Walter Williams – Wackonomics

I’ve enjoyed Walter Williams’ insights over the years, and here’s another good one: Wackonomics, at Capitalism Magazine:

For the U.S. Congress, news media, pundits and much of the American public, a lot of economic phenomena can be explained by what people want, human greed and what seems plausible. I’m going to name this branch of economic “science” wackonomics and apply it to some of today’s observations and issues.

Since July this year, crude oil prices have fallen from $147 to $64 a barrel. Similarly, average gasoline prices have fallen from over $4 to a national average of $2.69 a gallon. When crude oil and gasoline were reaching their historical highs, Congress and other wackoeconomists blamed it on greedy oil company CEOs in their lust for obscene profits. But what explains today’s lower prices? The only answer, consistent with wackonomic theory, is easy: Oil company CEOs have lost their lust for obscene profits. Or, maybe, since many of these CEOs are getting up in years, they might have begun to heed Matthew’s warning (19:24), “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

Precisely.

And, his thoughts on “greed” as the boogeyman mirror some thoughts I’ve been having lately, about how ludicrous it is to blame something like “greed” for the current financial crisis as if it’s some new phenomenon that burst on the Wall Street scene in the last few decades. In short, it takes a real suspension of disbelief to imagine that “greed,” even if it were inherently a bad thing, could possibly be the source of such vast market influences necessary to cause a global financial crisis.

Speaking of CEOs, there’s the “unconscionable,” “obscene” salaries they receive, in some cases over $10 million a year. Wackonomics has an easy answer for these high salaries: it’s greed. However, CEOs don’t have the corner on greed. There are other greedy people we don’t scorn but hold in high esteem. According to Forbes’ Celebrity 100 list, Oprah Winfrey receives $275 million, Steven Spielberg gets $130 million, Tiger Woods $115 million, Jay Leno $32 million and Dr. Phil $40 million. I need to talk to these people and learn their strategy. I’ve been making every effort to get that kind of money. I go to bed greedy, dream greedy dreams, awaken greedy and proceed through the day greedy. Despite my heroic efforts, it’s all been for naught; I earn a pittance by comparison.

Read the whole thing.

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