Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Something Else to Give Thanks For

Maybe you don’t need more things to be thankful for, but in case you do here’s a suggestion — private businesses, their owners, and their employees. The ways private businesses improve our lives are so numerous and so frequent it’s all too easy to take them for granted.

For example, if your experience is anything like mine, you are treated almost like an old friend at most of the businesses you patronize. Take Target, as an example, since it’s likely you have one in your area. As you enter one of their stores employees there are likely to ask, “How’s your day going?” They make you feel welcome. When you check out they tell you to “Have a nice day.” Of course, that kind of behavior is not unique to Target. It is the rule, not the exception when you interact with any private business.

That kind of experience makes our days more pleasant. If we aren’t having a good day, it can help raise our spirits. These are behaviors that are widespread and significant. What makes them happen?

Part of the reason, of course, is simply the goodness of most of our fellow human beings. However, an important factor in explaining why it happens so frequently is the free market. The most fundamental element of a market economy is voluntary exchange.

Both words of the phrase “voluntary exchange” have profound implications. Since it’s voluntary both parties have power, that is, the ability to walk away from the transaction. Because it’s an exchange both parties gain something and both parties give up something. The buyer gives up money and gains a product or service, the seller receives money and gives up a product or service. Both participants end up better off or they would stop exchanging. Each participant exchanges something of less value to him than what he receives. Probably the most often cited quotation of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations is the following:

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity, but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but to their advantages.

A central focus of economic analysis is the question of incentives. The dynamics of voluntary exchange demonstrate the power of incentives. Furthermore, the incentives inherent in voluntary exchange are generally beneficial to individuals and society. The incentives inherent in a market economy bring out the best in people, not always, but predominantly and billions of times each day.

The owners and employees of private businesses clearly have incentives to treat their customers well. Those customers almost always have alternatives available to them. The U.S. economy has never been more competitive. There are exceptions, of course, such as the current state of the health care sector.

You are treated like someone important by private businesses and their employees because you are important to them. Business owners and managers train their employees to be friendly and pleasant. Their well-being is inextricably connected to our well-being. Every customer-vendor relationship is a symbiotic relationship.

A kind of business for which I am particularly thankful for is restaurants. It amazes me that so many people are willing to start and operate restaurants. It is a tough, highly competitive kind of business. A conclusion I came to when I once worked in a restaurant is there seemed to be a new problem every ten minutes. Today it amazes me that restaurants can serve so many patrons so many meals of consistently high quality so promptly. Restaurants are only one of thousands of kinds of private businesses that make our lives more comfortable, enjoyable, and entertaining.

Private businesses are readily available sources of practical knowledge. One of the mottoes of Home Depot is, “You can do it! We can help.” They obviously have a strong incentive to increase the population of do-it-yourselfers, as do all hardware and building-supply stores.

The value and importance of on-the-job training provided by private businesses is so huge it would be almost impossible to measure. That training is all the more important in light of the failings of public schools.

So, this Thanksgiving give some thought to the blessings you experience often in your life such as those provided by private businesses. And give thanks for the free-market economy, the only place where private businesses can exist.


Something Else to Give Thanks For November 25, 2015

Ron Ross Ph.D. is a former economics professor and author of The Unbeatable Market. Ron resides in Arcata, California and is a founder of Premier Financial Group, a wealth management firm located in Eureka, California. He is a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma and can be reached at

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Attempted Character Assassination of Ben Carson

Sometimes atmospheric conditions are such that the weather forecast can say, “100% chance of rain.” The current political atmosphere is such that even before it happened there was a 100% chance the media would attempt to assassinate Dr. Ben Carson’s character, honesty, and integrity. The liberal media will do everything it can, including lies, fabrications, distortions, and flagrant exaggerations to anyone they consider threats to their power and control.

Ben Carson is clearly such a person. Unfortunately for liberals he may be the hardest target they’ve ever faced. He is unquestionably brilliant, and is obviously a person of impeccable character. His life story is amazing and inspiring. America could certainly use a little inspiration about now.

The recent attempts to destroy Carson’s candidacy have been bizarre. In his book, Gifted Hands, he relates episodes in his young life of violence and an out-of-control temper. CNN went to great efforts to interview his childhood friends and neighbors to insinuate the stories were false. In other words, a person who admitted that he was once a juvenile delinquent with a violent temper is somehow accused of making it all up. CNN is essentially saying, “You say you were once bad, but that’s not true. In fact, you’ve always been good.” What a weird thing to accuse someone of lying about.

The fact that Dr. Carson has fewer vulnerabilities than most candidates isn’t necessarily a problem for those who fear him and would like to destroy him. Liberals have the unique ability to make something out of nothing. They never hesitate to make assertions, no matter how baseless and nonsensical, broadcast them, and have them accepted by large segments of their viewers and listeners. For example, the liberal media and the Democrat party have sold the fantastical assertion that Republicans are waging a war against women. Many of their supporters actually believe it’s true.

Having a complete lack of integrity, as does Politico, can be a competitive advantage. However, it can also play against you. CNN’s and Politico’s ham-handed attempts to take out Ben Carson may be too transparent to be effective. CNBC’s widely criticized performance in the recent Republican debate apparently blew up in their faces. The population of people who now recognize the blatant bias of the media has grown. Dr. Carson could very well end up more popular than he was before the fraudulent stories reported about him in the Politico and CNN.

Supporters of Hillary Clinton have every reason to fear Ben Carson. He could well be her worst nightmare. Although it was before the latest brouhaha, a Fox News poll last week found that 60 percent of voters say Carson is honest, 25 percent said not honest. His net honesty score is a positive 35 — “No other candidate comes even close to that,” according to Fox. “Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s ratings are record setting — in a bad way. Her net honesty score is negative 26.” In terms of honesty Clinton and Carson are polar opposites.

Carson is extremely easy to like. Hillary is almost impossible to like. Even her supporters admit as much. In head-to-head matchups against Hillary, Carson does better than any other Republican, beating her by as much as ten points. If she were running against Dr. Carson, Hillary would have to hope that honesty and integrity simply don’t matter to voters. That’s possible but not likely.

If Carson happens to secure the Republican nomination it’s conceivable he’d get as much as twenty percent of the black vote. If that happens Hillary Clinton would be a dead-candidate-walking. (Mitt Romney got less than five percent of the black vote.)

The one valid criticism of Dr. Carson is that he has no elective-office experience. However, in the context of today’s political atmosphere that may be more of an asset than a liability. Furthermore, even if lack of experience is a negative, voters will weigh it against other important attributes. Every bit as or even more important are a candidate’s judgment, values, and intelligence. From that perspective it appears voters like what they see in Ben Carson, especially the fact that they see him as sharing their values.

He has, for example, made opposition to political correctness one of his main campaign themes. Many of us see political correctness as a cancer on our culture and society. Having someone in the White House who is willing to use “the bloody pulpit” to make that case would be like a breath of fresh air.

Here’s another prediction with a 100% probability — the character assassination attempts on Ben Carson have only just begun. The left, the media, the Democrats know what an existential threat he is to them. It’s been ugly, and it’s going to get uglier. Remember the Boy Scout motto —“Be Prepared.”


The Attempted Character Assassination of Ben Carson November 13, 2015

Ron Ross Ph.D. is a former economics professor and author of The Unbeatable Market. Ron resides in Arcata, California and is a founder of Premier Financial Group, a wealth management firm located in Eureka, California. He is a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma and can be reached at

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