ABC News ran a feature tonight about the “greedy” power companies who were turning off the utilities of people who were not paying their bills. Of course they trotted out the usual suspects… The family of 6, the old woman raising her grandchild, etc. All they said of the companies was that they were stopping service because delinquencies drive up the price for paying customers. Yes, Mr and Mrs Dontpaymybills and all the ships at sea, that’s how it works in this country. We trade goods and services for money or the promise of money at some predetermined point in the future. That’s what allows us to not all raise corn and cows to feed ourselves.
I know I rant on this a lot, but I just have a hard time getting past the idea that our countrymen are surprised that they’re expected to pay for the goods and services they consume. I was raised believing that this country was about the right to pursue happiness… Not necessarily the right to have it. In economics, there’s a principle that everyone learns in their 101 class that says “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” The consequences of basing an economic system on the premise that everyone should have a free lunch if they want one died off with the Soviet Union. Cuba stays afloat because of the tourist dollars generated from capitalist Europe. China’s Communist party stays in power because they have adopted measured amounts of capitalism and that trend is increasing over time.
But, you say the top 1% of earners are running away with the pie. It’s true that their part of the pie has grown, but the entire pie has gotten larger too. There are more millionaires per capita today than at any time in the history of the Republic. That doesn’t mean that these individuals have jobs making $700,000 a year, just that they were smart with what they did with their money. Get out of school making $35k a year, max out your contribution to your IRA and 401k, live under your means, and in 35 years when you’re eligible to retire, guess what… You’re a millionaire too. Work another 5 or 6 years past eligibility, guess what… That’s right, another million. Compound interest and long-term market growth are beautiful things, friends.
So next time you’re watching the nightly news and tempted to sign onto the bandwagon that all our problems are caused by the big, bad corporations, take a look around at the decisions individuals have made that contribute to where they find themselves. The Invisible hand doesn’t just guide the market up, it guides it down too. Get in tune with that and you’ll really feel the power.