As the young whippersnappers say, the government is gonna government.
President Donald Trump recently told reporters in the Oval Office that his administration is looking to prohibit all non-tobacco flavors of e-cigarettes. Because there has been a huge surge in teen vaping in the last few years and there have been reports of illnesses across the country, President Trump wants to curtail its availability.
So, what is going to happen? Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar laid it out for the public in a statement. Following a 30-day effective date, all flavored e-cigs would be eliminated from the market, first requiring approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Moving forward, all makers of tobacco-flavors would need to submit an application for approval by May of next year.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working on publishing its final guidance to institute the ban. An official document will be released in the next several weeks.
But should the federal government be intervening in the choices of private citizens? Well, you can blame the mainstream media for the fact that it is. As usual, the folks who play reporters and anchors on television are trying to muster up national panic as six people have died from lung disease relating to vaping, in addition to the 100s who have become ill. Here is the thing, though: Approximately 11 million Americans vape. If you crunch the math, that is a low number of deaths and injuries.
It is similar to the situation in the 1970s when the Ford Pinto caught on fire, causing national outrage because the carmaker did not address the problem. Only a few dozen vehicles out of the 2.2 million cars on the road got roasted, but the government demanded action after widespread media paranoia and attention.
As the old Groucho Marx joke goes, “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”
Won’t somebody please think of the children?
How May I Self-Serve You?
Well, it’s another day that ends in “y,” so that must mean the labor unions are handwringing about something again. This time, the labor unions are shaking their fists in the air and making headlines over their disapproval of self-checkout machines. Ostensibly, they believe these self-serve kiosks will lead to the destruction of man and that the future will need to send the present a terminator to protect John Connor so he can lead a resistance against man’s greatest nemesis: the self-serve checkout.
The Oregon chapter of the AFL-CIO is seeking to prohibit the state’s supermarkets from operating more than two self-checkout machines at a time. It attained a batch of signatures to get the Grocery Store Service and Community Protection Act on next year’s state ballot.
Tom Chamberlin, the president of the federation of unions in the state, said in a statement that grocery stores are participating in “a deliberate corporate strategy” of using automation to eliminate jobs and slash labor costs. The ballot initiative, meanwhile, states that these self-checkout machines are causing an increase in underage alcohol purchases, social isolation, health issues, and problems for the disabled and seniors who cannot operate these devices.
Indeed, there are many economic points to address, but for the sake of brevity, let’s examine only a few.
First, the AFL-CIO has endorsed the $15 minimum wage, which is ramping up the installation of automation at fast-food outlets, grocery stores, and a whole host of other service-based businesses. Second, we reside in a free society and private property rights, so why is a private organization not permitted to run its enterprise the way it sees fit? Third, automation allows companies to concentrate on other areas of the business and give workers an opportunity to fill in those demands.
Unions should do what they do best: Go donate to the Democrats and leave everyone alone.
Today’s consumer has fallen in love with vinyl again. Despite the rise of streaming and digital downloads, music lovers have discovered the beauty of records. After the introduction of cassettes, 8-track, and CDs, vinyl only garnered the interest of flea markets, grandparents’ attics, and children who thought these were frisbees. Well, it turns out that vinyl is experiencing a renaissance, seeing sales that are on par with CDs.
So, with a treasure trove of music at your fingerprints in mere seconds on the internet, why would somebody buy a vinyl record? There are several reasons for this, including superior sound quality, collectibles, and the overall enjoyable listening experience.
But the most important one, at least from an economics standpoint, is that the vinyl record is tangible, which can teach us about investing.
Indeed, if you are streaming a digital file of J.S. Bach’s Cello Suite No. 2 on a mobile application or you are listening to Art Tatum and Ben Webster’s The Album on YouTube, you do not own that music. You are not collecting it, holding it in your hands, or showing off your love of bebop jazz to Monica Bellucci. A vinyl record allows you to not only own the music, but it also enables you to admire the album artwork and learn unique song information.
The same thing applies to an economy, particularly when it is in freefall. You always prefer to possess a physical asset rather than an asset on paper or in digital units. For instance, when Argentina suffered an economic collapse a few years ago, effectively destroying the peso, citizens were converting all their fiat capital into tangible goods, from gold bullion to luxury vehicles to diamonds. This allowed Argentines to preserve their wealth.
In times of financial crisis, would you rather own a gold bar or a gold exchange-traded fund (ETF)? Should the power go out, the society collapses, or sunspots destroy communications satellites, then you can always turn to your vinyl records to enjoy the sweet sounds of Harry James – or trade them in for food and water.
Today, vinyl record values have skyrocketed. If you are hard up for cash and have a huge collection of classic Benny Goodman or Guy Lombardo records, then you could easily attain a nice sum of money.
Beware the Hand of Man
For the first time in the era of President Trump, conservatives, liberals, and libertarians agree – at least according to the response on social media: The administration’s move to ban e-cigs is bad public policy. Indeed, e-cigs have helped in a myriad of ways, from curbing tobacco consumption to saving lives. Even if the product were as dangerous as chewing on cyanide pills while drinking battery acid and watching a Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speech, then why is that the government’s business? The same principle applies to companies adopting automated technologies; nobody is owed these positions – a job is not a right. You are free to do whatever you wish as long as you are not imposing your will on anybody.
Now, where is that Charlie Parker Bird on 52nd Street record to relax and take a break from statists?