Dear Artists, You Don’t Understand Economics

If you want to help our country and enter the debate on economic policy, please read, study, be respectful, and don't scream so aggressively about issues you have no idea about

I invite you to examine the evidence as you talk about the policies that made the rich countries what they are today. (Photomontage PanAm Post)


Of course, one can have an opinion on any subject one wants. The problem is that ignorance and ego lead someone to believe that they really know everything and that their views should be taken seriously.

I, an economist by education, could give an opinion, for example, on the music of the Colombian singer Adriana Lucia. I can say on my social media that the harmony of her songs is fantastic, but I don’t like her melodies, and the rhythm is horrible.

What I just said probably doesn’t make any sense because I don’t have any background in music. So even though I can give an opinion on the performance of any musician, I will surely look ridiculous to someone who does understand music. But beyond the stupidity of talking about subjects that one doesn’t know about, it would be irresponsible and egotistical if I wanted the musicians to listen to my opinions on a topic that I don’t know anything about.

I have as much idea about music as the singer Adriana Lucia or the YouTuber Alejandro Riaño know about the economy. But, strangely, although it’s clear to everyone that it doesn’t make sense for an economist to talk about music, just as it doesn’t make sense for a doctor to talk about physics or an engineer about psychology, it is not clear to many people that economics is a science, that there is much to study, and that economic matters are not intuitive.

Neither Adriana Lucia, nor Carlos Vives, nor Alejandro Riaño, who are now trying to advise the Finance Minister on what he should do, have any idea, for example, of the process of wealth creation. I can bet that never in their lives have they read the theories about the cause of inflation. Much less do they have any idea what economic freedom means and the practical impact it has on the development of countries.

And I should make it clear that when I say they have no training, I am not talking about university degrees. Anyone can learn economics by reading and analyzing the data and contrasting the theories. But the fact is that artists, who are so active in politics today have no idea about even the smallest things. Or does Robinson Diaz even know what trust money is? They don’t know anything about it, so they go around screaming for subsidies for everybody.

It sounds very good, and it is widely accepted to say that we must give aid, health, education, and subsidies to everyone and that we must get more money out of the rich because that way, we get a “more equal” country. That’s the solution offered by all these activist artists who think they understand how the economy works.

However, what the data and history show is that it is not subsidies that make a country successful, but the creation of real jobs – employment provided by the private sector – which is achieved only by creating the conditions for employers to emerge and grow. The idea voiced by many artists is precisely the opposite. They want to create obstacles for employers!

I am sure that Adriana Lucia, Carlos Vives, and the others mean well and want a better country, where anyone who works hard can succeed. Unfortunately, good intentions are not enough. The economy has laws, and you have to know them to make things work because what matters is the results, not the desires.

No one wants to live in a miserable country, even if the government says every day that it is fighting to help the poor. People are not going to live in Cuba even though Castroism has been saying for decades that its goal is a better country for the needy. Everyone knows that the island is a hell full of misery. Cubans even risk their lives to get out of the “paradise” of good intentions and enter the United States.

To discuss economics, you must first read and understand the data. Because what we want is good results, good intentions are not enough.

Talking about economics is not like talking about decoration. If I start making home-decor videos tomorrow, and I manage to influence many people, the worst thing that could happen is that houses will have ugly furniture and mismatched objects. But if I talk about medicine, for example, how to treat cancer with a diet that someone told me works, I can kill people. A bad economic policy is much worse than that, it can kill many people, it can ruin millions of lives, and it can drive a country into misery.

So, if someone who talks about health should be extremely responsible with what they say, someone who talks about economics should utter every word carefully. It is clear that many artists believe that managing a country is as easy as maintaining a house, but I assure you that this is not the case. Economics is a science.

If you want to help the country and participate in the debate on economic policy, please read, study, be respectful, and do not shout scream aggressively about issues you have no idea about. But don’t read just any book or study just any theory because remember that what matters are the facts and not the intentions.

Dear artists, ask yourselves, put your hand on your heart, in what country you would like your children to live. What country is it that you believe allows people to be happier, to achieve their dreams, to move forward regardless of the conditions in which they were born. Then look at the economic policy of that country: look at what the rich countries did to become what they are today.

What I want – and I am sure it is the same desire that many of the artists who call for protests in Colombia and those who do leftist activism in other countries have – is for the country to have stories like the ones I hear every day in the United States. We want to hear stories of people who came to this country without money, to lay bricks, and although many of them arrived when they were old, today they have houses and cars, they live very well, and their children have a very promising future.

We all want those who work hard to succeed. Right now, in Colombia, those who are born in poverty are practically condemned to death in similar conditions, and we all want that situation to change. I do not doubt that Adriana Lucia, Carlos Vives, Alejandro Riaño, and the other artists who are so active these days with the issue of protests in Colombia, want a better country. The point of contention is about the path we should take to achieve this.

I invite you to study, look at the data, and examine the evidence as you talk about the policies that made the rich countries what they are today. I emphasize that the focus should not be on what the rich countries are doing now, but on what they did to attain their wealth it because after accumulating a certain amount of wealth, anyone can indulge in it and splurge. However, we must copy the policies that those countries adopted to become prosperous.

Perhaps the easiest way to start understanding economics is to review what the wealthiest countries have in common. The answer is economic freedom. The freest, most capitalist countries are the most prosperous. That means that even the poor in those countries live much better lives than the poor in less free countries like Colombia. Homeless people in the U.S. have computers!

Activist artists, I advise you and all those who shout a lot and have so much enthusiasm to educate yourselves with data and discuss the economy more calmly for what it is: a science. And if you ask my advice, you can start by reading Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. If you want to learn more, and in-depth about economics, you can read Man, Economics, and the State: A Treatise on Economic Principles by Murray Rothbard.

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