From Beer to Guiding Principles

When did beer get so expensive?

Are we in some competitive international beer market that rivals the energy sector?

I found myself in the beer aisle of my local grocery store last week, struck by the fact that a six pack is now priced at more than a buck a bottle. While that’s been true for imports for a long time, it is now common for domestic brews as well.

Sometimes economic forces just come along and hit you in the face… or at least the beer belly.

I know why beer went up in price.

Because the components of the brew – the agricultural commodities, the cost of brewing and, the cost of transporting the product – have gotten more expensive.

I know why that’s happened as well…

Because central banks’ love of money printing has driven up the price of all those factors, causing you and me more pain at the grocery store.

Ben Bernanke didn’t set out to make my weekend barbeque more expensive, it’s just an unfortunate side effect. His goal was to increase employment. But it really doesn’t matter what his goal was, the policies of the Fed and other central banks have still caused me, you, and literally billions of others, to suffer a loss in our standard of living.

This got me thinking about why we let this happen…

I sat down later with a very cold, expensive beer, and reflected on where we are. As I went backwards through the decision tree, I found myself confronting the main issue that currently divides the nation.

What is our guiding principle?

The labels “Conservative” and “Liberal” are thrown around like yesterday’s newspaper, but they do have meaning.

A Conservative believes there are institutions and traditions worth saving… that we have built a solid foundation of how to conduct ourselves in a community with others. They see the fallacy of man, his ability to be corrupted and fall prey to the trappings of power and might, as something to be avoided.

The way to do this is to stop power from being consolidated. This is why the U.S. Constitution clearly states that all powers not expressly given to the federal government remain with the states.

The guiding principle here is that each person has the best idea of what is right for him, and should be able to pursue his own path, keeping the fruits of his labor and bearing the weight of his own mistakes, as long as it does not impede the rights of others. If a group decision is required, then it should be made at the lowest level of community possible (a family, a neighborhood, a city, etc.).

A Liberal or Progressive sees the inequality and the destruction of our surroundings that individual pursuits cause. Recognizing that we can legislate such outcomes away, Liberals work to have governments ensure more equal and less harmful results by requiring proactive steps in some areas while disallowing choices in others.

The key to this approach is that small groups, that govern large populations, set the goals, because the assumption is that more knowledgeable and experienced groups of people can make better choices than the individual, and that such groups can also guide populations for the greater good.

This approach relies on the idea that inspired individuals can work without falling prey to prejudice or influence for the good of all, coercing people to take actions they would not on their own, in order to help others.

But what does any of this have to do with my beer?

My beer costs more because the Fed is using monetary policy steps – like the devaluation of my dollars – to try to move our nation toward greater employment. I can’t change this. I can’t vote on it. I can’t opt out of the system (short of exchanging all of my dollars for something else).

A person or group far removed from me is making broad decisions that directly affect my life, all for the “greater good.” And because I can “afford” it, I’m supposed to be okay with it.

I’m not allowed to keep all of the fruits of my labor.

I’m compelled to surrender whatever percentage of this value someone else thinks is appropriate for pursing the goals they believe are necessary at the time.

Should they be allowed to do such things?

Perhaps a better way to ask that question is: What actions could I, or would I, take to fight unemployment on my own?

Absolutely, there are many things that should be addressed at a national level because that is the most efficient way to correct them. But does the list have to be so long?

As I pondered the now-empty beer in my hand, I wondered how many people make the trek from the beer aisle to guiding principles. I don’t know the answer, but I believe the number is growing.

As I travel from gatherings like the Sovereign Society’s Global Currency Expo to our Demographic School and Dent Network meeting, I find more people eager to engage in such conversations.

Usually over a beer…


Rodney

 

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Categories: Markets

About Author

Rodney Johnson works closely with Harry Dent to study how people spend their money as they go through predictable stages of life, how that spending drives our economy and how you can use this information to invest successfully in any market. Rodney began his career in financial services on Wall Street in the 1980s with Thomson McKinnon and then Prudential Securities. He started working on projects with Harry in the mid-1990s. He’s a regular guest on several radio programs such as America’s Wealth Management, Savvy Investor Radio, and has been featured on CNBC, Fox News and Fox Business’s “America’s Nightly Scorecard, where he discusses economic trends ranging from the price of oil to the direction of the U.S. economy. He holds degrees from Georgetown University and Southern Methodist University.