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Understanding Competition, Waste and Ease

Understanding Competition, Waste, and Ease

We are about to dig into a topic that will fundamentally change the way you think about freedom and systems of government. After many years of study, I know when we ignore Benjamin Franklin, we do so at our own peril. Franklin was as great an economist as anyone who ever lived. He understood the essence of human nature perhaps better than anyone ever has.  One of his most significant realizations was the concepts of competition, waste, and ease explained how nature worked and how it should be applied to the marketplace and government. You may wonder why you haven’t heard of this set of concepts considering the great minds we have had throughout history. Bastiat, Smith, von Mises, Hayek, Friedman…none of them “got” competition, waste, and ease.

The ramifications of competition, waste, and ease are huge.  

Don’t confuse simplicity with value. First, the concepts are so simple any high school student could understand them. Many concerned citizens have disparaged the lack of an informed electorate.  Concepts so simple as competition, waste, and ease are the best way to give everyone a foundation. As someone recently said, “Once you learn competition, waste, and ease, you can’t unlearn them.” Having a fundamental understanding of the forces at play can help anyone diagnose what is causing a breakdown in a system. When you consider that our system of freedom operates on these same principles you can then understand how to fix it.

People who say they want limited government don’t often understand why. Since the Federal government has no competition, it will necessarily be wasteful.  As it grows, it will waste more and more. The only way the people can keep their money from being wasted is to keep government limited. How simple is that?

Competition is a good thing. The concepts argue for as much competition as possible. Knowledgeable people have long argued for private sector solutions as opposed to government solutions.  I’m not sure they understood why. My guess is they simply based their conclusion on historical experience. It was easy to see that the private sector always did better than the government.  The real reason, however, was the private sector had competition while the government did not.

Competition, Waste, and Ease Create Maximum Freedom When in Balance

You better check yourself before you wreck yourself. Federal welfare is bankrupting the country (everything moves to ease).  Unfortunately, we are never going to get rid of welfare. What can be done though is to introduce competition. The federal government has no competition so the program is very wasteful. We need to remove welfare from the federal government and exclusively give it to the 50 states.  This will create a marketplace with competition. It will also create accountability to properly manage it for the residents of that state. The states who are wasteful may attract more people but then they will become insolvent. Over time the curve between all the states will flatten and welfare will become more of a system of individual obligation.  It will not be as wasteful as it is today…because of competition.

How many ways can you apply these concepts? This is just one example of the concepts of competition, waste, and ease being applied to a specific situation. We have the ability to solve many problems in our lives and government if we would just apply these principles. Franklin was very wise and for a system of freedom to work you have to know how it works and how to fix it when it falls out of balance. If lawmakers and citizens fail to understand these principles we will get more bad laws and bad governance.


Franklin’s Hidden Role at the Constitutional Convention

Franklin biographer Walter Isaacson once said, “Benjamin Franklin is the founding father who winks at us.” What he means is there is more to Franklin than meets the eye. Isaacson is right, Franklin is winking at us. His role at the Constitutional Convention was crucially important, and without him there would most likely not be a United States. We can understand this based on Franklin’s known diplomacy in France including his many appearances at the most famous Salons of Paris.

Historians seek certainty—a document, a letter, a record or some such thing that can be seen and touched. In a court of law, it is called direct evidence. Unfortunately for history and historians, Franklin did not and (as will become clear) could not “leave his fingerprints” as it were. The case, then, for Franklin, revolves around what is called “circumstantial evidence.”

Circumstantial evidence is used to prove a contention when there is little or no direct evidence. For example, let us assume two boys both claim ownership of the same dog. Direct evidence of ownership might be a sales receipt from a pet store showing who the owner is. But if there is no direct evidence, proof of ownership could also be determined by whom the dog favors when called. Though circumstantial, it would most probably be sufficient to prove ownership in a court of law.

Most historians say that Franklin’s importance to the Constitutional Convention was derived solely from his reputation as an inventor and diplomat, and that he brought an aura of seriousness and purpose to the proceedings. Beyond that, his contributions were said to be few. The common notion that all the participants were on a mission to create a single unified nation is somewhat misleading. The underlying reality of the Convention was that there were 13 different competing interests. Each state sent delegates to protect their interests first. As Franklin noted:

The players of our game are so many, their ideas so different, their prejudices so strong and so various, and their particular interests, independent of the general, seeming so opposite, that not a move can be made that is not contested; the numerous objections confound the understanding; the wisest must agree to some unreasonable things, that reasonable ones of more consequence may be obtained….

Franklin, the most senior statesman, assumed the role of mediator. He was not the passive observer most historians claim, but rather was actively involved in managing the deliberations of the delegates. He corrected errors, calmed arguments, and reasoned with unfaltering logic. His diplomacy was difficult because he could not afford to make enemies or take a side. He had to appear neutral, otherwise the Convention could split into factions and fail. His task was very much like moderating a peace treaty among warring factions.

How did Franklin do it? Over many years he had developed the art of “gentle persuasion.” In his Autobiography he wrote:

…[I developed] the Habit of expressing myself in Terms of modest Diffidence, never using when I advance any thing that may possibly be disputed, the words, Certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give the Air of Positiveness to an Opinion; but rather say, I conceive, or I apprehend a Thing to be so or so, It appears to me, or I should think it so or so for such and such Reasons, or I imagine it to be so, or it is so if I am not mistaken. This Habit I believe has been of great Advantage to me, when I have had occasion to inculcate my Opinions and persuade Men into Measures that I have been from time to time engag’d in promoting.

He also included in the Autobiography this line from Alexander Pope:

Men should be taught as if you taught them not,
And things unknown propos’d as things forgot.

Franklin had the skills to manage the delegates, but he needed a time and a place to employ those skills outside the formal, structured deliberations occurring daily at Independence Hall.

The Salons of Paris


Franklin’s success in Paris, getting the French monarchy to fund the American Revolution as well as supply troops and a navy, to overthrow a monarch and replace it with a republic, is arguably the greatest diplomatic triumph in human history. To accomplish this feat, he had to use all the tools at his disposal. The Salons of Paris are an often-overlooked tool.

In 18th century France, the Palace of Versailles was where the French government did its business. Men held all the important positions. The Salons, on the other hand, were the province of women, the salonnières.

“Salons were organized gatherings hosted in private homes, usually by prominent women. Individuals were invited to salons to discuss literature and share their views and opinions. Guests at salons usually came from the haute bourgeoisie or nobility; most were educated, well read and informed about politics, current affairs and intellectual debates.” Attending them required a mastery of the codes of polite conversation.

“From previous visits to France, [Franklin] knew that French women played an extremely important role in forming public opinion and even in influencing political decisions.” Franklin became a frequent habituate of the most important Salons.

Although they attracted the elite of society, the conversation was not formal but rather gay and gossipy. Consider this item about the dauphin’s health (eldest son of the King of France):

The daily health bulletin on his condition…mentioning a bowel movement was read during supper at the home of Madame Du Deffand. Already astounded that information of this sort would have been given at the table, Walpole was surprised again when Madame Du Deffand added that the dauphin had upset his chamber pot and his bed linens had to be changed.

John Adams, who was incapable of understanding Franklin’s techniques, wrote that “The Life of Dr. Franklin was a Scene of continual dissipation.” But inadvertently, he also left us a clue as to how Franklin operated:

He had wit at will. He had humor that, when he pleased, was delicate and delightful…He was master of that infantine simplicity which the French call naivete which never fails to charm…

In the Salon environment Adams was a fish out of water. Franklin, however, thrived, charming all the women in attendance. France being France, the ladies had no hesitation about kissing Franklin and inviting him to reciprocate, which he did with enthusiasm.

Franklin knew that even though the women held no position of authority, they did possess authority over the men who did. He spoke of the American cause in a casual story-like way. All the ladies, whom he paid exquisite attention to, took up his cause. He had “inculcate(d) his opinions” and persuaded a formidable group to promote them.

Franklin, “happened to be the only American envoy whom—both before and after the alliance—the French both liked and trusted. Nothing could have been more critical to our Revolution than that affection; every other American envoy who approached Versailles bungled along the way. Franklin was inventing the foreign service out of whole cloth. And he was, as we know from so many other realms, a brilliant inventor.”

At the Constitutional Convention


Franklin used the skills he had acquired in Paris to similarly “inculcate his opinions” to the delegates of the convention. His house, only a few blocks from Independence Hall became his own Salon. He, in effect, became the Convention’s unofficial host.

His house became a place where the delegates could relax and unwind from the day’s formal meetings. There, they could openly and casually discuss the issues of the day. The house had a pleasant courtyard with a large mulberry tree that provided shade from the hot Philadelphia sun. He had a dinner table that could seat 24. His only daughter, Sally, who, with her husband and children, lived with Franklin, waited on the visitors with food and refreshments.

Perhaps the best description of Franklin during this time comes from Manasseth Cutler, a botanist by trade and friend of Elbridge Gerry, who invited him to Franklin’s home:

There was no curiosity in Philadelphia which I felt so anxious to see as this great man, who has been the wonder of Europe as well as the glory of America. But a man who stood first in the literary world, and had spent so many years in the Courts of kings, particularly in the refined Court of France, I conceived would not be of very easy access, and must certainly have much of the air of grandeur and majesty about him. Common folks must expect only to gaze at him at a distance, and answer such questions as he might please to ask. In short, when I entered his house, I felt as if I was going to be introduced to the presence of a European Monarch. But how were my ideas changed, when I saw a short, fat, trenched old man, in a plain Quaker dress, bald pate, and short white locks, sitting without his hat under the tree, and, as Mr. Gerry introduced me, rose from his chair, took me by the hand, expressed his joy to see me, welcomed me to the city, and begged me to seat myself close to him….

I delivered him my letters. After he had read them, he took me again by the hand, and, with the usual compliments, introduced me to the other gentlemen of the company, who were most of them members of the convention. Here we entered into a free conversation, and spent our time most agreeably until it was dark. The tea-table was spread under the tree, and Mrs. Bache, a very gross and rather homely lady, who is the only daughter of the Doctor and lives with him, served it out to the company…

He was then going to mention a humorous matter that had that day taken place in Convention, in consequence of his comparing the snake to America, for he seemed to forget that every thing in Convention was to be kept a profound secret; but the secrecy of Convention matters was suggested to him, which stopped him, and deprived me of the story he was going to tell…

Notwithstanding his age (eighty-four), his manners are perfectly easy, and everything about him seems to diffuse an unrestrained freedom and happiness. He has an incessant vein of humor, accompanied with an uncommon vivacity, which seems as natural and involuntary as his breathing.

It is impossible not to imagine the cunning Franklin acting as the humble enquirer as he entertained the delegates in his courtyard, asking questions in such a way that the delegates might see errors in their understanding and self-correct them.

Franklin also employed another strategy at the Convention; he acted infirm. This allowed Franklin to write speeches, which others delivered. At the closing of the convention, Franklin wrote what has variously been described as the “literary masterpiece of the convention,” “the most effective speech of his life,” “a testament to the virtue of intellectual tolerance,” “the most eloquent words Franklin ever wrote.” The intent of the speech, however, was not to show Franklin’s eloquence, it was to sell the Constitution to the delegates.

One could accurately call it a “hard sell” intended to “close the deal.” He used the techniques he had been developing and refining over the past 60 years of his life, in America, England and France. It was forceful while at the same time gentle, emphatic but humorous. It was a masterpiece in salesmanship. Franklin knew the Constitution was good, he knew it was necessary, and he didn’t want to lose it.

Here are examples of Franklin’s persuasive skills in this, his greatest letter:

I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others….

In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered…

I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does…

Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best….

On the whole, Sir, I can not help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it would with me, on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.

Somehow, Franklin’s speech mysteriously escaped the “profound” secrecy so strictly enforced at the Convention and was distributed widely throughout the new states, helping to sell the Constitution to the public at large. We can be sure Franklin is winking at us!

Franklin’s System of Freedom is Mechanical

The first thing one needs to understand about Franklin’s system of freedom is that it is mechanical as opposed to philosophical.  In America, we all too often think philosophically, tracing the roots of freedom from Greco/Roman republics and Judeo/Christian traditions. Franklin concentrated on how nature operates and how human beings behave. Much of the discovery of Franklin’s system came through discussions with my Chinese friends. They, of course, have no Greco/Roman/Judeo/Christian background whatsoever, but freedom is very possible there.

A mechanical system has components, it can be duplicated. We now know automobiles can be built anywhere in the world to the exact same standards. If you have the same soil and the same climate, a plant can grow anywhere. Create the conditions for freedom in a country and you will get…freedom.

Franklin’s system is incredibly simple, but it is different. He looked at things in a different way.  Understanding and accepting his ideas might be difficult at first. A good analogy perhaps is the first time trying to ride a bicycle; hard at first, but once you “get it,” oh so simple.

I have produced two different but complementary ways of explaining Franklin’s system.  One is an animated video. Ogden Coolside, a book seller, takes the viewer on a five part 12-minute voyage of explanation.

The other is a talk I gave to a group of interested citizens.  It is 18 minutes in length and is similar to a TED talk. You can find it here (the password is franklin).  The best way to learn the system is to watch both.  There is a lot of information so please watch at a time and place where you won’t be interrupted.

Franklin gets to the “root cause,” while almost everyone else talks about symptoms.  It is truly amazing as I read articles and watch videos, how many of the best pundits don’t know what they are talking about. “Competition, waste and ease” are incredibly important and powerful concepts and so is “being in the box.” You will understand after you watch the presentations. The nice thing is, once you learn the concepts you can’t “unlearn” them. My Chinese friends were quick to say, “We’re not in the box.”

I think every high schooler in the country should be taught Franklin’s system. The students would then have the defenses they need to fight the lies that are so often spewed by those in authority. More and bigger government is never the answer.

Elizabeth Warren – Everything Moves to Ease

Elizabeth Warren: Everything Moves to Ease


Elizabeth Warren is symptomatic of the quality of leadership too many Americans have been accepting for the last several years.  That she was elected in the first place is proof enough that Americans have lost the understanding of what a system of freedom is.


A system of freedom teaches that in nature as well as human nature, everything moves to ease.  That is, put a bird feeder out and you will attract birds. Why? Because it’s easier.


We now know that when the opportunity to teach at Harvard arose, Ms. Warren took the easy way—she claimed she was an American Indian.  Instead of competing fairly in the marketplace, letting her talents speak for her, she used subterfuge to inveigle her way in.


Senator Warren is no more an American Indian than the man in the moon.  But perhaps even worse than lying and getting her position the easy way, is the fact that as a U.S. Senator she has shown that she is painfully ignorant of what freedom is.


She insists on talking about groups, of dividing Americans into tribes.  In a system of freedom, the largest group you can have is the individual…groups are meaningless.  That is why Lady Justice wears a blindfold. Laws apply equally to everyone, it doesn’t matter what your race is, how smart you are, what your name is, who you know, or what you do.  


The least we can expect from a Senator in this land of the free is to not cheat and support a system of freedom, two things Elizabeth Warren has shown she is incapable of.

Group vs individual in a System of Freedom

Group vs. Individual in a System of Freedom


Two articles caught my attention today, “The One-Drop Rule revisited” by Ramesh Ponnuru and the other “The Fading ‘One Hate Rule’” by Michale Bertolone.  The one-drop rule is the “historical practice of counting as black any individual with any black ancestry.” The one hate rule “is the lumping together of all non-European minority groups into one category that is thought to experience white racism in the same way…”


Both rules have a central focus of ethno-cultural boundaries.  Ethno-cultural boundaries have led in the United States to slavery, mal-treatment of indigenous people, Jim Crow (separate but equal) and today, affirmative action.  


What both articles fail to realize is that in a system of freedom, ethno-cultural boundaries are meaningless.  In a system of freedom, the largest “group” possible is the individual. To discuss ethno-cultural boundaries and divisions invites “tribalism” which is anathema to freedom.


A system of freedom has one set of laws that apply equally to all members of society.  This is precisely why the statue, Lady Justice, wears a blindfold.


Justice doesn’t care where you are from, what color your skin is, what your name is, how smart you are, etc.  


Granted, to deny ethno-cultural boundaries exist is to deny reality. The focus, however, in a system of freedom, shouldn’t be on perpetuating group differences, but rather the unique qualities of each individual.  This is where true “diversity” is found, not in the phony “group identity” spiel.


The goal in a system of freedom is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Logically, these concepts can’t apply to a “group” only to an individual. It’s time we get away from group thinking and concentrate on each member of society as an individual.

The Sharon Statement – An Attempt to Define Freedom

The Sharon Statement is an attempt a young M. Stanton Evans to describe freedom. Unfortunately, like so many, Mr. Evans did not understand what a system of freedom was.


Here is an introduction to the Sharon Statement from Wikipedia:

The Sharon Statement is the founding statement of principles for Young Americans for Freedom. The views expressed in this statement, while not considered “traditional conservative principles” at the time, played a significant role in influencing Republican leaders in the 1980s.[1]

Written by M. Stanton Evans[2] and adopted on September 11, 1960, the statement is named for the location of the inaugural meeting of Young Americans for Freedom, held at William F. Buckley, Jr.‘s estate in Sharon, Connecticut.

Now, let’s examine the statement and discover some of its errors and omissions:

IN THIS TIME of moral and political crisis, it is the responsibility of the youth of America to affirm certain eternal truths.

WE, as young conservatives, believe:

THAT foremost among the transcendent values is the individual’s use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force;

The beginning of the statement is philosophical, mentioning, “eternal truths,” “transcendent values,” and “God-given free will.” Freedom is a mechanical system composed of elements.  The phrase, “use of his God-given free will,” fits better with the concept of, “the pursuit of happiness.”

THAT liberty is indivisible, and that political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom;

A loss of political and economic freedom simply means the government is moving to arbitrary power, that it has not been kept limited and the citizens are, “out of the box.”

THAT the purpose of government is to protect those freedoms through the preservation of internal order, the provision of national defense, and the administration of justice;

The use of the word “freedoms” shows a misunderstanding of freedom.  Freedom is not a laundry list where, for example, we have 72 freedoms and if we lose a five we will still have 67 remaining.  No, freedom is a system and should be referred to in the singular. The focus of a system of freedom is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Of course, “internal order, the provision of national defense, and the administration of justice,” all work toward that end.

THAT when government ventures beyond these rightful functions, it accumulates power, which tends to diminish order and liberty;

Government always moves to “arbitrary power” because it has no competition and a central function of government is to pass laws. Laws almost always say, “no you can’t!”  The reason for limiting government is to minimize waste (a by-product of the absence of competition) and to avoid an accumulation of power.

THAT the Constitution of the United States is the best arrangement yet devised for empowering government to fulfill its proper role, while restraining it from the concentration and abuse of power;

We must ask ourselves, why is the Constitution, “the best arrangement yet devised…?” The answer is because the underlying design of the Constitution is to keep government limited.

THAT the genius of the Constitution – the division of powers – is summed up in the clause that reserves primacy to the several states, or to the people in those spheres not specifically delegated to the Federal government;

There are four distinct limits on our government:  


  • division of powers (checks and balances)
  • The Bill of Rights (government prohibitions)
  • The Tenth Amendment (primacy to the several states, or to the people)
  • The people themselves, (“if you can keep it”)


THAT the market economy, allocating resources by the free play of supply and demand, is the single economic system compatible with the requirements of personal freedom and constitutional government, and that it is at the same time the most productive supplier of human needs;

The marketplace mimics and operates like nature.  It does not need invention, it just happens. Of course, it works best, it’s how people act naturally!

THAT when government interferes with the work of the market economy, it tends to reduce the moral and physical strength of the nation, that when it takes from one to bestow on another, it diminishes the incentive of the first, the integrity of the second, and the moral autonomy of both;

Life and liberty make clear that the government taking your money to give to another (taking your thoughts and labors that you trade in the marketplace for your sustenance) is necessarily wrong in a system of freedom.

THAT we will be free only so long as the national sovereignty of the United States is secure; that history shows periods of freedom are rare, and can exist only when free citizens concertedly defend their rights against all enemies…

Of course, defense must be strong.

THAT the forces of international Communism are, at present, the greatest single threat to these liberties;

We will always have enemies until all, or a critical mass of nations, operate in a system of freedom.

THAT the United States should stress victory over, rather than coexistence with this menace; and

THAT American foreign policy must be judged by this criterion: does it serve the just interests of the United States?”

The overall problem with the Sharon Statement is that the author doesn’t truly understand a system of freedom.  Evans deals with symptoms and consequences that derive from a system of freedom or the absence of said system. The Sharon Statement is therefore more complicated and confusing than it needs to be.  Evans made an admirable attempt to describe freedom, but he was far wide of the mark.



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