Virtual Voices

Dear readers:

Economy

Since 2008, I have been advocating on this forum for market-based solutions to some of our economic and social problems. I realize that I may be totally wrong about President Obama's stimulus, the role of the Fed, free trade, the Food and Drug Administration, sweatshops, bailouts, welfare programs, etc. I express my views in the hope that an open discussion will help us in our search for the best ways to be good and faithful stewards of God's creation. I also want you to know that I do not speak on the issues of justice, poverty, exploitation, and freedom from my ivory tower but from personal experience.

I was among the poorest people in the United States. For a few years I lived without welfare benefits on less than half of what was the federal poverty level. At the same time, bureaucratic regulation had denied me the legal right to work longer hours or get a second job to supplement my income. Before I came here I had worked in what you would call "sweatshops," at "unsafe" assembly lines, and in the fields. Before I went to college I was forced to labor at a job I did not choose for two years and 10 days with no pay. My masters provided me with enough calories to function, three sets of ugly clothes, two pairs of crappy shoes, and lousy communal housing. I had no bargaining power-in fact I would have been shot if I had chosen to disobey.

No, I am not describing my life in a state prison, although socialism is a prison-like state. I lived under that system for the first 21 years of my life and was a passionate Marxist. It was the study of economic theory and history that helped me change my mind. I hope you all can be as curious and open-minded while testing your beliefs.

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Here are a few things I learned during the most interesting years of my life: Having your heart in the right place and meaning well is not enough. Saying that something is "unfair" does not solve the problem. We must search for solutions that work. Knowing the facts without a theoretical framework to explain causes and effects is useless. Economics has its limits but it helps to explore the role of incentives and predict unintended consequences of proposed policy changes. In all of this and more, it is worth keeping in mind the words of my Defense against the Dark Arts teacher, Milton Friedman:

"There's nothing that does so much harm as good intentions."

Happy New Year.

Alex Tokarev
Alex Tokarev

Alex is the chair of the Department of Business at Morthland College in West Frankfort, Ill., and teaches at Northwood University in Midland, Mich. The native of communist Bulgaria fanatically supports the Bulgarian soccer team, Levski.

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