About Me

In writing the "About Me" portion of this blog I thought about the purpose of the blog - namely, preventing the growth of Socialism & stopping the Death Of Democracy in the American Republic & returning her to the "liberty to abundance" stage of our history. One word descriptions of people's philosophies or purposes are quite often inadequate. I feel that I am "liberal" meaning that I am broad minded, independent, generous, hospitable, & magnanimous. Under these terms "liberal" is a perfectly good word that has been corrupted over the years to mean the person is a left-winger or as Mark Levin more accurately wrote in his book "Liberty & Tyranny" a "statist" - someone looking for government or state control of society. I am certainly not that & have dedicated the blog to fighting this. I believe that I find what I am when I consider whether or not I am a "conservative" & specifically when I ask what is it that I am trying to conserve? It is the libertarian principles that America was founded upon & originally followed. That is the Return To Excellence that this blog is named for & is all about.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Who Will Be Left To Hire Them?

Below is Dan Henninger's WSJ Wonderland Column of February 10. This excellent column clearly explains the problem with Egypt, Tunisia, & all of the rest of the MENA countries of the Middle East & North Africa such as Jordan, Yemen, & Algeria - anywhere from 35% to 50% of the working population in these countries is employed by the state - in other words only a small percentage of entrepreneurs may actually be left creating wealth or anything else of value. In such an economy you sooner more than likely than later run out of money to pay the government workers no matter how hard or responsibly they seem to work.

Now this statist-bureaucratic formula for failure has been the topic of numerous messages on this blog as it pertains to America. In light of all of this trouble in Egypt it is pitiful that earlier this past week in Washington the President of the American Federation of Government Employees Union and his members were recorded protesting against reining in federal spending including their huge pensions.

Is Egypt Hopeless?

Egypt isn't just a sad story of political oppression. Egypt is an object lesson for other nations, including ours, struggling to produce enough jobs for young workers.

While Egypt has floundered, some have noted that Turkey's economy has flourished, notwithstanding a strong Islamic presence in both countries. How come?

Everyone cites a favorite datum—Egypt produced Nasser and Mubarak while Turkey got Ataturk and free-market economist Turgut Ozal as prime minister in the 1980s. But here's mine: In Egypt, the percentage of the working population employed by the state is 35%. In Turkey, it's 13%.

One is tempted to ask: What more do you need to know?

The economic literature is vast on the smothering effects of large, inefficient public sectors. If Egypt is now exhibit A for these studies in torpid economies, then exhibits B, C, D and E would be Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia and Algeria, the other nations that erupted the past several weeks. In Jordan nearly 50% of the employed population works for the state. This is an economy?

Consistent data on public work forces across nations is hard to find, but IMD, the Swiss business school, produces a comparison of public-sector employment as a percentage of total population for its Competitiveness Yearbook. It shows a striking correlation between economic success in emerging economies and relatively low populations of public employees, notably in Asia.

Korea, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and even China (at 8.3%) have low public employment as a percentage of total population. In Singapore, it's less than 3%. Also on the list, below 15%, are Colombia, Peru and Chile, three of South America's strongest economies. A low number doesn't guarantee strong growth, but a high number probably kills it.

The MENA countries of the Middle East and North Africa have used public work as a form of social security and tool of political stability. Their universities fed graduates into a nonproductive but high-benefit public economy. Many Tunisian rioters were unemployed college graduates.

The argument being made here is that past some tipping point of a population employed by the state, an economy starts to choke. Egypt is far past that point. In Tahrir Square you are watching the economic and psychological dislocation caused by this misallocation of national energy. This isn't just about a new government. It is a sit-down strike for a better economy.

Egypt faces a hard economic riddle: How does any place that has passed the public-sector tipping point escape these chains? (The crony capitalism of the younger Mubarak, Gamal, merely created a school of golden pilot fish alongside the public whale.)

The U.S. is hardly the place Egypt should look for an answer. Public-sector costs have driven New York, California and New Jersey to the edge of the fiscal cliff. Govs. Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo are getting good notices for their ideas. But so far they haven't solved anything. Large populations of public workers could burden these states for years in their competition with leaner states. Hosni Mubarak also promised public-sector reform—20 years ago.

With a third of the population employed by the state, Egypt may be past the tipping point what allows a modern economy to grow.
But hey, there's always tourism. A major complaint from Egypt is that the protesters are killing tourism. Whether Egypt, France, Italy, or New York City, tourists' cash flow is the last prop beneath economies staggered by the weight of public costs they can't unwind. Egypt has the pyramids, New York has Times Square.

At Davos last month, British Prime Minister David Cameron eloquently sounded the pro-growth trumpet and chided pessimists who "say that slow-growth status for Europe is inevitable." But in a thought-provoking article last month for The Wall Street Journal Europe, "How Big Government Killed Britain's Regions," former U.K. economics official Warwick Lightfoot argued that years of high public-sector wage and benefit settlements had "de-marketized" labor costs in the U.K.'s regions—Wales, Scotland, northern Ireland and the north of England. "The private sector," he said, "cannot flourish because price signals cannot operate properly in the labor market."

Amid the current crisis, Mr. Mubarak decreed a 15% wage and pension increase for public workers. Decades of U.S. governors and mayors did the same thing, poisoning local markets.

California isn't Egypt, yet. But politicians everywhere make the same mistakes, thinking the real economy is always out there somewhere, producing jobs and tax revenue. They think it's sort of like magic. But it isn't.

The first great lesson being learned in the 21st century is that neither the state nor the stork can bring jobs to life in a modern economy. Good luck to Egypt and all other nations on the wrong end of this learning curve.

1 comment:

  1. Doug - Thanks for passing along this article. This has clearly pointed out to me one obvious omission I have made in discussing the need for money to come in to an economy from outside its economic sphere. What I had said, I guess, sort of implies that government workers paying taxes to employ other government workers certainly does not build an economy any more than us serving one another hamburgers and selling one another products made in China.

    This article only goes to further fuel my fire to champion our last hope for saving the American economy and the American dream, and that is the FairTax.