Jodi Z's Reviews > Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard J. Maybury
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Sep 16, 09

bookshelves: read-aloud, to-finish-later, to-read

This is a great help for understanding the basics of economics. My children have been reading it to me as we drive places and it is explained clearly enough that they are understanding it but also in-depth enough that my understanding is being positively impacted.

Most importantly, it teaches a principle we Americans must come to understand and accept if we ever hope to stop the downward spiral of our economy: there is no such thing as a free lunch! The government can't give us anything that he doesn't first take away--and when we get it back, it has decreased in quantity and quality.

The author's assertion is worthy of our consideration: "[F:]ew voters will face the fact that the real meaning of the cry, 'I want! I want!' is 'Tax me! Tax me!'

"In an election, it is important to be aware of The Lie. The Lie is, I will give you what you want, and I will make someone else pay for it. The candidate who can tell The Lie most convincingly wins the election.

"In other words, at bottom, inflation is an ethics problem. The only way to stop the spread of inflation is to start the spread of ethics." (p. 41)
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Joe (new)

Joe So Obama can only give us something by taking it away and degrading it's value first? So then are you saying we get nothing from the government that we don't already have in the first place? Could you give me an example? I'm thinking about government programs as things the government gives us. But those programs weren't (largely) created by Obama, so ascribing them to him would be wrong. So what are you saying?

message 2: by Blake (new)

Blake Nelson I'm afraid I don't buy the last comment. The world seldom deals in absolutes, so I can't believe that the government always decreases the value of the tax money it collects. I would argue that goals that deal with the common good rather than individual good are often better served by the government (insert obligatory plug for universal health care here), and that a government program can significantly increase the value of the money spent.

Is the government perfect and does it always add value to our tax dollars? Definitely not, but it is a mistake to say all government spending is bad.

message 3: by Jodi Z (new) - added it

Jodi Z I am going to try to respond to both Joe and Blake at the same time. Don't know how this will work--both in regards to my comments and to logistics. Maybe it makes more sense to do it individually, but let's give it a shot.

Joe, you've asked fair questions. And, Blake, I would agree that there are seldom absolutes--you've got me there. (In fact, I wanted to say that there are no absolutes but I realized that would be oxymoronic--if that is a word.)

Joe, you are right--it isn't fair to ascribe all the programs to Obama. My bad. This is a trend that has been going for a long time--he just happens to be in the hot seat now, and, I think, is significantly increasing the scope and the pace. So can we back up a step and talk about government instead of specifically about Obama? (And, realizing that I wrongly ascribed it all to him, I will change that part of my review.)

What I am saying is that it seems to me that the government cannot give what it doesn't have. What does the government have? Whatever it collects in taxes. There seems to be a real push right now to take from "the rich" and give to "the poor". You asked if I meant that "we get nothing from the gov't that we don't already have in the first place." I would answer that you might not have had it but someone did.

I believe that the proper role of gov't is to protect equal rights, not provide equal things. Let's say I have two friends: one a very wealthy person in a large house on the hill. The second is a single parent struggling to make ends meet in her little rented apartment. Is it right for me, seeing my friend in distress, to go to the other's home and take from her abundance (after all, she wouldn't miss it, right?) and use it to relieve the other? Even if you set aside Biblical teachings on the idea, there are laws that prevent my doing so. And assuming the one being robbed was the "poor" one, there would be outrage. My question then is, is it right for the government to be able to do the same thing?

On the other hand, I could go to my well-to-do neighbor and ask help for my other friend, or I could offer my services to earn money that I could then give but I submit that the same laws which apply to me also ought to apply to my government. That some are poorer than others is true but the wonderful thing is that none is locked into his poverty. This nation has been known as the "land of opportunity" but it seems to me that it is becoming the "land of entitlements". That concerns me.

So, let's say that the gov't decides that indeed they must help redistribute wealth. Now we have to create a program or a department to handle the process--including but not limited to someone to determine who gives and who receives and a second someone to implement those decisions. (And then we probably need a committee to "study" how much is "enough", etc.) This department takes in a certain amount of money but before it can give it away, it now has to pay the salaries of the two doing the work, therefore, there is less to give. Very simplistic example but I think you get the picture.

Ultimately we come down to the core question: what is the role of government? What, if any, are its limits? That is the question that the founders wrestled with and the battle continues today.

On the one hand are those who believe that the free market economy is the way to go. On the other are many who want the gov't to meet their needs from the cradle to the grave. Granted, in a free market, some are going to make more than others but consider how you have benefited by someone else's success. For example, computers that used to take up full rooms and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars have been replaced by laptops costing less than $1000. I would submit that the fact that you have access to a computer to be having this discussion is due largely to the fact that someone had an idea and knew he could be rewarded by cultivating it. He made a lot of money, we all benefited by a significant decrease in price and increase in efficiency.

In my mind, the biggest danger to any sort of "redistribution" is that it robs both parties of incentive. If I know that by succeeding, I am just going to have to give more in taxes, I no longer feel compelled to go beyond a point. (Say goodbye to that laptop.) If, in the other extreme, I know that Uncle Sam is going to make sure I have all I need, I no longer feel a drive to earn my own way. Am I implying that we shouldn't help someone who is struggling? On the contrary--but I think it is much better done through private charities in a way that lifts and encourages rather than creating a dependency.

One idea that has really impacted my thoughts can be best explained by the anecdote found in the following link: If you search around a bit you will find those who claim this isn't a true account. That is not the point. I think the principle is correct, even if the event didn't really happen.

Thank you for your thoughtful questions. I hope I have clarified (without boring you to tears).

message 4: by Jodi Z (new) - added it

Jodi Z Blake,

I think I responded to much of your comments in my response to you and Joe above but there are a couple of things I would add.

I would agree that there are some goals that deal with the "common good" that are best served by government. Military and defense issues would be included there. If each state were responsible for its own defense, there would be much unnecessary duplication and a significantly heavier burden placed on coastal states than central states even though we all benefit from having a secure nation.

I would also whole-heartedly agree that it is a mistake to say that all government spending is bad (you got me pegged on that absolute thing). I wonder where the line is--and admit that I tend to err on the side of caution.

My biggest concerns with any government programs are that once we relinquish control to the federal government, it is very difficult to regain it and that government funding always comes with strings attached. We must do so (that is, relinquish control) only after careful consideration.

You mention specifically universal health care. I admit that I don't know all the ins and outs of that one but it does concern me for several reasons.

First, there seems to be no effort to allow for "careful consideration" but quite the opposite. Making a major change like this ought to be well thought out, and particularly considering that (as I understand it) it won't be implemented for a few years, I think we would be better off not to rush the decision side of it.

Most of the educators that I have talked to are not happy with the No Child Left Behind act. I don't pretend to understand all the ins and outs of that one but I do know that a major complaint is the gov't telling schools that in order to get the funding they have to teach certain things or avoid other things.

What will Universal Health Care look like? Will the federal gov't determine which procedures are reasonable and which are not? We recently spoke with someone who has relatives in Canada. They have a preteen daughter who has some sort of bladder control issue that is easily corrected by surgery. However, that particular surgery has been deemed elective so this young woman will need to wait until she is 18 to have it done in Canada. Can you imagine going to junior high with bladder control issues all because the gov't determined that you didn't really need that surgery? An extreme example, perhaps, but worth consideration.

Is our current health care system perfect? No. Not much here on planet earth is. The questions we have to ask include, will this be better? To some extent it is a guessing game. Certainly, there could be some benefits but are they worth the cost? Looking at the government's track record for Medicare and Medicaid, as well as Social Security, can we trust that this will do what it claims?

I wonder what universal health care would do to the pharmacuetical industry? If they have to wait for gov't approval and deal with more bureacracy before releasing drugs, how much different might treatment of illness be? How many of the helpful drugs that are on the market today would we still be waiting for if this had been implemented 10 years ago? Again, largely a guessing game.

As you can tell, I am a big believer in free market economics. As consumers, I think we are much better off in a system where there exists competition(and thus a reason to always strive for improvement) and the opportunity to appeal a decision. Maybe there would be appeals under UHC but who makes the final decision? Would your level of care depend on which political party you supported? on how old you were? on what race? Would those decisions change over the years based on which party was in office at the time?

I think there is definitely reason to work toward reform in health care but I shudder to think what the implications are of handing it over to an already over-extended gov't. In my mind, there are many, many reasons that if we do proceed, it must be with the utmost caution.

message 5: by Sheila (new)

Sheila  Coito Jodi Z- your well explained arguments are making me want to read this book! I searched for a book or list of my son's homeschool curriculum (Sonlight) and the book came up in the search. I appreciate the detailed comments, thanks.

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