Some Interesting Opportunities

In an email I just received from the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), I am absolutely delighted to have come across three different internship opportunities for the summer at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. I list them here for my records:

  1. Education Policy Intern.
  2. Fiscal Policy Intern
  3. Labor Policy Intern

Due date to apply for each is March 31. This is exactly the type of real-world experience I’m looking for, and I’d be thrilled to learn from all of the professionals associated with a premier research organization. Wish me luck!

Responding to a meme

It’s Spring Break, which means I can allocate a little bit of time to taking on a nonsensical meme I just came across on FB.

Ever since Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president launched, I haven’t been able to scroll a single day through Facebook without encountering a thunderstorm of anti-capitalistic/pro-socialist sentiment like the meme you see above.

I know John Green just loves to pay taxes for public education so that he doesn’t have to be bothered by idiots, but what does this meme say about the education system that people can’t think through such a vacuous meme?

First: the world isn’t divided into categories of “people who work hard” and “people who don’t work hard.” Hard work can take many forms, all the way from the daily grind of being a professional athlete to the daily grind of being just another factory hand. The issue with socialism is that central planners take discretion in taxing away money they didn’t earn to spend it on whatever they decide.

Second: income inequality is not proof of theft. It may not be emotionally pleasing to understand how incomes are generated on a free market, just like it may not be emotionally pleasing to know that I’m never going to be able to don a cape and soar the skies of New York City. But just as the laws of our natural world will not bend to our desires, so the laws of economics are not subject to the so-called compassionate demands made by politicians and their compatriots. Sometimes the world is what it is.

Third: we can very quickly put this meme to a test. Think this through: 1) do you ever hear news of herds of inhabitants of mostly private, liberalized economies putting their own lives and the lives of their loved ones at risk in order to sneak illegally across the borders into a mostly centrally planned, closed economy? 2) In which countries are “the poor” worst off–in those countries with mostly private, liberalized economies, or in those countries which distribute goods and incomes via a board of central planners and condemn the accumulation of wealth?

Seriously ponder those two questions.

Fourth: being poor in this country is not the same as being poor in countries like Mexico or Venezuela. Someone as low-income as myself can still enjoy a fantastic movie sitting sprawled out in a reclining chair in a movie theater, while some poor chap in Venezuela was probably obliged to find a substitute for toilet paper in the stall.

Finally, consider the recent words of Garry Kasparov.

I’m enjoying the irony of American Sanders supporters lecturing me, a former Soviet citizen, on the glories of Socialism and what it really means! Socialism sounds great in speech soundbites and on Facebook, but please keep it there. In practice, it corrodes not only the economy but the human spirit itself, and the ambition and achievement that made modern capitalism possible and brought billions of people out of poverty. Talking about Socialism is a huge luxury, a luxury that was paid for by the successes of capitalism. Income inequality is a huge problem, absolutely. But the idea that the solution is more government, more regulation, more debt, and less risk is dangerously absurd.

 

 

 

 

When crumbs are electrically reclining chairs–your life is pretty good.



“All too often competition is framed in a ‘dog-eat-dog’ lens, in which only a few ‘at the top’ come out with the pie and leave crumbs for ‘the rest of us.'”


Back in December I went and saw The Big Short with my family. I thought it was a terrific movie, and that Jeff Tucker brilliantly summed up its pluses and minuses.

As good as the movie was I still remember being most impressed with the theater. I remember as a kid going to the movies. Sitting crunched up next to some stranger who reeked of BO and chewed his food like it was going out of style kind of dampened the whole experience.

But this all changed in December. When I walked in to the theater and saw the way in which I was about to see this movie, I felt like Riley in the first National Treasure when, after finding the treasure, he is in tears. “Stairs,” he cried.

I wasn’t excited to see the stairs, though. I was overcome by something else: “Chairs.”The theater was stocked full of electrically reclining chairs! Chairs so nice that I’ve never even owned one for myself.

Here I was sprawled out in a movie theater, plenty of leg room to wiggle around and find the most comfortable position, enjoying a big bag of buttery popcorn, and a most entertaining movie filled with all sorts of sights and sounds. I daresay Rockefeller never had it so nice!

As a fairly active movie-goer, I was surprised that this was the first time I had seen such luxury in a theater. The first question that came to mind was: How long until the rest of the theaters follow suit?

Not long, apparently. Here’s a headline from a story today in The Port Huron Times Herald:

Birchwood Cinemas and Krafft 8 Get Upgrades

Aha!

Here’s a slice from the story:

Birchwood Cinemas and Krafft 8 are both upgrading their movie-going experience.

Starting Friday, Birchwood Cinemas, 4350 24th Ave., Fort Gratiot, will be closing its doors for up to 105 days for renovations.

The 10-screen theater in Birchwood Mall, a Carmike Cinema, will be completely gutted and upgraded, said Codie Setter, Birchwood Cinemas assistant manager.

The theater will be getting new, luxury recliner seats, new theater screens with upgraded surround sound, new flooring, new lighting, and new wall curtains.

The seats will be luxury, electric recliners; at a press of a button, the seat leans back and a foot-rest pops up, said Jim Zehr, Carmike Cinemas director of real estate and construction.

The chairs are quite a welcome advancement, but like a good ole’ Billy Mays infomercial “they aren’t stopping there!” They will expand the variety of food offered, including pizza, hot dogs, and possibly even beer. Excellent! But, oh Mr. Movie Theater Owner, sir, why are you doing this? we aren’t worthy!

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And here enlies a beautiful, real-life example of the marvelous fruits of market competition. The owners of these theaters may not give two hoots about you and I, but if they are to remain in business then they must cater to our desires. And when one theater “went there,” you see that the others are right behind.

And the joy of a more comfortable movie-going experience will spread throughout the nation to us masses.

But understand that such innovation is not deriving from emotionally arousing concepts like philanthropy and compassion. This is the profit-motive at work, pure and simple. Just ask Milton Friedman!

All too often competition for profit is framed in a “dog-eat-dog” lens, in which only a few “at the top” come out with the pie and sprinkle upon us poor masses the measly leftover crumbs. Academia is infected by this illusion:

 

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Well, I challenge this professor to sit in on a movie and still be unimpressed by the lengths competition will drive capitalists to satisfy people they don’t even know.

After all if electrically reclining chairs in a movie theater are the “crumbs” sent down to the masses from the capitalists, then I’d say the quality of your life has become pretty damn good.