Less is less is a tautology to be sure, but the more well-known phrase, “less is more,” became a cliche before it faded into apparent obscurity. Wikipedia tells us it came from an 1850 poem by Robert Browning about artistic painting, but it came into popular use in the following century when German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe used it to describe his minimalist designs.
Those designs emphasized simplicity and open spaces within buildings. The result was astoundingly boring and industrial/Socialist in effect. We guess he and his fellow minimalists thought the old-style, pre-WW I Victorian architecture was too fussy. The reality is that Victorian was rich and optimistic. Minimalism was depressing and perfectly captured the Socialist/Communist mindset.
That mindset is still with us. Not in Middle European countries, formerly captives of the USSR. They painstakingly restored their gorgeous 18th century buildings as soon as their free-market reforms took effect and created enough prosperity to do the restorations. They are tearing down the dark-gray, uniform Stalinist apartments as fast as they can.
But in the U.S. and Euroland, it seems this mindset is returning in a new, non-architectural way. Here, the mindset requires destroying and reducing the numbers of private workers and companies, while attempting to build up government jobs and projects. Every time the President talks about “stimulating” the economy and reducing unemployment, he mentions “teachers, policemen and firefighters.”
He and his industry czars shut down car dealerships, fired CEOs, and destroyed older cars in a useless effort to bring the auto industry back to life. The only thing that brought the American industry back to life (except for Ford, which didn’t ask for and didn’t need a bailout) was China, where GM seems to be moving most, if not all, of its operations.
Economic czars have done their best to reduce the number of banks without making any effort to reduce the size of the remaining institutions. Medical czars are in the process of shutting down private insurers, drug companies and hospitals, though everyone is pretending that is not the intention. We don’t care about intentions. We care about results.
This is just what F.D. Roosevelt’s adminstration did to prolong the Depression. While people were starving, FDR’s czars were killing livestock and destroying crops, alleging that reducing the supply would increase prices.
Investment lesson: More is more. Work more, earn more. Save more, accumulate more. Invest more, enjoy more!