Magic of the price signal to change production levels.

Fourteen wells on one pad, located on the southeast side of Williston, N.D. Photo by James Ulvog.

The double black swan of COVID-19 pandemic from the demand side and Saudi Arabia flooding the market from the supply side is creating a sales problem and storage problem for the oil industry.

Regulators in Texas are thinking about about ordering a pro-rate reduction in production. In other words, they are considering giving each producer an order on how much to cut.

North Dakota has no such plans.

North Dakota is planning to rely on capitalism to rapidly adjust production.

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Capitalism or fascism? Which economic system will better resolve the supply shortages?

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

How do we get enough of the respirators, personal protective equipment, and medicine we need to get through the COVID-19 pandemic?

Fascinating to watch the press conference Saturday 3/21/20 with various federal officials and members of the coronavirus task force.  Most fascinating feature was looking at the various comments and questions/answers from an economics perspective. Thought about Friday’s briefing as well.

Here is the difference in perspective I perceived: do we rely on capitalism or fascism as our model to get things done?

Underlying the comments from all the federal officials is the idea that the private sector can figure out how to provide everything we need.

The common thread underlying a huge portion of the questions from media is the idea that the federal government should tell which specific companies how much of which specific products to produce, specify they price they will charge, and provide the addresses for where to send each pallet of supplies.

In other words, should we use a capitalist model to provide goods we need or should we use the fascist model?

As a thumbnail description, in the fascist economic model the means of production are owned by the private sector but the central planning authority tells companies how much of which product to produce. In contrast, the next step away from freedom is communism, in which the means of production are owned by the government and a central planning agency decides how much of each specific product to produce.

Capitalism?

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Didn’t ever expect I’d personally experience Soviet Union and Venezuelan style grocery stores.

Chaika 3 (on redscale film) – Queue by Jaroslav A. Polak is in the public domain (CC0 1.0). Lines like this outside a grocery store were normative in the Soviet Union.

In the Soviet Union and Venezuela, grocery shopping involved/involves listening for rumors of which store got a shipment overnight, standing in line for hours, looking at lots of empty shelves, and going to the store daily to see if what you need might actually be on the shelf today.

If you have been awake the last seven days, you know that is what grocery shopping looks like in the U.S. today.

The difference between the Evil Empire and the worker’s paradise of Venezuela on one hand and the United States on the other hand is that the supply chain in the U.S. is still stocking the shelves and in a week or two or three will have them filled up.

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The 2010’s: best decade in history.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Matt Ridley explains the best improvement in living standards for us humans over a single decade is the decade that ends today, 12/31/19.

He explained his point from multiple directions on 12/21/19 in Spectator: We’ve just had the best decade in human history. Seriously.

A few of his points that caught my interest:

The rate of extreme poverty in the world has dropped from 60% when he was born to under 10% in this decade. If you ache to seek less people in dirt eating poverty that is a wonderful thing.

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What could possibly have caused the increase of income per person over last 200 years?

(Article cross-posted from Outrun Change because a few of the factors necessary for these changes to happen are property rights, economic freedom, and political freedom. In addition, it is capitalism, not socialism or communism that made these changes happen.)

Here is an approximation of annual per capita GDP from 1 AD through 1913:

I’ve long been amazed at the radical growth in per capita wealth over the last 200 years. That means since the Industrial Revolution.

Living in dirt-eating poverty as the normal way of life for essentially every person on the planet changed about 200 years ago, give or take.

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While on a long road trip, what economic system provided the goods and services I needed, when and where I wanted them?

How is it that services are available on the interstate highway system when and where I need them? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

I took a road trip from the Los Angeles area to Williston last week. My wife and I drove there with our son and his family.

A few questions came to mind on the trip

Questions

1. What economic system provides a gas station within a few miles of the point that we decided we wanted to fill up the tank?

With four drivers in the car,  we were planning to drive on through the night. We were too tired to do that so we decided to stop for the night.

2. What economic system provides multiple hotels and motels half an hour down the road from where we changed our mind?

3. Furthermore, when we wanted to stop, what economic system provided motels at multiple price points so we could pick the one that fit our price range and taste?

4. Why is it that the motel we choose included a full breakfast for all of us in the price?

5. Why did the motel even have two upgraded lamps on the night stands each with 2 USB charging points and two electrical outlets on the base of each lamp?

Answers

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Here are lots of reasons you really love capitalism

Do you use an iPhone, Android phone, Kindle, Mac, PC, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Spotify, Google, Uber, Lyft, Waze, airbnb, FaceBook, Instagram, or Snapchat? Most of us use many of those.

If you like those services, then you really love capitalism.

Why?

Where do you think all those creative, innovative, successful services and companies came from?

The following video points out that every one of those services came

….from entrepreneurs with great ideas and the freedom to test them in the marketplace.

We call that capitalism.

Now consider some other services.

Video asks if you have recently been to DMV, taken a journey through the TSA security grope line, mailed something at USPS, or tried to reach IRS customer support?

Where do those sluggish, unresponsive services come from?

The government.

Why the difference in service levels between those two groups? Video explains the reason:

One needs to satisfy its customers to survive and grow; one doesn’t

Jared Meyer of the Manhattan Institute goes into more detail, explaining Why You Love Capitalism:

 

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On the lack of morality in Marxism

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Marxism, or communism, is fundamentally opposed to every form of freedom. At its core and in its every expression in history it is immoral.

A new blog series at Declination is exploring Marxism and Morality, Part One.

The first post in the series addresses the common defense of communism/Marxism, which is the claim that every single attempt at Marxism wasn’t a “real” effort. If it had just been tried correctly it would have been a stupendous success.

Amongst the problems with that false argument is that if every single effort to attempt something is a failure there’s something wrong with the theory.

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“Magic without wizards”, or, why is your favorite bread on the shelf when you want it?

Consider merely the way that your favorite bread is always available, usually from many bakeries. And at the time you want. The bakery doesn’t know whether you will stop in on your way to work, during lunch, or after having dinner.

How can it be that several bakeries know to have your choice of bread available, whether sourdough loafs, whole wheat biscuits, rye rolls, croissants, or cranberry bagels? How did they know to order enough yeast, oil, and flour? How did they know what mix to bake before the sun came up?

How did the wholesalers know enough to deliver the right amount of flour to all the pizzerias, bakeries, and pastry shops?

How did the farmers know enough to plant the right amount of wheat, oats, barley, and rye last spring to harvest enough this fall to satisfy all those bakers?

Hmm. What could be getting all those people working together to make sure my favorite and your favorite bread is available when you or I want it?

Ponder these and many more questions just in terms of having bread on the shelf in this video, called “It’s a wonderful loaf:”

 

 

The answer of how all that happens is readily available for all who want to find it.

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Why I am so optimistic – 3

The future is so bright we need sunglasses. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

The future is so bright we need sunglasses. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

The number of people working in manufacturing has been declining for many years. Those job losses will continue at the same time as technology disrupts other industries causing the loss of more jobs.

This is not a new concept. Technological advances have devastated farm employment over the last 150 years.

(Cross-post from my other blog, Nonprofit Update.)

Prof. Thomas Tunstall pondered Where the New Jobs Will Come From. Sub headline on his 11/4/15 article said:

In 2007 iPhone application developers didn’t exist. By 2011 Apple had $15 billion in mobile-app revenues.

Consider the percentage of the population employed in agriculture over time: (more…)

Why I am so optimistic – 2

200 years ago subsistence agriculture was the norm across the planet. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

200 years ago brutal poverty was the norm across the planet. Not so today. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Previously mentioned when I look at long-term economic trends I am incredibly optimistic. When I look at the headlines this morning or news from the political world, I am very discouraged.

(Cross-post from my other blog, Nonprofit Update.)

To see one illustration of why I am so optimistic for the long-term, check out a column by Glenn Reynolds at USA Today: Actually, things are pretty good / Free markets and free inquiry have changed the historic ‘norms’ of poverty and violence.

Earlier post summarized in one paragraph what caused this radical improvement.

Here are a final two points from the article I’d like to highlight:

Second, it is possible for us collectively to turn back history.

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Fort Union Trading Post brochure shows the beauty of trade

Photo by James Ulvog.

Photo by James Ulvog.

During our September vacation in North Dakota, we were able to visit Fort Union Trading Post and Fort Buford. Both were a lot of fun to see.

The brochure produced by the National Park Service for the Fort Union Trading Post national historic site 25 miles southwest of Williston has lots of fun comments. I want to focus on the wages at the time and the wonderful beauty of free trade.

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To sort through the question of how to share economic and health progress with everyone, check out a book from the winner of this year’s Nobel award in economics

Cover of Prof. Deaton's book, used under fair use, courtesy of Amazon.com

Cover of Prof. Deaton’s book, used under fair use for this review, courtesy of Amazon.com

Why have we seen such dramatic improvement in average wealth and average life expectancy everywhere in the last 100 or 200 years? What has led to a radical reduction in the number of people living in dirt-eating poverty in the last 50 years?

Over the last few years I have focused a lot of my reading on economics and history trying to figure out the answers to those questions. Why?

If we figure out the answer to those questions we can continue in the same direction. If we sort out how we got here, we can share that strategy with those who have not shared in the progress. If you want a different phrasing, we can radically narrow economic inequality within countries and between countries if we can answer those questions. We can help get even more people out of dirt-eating poverty.

I think those goals are in the back of the mind for most readers of this blog. (Cross posted from my other blog, Nonprofit Update.)

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Is capitalism moral? Yes. A video explanation.

In a free market, the ambition & the voluntary efforts of citizens, NOT the government, drives the economy.

At a fundamental and foundational level, that is an extremely moral system.

As Prof. Walter Williams of George Mason University explains:

 

He says: (more…)

Do you want to help lift another billion people out of dirt eating poverty or do you want to feel good about yourself?

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit on 9/24:

If your goal is to lift people from poverty, capitalism does what nothing else does. So, if that’s your goal, you should support capitalism.

On the other hand, if your goal is to feel good about yourself,  then choose another economic system.

Help people get out of poverty or feel good about yourself – economic policies and positions tend to do one or the other, not both. Which do you choose?