Every parent, who has a child of middle school age has probably had at least one conversation with that child about the value of hard work and money. The conversation probably resulted from a request for money. Somewhere in the course of this interaction, most parents utter that time honored cliche “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. Most children react with shock and utter disbelief that their needs are met with this perceived hard hearted and ill considered response. You as a parent didn’t address the need and responded with the harsh reality of the outside world. Well I am reminded by this conversation of a recent travel experience.
I recently returned from a trip to the Dutch Netherlands in the Caribbean. If you are geographically challenged as I am, you probably don’t know the location of these picturesque islands. They are nary a stones throw away from Venezuela. This time we visited the island of Bonaire. We were on a cruise and since I am always such a stalwart explorer, we opted for a simple bus tour. Our guide was pleasant middle aged woman, who like most in the tourist trade was anxious to extol the virtues of her home. The residences on this island for the most part were primitive by United States standards and many looked like little more than tin covered shacks. Our guide informed us of the importance of the tourist trade and that most things were brought in and little was produced locally. Still everyone we met seemed happy, but most with the exception of the merchant owners seemed to lack ambition and initiative.
We toured the city and listened attentively to our guide as she spoke of her beautiful little island. Aside from the references to the weather, which was beautiful, the theme of her talk centered around what the government did for them. If there was a wayward juvenile. there was a special government accommodation with coaches and counselors. She talked on about programs for the pensioners and the unemployed. What did I glean from this. This socialistic state trades personal freedom for financial security. I was aghast by the number of times I heard and you go to the government and they provide this or that aspect of these peoples daily lives. What I saw was an island with an ideal climate and unlimited trade opportunities with a people that were imprisoned by their government dependency.
I was left with a certainty that this nation would not be the next hot cauldron of innovation. This is not because of a lack of education. You see they can travel to the Netherlands for schooling. The government provides education. There simply is no urgent need to achieve among the populace. The guide said it over and over again during our tour. The government provides _____________. You fill in the blank. As a result, these people will have what is provided to them and no more.
There truly is no such thing as a free lunch. The parent’s response to the middle schooler seemed harsh to the child who wanted something he couldn’t have, but was in fact an accurate portrayal of the world outside the home. It was also sound financial information. There still is scarcity in the world and in our country. It is only through work, that value is created and the individual and the society as a whole are improved by that work.
While the United States has has continually led all nations as the world’s true economic powerhouse. There have always been those advancing the position that more should be provided and paid for by others. These newly provided services are to be paid for by forced redistribution of the economic pie. This system would be dramatically different from our current system in which individuals acting independently and in their own self interest within a free market structure determine what is produced. The value of the goods and services produced is priced based upon the principles of supply and demand. The government in this socialistic system would be the collector of that portion of income that the ruling majority believes to be in excess of what the individual needs, then the collected spoils are to be redistributed to those that are determined to need it.
There are many problems with this thinking. First, in a vibrant economy it is the surplus funds, which provide the financial capital, that ultimately results in innovation and creation of more goods and services. Second, the pricing of labor based upon supply and demand insures proper flow of labor and encourages movement of human resources, to those industries where there is the most demand . It also maximizes an individual’s choice. An individual in this system can choose where and how much and what kind of works he wishes . limited only by how much he needs. He determines all his own choices and the system reacts providing individuals with economic incentives to insure satisfaction of demands.
No individual entity can collect the enormous amount of data needed to make these economic decisions nor provide the freedom of choice for an individual that a free market provides. Government should insure freedom of opportunity. and not be responsible for the confiscation of wealth and wealth redistribution based upon the whim of the majority on any given day.
Democrats today seek to redistribute wealth based on what they believe is needed by the individual and what they believe is excess wealth. Decisions about wealth confiscation and distribution in Socialistic economies are made with insufficient information. Decisions are frequently made at the whim of the ruling majority based upon its beliefs, These decisions lack the information and flexibility necessary to accommodate the rapid shifts of both capital and human resources necessary to grow an economy and produce the goods and services desired by its consumers. The result of these ill advised decisions is malinvestment. Malinvestment creates overproduction of some goods and services and scarcity of others. The socialist economic system also limits an individual’s choices resulting in worker dissatisfaction and ultimately lower productivity. The socialist system promises financial security to the individual, but in fact only insures an individual receives his piece of a static or more likely a declining economic pie. There truly is no such thing as a free lunch.
So when you have that conversation with your child about that free lunch, impress upon your child that all work has value and is needed even if it is unpleasant to him or her at times. It makes the worker a participant in the greatest and most free economy in the world. His contribution helps all of us grow the economic pie and provide free choice for all. Remember there truly is no such thing as a free lunch!