Dr. Jay Richards tells a great story about his sixth grade teacher’s explanation of economics. One day the teacher came into class and gave each student a small toy…a silly putty egg, a whiffle ball, a set of Barbi trading cards, and so on. (This was back in the day when 6th graders were still kids, not the mini adults parents send to school today.) The teacher said, “Each of you look at your toy and the ones around you. Then I want you to mark on a piece of paper how much you like the toy on a 1 to 10 scale. A 10 means you love it and you wouldn’t trade for anything you see. A 1 means you hate it and would trade for anything else. Everything else means you are somewhere in the middle.” Each child submitted a number. The teacher added them up, and wrote the sum on the board.
“Now,” said the teacher, “you are sitting in five rows of five desks each. You may trade freely with any student in your row, but you don’t have to trade if you don’t want to.”
After a few minutes some of the students had traded toys, and the teacher once again asked them to write a number representing how much they liked their toy. Amazingly (if you are a zero sum believer) the sum of the numbers was higher. The toys were the same, but free trade had made the children collectively much happier.
The teacher then told the class they could now trade with anyone in the room as many times as they liked. There was pandemonium for a few minutes as the kids moved around trading, re-trading, laughing, and enjoying the exercise. At the end, the teacher added up their submitted numbers. As someone who believes in a free economy would expect, the last sum was much higher than the earlier ones.
One notable thing from this elementary school exercise is that there was nothing new added to the equation…no new wealth, in other words. The kids made themselves happier by creating an exchange on their own terms, without strict rules (government regulations), without intervention by the teacher or school board (bureaucracy), without someone taking away their toys (taxation) and giving them to someone else (redistribution). Imagine what the result might have been if, like in a free economy, new and better toys (new wealth) had been added to the exchange. Eventually, newer and better toys would have allowed every child in the room to mark his or her toy as a “10.”
Zero sum? Don’t believe it! Zero sum economics is one of the many canards invented by Marxists and adopted by Democrats whose main desire is to control all the wealth generated by the working people of America. Free trade coupled with invention will create more wealth and greater contentment for all.
Obama and the Democrats are wrong. American ingenuity and businesses do not steal dollars from the poor; quite the contrary, those once-lauded elements of the American experience actually create new wealth, which creates new jobs and opportunities for all citizens, which creates even more wealth!
Proving that they are not smarter than a 6th grader.
Along for the journey