Bill Maher’s “bring on the recession” comments on Real Time and the left’s at-all-costs approach that undergirds Bill’s comments are already no longer news. Nor is the moral outrage characterized by his political opposition, who would, rightly, normally insist we not over-react to a joke, or at least not take it out of context. So let us now allow cooler heads to prevail, and identify the real flaw in his take, which is consistent with his politics irrespective of the joke itself: not considering the reality of the alternative.
What folks like Bill Maher – and especially Bill Maher – never consider is what would happen if all of the politicians they like got elected and all of the policies they like got put into action today; moreover, they don’t consider what would happen if they had already been in place.
In specifically the case of Bill Maher, his take on Islam – which has been consistent for some time and to this day – has labeled him an “Islamophobe”, puts his position at odds with the far left fringe whose candidates he supports and whose candidates refuse to even utter the words “Islamic terrorism”. Maher should be praised for how vocal he has been about free speech and the cancel culture that opposes it, but he also fails to understand that it is exactly that wing of our politic – the one that opposes free speech – which puts forward the candidates he supports, and which is prescribing the broader policy positions he takes, even if he opposes promoting them as a purely strategic matter.
In an alternative world where Bernie Sanders is elected effectively president-for-life in 1992, for example, and gets all of the policies he has prescribed passed such that his vision of America comes to fruition today, we would be naive to believe Bill Maher even has a show at all, and any hope he has of making a living – much less ever being worth $100 million – would be vanquished.
Expanding to the broader society, the alternative to where we are today is the world just envisioned, where the Bernie Sanders-wing of the Democrat Party utterly takes over the House, Senate, the Court(s), and the White House, and is able, then, to consistently enact all of the policies they have prescribed without obstacle. The perfect case study for this thought experiment is, of course, Amazon.
Amazon is the model of capitalist, free market innovation: they’ve built a business that saves consumers both time and money, and which brings products to market both in a manner which allows us to reliably evaluate that product’s real quality, and with such a broad audience that exposes producers and consumers to each other in a manner this world has never seen. It can be taken for granted that Amazon’s world-wide marketplace has allowed products to reach places they never would have, and, therefore, make certain innovations viable – and, thus, possible – in a way that encourages those innovations to be made in the first place. One-stop-shopping has never been taken to a more hyperbolic extreme, and the result is that prices decrease, product quality increases, and the speed with which we get these products and the scale of their existence has reached levels we never thought we’d see. And that’s without having a conversation about their cloud services.
The result, of course, is that what was once a garage-based internet startup is now the world’s largest retail marketplace, and it’s owner and founder, Jeff Bezos, has become the richest man in the world. What might get missed is all the good this company’s existence has provided: jobs; increased productivity; jobs; instant access to cheaper, better goods; and lots more jobs. And in a world of mutually consensual transactions, with all the good Bezos’ company has provided, it would make sense that this exchange transaction would bring a world of good to the man himself. Take all the risk, reap all the reward.
It’s not hard to envision the alternative, and you don’t have to go to the left’s extreme to be bombarded with folks who consider Amazon and its mere existence as “evil” (and folks who won’t call it “evil” outright, but who call it everything else that any rational reader would say describes “evil”). The complaints are all the same: they don’t pay their workers enough; they treat their employees like dirt; and they don’t pay taxes*. This all culminates with the emergence of sitting congressmen who are lauded for – and take pride in – pushing tens of thousands of jobs out of their communities that Amazon would have otherwise been happy to provide**.
The alternative, of course, is that those employees make nothing, those jobs don’t exist, we don’t get all the goods and services Amazon provides, and the property they seek to buy goes completely unsold. And this is true of every company, not just Amazon. Profit is nothing more than the gain each side of a mutually consensual transaction makes in that transaction, and is thus nothing more than an indicator of how well you respond to market influences. And without huge margins, there’s no incentive to take huge risks like Amazon has over the course of its existence, and thus provide huge amounts of good to the world around us. Take away any reliability in garnering that profit, and you wind up stuck in time, in a world where travelers to those locations who have instituted total governmental control over the means of production describe the experience as like traveling in a “time machine”.
Thank God we don’t live in that society. Instead, we live in a world of (partly) free enterprise and free exchange, where temporary market reactions to external circumstances are – or at least ought to be – left alone to recover at exponential rates. And where they’re continually left alone, that rapid growth leads to some of the richest and best times we’ve ever seen. Coronavirus will pass, and markets will sling-shot back to where they were, and will continue to grow at never-before-seen rates so long as we stick to our guns, not interfere, and allow for the inevitable recovery to naturally arrive. So to Bill Maher and all of his ilk, my response is plain: Bring on the recovery!
*There are too many sources to cite. The Google search results for “Amazon is evil” can be found here.
**Amazon is moving to New York, but with a different proposed facility which can house only a fraction of the initially-proposed employment, and, as such, their employment projections are fractions of what they initially were, and which is why their initial projection was not a “fantasy”.