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Archive for May, 2010

Libertarians argue that the market will price everything properly, including safety and environmental concerns.  If only that darned big government didn’t swoop in and mess that beautiful thing known as the free market from working its mythical magic. 

What they forget, is that big companies naturally tend towards monopoly:  that is, as they get bigger, they can buy out the competition.  If it weren’t for the essential government function of anti-monopoly oversight, we would have one super-company very quickly.  There would be no apple, only IBM.  There would be no Burger King, only McDonalds. 

What they also forget, is that the market simply does not care about certain factors, at least not as much as we would like it to care.  For example, oil rig explosions.  The libertarians will say that companies will self-regulate , and avoid excessive risks of oil spills, since if they had too many spills, then the public would become frustrated at them, and would not buy thier products, but would instead buy the products of their competition, as a punishment for their negligence.  But in a world where the oil companies control the flow of information so strongly, how much does consumer choice actually reflect consumers’ preference?  And this is also ignoring the much more obvious question, which is, how many spills would the market tolerate, vs. how many poeple of good conscience would tolerate, for the good of society? 

In Nigeria, there are oil-producing regions which have been so under-regulated, that the entire delta of the Niger river is awash in oil.  The wildlife is dead, and the people in the region drink from poisonous wells.  But the people of the delta have virtually no money, and so the market does not respond to their concerns.  Instead, the rich people in the first world are buying their gas, and they do not care in the slightest about damage done to the Niger delta.  In order for the market to work for the people of Nigeria, they first have to become rich.  But they cannot, really, since the oil monopolizers do everything possible to pay them nothing, and local government is corrupt and in the pockets of the oil companies.  Clearly, the market will not serve those people. (more…)

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So the onion did a spoof on a day in the life of Noam Chomsky, in which he tries to have a relaxing day, but everything that he picks up reminds him of the foibles of the fallen world around him, so that he ends up just caving in and writing “just one” well-reasoned and scathing essay about the evils of capitalism, etc. 

http://www.theonion.com/articles/exhausted-noam-chomsky-just-going-to-try-and-enjoy,17404/

The pathetic thing is, that I have been raised in enough of an Chomsky-ite intellectual context, that I find myself doing way too many of the things that poor Chomsky finds himself doing, in the context of just trying to relax.

Time magazine?

Price is right? 

McDonald’s? 

A drive in the countryside?  (Which reminds Chomsky of the evils of big oil… for me, it has the effect as often as not of thinking about the horrible evils of overpopulation and overdevelopment, and of the greed of developers, and the foolishness of so many people who refuse to stand up for sustainable development, and meanwhile watch as their once-beautiful home towns are ruined by a few greedy wealthy people). 

So, yeah… the point being… no wonder no one likes to be around me anymore… every normal pleasure in life has become connected with a greater part of a “system” which is fuelled by so much silliness, and which could so easily be so much different if only people could just wake up just a little bit, or if the elites would stop being so self serving, and so deliberately manipulative to “the masses,” etc., etc.  (more…)

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Generally speaking, our social structures are predicated upon our most basic instincts.  Only very recently in human history have we invented institutions which aim to increase the general good, for example.  As primates, we are hard-wired for hierarchy.  We all have instincts which cause us to accept as natural the idea that a very few people will be chiefs, while the rest of us are supposed to be followers. 

In fact, nature deals with this by endowing us with a very strong ability to worship our social superiors (including our parents first and foremost), and also to live vicariously through them.  In the middle ages, almost everyone was doomed to hard agricultural labour, but the people tolerated one out of every hundred or so men being decorated with fine clothes, and semi-worshipped as a ‘nobleman.’  In ancient egypt, rome, greece, etc., it was always the same.  And in the middle ages, most people knew that they were base and banal, and anything but ‘holy,’ even though the church preached that everyone was supposed to be a saint.  And so, the church made it so that one out of every few thousand people got to be called a ‘bishop,’ and wore expensive robes, got a powerful-looking hat, got to carry a golden staff, and was rumoured to be so holy that he had supernatural powers.  And the mere convention that this man was a ‘bishop’ made it so that, even if he wasn’t that holy in real life, the people tended to ignore all of his flaws, because instinctually he fulfilled their ‘role model’ role… that pigeonhole that we all have in our consciousnesses where originally we put our tribe’s ‘chief.’

So we are all born with a very strong inctinct for ‘chief’ (or alpha male, and alpha female) worship. 

And today, that plays itself out in a number of ways, one of which is that we fetishize rich people. (more…)

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