If Beck wasn't trying for the "Faith, Hope and Charity" conceit, Hope 101 would probably be named "Libertarian Economics 101." The professor is David Buckner, who is most famous for fainting on Beck's show once. It's interesting to note that Buckner milks his professorship at Columbia University Teachers College for all it's worth. It's even more interesting to note that he is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychology and Education there, meaning that this economics thing is...more of a hobby?
Anyway, Buckner is not as charismatic a professor as last week's unctuous host, David Barton. He's rather dull, in fact. On the positive side, he was more genuinely professorial than Barton. On the negative side, a bunch of dumb shit fell out of his mouth. Buckner opens with a 10-minute-long story about being stuck in an airport. He really wants to get on standby for a flight, but the gate attendant won't let him on the list, even as she welcomes other last-minute travelers to the flight. (As with every story of awful airplane employees told by frequent travelers, Buckner is Absolutely Faultless in this story. I'm sure he wasn't screaming, red-faced, at the attendant from the minute he approached the gate or anything like that.) Eventually, a kind stewardess leads him on the nearly empty plane, and Buckner has his choice of seat, including first class. Happy ending!
The point of the story, Buckner tells us, is that the dumb gate attendant kept blaming everything on "Policy" instead of questioning why those policies are in place. He says that all customers—nay, all Americans—need to relearn the power of asking "Why." And then he told us what to think for another 25 minutes. The beginning of the real meat of the lecture was about value-added costs and opportunity costs: If you drive around forever to find gas that's 2 cents cheaper a gallon, you're probably not coming out ahead. If you see milk for $4, you refuse to pay it, and you hail a cab to go to another supermarket to pay $3.50 for that same gallon of milk, you've lost more money and time than you've gained.
Buckner told a long story about how he financed a small business by ordering ten no-fee credit cards and financing his business that way, turning the paradigm on its head by using tools of consumption as tools of investment. Buckner believes that the cheapest producer of things is always the best. "Why am I here? Truthfully, I’m the cheapest" professor they could find, he says, adding that the decision of Beck U students to "hire" him as a professor instead of just reading the books he gets his ideas from is a balance between cost and need and time and value. He then made the classic libertarian mistake: He applied personal finance rules to global economies, as though the analogy could be perfectly flawless. America, he suggests, is moving from a market system to a planned system. Governments don't invest, he says. They only consume. So he warned us to be concerned when people say that the government says they're going to invest in America. They are spending money with no hope of return, Buckner says:
You will hear many politicians arguing for an investment in America. A bridge is not an investment unless revenue can be drawn from it. A bailout is not an investment unless profit can be reaped.
That was the point of Hope 101: That things like infrastructure and health care and regulation are not America's job. Buckner promised to delve further into this in future classes. Considering the flaws in the foundation he's laid here today—in his ideal world, everything would be insanely cheap and business would be totally unregulated—this should be fun. There are screenshots and quotes from the post-class chatroom ("We all need to kling to HOPE") after the jump.
[Comment From phoenix59: ]
am i the only person here?
Wednesday July 14, 2010 8:04
[Comment From Frank: ]
Excellent lecture. Thank you David. We all need to kling to HOPE.
Wednesday July 14, 2010 8:33
Some Q&As from the post-lecture chat:
[Comment From James: ]
What economy is the most Planned in the world?
Probably Iran, Cuba, Bhutan.
[Comment From Amy: ]
Do you think we have been purposely trained to not ask the "Why" questions?
Most businesses focus on policies and procedures rather than teaching to ask WHY
Buckner suggested that everyone should read his new book, Permission to Think.
8:51 [Comment From chris: ]
How do we get the book permission to think? Where?
[Comment From greenrun1: ]
Are all questions getting through?
An honor to be with you all. Please stay in touch and send your questions to www.buckneronbusiness.com
Remember to always ask "WHY" not just 'HOW"
You have Permission to THINK!!!