Should: used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions
Could: used to indicate possibility, used in making polite requests
During this election process I’ve had numerous political discussions with people from varying backgrounds and from both political parties. And, in doing so, I’ve noticed something. When talking to folks from the Democratic side of the aisle, their discussions typically start with the word “should”. As in we “should” do something about climate change, we “should” help the poor, the rich “should” pay more, the minimum wage “should” be higher, Congress “should” do something. Noble thoughts perhaps, but often misguided and always ignoring the unbreakable Law of Unintended Consequences.
We don’t live in a perfect world. If you take an action, the people being acted upon have reactions of their own. If you want your policies to be successful you need to take these “reactions” into account. And quick fixes typically do not work.
Democrats are often thought of as the party of the people while Republicans are considered the party of business. Why is this? I would argue that Democratic policies have done more to keep poor people poor while Republican policies have tended to lift poor people upwards and onwards.
I think the Left tends to argue with emotion while the Right tends to argue with logic. I think most on the Left start with good intentions and end in poor implementation.
Maybe there is a more fundamental issue at play here. Is it more beneficial for society to do something for people or to do something to allow people to do something for themselves?
As any good parent knows, tough love is sometimes the best policy.
Let’s take a quick look at the minimum wage. Democrats want to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. As Bernie Sanders tweeted from one of his new lake houses, “If you work 40 hours a week you should not live in poverty”. Fair enough, and a good sentiment – but what happens when we legislate a wage level? Simple economics tells us when you raise the price of something people will demand less of it and/or search for substitutes. The fast food industry is already beginning to look at automated food service in response to rising wages – self-serving kiosks are all but certain at a Wendy’s near you.
I found some of the responses to Sander’s tweet to be telling. The majority of his supporters composed tweets that suggested “CEO’s should make less money” or “corporations should have lower profits” – a lot of “shoulds” from Bernie and his fans. And who knows – maybe CEOs are paid too much – but Bernie’s sentiments are not going to dictate what a CEO gets paid. Nor do they change a corporation’s obligation to maximize profits for shareholders. What will occur if the minimum wage increase ends up being implemented is less people employed by the fast food industry. Period.
So, we have some Democrats who are concerned about hard-working folks not making enough money. As a solution to this issue they want to pass a law that pays workers more money per hour – sounds great so far. But…the law results in less people actually being employed because fast food chains react to the new law by searching vigorously for alternatives to more costly hourly employees.
Now, what happens if instead of legislating requirements on business wages you free businesses of unneeded costs? What if you reduce unnecessary regulations and lower corporate taxes? The result will be more employment and better wages. Companies will use the freed up capital to expand their businesses. As they do so they will hire more workers. The increased demand and competition for additional workers will then lead to higher wages for all – and more employment opportunities in general.
Our economy – all economies – are kind of like a balloon. When you push on one part, another part adjusts for the pressure applied. Or said another way, you can’t dictate results because you can’t dictate people’s behavior.
But you can adjust the factors that motivate people and businesses. If you want people to do something find a way to make them want to do what you are after. This is a crucial distinction. People cannot be made to do something they don’t want to do – they will strive for ways around the actions they are being pushed to undertake. But they can be encouraged to do something if they are properly incentivized.
Think of it in this simplistic sense. If you want someone you don’t know to do some work for you, simply telling them to do the job does not suffice. But – offering them compensation to do the job does work – once open negotiation over the proper amount of compensation has been completed.
And herein lies the difference between the Left and the Right. Liberal policies tend to tell you what to do. Conservative policies tend to motivate you to do something.
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