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Posts Tagged ‘libertarianism’

Dear Reader.  As you may know, trivium makes a living as an economic historian, that is, someone who attempts to understand why and how material wealth has been created over the course of history:  why some are rich, and others are poor, in other words.  The idea, for trivium, is to understand this, so that we can focus our efforts on maximizing the wealth of the many, rather than (as is now, and has historically been the case), maximizing the wealth of the few who are already rich.   

So spread the word:  I have an idea which if adopted by economists, would focus the efforts of economists and politicians on increasing the wealth of the household, rather than on the wealth of the self-serving ‘me‘ (ala Alan Greenspan, Ron Paul, and Ayn Rand), or the wealth of nations (ala Adam Smith, and classic economic theory).  If you create an economy which maximizes the wealth of the ‘rational individual’ (read:  the one with billions to invest), you end up creating an economy in which massive inequality of wealth seems natural and logical.

But, just as humans began by continually fighting, and by organizing themselves into hierarchies, and by having all sorts of brutal religious and political rituals, and by creating states based on exploitation and violence, but have slowly, in some places, created democratic states in which more people have more access to peace, equality, freedom from fear, freedom from oppression, etc., and have even begun to see this as a fundamental human right…

…so we can now begin to see freedom from economic oppression as a fundamental human right.

This means, that we need to turn our attention towards understanding how economics can serve the needs of the many, not merely the needs of the few, or the elite, or ‘the country’ in general (which de facto means the economic and political elite, since, a) these are usually interrelated, and b) the few hold the lion’s share of the capital in any given country).

My crucial insight on this plain has been the fact that the household is the basic unit, which in a given country, has its income set by the powers that be (employers), so that the household will be able to buy what are considered the ‘necessiites of life.’  In turn, the average household income tends to determine the prices of things:  the average household’s expense sheet will of necessity look like this:  (more…)

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By this time, I think most of us know that the answer to this is a mix of both yes and no.   The question of how, and why, is the issue of primary interest.  There are still a few of us who hold the older liberal view that corporations are always evil, and there are quite a few of us, the vast majority in fact, who hold the standard conservative view that corporations are “not evil.”  They hold this latter view, of course, because the corporations in question ultimately control so much of the money and power in our global society, that they influence the culture in their favour.  Since the majority of humans are “hardwired for hierarchy,” (see my post on this topic) and thus to be followers, it has always followed that the majority opinion has tended to favour whoever is in power:  whether it’s the king, the dictator, the emperor, the president, or the corporate CEO, humans tend to kow tow to the “big man.”  But is this even the corporations’ fault?  This is part of what we need to examine.

Let’s start by debunking the first myth, that corporations are “evil.”  What does this mean?  Visitors to this site often leave comments to the effect that corporations are greedy and grasping and manipulative.  Which in the aggregate is quite true, and in many specific cases is more than quite true.  Big tobacco, big oil, paint companies (who for decades hid scientific evidence that lead causes brain damage), and pretty much any other wealthy, hierarchical vested interest have long been happy to forsake the common good in pursuit of their own personal gain.  But again, who do we blame for this?  Can we blame “The corporation?” (more…)

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A brief point about the recent spate of “children sailing around the globe.”  In an article detailing the finding of a 16-year old girl adrift in the Indian Ocean, after attempting to become the youngest person to do so, a few facts come to light.  One, is that her brother had briefly held the record a few years ago.  Another, is that their father owns a yachting company.  A third fact concerns the related story that last year in the US, a seven-year-old girl died, together with her father and her trainer, while attempting to become the youngest person to fly across the US.  She was attempting to land in a rainstorm, after a series of “celebrated stops” across the west, and crashed.  Now why didn’t her father and the trainer react in time to catch the plane?  Clearly, they were not allowed to touch the controls (which were presumably electronically monitored to prevent cheating), or else they would not get the world record.  So they probably waited just a second too late, and, quite literally, boom.  Just a few months back, an Austrailian girl, also photogenic, did manage to sail around the world; and also recently, a 25 year old (and photogenic) british woman set some sort of record for climbing mount everest… but, only after falling on the way down, becoming paralyzed, and having to be dragged off the mountain on a litter by a swarm of sherpas, all of whom had to risk their lives to save the celebrity climber. 

What do all these have in common?  For one, they represent an opportunity for fame and glory, and to make money.  People will always go for these.  With the 25 year old british woman, that was one thing.  She was a consenting adult.  But with the kids, even if they are 16 year old yachters, you will see in the article below that the father insists that the child “did it for the love of the sport.”  But er, yeah, her brother had done it too, and why?  Well many people immediately suspect that the vainglory of the parents had a lot to do with it.  (more…)

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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, given the recent Mass. defeat for democrats, one is again reminded how Fox, Rush, and the rest of the right wing media serves as a mouthpiece for large corporations, who actively promote those slogans which will most appeal to the basest fears and paranoia of ‘heartland folk’, thus ensuring that the corporate .01% now enjoy the backing of over 50% of the populace, even though republican policies have in the last decade been the principal cause of

a) declining living standards in the US

b) a greater gap between rich and poor

c)  greater violence and paranoia in the US

d)  horrific work hours, gestapo-like supervision, high job stress, and high job insecurity for the great majority,

and

e)  general increased misery for the vast majority of the populace 

This is because 51% percent of the populace (or more) continues to swallow the following arguments (I’m sure you can come up with more)….

1.  All government intervention is socialism. (more…)

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So viewing friends of freinds’ profiles on facebook, I am reminded of the fact that there are quite a few Americans who consider themselves to be ‘libertarian.’  Many of the strongest proponents of this idea are people who have gone through a business school, and gotten a degree in any of the majors such as marketing, economics, advertising, finance, accounting, etc., that these schools offer.  In the netherlands, these are clearly understood to be vocational degrees, and so one finds no business schools at the universities.  In the US, business schools have gotten themselves attached to universities, and so business degrees have a corresponding prestige which perhaps they should not.  This is because, the average person in business school is not shown the whole range of possible approaches to their subject, (and, crucially, almost no history of their subject), but rather only those approaches which will make them a productive servant of a company.  A company’s main purpose is to sell as much product as possible, with the understanding that this will make as much profit as possible.  Thus, all vocational learning at business school is almost exclusively focused on this one end.  I should know, as my dad taught in one of the better business schools in the country for over 30 years, and I basically grew up there. (more…)

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I would now like to point the finger at the economics establishment, and suggest that economists have almost entirely retreated from what should be the main purpose of their field, which should be to ask: 

How can we make it so that everyone has maximum access to maximum resources?

Instead, economists have bent over backwards to avoid this question.  Instead, they have devoted themselves wholeheartedly to maximizing world economic output, with very little regard to how this wealth is distributed, and even less regard to how this might impact the sustainability of the environment, and thus of life itself.  Why is that? (more…)

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