Site Moving

I have decided to move this web log to a new site under a new domain name.  Past posts have been copied and future posts will be at collectivismsucks.com 

The domain righeouscapitalism.com was not available for purchase. I was investing in building good will for a property that was not well branded.

While I love capitalism, writing about it and defending it (ridiculously easy since it is distilled freedom) , I realize that I would like to expand the subject matter.

This was inspired by a rereading of “The Road to Serfdom” by F.A. Hayek. It is a great book by a great economist, and all that. Even more, I realized it had the key to modern America and its problems.

Why are the majority of the public so dissatisfied with Washington and its policies? Why is our leadership made up of such bad people? Weren’t there always bad and incompetent people but somehow our institutions mostly resisted them in the past? Is it simply that the baby boomer generation is uniquely bad?

Why is a planned economy impossible for our democratic institutions to manage requiring an administrative state? A Federal Reserve with no Congressional oversight? A Consumer Finance Protection Bureau with no Congressional oversight?

Why is the Rule of Law breaking down. It is becoming obvious that there are no rules but the law depends on who, whom. Is it simply entropy, civilizations have a life like organisms and ours is nearing the natural end?

Why is the scientific method and truth under assault? Why do we take a poll to decide if global warming is a problem?  Why are certain theories off the table according to political correctness?

Well these are reworded questions addressed and answered by chapters of “The Road to Serfdom.”

I realized on rereading that this was a very important book. I would say it is the key to our current problems. I wanted to give a copy to my children and say, “This is what I am trying to tell you,” or “This is the most important book you will ever read.”

Then I realized that while well written it is in the Continental tradition and somewhat old in expression.  One must be an attentive scholar to read this book. Need not be. I intend to post a Cliffs Notes like summery of it here, one chapter at a time. My thesis, and I contend the thesis of the book is, that most of the things wrong with Nazi Germany, the USSR and present day Western Civilization are due to . . . collectivism.

 

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The Men Will Retire to the Library for Brandy and Cigars.

Am I mistaken or was it not the norm in upper class households during the Victorian and post-Victorian era for the men and women to go to different rooms for after dinner conversation?

The men’s conversations would be courser; the women’s more genteel. No cad of a man would subject women to the uncensored content of the men’s salon. If a woman entered the men’s library the men would stand and immediately adopt language more fitting for feminine sensibilities.

Now of course, women demand the right to hear and participate in the men’s conversation. After all, if men have it, it must be better than what they were relegated to by the patriarchy.

 

Democratic Strategy

Suppose your party’s candidate is going to lose the election in a landslide. What follows? A resounding mandate for the other side. Lots of effective policy from the office of the widely supported President.

Why just sit and take it? One way to be a spoiler is to delegitimize the other candidate. I believe the FBI passed on Clinton to  avoid stepping into a political turd. First, FBI employees would be vilified and attacked in the mainstream media without mercy. Second, the resulting Trump victory would be viewed by many as not an endorsement of his policies but as the inevitable result of an undemocratic criminal prosecution. Even if you think Hillary personally committed crimes, you probably do not want all the people who believe in her positions disenfranchised.  If there were time for the Democratic Party to put up a replacement candidate you would be perfectly happy with the contest, but there is not.

Now of course you can say she should have thought of that before she betrayed her supporters. In a way, however, people who believe in her politics shouldn’t pay for supporting the only representative of their views on offer.

Much more important is that disqualifying her candidacy delegitimizes her opponent’s victory. Do you want the President selected by the discretionary decision of an FBI director, even if you agree with his conclusion? What of the people who do not agree with his decision? You cannot tell them they lost fair and square in a vote, except with a very sophisticated argument with many logical steps (don’t run criminals and you should know if your candidate is a criminal). Surely a victory at the ballot box without indictment of your opponent is the better foundation for a successful Presidency.

So now it appears criminal investigations of the email server, the foundation, the Dept of State grind onwards towards what? Do these Democrat controlled bureaus really want to bring charges against their candidate three months before the election with no possibility of resolution before the public is asked to decide? Are they impartial dispensers of justice or strategists trying to at least spoil the other side’s victory?

 

Collectivism Sucks

Thomas Szatz claimed that one of the ways people influence or control other people is by literalizing a metaphor.  Wikipedia says that “A metaphor is a figure of speech that refers to something as being the same as another thing for rhetorical effect.” An example might be calling a joke “sick.” A joke might have some similarities to an illness, such as causing revulsion, but no one would say that the teller of sick jokes should be given an antibiotic to stop the practice.

Metaphors work because the comparison conveys an understanding, or is intended to convey an understanding to the listener. When I say “that is a cutting remark,” I mean you to focus on the harmfulness and pain caused by your words.

Often people coin metaphors to try to get you to treat one thing in the way you treat some other thing which has some similar characteristics. When they coined “war on drugs” they meant that we should pursue reducing drug use in a way similar to an all out military operation, as opposed to a police operation or a mental health operation.

A more extreme step its to literalize the metaphor. Getting people to treat one object as exactly the same as another object, even when it is not. I suspect that he eucharist is a literalized metaphor. Jesus said that this bread is my body and this wine is my blood when he knew the jig was up and Rome was soon to arrest him.

Collectivist politicians compare society  to a single organism. A collectivist would have no trouble saying something is in the public interest. Unless the interest is unanimous, there really is no public interest. There is only the interests of individuals. There may be a majority’s interest. In fact politicians would have a much more difficult time selling laws if they were correctly identified as “in the majority’s interest.” The majority of people may be benefited by an FDA that banned drugs not sufficiently shown to the FDA as safe and effective. A minority of gravely ill people denied effective treatments because the FDA is not yet convinced would not be benefited.

Aristotle thought that the art of metaphor cannot be taught.

The question is always whether the metaphor is  apt.   It is possible, however, to recognizing when a metaphor is being literalized. In that case the intent is always to mislead because two different things are never exactly the same in all respects.

 

 

 

Democratic Socialism

Bernie Sanders is not the first person who believed that democracy could produce a kinder and gentler socialism.

Love, as much as it may guide us to greatness, can also blind us to the perilous paths we have chosen. And the perils of democracy are more bountiful than that of any femme fatale. Unfortunately, because democracy flatters the vast majority of the human race with the allure of its siren’s song—its chorus constantly promising “the people” that they are naturally fit to rule—many people today are still quite smitten despite the red flags.

 

These are not flaws of a know-nothing reactionary movement but features of democracy itself.

 

Yet, this may mean we are simply overdue for a massive heartbreak. As unpleasant facts would have it, 2016 appears destined to go down in history as the year when democracy’s scorned lovers finally call her a harsh mistress. Word is, democracy has found a new paramour, one Donald J. Trump, and much to her former lovers’ dismay, she insists on parading around with him in public.

Orwell understood the tendency of socialism to lead to tyranny, but he was an open avowed socialist. He thought democracy could lead to a less murderous form of socialism.

But democracy is turning its back on the Progressives who previously ran things: elites who control academia, the legacy media and certain parts of the US government (State yes, Pentagon no, Presidency sometimes, SCOTUS half and half). Academics get to use the tremendous prestige of “SCIENCE” to influence the public, the press gets to use distortions, omissions, and emotional visuals to influence the public, USG organs use their mantle of authority and expertise to forward their shared agenda.

 

The Progressive State has been winning all contests, taking over industry after industry with regulation (finance, health care, now, the internet).

 

[As an aside it is interesting that Progressives previously took over shipping, railroads, airlines and trucking through tariff regulation until it became clear that the USG was about to destroy all four industries. The Department of Transportation  and Interstate Commerce Commission deregulated airlines and trucking to save the industries, and competition supplied undreamed of inexpensive fares. US flag shipping is probably still moribund.]

 

The elite loved democracy as long as they could panic and guide the public to the results they desired. They loved democracy because they believed it would be a source of power for themselves. We got more and more democracy, direct election of Senators (reducing State power in the Federal government), arguments to replace the electoral college with popular vote, etc.

 

Unfortunately for the elite, several developments now undermine their influence on voters. The Internet gives every citizen the equivalent of a newspaper and a broadcast studio at trivial cost. Donald Trump can do an end run around the spin and filters of the legacy media with his twitter account. Academia is earning black eyes daily which undermines its authority. USG organs are having trouble keeping the public’s trust.

Trump and Friedman on Free Trade

Takeaway line from what Milton was referring to: “Free trade consists simply in letting people buy and sell as they want to buy and sell. It is protection that requires force, for it consists in preventing people from doing what they want to do. Protective tariffs are as much applications of force as are blockading squadrons, and their object is the same—to prevent trade. The difference between the two is that blockading squadrons are a means whereby nations seek to prevent their enemies from trading; protective tariffs are a means whereby nations attempt to prevent their own people from trading. What protection teaches us, is to do to ourselves in time of peace what enemies seek to do to us in time of war..”

Why are “sanctions” (preventing them from engaging in international trade) punishment for Iran and Russia, but a “good thing” for America?

If Russia were in our position, with the world’s reserve currency and control of the SWIFT bank transfer system, etc., and we pissed them off, say, by making Cuba the 51st state, they would punish us by preventing us from importing Ford trucks from Mexico, and we would suffer from that.. It is just as we are trying to punish Russia for Crimea by restricting their ability to import and export. Trump is talking about self inflicted punishment.

Shaming

Scott Adams of Dilbert fame is on a roll over at Scott Adams Blog. His recent post Shame Shaming just plain annoyed me so much I have to respond here. I would respond in comments to his post but he gathers 1,000 comments per post so my comment would be lost. Also you have to register to comment there and that is a pain.

Basically, his thesis [in my interpretation]  is that people are moist robots and free will is an illusion. Nothing should be shamed because everything about people is determined.

He starts with fat-shaming. You should not shame fat people because a person’s appearance is outside of their control. I question that assumption. I have always contended that anyone could lose a pound of weight if some super NSA or CIA agent arrived at their home in the middle of the night and put a gun to their head and said, “There is nothing you can do to stop me from coming back for you in one year wherever you go, and when I do, if you do not weigh one pound less than you do now I will kill you.”

Many fat people who later shape up report that they were just not willing to do something about being fat before and later became motivated and could take the fat off. Scott claims that most civilized people reject fat-shaming, yet my daughter goes to school with many international students and she reports that the Japanese engage in merciless fat-shaming of other Japanese. She thinks it is terrible because the Japanese students are afraid of putting on pounds. She likes the American non-judgmental  attitude. Still, the shamed Japanese have less obesity with fewer health problems cause by it. And their women look much easier on the eye to men, in general.

Mr. Adams says nothing is worthy of shame because no one is actually choosing anything. Even if that is true, in their non-choices people are influenced by incentives. You do not need free will to draw your hand away from a flame. If you are a Japanese student in an American University and you eat french fries to your hearts desire and your friends start to avoid calling you to study together and having a supportive social network is important to you, you might be “determined” to avoid french fries and loose some pounds. You might not actually be choosing of your free will, you might be responding to conditions as a wet robot. In this case shaming is promoting a health and aesthetic good.

More importantly, there is an epistological problem in asserting, as Mr. Adams does, that all your thoughts are determined.  If all your thoughts are determined, it is not relevant if your thoughts comport with reality. If it seems to you that certain thoughts are more logical and align more with evidence, that is merely a determined phenomenon. If I believe that I have free will and judge ideas on their merits, that is just something I have to believe. If Mr. Adams believes he has no free will, it is a conclusion he has to draw. Moreover there is no reason to try to resolve the apparent conflict. The concept “truth” becomes something like “authenticity”. If I am reporting my beliefs accurately that is the best it is possible for me to do. Mr. Adams makes mountains of arguments why Donald Trump is a better persuader than average. Why bother, if what everyone believes they have to believe.  As Pangloss believes, it is the best of all possible worlds.

Perhaps I am missing a subtly of the position. Perhaps the actions of other people on your beliefs are part of what determines what you believe? Of course that is true, I can see it every day. Wait a minute, what I think I see is just a belief I am determined to have. Reality may be that the actions of other people have no effect on my beliefs, or have the opposite effect that I believe I see. Why do I believe in causality? My belief in causality may be determined regardless of the evidence for or against it. Contra-causality may be the rule of the world, but I just can’t see it. Everything that I believe, I should know is suspect.

Most importantly, why believe the belief in determinism, or in evolution, or that living organisms die, or that certain beliefs have a survival value? The whole theory states that theories have no validity, but, take this on faith, they help organisms survive, and, more faith, organisms need to survive, and, more faith, some beliefs are better at forwarding survival than others, und so weiter.

 

Government is also Unaccountable

Not only do governmental organizations favor the rich and connected over the middle class and the insignificant, but they are also unaccountable.

In Flint, MI apparently the entire city was poisoned by lead in the water supply. City officials were allegedly aware of the situation for a considerable period of time while their citizens were being damaged. Yet no one can identify a person who is responsible for keeping the water safe, or even revealing the problem to the public.

In today’s (3/20/16) Sunday New York Times there is an editorial titled “Poisoned Water in Newark Schools”. The school system acknowledged it was aware of high levels of lead in the schools for years. Is the Times calling for criminal charges against administrators and employees? Lets let the Times speak for itself:

This is shocking but, sadly, not surprising given the neglect of public schools, especially those in poor communities, by Congress and state governments.

This morning I was watching “Due Process,” a Rutgers law school produced TV program. The show reminded me of the $100 million dollar gift Mark Zukerberg made to the Newark Schools about five years ago. With the matching funds the Newark Public Schools received a nearly $200 million windfall. Use of the money was determined by the local politicians: the NJ Commissioner of Education, the Legislature and the teacher’s union. If only the Newark Schools haven’t been neglected these last five years.

Over the last four years capital expenditures for the schools averaged about $12 million, so the $200 million gift could certainly have made a difference to the school infastructure.

I’m sure Mr. Zukerberg preferred that his money go to innovative changes in the organization of the Newark schools, and a significant amount was spent on charter schools. However, politicians determined the final spending, and $89 million went to contract and labor costs and $21 million went to consultants (each amount more than the entire capital budget for a year).

Protectionism

Some debates keep going on forever. Does the minimum wage hurt, or help, poorly skilled workers? Do gun control laws reduce “gun violence,” or do permissive carry laws reduce violent crime? Is free trade a good or an evil?

Surprisingly, there is a lot of empirical evidence to help us evaluate these claims. As Thomas Sowell keeps pointing out, before minimum wage laws unemployment among black youth was lower than unemployment among white youth. After minimum wage laws, the opposite was true: black youth unemployment is higher than white youth unemployment. States that changed to a shall issue gun control scheme often had a reduction in violent crime.

A huge experiment in protectionism versus free trade has already taken place.

Many of the United States States have economies the size of European nation states. The US Constitution through the Commerce Clause gives exclusive jurisdiction over interstate commerce to our Federal Government. The Federal Government has never permitted States to impose tariffs against the goods of other States, but it could. Consider it a huge experiment in free trade.

At one time the US economy probably had half the World GDP, and there was a huge free trade zone comprising all of it.

What do the advocates of trade restrictions claim as benefits? They say well paying US manufacturing jobs are “exported” to low paying Mexico or China or Vietnam. Isn’t the same true of Michigan and South Carolina?

Just think, if New York put up a $ 100,000 tariff on cars imported from any other State, the automobile industry in New York would flourish. The Corzone-Trablant factory would have many high paying jobs. Only New York residents could not buy a Telsa, or a Porsche, or a BMW, or a Ford Focus.

Of course other States might, or would, impose a tariff on New York jewelry and paintings.

Could you imagine having to buy everything you buy from producers in your home State? Why limit your choice to products from producers in your home country?

The United States free trade zone has sometimes hurt individual States when they had to complete with more productive higher capital people from other States, but, all in all, it has been a blessing in capitalistic competition and productivity. Allowing the citizens of each state to produce and specialize in what they excel at has made all of us richer.

The largest experiment in free trade of all time has proved itself. No politician even advocates intrastate domestic trade barriers. Yet every claimed benefit of international trade protectionism is available on the State level. All the unheralded detriments are there also.

Opposite Day

I used to joke that most of what is taught in elite American universities about society is wrong, but I’ve come suspect that it is not wrong.

I’m beginning to entertain the possibility that  everything the media, academia, politicians, big businessmen, the judiciary, “the establishment” and all “right thinking people” believes about society is not only wrong, but directly opposite the truth.

Progressives have been ruling the US and determining the acceptable narrative since about 1960, which is fifty six years. Yet for fifty six years they have blamed all the tragedies of the human condition on the power and influence of non-progressives. So that is the first opposite.  They ran the place for most of living memory yet our problems are due to their defeated enemies.

Progressives condemn capitalism and attribute all sorts of ills, injustices and unsociable behavior to the quest for profits. In truth, under laissez-faire capitalism, profits are a sign of virtue and the strong benefit rather than exploit the weak. Think about the fate of some below average schlub  in Havana or North Korea as opposed to some below average schlub in Palo Alto or New York City.

Progressives condemn white Americans as racist. I don’t know a way of measuring racism, but they sidestepped the impossibility of measuring racism by defining racism as racial prejudice combined with power. By definition white people are in power so only they can be racist.  The institutions controlled by white people, the universities, the courts, the media, corporations, seem to me to be even handed.  Does anyone contend that movies and TV are bigoted? that university admissions disfavor blacks or university administrators dismiss black grievances? that a black man shot by a policeman gets less due process and justice than a white man? I cannot see into the hearts of my fellow man but I am beginning to suspect that whites may be less bigoted than other races. Opposite day.

Progressives decree that women are subjugated to male patriarchy in America. Yet a twenty one year old woman in New York City can walk out alone in a mini skirt, expect not to be sexually assaulted, pick and choose among the many men attracted by the sexual display, stay out until the early morning hours for her pleasure and walk home alone, unmolested. I would say that the majority of women in the world do not have that freedom. Its amazing that there can be such a honorable culture.

Progressives say that income inequality is bad. Maybe income inequality is good. If income inequality is bad, are not other forms of inequality bad?  Slim attractive women live better lives than fat unattractive women. Most of the times I see a woman driving a luxury car like a BMW or a Range Rover, she looks hot. No one agitates for less inequality in political power.

Diversity is supposed to lead to more points of view leading to better results in whatever project you are engaged in. No empirical study of the theory have ever been performed to my knowledge. Perhaps the opposite is true. Diversity could lead to misunderstandings, sand in the gears, annoyances caused by radically different cultures, resentments, petty score keeping by race, tribal loyalties superseding institutional loyalties. Who knows.

The premise of Opposite Day is that it is not a mistake in knowledge. It is not innocent error. Perhaps it is a calculated program of lies. The purpose of the lies? To take power from some people and give it to others.