May 15, 2012

Kitchen table economics [Darleen Click]

While engaging self-confessed Leftists on Twitter and elsewhere, I’m less amazed than depressed that basic economics slip by. Indeed, when reading rants of naked, covetous Marxism in the New York Times Capitalists and Other Psychopaths, not once do these screeds against wealth ever consider what is easily observed by any parent with two brain cells to rub together.

My nine-year-old twin grandsons have just started getting a weekly allowance. Identical “wages” for identical twins in the same household.

The ice cream man rolls through the neighborhood over the weekend, one grabs two dollars from his allowance to buy goodies. The other doesn’t, he’s saving for a game for his Nintendo 3DS.

Personal choice has resulted in one twin now possessing more wealth than the other despite identical incomes.

Personal responsibility is a fetish? Only to those that want to eat their ice cream and have their brother’s Nintendo game, too.

Posted by Darleen @ 7:58am
66 comments | Trackback

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Comments (66)

  1. yup the only money you make is the money you don’t spend

    but on the other hand you can’t take it with you

    but on the other hand a penny saved is a penny earned

    but on the other hand you need to buy stuff while your dollar’s still worth something

  2. Excellent summary, Darleen. In addition to treating personal responsibility like the plague, most people have no interest in economics, basic or otherwise. Too dry and boring.

  3. First of all, if entrepreneurs are job creators, workers are wealth creators…. It’s neither party’s goal to benefit the other, but that’s what happens nonetheless.

    How on Earth can the author write this paragraph, without putting it in bold italics, as it is the single most important and beneficial characteristic of free market capitalism? A system where everybody works for their own benefit, and winds up helping everybody else by accident? Way, way better than a system where everybody pretends to work for their neighbors because there’s no benefit in it for themselves.

    A single mother holding down a job and putting herself through community college works just as hard as any hedge fund manager.

    Yes, and a construction worker sweating his balls off on some Alabama highway has it a lot tougher than a C-suite plutocrat. Thing is, the system doesn’t care how hard you work — it cares about the value you create. But hey, let’s all hold up the token single mom as the hardest working member of society, because there really isn’t any cheaper grace that an author can grab, is there?

    And, of course, left unsaid is the simple fact that of all the faceless, remorseless, conscienceless, psychopathic corporations out there, Uncle Sam Incorporated is the biggest, baddest, most criminal psychopath of the bunch. It’s like Enron, except with guns and prisons. I know — let’s give that bunch even more power! What a great idea!

  4. The other thing Squid, is that in a free market, you get to choose whether or not you’re a job creator or a wealth creator. Tired of creating wealth for others? Become an entrepeneur!

    (Just to throw the author’s original sense back at him)

  5. “Thing is, the system doesn’t care how hard you work- it cares about the value you create”.
    I think that’s the best I’ve heard it put yet. I like it better than ‘work smarter, not harder’, or variations thereof.
    And yes, Uncle Sammy is the greatest and most accomplished theif of all time. I don’t know why so many people I know have such a hard time with that concept. Great post, Squid.

  6. Here’s my thing about “single moms are teh awesome” — of course she works flippin’ hard. She made horrible, irresponsible choices and lacks self-discipline. If you are irresponsible and undisciplined, your life is going to be harder than if you’re responsible and disciplined. It is a million times easier to go to college at 20 as a young single living in the dorms (while working) than trying to go to college at 20 with a 3 year old on your hip (and working). Why should we applaud that as courageous? Or even particularly hardworking? Fat people carry a lot more weight, every day, than skinny people. Do we applaud them for carrying extra weight and walking themselves to exhaustion daily when a lot of skinny people don’t break a sweat? Or do we just say, “you know, if you weren’t fat, walking up that flight of stairs would be a lot easier.”

    Hard != virtuous.

    And, no, I am going to go out on a limb and say the vast majority of single moms do not work as hard as a hedge fund manager because the things a hedge fund manager does are hard to do. It’s just not visible. How about not getting knocked up in high school — and then periodically for a decade after? How about studying extra instead of partying when you’re young and attractive? How about spending several hours a day studying boring prospectuses and statistical charts and economic data? How about telling yourself “no” sometimes even when it is stuff you want to do, like your kid’s birthday party? Most single moms don’t tell themselves no at times when it matters any more than fat people tell themselves no.

    /rant

  7. Speaking of Marxism, and propaganda, and whitewashing:

    This is either hella funny or hella sad.

    But mostly it’s creepy and vaguely Stalinist.

    via Elizabeth Scalia by way of Glenn Reynolds

  8. And, no, I am going to go out on a limb and say the vast majority of single moms do not work as hard as a hedge fund manager because the things a hedge fund manager does are hard to do. It’s just not visible.

    What makes it difficult for some people to reconcile all these things, is that there *are* lots of wealthy folks who don’t or haven’t worked hard. many are wealthy by the luck of birth. Anyone in the real world runs into countless folks who simply cached who they knew into a lucrative career.

    This falls under the heading : Life isn’t fair.

    But I’m not willing to say that everyone who is rich is/was hardworking and earned their money, since I personally know plenty who didn’t.

    In addition, not every poor person is likewise poor due to lack of responsibility and self-discipline. Shit sometimes happens.

    Shit, one of the riches folks I know inherited his money, has squandered just about every business opportunity his parents gave him, is irresponsible in just about every way, but lives in a mansion on the water.

  9. A single mother holding down a job and putting herself through community college works just as hard as any hedge fund manager.

    Yes, and they both created their own circumstances, one of which pays really well and the other of which is a recipe for poverty.

  10. Yes, and they both created their own circumstances, one of which pays really well and the other of which is a recipe for poverty.

    I’m a bit more nuanced than this. Bo Schembeckler’s son (sp?) knocked up a woman a knew in college. She waited tables as she went to school part time, and Bo Jr continued on in his frat/party lifestyle- to my knoweldge giving her no money. At Bo’s funeral, the child wasn’t even acknowledged as a grandchild of Bo’s.

    Eh. Life isn’t fair. There is a lot of this. I’m not going to rage against the machine, though.

  11. Don’t think I’m in agreement with the marxists, though.

    I just wanted to introduce that it isn’t a perfect system. Many crooks who screw the little guy get ahead. We’ve known a ton.

    a TON. Some are fabulously wealthy.

  12. Sure. But she still made the choice that created her circumstance: sleeping with an asshole. Free milk, cow, etc.

  13. Some are fabulously wealthy.

    And some are on trial in North Carolina because the milk ain’t always as free as it seems at the time.

  14. Speaking of Twitter, this article about Obama inserting himself into other presidential biographies on whitehouse.gov has sparked the following hot hot hot hashtag: #ObamaInHistory

    #BeyondArrogant

  15. Thing is, the system doesn’t care how hard you work — it cares about the value you create.

    The Labor Theory of Value is at the root of Marxism, and, as you’d expect, it’s at the opposite end of reality.

  16. Sure. But she still made the choice that created her circumstance: sleeping with an asshole. Free milk, cow, etc.

    Yes,well, but they BOTH had sex. He went on unencumbered in life- and is wealthy. She had a baby and we know how that usually turns out. Same choice. Different outcome.

    I acknowledge that there is choice and certainly know how I will advise my kids (my daughters especially).

    I know plenty of hardworking folks who lost everything. I also know lazy pieces of shit w/o a pot to piss in. These folks are not the same.

    Hard work + good decisions= a million different outcomes.

    When it comes down to it, though, squid had it right here:

    And, of course, left unsaid is the simple fact that of all the faceless, remorseless, conscienceless, psychopathic corporations out there, Uncle Sam Incorporated is the biggest, baddest, most criminal psychopath of the bunch. It’s like Enron, except with guns and prisons. I know — let’s give that bunch even more power! What a great idea!

  17. And some are on trial in North Carolina because the milk ain’t always as free as it seems at the time.

    If only they all got the end they deserved. Alas, it is the exception, not the rule.

  18. Ah, Carin. You are making my mother’s argument for keeping one’s knees together until after the wedding.

  19. Well Carin, if you wanted that to be the rule and not the exception for this world, you’d be a Democrat.

    I for one am glad you’re smarter than that.

  20. The consequences to women from sex have always been greater than they are for men. This is unfair, but it’s also reality. It is not the same choice for a woman as it is for a man.

    At some points in history societal pressures have tried to make this less unfair. This is not one of those times.

  21. The great thing about this country? Probably 90% plus of the hardships I’ve endured in my life, I’ve created for myself. Nobody’s made my troubles for me, except me.

    I hope any future grandchildren I may someday have are as fortunate.

  22. It’s biology is what it is cranky.

  23. Well Carin, if you wanted that to be the rule and not the exception for this world, you’d be a Democrat.

    I think it would be wonderful if Cosmic Karma came back to bite folks in the ass. I won’t bore you with all the stories I know of wealthy folks pushing the little guy around and getting away with it.

    When I was young I used to believe that being an evil person led to a life of misery. You know, like Scrooge. Sure, he had money, but he was miserable.

    The reality of the situation is that there are a ton of really bad people who get ahead, and stay ahead for their entire life.

    Doing good things, and being a nice person – makes you a chump. Doesn’t lead to better things. ga. Ignore me.

  24. She made horrible, irresponsible choices and lacks self-discipline.

    Or the father of her children did. Either way, rough situ.

  25. Ah, Carin. You are making my mother’s argument for keeping one’s knees together until after the wedding.

    I guess the point I’m trying to make is a broader one.

    The choices you make only count for CERTAIN people. And good choices simply don’t always equal good results. They just don’t. That’s a fairy tale.

    A guy can knock up a woman, and chances are pretty good he can get out of the gig.

    Similarly, if your parents are rich, you can fuck up as many times as you want, and you’ll still be sitting pretty on a mansion on the lake.

    And, you will look JUST LIKE that hedge fund manager who worked hard all his life.

  26. A guy can knock up a woman, and chances are pretty good he can get out of the gig.

    Which is why they invented shotgun weddings: to discourage young men from skipping out on their offspring.

    I’ve got at least three shotgun weddings among my parents’/grandparents’ generation, and they stayed together until the end.

  27. The choices you make count for most people. They don’t count for everyone.

    There is no karmic justice this side of heaven. We won’t know if there is on the other side until we get there.

  28. Which is why they invented shotgun weddings: to discourage young men from skipping out on their offspring.

    That was some of the societal pressure of which I spoke.

  29. Sounds like it’s time to read Ecclesiastes again:

    The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

  30. Car in, If a guy knocks up a woman and doesn’t take responsiblity that is the fault of …

    Results are what you look for not what is given to you.

  31. Carin, anecdotes aren’t the same as statistics. There are good, hardworking, disciplined people who get smacked by life despite good choices, and people who make crappy selfish choices and fall backwards into good luck.

    But neither of those are as common as the other cases.

    The vast and overwhelming majority of people who are permanently poor (I don’t mean the ones who hit rough times temporarily) got there through exceptional bad and avoidable choices. They had sex when they shouldn’t, they had kids too young or in unstable relationships, they neglected hard work adn thrift and forward thinking for cheap immediate gratification. Likewise, almost everyone who is propserous, middle-class or better, would do the boring little things like get up early and get to work on time, study in school, avoid an excess of drug or alcohol abuse, show a little discretion in who they slept with, put a little by for a rainy day.

    An exception does not negate a rule.

    Hedge fund managers get where they are through a normal combination of hard work, native ability, luck, and persistance. Single moms get where they are universally by throwing their legs up for some random schmuck. I’m not going to applaud them for struggling to meet a bare minimum of social responsibility (going to school, holding a job) when it never needed to be as hard as they made it.

  32. The choices you make count for most people. They don’t count for everyone.

    Eh. I’m just not comfortable making any sort of blanket statement that touches on the morality of success from a standpoint of the “rich” earned their money and the poor made bad choices. It often works that way, but I couldn’t even put a number on it. I lived in a very wealthy community growing up and I’m telling you … a ton of those folks didn’t really work particularly hard. Many merely stepped up into daddy’s company.

    To me, it’s irrelevant, since I don’t wish to redistribute. My version of “economic justice” would be more along the lines of preventing wealthy (and connected) folks from pushing around governments (mostly local) to their whim, etc.

    I also see nothing “wrong” with someone who works hard, laboring, then goes home w/o a care in the world because he has a low-stress job. There are trade-offs in life. High paying jobs often come with long hours and more stress.

    Nothing wrong with being a line cook who can go home and enjoy watching his grass grow.

  33. If life were like what fiction means, and the good ended happily and the bad unhappily, then life would be a three volume novel of more than usually revolting sentimentality.

  34. Carin, griping about guys not having kids or rich people being able to get away with anything is a little like complaining about how unfair gravity is because when you fell you broke a leg. It is the way it is. It is like that for all time and in all societies. Knowing that those are the immutable rules of the game, how is it productive — or even relevant — to complain about the rules rather than simply adjusting your behavior? (Not you, of course. The ubiquitous “you.”)

  35. I think also my argument is skewed by the thought that I’m not even referring to the same “poor”- not the permanently poor.

    A lot of folks who were lower middle class/ middle class … are losing their homes, etc. They were married. Had kids. Had jobs.

    They didn’t make those “bad” decisions.

  36. Ernst, I think my problem is that I’ve read too much fiction.

  37. of the game, how is it productive — or even relevant — to complain about the rules rather than simply adjusting your behavior?

    Because, imho, the rules are getting worse.

    Big government is skewing the rules for those who are in power. The bigger the government gets, the easier it gets to fuck over the little guy.

    That is why it is productive.

    You know what? I am going to rage against the machine.

  38. Car in, my young un made a bad choice. She became a single mom at age 17. I have supported her since that time in every decision she has made – good and bad – to the point where she is now.

    While she doesn’t clearly see the entire picture, owning to the indoctrition she is subjeted to in her higher education. She see’s it but is also susceptible to it. But she is moving up.

    You are painting with a broad stroke.

    We give our young uns the tools and God willing they do the right thing.

  39. I think the way to combine these two true views of the world, a) choices matter and b) shit happens, is to say that good choices never hurt any individual and bad choices never help.

    That covers the rule and the exception.

    Unless someone thinks of a fresh exception in which case you’re a big jerk.

  40. Ok… I will accept bh that I am a big herk, cause I am willing to help my young un become the exception to the general rule.

  41. I think the way to combine these two true views of the world, a) choices matter and b) shit happens, is to say that good choices never hurt any individual and bad choices never help.

    Yea, that works.

    Sorta. You still can make a “good” choice (to help family) that ends up harming you. Fit that in there, and we’ll call it done.

    Sometimes, your good choice does kinda hurt.

  42. I guess the way I’m thinking about it, TR, you can’t ever become an exception to the choices matter rule but we find that future good choices also matter just as much.

    I’ve made all kinds of bad choices in my life and I don’t live in a van down by the river. That’s because I followed up those bad choices with long stretches of good ones.

    (It’s always a bit rough talking about personal circumstances because you might accidentally give offense. Let me be explicit on that point. I wasn’t directing my comment towards you or have any negative thoughts that way. Wish the best for both of you.)

  43. The thing that our foil from the Op-ed pages of the Times forgets is, per Carin, there is no perfect system out there. Free market economies, rationally applied and administered, give the greatest number of people the greatest odds of improving their station. Many fail, some unjustly to be sure, but many more are able to expand their wealth.

    I have often felt that both left and right-wing commentators unnecessarily dumb down the virtues and risks of free market economics. The result is always more regulation, less effectively applied.

    On the left, the sins are obvious: intellectual absurdities like Statism, in over-regulation (via laws and liability) and over-taxation (the redistribution of wealth to a poorly run, feckless leviathan like government.)

    On the right, it is failing to understand that some regulation is very necessary and has to be strongly enforced. The capital markets have, for too long, been places of lax enforcement and “golden rules”–those with the most gold, rule. More practically, the regulators are under-funded and overwhelmed, ill-suited to the task. You get to boiling levels of resentment pretty quickly this way.

    Still, congrats are in order. It seems statistically impossible that we could obtain an over-regulated goods/services economy and an under-regulated financial sector, but, well, we did it. Add to that a tax system that only the dumbest can credibly defend and our current state of affairs is at least explicable.

  44. We’re all painting with broad brushes here.

    Generally speaking, it’s true that if you get educated, get a job, get married and then stay that way (educated, employed, married) you and your progeny will be better off than you might otherwise be if you do differently. Doesn’t always work out that way, unfortunately.

    The reason bourgeois values are so bourgeois (in the perjorative sense that the hep cat cultural marxists use the term) is that you don’t get above the poverty line and then stay there if you’re not as uptight and staid and boring as my Dutch ancestors used to be —before Euro-socialist pimpbot 9000 turned them out.

    And it’s getting harder for things to work out along those traditional middle class lines, because our betters in gubmint are making it easier for societal norms to conform to the alternatives pimpbot has laid out for us.

    As Julia could tell you, if she wasn’t another one of Barak’s fictional women.

  45. Still, congrats are in order. It seems statistically impossible that we could obtain an over-regulated goods/services economy and an under-regulated financial sector, but, well, we did it. Add to that a tax system that only the dumbest can credibly defend and our current state of affairs is at least explicable.

    OMG. I think I just teared up. That was beautiful.

  46. I guess I work that into the framework by recognizing the mental distress you get from not taking care of family, Carin. You might be out some money or time but you can sleep at night. In general terms being able to sleep at night is an outcome I’d value higher than the others.

    Unless we start talking about something like lending money to a lazy relative or a drug addict. I’d say that’s just a straight up bad choice.

  47. I’d dispute even the possibility of a credible defense of our tax system. But then, the proposed dumbest are in control, more or less, so what they’d find credible, taken into account, tells the tale.

  48. The financial sector is also incredibly over-regulated.

    The problem is that the regulation is stupid and doesn’t focus on issues that matter like moral hazard.

  49. I guess I work that into the framework by recognizing the mental distress you get from not taking care of family, Carin. You might be out some money or time but you can sleep at night. In general terms being able to sleep at night is an outcome I’d value higher than the others.

    I can pinpoint all our financial trouble to the decision to help my dad. If that choice hadn’t been made, I’d still be living in our affordable home in Detroit. He was in financial troubles at the time, and … well, now I’m getting boring.

    So, I have many sleepless nights. Financial. And I cannot answer the phone.

  50. I hear what you’re saying, Carin.

    Maybe my block here is that I don’t view some of these things as choices even as I realize some people do shirk their responsibilities.

    Is responsibility a choice? I suppose logically I have to recognize it is but it doesn’t feel that way.

  51. Car in, I am sorry to hear that and hope things get better for you. I too try to keep these things personal but this blog, PW, somehow seems to light up the fires for telling all. As long as the pikachu isn’t around anyway. Hope I did not come off as crass…

    bh, no offense taken… I will work till I die to see to it that the young un learns the leasons required to navigate the world today… as best I can anyway.

    Ernst, maybe if we were all fictional it would be easier to be assimilated but we are not and so… here we are.

  52. Maybe my block here is that I don’t view some of these things as choices even as I realize some people do shirk their responsibilities.

    You know, I guess you’re right. I really didn’t have a choice.

    But I think things happen to many folks that take the “choice” out of the equation as well. Bad childhoods that prevent them from being good students. Do those kids “choose” to be failing students who then can’t go to college.

    Many – MANY – successful people were lucky enough to have parents that knew what the fuck they were doing it. Bad parents aren’t a choice the kids made. That was imposed upon them.

    *shrugs.

  53. I gotta run, folks. Interesting as always.

  54. Car in, most of the post here on PW talk about how the left actively has torn apart the institutions that would have helped those very kids you speak of. I agree that currently there is not much we can do but we should try as we can. Even one is better than none. Yes, I know that sounds like a commerical to help raise money for some person in some far away place.

  55. Car in, most of the post here on PW talk about how the left actively has torn apart the institutions that would have helped those very kids you speak of.

    Oh, yes. Certainly. But you simply cannot compare a Hedge fund manager to a road worker by assuming the two are simply a sum of the choices they made.

    There are advantages in life. Obama received a bunch of them. Those advantages cannot be erased (since some are non-monetary).

    People are the sum of their choices MINUS whatever obstacles they were handed in life.

  56. Life isn’t always fair, but expecting that someone who promises to make it fair can — much less will — actually do so is so depressingly stupid that it boggle sthe mind. And yet, people keep electing Democrats and Republicans who claim to be Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and, wait for it, God all rolled into one.

  57. It’s weird that what might be taken as an advantage ends in the production of an out and out rat-fucking scum bag. Some advantage!

  58. Let me amend Carin above:

    People are the sum of their choices PLUS whatever opportunities they were handed in life MINUS whatever obstacles they were handed in life.

    Some people have an easier time of it, mostly because their parents make it that way.

  59. Yes, I left that out I did, Cranky-d.

    We’ll get this right. Together.

  60. You still can make a “good” choice (to help family) that ends up harming you.

    Because the family member is a back-stabbing jackass whom you prolly shouldn’t have helped in the first place but how were you to know he’d turn around and do that?

  61. And it’s getting harder for things to work out along those traditional middle-class lines…

    Who knew that Dickensian England was the path of least resistance, making it almost inevitable that entropy takes us there? People worked hard then, too, but class-consciousness permitted those on top to prevent mere work from helping the rabble rise above their station.

    Of course, what we’re going toward is prolly more like Latin American, but hey, the music’s pretty hot.

  62. speaking of the kitchen table economics…

    Investigators reportedly do not believe that her death is related to the economic crisis, which has been linked to the death of one person a day since the beginning of 2012, Ansa.it reports.<a href="Investigators reportedly do not believe that her death is related to the economic crisis, which has been linked to the death of one person a day since the beginning of 2012, Ansa.it reports. *

    this would be the economic crisis President Fruitless has trouble remembering yes?

  63. Wait, I thought he just won them all back with his recent evolvement pronouncement.

  64. Off-topic, and forgive me if it’s been linked before, but I just read Bob Wenzel’s speech that he gave at the New York Federal Reserve, and I couldn’t help thinking about JHo. Oh, how I wish C-SPAN were there to record it for posterity!

  65. squid, I just read that piece; thanks. And the Fed’s response will be? Meh, we’re too invested in our theories to take heed of reality. And, Crash, down will come the curtain. At some point.

  66. Hi, all…as usual, late to the thread (other side of the world and all), but I couldn’t pass this up:

    cranky-d says May 15, 2012 at 9:44 am

    The consequences to women from sex have always been greater than they are for men. This is unfair, but it’s also reality. It is not the same choice for a woman as it is for a man.

    At some points in history societal pressures have tried to make this less unfair. This is not one of those times.

    THIS! Societal pressures, like, oh, I don’t know, the institution of marriage! This inequality of consequence is the raison d’etre of marriage – it’s a contract of commitment that bestows serious financial consequences upon the otherwise-less-burdened party (the man, for those keeping score at home) for breaking it.

    Or at least it was. Myopic (or subversive?) cultural evolutions, like exchanging shotgun weddings for no-fault divorce, paved the way for it to morph into the application for different tax status and power of attorney it is today.

    I suppose if marriage had remained true to its original purpose and mandate, the argument against gay marriage would be obvious, per cranky-d’s first paragraph above, even to electric pikachus.

    The operative question is, can we (or do we even want to) get back there from here?

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