Free Markets, Free People
We spent quite a bit of time discussing this on the podcast yesterday. It’s from the Washington Post and is written by Steven Pearlstein.
I have some real issues with his characterizations of Capitalism, especially where he tries to use events and problems to imply that Capitalism is less than moral.
I had hoped to write up something, but as happens more frequently here lately, life has intruded. However, a commenter to the WP article summed it up nicely for me:
Free markets don’t regulate my excesses, guarantee equal opportunity or fairly divide the economic pie. Yet Mr. Pearlstein seems to be arguing that if free markets don’t do these moral things, then they’re immoral.
So there’s the central fallacy in the debate as posited by Pearlstein: Your system doesn’t do what I want it to do so it’s bad, even though your system can’t do what I want it to do because that’s not its purpose or design. To illustrate, your religion is bad because it doesn’t promote gay rights like I want even though gay rights is an utterly foreign and inimical idea to your religion, whose purpose and design is to save souls. (This was the essence of CNN’s coverage of the papal conclave.)
See the problem? OK, another try: Free markets don’t make me use less gasoline, guarantee me a nice job in return for getting a degree in Latino Studies, or prevent Donald Trump from getting too rich compared to me. Therefore, free market capitalism is bad, or at least not moral. OK, but free markets don’t and can’t do any of these things, so your standards and measures are irrelevant and thus illogical, see? Why not measure the moral character of free markets by what they do? For example, free markets provide places where people can meet to voluntarily transact business without worrying about getting clobbered or expropriated by government or criminals. What’s immoral about that?
You’ve gotta hand it to the left: They really know how to enshroud a debate in illogic, falsehood and emotion. Take off those pinko-colored glasses, though, and you realize that the debate Pearlstein wants to have is nonsense: Free markets can’t, don’t and won’t do what he wants government to do because free markets are not government. Ergo, the valid and relevant issue is whether we all want government to continue doing all that it’s doing at the price we’re paying for government to do it. And I guarantee you that no one on the left wants to have that debate.
The commenter, Lavaux, does a pretty decent job of nailing the fallacy which Pearlstein and many critics of Capitalism (and many other issues as he demonstrates) suffer under – claiming that it is something other than it is and then attacking that “something”, or, as we usually say, using a strawman argument. Pearlstein, as Lavaux points out, is slashing at those strawmen throughout his piece.
Capitalism has become the “go-to” boogy man on the left. All sorts of things that have no relevance or aren’t a part of Capitalism are blamed on Capitalism. Usually, however, if you dig deep enough (sometimes you don’t have to dig at all) you’ll find the hand of intrusive government somewhere in the problem mix. That immediately takes it from the realm of Capitalism to all sorts of other nether regions which have nothing to do with with it.
But, you know that …. unfortunately, a vast majority of your fellow citizens don’t.
Thus the demonization of Capitalism and the exoneration of government continue apace.
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.
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.
If you haven’t wondered about the morality of this or its legality, I’d be surprised.
It’s easy to overlook, after all it’s the “good guys” doing it, right?
While I usually ignore most of what the UN says, I think there’s some substance here:
The US policy of using aerial drones to carry out targeted killings presents a major challenge to the system of international law that has endured since the second world war, a United Nations investigator has said.
Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary executions, told a conference in Geneva that President Obama’s attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, carried out by the CIA, would encourage other states to flout long-established human rights standards.
In his strongest critique so far of drone strikes, Heyns suggested some may even constitute "war crimes". His comments come amid rising international unease over the surge in killings by remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
A lot of times I apply the “what if some other country was doing this to the US” standard to things we do. Take Fast and Furious. What if Mexico had run that operation on us? We’d be “furious”. We’d condemn them roundly. We’d be seeking redress. We’d be initiating some sort of action.
Now given, in certain of the cases with UAV’s, governments of countries effected are cooperating and, in some cases, even giving permission. But that isn’t always the case as we well know. In fact, many times this country just executes an extra-judicial and/or targeted killing without the knowledge or consent of the government of the state in which it takes place.
As you might expect, there’s a lot of death of innocents that is euphemistically waved away as “collateral damage”.
Certainly the use of UAVs as a military asset that can both gather intel and be used to attack legitimate enemies makes sense. But we’re into a very gray moral area with “extra-judicial” and targeted killings in other countries.
The irony, of course, is the administration that arrogantly condemned its predecessor for secret jails and military tribunals and insisted that the judicial system be used in the war on terror instead now acts as judge, jury and executioner in these UAV killings.
I just wondered what we’d think if Pakistan began flying UAVs into the US and knocking off politicians who supported UAV strikes in Pakistan, calling them “war criminals” and all?
Think we’d find that outrageous, a violation of our sovereignty and international law and be whining to the UN about what was being done by that country (not to mention beating the war drums here at home)?
Yeah, me too.
Would we have a legal or moral leg to stand on?
The left’s operating concept for government can be found in the words of Valarie Jarrett, President Obama’s senior advisor. In her words are the very reasons why the left mostly fails when it comes to very basic things like job creation and relieving unemployment. It is all to be found in the way they envision the role of government. They don’t see government as an enabler – a role it does and should play – but instead as a provider. And that was never a part of the vision of our founders.
This is what Jarrett said to a lay Episcopal group in Washington D.C. on September 21, 2011 about the Obama jobs bill and the role of government.
JARRETT: He has a vision for our country, and I think his America Jobs Act’s a very positive signal about what we could do instantly to create some jobs because we know that’s the backbone of our community. We have to give people a livelihood so that they can provide for their families.
JARRETT: And its a vision, I think his is a moral vision, it’s a deeply it’s a vision based based very deeply in values. And taking care of the least of these, and making sure that we are creating a country that is a country for everybody not just for the very very wealthy. We are working hard to lift people out of poverty and give them a better life, and a footing, and that’s what government is suppose to do.
JARRETT: What he has said is that he is not willing to balance our budget on backs of the least of these, those who are most vulnerable those who depend so steeply on the safety net programs that our country….that is like a rock and foundation of our country. He says I am not willing to [inaudible] Medicare [inaudible], I’m not willing to hurt Social Security, I am not willing to make those choices while the very wealthy and the corporations and the most profitable are not paying their fair share.
There are many things to talk about in those three paragraphs. The first, of course, is no government program will “instantly create some jobs”. At least not in the sense of permanent jobs. Oh it may be able to gin up some make work jobs – eventually. But those aren’t the productive permanent private economy jobs that we so desperately need. Government jobs are rarely productive economy building jobs. They’re also rarely permanent. Creating a few hundred thousand temporary construction jobs weather stripping schools is not going to pull us out of the economic crisis. And most likely those jobs will end up costing more than they’re worth and doing little to address the real fundamental problems the economy faces.
But the real problem here is one of philosophy. The line that bothers me most is the one which ends with “that’s what government is supposed to do”. No. It’s not what government is supposed to do. Or at least that wasn’t the design laid out in the Constitution of the United States. What was laid out there was a mechanism to enable private individuals to do those things necessary to improve their lives and productivity without using force or fraud to do it. What Jarret is pushing the left’s vision of government’s role.
Government, as created by the founders, is there to enable and protect. But it isn’t there to “do” what is claimed by Jarrett. Because the founders knew that in order to “do” what Jarrett claims it would need much broader and intrusive powers. And they knew that a government with broad and intrusive powers would continue to grant itself even more broad and intrusive powers while the citizens of the country were slowly bled of their power and rights. Look around you – that’s precisely what has happened.
As brutal is this may sound, the beginning of this decline in freedom began with the institution of public safety nets and the dependency on government they brought. Callus? No, truthful. Once a dependent class was created and justified (and could be relied upon to vote for the continuation of the welfare state), the current situation was assured – it wasn’t a matter of “if” we’d eventually find ourselves in the plight we find ourselves now, but “when”.
When is now. Government dependency, which has precipitated its continued growth, has put us in the position of ruin. Those who’ve whole heartedly helped us on the way and buy into this charade completely are now trying to sell the myth that our dire shape isn’t because of their well-intentioned but ruinous profligacy in the name of social justice, but the very wealthy and corporations – the very engine that has allowed them to keep this model alive for as long as they have – is the problem. They’re not paying their “fair share”. And the implication, of course, is if they would, all would be sunshine and roses. That it is, in fact, because of them, and not the unsustainable welfare state these people have built, that we’re on the edge of the cliff.
Of course any rational person who has taken the time to look into what our politicians have done over the years and how unsustainable it is knows better than to buy into this line of pure and unadulterated nonsense.
Yet the shills and snake oil salesmen still push the myth and try to shift the blame to keep the belief that this situation is viable if only those filthy rich and corporations would finally pay their “fair share”.
It is personally frustrating for me to see people like Jarrett talk about “moral visions” when what she is pushing is a deeply immoral concept.
Their model has failed the world over in many, many forms, caused true misery and yet there are true believers who simply refuse to accept that reality and feel the only reason that it hasn’t worked yet is because they weren’t in charge.
And when they finally do get their chance, this is the inevitable result.
Do we have a moral obligation to help others less fortunate than ourselves? That’s for each of us to decide, not some nameless, faceless bureaucrat or leviathan government. Should we provide for them? Again, that’s something we should decide and if we decide to do so, find a means of doing it. But should government be in the business of redistributing the income of some to others. I find nothing “moral” about that and, in fact, find it to be very immoral, because it eliminates my choice, overrides my priorities and essentially promises violence from the state if I don’t comply.
That is neither freedom or liberty. And last time I checked, those were the concepts this nation was founded upon.
In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, Bryan, and Dale discuss the use of torture on terror suspects, and the week’s Tea Parties.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.
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 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.