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Burning the Furniture

What government is doing (or not doing) has serious long-term consequences for a country. The great Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises, used two analogies to illustrate “short-termism.” One was “burning the furniture” to heat the house and the other was “eating the seed corn” to satisfy hunger. A more contemporary version, expressing a similar sentiment, would be “kicking the can down the road.”

The problem with any of these is that they solve a short-term political problem by creating a greater long-term economic problem. Burning the furniture might get you through one or two winters, but then what? Eating the seed corn could satisfy short-term hunger but ensures longer-term hunger or starvation. Kicking the can down the road means ignoring the problem and allowing it to grow. This procrastination works until you run out of road. Then the problem is typically too big to be tractable.

Government Behavior is Political Behavior

The political class is short-term focused, a rational approach for politicians but not for those dependent upon government supporting a stable and prosperous lifestyle. Elections are short-term events. They come around every two, four or six  years, depending upon the office. Politicians wishing to remain in office (that number approaches 100%) make decisions that reflect this cycle. All decisions are made to enhance election or re-election odds. This behavior is rational for the politician but not for the people they are supposed to represent.

We have reached the point where we running out of furniture, seed corn and road. Michael Snyder discussed the situation in terms of the “can-kicking” analogy and the fact that leaders refuse to face up to problems:

Our leaders thought that they could defy the laws of economics, and for a while their “economic voodoo” seemed to be working.

But the truth is that every time they kicked the can down the road they just made our long-term problems even worse.

Now we have reached a point where the immediate future looks extremely bleak, and the outlook for our long-term future is absolutely nightmarish.

Burning the furniture to stay warm during the winter (or get elected) is a foolish economic act. You might stay warm this winter, but then what? “Eating the seed corn” is another foolish economic act. While it takes away  immediate hunger, it ensures longer-term hunger, perhaps to the point of starvation ahead.

These solutions are short-term and superficial. All produce greater pain in the future. Eventually, you run out of road, seed corn or furniture.

That is what the American people are soon going to find out. Government burned the furniture in order to provide the appearance of a better economy. It is not the first time that this has happened. But prior instances involved singular pieces. In this case, all the furniture was burned!

Michael Snyder summarized this process in terms of “can-kicking” and refusing to face up to problems:

Our leaders thought that they could defy the laws of economics, and for a while their “economic voodoo” seemed to be working.

But the truth is that every time they kicked the can down the road they just made our long-term problems even worse.

Now we have reached a point where the immediate future looks extremely bleak, and the outlook for our long-term future is absolutely nightmarish.

Depending on your preference, we have either run out of road or furniture (or both!).

The problem or behavior did not begin with Joe Biden. It is the nature of politics and government to sacrifice the long-run to improve the short-run. Elections are short-run events. Politicians want to stay in office. So appearances at election time are more important than the long-term future of the country. Short-run appearances matter more than long-run health. As John Maynard Keynes observed: “In the long run we are all dead.” While we may be gone, our children and grandchildren inherit the consequences we created to make the short-run seem better.

Both political parties are guilty of “burning the furniture.” To be sure, Democrats are generally worse than Republicans, but both parties are driven by their member’s self-interests. That has been true since the granting of power under any form of government.

The United States has now suffered for over 200 years from this “short-termism.” The Constitution, once a bulwark against such actions, has been reduced to little more than an historic artifact. Without this constraint, we are subject to the criminal tendencies of our political class. Serious destruction began under Barack Obama. It is hard to find any previous administration so committed to changing America where each policy was designed to reduce individual freedom and independence within the United States and the world role of the United States. Marxism worked, at least in terms of indoctrinating Obama.

Now we have Joe Biden, a forgetful, incompetent and untrustworthy man in his prime. Today he has little idea of what is going on. His handlers, including Dr. Jill, should be indicted on charges of Elder Abuse.

This scripted play is Obama’s third term. His advisors are Joe’s advisors. They answer to Obama or someone outside of Biden’s sphere. Biden is the classic “useful idiot,” used and manipulated by others. He has no  idea what he is doing. Even if he did, it is unclear that he would object.

What we are seeing is the acceleration of furniture fires. The more this destruction occurs, the harder it becomes to return America to its true principles. If we are lucky, the worst that happens is that we end up like a Banana Republic. Don’t expect the opposing party to stop this progression. Exploitation is in the DNA of all political animals!

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