Free Markets, Free People

capitalism


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 19 Dec 14

This week, Michael and Dale just talk about stuff.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 01 Dec 13

This week, all of us just talk about stuff.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 17 Mar 13

This week, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the moral case for capitalism and CPAC & the future of conservatism.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Quote of the Day – Fine Arts and Capitalism edition

Or perhaps it could be called the wages of the liberal cant (Camille Paglia):

Capitalism has its weaknesses. But it is capitalism that ended the stranglehold of the hereditary aristocracies, raised the standard of living for most of the world and enabled the emancipation of women. The routine defamation of capitalism by armchair leftists in academe and the mainstream media has cut young artists and thinkers off from the authentic cultural energies of our time.

[...]

Thus we live in a strange and contradictory culture, where the most talented college students are ideologically indoctrinated with contempt for the economic system that made their freedom, comforts and privileges possible. In the realm of arts and letters, religion is dismissed as reactionary and unhip. The spiritual language even of major abstract artists like Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko is ignored or suppressed.

Thus young artists have been betrayed and stunted by their elders before their careers have even begun. Is it any wonder that our fine arts have become a wasteland?

I’ve truly never understood how one does what is routinely done by those who denounce Capitalism – live on and enjoy it’s benefits while calling for its destruction.  I don’t see how anyone who would describe themselves as intelligent could live with the contradiction.

Unless, of course, they have a completely twisted and warped understanding of what Capitalism is.  And, frankly, that’s precisely from what most of them suffer.  They’re spoon fed this ignorant pap without opposition.  They get the one side.  They have Capitalism defined and characterized as something it’s not and leave believing that definition to be true.

Obviously that mischaracterization would fall mostly within liberal academic pursuits I’m guessing (because they’re unlikely to be pursuing business or economic courses in those pursuits, and thus would never be exposed to what Capitalism is really).  So Paglia’s point makes sense.  These students are indeed “indoctrinated”.  I don’t know how else you describe “teaching” with no balance, with no valid opposing view presented, as anything but indoctrination.

Of course, she describes the result of such a twisted orthodoxy.  Art which must conform to the orthodoxy and, as a result, is mostly rejected by the vast majority of the real world.  It has gone from being “edgy” and “out there” or a “comment on our culture/society/whatever” to being another example of the same old thing – bashing what others hold sacred or dear.  They can’t imagine why others don’t like it or want it.

Of course, when it doesn’t sell, well, that’s Capitalism’s fault.

And why shouldn’t these enlightened few demand subsidies for their “art?”  After all, we have no taste and certainly don’t have the intelligence to discern what is or isn’t profound.  We owe them such support.

Capitalism?  Well that stands in the way, doesn’t it?  It requires they produce something of value to others, not just of value to themselves, doesn’t it.

Down with Capitalism.

~McQ
Twitter: @McQandO
Facebook: QandO


Capitalism, cronyism and corruption

Gallup has a new indicator poll out that shows the nation’s national priorities according to its citizens.  It’s interesting in many ways, but primarily because one of the highest calls for action is to address “corruption”. 

 

corruption poll

 

(As an aside, notice the bottom two “priorities).

Notice carefully how the corruption question is phrased – “Reducing corruption in the federal government”.  What sort of corruption?  Well, one type, that most fair minded people would identify, is that which we call cronyism.  As we listen to the uniformed continue to say we’ve been ravaged by the “free market” system, one can only shake their head in wonder that anyone would identify what we have as a “free market system”.  Rarely, if ever, are markets allowed to function as they should in this country (or any others for that matter). 

What we have is a system of cronyism (I’m removing “capitalist” from the description since there’s nothing “capitalist” about such a system) that is part of what is killing us economically.  David Henderson gives us a good description of the system under which we must operate.

What is the difference between free markets and cronyism? In free markets, buyers and sellers are free to agree on price; no government agency restricts who can buy or sell, and no one is told how or what to produce.[1] In contrast, under cronyism the government rigs the market for the benefit of government officials’ cronies. This takes various forms. Governments sometimes grant monopolies to one firm or limit the number of firms that can compete. For example, most U.S. municipalities allow only one cable company to operate in their area even though there is no technological reason more could not exist. The same is true for most other utilities.

Governments sometimes use quotas or tariffs to limit imports with the goal of protecting the wealth and jobs of domestic producers who compete with those imports. President George W. Bush did this in 2002, for example, when he imposed tariffs ranging from 8 to 30 percent on some types of imported steel.[2] Governments sometimes subsidize favored producers, as the Obama administration did with the politically connected solar-energy firm Solyndra. Governments may use antitrust laws to prevent companies from cutting prices so that other, less-efficient companies can prosper: For example, beginning in 1958, the U.S. government prevented Safeway from cutting prices for a quarter of a century.[3]

The entities governments help with special regulations or subsidies are not always businesses; sometimes they are unions. The federal government’s National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) complained against Boeing in April 2011, for example. In response to a complaint from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), the NLRB sought to require Boeing to produce its 787 Dreamliner in Washington State rather than in Boeing’s chosen location of South Carolina. According to the NLRB, by saying that “it would remove or had removed work from the [Puget Sound and Portland] Unit because employees had struck” and by threatening that “the Unit would lose additional work in the event of future strikes,”[4] Boeing was making “coercive” statements to its employees. As a matter of fact, it was not. Boeing was simply telling the employees some likely consequences of the union’s actions.

The Boeing-IAM case is not as simple as most of the press implied. It turns out there was a prior case of cronyism. The government of South Carolina promised Boeing “$900 million in tax relief and other incentives” in exchange for moving production to South Carolina.[5] Such is the tangled world of cronyism.

As we discussed on the podcast last night, we have given, or at least allowed government to amass, power to do what it is doing.   We have, over the years, allowed them to use tax exemptions and other favors, etc. to lure businesses to our states (and we’re then thankful for the jobs created) not understanding that by doing so, we empower politicians to be the decision makers in areas that should be the function of markets.  And what does that foster?  A culture that is incentivized to seek out politicians to grant such favors.   To ask for, and receive, subsidies.  To allow politicians to leverage that power into favoring businesses that fit their political agendas.   They become the focus because we have given them the power necessary to grant those favors.

We see the same sort of game played at a national level as described by Henderson.  That has nothing to do with capitalism folks.  It has nothing at all to do with “free markets”.  In fact, it is the antithesis of both.

Probably the most blatant and disturbing example of cronyism came in the auto bailout:

Of course, a much larger instance of cronyism under the Obama administration, one that makes the Solyndra case tiny by comparison, is the bailout of General Motors (GM) and Chrysler. Bush and Obama together diverted $77 billion in TARP funds to GM and Chrysler. In organizing their bailouts and bankruptcies, Obama  violated the rights of Chrysler’s creditors and gave a sweetheart deal to the United Auto Workers union.

Law professor Todd Zywicki provides the details:

In the years leading up to the economic crisis, Chrysler had been unable to acquire routine financing and so had been forced to turn to so-called secured debt in order to fund its operations. Secured debt takes first priority in payment; it is also typically preserved during bankruptcy under what is referred to as the “absolute priority” rule— since the lender of secured debt offers a loan to a troubled borrower only because he is guaranteed first repayment when the loan is up. In the Chrysler case, however, creditors who held the company’s secured bonds were steamrolled into accepting 29 cents on the dollar for their loans. Meanwhile, the underfunded pension plans of the United Auto Workers—unsecured creditors, but possessed of better political connections—received more than 40 cents on the dollar.

Pure cronyism.  The bankruptcy rules were thrown out by government in order to pay a favored constituency – labor.  Henderson explains:

Moreover, in a typical bankruptcy case in which a secured creditor is not paid in full, he is entitled to a “deficiency claim”—the terms of which keep the bankrupt company liable for a portion of the unpaid debt. In both the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies, however, no deficiency claims were awarded to the creditors. Were bankruptcy experts to comb  through American history, they would be hard-pressed to identify any bankruptcy case with similar terms.20

Why did the Chrysler bondholders not object? Many did. But, Zywicki notes, the federal government (in this case, the U.S. treasury secretary) had enormous power over financial institutions through TARP, and these institutions owned much of  Chrysler’s secured debt.

While this has been going on for quite some time, never has it been as blatant as with this administration.  And that blatancy is what has pushed the corruption priority up the list to where it stands second to job creation in this horrific economy.

What can be done to remedy this cronyism “corruption”.  Only one thing, and unfortunately, those enjoying the power are where the remedy must come:

There is only one way to end, or at least to reduce, the amount of cronyism, and that is to reduce government power. To reduce cronyism, we must abolish regulations and cut or abolish special government subsidies. That way, there is nothing to fight about. For example, the government should not bail out companies or give special subsidies and low-interest loans to companies like Solyndra that use technologies or produce products that the government favors. It should have unilateral free trade rather than tariffs, import quotas, and other restrictions on imports.

Will it happen?  No.  Those who tout the power of markets and demand they be given priority are now considered “radicals”.  Just listen to President Obama talk about the former administration and try to convince you “we tried their way before and look where it led”.    Spinning a regime prior to his that was as wrapped up in cronyism as is his and claiming it represented free markets is standard, disingenuous, leftist boilerplate with nary a leg to be found standing in reality.  It is pure, fatuous BS.

The “corruption in the federal government” isn’t lobbyists.  They’re a  symptom of that corruption.  The problem resides under the Capital dome and within the offices of the executive branch.  They have the power that is sought by the lobbyists.  No power and there would be no petitioners.   Instead, we see the number of petitioners for favorable treatment by government (usually at the detriment to their competitors) continuing to expand.

So while the public has finally identified a major problem (thanks to the blatancy of this administration) it has a long way to go before it realizes the means by which it must be fixed.  Stripping the federal government of its power to grant favors to its cronies is almost an impossible task, given we have the fox in charge of the hen house.

I see nothing in the future that says those who must fix this are willing to divest themselves of the power to grant favors (see recent farm bill, an orgy of subsidies and pay offs (earmarks), for a perfect example).   Show me when they’ve ever divested themselves of any meaningful power they’ve accrued.

And so cronyism will continue and we will continue to circle the drain of economic collapse.    Meanwhile, Coke and Pepsi will fight about the marginal nonsense that won’t make a significant difference and make all the usual promises about being the panacea for all our ills that voters have been pining for so long.

Or it is “kick the can down the road” politics as usual.

Happy Monday.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Robert Reich’s attempt to redefine Capitalism

I’ve often said that what the left attempts to do is redefine words to blunt the impact (and fool the people) of what they’re trying to accomplish.

On the occasion of a Socialist winning France’s Presidential election, Robert Reich, of all people, is out to reassure the masses in America that Socialism is not the answer, Capitalism is.

However, upon closer reading, well it’s not the Capitalism we’d recognize.  Here are his opening paragraphs:

Francois Hollande’s victory doesn’t and shouldn’t mean a movement toward socialism in Europe or elsewhere. Socialism isn’t the answer to the basic problem haunting all rich nations.

The answer is to reform capitalism. The world’s productivity revolution is outpacing the political will of rich societies to fairly distribute its benefits. The result is widening inequality coupled with slow growth and stubbornly high unemployment.

Note the focus – ‘“fair” distribution of its benefits’.  Anyone – what about Capitalism calls for the “fair distribution of benefits.”

And if you change laws and require such a thing, can what you end up with be fairly called “Capitalism”?

Back to Reich.  He claims that workers are being replaced by “computers, software and the Internet (damn that Al Gore).  Consequently, jobs are at a premium and, well, that’s just not fair.  Besides (prepare for tired old song):

In the United States, almost all the gains from productivity growth have been going to the top 1 percent, and the percent of the working-age population with jobs is now lower than it’s been in more than thirty years (before the vast majority of women moved into paid work).

Inequality is also growing in Europe, along with chronic joblessness. Europe is finding it can no longer afford generous safety nets to catch everyone who has fallen out of the working economy.

And, apparently, the top 1% a) bury the money in cans in the back yard and b) don’t pay 37% of all income taxes collected (the top 5% pay 59%).  That’s just not sufficient anymore to keep the bottom 50%, who essentially pay no income taxes, in the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed.  And Reich thinks that’s wrong. However, and this is the whole point of his pitch, that’s not Socialism.Obama_Socialists_01_250px

Really?  A “fair distribution of benefits” so neatly defines Socialism, I’m not sure what’s left to say.  Except Reich wants us to somehow swallow the premise that it is also a principle part of Capitalism (it’s not) and we must reform Capitalism to conform to this newly discovered, er, inserted principle.

So what does Capitalism do?  Well, you’ve heard it said many times that the tide of Capitalism “lifts all boats”.  I.e. the “benefits” are distributed by a system that makes life better for all.  It does that by rewarding innovators, risk takers and entrepreneurs.  And those rewards can be very rich.  But:

Consumers in rich nations are reaping some of the benefits of the productivity revolution in the form of lower prices or more value for the money — consider the cost of color TVs, international phone calls, or cross-country flights compared to what they were before.

Indeed, we live better now than we did 30 years ago because of what?  The “benefits” of Capitalism as they’re traditionally defined.  Even Reich has to admit that.

However, that’s not good enough for the left.   Those not in the 1% are apparently “victims” and due much more simply because they exist.  And those who do take risks and succeed are those that owe the victims this “fairness” by giving up what they’ve earned.

You see the left’s forte is class warfare and that, frankly, is the cornerstone of Socialism.  Their traditional enemy is,  you guessed it, Capitalism and Capitalists. 

What Reich is offering is a new sort of a smoke and mirrors approach.  It’s hard to fight their traditional enemy on the basis of performance – we are a very rich nation and even our poor live better than most nation’s middle class.  So that won’t work.

Instead, it’s the politics of envy that has been employed and the siren song of “fairness” or “equality” as the required (not desired) outcome.  Oh, and that there is only one entity that can enforce either or both – government (mostly through punitive taxation).

That’s Reich’s pitch.  That’s the snake oil he’s trying to peddle.  Reassure everyone that he’s a big Capitalist (he’s not).  Pretend the problem with our system right now is it is unfair because Capitalism has gone wrong (it hasn’t).  But, with a few tweaks and reforms via government we can fix that (and end up just like Europe).

Of course we can certainly do all of that, can’t we?  And when we do, it will be called “Socialism”, won’t it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Davos elite: Capitalism is the problem

That is certainly the premise at work in Davos as “political and economic elite”, who’ve served us so well to this point, meet to plot discuss modifications to capitalism.

Economic and political elites meeting this week at the Swiss resort of Davos will be asked to urgently find ways to reform a capitalist system that has been described as "outdated and crumbling."

"We have a general morality gap, we are over-leveraged, we have neglected to invest in the future, we have undermined social coherence, and we are in danger of completely losing the confidence of future generations," said Klaus Schwab, host and founder of the annual World Economic Forum.

"Solving problems in the context of outdated and crumbling models will only dig us deeper into the hole.

"We are in an era of profound change that urgently requires new ways of thinking instead of more business-as-usual," the 73-year-old said, adding that "capitalism in its current form, has no place in the world around us."

Show me “capitalism” at work somewhere, please?  Social welfare, in its current form, driven by high taxation and deficit government spending, is what “has no place in the world around us”.

The dirty little secret these “elite” won’t admit was that their premise that capitalism could forever fund their social welfare states is absolutely wrong and failing.  They’ve killed the goose that laid the golden capitalistic eggs.  It isn’t “capitalism” that is failing.  It is their social welfare system that is “outdated and crumbling”.

These are just the same people who got us into this mess trying to shift the blame from unsustainable policies founded in socialism to something which has kept their socialist utopias functioning for more years than they would have had it not been there.

And we should also be precise about what it is that has kept them stumbling along this long … a mixed economy, not capitalism.  A mixed economy which has featured less and less capitalism as the years have gone by.  Capitalism in its defined form exists in few, if any places in this world.

Margret Thatcher’s warning that the only thing wrong with socialism is you eventually run out of other people’s money has come true … again.  The agony was only prolonged because some free market mechanisms were left to at least partially function over all these decades that the Europeans (and now Americans) were constructing their little social welfare houses of cards.  The elite simply refuse to see that reality and now seek another target to which they can shift the blame.  The ultimate in “can kicking”. 

The eurozone’s failure to get a grip on its debt crisis and the spectre this is casting over the global economy will dominate discussions.

"The main issue would be the preoccupation with the global economy. There will be relatively less conversation about social responsibility and environment issues — those tend to come to the fore when the economy is doing well," John Quelch, dean of the China European International Business School, told AFP.

"The main conversation will be about a deficit of leadership in Europe as a prime problem," he added.

The deficit in leadership isn’t just found in Europe.  It is found worldwide.   And it isn’t a deficit of leadership from capitalists, but instead a deficit of leadership within the ranks of the political elite.  They continue to do or try to do the same things that have gotten us into this mess and expect different outcome.   We all know how Einstein defined such activity.

It is interesting to note, too, that the Euro elite are now ready to pitch “social responsibility (however they define that – does that mean the welfare state?) and environmental issues” over the side.

But, in fact, it is more than just that which they should be considering abandoning.  The problems they face do not find their root in a capitalist system or within capitalism itself.   In fact, capitalism could be their savior, if they only gave it an opportunity.

However, they’d also have to abandon most of the social welfare state to do so.

No, their primary problem is to be found with the institution that has attempted to control their economies and which constantly gets in the way of any capitalistic successes in the name of social justice. 

Government.   And more to the point, government spending driven by high taxes and borrowing.  It requires a deficit in intelligence not to understand that.

In essence Davos will be the elite – the social welfare elite – trying their hardest to shift blame on a system they’ve done the most to try to kill over the decades (even while using it to extend the life of their social welfare states).

Controlling government, taxation that provides disincentives to business, labor rules that prohibit firing bad employees, mandated early retirement and generous welfare benefits are not the problem of capitalism.

They are the problem of large, intrusive and socialist leaning governments.

But, apparently, that won’t be a part of the discussion in Davos.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


“Conservatives” attacking capitalism [update]

Whether you like Mitt Romney or not, Jay Nordlinger at NRO is right about one thing that has disturbed me: we’ve been treated to a spectacle, through these often destructive debates, of so-called “conservatives” attacking capitalism in an effort to gain votes.  And yes, I meant to put the word in scare quotes because such attacks, by supposedly real conservatives (just ask them, each will tell you he’s the only “real” conservative in the race), should be unthinkable.

Nordlinger offers a litany of examples from two elections cycles, starting with:

Last time around, Mike Huckabee said Romney “looks like the guy who laid you off.”Conservatives reacted like this was the greatest mot since Voltaire or something. To me, Romney looked like someone who could create a business and hire the sadly unentrepreneurial like me.

Others said, “He looks like a car salesman,” or, worse, “a used-car salesman.” Ho ho ho! Commerce, gross, icky, yuck. Better Romney looked like an anthropology professor.

Or a law professor and community organizer, which is what we got.  Frankly, I’ll take a used car salesman any day over what we have now.

But Nordlinger’s point is true.  In their quest to tear down the bona fides of the candidate most threatening to their run for the roses, “conservatives” have been reduced to taking pot shots at capitalism even while they claim to be its champion.

Over and over, Romney defends and explains capitalism. And he’s supposed to be the RINO and squish in the race? That’s what I read in the conservative blogosphere, every day. What do you have to do to be a “real conservative”? Speak bad English and belch?

In the Saturday debate, Santorum knocked Romney for being just a “manager,” just a “CEO,” not fit to be president and commander-in-chief. This was odd for a couple of reasons: First, Romney did have a term as governor of Massachusetts (meaning he has executive political experience, unlike Santorum). And second: Since when do conservative Republicans denigrate private-sector experience?

Indeed, the Santorum remark hit me as the remark of someone who has no idea what a “manager” or “CEO” does.  But as Nordlinger points out,  Romney’s also been an executive position, something Santorum hasn’t. Naturally he left that out.

The disturbing aspect of the Santorum remark is the apparent poor regard in which he holds business managers and CEOs in a capitalist system and believes you should too.  This is just the “conservative” version of the Democrats class warfare shtick.

More Nordlinger:

Now Romney has said, “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone doesn’t give me the good service I need, I want to say, ‘You know, I’m going to get someone else to provide that service to me.’” Simple, elementary competition. Capitalism 101. And conservatives go, “Eek, a mouse!”

I could go on: the $10,000 bet, the pink slips, conservatives wetting their pants, over and over. They have no appetite to defend capitalism, to persuade people, to encourage them not to fall for the old socialist and populist crap. I fled the Democratic party many years ago. And one of the reasons was, I couldn’t stand the class resentment, the envy, the hostility to wealth, the cries of “Richie Rich!” And I hear them from conservatives, at least when Romney is running.

So again, whether or not you’re a Romney fan (and I’m not), Nordlinger’s point is well taken.  The problem for politicians is it is hard to explain the benefits of capitalism.  But it is even harder to refrain from making assaults on another candidate when you think such an assault might be popular and gain votes.  After all, the capital of elections is votes.   In effect,  however, these “conservatives” unknowingly (or uncaringly) back the class warfare message of the left and the OWS crowd.  They are engaged in attacking and denigrating the very system they supposedly fervently support and see as the way out of the morass we find ourselves in.

And of course, at some point, depending on how this all turns out during the primary run, one of these “conservatives” may prevail and want to wrap himself in the mantle of “champion of capitalism” to solidify his base.  I have to wonder about his reaction when his intemperate words of today are turned on him by his opponent in the race.

UPDATE: Speaking of full on attacks by “conservatives” on Romney, based in twisting his past into an anti-capitalist assault, Newt Gingrich has committed to just that.  Even the left, in the person of Jonathan Chait, seems to understand that’s what is happening.  As Chait says, the attacks by Gingrich are not substantially different than those from MoveOn.com

The political effect of these ads is to turn Romney’s chief selling point into a liability – his private-sector experience becomes an indicator not that he will fix the economy but that he will help the already-rich. It’s a smash-you-over-the-head blunt message, with ominous music and storybook dialogue. At one point, the narrator says of  Bain’s executives, “their greed was only matched by their willingness to do anything to make millions in profits.” (Aren’t “greed” and “willingness to do anything to make millions in profits” synonymous terms? Isn’t this like saying “his height was matched only by like lack of shortness”?)

The substantive merits of the attack are, obviously, a lot murkier. Romney’s job at Bain was a classic piece of creative destruction. The proper working of a free market system relies on ruthlessly identifying and closing down non-competitive business concerns. Gingrich’s assault relies on drawing a distinction between real capitalism and the “looting” undertaken by Bain Capital. “If somebody comes in takes all the money out of your company, and then leaves you bankrupt while they go off with millions,” he argues, “that’s not traditional capitalism.” The distinction is utterly ephemeral. It’s a way of saying you’d like all the nice aspects of capitalism without the nasty ones – creating new firms and products without liquidating old ones. For once I agree with inequality-denier and supply-side maven James Pethokoukis, who praises Romney’s work at Bain.

Trust me, when Chait agrees with James Pethokoukis, the reason for such agreement must pretty obvious – the attacks are a load of nonsense that even a leftist like Chait can’t ethically bring himself to accept.   Instead, Chait is reduced to emotionalism to at least find a way to take a shot at Romney’s record.

But the point is you have “conservatives” leading the charge and doing the opposition research and framing the attack on one of their own.  As an aside, I’ve been telling Newt fans that they’ll eventually see “bad Newt” show up, especially when he starts losing.  Well, here he is, in full and living color.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Former SEIU boss: We should emulate Chinese economic model

You can wade through all the trash he throws up there as a preface to his central point, but I’ll save you the trouble.  Writing in the WSJ, Andy Stern says:

The conservative-preferred, free-market fundamentalist, shareholder-only model—so successful in the 20th century—is being thrown onto the trash heap of history in the 21st century. In an era when countries need to become economic teams, Team USA’s results—a jobless decade, 30 years of flat median wages, a trade deficit, a shrinking middle class and phenomenal gains in wealth but only for the top 1%—are pathetic.

This should motivate leaders to rethink, rather than double down on an empirically failing free-market extremism. As painful and humbling as it may be, America needs to do what a once-dominant business or sports team would do when the tide turns: study the ingredients of its competitors’ success.

No poisoning the well there, huh?  The “conservative-preferred, free-market fundamentalist, shareholder-only" model?  Really?  Where? 

And why was it “so successful in the 20th century” and why is it having problems now?  Well that’s a fairly easy question to answer.   What happened increasingly in the 20th century that is at an all time high now?

Answer?  Government.  It has increased dramatically in both size and intrusiveness.  We don’t have a “free-market” system anymore.  Haven’t for quite some time.   It’s a convenient shibboleth used by opponents of free markets such as Stern.  We have a government that has, in the century cited, turned it into crony capitalism.  Any resemblance here in the 21st century to a “free market” model is purely coincidental.  And we now have a debt drag imposed by out of control government spending that has finally topped our total yearly GDP.

As usual, with those who think China has figured out how to build the socialist dream, they never figure in the damage done to the model that was “so successful in the 20th century” because doing so kills their entire premise.   Government is their vehicle to both wealth and social justice.   They have no concept of how markets work so are gullible enough to still believe that central planning, properly done, can work.  And they take the fact that China has risen economically as proof of their premise.

What they don’t do is look behind the curtain.   Stern talks about his trip there, “a trip organized by the China-United States Exchange Foundation and the Center for American Progress—with high-ranking Chinese government officials, both past and present.”

Yes indeed, very likely to see the underside of the economy is a show tour aren’t you?

A caller to Rush Limbaugh who spends a lot of time in China lays out the reality there:

CALLER: Because once you get outside of the main cities, there are still people plowing fields behind cows and oxen, still hand harvesting corn, grains, rice. I mean, it’s still very much a Third World economy once you get outside of the main cities.

RUSH: With a First World military.

CALLER: Yeah, that’s true.

RUSH: That’s where much of their spending goes. Their infrastructure is built on the cheap, too. Doesn’t take much wind to bring down some of their so-called powerful infrastructure. But, you’re right, and this is what President Bush was telling me, that the big challenge is keeping those peasants behind the oxen. Don’t [let] them into the city. The cities can’t handle them. The cities are teeming with people already. But it’s always been the case that there is this romance — the left has romance — with the romantic attachments to all these tyrannical communist regimes, and now they’re looking at China and you’ve got this Andy Stern guy and other people telling us, "This is what we need to be. We need to emulate the ChiComs. The ChiComs are doing it right."

This is simply the usual nonsense wrapped up in a little different packaging.  It is the leftist dream – a strong central government planning the economy in which it ensures social justice as its highest priority (btw, China is an environmental disaster area, but you won’t hear that from the likes of Stern).  And that doesn’t mean market capitalism, even if the Andy Sterns of the world want you to believe that.  

While he avoids the obvious problem of government intrusion and its disastrous effect on the economy, he does touch on the political problem we still endure.   We have politicians who prefer being Santa Claus to the Grinch and whose whole political horizon never goes beyond the next election.

But the central problem we have isn’t needing a new economic model.  Instead we need to go back to the old one before it was corrupted and distorted by government.   Instead of more government, as Andy Stern wishes, we need precisely the opposite – much less government.

If we want to regain our economic footing and dominance, what government needs to do is get the hell out of the way, get spending under control and pay down the debt (which should become its primary focus over the coming decades) to eliminate the debt drag it has created.

Other than that, it’s job is to be the night watchman, not Santa Claus.  Our problem isn’t economic models.  Our problem is exactly what Stern wants more of.

Obviously economics wasn’t his strong subject in whatever schooling he received and history was apparently completely skipped.  How else to explain the utter nonsense he pushes in his article?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Should Liberal’s support Occupy Wall Street?

That’s the question the editorial staff asks and answers in an editorial written for the publication’s November 3rd edition.

The answer they give is a qualified “no”.  Qualified in that while they sympathize with some of the points raised (which they note ironically are similar to those raised by the Tea Party), they find the movement mostly too radical. 

Why?  Well here’s the reasoning that struck me as interesting:

One of the core differences between liberals and radicals is that liberals are capitalists. They believe in a capitalism that is democratically regulated—that seeks to level an unfair economic playing field so that all citizens have the freedom to make what they want of their lives. But these are not the principles we are hearing from the protesters. Instead, we are hearing calls for the upending of capitalism entirely.

Okay.  Liberals are capitalists.   Let that sink in.  How does one seek to “level an unfair economic playing field” and claim to be a capitalist, where an unleveled playing field is almost a prerequisite to its economic success.  That may sound odd, but it is capitalists who fund capitalism and they’re usually far and away richer than most of those who end up benefitting from the economic system.

The very people OWS is protesting.

Venture capitalists are usually found in the 1% the protesters are decrying.   While I agree that under law, the playing field should be equal, crony capitalism (which isn’t capitalism at all) should be ruthlessly discouraged and government intrusion in markets dialed back to zero.  I see neither of those latter two items on the liberal agenda.  And remember – capitalism doesn’t claim to have a “level playing field”, but what it does promise is to be like a rising tide and lift all boats to a different and higher economic level of prosperity.   Its record backs that claim.

So make what you will of the editorial’s claim about the liberal version of capitalism, however they are seeking to distance themselves from the OWS crowd because it seems to mostly represent those who anti-capitalist.  However flawed the liberal idea of what constitutes capitalism, they at least acknowledge its worth and the fact that it is the basis of our success.

As Daniel Foster says – “let’s hold them to this” and make sure to remind them the next time they go on an anti-capitalist rant or write approvingly of government intrusion in the markets.

Uber liberal Oliver Willis  rejects everything the New Republic says because, he claims, they’ve been wrong about everything in the past.  I assume that passes for “critical thinking” in WillisWorld.  Willis obviously finds the OWS platform, such that it is in all its anti-capitalist glory, to be pleasing enough in some form or fashion that he implies support.

In fact, I believe what the New Republic sees for the most part is a genuine but very small core of people who began this simply out of frustration and now have the usual radical, anti-capitalist, socialist A.N.S.W.E.R. professional protesters along with labor unions like the SEIU joining in and taking over the protest sensing a chance to again push their tired and failed agendas.

Dana Milbank gives an example on who or what has shown up at the Washington DC event in, well, less than impressive numbers:

But while the Occupy movement in the capital has invigorated left-wing groups — Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, Common Dreams, Peace Action, DC Vote, Community Council for the Homeless and a score of other labor and progressive organizations are represented on Freedom Plaza — it has not ignited anything resembling a populist rebellion. To swell their ranks, protesters recruited the homeless to camp with them.

Already, there are factions. While the Freedom Plaza group, calling itself “Stop the Machine,” prepared to storm the Hart building, an AFL-CIO group was planning a conflicting event on the plaza. A few blocks away, in McPherson Square, an outgrowth of Occupy Wall Street had established an encampment of a few dozen sleeping bags.

The Occupy movement is in the midst of being co-opted by the usual suspects.  And that will bring the usual results.  Rhetoric that most Americans will find offensive coupled with childish actions that will have those who tentatively support the movement drop them like a hot rock.  Right now, of the “99%” out in flyover land, only 36% support the protests.

Anyway, Daniel Indiviglio at the Atlantic pretty much agrees with the New Republic and gives a reason that is more closely aligned with the progressive view of “capitalism” as it defines and supports it and as I’ve always understood them to believe:

The sort of anarchist-socialist radicals that can be found at the OWS protests threaten the progressive view that there are times when it is sensible and morally righteous for the government to intervene and prop up the economy, an industry, or even specific companies, if that action is thought to benefit the economy on a whole. The difference here is that the radicals think the occasional need for a bailout proves that capitalism is doomed and should be shuttered, while progressives believe that bailouts can help capitalism to work.

When you realize what is at the root cause of the problems we now are fighting to overcome, you realize the progressive version of “capitalism” is a failure.   As usual, their instrument of change is the blunt force of government where one doesn’t have to convince, persuade or sell.  Just dictate and do.  That’s the antithesis of capitalism and markets.

I don’t think the word means what they think it means.

But don’t tell them … they really, honestly think they’re capitalists. 

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO