Monday, September 10, 2012

Free to Choose Round 3: Final Round

This is the third and final round (for me anyway, Keith if you'd like the last word, have at it). Keith response to my second rebuttal is here.

The founding fathers would be considered libertarians given today’s lingo. They spent a lot of time making the US federal government as small ...

Many of the founding fathers were classical liberals, calling them libertarians today is practicing revisionists history. The founding fathers wanted a government that was strong but not tyrannical and that is what they got with the Constitution. They never contested powers arrogated to the state level, it was never even a question, they were only concerned with federal level powers, which is why they enumerated them, except of course that pesky General Welfare clause.

I don’t take complete ownership of her philosophy. She’s a writer...

Fair enough. Good to see you're not a purist.

Collectivist is evil. Liberty is not. Liberty is incorrectly called evil, and collectivist is rightly so...

I don't know of any writings that call liberty evil. Plenty of writings that demonize collectivism though. I also wonder about framing the conversation in such binary terms, good vs. evil. But it is promising to see you say that a mix of freedom and communal action can work at least for primitive societies.

People do fight wars for freedom and democracy. I realize that doesn’t happen that ...You seem to be totally missing the evil of Germany and I find that scary.

Germany was an imperial power, Britain was an imperial power, France, Russia, US, all imperial powers. None of the leadership cared about what was happening to the Jews, or the Chinese, or the Communists. Eugenics and antisemitism was just as popular in the US as it was in Germany. Britain and the rest of the European allies would have done just about anything to avoid a war with Germany. They stood by as he re-armed, then took back the Rhineland, then took Austria, Sudetenland, part of Czechoslovakia, Memel. It wasn't until he attack Poland that Europeans realized his interests wouldn't be sated with a piece of land here and there. FDR campaigned on a platform of staying out of the war but once elected started a PR campaign to convince the citizens that it was the right thing to do. After Pearl Harbor it was an easy thing to do. So while the people believed they were fighting evil (and they were), the leadership only cared about protecting their interests abroad and domestic.

Friedman explained that you can supplement social security with a negative income tax.

I think Friedman argued that a negative tax combined with a flat tax would replace social security, minimum wage laws, food stamps and welfare. Which, if it performs as advertised, would be a pretty good deal and eliminate a lot of social spending.

I use greed because it is a shorthand. I also don’t like using the same words over and over. Acting in your own self interest is definitely not always greedy. It would only be greedy if you always acted in your own self-interest. And the points is that a government can’t know if you are being greedy, so it shouldn’t worry about this issue. Greedy doesn’t mean stealing. Knowing whether someone is stealing doesn’t require knowing teir motivations. It is scary to have government studying your motivations.

I'm just going to comment on the last line as there seems to be some sort of moral firewall I cannot breach. It is scary to have your govt examine your motivations, but you must realize that TNC's are gathering an equally, if not more, intrusive portfolio about you and your habits, all the better to market to you. TNC's also have a nasty habit of sharing this information with the very govt you fear.

Greed is brought up by the left as a way to create a more collectivist society. They pit one class against another and call anyone who isn’t poor as greedy...

Machiavelli once said in his work The Prince "In fact the aim of the common people is more honest than the nobles, since the nobles want to oppress others, while the people simply want not to be oppressed." Please pardon me for using such a statist but in his machiavellian way he speaks the truth. It is never wrong for someone to give voice to the voiceless. The poor have no voice.

Some poor become rich in a free system. It is possible here. My father was poor...

The operative word is "some". Because there is only so much room at the top. I've heard that argument before about the poor with their flat screens and air conditioners. When I was a poor student I bought a computer piece by piece over a period of months and built it myself to save money, I had a small tv, a second hand VCR as well as a playstation that I had bought on credit. I was destitute, but not on welfare and I lived with other students in the same household who had similar things. So from the perspective of a survey our household would be living pretty well for being poor.

Not that Obama is a saint (indeed he just carries on the last administrations agenda) but Romney's job at Bain Capital was to put people out of work by chopping up companies and selling off their assets. Tell me how globalization creates jobs for Americans.

Class is a leftist political construct? Class is what most extant cultures are built upon. Both Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek wrote about the working class but never identified with them. Even Ayn Rand divided the world up into producers and socialist parasites.

If you have a book to recommend that debunks the concept of class I'd like to read it.

Corporations are people...You have a contradiction in your support for cooperation, but being against corporations.

I've laid out my position quite clearly against corporations. There is no contradiction in being against corporate person-hood and for cooperation. Why do you think sole proprietorships or partnerships are insufficient? Why can investors not assume liability for their investment vehicle?

I see nothing wrong with corporations wanting profit just like I see nothing wrong in my wanting a salary. It takes profits to invest in new products. It is profits that lead to progress. You would like to kill progress!

If asking corporations (and their investors) to take responsibility for their actions kills progress then so be it. It is not the kind of progress I want or need. Corporations are without a doubt destroying the future carrying capacity of our planet. They need to pay or they need to stop. This is not leftist or rightist. This is common sense. To do otherwise is slow suicide.

The problem in Greece aren’t the bondholders. You always have the leftist perspective on history. I can also recommend you read Amity Shlaes The Forgotten Man. The problem is the government spent a bunch of money it didn’t have.

I will, as always, be happy to add another book to the reading list. Let us be clear, you were saying that the Greek people are rioting in the street implying it was the governments fault. I was pointing out that the Greek people are rioting because of austerity measures that the bond holders are insisting on. I won't excuse the Greek Govt's role in this crisis, but I will say that Goldman Sachs acted as the Greek Govt's enablers through an act of fraud to allow Greece entrance into the EU where they could continue to borrow. If that didn't happen, Greece could have devalued their currency and gotten their finances in order (after the Greek people cleaned house politically). Now the Greek people get no relief as the austerity measures are enforced upon them by the EU and IMF. How is that for freedom?

You can decrease the power of government, and therefore the influence of corporations on government. You just pass laws. Once a system is privatized, the “evil” corporations have less power. With smaller government, there isn’t anything for them to exploit. And furthermore, the problem now is generally bad government, not bad corporations. Why is energy expensive? Because Obama is against drilling, nuclear energy, coal, etc. The prices go up not because the corporations are evil, but because the government is restricting the supply.

So with a smaller govt, who passes the laws? Govt? Who enforces the laws? Govt? I assume Govt still has monopoly on force, but how exactly will it keep it if TNC's operating on US soil, hire private security (read: private army). The power is still concentrated with TNC's (i.e. money) and although a small govt with it's now toothless ability to enforce the laws it passes will be equally useless to TNC's, they can act directly in their own self-interest. What government would want to fight a civil war against business? Today business gets govt to wage war on their behalf, in the future, they'll wage it themselves.

You do realize what nuclear, coal, drilling (oil, gas) does to the environment right? You are essentially trading our future for access to energy right now. Again this isn't me being a lefty, this is just the facts.

Libertarians don’t have a backwards view of environmental policy. We believe that if get rid of the government educating and providing healthcare for everyone, it can focus on the few big issues like the environment. This is something that crosses states so it is a federal issue. We want an EPA, just a smaller one.

I think you misread what I wrote. I said that you(libertarians in general) have economics backwards. But reading what you had to say about coal, nuclear and drilling I would say you have a backwards environmental policy too. But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Other than privatizing every piece of land, body of water and expanse of air, what is the libertarian environmental plan? Why I am putting privatization off limits is because there is nothing to stop those with money from buying up what they need for exploitative purposes. So your back to law, how are you going to enforce those laws against illegal use by corporations (remember private army).

Your understanding of history is incorrect, and is exactly the anti-capitalist perspective. I don’t know what else you’ve read, but I can say you are mis-educated.

Capitalism has one purpose, to grow by exploiting all resources available. Historically this was necessary to generate enough wealth to allow for specialization of labour and knowledge. I'm not anti-capitalist from historical perspective, I recognize the necessity, I am anti-capitalist from a future perspective. Capitalism is not the last ideology we will have simply for the fact, and again let me underline this is not a left or right perspective, capitalism must grow or it will die, and we are running into hard physical limits, i.e. peak minerals, peak oil, peak population, peak fresh water, etc. Julian Simon's predictions of infinite growth and substitutability notwithstanding (because it is plain silly).

The financial crisis was caused by bad regulation, not deregulation. Your words about globalization I disagree with. We want private insurance. You seem to think there is only government or paying out of pocket, and you forget private insurance.

I agree there was definitely some bad regulation, but as you can see from the timeline here, there was significant deregulation that laid the groundwork for the financial crisis of 2008.

You can disagree with my words on globalization, but that doesn't change what I've demonstrated, that capital chases the lowest cost of labour. How is the manufacturing sector doing in the US since the introduction of NAFTA and the WTO? Gutted I think describes it.

We have private insurance in Canada. I do not ignore private insurance, but in the context of discussing poverty (which we have been doing) private insurance does not figure into the discussion as the poor cannot afford it.

We don’t have to slash benefits to privatize social security. A private system will have a greater rate of return over time. You have the facts backwards, as usual.

Actually that is what would have to happen. Unless you are going to flat out cut the benefits for those already retired, you will be running the systems in parallel with current retirees grandfathered in. Even so, you are going to underfund the SS even further by diverting some of the FICA money to private retirement accounts, accelerating the depletion of the SS Trust, in addition to 600 billion dollars in transition fees (conservative estimate), this means the SS benefits get exhausted sooner unless they are slashed. Lastly a private system that has a greater rate of return over time, assumes a steadily growing economy, which requires an energy source that can steadily grow as well (which seems to be in short supply). So my facts seem to be facing the right way.

Sustainable forestry is in action by private corporations. I live in Washington, and we have it here. Talk might not have been the best word as it could imply no action which I didn’t mean. I just meant that sustainable forestry is the big topic of modern forestry. The government can insist on making something sustainable, but let the private sector figure out how. Etc. Corporations can get smarter and more environmentally friendly over time. Note it takes profits to be able to spend the money to make something environmentally friendly. So when you suggest you want to kill profits, you are also killing environmental progress.

But that is precisely the conflict of interest I am talking about and have been talking about repeatedly. It takes money to be environmentally friendly. Thus it cuts into profits, thus is in direct violation of a CEO's fiduciary duty to act in the shareholders best interests. Such CEO's can be dismissed and replaced.

In public corporations, where directors are elected by the shareholders, directors have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders to work in the best interests of shareholders and for the benefit of shareholders - and not in the best interests of individual directors or managers. How is that interest and benefit measured? ROI and EPS. It is argued that there is no strict interpretation of US law that says a director must maximize shareholder value (because of the business judgement rule under the duty of care) but directors can be removed by shareholders, CEO's by directors. So it is pretty clear that what the shareholder wants, the shareholder will get.

Planting monocultures to replace old growth diversity isn't environmentally friendly. Mimicking natural stands that takes more effort but is worth more in terms of carbon sequestration and biodiversity preservation. Of course, restoration costs more in time and money than reforestation and may include species that the timber companies deems "valueless".

There weren’t really private pensions before Social Security. At least not as sophisticated as now. It was in 1935 that it was created. It has definitely crowded out private programs and given a lower rate of return. It has hurt the poor more than it has helped them! They pay into this system and it sucks compared to the private pensions, which the rich have as well. It also serves as a means for politicians to keep themselves in power. Vote for me, I’ll protect Social Security. I can suggest you re-read Free To Choose at some point in the future. There is a lot to absorb. He spent a lot of time on SS.

I remember reading that there were not many private pensions before SS. And SS wasn't supposed to be a pension but rather a supplement. Basically what that says is there was no private market for pensions (or private will to fund them), so at the time there was nothing to crowd out. SS grew over time to become more of a pension, but again the corporations were more than happy to outsource that cost as it is mostly paid by the employee. And it doesn't change the fact that for private pensions to work it must make a profit for the managers, else why do it?

The lower rate of return for being invested in special interest bearing federal securities represents the lower level of risk and increases the predictability for future planning. It is certainly true you can get a greater return investing in the market, but you also have to assume a greater downside if the market goes south.

One would have to speculate how much the private industry would love to get their hands on trillions of dollars of investments (think of the fees!). One would also have to wonder more about the most savvy investors raided such a market to milk it for everything that it is worth. If you can assault a countries currency, a pension fund would be easy pickings.

I’m for peace through generosity and strength.

Well that is a start.

There are case studies of cities with failing schools. Check out the DC system as one of the best examples which I think spends $27K per ...

I checked out the DC system and indeed it seems the cost per student is quite indefensible considering the results. So there is a problem, and my first question was to ask where all the money was going to, but none of the articles provided that break down. So while that needs to be fixed, vouchers have the following shortcomings: public money will end up going to religious schools in violation of the separation of church and state and private schools can establish their own admittance criteria (purposely excluding low performers to inflate graduation stats). The first one doesn't bother me much, but the second one does, because face it, you are going to end up with the same tiers in education that you have now, the rich desirable schools and the poor undesirable schools.

So let's dispense with middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities altogether. Who needs credentialism? Teach kids the basics, then let then self-direct their own education. It'll save much money, the government will have little to do with it , it gives a wide range of choices and everyone learns to their own level at their own pace. Doesn't that sound like liberty?

I find a reference to Howard Zinn. A-ha, that explains my theory that you have a leftist perspective of history. His work is filled with half-truths. I’m sure if Friedman were to read it, he’d find tons of things wrong. I did. I can recommend you consider everything you “learned” as suspect.

Howard Zinn wrote the history from the perspective of the oppressed, women, natives, white servants, black slaves and the poor. Which to my knowledge hasn't been done before for the obvious reason that (orthodox) history is written by the winner. So is it because he champions those that do not have a voice in rich white male society that he is a "leftist" or is it because of his politics? Kind of like what came first, the chicken or the egg? You can't champion the cause of the oppressed without being "leftist"? To consider "everything" I have learned as suspect is a tall order. I would be interested to know some of what you found in error in Zinn's book.

In Cuba, there are the poor people, and there is the government class.

I thought you said class structure analysis was leftist?

Public housing causes crime because when no one owns something, there is no incentive to take care of it. It has nothing to do with the class, it has to do with this fact of human behavior.

So you are saying that rich people and middle class people would run riot in a public housing complex? That is a non sequitur. Do you acknowledge that the users of public housing are poor? Poor people by definition are unlikely to own anything, because they cannot afford it. So if you take away public housing, they will go be poor somewhere else, but the conditions of poverty and inequality will still cause crime wherever they land. But I can agree on one thing with you, they don't need to be concentrated in public housing (just makes them easier to police), they need jobs that pay a living wage.

Removing the profit motive would be a disaster. I can say that you need to keep thinking until you realize that.

If you could explain to me how an ideology can safely violate the second law of thermodynamics by insisting on infinite, exponential growth, then profits (an integral part of capitalism) can stay. If not, you are going to have to find another way. Or nature will find it for you.

You have a long way to go, and that is because you’ve read a bunch of stuff that has told you lies and corrupted your mind.

Not to say I am without my biases, but I weigh everything I read critically. You may be aghast that I do not reach the same conclusion as you do about all of MF's ideas, but I am not a purist, I take what I like and I leave behind that which I think is not workable. Now and from the outset I have acknowledged that it is perfectly possible that I could be wrong and in fact I have discovered some limits to my knowledge in regards to the education system so that being said if you are going to tell me that what I've read is lies and corrupt, you are going to have to be more specific, and employ less hand-waving.

I think we have come to an natural end in our discussion as you've expressed some reservations as to what authors I have used to anchor my intellectual foundations, so it is fair to say that you are no longer open to being convinced or learning and this conversation has just become one way.

I would like to go on to thank for your time as throughout this debate it has deepened my understanding of libertarianism and where it fits in the liberalism framework.


KeithCu said...

It was interesting to read, but I found it full of things I disagreed with. The mistakes are sophisticated and a flood of ideas come to mind. I can only say keep reading. There is a conspiracy against liberty in higher-education and you are a victim. My book discusses this topic at the end. I mentioned Shlaes above, and I’ll add Whitacker Chambers Witness. Here is a good reading list:

Anonymous said...

"There is a conspiracy against liberty in higher-education and you are a victim."

Gotta love the myth of the commie indoctrination in higher education