Fairy Tales, Fog, and Free Markets

Benjamin Ballard, Contributor

Great political movements are built around a common story we all know. The story of a hero rising from nothing, speaking truth to power, and vanquishing evil. In the 21st Century, however, heroes do not wield a sword or wear an iron breastplate. They hold a microphone and don an American Flag lapel pin. Voters become enchanted with these new heroes they hope will set the world in order by slaying various evil dragons. In 2018, our heroes wield their microphones to curse dragons named the one-percent and trade deficits, just to name a few. Their fiery orations mobilize armies of voters to their ranks. They march towards election day, each soldier armed with a smartphone and a nonsensical cardboard sign.

We see this scenario playing out right now through two of our nation’s most prominent political leaders: President Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders. Both men cry foul at income inequality and trade deficits, but in these times of peace, the supply of evil simply cannot meet our demand for dragons. Today’s heroes swing their swords recklessly just to keep their armies from deserting. They find new dragons and make up new reasons for why they are evil. Their armies follow because it’s a warrior’s job to fight dragons, and a social justice warrior’s job to fight white-male dragons. However, as the dragons become smaller and less malevolent we do not fight them because they are evil, we fight them because of the mountain of gold on which they rest.

Our heroes no longer fight to vanquish evil, rather they see a pile of gold and name its owner a dragon. They substitute the material for the moral, and the politically expedient for the truth. They lead their armies into the fog of relativism where the only bearing is where everyone else is marching. Our leaders have lost sight of true north and can no longer guide us back into clarity. With no compass or historical knowledge, they make up their own rules. That is heresy, and that is why our nation has become two armies with two ideas of good and the other as the embodiment of evil. We’re fighting each other in the fog. We have lost sight of good and now we can’t distinguish between each other and evil. On the battlefields of economics, social justice and equality we must each individually rediscover good, reorient ourselves with true north and march our own way into the light and clarity of objective good and truth.

A great example of the fog we currently inhabit is our heroes’ propensity to fabricate economic dragons. First, to understand this battlefield we must look closely at the current economic structure. The American economy and all market economies around the world are built on the idea of consensual transactions. The supply of a good or service is exchanged for money or other goods in accordance with agreed upon terms. Both parties consent and both parties benefit. Wealth is built by a series of these consensual transactions. Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) has become very wealthy by facilitating billions of these transactions and Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) has earned billions of dollars by producing a product that we want to exchange money for. If you purchase an iPhone, Apple earns $1,000 and you are given the power and convenience of their product. If you order that same phone on Amazon, Jeff Bezos will take a small cut of the profits from Tim Cook because he helps him sell more phones. Over many transactions this will leave you (the consumer) with many goods and the benefits of many services, and corporations and business owners with piles of gold to rest upon.

Bernie Sanders believes that it is morally wrong for Tim Cook and Jeff Bezos to sit on their piles of gold without giving their “fair share” to the government. Donald Trump angrily tweets at 3:00 am because too much of this money is banked in China. However, if these discrepancies are the consequence of long ledgers of consensual, lawful transactions, there is no dragon to be slain. There is no evil present. So, it begs the question: why are our new heroes so concerned? They are concerned because they no longer fight for goodness. Maybe they are caught in the fog themselves, or worse, their compasses may only point north to power.

No matter your political persuasion, it is up to you to find true north and rediscover the meaning of goodness. The Bible is a great place to start. If you believe, struggle or strongly object, hear me out. I do not intend to convert, exclude or judge anyone. This is not an appeal to God or religion, but to the fact that only the good parts of history survive to the present. Like the works of Aristotle, Plato and Confucius, the Bible has remained relevant because it has merit. It’s a big book so if you want to gather some wisdom in reasonable time the Ten Commandments and Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount are as good as moral philosophy gets. The ideas embedded in those words have pointed billions of people out of the fog of relativism. It might work for you too. Again, you don’t have to be religious to be a good person or find your way out of the fog. At the very least, the Bible is a tool to help all people learn from the mistakes of our species’ past. The way forward is often back into the collected wisdom of humanity.