Inequality? This Product is the Great Equalizer

Mark Skousen

Named one of the "Top 20 Living Economists," Dr. Skousen is a professional economist, investment expert, university professor, and author of more than 25 books.
[woman looking at her cellphone]

“Without one in your pocket you would have to lug around the equivalent of 50 separate items.” — The Daily Mail

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Whenever the subject of growing inequality comes up, I readily agree with the statement that the rich are doing better than the average income earner when it comes to wealth and income.

But in another way, inequality is shrinking when it comes to the quantity, quality and variety of goods and services. In my Chapman classes, I do a valuable exercise showing students that the marketplace provides quality products and services at all levels of income.

Here are several examples:

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Cars: the wealthy buy a Mercedes Benz or Lexus; the middle class a Toyota or Buick; the poor a Kia or Chevy. Note that they all have power steering, air conditioning and a good sound system.

Hotels: the rich go to a Ritz Carlton; the middle class to a Hilton or Marriott; the poor to a Best Western or Motel 6. Note that they all have good beds, heating and air conditioning and internet service.

Restaurants: the rich go to Ruth’s Chris; the middle class go to P. F. Chang’s; the poor go to McDonalds or Taco Bell. There’s quality food at all of these restaurants.

In fact, I’ve seen people of all income levels go to fast food restaurants, which now offer mostly quality food at a decent price.

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Lastly, how about the Superbowl? The wealthy fly on a private jet and have good seats to the Superbowl; the middle class watch it on a big screen at a local bar or restaurant; but the poor have it best — they have a big party at their home watching the Superbowl on a wide HD television.

In sum, free-market capitalism has done wonders to level the field when it comes to goods and services.

‘The Great Equalizer’

After completing this exercise, I hold up a smartphone and say to the students, “This is the great equalizer.”

This single item, the smart phone, has replaced something like 50 products — the telephone, calculator, the watch, the camera, the alarm clock, the compass, the dictionary and encyclopedia, the road map, books and many other items (see the list below, courtesy of the Daily Mail).

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The Best of Democratic Capitalism

The cellphone even offers a four-year college degree opportunity for free through such educational services. The first to do so was the Khan Academy. Now, dozens of colleges and universities offer free online education.

With a smartphone, you hold in your hand all the world’s knowledge and expertise.

It’s democratic capitalism at its best.

‘Cheaper and Better’

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The slogan of democratic capitalism is “cheaper and better” — and more affordable. Today, almost everyone has access to a cellphone, even those who are on welfare or live in public housing.

And the cellphone is becoming more affordable. Prices are coming down. Andrew Carnegie said it best, “Capitalism is about turning luxuries into necessities.” 

So, the next time you hear someone complain that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, pull out your smart phone and say, “This is the great equalizer!”

My Essay, ‘Economics of Life Made Simple’, Has Been Translated

Last week, I mentioned my popular essay, “Economics of Life Made Simple,” the cover story of Skeptic magazine.

It’s just been translated into Portuguese, with other languages on the way.

One reader, a successful lawyer from North Dakota, was so enamored that he’s made copies to send to all his clients. “This is the best brief in economics I’ve ever read,” he said.

Another fan is an accounting professor who said, “I didn’t understand economics until I read your essay!”

You can read it here.

Printed copies are available for $3 each at www.skousenbooks.com (there is a minimum order of three copies). I pay shipping inside the United States. I include a free copy of the essay if you order one or more of my books, such as “The Maxims of Wall Street” or “The Making of Modern Economics.”

Mike Rowe is Surprised by the Last Question at FreedomFest

There’s a lot of buzz about what happened to “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe at FreedomFest a few weeks ago. I surprised him with a special guest at the end of the Q&A session, and it created quite an embarrassing moment. You can watch it here on YouTube.

We’re back in Vegas at the Mirage Hotel, July 12-15, 2024. Our theme is appropriate for an election year: “Are We Entering a Brave New World?” To sign up, go to www.freedomfestvegas.com, or call Hayley at 1-855-850-3733, ext 202. You’ll be glad you did.

Cruising Alaska… and Latin America

Personal Note: This week, my entire family and I are going on an Alaskan cruise (Royal Caribbean’s “Ovation of the Seas”) in celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary. It’s been 20 years since I last visited Alaska. I’ll have a report to you next week on America’s last frontier.

Speaking of cruises…

My Eagle colleagues and I are embarking on an incredible cruise, and you can join us! We set sail on Dec. 4 for 16 days, enjoying a memorable journey that combines fascinating history, vibrant culture and picturesque scenery. Hear seminars on the days we are cruising from one destination to another, as well as dine with members of the Eagle team. Places we’ll visit include Mexico, Belize, Panama, Ecuador and more! Click here now for the details.

Good investing, AEIOU

Mark Skousen

You Blew It!

U.S. Imposed Draconian Visa Rules, Now Americans Will Pay the Price

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Since 2001, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. has cracked down on foreigners coming to America. They are required to go through expensive and lengthy interviews even to get a tourist visa to visit New York or Disneyland. It can take months and cost a ton of money. The U.S. policy toward foreigners is shameful, especially for citizens of wealth nations like Europe.

Many countries have retaliated. For years, Argentina, for example, charged $160 for U.S. citizens to visit its country, called a “retaliation fee.” Fortunately, it recently rescinded the requirement.

But now, Europe, fed up with U.S. restrictions, is imposing its own visa requirement on U.S. citizens traveling to Europe.

The new regulations are called the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). Starting next year, the EU will require all visitors who currently travel to Europe visa-free, such as citizens from the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, to apply for travel authorization and receive approval prior to their departure.

The EU is not calling it a visa, but that’s what it is. Fortunately, for now, the application can be made online, just as it is to go to South Korea. Approval is delivered within an hour, but if further checks are required, the process can take up to 96 hours.

The form asks for biographical information, travel plans and history and security questions. The cost (for now) is $8 per person, and covers three years.

It all reminds me of the time I lived in Latin America in the 1960s. Every country I moved to or visited required a trip to the local embassy or consulate to obtain a visa, in addition to the passport. Years later, most of the Latin countries eliminated the visa requirement. But now it’s all coming back, all because arrogant U.S. immigration treats foreigners like criminals.

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