Free Markets, Free People

strawman


Misunderstanding Capitalism

Deepak Chopra has, for some reason, come to be viewed as an intellectual by many.  For the most part I don’t get it.  

I’m reminded why when I read this Chopra statement on “The Mellow Jihadi” (disclaimer: The Mellow Jihadi does not agree with Chopra’s statement below):

Capitalism prevails as a system that once vied, supposedly, with Communism for world dominance, yet its deep flaws remain. Three come to mind. Capitalism discourages equal access to wealth, leading to enormous gaps between rich and poor. The free market lacks a conscience, giving rise to inequalities of education, health care, and job opportunities. Finally, capitalism if unchecked promotes corruption, both economic and political.

Capitalism is really given a bad rap here.   And it is mostly in word usage.  For instance “Capitalism discourages equal access to wealth”?

No.  It doesn’t.  What it requires is you earn your wealth, not have it handed to you.  I.e. it pretty much encourages hard work, sacrifice and innovation and rewards it with wealth if all goes well and people like what you do and want to buy it.   But the “deep flaw” here is you – the individual – actually have to initiate the action, do what is necessary to properly prepare yourself, work your butt off and hope you have done sufficient research and work to make all that pay off.  But it certainly doesn’t “discourage” anyone from earning wealth, it just makes no guarantee that all will share equally in wealth.  I see that as a feature, not a bug.  The enormous gaps between rich and poor can usually be traced back to enormous gaps in preparation, work ethic, and ability.  Btw, Mr. Chopra, in case you haven’t noticed, nature isn’t very good about “equality” either – when it comes to intelligence and ability.  Is that a “flaw” or reality?

Chopra goes on to say that “the free market lacks a conscience”.   Well that’s a straw man if ever I’ve seen one.  It’s a bit like saying a rock has no feelings.  A market operates without feelings, to include a conscience.  But that doesn’t mean that the society or culture in which it operates can’t do what it feels is necessary to ameliorate certain “inequalities” if it so desires.  That has zip to do with the market(s) other than they’re probably the fastest and best means to earn the wealth necessary to apply to the desired solutions.  It simply doesn’t follow logically that the functioning of markets somehow inherently means inequality of education, health care and job opportunities.  In fact history points to precisely the opposite being true.

Finally, Chopra, like many opponents of Capitalism, confuses the crony capitalism of today with actual Capitalism in its pure form.  Crony capitalism does indeed “promote corruption, both economic and political”, and we’re living through that today.  But Capitalism as a economic system doesn’t encourage either and, in fact, does its best to work around it via the market mechanisms that send the signals that encourage consumers to seek substitutes and/or alternatives when something doesn’t smell right.   But when government interferes, sets artificial bars to entry, writes legislation that favors large businesses that support powerful politicians, that’s not Capitalism.

The Mellow Jihadi quotes Winston Churchill with one of the better rebuttals:

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

Enough said.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Our Whiner-in-Chief

This is just shameless.

In an interview with Roger Simon of Politico, our Presidential blame-shifter creates a hypothetical situation in an attempt to divert attention from his poor performance to unnamed Congressional persons:

“I think it’s fair to say, if six months ago, before this spill had happened, I had gone up to Congress and I had said we need to crack down a lot harder on oil companies and we need to spend more money on technology to respond in case of a catastrophic spill, there are folks up there, who will not be named, who would have said this is classic, big-government overregulation and wasteful spending.”

What they may or may not of have “said” is irrelevant to the fact that 6 months ago, had he gone up to Congress and said a crack down was needed, he’d have enjoyed substantial majorities in both the House and Senate allowing him to do exactly that. In fact he didn’t go to Congress, he didn’t say there needed to be a crack down and he didn’t initiate any new legislation to do so.

His 16 months in office apparently weren’t enough to oversee any necessary changes in Minerals Management Service to better regulate drilling and it was under his administration that the Deepwater Horizon platform was awarded a government award for safety in 2009 for “outstanding drilling operations” and a “perfect performance period.”

In other words, any failure on the part of government rests squarely in his lap.

“Some of the same folks who have been hollering and saying ‘do something’ are the same folks who, just two or three months ago, were suggesting that government needs to stop doing so much,” Obama said. “Some of the same people who are saying the president needs to show leadership and solve this problem are some of the same folks who, just a few months ago, were saying this guy is trying to engineer a takeover of our society through the federal government that is going to restrict our freedoms.”

Here he resorts to a classic logical fallacy: the strawman argument. Those arguing that he’s trying to “engineer a takeover of our society” weren’t arguing about executing the basic functions of government. They were talking about takeovers of banks, financial institutions, car companies, health care and other areas not associated with those basic function. Disaster relief and mitigation – that’s considered a basic function and no one is hollering that shouldn’t happen as it always has. Taking over GM? That relates to what those people were “hollering” about. That is an unprecedented takeover. That is an indication of the point those people are making. Containing an oil spill in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico? That’s Obama’s job.

So the implication here is he’s either not doing his job because those same people will holler, or those people hollering are hypocrites (and he hopes that distracts you from the fact that he’s not doing his job (the strawman fallacy comes under the broad category of “fallacies of distraction”)).

Here’s a hint for our erstwhile President: ducking responsibility and blame-shifting are not among the principles of leadership.

Clarence Darrow once said, “when I was a boy I was told that anyone could become President; I’m beginning to believe it.”

Unfortunately, so am I.

[Another good takedown here.]

~McQ

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