Declaration of Economic Independence/Interdependence

Declaration of Economic Independence/Interdependence
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Prologue:

The following document represents a set of principles proposed here as self-evidently valid and practical. Following these is a second section intended to represent a set of practical principles and suggestions for implementing the core principles that preceded them. This second section represents the equivalent of an alpha version of open source software that could ideally become a beta test in a sovereign political region in some future that is, we hope, not too terribly distant.

The intention is that these ideas represent a synthesis of the best of both conservative and liberal principles. Each member of any society has a unique set of beliefs and opinions. Political labels pretend to standardize a set of beliefs that everyone who claims to subscribe to that label allegedly holds. This is not compatible with the uniqueness of individual beliefs and opinions, and so does not truly represent any individual.

Instead, political labeling imperfectly represents those who sacrifice their uniqueness in conforming to an expected social norm. This club-like mentality abounds in the real world. However, for those who have been wondering and asking where I stand in the political spectrum, this document defines me politically much more precisely and accurately than any political label ever could.

Declaration of Economic Independence/Interdependence

We the people do hereby declare the truths embodied herein to be self-evident and/or historically demonstrated in practice. Idealism and pragmatism are both essential, but they must balance each other. Idealism, as represented in ideals such as all people having equal rights under the law, although not practically attained anywhere in the world or in its history, nevertheless retain their value as goals for which we must constantly aim. It would, of course, be both useless and ridiculous on its face to pretend, for example, that because we have never fully achieved the ideal of equal rights under the law, we must change it to some equivalent of “almost everyone equal” or “everyone almost equal” under the law.

Nevertheless, any idealism that assumes its ideals require no practical legal restrictions on behavior for their achievement is both unworkable and dangerous.  Communism, laissez-faire capitalism, and anarchist philosophy all represent systems of thought that wrongly assume the natural forces implicit in the societies they propose are sufficient for achieving the ideals they promote. History and human nature have shown this to be not only false, but that such assumptions are extremely damaging to individual and social well being:

  1. Communism idealizes human motivation toward abstract philanthropic goals rather than concrete, personal economic benefit. It can only work in small communes in which everyone is intimately, positively, and harmoniously connected with everyone else and all of whom share a commitment to such a community. Historically, it has otherwise only resulted in using political power as a proxy for achieving superior economic status by very corrupt means, including “mental hospitals” and prisons for political enemies and dissenters, not to mention both political assassination and mass murder.

  2. Laissez-faire capitalism idealistically assumes free-market economics that naturally self-regulate for the well being of society, not merely despite selfishness but on the basis of it (e.g., Ayn Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness). It ignores that truly free markets can be distorted and even destroyed by financial power as easily and effectively as by political power in a communist dictatorship. Historically, this brand of baseless idealism has only tended toward monopoly and economic tyranny, not to mention the inefficiency this inevitably promotes, effectively making financial powers the very government-like organizations laissez-faire capitalists and anarchists both allegedly despise. A former U.S. telephone company, although not a result of laissez-faire capitalism, serves as a compelling example of economic tyranny and inefficiency in the delivery of services by a monopoly. Laissez-faire capitalism, sometimes rhetorically disguised with the euphemism “free”-market capitalism, is quite simply and obviously anarchy in the economic arena.

  3. Anarchy idealizes the ability of human society to spontaneously self-regulate socially in ways that protect against the very sociopathic tendencies it complains against in government. Such sociopathic tendencies inevitably exist in some sub-population that would, without the idealistic, government-free self-regulation anarchy assumes, create the very de facto government anarchy despises. Drug cartels in Mexico, some neighborhoods in California, and other parts of the southwest U.S. are a case in point despite strong government opposition. While anarchists could conceivably argue that official governments created the conditions for these local de facto governments, history is replete with similar examples completely independent of the kinds of conditions that created the drug cartels. To propose that any such de facto rulers are themselves effectively despotic governments, although true, is a transparently circular and self-defeating argument for anarchists.


The intention of the following set of principles is to balance idealism and pragmatism to promote, insofar as possible, improvement toward optimum function within a society in terms of both individual and social well being. The understanding these principles intend to communicate makes no assumption that the social structure they imply is automatically self-propelled toward the ideals for which these principles aim. There is no system or absence of systems in a society that can guarantee, independent of the general integrity of its human constituents, anything approaching an optimum level of function.

Success in implementing these principles does not rest, therefore, on idealistic assumptions regarding human character or behavior. Rather, the successful implementation of these principles requires that a sufficient portion of a society’s constituents and their government consciously implement these principles with perpetual vigilance. A society must reinforce this vigilance with education in these practical principles and strong intention and dedication to optimizing the well being of that society and its individual constituents by means of their mutual, conscientious support. This is, of course, conditioned by the degree of their overall integrity in doing so.

We the people hereby declare the following principles to be valid and self-evidently practical:

1. Large and apparently great societies and their cultures, regardless of their benevolent character or otherwise, are intrinsically comprehensive, relatively long-term phenomena.

 2. Morality as defined here is practicality from a comprehensive, long-term perspective, and therefore simply represents those individual and collective behaviors that foster the genuine well being of a society and the individuals within it, as well as the long-term survival of the benevolent character of that society.

3. If economic incentives are truly to serve the interests of society, they must align with this definition of morality.

4. Economic incentives even in so-called free markets are not intrinsically structured in terms of a comprehensive, long-term perspective and therefore do not necessarily motivate moral behaviors in a society.

5. Any misalignment between economic incentives and this definition of morality intrinsically implies economic incentives that foster immoral behavior and so fail to serve the comprehensively best interests of a society.

6. Individual contributions to the well being of society and its culture naturally vary in both quality and degree, so there will always be legitimate inequality of wealth. Any such variations in wealth among individuals in a theoretically idealized, fully moral society would result strictly from differences in the quality and degree of individual contributions rather than from any misalignment between economic incentives and morality and so would not in themselves imply any immoral behavior or counterproductive economic incentives.

7.  To whatever degree a real and practical society is ideal in such a moral sense, to that same degree it also serves its best interests and the long-term survival of its well being and that of its constituents.

8. The financial and political elite in a moral society benefit individually from the overall well being of that society.

9. The constraint of freedom by the exercise of legally sanctioned power of an elite class over the less powerful in otherwise legitimately agreed upon trade represents a social pathology that unarguably represents legally sanctioned theft by a powerful social elite.

10. An elite social class that extracts wealth by means of economic and political power from those less fortunate, and also those who benefit from helping to maintain such an immoral elite, eventually destroy the well being of the society that supports them and so ultimately undermine their own economic support structure.

11. To whatever degree a society is moral it fosters an inclusive economy and inhibits such an extractive economy.

12. An extractive economy typically destroys itself in a period spanning multiple generations, so those responsible for the destruction of their society do not necessarily experience the results of their destructive behavior in their own lifetimes. If a society is to survive in the long term, it therefore must contain a sufficiently well informed and moral human component to correct the short-sighted behavior of any financial and political elites who extract wealth from the less powerful by means of that power rather than by legitimate trade free from economically extractive force.

13. Wealth obtained with power and influence that extracts wealth not legitimately earned from trade with those less powerful cannot compensate with philanthropic contributions to society its fundamental immorality and resulting destructive character.

14. The good fortune to possess financial and political power is merited only to the degree that it represents just rewards for its possessors’ legitimate, comprehensive, and long-term contributions to the well being of their society and the individuals within it.

15. Money is morally neutral, since there is nothing intrinsic to money that motivates either good or evil behavior.

16. Genuine morality is rooted in practical application of the Golden Rule with respect to quality of life from a multi-generational perspective that is consequently and necessarily comprehensive socially, environmentally (since environment represents our shared wealth, endowed by both nature and society), and with respect to how long it endures.

17. Good and evil are labels applied to opposing tendencies regarding the practice of genuine morality.

18. Since geography and natural resources are strictly granted by nature, there is only one factor that structures and fuels the character, for better or worse, of the incentives money creates: the complex interaction of individual and collective desire in employing natural and humanly granted goods and services.

19. How and whether the profit motive structures incentives to serve good or evil purposes will always correspond exactly with the constructive or destructive nature of human desires and how wisely or unwisely humans view the best way to fulfill their desires, including those that are constructive, since it is always possible to choose unwise and even destructive means for the achievement of praiseworthy purposes.

20. The only legitimate purpose of financial and business law is to strongly inhibit financial incentives toward evil ends and powerfully reinforce incentives toward genuine, long-term individual well being in balance with that of society.


We the people further suggest the following principles and practices as possible means for practical implementation of the principles previously outlined herein:

1. Constructive legislation prohibits the use of financial, political, or physical power to extract wealth from the less powerful without having earned it through mutually voluntary trade, a practice otherwise known as theft.

2. Such law strongly reinforces equal availability of opportunity.

3. Such law must provide effective legal recourse for those deprived of opportunity or subjected to unearned extraction of their wealth.

4. Such law guarantees the freedom of all individual markets, including labor, to negotiate freely without fear of reprisal.

5. Such law prohibits monopolistic behavior on the part of either labor or business, since such behavior strongly inhibits free negotiation between and among markets.

6. Such law guarantees the right of labor and management to negotiate as equal partners, but requires that such negotiation be restricted to individual business enterprises and their own labor forces in order to exclude monopolistic behavior and effective price fixing by labor that organizing across entire industries otherwise represents.

7. Such law provides severe sanctions against any violation of these rights or reprisals of any kind on the part of either party to negotiations.

8. Such law restricts financial institutions to serving either banking or speculative purposes, prohibiting the same institution from serving both.

9. Such law allows non-profit banking cooperatives to organize and ultimately do business with any and all members of the public it wishes to serve in competition with for-profit banking institutions, thereby allowing practical market economics to determine the success of each type of banking institution.

10. Such law prohibits legislation from granting any advantage for either profit or non-profit banking operations over the other and prohibits predatory banking practices that would represent an equivalent advantage, such as large banks starving out smaller ones by surviving below costs for prolonged periods.

11. Such law requires that interest rates for deposits or loans be determined by market competition for customers, outlawing and effectively enforcing against any form of effective price fixing among any type of private financial institutions while also prohibiting such control (price fixing) of interest rates by government or any agency other than each banking institution reacting independently to market pressures.

12. Such law prohibits banking institutions from varying interest rates across geographical regions within national boundaries in order to eliminate excessive local charges in areas in which they could otherwise effectively act as monopolies.

13. Such law regulates banking via antitrust law to guarantee adequate competition for customer deposits and loans. It provides oversight of banking size to provide for institutional growth adequate to serve large business interests while ensuring adequate competition, disallowing otherwise monopolistic practices in charging or paying interest rates, and ensuring against becoming too big to fail without disastrous economic consequences.

14. Such law prohibits that any member of a society be punished or neglected for a partial or complete incapacity to contribute to the economic well being of that society.

15. Such law removes economic anxiety by protecting individuals within a society from economic catastrophe by guaranteeing to whatever extent possible the means for improving individual self-sufficiency and the supply of basic needs for those genuinely incapable of supporting themselves.

[Modification to 16-18 in response to feedback via comments: Such law requires that public funds come strictly from a simple sales tax. To maintain an approximate correspondence between the taxes paid and the relative use of publicly funded infrastructure, hard or soft, by both individuals and businesses, this tax is not restricted to retail, but levied on all goods and services traded. Exempted from any taxation are rent or mortgage on subsistence level housing, etc., raw produce and other basic food stuffs (not including highly processed foods, TV dinners and other pre-packaged, ready-to-eat foods, chips and dips, protein bars, dessert foods, soft drinks and fruit juice beverages, foods served ready to eat at restaurants and other eateries, etc.).]

16. Such law requires that public funds obtained from lower and middle income members of society come strictly from simple sales tax, with no income tax for these income categories.
17. Since those with the highest incomes typically take the greatest advantage of developments in public infrastructure such as municipal growth, airports, highways and other transportation infrastructure development, maintenance, and regulation, licensing, legal enforcement and justice systems, the long-term economic benefits of basic research, public transportation for low-skilled labor, etc., such law requires additional taxing of high income levels in accordance with criteria statistically correlated with the relative economic advantage government funded infrastructure provides for those with corresponding income levels.
18. Such law requires taxing of all private for-profit and non-profit business entities in accordance with criteria statistically correlated with the relative economic advantage government funded infrastructure provides for those with the corresponding industrial nature and revenues. The only exemptions would be non-profit philanthropic organizations offering services at no cost to their clients, but which would be subject to strict oversight with particular attention to revenues from donations versus the realistic market value of goods and services rendered with those non-profit organizations that charge for goods and services serving as benchmarks. Such taxes will be mandated for any business, domestic or foreign, that operates within that sovereignty.

19. A healthcare market that focuses on promoting the means of care delivery independent of its ultimate, long-term efficacy in the genuine healing of physical maladies is intrinsically flawed.

20. Whether implicit or legally explicit by means of contractual agreement, it is a norm in any reasonable economic arena that the monetary value of any economic good is ultimately dependent on the positive outcomes it provides. Healthcare cannot be an exception, since whenever a society assigns value according to a misplaced confidence in the means of its delivery rather than on its measurable outcomes, the economic incentives for positive outcomes are reversed and consequently counterproductive.

21. Since it is self-evident that there is no corporate economic incentive to provide healthcare that eliminates clients by effectively and inexpensively addressing the root causes of physical disease and malfunction, such law requires an economic system of competitive suppliers, whether private, public, or non-profit, so structured that they deliver healthcare with economic value conditioned by its quality, that is, by positive, long-term outcomes, determined by market competition rather than government regulation.

22. To eliminate an obvious scam that provides an incentive to profit with no contractual obligation to the consumer to contain costs, costs are not billed directly to the healthcare consumer. Accordingly, the effective subcontracting of medical materials, rents, and services via referral to specialists, promoting specific pharmaceutical products, etc. at a cost to the consumer instead of the provider is outlawed. The direct cost of drugs, therapies, surgery, rents, and other means of healthcare delivery are therefore a legally mandated cost to the healthcare supplier rather than the patient. The provider must then profit from building its reputation for healthcare useful in serving its clients, as in the construction trade, for example.

23. To provide extraordinary options to those wealthy enough and/or so inclined, healthcare providers are legally bound to offer all consumers higher cost options with full disclosure to the client concerning the relative benefits and risks expected, which will be as specific as possible and which specifics will be backed by solid scientific research whenever possible.

24. Such law guarantees the availability of healthcare to all members of society by requiring a public healthcare insurance provider at no direct cost to the insured other than normal tax structure and with the option to subcontract private insurance providers.  This public provider/contractor would compete with and/or contract private, for-profit and/or non-profit insurance providers, thereby guaranteeing that open market economics determine costs to the public sector.

25. Such law guarantees the freedom of all members of society to choose whether to purchase from private for-profit or non-profit insurance providers, or take advantage of a public, basic insurance plan option at no direct cost to clients. Those who choose the basic plan from a private insurance provider enjoy a modestly lower sales tax burden in agreement with annually assessed statistics on savings to the public coffers per private client on the basic plan, thereby allowing market economics and client choices to determine by competition the ultimate value of all insurance options.

26. Healthcare consumers with no private insurance plan automatically default to the basic public plan.

27. Upon discovering a need for healthcare, healthcare consumers without private plans who wish to upgrade healthcare delivery from that provided in the basic plan will directly and personally assume all extra costs entailed by the provider within contractually agreed upon limits.

28. Since preventive healthcare has value in reducing ultimate healthcare costs to insurers, the public sector provides such healthcare in its basic plan using rigorous statistical analysis to optimize cost tradeoffs. It also offers modest sales tax incentives to insurers who do the same.


Copyright September 2013 © Robert P. Wendell

Redistribution freely permitted contingent upon the unmodified inclusion of this copyright notice.

Comments

Robert Wendell Added Sep 9, 2013 - 1:20pm
Oh, and by the way, Jason, I'm not intending to compete with Thomas Jefferson or anyone else.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 9, 2013 - 1:23pm
@ Jason
"So it’s OK to take earned wealth from the less powerful?" - Jason
 
From context it should be quite obvious that we're talking about legitimate trade between different levels of economic power versus forced extraction of wealth by the powerful from the less powerful without the more powerful having done anything to earn it. "Earned wealth from the less powerful" in your sentence ignores context that clearly doesn't refer to the means by which the less powerful acquired that wealth, but to illegitimate means by which the powerful extract it. I do appreciate what your saying, though, about the ambiguity of the language if we ignore context. I will see how I can change that to be less ambiguous as long is it doesn't require language that gets too involuted to do it.


Also, I'm just putting these ideas out there to stimulate thought, meanwhile informing those who want to know where I stand politically about my positions. One of my aims, too, is to show that sensible ideas don't have to fit a standard political label. I personally think that the best solutions to real problems don't happen to fit any of the current standard political labels and this also serves to show why. I'm solidly convinced that the current political labels disallow genuine, practical solutions for this very reason. They put blinders on every side of the issue so none can see the whole and come up with something that actually works.


By the way, I assume you know what I actually mean with the phrases you critique, so I hope maybe you could suggest less ambiguous language that wouldn't further complicate the issue.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 9, 2013 - 1:39pm
@ Joy of Freedom1836
 
Joy:
First, you spend a great deal of time on the imposition of power by financial and political elites, but you do not consider the tyranny of the majority, mob rule. 
 
Robert:
I most certainly do address it right up front. I quote from my article:
 
"The understanding these principles intend to communicate makes no assumption that the social structure they imply is automatically self-propelled toward the ideals for which these principles aim. There is no system or absence of systems in a society that can guarantee, independent of the general integrity of its human constituents, anything approaching an optimum level of function."
 
A descent into mob rule is most clearly what we're witnessing in various places around the middle east right now. There is even the tyranny of the majority in a democracy depending on the level of social integration or lack of it in a society. My quote above was intended to cover that contingency. We just witnessed a democratically elected president in Egypt turn out to be an Islamic dictator with the support of a very substantial "mob" that is now engaged in mortal conflict with another very substantial "mob" that wants a secular government. I was hoping my article made it clear that there is no government of lack of one that can fix those problems democratically. I have long believed that the imposition of democracy on other societies is utterly misguided, since there are many societies in which it cannot possibly work even as well as it does here, which isn't saying that much, is it? We need to work toward one that works here and forget about imposing it on others.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 9, 2013 - 1:49pm
@ Joy of Freedom1836
 
Joy: 
Second, in arguing for a tax on wealth because of their supposed greater benefit, you violate natural law by seizing wealth at a disproportionate rate from some rather than others - see my first comment about mob rule. 
 
Robert:
Who makes the most use our basic transportation infrastructure and other kinds of publicly funded infrastructure, both hard and soft, meaning physical and non-physical systems or soft structures such as legal systems, etc.? Does a dock hand or Bank of America use more of this kind of public infrastucture? Even if we restrict the discussion to the Interstate highway system, does Bank of America make the most use of that or you? If you paid federal taxes last year, you paid more than Bank of America did, so they're extracting wealth from your pocket by using a lot more than you something you're paying for while they don't.
 
Robert Wendell Added Sep 9, 2013 - 2:20pm
Third, healthcare is a service like any other - no more, no less.
@ Joy of Freedom1836
 
Joy:  
Fourth, who/what will define long-term value of contributions that form the basis of "meriting" power?  So if I earn money that doesn't meet your definition of long-term value, does that mean it can be seized?


Robert:
I assume this question is addressing the problem of evaluating the long-term utility value of healthcare. That question should be left to the market to decide. There may be no humanly possible way to answer the question of how much something should cost in a competitive marketplace. 


My beef with the healthcare industry is that doctors, for example, can effectively subcontract services from specialist and run up your bill at not only no cost to themselves, but endlessly increase profit from doing so. I've personally had experience with doctors ordering tons of tests that other doctors felt were marginally if at all useful or necessary just to make more money for himself at my expense. 


This happens all the time in our healthcare system, which I feel is at least partially a sad misnomer. It's a sick-care system that profits from illness rather than from keeping us healthy. Without even addressing or impugning in any way the individual morality of those in the healthcare industry, we actually have a system that unarguably creates an incentive to profit from keeping us sick and providing us "healthcare" that we don't even need.


What if a building contractor told you he could build you a nice house for $500,000? You like the plans and decide to go ahead with it. He then feels absolutely free to charge you directly for every piece of equipment he rents, all materials he chooses, all labor and services he contracts and subcontracts, and does it without any contractual obligation whatsoever to contain YOUR costs.


That's exactly how our current "healthcare" system actually functions. Obama steps in with his hodge-podge plan put together by people who fundamentally disagree on just about everything and uses government to contain costs to medicare. I see this as a futile attempt to fix a fundamentally upside incentive structure with a superficial bandaid that depends on government regulation that is more or less arbitrarily structured.


I'm proposing an incentive structure (any incentive structure; not necessarily mine) under which the markets reward positive healthcare results through long-term reputation building by those who actually do provide successful healthcare and who have to contain their costs in doing so, just as any building contractor with large business clients would be economically forced by the markets to do.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 9, 2013 - 4:24pm
@ Jason - Telling me I have blinders on is useless rhetoric without specifying WHY you disagree instead of merely stating that you do. That's just "I believe this" and "No, I believe that"...quite a useless kind of exchange that I see proliferates here and in most comments on the Web. In general on the Web and in our society, there is a conspicuous absence of critical thought or even any concept of what that is.
 
I'm not the least bit interested in what anyone believes if they can't tell me precisely why. And when I say something is self-evident, I mean it follows with a very trivial application of logic from something that everyone already knows is so. So my article is full of the "why's" of what I believe. Anyone objective can at least appreciate, whether there is agreement on specifics or not, that I like the conservative idea of market economics deciding issues in ways that support the humane goals that most liberals support. I don't think individuals or the government should be in the business of trying to figure out what markets should be like, but simply structure legislation that promotes markets with incentives that aim for an optimal balance in individual and societal well being and inhibits those that don't.
 
Most people's political beliefs assume that their ideal social and/or political structure would guarantee a healthy society that promote individual and societal well being. I don't believe there is any such thing. Only the collective wisdom of the population can achieve that. I'm simply speculating about some of the ways I think such a society might function. However, the first set of principles I do believe to be solid and self-evident in the sense I previously defined it the second paragraph of this reply.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 9, 2013 - 7:31pm
@ Joy
"While a flat tax has the moral problem of disproportionate burden, various tax proposals including the FairTax have overcome this by taxing income or consumption beyond an established sustenance level.  In this way, no one would be taxed on the essentials of life."
- Joy
 
Good! There is nothing wrong with that. We're basically on the same page on this. If you look at what I said, sales tax is essentially a flat tax
on lower and middle class folks tied directly to consumption with an oversight on my part, since I would not want to tax food, or rent or mortgages for lodging at a basic subsistence while still humane level. However, a sales tax does nothing directly tied to paying for infrastructure in any fair way.
 
I should add that fundamentally, I don't believe in taxing income unless it is quite high. The main difference between what you propose and what I did in the article is my failure to mention the absence of tax on basic subsistence needs and in the inflection point at which income tax begins and how much. I'm not in principle opposed to the idea of using some inflection point at which income is taxed at a flat rate for both individual income and business revenues. I feel, however, that the tax should be on revenues and not profit. This way it becomes a cost of doing business, since that is a more appropriate reflection of the degree to which infrastructure contributes to business operations. The ability to make a profit is tied to business competence rather than use of infrastructure. The level of tax should not be punitive, of course, despite those who consider any tax at all to be punitive. You need to pay for what you use, since they are all costs, including the cost of public infrastructure.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 9, 2013 - 7:42pm
@ Joy -
"You are right in that this is a plan for high costs and that Obamacare does not address it at all.  So how do we restore the market balance where the consumer (patient) is making intelligent choices about health and risk at a price he/she can afford?"
 
That's indeed the crux of the problem, isn't it? I made a stab at it in my suggestions. Please recall that this is how I presented the attempts at practical solutions, as suggestions, a kind of alpha version for an open source system that ideally could develop into something some sovereignty would eventually be motivated to try out as a continually evolving beta test to cultivate its growth into a mature, practical operating system.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 9, 2013 - 8:17pm
@ Stephan
"I like most of this - but nothing in life is self-evident."
 
As I mentioned in a previous reply to someone else here, by self-evident I refer to anything that follows by the application of trivial logic from something everyone already knows is so.
 
For example, I consider it self-evident that a practical definition of morality is practicality with a long-term view. People who rob cars actually believe for the moment that they are motivated by self-interest. I assume that any intelligent, moral human being already knows that from any socially comprehensive, long-term perspective, car thieves are not really acting in even in their own self-interest.
 
The Golden Rule, or "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is common to all the great world moral codes and religions. It has clear social merit and its violation has clearly negative social consequences. I consider this to be self-evident.
 
I consider it a trivial logical step to conclude from this that the Golden Rule represents the most succinct expression of morality and as such is the essence of morality. To confine this to short-term consequences is by definition logical near-sightedness. For example, to destroy the environment or deplete natural resources for future generations simply because we won't be around then is a violation of the Golden Rule with regard to others who have not been born. We would not like it if others who preceded us had done that.
 
So it is a trivial logical step to conclude that this is a violation of the Golden Rule and immoral by the practical definition my article uses. I also consider it a trivial logical step to conclude from this that any discrepancy or misalignment between this definition of morality and economic incentives a society structures for itself creates motivation in the direction of immoral actions. This kind of obvious truth and trivially simple logical conclusions from it is what I refer to when I say self-evident. The same term was used in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. I suppose you also feel that this term was likewise abused there? It basically says that it is only fair that the law should treat everyone equally. I think we can say that is a tautology, since fairness and treating everyone equally essentially mean the same thing. Tautologies (A=A) don't get you very far, but they are extremely reliable. :  )
Robert Wendell Added Sep 9, 2013 - 11:55pm
@ Joy
 
I basically like the FairTax idea as you present it. We seem to agree that in the end taxation should be a cost of doing business. However, I'm not sure the sales tax has any clear, direct link to the use of public infrastructure. Those at a subsistence level of income make relatively little use of public infrastructure unless is serves to get them to work more cheaply than buying an auto. That's likely more an advantage for employers of low-skilled workers.
 
I initially felt that no one should have to pay for public infrastructure by having it reflected in sales tax. Businesses paying sales tax are not paying for infrastructure unless the public sector charges a high enough sales tax to the whole population to pay for it. I do concede that this could reflect the relative use of infrastructure well enough to take care of my sense of fairness, though, so I don't have a major problem with that. But it would have to be a sales tax on all goods and services delivered to any business to do that. Retail sales tax alone would, in my view, completely disconnect taxation from public infrastructure for those who use it most and enjoy the greatest economic benefit from it.
 
There are people in the corporate world who feel that a sales tax would actually lower costs to industry and reflect through to savings for the the end consumer because of the costs that our current complex tax system entails for businesses. The lobby against that, of course, consists of CPAs and high-ticket, corporate tax lawyers/consultants who are essentially enjoying a parasitic relationship provided for them by the current system.
 
Please always bear in mind the suggested solutions section of this article is presented as an alpha version of a social operating system that ideally might develop into a real beta test for a sufficiently wise society to employ and that in turn would ideally evolve into a mature operating system for that society. The bottom line is this second section of suggestions for complying with the principles stated in the first section is there to elicit precisely the kind of productive feedback you're providing, so I thank you for it.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 10, 2013 - 12:04am
@ Joy and all others who happen by:
 
I intend to incorporate what I regard as valuable feedback received from your comments and suggestions with edits to the article. I thank you in advance for your kind attention and input. I only ask that you not expect that I automatically include your suggestions without regard to what I judge to be their merit. If you think you have a good idea and it makes good sense to you, convince me with solid arguments for your ideas. I may like them out of hand and include them without debate. I also may become involved in a vigorous debate on your ideas and ultimately become convinced of either their partial or complete merit. On the other hand, I may feel you failed to make a good case for your ideas and not include them at all.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 10, 2013 - 1:21pm
Pinkerton, if you don't think my logic is sound, show me the flaw in the logic or the error in the original assumption. The way you talk, I'm not sure you even looked at either. Sounds like you're just blowing in the wind. If you think it is not self-evident that to be fair, for example, the law should be applied the same way to everyone, that is, if you disagree with that, then we have nothing to talk about. Our founders used the term "self-evident", so if you're going to trash a whole document on that kind of basis, then you have to trash the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution along with it.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 10, 2013 - 2:13pm
@ Steve Janss- With regard to my use of the term "self-evident", please refer to my preceding post in reply to Pinkerton.
 
On your parameters for a successful government, I find no fault with them. They look good to me. In my article, I didn't intend to address any specific governmental structure. I wanted to merely put out some fundamental principles that I feel speak for themselves as valid. 
 
On your comment regarding ideals, treating everyone equally under the law is a fundamental concept, but it is clearly not in every human's nature to do so. We have a lot of historical precedent that demonstrates favoritism and special privileges, the divine right of kings, etc. as part of human tendencies. So I regard equality under the law as a laudable ideal that we have never fully realized. I don't understand how you can believe that we have. Every day in the good old U.S.A. there are people receiving special treatment specifically with regard to either the unjust application of the law or failure to apply it because of wealth or political influence. I have personal knowledge of such realities and assume nothing idealistic about human nature with respect to that. That flies directly in the face of equality under the law. I know of no society that has fully eliminated this tendency to apply the law differently to different people because of some kind of either favorable influence for or prejudice against them that trounces this ideal. So it may be an ideal we can never reach, but it is something for which we should want and attempt to reach. In this case, a more realistic rendition of this ideal would be "everyone almost equal under the law" or "almost everyone equal under the law", neither of which would inspire reaching for the ideal, but would effectively scuttlebutt the whole thing. I thought I made that perfectly clear in the article in the very part you quote.
 
Quoting you:
"Second, the concept of idealism, while ear-tickling, also embodies every crackpot idea that'll either never work, never has worked, or if attempted, has caused great harm."
 
I thought I made it clear up front in the article that idealism with regard to assumptions about human nature is dangerous and responsible for much severe damage to humanity. There is a huge practical and very realistic difference between ideals to which humans should and can productively aspire and ideal systems that assume humans will naturally conform to these ideals. I addressed this issue at some length and a lot of clarity, so I'm mystified at your response to it.
 
Regarding your statement, quoting here:
"I'll warn you ahead of time, though, that aside from the overt dismissal of communism per se', the text bears a remarkable resemblance to Raya Dunayevskaya's "The New Russian Communist Manifesto," publish in "News & Letters," January 1961."
 
Please point out to me specifically where you find the "remarkable resemblance" you claim my text has to this document. In fact, why do you think anything I've stated in my article remotely approaches anything even mildly akin to communism? I meticulously structured every practical suggestion regarding the potential implementation of the principles in the first section in terms of market economics free from meddling by either the public or private sector with the notable exception of anti-trust law and regulations on size as in the recent prohibition against the merger of American Airlines and USAirways.
 
In general, I deliberately aimed to the highest practical degree possible in my view to allow market economics to structure trade of all goods and services to be as free as possible from unfair manipulation by a powerful few, whether in the public or private sector. That was my goal: an economy as free as possible while retaining a structure in society that provides practical compassion for those unable to provide fully for themselves, but free of idealistic assumptions that spontaneous philanthropy will automatically and reliably manifest without such a structure.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 11, 2013 - 11:53pm
First, I didn't try to define communism, but merely stated what its definition assumes. I assume intelligent, informed people already know what communism is without having to look it up.
 
Second, even if we assume what you say is true, explain to me what you think is wrong with my statements about it. For example, here is what a Google search for the definition finds:


A political theory derived from Karl Marx, advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.
 
In case English is a problem for you, that definition assumes that people are going to contribute to an economy according to their abilities and take from that economy according to their needs. So if you have great abilities, communism expects you to contribute a lot and you will only be paid according to your needs. If a very needy person has hardly any ability to contribute to the economy, but has great needs, that person will get paid a lot for practically nothing while you get paid very little for a lot of really good work.
 
I said:
Communism idealizes human motivation toward abstract philanthropic goals rather than concrete, personal economic benefit.
 
That's exactly what "each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs" means, or are you really unable to see that?
 
If you really  are so intellectually challenged that you can't understand the connection between the definition and the idealistic assumptions that definition clearly implies, I simply say, "Wow!" Where do you find any incompatibility whatsoever between what I said and the definition? What did you do? A search for a definition and then a first-grade word-for-word comparison and when they didn't match, you spit out this brilliant conclusion that what I said has nothing to do with the definition? Go play with some kindergarten kids and get out of my hair if you're really that stupid.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 12, 2013 - 10:13am
Well, what is unambiguous about "beyond the minimum necessary"? 
 
On the selfishness issue, ever read Ayn Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness? As you probably already know, laissez-faire literally means "(you) let do", but translates more idiomatically to "leave us alone". Standard Oil was broken up with anti-trust law because when left alone, it didn't leave anybody else alone. Because it grew to such enormity, it was able to sell below cost until it put all the smaller fish out of business. It then gobbled them up for pennies on the dollar or nothing at all. There are interviews still around somewhere (don't remember where) of some of its victims. Ask them how enthusiastic they are about laissez-faire capitalism. Oh, yes, they're dead now, aren't they? But unless I'm being too generous, I think you may have a feeling for how they would respond,.
 
As to my use of the word "idealistically", I gave ample attention in the article to the fact that assuming ideal behavior on the part of humans is precisely what is wrong with all three political philosophies I address in the article. Business organizations need policing to protect the honest from the dishonest as much as individuals do in any society. Assuming that market economics somehow takes care of this is extremely naive and debunked in practice all the way back to prehistoric times. I also explained the value of aiming for ideals we may possibly never achieve, such as equality under the law, but which nonetheless retain their value as goals. So if you didn't get that, just go back and read it again.
 
Picking at little details of my argument out of context, thereby distorting their meaning and so implying the whole argument is false is a logical fallacy known as a straw man argument. Be forewarned that I have a low tolerance for interpretations of my writings that result from wearing such narrow blinders. The resulting communication or its absence lacks sincerity, but is instead born of a predetermined agenda that precludes any objectivity. I've noticed that others on this site afflicted with this disease never seem to get well and I'm tired of dealing with it.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 12, 2013 - 12:17pm
To all defenders of laissez-faire capitalism -
 
Laissez-faire capitalism as I understand it ignores two basic realities:
 
1. Enormous financial power in the hands of a few can and usually does distort and reduce economic and every other kind of freedom just as enormous political power can when in the hands of a few. When either kind of power is too heavily concentrated, the line between them becomes very blurred. In the Soviet Union, political power became de facto economic power. In the United States, financial power has become de facto political power.
 
2. There is nothing intrinsic to market economics or to any kind of organization, including business organizations, that eliminates the need for protection for the innocent from those with malicious self-interest any more than there is for police protection of ordinary citizens for the same reason.
 
Also, if we assume that government is intrinsically bad, we are either intentionally or unwittingly subscribing to anarchy. Further, it is a self-contradiction, because government is ultimately constituted of flawed human beings, and whatever makes it bad can in principle exist in any kind of organization. However, business is inevitably accountable to the markets whether those markets are free or not, whereas government is often not. Even so, there are ways to change that and government should be held accountable to those it is intended to serve. If it is not, in a democracy we need to look at how we citizens let that happen.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 12, 2013 - 6:09pm
 In the really big picture, the U.S. government doesn't even try to work in our citizens' interests in the first place because they're in the pockets of international corporate interests. So I see that as the key problem rather than government per se. Your reply fails to address this quote from my previous post:
 
"In the Soviet Union, political power became de facto economic power. In the United States, financial power has become de facto political power."
 
Read my article Practical Reality Check II if your interested in knowing how things really work. The gist of what you say indicates to me you don't. You seem to have a fairly conventional idea of who our government even tries to please. You seem to think they are just wrong-headed in their approach to serving us rather than that they don't even try to serve us beyond the minimum necessary to maintain their charade. You don't seem to understand who the true masters are our government ultimately serves. I ain't us, that's for sure!
Robert Wendell Added Sep 12, 2013 - 6:19pm
"Under laissez-faire capitalism if one firm starts to make outlandish profits more firms will enter the market." - The Emperor
 
So you think the example of Standard Oil indicates that? It didn't work that way at all. You're making an idealistic assumption that is not historically supported. You're doing exactly what you accused me of with regard to idealism and what I state in the article that laissez-faire idealistically assumes. You assume market forces will automatically correct human flaws. It does the opposite. It exaggerates and amplifies them. It tends toward monopoly and financially tyranny just as surely as communism tends toward political tyranny. Ultimately, they both end up creating the very kind of despotic ruling class they both claim to despise.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 13, 2013 - 12:11am
Ethanol is a government boondoggle and no intelligent green technology has anything to do with it. It's not hard to find Republican conservatives from farm districts who support this mess, either, so it has nothing to do with any genuine green technology or AGW.
 
Further, ethanol is a relatively recent phenomenon in the marketplace. It has nothing to do with the VERY LOW prices we pay because the U.S. financially strong-arms it's foreign suppliers to keep them low. Try driving around Europe for a while if you think prices here are high. They pay more for a liter than we do for a gallon. At least they did the last time I was there. You're apparently very naive regarding the games we play in the international arena. I have had contact through friends who are relatives by marriage with some extremely powerful people who are part of and intimately familiar with the financially elite club that runs the world. Western governments all work for them. They laugh at the news and sneer about how journalists, left or right, don't have a clue about how anything really works in the real world. That seems to include you.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 16, 2013 - 1:18pm
@ The Emperor - You think all powerful, wealthy people have a clue? Far from it, pal. The man I referred to was only one of my sources anyway, and he was privy to what the power elite does because he was part of it. So that was straight from the horses mouth. Anyone who doesn't know the truth of what he said is either not in a position to know because he is not part of it or part of it and lying about it.
 
Taxes are not nearly the whole story of the price differential with Europe and your blithe, simplistic characterization of Republican versus Democratic motivations for supporting the ethanol boondoggle is a political pipe dream. You also have no clue how our foreign policies actually get implemented. So when your premises are all wrong, logic is of no use. You don't seem to know how to use either.
 
Where do you get your information on AGW, by the way? Do you read and understand peer-reviewed scientific papers on the subject? What are your sources?...other self-blinded, science know-nothings who swear that there is no scientific consensus? In fact it's 97.4% among total peer reviewed papers on the subject. Most of the remainder draw no conclusion either way. The small fraction of 1% who conclude against AGW are either petroleum geologists or others somehow beholden to the petroleum industry and a very few meteorologists with limited research experience and strong political opinions. The only people who spread this blatant lie that there is no scientific consensus are either politicians or others with extremely questionable scientific credentials and a strong political agenda. So you're just cluelessly barfing up the wrong tree and suckering for sources of well-financed disinformation.
 
Whether AGW is real or not has nothing to with political philosophy, by the way. It's either real or not independent of what anyone's political leanings are. It's kind of like farmers who vote against whoever the incumbent is if they had a low harvest due to drought years during the incumbent's last term. The only reason AGW has become associated with political leanings is that radical conservatives have irrationally made it so.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 18, 2013 - 7:33pm
It's true that taxes are the main explanation for the difference, but in addition to taxing way less, we also subsidize oil production. Also, in 1971 Saudi Arabia made sure OPEC oil would continue trading in U.S. dollars only. I guess you think the U.S. had no influence on this whatsoever. After this, it made no difference who the purchaser is. U.S. dollars became effectively backed by oil rather than by gold as before Nixon.
 
Saudi Arabia still enforces the petrodollar standard today. In 1971 this  system of trading for OPEC oil only in dollars forced up U.S. dollar demand as a world reserve currency. This increased its value, including its value in purchasing oil, of course. In 1973, OPEC instituted its oil embargo and drove prices through the ceiling, but this affected everybody the world over and contributes nothing to any understanding of price differential.
 
So you're right that taxes are the main explanation, but that alone doesn't explain all the difference. So I plead guilty to a bit of hyperbole on that one. However, calling me a "liberal loon" in light of all the other articles I've written on this site is a very myopic assessment of me. I always find it funny how hard right loons call anything they disagree with liberal, no matter how unrelated to left/right politics it is in terms of political philosophy.
 
Such ultra-conservative loons are intensely allergic to truth in general and anyone who points truth out becomes a "liberal loon" as viewed from inside their bubble of fiction. Since they write off out of hand anyone upon whom they slap this label, they guarantee they will always appear to themselves to be always right and those they perceive as "liberal loons", always wrong. Nice trick for those want to remain automatically delusional for the rest of their lives.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 18, 2013 - 7:39pm
@ Emperor -
 
By the way, what specifically about the flat tax system outlined in the article above and free-market capitalism as defined economically rather than politically is anything but conservative if you don't regard as automatically liberal any sort of compassion for those legitimately unable to provide for themselves? Please be specific about why you think whatever points you want to pick with are liberal?
Robert Wendell Added Sep 20, 2013 - 12:37pm
I already pleaded guilty to hyperbole on the price difference with Europe. I agree with Joy on the currency argument. Joy made excellent points as Joy often does. So I concede the argument on the oil and gas price difference.
 
What I find ridiculous in some of your arguments and those of some others is the labeling of anything you disagree with as coming from a lib-tard or whatever other silly liberal label of the moment. If I think ice cubes melt at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, I'm wrong about that, but it doesn't make me a liberal because it's different from what you believe. But that's exactly the kind of goofball "logic" you and a bunch of others on this site pretend is legitimate. They only difference between my ice cube example and many of your arguments is the political content. The "logic" is identical.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 20, 2013 - 11:10pm
@ Joy - Your injection of levity is most welcome and deeply appreciated! Happy unbirthday (unless, of course, it's by chance your birthday)!
Robert Wendell Added Oct 6, 2013 - 2:28pm
@ Joy - Your disagreement with my "conspiracy theory" means what? Do you want to argue with the financial control map uncovered in the Swiss study The Network of Global Corporate Control cited in my article Practical Reality Check II ? Look especially at the names on page 4, in Figure 2-D, like Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, etc. The study states on page 5:
 
"The core is also very densely connected, with members having, on average, ties to 20 other members (Fig. 2 C, D). As a result, about 3/4 of the ownership of firms in the core remains in the hands of firms of the core itself. In other words, this is a tightly-knit group of corporations that cumulatively hold the majority share of each other."
 
Then consider what Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said, "...the banks, hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created, are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place."
 
So I think it's pretty clear that this control is NOT just another nutty conspiracy theory, don't you?
Robert Wendell Added Oct 13, 2013 - 10:28pm
You're exactly right about the lop-sided viewpoints of both sides, because the major media never cover this stuff to any significant degree. They make anybody who does look radical and that's the end of it for most people.
 
What I don't like about the right is they blatantly wish to hand full control over to corporate interests. They behave and talk in ways that say we should hand even more power over the government to them, and they are precisely what's wrong with government and not government per se. I'm not sure you get that, but you're right to say both parties of our government work for them. They've sewed themselves up into a duopoly. Third parties have a hugely unfair hill to climb to even get on the ballot and then the major media all cream them.
 
What I don't like about the right is they appeal so heavily to people's basest instincts tp win and they very blatantly support legislation that serves them. I consider the moderate democratic side the least smelly of the bunch. I do vote, despite its apparent irrationality. I'm registered as an independent and pay no attention to party when it comes to electing judges. I check on the reports consisting of how their peers and lawyers who have worked in their courts rate them on multiple traits in anonymous questionnaires. It's all available online. The same turkeys always get elected anyway, some of them with the lowest ratings of the bunch, but I feel it is a matter of principle to vote, assuming that if there are eventually enough like me and they vote, it will make a difference.
Robert Wendell Added Oct 17, 2013 - 11:24pm
@ Joy - I think we're very close together on all that you say in this last comment. I have seen comments of yours on other articles that I don't agree with at all, but what you've just said makes total sense to me if I understand it correctly.
 
However, there is something puzzling about one thing. You say here, "As I understand it, your solution is to put laws and regulations in place to limit the influence and power of the corporation, whereas I believe the problem is the existence of that power to begin with." Then later you say, "In my opinion, simplifying government power and regulations is the best way to remedy the situation.  Note, I did not say loosening [my emphasis (Robert)] as natural law suggests that we have responsibilities to each other and to the environment [my emphasis (Robert)] as entrusted to us by future generations."
 
I agree totally with those sentences where you see my emphasis. However, I don't see how you can talk about simplifying rather than loosening while disagreeing with my desire to "limit the influence and power of the corporation", as you put it. Please explain to me how we can limit corporate power without either laws that limit their growth and consequent financial power or laws that limit what they can do with that power. I suspect we need some of both. So I'm confused about what differences you see between us on this particular issue and how what the two quotes from you in my comment are compatible with each other.
 
I'm all for the simplification you recommend, and in spades. But laws with enough teeth to do what you seem to imply is needed to limit and/or control corporate power imply a government strong enough to enforce them and with oversight within its own ranks to protect against corrupt insiders.
 
We need some large business enterprises to accomplish some of the things modern societies require. They shouldn't be treated as humans under the law, nor should they be allowed to get so big they can't fail without ruining an entire economy with further domino effects around the world. The only alternative is to have large governmental enterprises in order to fulfill whatever gargantuan social  projects future societies might need. My reading of you is that you wouldn't go for that at all. I'm not particularly fond of the idea myself, with the exception of NASA, perhaps, and maybe some other kinds of basic research organizations.
 
I see a major source of our current political problems in the huge gap that exists between the popular and very powerful technologies we use daily for which a relatively tiny portion of the population is creative, intelligent, and knowledgeable enough to generate and support and the users who remain utterly ignorant not only of the specific technologies, but of the fundamental laws of nature that govern their function and worse, the ramifications of how these technologies affect us and our environment.
 
We elect politicians who are utterly ignorant of these matters while circumstances frequently call on them to legislate regarding them. Meanwhile, we have a huge portion of the population that is anti-intellectual and even anti-science. Yet their ears stay glued to their cell phones to the point that the latter begin to look like part of their anatomical features.
 
Along with this comes a big, big labor problem. We have people from less developed countries who are smart and highly motivated to bootstrap themselves out of their very lean circumstances. At the same time, we have domestic kids who just want to have a good time with their parents' money, cars, electronic and digital toys, and have no interest in the rigorous thought that science and technology demand.
 
We also have a poor underclass without these luxuries, or relatively few of them, and who barely know how to read, if that. So as society increasingly demands rigorous technical skill and the kind of coherent thought this requires, we have a growing poverty of domestic ability to meet this requirement. Now we have tons of Indian and Chinese scientists and engineers immigrating through our universities and taking the jobs we're incapable of filling, with resulting high unemployment among people without the basic skills our jobs increasingly require and without any desire to do the jobs that the other polarity of immigrants want, the unskilled labor willing to pick crops and clean toilets for a pittance.
 
Those native-born people who can't or won't work in either kind of job are just getting left out and are full of resentment about it. They are by the nature of their social environments the most psychologically predisposed to fear and prejudice easily exploited by those who have no problem making millions doing just that. This feeds back i
Robert Wendell Added Oct 17, 2013 - 11:30pm
(Continued)
This feeds back into our politics and then we're in really deep, deep doo-doo. Heaven help us!
Robert Wendell Added Nov 7, 2013 - 10:58pm
Hi, Joy. I like your comments just above very much. This is how I think. You know from this article and others of mine that I don't believe in any system of government that is based on any assumption other than that the vast majority of people are going to function on the basis of self-interest. That is the only practical way to look at it in my view. That is a conservative viewpoint that many here fail to recognize at all because of their knee-jerk extremism on other issues like opposing AGW that are not intrinsically conservative politically, but nevertheless are currently identified with conservative opinion. This means to them that I'm an incurable "lib-tard" despite my fundamentally conservative position on the importance of self-interest as the most important driver of any economy.
 
However, assuming that people, by and large, are naturally going function in terms of self-interest must carry with it the assumption that some self-interested behavior is bound to be misguided and/or criminal, which requires some kind of policing. The citizenry delegates this power to agencies that are almost intrinsically and inevitably part of government simply because nobody is going to pay them for their vigilance if the citizens don't do it collectively for their own protection from each other, meaning from some few bad apples among us.
 
The means for doing this does indeed need to be simple and efficient. I'm fully in accord with you on that. Our expenditures to protect ourselves need to be monitored as they would be in any efficient business enterprise. The structures implemented need to have strong built-in guards against corrupting influence from positions of power both internal and external to government, though. Our current checks and balances are woefully insufficient to that task.
 
Charles Cawley has a very interesting article here that may provoke some creativity regarding how government could conceivably protect itself from corruption:
 
http://writerbeat.com/articles/1357-The-cause-of-low-productivity-it-s-not-the-employees
Robert Wendell Added Nov 16, 2013 - 11:42am
How about writing?
Mike Haluska Added Nov 19, 2013 - 4:03pm
Every "evil" you attribute to LF Capitalism is supported by government action - not by free trade.  Monopolists aren't afraid of government regulators, they're easily bought.  Monopolists are afraid of competitors, which are unwittingly prohibited from entering into the market by the regulators.  Look at virtually all "Free Trade" agreements like NAFTA - they have NOTHING to do with free trade and everything to do with protecting the sugar industry.  There is no way a true free trade treaty would be more than a few pages long.
Robert Wendell Added Nov 19, 2013 - 10:48pm
That's because corporate interests own too much of the government, as you just said yourself. We can't blame government for all our woes and then admit that something or some others control big chunks of it. You're on the same page with me on that one, since most of what's wrong with government is being in bed with huge corporate interests. No argument from me on that.
 
But if what you say is true, that monopolies easily buy out the regulators, that's an admission that with or without government, laissez-faire capitalism (LFC) breeds monopolies. Good! I'm right with you on that one, too. There's nothing in LFC that leads to free markets. That's what the defenders of LFC overlook: that financial power can put too much power in the hands of a few and distort free market economics just as political power can in communist systems with central planning committees. I agree that communism is much worse and its corruption much more pervasive, but that does nothing to clean up LFC.
 
What Ayn Rand with her "virtue of selfishness" ideas and her worshipers overlook is that although we must all admit that everyone is primarily motivated by self-interest, there are good and bad kinds of self-interest. This should be obvious to even kindergarten kids. Some kids enjoy sharing their toys. We did. I have three siblings and at Christmas we got toys, but they belonged to all of us. The only ones that were specific to us individually were stuffed animals such as Teddy bears, etc. We grew up sharing and enjoyed sharing our toys with neighboring children. We noticed that some of those children didn't want to share their toys. They even wanted to hog ours. We also noticed they were spoiled, nasty, and mean in general. We didn't like them and generally quit playing with the ones who were like that.
 
Our self interest was served by enjoying our own and everyone else's toys in a friendly environment. We didn't have to take anything away from anyone because we were just having a good time together. Now please don't accuse me of promoting socialism with this story.
 
What I'm saying is that there is mutually productive self-interest and there is the kind of self-interest that robs and kills others for personal gain. Slavery is an extreme example, and it used to be legal in this country even after others had abandoned it long before.
 
The term selfishness generally implies the unproductive latter kind. I prefer self-interest over selfishness because it is a more neutral term that can mean either. That allows me to view self-interest as having two subcategories: selfishness and enlightened self-interest. 
 
I've worked in the corporate world enough to learn that good managers don't feel threatened by people with talent and bad ones do. The ones who don't fear them help talented people succeed and so build their own success on their ability to recognize, honor, and promote talent rather than fear it. The bad managers try to suppress recognition of talent because they feel it threatens their own positions. With that kind of attitude, they make themselves right, since anyone with talent and a good attitude could and should take their place. However, these managers spread ill will and low morale like a plague and hurt the company's interests in doing so.
 
So selfishness is economically counterproductive and enlightened self-interest is highly productive economically. I firmly believe in a plurality of highly competitive markets wherever possible. This is the only way that free market economics can work for the benefit of society. However, because we can gain wealth either by robbing and unfairly exploiting (which also equals robbing) others or by being productive contributors to the health of the economy, there has to be some form of policing to ensure this. The society at large is naturally responsible for making this happen for the mutual benefit of all individuals within it. This shared responsibility usually takes the form of government.
 
Some people have other ideas of how to accomplish this, ranging from anarchists who think it can happen naturally and spontaneously without government to those who want to make the government responsible for almost everything. I'm not even in the middle of that spectrum, but rather lean toward the lean government side of the spectrum. How that gets structured depends on the collective wisdom of those who take the responsibility of organizing it. I think our founders did a better job than virtually anyone in history. However, I also believe that has been very heavily corrupted and not by leftists, but by corporate interests.
 
In my opinion, corporate interests get people to blame the government for the results of their corrupting influence while they hide in the background and run way t
Robert Wendell Added Nov 19, 2013 - 10:52pm
(Continued)


and run way too much of the show. They misdirect attention and try to make government even less effective in policing their nasty little games by supporting military power to protect their extractive games abroad while reducing the ability to police corporate corruption and its corrupting influence on government domestically. They've become very skilled at manipulating public opinion to fear external enemies and so distract us from noticing that they are the enemy within as well as the ones creating our enemies abroad. Most liberals also fail dismally to understand the depth of this current situation.
Mike Haluska Added Jan 3, 2014 - 11:32am
Bob - your example:
 
"A former U.S. telephone company, although not a result of laissez-faire capitalism, serves as a compelling example of economic tyranny and inefficiency in the delivery of services by a monopoly. Laissez-faire capitalism, sometimes rhetorically disguised with the euphemism “free”-market capitalism, is quite simply and obviously anarchy in the economic arena."
 
Implies that monopolies are the result of LF Capitalism - it took GOVERMENT INTERVENTION to make monopolies possible, not a feature of LFC!
 
Robert Wendell Added Jan 3, 2014 - 7:41pm
Mike, I made it crystal clear that in the case of AT&T it was not caused by laissez-faire capitalism. I only mentioned it as an example of the way commercial interests behave when the become monopolies by whatever means. Please refrain in the future from picking clear side issues that become the basis for straw man fallacies that then pretend to refute my points. Your point is irrelevant to how monopolies behave, since how the telephone monopoly was created has nothing to do with the point I was making. Those of us old enough to remember know well how unresponsive and dictatorial the old AT&T was. When I began using the phone as a young boy, upon picking up the receiver a female operator said, "Number, please."
Robert Wendell Added Jan 3, 2014 - 7:59pm
@ Mike (continued) - Mike, you don't seem to understand the meaning of laissez-faire. You talk of laws to protect economic actors from other. less scrupulous economic actors. I'm not talking about contract law, etc. I'm talking about laws that prohibit monopolistic, predatory, and crony capitalism (capitalism unduly influenced by and politically intertwined with financial interests), other such conflicts of interest, etc. Unless I completely misunderstand what you're trying to say, you seem unable to recognize that such laws and their enforcement are NOT laissez-faire capitalism. If you feel capitalism needs any kind of regulation whatsoever, you are not talking about laissez-faire. So I suggest we quit arguing about things we agree on when the problem is simply misunderstanding terminology.
Mike Haluska Added Jan 4, 2014 - 10:26am
Bob  - so we're singing from the same choir book:

laissez-faire


lais·sez faire
[les-ey fair; French le-sey fer] Show IPA

noun
1.
the theory or system of government that upholds the autonomous character of the economic order, believing that government should intervene as little as possible in the direction of economic affairs.

2.
the practice or doctrine of noninterference in the affairs of others, especially with reference to individual conduct or freedom of action.



Also, laisser faire.
 
Origin:
1815–25;  < French:  literally, allow to act
 
My point is that under the above definition of LF, Free Market Capitalism will NOT produce the negative effects you spoke of.  Monopolies never last under a free enterprise system because greedy potential competitors can't wait to cut in on the monopolist's business.  The "predatory" action you speak of is also unsustainable - if you cut your prices below profit margin, you are harming yourself (long term) more than a few small competitors you kill.  The instant you regain profitability, greedy new competitors will enter your market - it's like trying to manually weed the Rain Forest!  Now, if you can cut your prices below your competition and make a satisfactory profit, what's wrong with that?  Your customers get more value and your actions force your competitors to modernize or go out of business .... that's called progress!  As the old saying goes, you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs!
Robert Wendell Added Jan 4, 2014 - 1:46pm
Mike: " Now, if you can cut your prices below your competition and make a satisfactory profit, what's wrong with that?"
 
Nothing!
 
Mike: "The "predatory" action you speak of is also unsustainable - if you cut your prices below profit margin, you are harming yourself (long term) more than a few small competitors you kill."
 
Yes, and bank robbery is also usually unsustainable. You still harmed valuable economic contributors with your nefarious schemes and temporarily reduced competition.
Robert Wendell Added Jan 5, 2014 - 10:16pm
Well, I don't know what you mean when you say, "...you identify as 'progressive'..."  I don't identify with any label other people use that in their minds substitutes for a laundry list of political positions they pretend everyone who they slap that label on supports.
Robert Wendell Added Jan 5, 2014 - 10:23pm
I like progress. I don't refuse to even notice change. I aim for intelligent, positive, productive, and morally aware adaptations to reality. That eliminates me from the current crop of so-called "conservatives" in the U.S., which includes very few if any of the people you recently defined as conservative.
Mike Haluska Added Jan 6, 2014 - 7:43am
Bob - I agree with you 100%!  Not all "change" is progress - if progress is defined as a higher standard of living for all.  I have never called myself conservative.  The so-called conservatives held all 3 branches of government when Bush was in office and they spend money like drunken sailors.  Of course when Ronald Reagan said that the government "spent money like drunken sailors" he apologized saying "at least drunken sailors spend their own money!"
Robert Wendell Added Jan 11, 2014 - 9:40pm
I really like the Reagan quote!