Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jimmy, Why Do You Hate the Elderly?

Many of you know that my employment situation has been up in the air for a long time. As a Michigander, that makes me no rarer than one in five people walking on the pot-holed streets of this once great state.

Vacant houses line the landscape, U-Haul lots are as sparsely populated as a Joe Biden scalp, and the Michigan Works office has replaced the local coffee shop for catching up on juicy gossip. "Mary, I'd absolutely love to know whom Jim is dating, but I've got two on-line applications to submit before my unemployment gets cut off."

Well, thankfully, I have solved my own little employment problem. While the solution is less than ideal in that it provides me less than full time labor, it does provide me with a paycheck (if intermittent) and a certain sense of esteem (if probably undeserved.)

That's right folks, I've found a job.

And, as Jennifer Granholm would be remiss to predict, that job is In Georgia.

I love going to Georgia on my monthly stints. For five months I've been traveling I-75 through Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and north Georgia to arrive in Atlanta among a group of people who were only a short time ago strangers. Now they are good friends and co-workers. (Perhaps they simply don't know me well enough.)

I absolutely love Jimmy. (Okay, sickos, in a nonsexual way--nttawwt.) He is an incredibly smart man who spends his Saturdays fishing and his Sundays witnessing to inmates in local county jails. He is a man that has served his country in the armed forces, and he is a man that to this day has put his money where his mouth is--he lives his beliefs and he loves his Lord and Savior.

Oh, he is also a flaming fiscal liberal.

Jimmy's error is not that he is unable to fathom the realities of economics, but that he is unable to transcend the shackles of his emotions while considering economic outcomes.

What Jimmy has not figured out yet (I'm working on him) is that economics is an exact predictive science and is nothing to get emotional about...except, I suppose, for those who are just as likely to get excited about the wrenching realities of gravity and absolute zero--"Dang it, John, my molecules have stopped moving, and I'm beyond remorse!"

Economics is a lot like polling. Polling is an abstract that is capable of producing remarkably accurate estimates based on information gathered from a relatively small sample of respondents. A poll of 500 voters can return estimated results accurate to within just a few paltry percentage points. One thousand...even better. Fifteen hundred? Foggehd aboudit.

Economics as a science is a lot like sample polling, only it bases its projections upon the totality of human behavior, not on 500, 1,000 or 1,500 respondents. It can assume, accurately, that most people (that is, a vast majority of billions) will act in their own best interests. It can assume, accurately, that most people (again, a large majority of billions) will pursue outcomes that benefit their own situation. It can therefore assume, accurately, that government-interjected impediments to the natural pursuits of human behavior will be avoided by a majority of those seeking to keep themselves solvent, despite whatever regulations have been benevolently cooked up within the vacant craniums of good-intentioned Utopians.

Can I reduce that to a northern Michigan axiom? Okay..."Screw the legislature, I'm mowing this lawn for less than minimum wage, and I ain't reportin' the income!" I hope you don't mind that I left out the expletives.

Yet, Jimmy is adamant. "Old people should not have to choose between food and medicine." (I paraphrase.)

In truth, as far as the basic argument goes, Jimmy is correct!

Really, people should not have to choose between food and medicine! I'm not even sure that people should have to choose between Raisin Bran and Pop Tarts, but that's just me.

I'm serious. Imagine that, a conservative being forced to admit that he doesn't want to sacrifice the innocently infirm to the Gods of Corporate Greed. (Funny how my desire for outcome need not be pigmented by any economic theory. I almost feel dirty.)

Yet, Jimmy will have to dig much deeper into the reality of costs versus prices before he ever discovers that the government's benevolent interjection into private industry has done nothing to slake the free market's thirst for business solvency.

Good grief, even tribbles want to survive, why shouldn't job providing businesses? I don't know, Jimmy might call it greed.

The government Jimmy believes he pays taxes to is a government that should be able to demand that businesses coexist with government mandates guaranteeing livable standards to all of its citizens. That sounds good.

Sadly, whatever government Jimmy feels he has served, his beliefs are predicated upon a philosophy that business solvency remains a sacrificial variable within a larger economic reality--as if a business's need of survival were irrelevant to a benevolent government's attempt to meet all needs to all people.

As such, he would be loathe to know that an intrusive government created the food vs. medicine cage match to begin with. That is, the nearly unfathomable cost of bringing a drug to market versus the unbelievable costs of harvesting corn in the Midwest for the purpose of making bread.

While doing his research, if he cared to indulge, he would discover that it is government involvement into both the medical and agricultural environments that has created the food versus medicine problem to begin with.

Government intervention into agriculture has effectively resulted in a huge percentage of farmland being dedicated to producing fuel for our cars. How tragic is that? As Granny's outlay for corn flakes has risen to over $4.00 per box, Sudanese refugees near starvation for the lack of calories. As Granny's bread has risen to well over $2.00 per loaf, acres once dedicated to wheat are now planted in rigid rows of maize to be turned into a fuel that cannot be transported point to point in anything less than a diesel burning 18 wheeler.


And pharmaceuticals, as a product group, are fantastically dynamic. Today's cutting edge elixir is destined to generic obscurity in only seven brief years. If there is one sector of the economy that can become obsolete more quickly than electronics, it is pharma.

And yet, because of the demands of the FDA, it takes hundreds of millions of dollars to bring a medicinal product to market. That is, a drug, a procedure, or a piece of equipment. Who in America can assume to absorb that upfront cost if not an established monument within the pharmaceutical industry?

The truth is that regulations (favored by advocates such as Jimmy) have virtually guaranteed that any pharmaceutical product successfully introduced into the market today can be done so only by those sitting atop the hierarchy of big pharma, you know, the people targeted by social advocates (like Jimmy) that demand medicines be given to the population at large regardless of any person's ability to pay.

It ain't a pretty picture, at least for an investor. Stick your neck out to the point that it is in the crossfire of the FDA, and once passing that hurdle, facing the demands of social advocates that want you to persist corporately despite giving your product away.

A lone researcher's probability of producing a marketable product without financial backing is infinitesimal. An underfunded solution to, lets say cancer, will fail long before it ever sees the light of day.

The need for behemoth amounts of capital to bring a product to market is not the result of researchers demanding upfront million dollar yachts and country club memberships, but rather the flaming hoops of gyrating regulation that must be leaped through by persons willing to risk their personal wealth in hopes that their unlikely solution to illness is a better solution than ethanol is to gasoline.

The fact is that Jimmy does not hate the elderly. He loves them. He simply has not been exposed to the real truths of economics in a misguided country that seems to elevate regulators to the level of super hero while it denigrates researchers, scientists, and businessmen to the cellars of greed.

I'll be back in Atlanta in a couple of weeks.

Jimmy better be prepared for what I'm bringing to him.

1 comment:

stonehands said...



" ... a flaming fiscal liberal."?

"Jimmy's error is not that he is unable to fathom the realities of economics, but that he is unable to transcend the shackles of his emotions while considering economic outcomes."?

hmmmmmmmmm .... I wonder ...