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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Demons

E@L met a fellow from Georgia last night. Nice guy, a trainer for Company P.

When E@L mentioned that he had had a bunch of Australian Libertarians, including the not-so-young-as-he-thinks John Humphreys, the founder of the Liberal Democratic Party, at his place for drinks the other night, the Georgian fellow said:

"American Liberations are just Republicans who are too pussy to admit that they are Republicans. Heck, they'll all VOTE Republican ev'ry time..."

LOL.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

John and his buddy Joe are fairly intense people. How do I know them, you ask? John is dating a friend of mine, an ex-Singaporean blogger, who dropped in to catch up with E@L and Indiana Jones on their way to Cambodia to look at the universities John volunteers at, and to take as many and as varied a range of illicit drugs as they possibly can. Where to get 'shrooms in Phnom Phen was an unresolved dilemma.

That was a very intense evening actually, though no drugs were involved as we were in Singapore, none other than nicotine and alcohol of course. Ironically we came to the E@L GHQ because Party-town Singapore was too expensive for these backpackers - paying $15 for a half-shot of Scotch (not the butterscotch that first came out) in some dry-ginger ale was not part of their plan for world domination, despite it being merely the free market at work.

Although he was on his home turf, E@L was on the back-peddle on a few occasions in conversation with these guys. To E@L, the problem with Libertarians is that they pick and choose policies amongst the Left and Right and therefore they have no cohesive historical philosophical underpinning other than the Objectivism (which some of them reject) of that rape-fantasist Ayn Rand and the disastrous (see current GFC) Monetarism of Milton Friedman. Therefore it's hard to pin them down because you will always find something to agree with in the cabinet of curiosities which constitutes their policies.

E@L started by assuming that he would completely disagree with them, but on many issues, irrespective of his desire to do so, he could not.

Actually, it may have been John's immense narcissism (charisma, charm, loud voice - call it what you will) that E@L at first felt the need to reject. You just want to bring someone who comes across as such an arrogant bastard down a peg or two; it's an unstoppable Australian urge to chop at the tall poppy. Maybe it's the way his comb-over is so carefully randomized as to look accidental...

We were well into the flow of the discussion/debate/argument/shouting-match when E@L managed to duck John's trick question - "Should people be less controlled or more controlled?" - by saying that the sentence had more implications than its English words suggest and was not so straightforward. "It's just a sentence, a plain English sentence, it has an answer," said John repeatedly.

More or less control, compared to what?

" 'All Cretans are liars'," E@L replied, "is just a sentence too, unless spoken by a Cretan..." Joe at least was stopped by this, perhaps he had never considered the possibility of paradoxes in plain seeming speech.

E@L just had the feeling that John's question was a set-up for some straw-man or extrapolation and that if he agreed that people need more freedom, then he was was agreeing that we should have no government or rules at all and that we should take our Uzis and hide out in the hills lest the Government sends in the troops, a la Waco. So E@L's strategy was to not answer his question in the first place, thus depriving him of the opportunity to develop his argument in his no doubt well-polished way.

Maybe someone should have said, "OK, I'll bite. Man should be more controlled,. Now what?" just to see where it would have gone. For some reason though, E@L was wary and that trail ran out.

To E@L's upbringing, yes, of course freedom is great, but to his experience, no, less regulation over companies and people (less "control") inevitably leads to collusion (see my previous post), exploitation and profiteering, and is not necessarily the most efficient or inexpensive option. Of course less regulation can seem a license to the exploit of economically weaker or more vulnerable persons or groups, in fact capitalism seems to depend upon it. Not to mention the GFC…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I am 100% right in everything I believe," says Joe the Monetarist economist who HATES Naomi Klein with a feral passion ("she's an IDIOT!" he cries through clenched teeth) and disapproves of my John Ralston Saul books as well.

More about The Shock DoctrineMore about Voltaire's BastardsMore about On EquilibriumMore about The Unconscious Civilization


"That's where you're wrong," said E@L vehemently... This is the E@L who scrapped in with 52% for Year12 Economics back in '75 (when Milton Friedman was not quite the libertarian he is considered now*). "Monetarism is chaos!" Joe shook his head and quickly gave E@L the Economics lecture he must have slept through 34 years ago - Monetarism, he said, is the government adjusting the economy by controlling the supply of money, not this playing with the interest rates as E@L had maintained. Whatever.. .

But the supply of money can be changed by Banks making loans, too, so that should be regulated as well…

"Yes, but that's different…" and Joe's eye-glazing and unremembered explanation continued...

But we were all free to agree that beer (or whiskey, or gin or vodka) is good.

We also found common ground on at least one other thing. After seeing a copy of Popper's "The Open Society And Its Enemies" on my shelf, we all agreed that Plato is a cunt.

More about The Open Society and Its EnemiesMore about Plato's Republic

Later I reflect on this, amongst several other ironies. Plato said that there is an unattainable world of perfect ideas, yet while these guys claim to eschew that, they are striving to convince everyone that their version of Libertarianism would move us towards that perfect world.

Actually E@L is confused. So do they claim there is no perfection, or do they merely claim that perfection is attainable?

Never got the chance to ask. What part of Plato is wrong - the benevolent philosopher king ruling autocratically? Then why do they love the very concept of Singapore. Of course they are falling that trap that John R Saul had pointed out - these apparently free markets do not necessarily mean free or democratic societies. The collusion of business and government is how Mussolini defined fascism.

As John Gray has pointed out, E@L pointed out, if any group you're in claims that killing large numbers of people is required for that group to fulfill its destiny and create the perfect (pure?) society (religion, world, cup of coffee, whatever...) it's time to get out of that group... It's a millennialist cult. Joe promised to look up Gray's books.

More about Straw DogsMore about Black Mass

Anyway, all this talk of anarchy and violent - "all rules are violence," says Joe - government oppression made E@L feel like he was actually living in the book he is currently reading: Dostoevsky's Demons.



For those of you who don't know, Demons (aka 'The Devils' and 'The Possessed') is about a group of dilettantish dinner-party anarchists in 19thCentury Russia that gets one new member who is pretty damn intense... hilarity results. Not! (Though it is quite a humorous almost satirical book, as well.) Coincidentally the 'intense' character in Demons is based on a real radical, a guy whom even quintessential anarchist (and the model for arch-anarchist Sunday in Chesterton's "The Man Who Was Thursday") Michael Bakunin thought was too crazy for anything.

Joe, from Saturday night, also is a big fan of Bakunin it transpires. John, who brought up the Randian rape thing, reminds me of Dostoevsky's extremist Verkhovensky character… Libertarianism promotes the freedom to believe anything, so long as it is exactly what Libertarians believe. All the animals are more equal than others in the Libertarian farm.

A bunch of nerds, said flat-mate Izzy next morning. She was also in the conversation pit, getting the Economics 101 lecture with E@L. E@L bets she has these sorts of nights all the time.

By 1 am, E@L had to crash, physically and emotionally exhausted, to leave them to their devices and the grog cabinet which was overfull, so E@L didn’t mind. They were free to drink what they liked… That's the open society they REALLY want.

Interesting night.

E@L

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Krugman: "Eventually, however, the anti-Keynesian counterrevolution went far beyond Friedman’s position, which came to seem relatively moderate compared with what his successors were saying."
Pasted from <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/magazine/06Economic-t.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&hpw

39 comments:

rockstar69 said...

Sounds like the sort of evening where one can lose the will to live!!!


Give Izzy a hug for me. :-)

Paula said...

You entertain some interesting people I must say...

I'm inclined to agree with Izzy's comment though!

rambeaux said...

Regarding John's question about more or less control, and libertarianism in general...

I would have asked who may have the freedom to restrict the freedom of others, and at what level of abstraction does that freedom become OK?

Firstly, Governments may define rules which directly restrict freedom of people, usually for what is believed to the 'common good'.

Also, Governments may define economic incentives which encourage people to have more freedom or less freedom, depending on whether they are attuned to the subtleties of the incentives.

Governments may also define situations which allow some people or institutions to exploit situations to grant themselves greater freedom at the expense of others.

Some Governments explictly define situations which restrict the freedom of arbitrarily defined groups, to enhance the freedom of another arbitrarily defined group.



Libertarians, it seems to me always always think that Government initiated rules are universally wrong - that government has no right to restrict freedom. It would be fair to say they beleive Government should not have the freedom to define 'common good', nor the right to define what is fair game and what is not.

Would the libertarian make the same ethical judgement about the above statements if the word 'government' were replaced with 'corporation', 'boss', 'regulator', 'mother'?

It is such a slippery slope trying to base an arguments on some definition of 'freedom'. It is so value laden... I'm sure that the very loose definition of that term is exactly what makes the arguments *seem* to work for followers, just as horoscopes fit peoples' situations in life, or any psuedo science *seems* to be a reasonable explanation for a phenomenon.

I'm not sure that there is consistency in the ethics of different parties' freedom to restrict the freedom of others in a libertarian view, and that it all just boils down to a hatred of government.

Or am I ranting about anarchism?

expat@large said...

Rocky: no, indeed it was an envigorating evening... Izzy, squeeze, done.

Paula: indeed, one of the issues was that VPS could hardly get a word in...

Rambeaux: exactly the stuff I would have said had I not been just a bit too inebriated. Who or what decides who or what defines and polices the limits, if any, to 'freedom'. It seemed to me they had studied economics but not philosophy and so had a twisted view of humanity... The closest I can place the experience is; it was like talking to Lambert.

expat@large said...

Rambeaux: wish you had been there to help me out actually!

dh said...

"They were free to drink what they liked… That's the open society they REALLY want."

Damn, I was just going to say that.

knobby said...

wish i'd been able to accept the veep's invitation. except i was out of town the one night the circus was in town!

rambeaux said...

Hey, what do libertarians think about rules in sport???

rambeaux said...

Game theory... Prisoner's Dilemma...

The 'Code amongst thieves' of not ratting on your mates is a rule that restricts the freedom of a thief to maximise his own chances of freedom.
However, the rule effectively negates the extreme consequences of a non-zero sum game.

That's what regulation and rules in society are all about... Minimising the chances of extreme, and sometimes perverse outcomes.

How would your libertarian guest stand up to the piercing logic of this drunken late-night commentator?

expat@large said...

DH: I was acutely aware of how "free" the drinks were!

Knobby: three rings dude!

Rambeaux: as I said, we needed your clarity there.

expat@large said...

The first chapter of an earlier John Gray book, "Enlightenment's Wake" attacks the hollow philosophical base of what he calls The New Liberalism, which I guess he means what we know now as Libertarianism, or maybe Neo-Conservatism. So far he has mentioned John Rawls as being the guy who really started it all in 1971. The central weak-point, Gray says, is that Rawls has an unacknowledged "Kantian" - I would say Platonic - concept of an ideal individual self (a noumenal* selfhood) pursuing some ideal common good. Sound like shadows and cave walls?

Funny, seeing as how my buddies hate Plato!

* I had to look it up too - it means something that exists but cannot be perceived by the senses. Kant called it the "thing-in-itself" - to the early Schopenhauer this was "will".

Joseph said...

Thanks for the wrap-up Phil. I have some answers to your questions and a few extra comments:

1. Libertarians, like normal people, don't like to buy things for high prices. At minimum we prefer lower prices to higher prices for identical objects.
2. It's always strange to come across the criticism that libertarians have an incoherent philosophy. Even if you don't agree with it you have to admit it's pretty consistent: social = free, economic = free (free as in speech not as in beer). Easy!
3. A sufficiently broad set of circumstances surrounded the "GFC" that ANY political position can find a sympathetic narrative. I really mean anything: marxism, paganism, anarcho-syndicalism - anything. It's jarring when people who have nothing to do with economics or finance proclaim that the GFC has proven them right.
4. Most libertarians are not anarchists. Most don't object to many different types of intervention and rules, even though they don't like coercion. They just want a higher burden of proof placed on policies that are coercive and a recognition that liberty is intrinsically valuable. These ideas are not new or particularly radical. They predate Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman. And they were the basis for political reforms against feudalism and then against statism that created vast improvements in quality of living for people living in Europe, then America, and now in the rest of the world.
5. Monetarism is a specific set of views about the relationship between money and the broad economy. I think you might have been confusing it with mercantilism or capitalism which is why I pulled you up. I'm sorry that monetary economics is not interesting to you -- I find it fascinating -- but it's best to avoid terms if you don't know what they mean. Otherwise you're going to get more of those mini lectures on monetary economics that bore you so much.
6. The reason I dislike Plato is that he was advocating a totalitarian state with a philosopher king telling everybody what to do -- very un-libertarian of him. Popper points out that the reasoning has since been put to work by various totalitarians (and a few garden variety authoritarians) to justify various nasty oppressive schemes. I'm with Popper.
7. I like Singapore's economic freedom (particularly low taxes), I don't like the social controls or the authoritarian state. You can have free markets without democracy and democracy without free markets. But you can't have freedom without free markets. I don't think JRS understands that. In fact I don't think he understands very much at all.
8. Libertarians HATE when governments give companies special treatment or favors. If you want to piss off a libertarian tell him/her that they are advocating a corporatism.
9. Thanks for the whiskey and the chat. Much appreciated!

Isabella said...

JRS bores me to tears (no reference to how evolution has shaped our personalities... not in the uh. 3 chapters I've read anyway hah) and Naomi Klein makes me SO angry with her mental bullying.

John Tate said...

You're a communist moron and I hope you die of cancer.

expat@large said...

Joseph: thanks, look forward to the day when we are all as smart and as 100% right as you.

Iz: JRS is not stupid, he is difficult to read though. Naomi makes some valid points particularly about the blatant profiteering in the Iraq war.

John: you talking to me? Thought as much. Anyone who disagrees with you by the slightest is a 'communist', right? Thought as much. Lots of guns in the cellar? Thought as much.

expat@large said...

Joseph: when I spoke of the lack of historical underpinning of Liberatarians, I am aware on John Stuart Mill of course and that line of liberalism, but there seems to be a picking and choosing amongst that stream which leads the movement loosing consistency.

While I am (and indeed we all are) all for "freedom" and call myself a strong liberal, I am against the harm that can be done by too freedom, particularly when filtered through the Protestant Work Ethic as described by Weber, the Barnum Principle (as described nicely in Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions: "there's a sucker born every minute"), the Theory of Justice of Rawls, and the debatable conclusions of Hayek and of capitalism in general which encourage exploitation. But even this is not a consistent line in the prestentation of Libertarianism to the world. Throw in the pro-gun nutters and the christian fundamentalists and you automatically become marginalised.

Anyway, I was taught (not very well obviously) that excess political freedom can lead to totalitarian states, such as Singapore (Hitler was voted in, as the cliche runs), and excess economic freedom can lead to corporatism and monopolism, also like Singapore.

Once a group obtains a degree of power it tends to use it - power corrupts - for its own advancement against those who disagree or who are too weak underpriveleged to respond or fight back. Unfettered, freedom can lead to exploitation and tyranny both politically and economically.

A Government and a legal system which impose laws and rules should of course should do so for the public's greater benefit, but also for an individiual's protection against exploitation (a point made by Mill). Also other interest groups can exert political and economic influence - the unionisation of workers should work to protects the freedom of its members of course, but not to demolish the system in which it operates, for mutual benefit.

Of course it doesn't have to be a battle between workers and owners, if the workers are weighted for rights and rewards equitably with the owners. The employees in a bank should be able to share the wealth that goes disprotortionally to the CEOs in American and Australian banks. The fight between 'efficiency' and fair pay is easily solveable if the demands of the share market are more strongly limited. Running a company on a shoe-string and into the ground in order to incease the wealth of the shareholders (who can then move on just before the company crashes) hardly counts as equality and as a freedom worth supporting in my view. Which is why I support measures to rein in money market speculation and the share market in general. I don't hold shares and I don't gamble on the market.

Finally, the American versions of Libertarianism that we see in Australia comes across as such a mixed bag. I am sure that in your mind you are clear in your beliefs, but I maintain that the eclectic nature of Libertarianism means that you can only speak truly for yourself and not others who also call themselves Libertarians.

parachute ebm said...

Hi Phil!

As someone who identifies as a pragmatic utilitarian/consequentialist existentialist who has spent some years trying unsuccessfully to shout down libertarians as dogmatic zealots in search of a real world in which to apply their religion I applaud your desire to bring abstract discussion down to earth.

Unfortunately to achieve success in this difficult endeavour you will need to become less of a prissy name-dropping book-cover-displaying incoherent-argument-presenting pseudo-intellectual princess.

The petulant sarcasm exhibited in your first response to Joseph, Iz and John only undermines whatever rational argument you may be trying to deliver. Also I gather that you consider Iz your friend in which case it doesn't seem kind to imply that JRS might only seem boring as his writing is so complex and profound that only your considerable intellect can grasp it in contrast to other less capable readers.

My advice to you is to read any Sartre you can get your hands on starting with Nausea and moving on to the Roads to Freedom trilogy and then if you need to learn more try Being and Nothingness though be warned- the text is both extremely boring and extremely difficult to read. Of the several benefits such a programme would provide the most important one would be to yourself as an individual in better understanding your own motives such that you are able to better achieve what it is that you actually want to achieve.

Maxwell

expat@large said...

Max: thanks for being both a help and a hinderance.

My first reply was meant to be funny and I was going to leave it at that, but decided to have a sling back when I had some time later on. My blog can say what i want sort of thing.

You made me sound like a pretentious wanker for mentioning JRS, then you mentioned Sartre and have done exactly the same for yourself, saying how dull it is. I'll leave everyone to draw the obvious conclusion! I have a copy of Camus' First Man on the table actually (by coincidence, I am sorting my library... sort of.)

Also countering libertarianism with Sartre-esque existentialism is like countering Catholicism with Islam - you are talking about people who experience the world in a different paradigm (Jenny - there I said it!) to each other. There is not going to be an easy or comprehensible result.

However the study of Hayek aand Rawls and Friedman and Rand is going to give you an insight into how libertarians think.

Not that I have read any Rand, the fucking whacko. (Or the others, apart from Wikis!!!!!!!!)

expat@large said...

In conclusion: Libertarian capitalists are all about the "freedom" for the rich to make more money unhindered.

Liberal socialists (for want of a better word) like myself are all about the "freedom" of the non-rich (and I am including the third-world, not just the 'working class') to have a decent life and to have every opportunity to utilize the same quality education, opportunity for employment advancements, health-care and legal recourse as the rich and the first world.

Freedom is the 'end' we all claim to strive for, but as Isiah Berlin points out in his excellent essay "Two Concepts Of Liberty", it's just the political 'means' people disagree on.

Joseph said...

Thanks for taking the time Phil. I have a few more rejoinders. I hope you don't mind point form again:

1. I'm not sure what you mean by 'exploitation'. Any bilateral trade (including employment contracts, etc) is either welfare improving for both parties – in which case you have to come up with some pretty impressive polemical gymnastics to call it exploitation – or else one or both parties is worse off with the trade than without it. I suppose you're worried about people making agreements that are against their interests because they don't understand their own utility. And you're prepared to use force to prevent them from entering those agreements. But is there any other sort of exploitation you can define?
2. Can you explain why Hayek's conclusions are 'debatable'?
3. Your brand of 'liberalism' claims to promote freedom by restricting it. Mine claims to promote it by promoting it. And you say mine lacks consistency. Doubleplusgood!
4. How a business distributes its (after tax) profits is not a matter of public policy. I'm certain that most things in the world are unfair or disproportionate from someone's perspective. For example, I bet you get paid too much. But that's your employer's/shareholders' problem, not mine.

expat@large said...

Good see you're still around Joe.

1: By exploitation I mean, in the extreme, the use of sweat-shop labour for marginal wages as happens throughout the region I live in, such as those in Saipan run by "free market" Hong Kong entreprenuers, those in the "open market" areas of the Philippines run by Korean businesmen, right through to the lower skilled workers in America who have been nickel-and-dimed by Walmart and similar de-unionised employers. Man it's rampant, it's immoral and it's been getting worse as the deregulators have been controlling the reins and reaping the rewards.

2: Hayek's conclusions are debatable - the recent assett bubble and the funny money of derivatives trading surely throw the entire Chicago school in disrepute. Free markets CANNOT control themselves because greed and criminality exist and are self-feeding, till BOOM!

3: Freedom to or freedom from. Both include aspects of control and/or coercion. As I said I am reading Berlins essay on the Two Concepts Of Liberty. Will get back to you. I feel that in debating you I am somewhat forced to seem to be supporting aspects of the 'freedom' debate that I might ordinarily be loathe to do. I am fairly sure we pretty much agree on the benefits of freedom (in mmany of its 250plus definitions), but as I said, the means of implementating and ensuring that such freedom is equitable and fair is under discussion.

4: Why are the workers in a company not given equal rights to the shareholders? Who says the shareholders should have as much power as they do? In fact tnhey have ALL of the power and yes, it NOT publically controlled! May be it should be! Where is that freedom written in stone? This is one aspect of society that needs a drastic rethink, unpalatable it may seem.

The untouchable sacrosanct shareholder - the majority being board members and executives and their families - seem to run this world's economy. Why? Because they are rich and they want to get richer, like many of us would in a similar position.

And yes, as a diligent worker in my company I AM amply rewarded, because my company's shares are tightly controllled and the stock price is not what drives the company forward, but sales and profit do. In my previous company - Philips, and may they burn in hell - they would sack people at the end of the year to improve their Profit/Head-count Ratio so that their stock price would rise. I kid you not.

Joseph said...

Exploitation: People work in sweatshops because they believe their outside option is worse. Take away the sweatshop and they're left with that.

Hayek: I don't think you've read any Hayek. I'm guessing you read the name somewhere along with a claim that he was an evil right-winger like Milton Friedman. I'm not saying you should read either but bringing them up isn't helpful.

Rand: First, see above. Second, if you want to tar people by association you run the risk of being associated with people who share your communitarian ideas: people like Mao, Stalin, Mugabe, and and Khmer Rouge. Just saying :)

Shareholders and workers: If I work in a newsagent should I have equal claim to profits as the owner? It may not be written in stone but it is common sense. It's also the basis for private property rights which most people agree are pretty important.

Rich people: most rich people get rich by creating something of value which they exchange for other things of value through the medium of money. You seem to think they get rich by stealing from poor people. Trade is not a zero sum game.

Speculation: In your last you voiced a concern about share and money markets being 'gambling', and proudly told me that you don't gamble. That's nonsense. Speculation is the act of buying something with the hope of selling it later at a higher price. If you ban that act you ban most of the economy and we all have to go back and living in the savanna and dying before we're thirty.

expat@large said...

My negative impression of Hayek came from my reading of John Gray. Am I being marked on this?

Everyone knows Rand is a nutter out on the periphery of anything interesting, no point in confirming it myself, life is too short.

"In the worldview of corporate financial statements, the aim is to pay stockholders as much as possible, and employees as little as possible..." The Divine Right Of Capital. Etc, etc.

OMG, lots of people working in sweatshops are not free. They have no freedom to choose where the work, what they eat, where they sleep. In the extreme cases, many workers have been trafficked in by snakeheads and the bosses hold their passports and documents and a complicated systems of fines and penalties for arbitrary infractions hold them financial prisoners, who may end up getting paid zero... MEanwhile the facotiry pollutes and destroys the environement becasue they have corrupt dealings with both local and state governments. I saw an excellent instillation by a German artist who documented all this Philippines when he showed how he got 1000 shirts (the minimum he could negotiate) made for less than $600. He then sold the shirts for $200 each - the market price for a similar product from this same factory. If you bought a shirt you got the password to view the 26hrs of videos he took there, on-line. The workers he spoke to did not even earn enough to pay for their daily food - in the Philippines! They had to supplement their income with other work. They are put on as part-timers with no beneifts like holiday or over-time and at a lower rate of pay, then given repeat p-t contracts despite their experience. A million tricks like this to pay them as little as possible.

Get real Joseph, the world is run by viscious greedy greasy-haired cunts, not smiling academics with utopian ideals and a taste for free scotch.

The Government regulated factories I have seen in (communist) Vietnam are run much better than this, wages are much higher than farming, etc. (and the rice paddies have been bulldozed over to build the factories!) But they are suffering due to the UNregulated sweatshops in Bangladesh (as are the Philippines sweatshops). These people are undercutting everyone. It is criminal, sad and depressing to see 3rd world capitalism at work.

Joseph said...

I'm not saying people working in sweatshops are necessarily happy about their situation, just that it is the best situation they can manage. If you take it away they are worse off. You seem to think that you can wave the magic wand of socialism and everything will be fair and awesome. The reality is that if you ban trade that you find distasteful -- including sweatshops and money markets -- you will create unnecessary poverty. I think that's too high a price to pay for the solace of armchair-socialist bloggers living lives of extraordinary privilege.

expat@large said...

The reality is that the sweatshops and the money markets don't have have to be banned, they have to be regulated so that the small players in this (the workers mostly, and their families) can be guaranteed THEIR freedom - the freedom to live their lives to full in the way they choose without having to be economically chained to the western off-shore production lines.

Look at shoe manufacturing - since these sweatshops started, domestic Australian shoe manufacturing has disappeared and so have the days when shoe workers (in Geelong, where I come from) could earn a decent living wage (as supported by organizations like unions to defend them) producing shoes that they could afford to buy themselves. Now, ironically, the production costs (including wages) are minuscule compared to the store price of your Nikbok Wanko-Gels which have spiralled beyond belief. Can a worker there afford to buy a pair? Can a worker here? Someone is making huge money out of this shoe but it is not the people who work for the actual company that fabricates them. Answer, it is the shareholders of the company who, realize this, PROVIDE NOTHING TO THE COMPANY ITSELF are making all the money. Those shares the speculators purchased are just so many gambling chips - nothing of the share market, except the very first IPO, ever goes to the company itself - instead it goes to OTHER GAMBLERS in the loop (who may as I said be directors or board members of the company). It's a fucking insanely one-sided equation and currently an immoral way to make money. We are past the ironic day when the worker who is paid in share options applauds his own sacking as a means of improving the production efficiency of his company, only to find those options worthless when the company can longer operate; that was back when Reagan and Thatcher and Friedman ran the world.

Rules. Checks and balances.

The corporations (big and small, as well as the money markets) aren't going to do that by themselves, as evidenced say by a) the state of domestic air-services in the USA since deregulation - a total shambles - or b) by the US health system - a complete, shamefully and outrageously expensive joke.

The responsibility should ideally go (back) to disinterested public institutions (i.e. kick out the lobbyists!) overseen by a democratically elected government.

This particular armchair liberal interventionalist says that is it rampant profiteering by shareholders that condemns people to poverty and, to put it mildly, that the share market is the seven-headed beast of the apocalypse.

Fortunately, as a worker who for more than thirty years has been providing a real service to real people who make life and death decisions on a day-to-day basis, I can relax in my well-earned comfy armchair and count myself lucky to be free of the ivory-towered academic onanism of perpetual students arguing about the number of coercive nits at the end of their libertarian penises...

expat@large said...

One of my other issues is that is the growth of profits by which a company is judged these days. Sometimes even the RATE of the growth of profits...

Word.

expat@large said...

Joseph, I've stopped comments to save you losing your temper in public any further.

expat@large said...

Mate. No-one cares about us abusing each other in our dogmatically entrenched position. Done.

Mark said...

Spat - 100% with you on this - some people have not lived in the middle of this stuff - whoever decided the only solution to problems of sweatshops is to ban them???

...and free trade agreements always mean each side thinks they have got the best to the deal, and both sides have done it in a way to cut out 3rd parties - it will never happen that free-trade agreements become world wide ... (well, if they do, a hell of a lot of people have to starve) and anyway, the the huge issue will then be the huge corporations pursuing cases on (mainly US based) copyright and trademark law.

Mark said...

you may have seen this

http://www.theage.com.au/business/world-can-learn-a-lesson-from-australia-20091011-gsfl.html

expat@large said...

Mark: Oh fuck I needed this that night...

"But those academics and amateur economists whose economic views are based on faith and political ideology rather than empirical evidence - the libertarians - will be impervious to the destruction from the financial crisis they helped to cause. It's part of the libertarian creed that, since markets are without fault, all market malfunctions must have been caused by government intervention. QED. And so the libertarians of the world have embarked on a great quest to reinterpret reality to make it fit their theory, demonstrating the ''government failure'' that caused the GFC."

LOL!

Mark said...

(The following may not be fit for publication, I'm just ranting.... - but the choice is yours)

It is amazing how easy it is to become indoctrinated (hence the great success of the various religions, not to mention old Adolf). As a country boy, I was naturally a great believer in free markets,capitalism, and that the government was not capable of running any business properly ... right wing ... etc etc. ...

But travel and exposure to different parts of the world (and just getting older and wiser?) ... made me ask myself some questions. And some simple observations:.. those "useless" rural councils with their "lazy" council workers in Oz were actually doing a mighty job! .... the roads were always repaired and functional - in great contrast to many places in I've seen Indonesia and the Philippines (where such 'maintenance contracts' are keenly sort after by well connected businessmen)

Why should something (say telecommunications) necessarily run better with private enterprise? If such a company is maximizing it's profits, either we (the public) are getting ripped off, or we are not getting the services we expect. …

Continued …

Mark said...

Recent example - privatized rail systems in Victoria - small wheat crop last year because of drought = less revenue - so they sell off rolling stock to rig the books (no, probably not so the shareholders turn a profit, just to ensure management their bonuses!). This year there is record crop, it can't all go by rail, and so the roads are clogged and damaged with B double trucks!!

It's all been a plot for years! ... big business has successfully indoctrinated us and is trying to get into the lucrative monopolies - the doctrine probably started in the good old yew narted states arv amerrika..... ANYTHING they don't like or understand in the way of rules, laws, concepts is labeled socialist, and that is, according to the indoctrinated, automatically evil. (good grief, is it not the job of government to govern?!)

....continued ...

Mark said...

Governments SHOULD run transport systems (for fucks sake, how hard is it to finance, set up and run a toll road? ... hand it to private enterprise? that's just giving money away!!)... and telecommunications ... and health systems - and probably ports ...
It is just a question of how it is done. Maybe the Singapore model is good - government owned corporations (or at least majority shareholder as govt!), management operate as normal business employees, NOT public servants, and are answerable to a normal business structure .... then most of the profits should go to the state coffers (the people in Oz would hopefully get more say in how that was used than do the good citizens of Singapore).


....continued...

Mark said...

.... and furthermore (you thought I was finished, eh?) ... the concept that unbridled capitalism is a "fairer" system is complete fantasy. (ie....that anyone can start up their own business and compete, and if they can do it more efficiently, they will then prevail, and so the goods/services are automatically produced at the cheapest cost...)

No, someone is always better, luckier, more efficient, and so their business grows (fair enough to this point)... but then! - they have better access to finance, can make better deals, cheaper inputs, can buy up competitors, negotiate longer terms of payment. Not to mention that most important thing - the amount they can spend on marketing.

In short, in the end, NO-ONE can compete.

Example - supermarkets in Oz - most farmers supplying them are on 90 day payment terms, all the small shops have disappeared, - if you come up with a neat little niche shop (say a bakery) they easily and quickly incorporate the same in their operation - you go broke quickly.


Now, I'm not socialist, or capitalist - I am just an anti-indoctrinationist, and am a bit disgusted with myself when I see how I have succumbed in the past to doctrines designed to benefit others. (don't even mention religion....) (and I am under no illusions that some of my current beliefs have been so shaped).

The most amazing thing is, those most indoctrinated are at the bottom of the heap, and are being most royally shafted by the system, but will fight to their last breath to maintain their precious system! (the purveyors of religions always understood that bit!)

expat@large said...

Mark: get your own blog! ;-)

Joseph: you have right of reply.

Mark said...

get your own blog!

Yeah :) sorry! ... but no, I'm not organized enough to run a blog, or a business

(but I'm pretty good to go with a country or a religion!)

Mark said...

Very polite of you to give Joe right of reply, you are doing the right thing here .... I was feeling a bit bad about it.

But you do realize, don't you, that he won't reply, for a number fo reasons.

1. You have probably hurt his feelings, by turning his right to debate here on and off.

2. He will recognize the beauty of my prose, and the perfection of my reasoning, and be in complete agreement with me.

3. You and I are the only people in the world reading this.

expat@large said...

Well, he did get fairly abusive in the comment I blocked. He was one micro-step away from calling me a Nazi (he did call me a person of the ilk of Russian gulag and China famine deniers) and we know there is nowhere to go from that level of debate... He maintains it was in fun, but I fear he had lost his temper. Cooler heads...

4. All of the above.

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