"Why don't they just print more money?" and other fallacies explained

Why don't they just print more money?

 Because wealth isn't created by printing money, it is only represented by it. When you print more money without increasing the wealth it represents, then each banknote represents a smaller slice of the pie because you've just divided it into more slices. When governments do print more money recklessly you get inflation and even hyperinflation. At the time of writing, the most famous cases of hyperinflation were:
  1. The Weimar Republic of Germany after WWI, which got to the point of issuing two-trillion Mark banknotes (ie: a single banknote worth two trillion marks) in late 1923
  2. The Hungarian National Bank, printing 100 quintillion pengo banknotes in 1946, with a loss of value so fast that the price of goods were doubling every 13 hours
  3. The ongoing hyperinflation of the Zimbabwean dollar, which holds the record for the most zeros printed on a banknote (the $100,000,000,000,000 Zimdollar note)
Even though these banknotes had huge numbers on them they bought less than a roll of toilet paper within hours or days after being printed, and so holders of those notes frequently made the banknote-to-toilet-paper conversion more directly--saving a trip to the grocery store.

 Hyperinflation occurs in the first place because governments obviously do attempt to solve problems by printing more money. In fact, a response to the 2008 financial crises in America was to do just that: the multi-trillion dollar bailouts of banks and insurance companies was--in effect--imaginary money poofed out of nowhere and backed by the promise of taxpayers to keep paying down the bill in the future. Zimbabwe's crisis was caused, in part, by an attempt to pay off large national debts with local currency. 

 In the US the gamble was made because the government had faith that the economy was still robust enough to service the debt it was creating for itself, and hyperinflation hasn't happened (yet) because bondholders like China and consumers like us have not panicked and started cashing-out in large enough numbers (yet), so the newly minted mountains of cash are backed by confidence. On the contrary, there has been deflation instead because consumers have stopped buying goods and are hoarding their cash, making prices drop with the fall of demand.

 By contrast,  Zimbabwe's government was actively involved in shutting down huge parts of its economy, particularly agriculture, by driving away farm-owners and replacing them with unskilled sustenance farmers. This meant there was no faith by bondholders and consumers that the currency's value could be backed by the future growth and stability of its economy. Demand for goods didn't fall, but the supply did and so prices shot up.

How does one "cash out" anyway?

 By buying gold or other fungible assets with the currency, or selling your government bonds. Either will put cash back into circulation or devalue it or both. If everyone started buying lots of gold, then the price of gold would go up and the value of a single dollar in gold would go down. This will make everything else go up in price because gold is still the primary medium of exchange between countries, and our economy is heavily reliant on imports and exports.

 If bondholders sell then the price of those bonds will fall, discounting the value of those bonds and thereby the value of every other bond issued by the government, including its currency. The value of the government's currency falls, and then it has to print more of it to supply the conversion of the bonds back into cash, which devalues it even more. This is why every US president and Federal Reserve chairman has been very polite to the Chinese; the Chinese bought lots of US government debt (bonds) because it was receiving billions of American dollars by selling so many finished goods to American consumers.

Why don't they just give all the homeless people somewhere to live?

 The figures are hard to verify for obvious reasons, but there may be close to 100 million homeless people worldwide. The 1996 National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (NSHAPC) estimated the US homeless population to be between 1.6 and 3.5 million people, so the naive solution of simply building lots of tenement blocks is already going to be staggering in its expense and scope.

 The cause of homelessness is one of two things: lack of economic opportunity (jobs) and personal problems. If a family is made homeless because there's no work then there is an incentive for the government to find housing for them somehow, because a home will enable them to become productive taxpayers as soon as the economy improves, plus the presence of a healthy labor force is a big ingredient in any recovery. But if they're homeless for personal problems such as drug abuse, drinking, mental health, or disability, then there may be little or no hope of rehabilitation. They come and go from shelters, disappear from sight only to wash up again months later, fall sick, get into fights, and steal property to finance their addictions. 

 Taxpayers see the former as a tragedy, but the latter as a garbage problem; they want to pay for the homeless families to find a home, but they want the winos and crack addicts to get swept away somewhere out-of-sight so they don't spoil the scenery anymore. It's the latter kind of homelessness that is the most intractable, and in the long run the best solution may not be to build lots of homes for them, but to figure out what their problems are and try to solve them so they can reenter the workforce and find homes on their own. 

 But that, too, is extremely difficult, because very few people actually want to takle this problem themselves.

Why don't they just hire more smart people to answer the phones?

 Because smart people don't want to earn a living answering phones. This is why you will occasionally get poorly trained, unmotivated, "funny speaking" (foreign), or just plain ditzy people taking your customer inquiries at banks, phone companies, software and computer companies, retail stores and so-on. And smart people don't want to answer phones because:
  1. The callers are rude, impatient and unreasonable
  2. Too many problems are outside their power to fix, making the job frustrating and unrewarding
  3. The pay sucks
 So these jobs are most often taken by the young (undertrained and inexperienced), those between better jobs (unmotivated), foreign call centers (cheap), and those who couldn't get a job anywhere else (uneducated, those with obsolete skills, those with criminal records, and yes, stupid people). Call centers also have very high turnover, which reduces the time that can be spent on training new employees.

 As for us lot, we're unwilling to pay for support because we think it should come free with the product or service, so it's difficult to offer higher wages to attract sharper talent. We're also demanding and uncompromising ("You WILL fix this IMMEDIATELY! Give me your supervisor! I want to speak with the president of the company! I'm going to have you FIRED!"), so we drive away smart, sensitive people. We are also, by and large, the greatest cause of the problems that we call the support lines for. We don't read the instructions. We void the warrantee. And we assume more than was promised. 

 In short, we customers are pricks, and as a result we're getting what we deserve.

 We can help remedy this problem two ways:
  1. Avoid buying from companies that have a reputation for scrimping on customer support. This may mean buying the more expensive option in the store, even if the product itself appears to be the same quality as a cheaper alternative. Part of the higher cost is going into running a better customer service operation
  2. Be polite and treat the other person as a human being, not as a machine that services your complaints

Why don't politicians just try being honest for a change?

 Because they already think they are, and the human brain is incredibly powerful when it comes to justifying ill cause. None are dumber than those who are skilled at defending their stupidity, and the intelligent are incredibly good at defending their actions, no matter how bad. If you're appalled at the actions of Senator Whatshisname in the matter of prisoners at Guansomethingorother Bay, then know he's appalled at the lack of understanding from the people he thought were his constituents. How could you not see that there were special circumstances?

 Disney movies are wrong; there is no such thing as a person who is truly evil. The wicked witch thinks she's the good witch, and many things went into making her think that way. Everybody thinks they're doing the right thing in context, but they grow used to criticism and soon develop easy rhetorical defenses against it. They actually believe those defenses and even begin to shore them up with every act they make. This isn't limited to politicians. This might be someone you know. This might be you.

 But politicians are a special case, so peons like you get a special reprieve--like a Get Out Of Jail Free card--because politicians are always tempted by special interests who have the power to make their life very comfortable and easy. Peons like us rarely get compensated for our first class tickets, penthouse suites, Dom Perignon and the advertising budget for our next election. Whoever benefits from this kind of attention--even if they are truly good at heart--the power of retroactive justification snaps into place like a comfortable seatbelt.

 Politicians are not immune to sweet-talk, like Jason's Argonauts enticed by the sweet song of the sirens. While big money makes the decisions in politics, clever rhetoric is the booze that makes it go down and makes you feel good afterwards. It's very difficult to chose the straight and narrow path. You will sway from it, time to time, and nobody is offering you a million-dollar ranch in Montana if you vote No on the next reform bill.

 Full disclosure: the author is a card-carrying member of the ACLU, and I'd like to see "Guansomethingorother Bay" shut down, too. 

Why don't junkies just quit?

 Addiction comes in two flavors: physical and psychological. The worst addictions are the ones that hit both, making it doubly hard to quit. A physical addiction will give the quitter withdrawal symptoms such as cold sweats, shakes, headaches, abdominal pain, cramps, nausea and more. Taking the drug makes those symptoms go away for a while, so it's like taking aspirin for a nasty and intolerable headache. They know that the drug is causing the symptoms, but nonetheless those symptoms are extremely unpleasant and painful. Acknowledging the addiction in order to get help has powerful social and professional consequences.

 Some of us have accidentally slipped into a physical addiction to ordinary over-the-counter medicine that we thought was harmless. A good example is nasal spray based on the drug oxymetazoline, which is the active ingredient in Afrin and Vicks Sinex. The nasal spray relieves a symptom of the common cold (a stuffy nose), but you must be careful not to use it for more than 4 or 5 days, because beyond this point you can develop rhinitis medicamentosa; the infamous "rebound effect". Your nose starts to get stuffy and clogged as a withdrawal symptom of coming off the nasal spray, even after the cold has passed, and the only way to clear up your breathing passages is to inhale more nasal spray. 
 Oxymetazoline doesn't get you high, so people don't use it recreationally, but many innocent cold sufferers find themselves with a physical addiction they didn't even know was possible.

 Psychological addiction is harder to beat because there isn't really any alternative to the drug that you could take to placate the withdrawal effects. The physical cravings of cigarette withdrawal can be soothed with nicotine gum, heroin addicts can be put on methadone, but there's nothing easy that can cure a mind that seems to edit its own thoughts toward the justification of taking more of the drug.

 Psychological addiction can exist even without physical side effects, it just weaves itself into the thought process of the sufferer with the most powerful mechanism of them all: justification. I drink frequently, for example, but I'm not addicted because I've gone for days without a drink on my own impulse. And besides, a regular daily intake of alcohol is good for the heart, meaning it isn't like there isn't a balancing effect. I mean, it was my doctor who told me this! They've even isolated a compound in red wine, called resveratrol, which can reduce the chances of cancer. So as long as I keep it moderate I'm okay. Now I'm a big guy, so what's "2 drinks" for a regular person is "4 drinks" for me. And a fifth isn't going to have a serious effect on me either. 

 And the effects of alcohol on the stomach and liver? Well I take an acid blocker every morning, and I never use acetaminophen, so the impact is not as severe as it is for real alcoholics! I'm more like a lush than an alcoholic. That pain in my abdomen is just gas, and I've started taking simethicone for it. I just like to get buzzed, not drunk. And I like the effect that alcohol has, so I want the freedom to drink when I want to. And many of my role models were drunkards and they lived to a ripe age. I mean booze is practically an institution, you know? It doesn't have nearly the same stigma as crack or heroin or smoking.

 But I'm not hooked, I can quit anytime I have to. I just don't want to yet.