillary. Primary voters should be better educated on the candidates and not so easily swayed by any primary campaign ads. If that is the case then shouldn’t more blame be leveled towards the primary voters regarding the direction of the Democratic Party? And that’s not just in the Hillary vs Bernie issue, I believe a progressive has already announced a while back intentions to primary against Pelosi for the Democratic nomination for her current seat in congress for 2018, for instance. If Pelosi wins her primary again, who’s to blame — the party or the voters?


Yahoo is censoring my article comment posts on their site

On Yahoo’s finance section I have been regularly posting comments after their articles.  Lately I have been critical in those posts of Amazon’s stock and its high price.  Finally, just last night I made a post that seemed to disappear soon after I posted it.  I thought eventually the post stayed and I went to bed for the night.  But today I looked up the article and found the post gone again.  I suppose it could be some sort of technical error, but every time I make the post the tally count of posts shown on the site changes to reflect my post — there’s not that much activity so the count isn’t changing that frequently — so I would see a count of 39 posts prior to my entry and then it would show 40.  I would then reload the page and see a 39 total posts again along with my post missing.  My conclusion is that the editors at Yahoo must have seen my trend of criticism of Amazon and they didn’t like it.  Well I doubt that my post will get censored here — but I also highly doubt as many people will view it though either.   But here is my post I tried to put on Yahoo but I suspect has been censored, followed by a link to the original article:

And yet the talking heads on the finance channels, especially CNBC, continue to claim how great a stock AMZN is because of its continued growth in retail. They talk about how Amazon is moving into everything retail, especially with their purchase of Whole Foods. And these supposed experts gushed about the latest earnings report showed such great revenue growth. I would like to remind them that in Amazon’s retail division, it doesn’t matter how much the revenue increases if the cost of covering the shipping for customers exceeds the margin and Prime membership earnings. If Prime members are getting free shipping on a hypothetical widget that priced at 10 dollars, costs 4 dollars to ship and has a 2 dollar margin, it wouldn’t take that much to eat all the way through what Amazon gets from a Prime membership fee. So increased revenue might just mean increased losses for a company like Amazon.


update: Some of my posts will still be allowed to be left on but others not — can’t figure out the reasons either way.  The following is another post that appears to have been censored from yahoo:

I think Bezos’ vision is a lot more fantasy than reality — but seeing what he has done so far has lead some to think maybe he’s being realistic. But just look at his Blue Origin private space travel venture he has been pouring money into. According to the Wikipedia article on the business, Bezos has a long-term vision to use space travel to move much of heavy industry into space. Unless some breakthrough happens in terms of anti-gravity or free energy, moving heavy industry into space to any degree is entirely unrealistic due to the energy inherently required to move heavy equipment into space using the principles of Newtonian physics that, as far as I know, we continue to be limited by. So if Bezos is that unrealistic about the private space travel industry, maybe he has some equally unrealistic visions about the ordinary earth-bound retail business industry.





The Irrationality of holding drug dealers responsible for customer overdoses

Hearing about the prosecution of drug dealers not just for the dealing itself but for the death of one of their customers when one of those customers dies from an overdose , I have to wonder — what do the prosecutors expect to accomplish by such prosecutions?  Do those prosecutors really expect those dealers to make sure their product is labeled correctly and is untainted with some other substance because of such prosecutions?  If prosecutors are holding dealers responsible for overdoses from improperly labeled drugs that are more potent than described, it would seem that there is some expectations that the dealers will be more responsible in the future in making sure the potency and purity of their product is fairly accurate.  Do they expect that in the future, dealers will start to send samples from their latest batch to an independent lab for analysis to ensure the potency, purity and dosage are correct?  Maybe those dealers will start putting labels on their product that resembles legal drug labels that includes the advice to “be sure to consult with your physician before starting any illicit drug regimen.”  — On second thought, I don’t think that will happen.

But these prosecutions do indicate that the victims of overdoses are precious human beings whose lives deserve to be protected.  However, by continuing to maintain the illegality of some narcotics, the safety and security of drug addicts continues to be left in the hands of career criminal drug dealers.   But it is not a reasonable expectation that the dealers themselves will behave in a reasonable manner with regard to the quality of their product.  If the dealers were rational they would make sure their product wouldn’t kill their customers in the first place.  If dealers were rational they likely never would have chosen their profession in the first place that, regardless of any charges specifically for the deaths of their customers, tends to carry extremely stiff prison sentences just for act of carrying on with their daily grind.  If lawmakers and prosecutors really care about the precious lives of the drug users then they should not put the users lives in the hands of the career criminal dealers in the first place.

What should be clear by now is that the only way to protect users from tainted or overly potent drugs is to decriminalize all drugs and provide a means to properly regulate the manufacture and distribution of narcotic substances.  The manufacture could be done at cost by the government and the distribution could occur at designated public centers that would have the added benefit of being able to provide counseling and a direct route to treatment and rehab.  The cost of manufacturing the drugs and the distribution centers could be paid for through the enormous cost savings reaped from no longer having to pay for the incarceration of non-violent drug offenders.  And another added benefit of removing the manufacturing of narcotics from the criminal element would be the protection of the environment from the harmful effects of some drug manufacturing as is the case with meth.  Additionally national forests and parkland would be spared the damage from illegal marijuana farms.

If legislators support Right-to-try then shouldn’t they also legalise all drugs?

These right-to-try experimental pharmaceutical laws open up a whole host of interesting ramifications in terms of what follows from the conclusion that people should have the right-to-try even under the limited circumstances of the recent legislation. Why should terminal patients be the only ones allowed to try some experimental drug, for instance? If the principle is that the proper role of government is not to protect people from themselves, then wouldn’t it follow that an otherwise healthy adult should be allowed to try an experimental drug for, say, the common cold?

We can also easily venture into the question of narcotic drug laws and ask why should the government be allowed to prevent someone from using a psychotropic substance for whatever purpose the citizen chooses — whether it be for medical, recreational or other reasons? It would seem that if the legislators were operating under the rule of moral principles, then if they applied those same principles to both pharmaceuticals and currently illegal narcotics and all patients and citizens, then every adult should have the right to try whatever they want for whatever reason.

While I think there can always be found some utilitarian reason or reasons for banning an activity where otherwise the only seeming potential victim is the person engaging in the banned activity, there can also always be found a potential ulterior motive for the government to ban the substance or activity. For instance, while the government and politicians tout all the supposed harmful effects of illegal narcotics on the country, the war on drugs itself provides enormous funding and power to law enforcement and prisons — both public and private bondage for-profit prisons. And I don’t think the cotton industry would like it too much if the farming of industrial hemp were legalized in this country– as a result we are given the utilitarian cover story for banning industrial hemp farming as it supposedly would cause too much difficulty for law enforcement to differentiate between the narcotic marijuana plants and the non-narcotic industrial marijuana hemp plants. My response to that argument is that in a supposedly free country it is not the job of the citizens to limit their freedoms in order to make the job of law enforcement easier, it is the job of law enforcement to figure out how to do enforce the law without impinging on the freedoms of the citizens.

Is Costco’s lower membership renewal numbers more due to Aldi than Amazon?

Jim Cramer of CNBC on Friday states that investors, in relation to Costco, do not want to pay “25 times earnings for a company that is up against Amazon,”.  I find this puzzling given that Amazon is currently trading at about 10 times that, or 250 times earnings.  Why in the world do people want to pay 250 times earnings for any company unless they are poised for some dramatic windfall growth opportunity?  So Amazon bought Whole Foods — big deal, the grocery business has always been a notoriously low margin endeavor.  At least Costco offers a dividend.  Amazon offers no dividend to its investors, and dividends or the potential to pay them in the future is about the only fundamental value that common stocks have for the investor.

Interestingly, looking at the stats for each corporation, Amazon’s revenue of 150 billion is not that much higher than Costco’s revenue of 123 billion.  And while this latest earnings report bemoans how Costco’s margins were reduced, looking at the stocks details, its net margin of 2.08% is still significantly better than Amazon’s net margin of 1.29%.  If groceries provide such as low margin, why is Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods hailed as such a boon to the Amazon corporation?  I’m still looking at Amazon and looking into the future and wondering how or where are they going to find the kind of revenue that will allow them to ever offer any kind of dividend that will even keep pace with inflation.

Additionally, the just released earnings report showed a reduced membership renewal rates for Costco.   The assumption among finance reporters like Cramer seems to be that those reduced renewals for Costco are the result of competition from Amazon and their acquisition of Whole Foods.  I don’t think that is a safe assumption.  Some of that membership decline may be due to other discount competitors, especially Aldi — and keep in mind, Whole Foods has never been considered a discount grocer, just the opposite in fact.  So combine the fact that Amazon has very little experience in the brick and mortar grocery world and the fact that Whole Foods is not a discount grocer, why is there so much confidence among financial commentators that Amazon poses such a significant threat as to take over the grocery world?  Amazon already takes a huge hit on their gross margin to net margin ratio, no doubt due to all those prime shoppers trying to squeeze every penny out of their membership by having all those bulky, normally expensive to ship, items sent to them with no shipping charge.   Now imagine all the costs Amazon will have to incur as they, in a addition to the shipping, have to cover refrigeration and spoilage from inventory overage.  But still, so far Amazon has only encroached significantly into the more upscale Whole Foods market and the niche of the Blue Apron type of market.  There has been no indication that Amazon is ‘ready for prime time’ when it comes to the broader grocery market that most people rely on and from every indication, will continue to rely on into the foreseeable future.  However Aldi has shown itself to be a formidable presence among the grocery retailers with a price conscious customer base.  Therefore, it would seem that to overlook Aldi in assessing the renewal rates for Costco, would be a mistake.  People go to Costco primarily for low prices but good quality groceries as do Aldi customers.  However, from what I have seen on Amazon, prices are not as low as what I find at Aldi for grocery items even if I had a Prime membership, which I don’t.  So assuming one would find the same among Costco customers, why would they all of a sudden not renew their membership after looking at the higher prices on Amazon?  It doesn’t make any sense.  But what does make sense is for someone not to renew at Costco when they see similar prices at Aldi, which requires no membership.

I was considering getting a membership at Costco but when I realized that they are mostly groceries and it didn’t sound like I would be getting that big of a discount, if any, versus Aldi, I am holding off for now getting a membership.  But, unfortunately, Aldi is a privately held company, so I’m not able to invest in the company as far as I know.  However I am glad to see that they are advertising at the local store for new hires the starting wage is a relatively decent 14 dollars an hour.   I think that is pretty close to the starting wage of Costco new hires, and they have been known as generous employer.  I do like to see it when employers provide a living wage for their workers and treat their employees decently.  And Amazon, unfortunately has a history of not treating their employees very well and offering mediocre pay for often grueling work.  So I tend to root for companies like Costco and Aldi and avoid shopping at places like Amazon due to their employment practices.  So, yes I am still considering getting a membership at Costco, and I still also do my best to find other vendors besides Amazon when doing my online shopping — and I often succeed in that venture and finding as good or better prices often with free shipping.

The Artisan Solution to Robots and Automation

by Glen Wallace

The government needs to redistribute wealth not in order to decides what people do or do not want, the government should redistribute in order to make it possible that more citizens can choose what they want or do not want from a selection of goods and services.   It is not right that others should sacrifice consumer choice and live in austerity and poverty in order that a few rich people have the ability to choose from a selection of ultra high end luxury items.

The Venus Project, however, makes the mistake of deciding what people will want under a given circumstances of scarcity or lack thereof.  The Venus Project makes no accommodations or contingency plans for circumstances that arise where citizens do not behave in accordance with how Jacque Fresco predicts they will.  What happens when someone, likely many people, want the improved, but scarce, version of the mass produced product?  Will the Venus Project ‘decide’ what people want and outlaw rare, perhaps handcrafted, versions of the robot mass produced common product?  Will such a legal system turn ordinary artisans and their customers into outlaws in a black market economy?

What I envision, and much prefer, is a scenario where a symbiotic relationship ensues between those who derive emotional and psychological satisfaction from work in general, what they produce in particular and the customers who want their product.  More specifically, I’m talking about a thriving economy of artisans producing hand crafted products and customers more than willing to spend money acquiring those products.  You might be thinking ‘well, doesn’t such a market already exist?’  Yes, it most certainly does, but I’m trying to come up with a solution to the wave of automation, especially with robots, leading to the potential mass displacement of workers.

While many of those displaced workers will be more than satisfied not working — assuming they will still be able to receive at least the necessities of life, and some of the niceties, I think many displaced workers will not be satisfied without a job.  A great number of people seem to derive a level of self worth from a job and get a sense of accomplishment and being needed, from having a job.  I’m concerned that even if there is some sort of guaranteed minimum income for all citizens that provides all the necessities and even plenty of niceties of life, many of those citizens will have some serious problems not having regular work.  Well, that’s where I think artisan, handcrafted cottage industries could potentially fill a need both for those wanting work as an end in itself, and consumers who want something unique and special and not made by a machine.

But to get to that point of having such a new age industrial revolution where everything from the old world becomes new again in a sort of futuristic steampunk artisan economy, a significant amount of wealth redistribution will be required.  As automation increases, without government redistribution intervention, there will be a strong tendency towards further wealth concentration in the owners and renters of the robots and other forms of automation.  As employees fall off the payrolls due to automation, obviously those displaced workers will no longer receive paychecks.  What used to go into the hands of the employees now goes into the few hands of the owners of the means of production.  If we just let those owners of automated production just keep the bulk of all their new found wealth, there will not be much left to go around to the displaced workers for them to buy much of anything — much less hand crafted artisan products.

But, if the government were to heavily tax the owners of automated production and redistribute that money to the workers displaced by the automation, the displaced workers could, if they wish, start small home based businesses building unique handmade products.  Some of those new small business could then hire a few artisans to grow the business a little, while others would be satisfied just working by themselves in a one person operation.  And given that many people would like a unique hand crafted product, instead of a mass produced one,  demand would come from both the owners of those cottage industries using their newfound revenue to shop their colleagues stores  and anyone receiving redistributed income.


The Group Ownership of America

by Glen Wallace

After the resignation of US Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price, once again I’m hearing people on the television tell how he misused ‘taxpayer dollars’.  I’ve written about this before, but apparently the message didn’t get around that well.  So once again I repeat, once the government has received the dollars paid by a taxpayer, those dollars no longer belong to the taxpayer.  It seems like a simple and clear enough concept, but the widespread misuse of the term ‘taxpayer’ continues.  So, if the money spent by the government does not belong to the taxpayer at the point of transaction between someone in the government spending some of that money, why do so many politicians, writers and news reporters insist on continuing to imply that the taxpayer’s have ownership of those dollars spent?  Some better terms to use would be ‘public dollars’ or the ‘people’s funds’ or the ‘citizen’s dollars’.

The payment of income taxes is just one form of revenue that the federal government relies upon to pay its expenses.  To my knowledge, however, there is no quid pro quo legal relationship between paying of those taxes and having that revenue be spent either in the interests of the taxpayer or at the direction of the taxpayer.  The taxpayer has no special standing compared with a citizen who, whether due to a tax loophole or deduction or low income, pays no income taxes.

I sometimes wonder if the misuse of the term ‘taxpayer’ is a deliberate attempt to maintain the illusion of a contractual understanding between paying taxes and how those revenue dollars are spent.  Maintaining the illusion could benefit those in power who are able to avoid contributing more to the government’s revenue than they currently are.  Once the common citizen realizes that income tax is merely one of many potential sources of revenue and not a payment for services for themselves or for the country, they may start to creatively look for those other potential sources of revenue — especially revenue derived from taxing wealthy individuals, corporations and institutions.  After all, if the ordinary workaday citizen starts thinking that maybe this country could be run with little or no money coming from the hourly and salaried worker, then they might start searching in earnest for those other revenue sources.

And those other potential sources of revenue are many:  tariffs are one — we could really leverage our trade deficit by increasing tariffs.  There would be a double benefit since not only would we be getting all that new revenue, but an incentive would also be created to bring back more manufacturing and the associated jobs to America — since a company that makes stuff here wouldn’t have to pay the tariff.  A high frequency trading machine tax could also be implemented that would directly tax Wall Street while leaving Main Street largely alone.

Additionally, a federal asset tax on billionaire individuals and corporations could be implemented that would act much like local property taxes, only this new property tax on billionaires would apply to all their assets, not just real estate.

And I think there are many more potential revenue sources outside of ordinary income tax, but for now I’ll list just one more:  While I’m a strong proponent of conserving our nation’s natural lands in as close to a natural state as possible and protect those lands from exploitation for natural resources, but if all those efforts at conservation on federally owned lands fails and the decision to exploit a parcel of land has been made, then I think we should at least act to maximize the fiduciary benefit to the country of that resource extraction on those lands.  But I think there has been and continues to be a long history of acting in a fiscally irresponsible manner when it comes to deriving revenue from natural resource extraction by privately owned companies on federally owned lands.  That needs to stop.

We, the citizens of this country should look at ourselves as an ownership group of a vast real estate empire.  As owners we have to decide on three main categories of use for that land: recreation, conservation, and income revenue.  Of course there can be a lot of overlap between those three categories, but we should always strive to do the best job we can in whatever direction for land use we decide on.

Given that we have representatives in Congress that are supposed to be managing the affairs of our ownership group, we should hold them responsible when they mishandle our real estate portfolio.  While those representatives will maybe get a passing grade when it comes to the first two; conservation and recreation, I think I’ll have to give a failing grade when it comes to income revenue when the land we own is primarily used for that purpose.  From my understanding, when a lumber company or a mining company wants to extract a natural resource from federal lands all they have to do is bid on the mineral rights or timber rights for that land in a no reserve auction, and the winning bidder gets to extract all they want and keep the entire bounty from that extraction, no matter how low the bid is.  There is a reason private landowners do not use a similar process when they decide to open their lands for resource extraction: it is a fiscally irresponsible way to do things.  We the people should be using the same methods to derive income from natural resource extractions that any private landowner would use who is acting in their own fiduciary best interest.

Edit to add:  After completing the above essay I started to think about Puerto Rico and all the hardships they are facing in the aftermath of hurricanes.  Well, we should see ownership as not just in the business sense of the term, but also in the responsibility sense of the term.  That is, we as a country need to take ownership of the responsibility to take care of those citizens in our country when they are in dire need.  Puerto Ricans are US citizens living in a territory owned by the United States.  We as a country need to take responsibility for doing what it takes to help our fellow citizens out whether they are on an island in the Atlantic or our next door neighbors.  There are currently just over 2 million combined active and reserve military personnel in the United States armed forces.  The last I heard there have been only about 7 thousand US troops sent to aid Puerto Rico.  I realize it might not be practical to send a large proportion of those 2 million members to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, but I’m confident we could, without that much difficulty, send over ten times the number of troops currently there.  It seems like conditions there are extreme enough to warrant a large scale deployment to rescue, rebuild and provide food, water, generators and medicine and medical care to our fellow citizens over there in need.

Topsoil Thoughts

by Glen Wallace

What is the timeline of the predicted length of time that industrial scale farming will be able to continue in the midwestern section of the US?  I’m working under the assumption that topsoil is being lost faster than it is being replaced by the current crop cycle.  My understanding is that the soil is being lost quicker than it is being replaced.  I’m concerned that the doom and gloom chicken little sky is falling predictions about topsoil loss may be ignored in a ‘cry wolf’ reaction to other environmental predictions that either haven’t panned out or have not been realized on the time scale predicted by the alarmists.  I’m thinking of the worst case scenarios that haven’t yet come to fruition such as those involving rainforest destruction, peak oil and the gulf oil offshore drilling accident.  However, I think that the near complete loss of topsoil scenario is a real possibility that could pan out as predicted — if so, I think the results could be catastrophic.

Topsoil has a necessarily large content percentage that is organic matter — that is, it is largely made up of living or once living  matter.  Therefore, engineers cannot synthesize topsoil from something non living like petroleum oil or coal.  Current industrial scale farmers are using the ‘savings deposit’ of thousands if not millions of years of grasslands and forest growth and withering cycles that have built up a deposit of many feet of topsoil that will only last so long at the current rate of topsoil spending.  But once it’s gone, there is not enough available topsoil on the planet to replace any near complete depletion of vast swaths of midwestern farmland — even if we had the sorts of equipment to spread all that dirt, which we don’t.  Imagine all the dumptrucks needed to haul all that dirt when you think how even a small city lot garden needs a whole dump truck load to fill it in sufficiently.  But even if we could find all those dump trucks and soil spreaders, where would we find the mountains of topsoil that could be used to spread to sufficient depth over hundreds of square miles of midwestern farmland?  No such mountain of  topsoil exists.  But if there is no topsoil, there will be no crops.  If there is no crops then people will starve and we will be seeing famine.

I got to thinking about this topic when looking at the backyard garden and a particular patch where in a previous year I piled a rather large mound of raked up leaves one fall to cover up a patch of an invasive species of plant.   The place where the mound of leaves was seems to be rather fertile now, but there is no noticeable rise in the level of dirt above that of the surrounding soil.  So, it takes a lot of leaves and plant matter over a lot of years to yield a significant material gain in the mass of topsoil needed to grow crops or any other plant.

So, how many years has intensive, factory scale farming been going on compared to how many years the topsoil was being built up naturally, before the farming began?

Ok, I’ve done a little bit of research on the subject matter since the first rough draft of the above essay, and I still have more questions than answers.  What is clear is that not sufficient empirical study is being paid to the question of topsoil loss.  There should be hundreds if not thousands of regular measurement readings involving poking some sort of ruler in the form of a rod into the ground to measure the depth of the soil until bedrock or hardpan is reached.  We need to find out if the crop waste such as corn stalks and bean plants left to wither on and into the ground is adding less than, the same or more mass and volume to the soil than ‘withdrawals’ by way of wind and water erosion.  Well, maybe that is being done and I just need to do some more reading and research to find out.  But it is a little remarkable how little popular attention is paid to the subject of topsoil loss when one considers the monumental importance of the subject — we all need to eat.  And once the soil gets washed down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico, there is no practical way to retrieve and desalinate all that soil once it reaches the salty seawaters of the Gulf.  The best thing to do is prevent the soil from being washed away in the first place.  I saw a very short documentary on the subject that I will post below that is put out by the Environmental Working Group that gives a glimpse into what is already being done and more that should be done by farmers and legislators regarding topsoil loss.  I think that organization is a good resource on the subject matter at hand and I think I will be looking into their findings and ideas on the matter of topsoil loss.

Environmental Working Group’s ‘Losing Ground’ short documentary about topsoil loss



Government and Regulations as an advocate for the ‘little guy’

The following is my comment I posted in response to this this article


by Glen Wallace

The ‘protected class’ referred to in your article is referring to protection by way of the circumstance of relative wealth. But, what I see as a fundamental oversight by those freemarket advocates in the ‘protected class’ is that some level of protection can be afforded to lower and middle classes by way of the government in the form of rules and regulations. As an example of that oversight by freemarket advocates, I need only present an email from this site (mauldineconomics.com) I received back on May 25, titled ‘Inside: Highlights from Day 3 of the SIC 2017’ that included a brief summary of the Strategic Investors Conference including one short paragraph that stated:

“Regulation was also discussed, with Faber receiving a round of applause for a passionate soliloquy deriding laws and regulations. “It is your duty to fight the government every day,” he said.”

Given the high entry fee to that SIC conference I think it is safe to say that most likely every member of that audience giving Faber a round of applause is a member of the ‘protected class’ protected by the circumstance of wealth. For Faber and his audience there at the conference, I don’t think they understand from a personal experience level, having to rely on the government and regulations to protect them from exploitation and harm by some ruthless capitalist member of the ‘protected class’.

The wealthy typically can afford to live far away from a factory or plant, so no need is seen to have any regulations in place restricting pollution and toxic discharge from those sites — the affluent can avoid the effluent. It is typically the poorer communities that live near those plants and factories and have to breath the air and drink the water that might be contaminated by the sites pollutants. But wealthy freemarket, anti-regulation advocates seem to think — ‘why is there any need for regulations restricting pollution when I get to live so far away from the polluters?’

If Faber, or any of his wealthy audience, wants to buy a bottle of 200 dollar scotch from a storied distillery, I’m sure he has no worry that bottle of scotch might contain toxic levels of wood alcohol even if there were no proper government distillery regulations. But the working class guy who just wants a cheap drink, might have to rely on government oversight and regulations to insure that cheap bottle of whisky he bought is safe to drink — in moderation of course. But it is rich people that can afford the best of everything where a competitive marketplace can often, but not always, substitute for government regulations given the huge importance on a reputation for quality in such a market. But for the rest of us coupon clipping bargain shoppers, who are not protected by the circumstance of wealth, we are often dependent on the power of government to act as a measure against the power of business, to help ensure the products we buy are safe.

While as a leftie progressive I am willing to admit that some regulations are onerous and unnecessary, I have yet to hear a right winger freemarketeer admit that at least some regulations are very valuable in protecting the worker, the environment and the consumer from harm and exploitation by business. I usually hear arguments against regulations along the lines of letting the market decide and just file a lawsuit if harmed by a business instead of imposing regulations.

I then would counter that letting the ordinary market and judicial system be the de facto regulator is horribly flawed insofar as it is reactive, at best, where regulations are proactive. I say ‘at best’ because a business can go on harming the consumer, the worker or the environment for years before enough people notices to file a lawsuit or stop buying their products. And even if they are caught by the marketplace or are sued, the most that often happens is the business just declares bankruptcy and the executives and owners leave with all the millions they gained from all those years of exploitative business practices. And the most that could be hoped for is criminal prosecution in the most egregious cases of harm by a business. But even if there is a conviction in such cases, I am sure it is small solace to the victims. Wouldn’t it be so much better if there were some good regulations in place to proactively protect the worker, the consumer or the environment from harm in the first place?