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Back to School II: Beck U Promises Hidden Truths, But "Economist" Delivers Same old Government-is-Bad Line

Reported by Guest Blogger - July 19, 2010 -

Guest blogged by Margarita

This week it was "Hope 101" at Glenn Beck University. The subject, though, was economics, something on which the right hasn’t sounded extraordinarily hopeful lately. According to Beck's introduction, "When it comes to our financial system in our country, it is hard to have hope because most people don’t even know what the truth is. How does this financial system even work? What is true?"

To help uncover the truth, Beck enlisted David Buckner to give the lecture. Who is David Buckner? He teaches at Columbia; he’s been variously described as a professor of organizational leadership, an adjunct professor of psychology and education, and a consultant specializing in organizational change. What he doesn’t do, evidently, is teach economics. He’s the author of a book called "Permission to Think." (Now wouldn’t it be nice if Beck’s took him up on that one day?) He’s been on Beck’s show several times, though on one occasion he fell rather flat.

Professor Buckner managed to remain standing for the Hope 101 lecture. He started with an interminable story about the hassles he encountered trying to get on standby on a flight to Salt Lake City, reciting in minute detail how he was stymied by employees citing "company policy," but managed to get on the plane eventually by being "exasperatingly persistent." Moral: we humble students should find out the "why" behind everything even if we have to be exasperatingly persistent. He said policymakers have betrayed the "key principles" of economics because they don't understand the "why."
Finally, a third of the way into the class, he started to deliver the economics lesson. Here are some of the key points:

- Economics is all about creating wealth.
- Economic decisions are made on the basis of "opportunity cost." (For example, the number of restaurant meals I’ve decided it’s worth giving up in order to subscribe to Beck’s "Insider Extreme" and enroll in his academic emporium.)
- People look for the best way to create wealth at minimum cost. We got a long example about "Jennifer" who makes two pies and one cake in a certain time, and "Josh" who makes four pies and one cake in a certain time, and how though it isn’t apparent, there’s more value-added if you buy from Jennifer than if you buy from Josh.
- Market economies help create wealth; planned economies are monopolies, and they stifle wealth creation because they stifle freedom and consumer choice.
- Investment creates wealth; consumption doesn’t. And governments cannot invest; they can only consume. For example, he said, "A bridge is not an investment." (Really? Not even if it means your people can now sell goods across the river and bring back more money to your community? On live chat, someone asked if public education wasn’t an investment; he didn’t answer that.)

When the seminar ended, I still didn’t understand where Hope came in. But I did learn the following Great Truths:

- Free markets good: planned economies bad (we all knew he’d say that, though, didn’t we?)
- Don’t buy pies from a guy named Josh.
- And, most important, never let David Buckner get in front of you in an airport lineup.

Aside from a quote from Ben Franklin, there was no mention of the Founding Fathers in this lecture. But I’m sure we’ll hear about them on Wednesday, when Prof. James Stoner, of Louisiana State, described as a "Constitution Expert," will propound on why the US is the most charitable nation in the world.