Government and Many Americans Get an “F” in Economic Literacy
I know I am not the only one who finds reality sometimes bordering on being more unbelievable than science-fiction at this point. Every time I watch the news or poke around on social media I understand a little better why some people have simply chosen to bury their heads and adopt an “ignorance is bliss” attitude toward politics and current events.
That could never be me—but I sure do see how people can get to that point.
Inspired by articles I’ve seen circulating about the “grade” that states and communities are being given based on how well they are obeying stay-at-home orders (let’s not even talk about how they collect the data to give those grades) I decided to create my own grading system and am confident in my decision to award the U.S government and many Americans a solid “F” in economic literacy.
One of the most bizarre things I’ve seen lately is leftists gleefully declaring that the current state of things—toilet paper and meat shortages, rationing of supplies and food, mass unemployment, the signs of a collapsing healthcare industry—are all examples of the failures of capitalism.
“Look at how well capitalism fares when it is put under the slightest amount of pressure.”
“Wow! Look at the free market… saving the day and magically providing for all the people out of work.”
“Thanks, capitalism, for causing massive layoffs of nurses and doctors! It’s sure a good thing we don’t have evil nationalized healthcare.”
These are actual comments I’ve seen on social media—and I won’t even include the overtly communist ones about “eating the rich” and guillotine-ing “the landlord class.” Creepy.
So how did we get here?
How did so many people grow to adulthood without any real understanding of economics? It’s obvious that this isn’t a problem unique to a certain “class,” a certain level of education, or even a certain political ideology. Everyone from “leaders” of the world to people living hand-to-mouth are displaying a shocking disconnect in their understanding of government action and economic consequence.
Not only are vast swaths of the population simply ignorant to the fact that economies are made up of individual human beings working to support themselves and their families, and in turn providing goods and services to others, but there are many out there who actively believe and spread half-truths or outright lies that are swallowed up by people eager to be taken care of and provided for by government. Murray Rothbard wrote about it in Human Action, and I echoed it in The Tuttle Twins and the Messed Up Market.
Take this excerpt from an article titled Pandemics Show How The Free Market Fails Us (that doesn’t sound biased at all…), which states:
“The current chaos provoked by the dramatic shortages of basic medical equipment such as masks, gloves, coronavirus tests, or ventilators illustrates perfectly the wasteful competition engendered by market-driven solutions.”
And the people nod their heads in unison. “Yes!” they say, “the free market has created shortages because competition is bad.” Facepalm.
There is so much fallacy in this article that several essays could be devoted to its deconstruction, but let’s just focus on the biggest lie.
As is the case with almost every failure of modern capitalism, it is not free enterprise or competition that have caused shortages and breakdowns in supply chains—especially in the area of medical supplies. Government mandates, government red tape, government manipulation of the supply chain—these are the common factors in every single failure attributed to capitalism.
The problem isn’t the free market, nor is it competition or market-driven solutions! The problem is government getting in the way of people competing with each other to provide what others need and creating a bureaucratic nightmare that ends up leaving 1.5 million N95 respirator masks sitting in a warehouse in Indiana while nurses have to reuse their PPE!
It’s the same story again and again. I’m telling you—if you can identify a failure of the free market, I can show you where it was actually government intervention in the free market that caused the failure. There’s a reason folks like me often offer up the simple “How about if we just try freedom?” in answer to so many hypothetical or real-world “what ifs.”
So what can we do?
For those of you who still have the energy and desire to respond to folks who blame the failures of government on the free market, I say keep it up! I really do believe—because I’ve seen it work—that thoughtful discourse still has a place in changing hearts and minds. Even on social media. Share articles from the Mises Institute, FEE, and Atlas Network. Share these emails with friends, or link our blog posts on your social media. It never hurts to put information out there—you never know who might be paying attention.
It’s true that a lot of people choose to conflate free enterprise with government handicapped capitalism because it serves their purposes, and they can use that misinformation to further their socialistic agendas—but there are others who simply do not know anything about economics because their economic education consisted of a few hours of classes in high school about balancing checkbooks and something they vaguely recall about supply and demand.
If sharing information with strangers isn’t your thing, that’s okay! It is always appropriate to help inform your own children and those within your realm of influence.
One of the driving forces behind all of my work with the Tuttle Twins brand is the belief I hold that those in this rising generation truly have the power to change the world. I see their sharpness and their eagerness for learning and understanding. I see how quickly they grasp concepts and ideas that stump some adults. I see them adapt and adjust and figure things out way faster than I did when I was a kid. These little people are made for greatness. I know it.
A couple of years ago, after listening to fans of the Tuttle Twins books ask us again and again to put some time into developing a curriculum, we finally buckled down and Free Market Rules was born! The result has been pretty stunning. We’ve won awards, we’ve seen sales double and triple and double again, and we’ve heard from so many families who are loving the ease and clarity with which they’re now able to teach their kids the principles of the free market. Learn more about it here.
It’s okay to observe the happenings in the world right now and think to yourself that it seems that most everyone is crazy. You’re right! This is not normal, and you shouldn’t accept that it is, or teach your kids that it is. The lessons playing out on the world stage right now are perfect for teaching children how government can cause harm even as they are attempting to help, and how those with special interests or something to gain often manipulate people through fear or misinformation into accepting restrictions on freedom that they normally would never have accepted.
There’s a good chance that your kids are going to hear people blame capitalism or “too much freedom” for things that are actually the fault of the government at some point in their lives—how often have you heard it in yours? It’s up to us as parents to inoculate them against this brainwashing by central planners.
I believe that the resources we’ve created with our Tuttle Twins books and curriculum lay a pretty solid foundation that kids will be able to build on for a lifetime and I’m grateful for all the parents who have trusted us to help them out.
We’ve got work to do!