Like a young, beautiful, intelligent woman depressed by an altogether unattractive dating pool of men around her, Lady Columbia should be lowering her expectations with President Biden at the helm.
Empty store shelves and never-ending coronavirus worries are just two elements of the new normal, with which Americans are already acquainted and should expect for the future. The idea that America should lower her expectations — and standard of living — has been roundly mocked by conservative commentators.
But those who say we should lower our expectations are absolutely correct — but for the wrong reasons.
Inflation, labor shortages, a broken supply chain and anemic economic growth are happening, not despite the policies of the current administration, but because of them. A Federal Reserve that constantly injects liquidity into the financial markets is causing inflation. Gratuitous government handouts and violations of personal liberty are causing labor shortages. Both policies, along with more regulations, have severed the supply chain. Add anti-energy policies to the mix and the anemic growth is easy to understand.
Americans have come to expect that store shelves be well-stocked, and rightly so; it has been that way in this country for decades. Competitive free market economies and property rights incentivize people to serve their fellow man, in a timely manner. Since you cannot force your neighbor to give you the dollar in his pocket, you must provide something to him through voluntary exchange to get that dollar.
Americans are now witnessing a phenomenon that is not native to these shores. Empty store shelves are the result of governmental interference in the economy, a hallmark of socialism. Socialist states have shown this time and again; it was a chronic problem in the Soviet Union, both in Russia and all its satellites. When various South American countries adopted socialism, the symptom occurred there, too. Venezuela went from being the third richest country in its hemisphere to having a population so poor and hungry that they ate their pets and zoo animals — all in a matter of years.
Chronic shortages in all varieties of consumer products are the fruit of the tree of socialism. The economic rationale is simple: divorce producers from market incentives like the price system and consumers starve — and not just figuratively. If the current administration pushes an economically socialist agenda, the country should in fact lower its expectations compared to a more free-market agenda.
Likewise, the Biden administration’s coronavirus policies have been disastrous. Flip-flops like those on mask and vaccine mandates, without any evidence to justify them, have further eroded any expectation of greatness from this administration. As businesses and investors anticipate future tax increases, expectations are declining even further.
This is not a partisan point—or even a political one — but a matter of policy. Some of the Biden administration’s most impolitic strategies, whether on the coronavirus or the economy, were started in the previous administration. Instead of learning from those mistakes, the Biden administration has doubled down. Actually, it is worse than that. To continue with the blackjack metaphor, this administration is already over 21 and is asking the dealer for another hit.
No one should expect to win the game that way.
E.J. Antoni, Ph.D., is an economist at Texas Public Policy Foundation and a Visiting Fellow at Committee to Unleash Prosperity.