Practical Reality Check I

Practical Reality Check I
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In modern, developed economies and government institutions, negative human tendencies may have been constrained, but have not magically disappeared. Cheating to achieve financial and/or political power are human tendencies that did not end with slavery, child labor, and other forms of abusive exploitation of others for personal gain, but persists in whatever forms it can find to survive. These negative tendencies are not confined to any particular social or economic status, but exist at all levels in any real society.

In modern, developed nations these negative tendencies are legally constrained only when there exist reasonably effective enforcing institutions and then only to the degree that these are free of the same tendencies. To arbitrarily assume that enforcing institutions in any country are mysteriously free from unfair exercise of financial and political power is not justified by a foolish nationalistic pride masquerading as patriotism that reflexively canonizes that country as saintly. To believe otherwise with regard to the preceding practical, realistic points is morally, politically, and financially naïve in the extreme.

Cheating to gain political power exists in two contrasting extremes:

* Power grabs within Communist governments that attempt to control everything politically, including economic activity.

* Right wing, fascist, military coups that protect the oligarchy to which they answer and that also participate in unfairly controlling economic activity to favor that oligarchy.


Cheating to gain financial power appears in two principal ways:

* Businesses that engage in predatory strategies to unfairly gain market share or monopolize markets.

* Financially motivated political influence that artificially distorts markets (by definition no longer free), which if unchecked naturally tends to usurp democratic political process to favor the responsible economic interests, potentially ending in right wing, fascist subservience to an oligarchy.


Whether gained fairly or unfairly, we can compare financial power in societies that are at least quasi-democratic, especially at local levels, with political power that attempts to exercise absolute economic control, as in communist or right wing military dictatorships. Historically, those societies with at least some measure of democracy clearly allow a more efficient and fairer economy. Financial power in more democratic countries is also longer lasting whenever enough markets exist with significant economic freedom for buyers and sellers to negotiate. Put another way, economies that lie somewhere between left and right wing political extremes are fairer and more efficient to whatever degree markets are genuinely free. However, the capitalist ideal that many conservatives preach, as if it had ever actually existed, assumes across the board that markets are naturally free when governments just leave things alone.

For the purposes of this article, free markets are defined as markets that allow sufficient freedom of choice for both buyers and sellers that prices can easily find a point of equilibrium that balances supply and demand. That is, this article uses a very specific economic definition rather than a political one such as freedom from regulation. By this definition, genuinely free markets can only exist when all buyers and sellers have fair negotiating leverage in their respective marketplaces. Fair negotiating leverage can only exist when there are sufficient markets to provide viable competitive options for all buyers and sellers. This is an ideal virtually impossible to realize in practice.

However, only such markets are economically free enough to spontaneously and fairly self-regulate in the sense that many conservatives imply without actually stating it. Many if not most conservative defenders of free-market capitalism present arguments that tacitly assume these conditions actually exist in an unfettered capitalist society, despite the obvious idealistic nature of such an assumption.

It is perhaps worth noting that this highly unrealistic, tacit assumption is seldom if ever explicitly mentioned by these defenders, but although implicit, remains hidden underneath their rhetoric and certainly under the radar of their credulous audience. In light of the realistic prohibition against an assumption of economic sainthood in any society, such a capitalist ideal cannot come even close to practical realization without regulatory constraints. Indeed, it currently exists nowhere as a practical reality. It must nevertheless remain as a goal for which we must aim, just as the ideals embedded in the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are ideals we have never achieved, but nevertheless must remain as goals if they are to have any practical value at all.

Under more realistic assessments, whenever financial and political powers are exercised unfairly they inevitably and undeservedly extract wealth from those who actually earned it. This process tends to embed itself economically as extractive institutions perpetuated by power elites who are either served by corrupt political elites or are synonymous with them. This is an operational definition of a politically extractive economy.

A perfectly ideal, inclusive economy could exist only if that economy fairly provided opportunity to all. It ideally rewards the intelligence and labor of those who contribute to the economy without rewarding those who attempt to abuse their power to divert some of these rewards into their own undeserving pockets. Within reason, it also compassionately cares for those who are legitimately unable to contribute. Again, this currently exists nowhere and is virtually impossible to realize in practice, but like equality under the law, it must remain an ideal to have any practical value.

Reality presents to us most practical economies existing somewhere along a gray scale connecting these extremes. Standard politico-economic theories indicate that democratization decreases income inequality, but empirical studies fail to bear this out. In Democracy, Ideology and Income Inequality: An Empirical Analysis authors Branko Milanovic, Mark Gradstein, and Yvonne Ying argue that prevailing ideology may be an important factor and that whatever effect democratization might have ‘works through’ ideology.

This study uses the dominant religion in each society as a proxy for ideology. Societies (Confucian and Muslim) that value highly economic equality among family and friends show less conflict resulting from income inequality, so democratization in such societies has a negligible effect on income inequality. The authors conclude that in this group of countries, a desirable reduction of inequality is reached with informal transfers of wealth among those with close ties. However, Judeo-Christian societies tend to place a lower value on such economic equality, so by contrast democratization has a significant impact in reducing inequality with political process via the increased power of lower income voters.

Empirical evidence shows income inequality has been increasing substantially in the U.S. Considering the analysis referenced above, since we are a predominantly Christian society and democracy ordinarily decreases income inequality under this condition, what could explain this? At first sight, we might point to becoming less Christian, which although true, fails to explain it. Democratization affects income inequality less in Confucian and Muslim societies precisely because informal means of lowering inequality already exist broadly within those social structures. With this understanding, a U.S. becoming less Christian could conceivably decrease inequality, but only if it is becoming correspondingly more similar to Confucian or Muslim societies in its informal means of lowering inequality.

It is highly doubtful that this is a very significant factor despite the increase in Confucian and Muslim ethnicity in the population. More likely we are going in the opposite direction, simply becoming less religious and more culturally diverse. Divorce rates are very high, so family ties and informal transfers of wealth are even less likely than in a more strongly Christian, ethnically homogeneous society with its corresponding traditional values. Church operated soup kitchens and similar but small church-sponsored means of wealth transfer would not only decrease, but despite their enormous value for those they serve, do not significantly affect the bigger picture in the first place, since they are aimed only at a relatively isolated population.

An increase or decrease in democracy should, according to this understanding, affect income inequality in current U.S. society even more markedly than in an earlier, more predominantly Christian society, let us say in the 1950s, with much stronger family and community ties. If we assume such an increase in sensitivity to variations in the degree of democracy together with increasing income inequality in the U.S., this points to a possible explanation. While Christianity has been decreasing in a direction away from what would provide increased informal means of wealth transfer, democracy has also been decreasing in the U.S., weakening any solution to income inequality with political process via the influence of lower income voters.

Of course, we could always return to conservative idealism and assume that greater income inequality is the natural result of a fair economy that justly rewards in exact agreement with who deserves what and how much. However, unless we assume this and its obvious implication that low income is always deserved, less potent political means to address economic unfairness leads directly to the consideration of other factors. There are indeed factors that have a far greater effect on income inequality than the degree and inclusiveness of democracy in a country. 

In societies strongly plagued with politically extractive economies, incentives to be genuinely productive are lowered while incentives to participate in corrupt practices are increased. 
Extractive institutions either implemented or tolerated by a government unjustifiably appropriate wealth from the general population for the benefit of a powerful elite. Here we deliberately choose a source that eliminates any degree of democracy as a factor in income inequality. In Inequality, Extractive Institutions, and Growth in Nondemocratic Regimes by Nobuhiro Mizuno, Katsuyuki Naito, and Ryosuke Okazawa, the authors show a strong correlation between the degree of income inequality and the degree to which political preferences differ, something that should not be very difficult for most of us to intuit.

If we continue to ignore the question of democracy, it is not so hard to understand the intense degree of political disagreement that currently exists in the U.S., since income inequality has been increasing substantially for decades. In turn, this same study shows that the degree of political agreement or disparity in a population and the corresponding thresholds of varying tolerance for economically extractive institutions strongly affect the degree of popular support for that society’s government. That should also ring a familiar bell for U.S. citizens.

This study also shows that in societies with lower variation in incomes among its citizens, the choice or tolerance by its government of strongly extractive institutions reduces popular support enough to threaten the stability and survival of that government. However, if the inequality of income is sufficiently great and the extractive institutions strong enough, the stability and survival of the government is affected relatively little by choosing to implement or tolerate powerfully extractive institutions, leading to decreased investment and growth.

If indeed democracy has been decreasing in the U.S. while income inequality and political disparities have been increasing and extractive institutions such as international banking tolerated, it should be no surprise given the results of these studies that investment and economic growth are very sluggish. A general, internationally significant negative correlation between income inequality and economic growth and its recent, obvious manifestation in the U.S. reinforce this.

There are extreme cases of extractive economies in various parts of the world. For example, an article dated November 30, 2009 from the Financial Times of London titled Looted Wealth Fuels Congo’s Conflict by William Wallis reports that numerous free-lance militia there and the government army are virtually indistinguishable in terms of how they operate. They all chase down precious resources to control them. As a result of collusion by traffickers in surrounding countries involved in international trade, the extremely valuable mineral resources in the Congo yield a miniscule economic reward for the state and the vast majority of its inhabitants. Aid of various kinds from international sources, including expert intelligence support from the UN, are rendered useless by corruption and collusion from within the government that allow crucial intelligence to quickly evaporate and the same perpetrators to repeatedly operate.

In a much less extreme but nonetheless very damaging case, many blame the current Democratic administration in the U.S. for its tolerance of the blatantly extractive institutions represented in the international banking community, and rightly so in my opinion. But the Republican alternative has shown much greater tolerance and even blatant encouragement of the very same extractive institutions. Francis Fukuyama in his rather critical review of Daron Acemoglu’s and James Robinson’s book Why Nations Fail directly implies that good governance is necessary for development, but democracy is not necessary for good governance. He also states in the announcement of his Governance Project that, “One can think of many ways in which greater democratic participation actually weakens the quality of governance.” Although this may sound like political heresy to many U.S. citizens who are strongly committed emotionally to the idea of a broadly inclusive democracy as always the best form of government with no portion of the population disenfranchised, unarguably there have been benevolent monarchies. There are those who would even argue that some still exist.

The problem is these tend to be short-lived, since there is no mechanism to prevent the next ruler from being an utterly despicable tyrant, as history has strongly and repeatedly testified. Nonetheless, Fukuyama’s statements have practical merit in terms of economic theory at any particular moment in time. For example, many right now in the U.S. on both sides of the political spectrum are chafing bitterly at the “tyranny of the majority”, a historically oft stated weakness of democracy. This manifests both in Democrats against locally elected Republican majorities in the states that have them as well as the House of Representatives and Republicans against the locally elected Democratic senators and the federally elected executive branch.

There is an increasing sense on both sides that our democracy is not working. The attempts by Republicans in 2012 to disenfranchise voters with ID requirements that clearly discriminate in practice against certain demographic populations are a case in point. Although they backfired in Florida, these attempts are a practical expression, openly admitted or not, of a widespread sentiment that our democracy has been weakened by becoming too broadly inclusive in the face of our rapidly changing demographics. This same political sentiment is evident in the strong resistance in some quarters to immigration reform and the intense desire of many for protection of our borders so extreme that in practice it is unenforceable.

The irony in this is that the same voters expressing this kind of sentiment are largely the ones who have made us as voters so far powerless to politically overturn extractive institutions operating in our society. It is these same voters who demonstrate blind allegiance to the very political forces that maintain and seem forever bent on increasing the ultimately destructive power extractive institutions exercise over us. To further the irony, their financially and politically elite manipulators masquerade as the saviors of capitalism and preach an idealistic version of capitalism that by any realistic criteria does not, has never, and cannot exist in the absence of intelligent, honest policing.

Meanwhile they isolate their supporters from those who understand and work to undermine this pernicious game of economic extraction by preying on the social and emotional needs, faulty reasoning, and the tendency toward anti-intellectualism in their gullible audience. They capitalize on the same tendency we see in the previous most recent poor to blame the current poor for their problems, as evidenced in successive waves of immigration in the U.S. They cynically use this tendency to misdirect attention from themselves and blame the poor for our problems, emphasizing the evils of social welfare.while ignoring the hugely more significant corporate welfare. They use conservative paranoia and fear to exclude our spending on their international strategic arm, the military, from their arguments against "big government", which arguments turn out to actually mean "we don't want any oversight or accountability to anyone". The motive for this kind of rhetoric is clear. They don't want anything to interrupt their highly lucrative extractive strategies. This attitude is nothing more or less than the modern equivalent to the divine right of kings.

My next article, Practical Reality Check II, will look at how these principles apply in the world arena and how a Swiss study points strongly to the reality of a modern equivalent to the late Buckminster Fuller’s “Great Pirates”. It proposes that Fuller's "Great Pirates" are now replaced by an international oligarchy that effectively operates as a shadow government in a major portion of the world at large, and with the power elite in the United States of America playing a major role.

Addendum: For strong confirmation that we have become a highly extractive economy in the U.S., click here. The associated video is even more revealing than the article.

Copyright June 2013 © Robert P. Wendell

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

Comments

Johnny Fever Added Jun 27, 2013 - 1:03pm
“Genuinely free markets can only exist when all buyers and sellers have fair negotiating leverage in their respective marketplaces.”

Wrong. There is nothing in the definition of free markets which suggest that. I wouldn’t even begin to know how to define “fair negotiating leverage”.

I’ve battled with you enough to know exactly what you’re going to say. You’re going to say “in the thousands of words I just wrote you only found one sentence that you disagree with”. Not true, I disagree with just about everything you write but rather than argue every sentence with you a better approach is to attack the tenets of your belief system. Your misguided definition of “free markets” seemed like as good a place as any to start.
Robert Wendell Added Jun 27, 2013 - 2:16pm
So how do you define free markets? You've got my complaints about you all wrong. You've just demonstrated what's really wrong. You haven't done anything but simply state that my definition is wrong. You haven't said anything about why you think it''s wrong or what you think is right. Anybody can just pick anything you say or I say and simply say it's wrong. What stupid little piece of anything does that buy anybody beyond "you think this and I think that". Where does that go that is the least bit useful for anybody?
Robert Wendell Added Jun 27, 2013 - 2:42pm
I believe in free markets as I've defined them. It is the standard definition. Google defines it this way: "An economic system in which prices are determined by unrestricted competition between privately owned businesses."

The key phrase here is "unrestricted competition". What do you think "unrestricted competition" means...no government oversight?
There have to be multiple options before competition can exist. "Unrestricted" is too often defined by the hard right as meaning zero goernment oversight. However, if we stick to this definition, we end up with predatory competition that ultimately eliminates competition. Even well before competition is eliminated, it is restricted, not by the government, but by unfair competition.

I can win a football match against the Chicago Bears with one assault rifle as long as none of them has one. That's not fair competition and it's certainly not unrestricted competition in any practical sense. I restricted competition either with my threat of lethal consequences or fulfilment of it by killing some or all members of the other team. If someone steps in to disarm me, I could argue that I want unrestricted competition and that kind of interference is damaging my freedom to compete. But if I want to play football, I have to operate within certain rules and there have to be agencies like referees and the organizations they represent to bring consequences to bear if I violate those rules.

Economics clearly defines competition in a different way from they way you apparently do. If we're going to be practical at all, unrestricted competition has to mean there are enough competitors to allow the kind of freedom of choice that allows prices to find a practical equlibrium point that responds flexibly and naturally to supply and demand. It doesn't mean no regulations and no oversight. Lack of those will guarantee in the long run very highly restricted competition or no competition at all and as much price gouging as the unique supplier can get away with without getting assassinated.

A policy of anything goes with no oversight does not allow unrestricted competition...period. Now I've replied. It's your turn to pick these arguments apart and not uselessly say once again that you simply disagree.
Robert Wendell Added Jun 27, 2013 - 3:07pm
Oh, and regarding fair negotiating leverage, if you are seeking employment, I'm the only employer available to you, and there are no markets available to your skills for you to do business on your own, you don't have any negotiating leverage. No matter how important your skills may be to me, I can hire you for far less than your skills merit if you want to eat and have a place to live. That's not fair negotiating leverage.

If there are plenty of work opportunities available to you, including your being self-employed, you have fair negotiating leverage. Your potential employers have to compete with plenty of other offers for your skills, including your ability to use them in your own business. Right now, if anyone wanted to hire me, they would have to offer me far less than forty hours a week and more money than I'm making now doing what I love to do as self-employed. I don't know why I have to explain the most elementary principles of economics to someone who seems on the surface to understand more than your show of mystification at my terms indicates.
Johnny Fever Added Jun 27, 2013 - 3:13pm
I’m not the one writing thousands of words based on a fictitious definition of “free market”. I could define it for you or you could look it up yourself that still renders much of what you wrote invalid. But I did go a step further and highlight the ambiguity of the concept “fair negotiating leverage”:

Who determines what’s fair or not? Do you intend to create the Office of Negotiation and have all transactions reviewed by Government bureaucrats? I bought a toothbrush the other day from the airport; it was three times the cost as a toothbrush from Walmart. The airport clearly used their leverage to extract too much money from me. Can I dispute this transaction and get a refund? Are you starting to understand how your definition is ridiculous?
Johnny Fever Added Jun 27, 2013 - 7:30pm
Google - "An economic system in which prices are determined by unrestricted competition between privately owned businesses."

Wendell - “Genuinely free markets can only exist when all buyers and sellers have fair negotiating leverage in their respective marketplaces.”

Either you’re wrong or Google is wrong. Guess which definition my economics textbook agrees with? I also find it humorous that you focus on the part of the Google definition related to “unrestricted competition”, ignore the rest of the definition and then make all sorts of leaps with your altered focus.

Look, I concede the fact that there is no such thing as an absolutely free market. All markets are subject to some level of Government intervention and/or restrictions on competition. I also concede the fact that some restrictions are necessary. So generally speaking, I agree with the statement “a policy of anything goes with no oversight” is not good.

But that’s not the direction the country is heading. Read the thousands of pages in Dodd Frank and Obamacare combined with the hundreds of thousands of pages of rules. Rather than add more regulations on our already burdened employers we should have eliminated regulations. Enter Robert Wendell, he wants even more rules and regulations.
Robert Wendell Added Jun 28, 2013 - 2:00am
"Either you’re wrong or Google is wrong."
Is this a joke? Wonder why you think I posted that! So you think we can't use different words to say the same thing? You think 2+8 and 6+4 can't both equal ten? Maybe you just don't know (wow!) that the whole idea of free markets as self-regulating is based on the assumption of competition...yeah verily, an ideal state of competition. Competition is a word so beloved by conservatives and to which I also pay homage. So what's your sudden problem with it now?

If competition isn't sufficient to allow freedom of choice among competing options, there are no truly free markets and markets don't spontaneously find a natural price point equilibrium based on real supply and demand. That is the only situation in which negotiating leverage exists on both sides, and that's what fair means, in case that has escaped your youthful fantasies all these short little years.

These are elementary economic facts that I assumed you understand. Apparently I'm wrong. But this simple fact is what makes my definition and google's the same thing even though said in different ways. I explained that already in a previous post below, which you apparently failed to read before you posted this comment or you're an absolute dunce. If you didn't know this before, you should at least be able to get it after reading my reply below.

So I hope you don't delete your comment above, since it should provide some good entertainment for any intelligent passersby.
Robert Wendell Added Jun 28, 2013 - 3:26am
"In the case of the United States, this notion of fair versus unfair simply doesn't exist in economics."

Dme, if you'll read my more recent posts in response to Fever you'll see why I disagree with this. The notion of competition and self-regulating markets are very mainstream conservative concepts that are valid whenever and wherever they exist. We do have substantial pockets within our economy that actually work that way. And simple Economics 101 teaches that open and free economies work that way. The supply and demand curves assume quasi-unlimited competitive options among which a buyer or seller may choose at will.

Those conservatives who have a negative knee-jerk reaction to any government regulation as if the entire economy functions this way preach "unfettered markets", meaning unregulated. Any economically informed person knows that unregulated commerce automatically means large pieces of the economy are inevitabley going to be unfair and un-free. The tendency toward criminality is not a black and white reality, but a gray scale that runs all the way from the ideal down through a little cheating and fraud here and there, then onward and downward to human trafficking and sexual slavery. To pretend otherwise is utterly and stupidly naïve.
Robert Wendell Added Jun 29, 2013 - 1:45am
Did I say that? I don't want stupid regulations anywhere. And by the way, I used to sell high-end industrial IT services to the government, so you have nothing to tell me about government stupidity. If you want to find out what's wrong with the U.S., and you apparently think foolishly that the government is the ONLY valid place to look for that, then look at what ISN"T regulated that SHOULD be. That's where things are WAY out of kilter. That's where conflicts of interest abound, like Cheney's companies getting no-bid government contracts in Iraq, etc., etc. I might be tempted to be a war hawk, too, under those circumstances! I think I could resist that, though, since whatever gains I reaped would cost a lot of other people's blood. I regard Cheney as a despotic traitor.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 1, 2013 - 6:11am
It is very clear that laissez faire capitalism does NOT lead to free markets. Over time it tends toward monopolistic economies. This widely accepted and historically confirmed in spades. What defenders of that idea completely ignore is that financial power can distort markets as effectively as political power in either of the extremes I discussed. I didn't ever imply, by the way, that those extremes were polar opposites in terms of freedom, or lack of it either. How could you ever read that into what I said, since I clearly implied that they are opposing political philosophies, both of which take away market freedom?

You apparently choose one parameter that I agree with and clearly stated, lack of economic freedom in both, and conflate it with what I said about a completely different parameter, ideology, as if my statement that they are opposing ideologies were contradicted by their similarity with regard to their lack of economic freedom. How do you mix things like that up that badly and fail to notice it?

Communism, if not in practice at least in ideology, despises oligarchies. Right wing military coups are ways to either protect or establish oligarchies. They fight communism with military and paramilitary operations. I witnessed this kind of social structure first hand during the four months I lived in Buenos Aires in 1976 under Videla. There were leftist urban guerrillas all over the place. I was living with my in-laws and I spoke fluent Spanish, so I was exposed at the grass roots level as well as to some very high-ranking friends of my wife's, both military and academic, right and left.

I'm using right and left here in the internationally common usage. I'm using extreme right wing to mean ruling financial oligarchies supported by their military, the police, and other powerful enforcement agencies such as paramilitary organizations that are not necessarily at all lawful in their operations. I'm using extreme left to mean heavily socialist and outright communist economic and political systems that supposedly reject oligarchies, but in practice always end up with the political equivalent of financial oligarchies.

Neither did I ever say that there is some ideal in the middle that would be the best option. I was talking about real economies, not ideal, that actually exist and have existed in the world. The real ones so far have been either communism and what amounts effectively to their political oligarchies all the way to milder forms of socialism that are much less subject to ironclad rule by political oligarchies and then to milder oligarchies all the way to blatantly right wing military dictatorships that either serve financial oligarchies or are identical with them.

I don't see the United States, though, as free from domination by an oligarchy. I don't see our government as being truly elected and serving our citizenry anything like it allegedly does in our civics books. I see it as serving a powerful international oligarchy in which U.S. financial elites play a major role. In my opinion, if you are not aware of this reality, you cannot have any clue about what's really going on in the news, nor in our economy, nor that of the world.

I've known family members of people who were privvy to and participated in private meetings involving others who actually run the show in a major part of this world, mostly in the west. These people have a disdainful attitude toward the general population; see themselves as somehow on such a competely different level that in their minds we don't count except as we have value in serving their interests. They not only dehumanize anyone not in their "class" as some of our ancestors did with African Americans in order to justify slavery, but their whole strategy for development on this planet is executed with that mentality. I've seen it in Latin America where it was in your face and in the United States in more subtle forms, but forms still obvious to any intelligent observer.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 1, 2013 - 4:13pm
These more localized versions of oligarchies like that in Argentina follow the same pattern as the the international oligarchy that runs the show in the west and a substantial portion of the rest of the world. Each is a club that reflexively sees itself as having the modern equivalent of the divine right of kings. You can't understand anything about anything if you don't know this. This is not "conspiracy theory". It is an ancient and still existing human tendency of those who wield great power of any kind. To believe otherwise is extremely naïve in terms of just plain common sense even if there is a lack of practical exposure to this particular reality. It is as real as slavery was and as real as existing slavery still is. There is slavery that is underground and officially regarded as criminal, such as human trafficking and sexual slavery, and there is effective slavery that is official and accepted as the norm.

The sacrifice of soldiers in unjustified war is effectively an equivalent of slavery that suckers poor ignorant souls who don't understand into volunteering for it, then treats them poorly when they come back home. They're merely fodder for our true rulers' appetite for power. Our government is more beholden to the ruling power brokers than to us. It caters to us only to the degree necessary for the real power brokers to remain behind the curtains. There is a similar, less lethal kind of effective slavery that suckers voters into supporting those who undermine those very supporters' interests and a very powerful media propaganda machine that helps feeds this. Rash Limbo, Shorn Sanity, and Faux Muse talk show hosts in general are prime examples.

Now as to "free markets", let us not accept that as synomymous with lack of government oversight, which is what I constantly hear from the Republican hard right. My points are aimed at saying that this does NOT lead to any kind of economic freedom by any reasonable definition. Also, I would request that you recognize there are varying intepretations of what "free market economics" means. We've already looked at one at the beginning of this paragraph from the hard right Republican community that I assume differs strongly from yours. On the other hand, I used a simple, idealized, but in practice very valuable definition as sufficient competitive options to guarantee negotiating leverage for all buyers and sellers.

You don't have to have an infinite nunber of competitive options for this to hold in practice. If there are tons of sources and buyers for tomatoes, the situation of supply versus demand at any point will conform closely to the idealized model of infinite options and yield a price equilibrium point that balances the reality of the availablity and the desire for tomatoes against each other. This is idealized, but like many engineering formulas that are also theoretically ideal, it closely reflects what happens in practice. However, there are many situations in which either the buyer or the seller has few or no other options. The other party can exploit this up to some gougingly high show stopper for his victim, who must either pay an exhorbitant price or walk away witout satisfying the desire to make a purchase. If it's the seller who has no leverage, s/he either has to sell ridiculously low or fail to sell the good.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 1, 2013 - 4:16pm
This is what I mean by not having "fair negotatiating leverage. I've already explained that clearly below in a concrete example in response to another comment. This is not pie-in-the-sky theory, but very practical stuff that happens every day in any real economy that is not set by a central planning committee intrinsically incompetent economically to set prices for anything. So the essence of my argument is simple. Unless you have something close to this kind of ideal market, there must be some protection from gouging. I paid $4.60 for a gallon of gas once when there was a local shortage because of hurricane Katrina. There were other parts of the country that high, but not here. I just needed gas and I was out in a place where I either bought or ran out of gas. The local government later forced these gougers to compensate their victims and advised me of the right to recourse, but I didn't have the necessary receipt and the monetary difference on a single tank wasn't worth the trouble anyway.

So you have your views and a corresponding definition of what the term "free markets" means. It is perfectly legitimate in highly technical contexts of any kind to define our terms to clarify what we mean. This is common practice in any highly complex area of concern. Legal documents have to do it to an astoundingly intense degree or things get very ambiguous and impossible to resolve in court. We need to admit that we cannot be verbal absolutists in this kind of context. Many conservatives tend to be verbal absolutists, since some of the defining characteristics of certain brands of conservatism are literal-mindedness, a simple-minded, black-and-white idea of reality, dogmatism that is not subject to rational discourse, etc. I don't believe you fit this profile, so please, let's not go there.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 1, 2013 - 7:46pm
So you could define what you mean by free markets. I'm not mixing up anything. I get to define what I mean by the terms I uses. Legal documents and scientific papers do the same thing. You get to do that, too. To pretend your definition is the only valid one is verbal absolutism. Don't make me wrong about you. Just define what you mean and quit telling me what I have to mean by the same phrase.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 1, 2013 - 10:05pm
My, my! I did NOT ever remotely imply that laissez faire capitalism is a free market. You just quoted me as saying the opposite! (???!) So why would you say that? It's just that conservative Republicans keep pretending that laissez faire defines what "free'" markets are. I vigorously oppose that view. I don't understand what you mean by "free markets" and I"ve told you what I mean by it, but you keep trying to correct me as if there were only one possible interpretation. Mine and the Republican view are two of them. Now what's yours? You keep using terms you fail to define while you criticize the way others define them. We all get to define what we mean by the terms we use, especially when they are complex, technical issues. Please admit that "free markets" can mean different things to different people and indulge us by sharing your definition. Thank you in advance for your kind response to this request.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 2, 2013 - 4:14am
"Words have meaning."

If after I jump ahead of someone in conversation because he hasn't said something key yet and he says, "Yes, I was building up to that," does "building" mean precisely the same thing as if he said, "I'm building a new playhouse for my children"...? Does "building" mean something abstract in the first case and something very concrete and different in the second? Yes, words have meaning. Their specific, practical implications shift according to context and useage. "Resistance" can be a political movement, an underground guerrilla organization, or it can be a property of an electronic component. It can be implied by hesitation in accepting a business proposal or muscular opposition to a wrestler trying to pin an opponent down.

Please, don't come to me with the argument that these are just different kinds of resistance while the meaning of the word itself actually always remains constant independent of context. That's self-contradictory. The same noun is being used to describe very different physical and even non-physical things. The meaning of ""free markets" when applied in any practical or philosophical context can be just as malleable in its meaning, especially since it's a phrase and not a single word. It can be defined in different ways, especially if it's in a philosophical context.

Talk of "natural rights", whatever you may mean by that, carries a strong philosophical implication in the wording. Again, that is even more subject to varations in interpretation. My definition of "free markets" is a simple, practical definition of what actually happens in markets in which both buyers and sellers have the FREEDOM to choose among enough competing alternatives to negotiate a price that respresents a practical balance between the availability of a good or service and the intensity or its lack in the market's desire on the part of all competing buyers for that good or service. If the desire is high and the availability is low, the price will be high. If the desire is low and there is tremendous availability, the price will be low. That's how markets actually work when individuals on boths sides of any exchange have the freedom to choose. So MY definition of "free markets" is that they are characterized on both sides of an exchange by free individual choice among competing options . You don't have to have the theoretical ideal of infinite choices to get this.

"Free markets" is a phrase, not a word, and it embraces different concepts in different contexts for different poeple. I guess you are a verbal absolutist after all. What you supposed might have been an ad homimen attack was apparently an inadvertently accurate statement that does apply to you after all. Now let's get to the nitty-gritty.

You state:
"Laissez faire capitalism is when the govt protects natural rights, including [all property] rights."

Now I'm getting that you do believe in laissez faire capitalism and that you define it this way. But until I know what "natural rights" means to you, your definition remains meaningless to me although I underatnd perfectly well what "natural" means and what "rights" means. Yes, once again, words do have standard meanings, but together they don't always imply the same thing to all people. So please tell me what you think "natural rights" means.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 3, 2013 - 1:00am
Thank you for that link. It was full of very interesting and valuable information. I also looked at the Index of Economic Freedom, which is a component of the overall Freedom Index, sharing half the weight with the Personal Freedom Index. It contained this as one of the components of economic freedom:

Freedom from Corruption: Corruption erodes economic freedom by introducing insecurity and uncertainty into economic relationships. The higher the level of corruption, the lower the level of overall economic freedom and the lower a country’s score

This is the key to understand what I'm saying in this article. Corruption is the number one show stopper for true economic freedom. Here in the Index of Economic Freedom it is only weighted equally with nine other factors. However, in my view, it has the potential to completely disrupt any economic freedom that might exist. My thesis here is that we have relatively high economic freedom in the U.S. and Canada, Northern and Western Europe, New Zealand and Australia compared against many other places on the local level. I see economic freedom in the U.S. as greater for small to mid-size businesses operating in relatively local environments. However, once your product starts competing against very large interests, even if your business is quite small, your economic freedom begins to suffer substantially. Your intellectual property rights are also more vulnerable to attack and downright theft under this same condition. There are companies in the U.S. and elsewhere, of course, that maintain large amounts of capital in escrow to fight suits against patent violations in which they routinely engage because it's financially advantageous to do that rather than honor the patents by paying for a license for their use. I regard this as a highly corrupt practice, but from the amoral perspective of pure financial freedom for a given company it is the obvious choice.

Although I don't know enough about him to pretend I generally follow his thinking or not, I agree with Wilhelm Roepke on the following:

"…a free market and performance competition do not just occur – as the laissez-faire philosophers of historical liberalism have asserted – because the state remains completely passive; they are by no means the surpris­ingly positive product of a negative economic policy [a la Ayn Rand and her many conservative followers (my insertion)]. They are, rather, extremely fragile artificial products which depend on many other circumstances and presup­pose not only a high degree of business ethics but also a state constantly concerned to maintain the freedom of the market and competition in its legislation, admin­is­tration, law courts, financial policy and spiritual and moral leader­ship, by creating the necessary framework of laws and institutions, by laying down the rules for competi­tion and watching over their obser­vance with relentless but just severity."

If you understand "western civilization" (including the geograhically ironic New Zealand and Australia) as economically subject at the macroeconomic and macropolitical level to an international oligarchy of elite power brokers, we have virtually unbridled corruption at the very highest levels. Ours as well as many other governments effectively work for this oligarchy and not for us to any greater extent than necessary to keep the oligarchy hiding behind a curtain.

So I see much of the political debate in the U.S. as competely misdirected and the corresponding economic and political issues as discussed openly in the media as existing within a relatively idealistic bubble and consequently utterly naïve.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 3, 2013 - 3:53am
Are you ignoring the international component of oligarchy? In my view, that's the significant oligarghy, although a substantial portion of it is constituted of the U.S. power elite operating in and in collusion with private, internationally connected industry. Government grabs do not define or constitute anything like the really significant oligarchy in my opinion. Our government works for an international oligarchy, the same one to which most western governments ultimately answer.

The real power plays in the world arena are actually a matter of countries like Russia and China who, although they too are controlled by their own brands of oligarchy, are competing against the super-oligarchy operating through the western governments. The news, to anyone who understands this, doesn't look quite the same as it does to most, to put it midly. I consider any political views that only look at local politics within the U.S. very myopic, small-minded, almost hopelessly naive. It's ultimately not our government that is undermining our democracy, but the power elites it and other governments actually answer to. Crony capitalism is not result of our government or any president, who are relatively powerless, but the way our government functions or doesn't is a result of crony capitalism because it is international private crony capitalism that actually runs our government and many others.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 3, 2013 - 4:20pm
"The US has been systematically weakening patent protection over the last two decades. It is a major factor in the continued recession."

Precisely so! And I don't think that is any accident. The major international power brokers don't like serious competition on the macroeconomic level and they systematically rule against it. However, you talk more like an anarchist than a "free market" believer, or perhaps you consider them virtually synonymous. If you don't want government at all, or you want government that only outlaws bad behaviors of individual citizens but not of commercial organizations of anykind, do you really think under those circumstances corruption would somehow fail to rear its big ugly head. It's already there even with regulations, which seem to be tailored to police everything but the oligarchy, which is most definitely corrupting market freedom. We're already on the farm and it ain't right.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 4, 2013 - 2:48pm
I'm not at all sure how you could get Marxist leanings out of anything I've said in my articles or comments. Are you one of those who thinks anything that's fair to the middle class and provides opportunity for the poor to have upward mobility is Marxist or anything that speaks to the reality of oligarchies in this world is Marxist? YOu say you understand that such an international oligarchy exists.

You should have tried living in Argentina during Videla's right wing military coup that served the super-rich, who kept all their money out of the country. They also encouraged paramilitary groups to "disappear" anyone who was seen shopping with a friend who had so much as pinkeye. I was there in 1976, speak Spanish like a native, and witnessed first hand what the environment there was like in those days. You could cut the fear with a knife, and the paramilitary groups didn't hesitate to do just that. There was hardly a soul anywhere who hadn't had a relative or friend who was "disappeared". I witnessed my own right of free assembly violated for the first time in my life by the federal police there, who carried submachine guns and who looked more like U.S. Marines in dress uniform than police.

You don't have to be a Marxist to have a strong distaste for right wing support for oligarchies, unwitting or otherwise. Too many on the right in this country are clueless that our government essentially works for an international super-oligarchy and that no president can buck that without more knowledgeable citizens to provide political support for it. Instead the right in this country supports the power elite in this country, a major player in this international super-oligarchy, as defenders of capitalism. They get that crap mostly from right wing talk show hosts who make a fortune suckering them for the benefit of the power elite and against their own interests. I'm anything but a Marxist, I assure you, even though this kind of rhetoric usually convinces gullible hard right conservatives suckered by the likes of Raxh Limbo, etc. that I am.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 4, 2013 - 7:13pm
Rash Limbo
Robert Wendell Added Jul 4, 2013 - 7:19pm
Pardon me, sir, but using a few terms and disliking an oligarchy that reflexively perceives itself to have the divine right of kings does NOT have to imply anything that has to do conceptually with Marxism! This modern equivalent of an aristocracy is just a commercial version of the old aristocracy against whom the United States rebelled. It thinks it is fine for them to be " exercising authority over the working class" as you put it, etc. as if they had absolute power because of their wealth (instead of bloodline) to exploit whomever they will. They unfairly extract money from the general population with their conniving schemes just as despotic kings used to do. "Patriotic" rhetoric that blabs about our saintly past ignores the most horrendous exploitation of all: slavery. As I put it clearly in my first paragraph, anyone who thinks the tendency of those with really great power to unfairly appropriate wealth from others simply because they can has not magically disappeared. My disgust with that mentality, which I have personally witnessed only too many times, is fully justified and in no way makes me a Marxist simply because Marx had that in common with my viewpoint. His solution to that is utterly wrongheaded and never has worked. I'm not even close to advocating a European style socialism, much less Marxist political and economic philosophy.

Marx preached revolution. In that regard your language is closer to his than mine. So let's admit that some bits of common vocabulary and even some minor conceptual overlap, whether yours or mine, doesn't make us Marxists. My concept of a truly free and equitable society is nothing like that of Marx. And PLEASE, don't grab the word "equitable" and make something out of it I don't intend. I just mean equitable in the sense of commercial integrity...fairness in terms of access to opportunity to all those who wish to better their lot in life.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 4, 2013 - 7:28pm
What have I said that even remotely implies that I hate either the rich or private property? My intense dislke of an oligarchy that wants to rule an alleged democracy, is only partially although substantially internal to the U.S., thwarts at every turn the will of the people as much as they think they can get away with without openly revealing their nefarious intentions to even the most politically obtuse, and executes foreign policy in ways that are heinously cynical, while pretending to promote our freedom and that of those around the world does NOT make me a Marxist.

The only thing Marxism and I have in common is our intense dislike of the abuse of power, whether political or economic. Rich people are not by definition those who abuse their economic power, so I harbor no resentment against those who are merely wealthy. I harbor great resentment against those who use their wealth to subvert the system at the cost of others' freedom, whether that freedom is political or economic, personal or social.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 4, 2013 - 9:34pm
Yeah, I was really wondering where all that came from! I can't help but wonder still. I said nothing that implies any of what you said.

By the way, do you believe that opposing the financially powerful having " any real authority over the working class" is in itrself Marxist? Authority over the working class is a very aristocratic notion. It is most definitely NOT either a legitimate free market idea or any other kind of capitalist idea that is the least bit intelligent.

It is purely aristocratic. In any truly free economic system labor sells its services as an individual business and cost center and is not obligated to serve anyone it chooses not to sell to. Until I retired, I did music on the side. I've been a professional musician most of my adult life doing paid gigs and teaching. However, I worked full time as an employee in various technical capacities until the last ten years roughly. I'm now semi-retired and am completely self-employed for the first time in my life. I teach voice privately in my home and play a few professional gigs here and there as an instrumentalist. I have no employees. I'm a one-man business. But before that, I always worked in technical fields for someone else. I worked in electronics for ten years starting at age 26, then moved into IT.

If you or anyone else wanted to employ me now, you would have to offer me substantially more than I make now doing what I dearly love...music. You would also have to demand of me much less than forty hours a week to do so. In other words, you would have to compete for my laobr with my own business. Ideally, I see all labor as selling its services to whomever and whatever it pleases in a truly free economy. Historically, I'm labor, even if highly skilled, technical labor. No wealthy person or business ever, in my view, held any authority over me I did not agree to give them of my own free will. So if you think that makes me a Marxist, you have a very strange and narrow concept of Marxism.

One of the things I dislike most strongly about anyone who thinks that their wealth somehow grants them "authority over the working class" is exactly that. I"ve had really stupid people with lots of money treat me that way and I never put up with it for very long. I've been a manager and I've seen other good managers also lead with inspiration. There is a kind of natural authority that people respect, and it comes from your respect for the people who respect you. I"ve seen the opposite kind of manager, very unfortunately the most common type, and witnessed how intensely everyone under them hated them. That is not smart management. It's truly a dumb way to manage people whether you look at it financially, socially, or emotionally. There are plenty of industrial and business management training programs that teach managers a very different, much more positive and productive way to manage.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 4, 2013 - 10:58pm
Having said this, there are many who knowingly or unwittingly support those in the power elite who impose their will on society in the aristocratic sense I've just referred. These are easily duped by their master manipulators into labeling as leftist any language that resembles mine. I've witnessed right wing oligarchies in Latin American dictatorships label as communist any and all opposition to their nefarious schemes and extractive policies. Such opposition is, without a doubt, something that is in common with Marxist philosophy, but it's a small piece of that pie. That's where the overlap ends. I repeat that a strong distaste for exploitative schemes that unfairly attempt to extract wealth from those who earn it and pour it into the pockets of those who didn't is simply a common sense idea of economic justice.

Economic justice keeps people's earnings in their own pockets. I believe tax is necessary, but it shoudn't be on income. I believe income tax is unconstitutinal. I also don't think basic necessities like food should be taxed. Do you complain about tax as unjust, but feel this other kind of injustice is OK? Slavery is not just. Indentured servitude is almost never just, if ever. The difference between these unfair, politically extractive practices and true economic justice is not a black-and-white spectrum. I thought my article made clear. It sure tried to.

There is everything along the gray scale between black and white. There are lots of businesses in the good old U.S.A who practice economic justice and lots that don't. I don't like the ones that don't. I' think that ultimately they're stupid even if they make the owners rich. They are social parasites who damage society for the benefit of a thoughtlessly selfish few, both financially, politically, and on the level of social tranquility, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Anyone who thinks that talk of the kind of real economic justice I support is automatically leftist is simply a sucker for a clever misdirection by an oligarchy. That oligarchy masterfully manipulates public opinion to oppose any accountability on their part. They don't want accountability to anyone in their desire to practice economic abuse that favors them. They misdirect attention like a stage magician so they can structure and maintain a politically extractive economy that keeps them wealthy for doing nothing but already having wealth and the power that goes with it. That is right in line with the mindset that characterized the old European aristocracy. The only difference is that wealth and power have replaced bloodline for the "divine" right to abuse the rest of us.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 5, 2013 - 12:09am
Well, although you and I clearly don't have identical views, we do agree on much. I want to congratulate you on being one of three people so far who have challenged my thinking in a civil way and with whom I've been able to conduct a dialog that was at least apparently illuminating to both sides on where each stands and why, and in yours and one other case, actually informative for me.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 5, 2013 - 3:53am
I don't even use the term rich very often. When I talk about an oligarchy, I'm talking about a specific kind of rich. You're absolutely right about corporatism. But corporatism runs the government...ours and many others. They are effectively an international financial cartel. You want to blame the government for everything, but the government is a victim of corporatism and of us, the voters in the U.S., who are asleep at the wheel and let these turkeys have their way to this point. You say you like the Republcan's side, and I agree that both sides stink to high heaven, but the Repugnant-ones are much more in our faces about supporting corporatism than the Dimwit-cats. I see them as staging a charade of good cop/bad cop with the Democrats playing good cop and the Republicans playing bad cop.

By the way, I'm wondering how the war on coal has anything to do with restaurant owners. And are you another AGW denier with your head buried deep in the sand? Read my other articles, especially the ones that relate to energy and AGW if you have any objectivity at all.
William Stockton Added Jul 5, 2013 - 10:02pm
>>> "If you can't understand a stupid simple thing like the relationships between freedom of choice among sufficient competitive options and market dependence on that condition to spontaneously seek price point equilibrium for supply and demand"

If you cant write a sentance that a reader doesnt have to re-read 5 times to get some semblance of its meaning, you should consider writing not your forte. I am sure every person who read that sentance asked themselves . . . wtf? Your simply self-deluded in thinking that all you wright has any real meaning to anyone.
William Stockton Added Jul 5, 2013 - 10:11pm
To use your same logic you would then say about a boat in the sea:
"There are really bad waves that exist in the ocean. They are caused by the unfairness of the earth and its climate which govern the free forming ocean. The ocean is supposed to fair for everyone and not unfairly putting up waves that could capsize a boat. Therefore, the ocean is good, the climate is unfair and bad and boating in the sea is dangerous and not healthy for everyone."
Robert Wendell Added Jul 6, 2013 - 12:19am
Well, on the green energy issue we're light years apart. If you want to know why, rather than explaining that here, please just read my articles relating to that, of which there are two:

Hedging Our Climate Change Bets and Take Heart! (New Energy and Climate)

Please pay special attention to the links provided in those articles. I hope you'll forgive me, but I have to admit up front that I find your view that this is a Marxist ploy way out there and extremely paranoid. It reminds me of the right wing hysteria in Argentina that practically disappeared people who were seen shopping with a friend who had pinkeye.
William Stockton Added Jul 6, 2013 - 5:58am
He is implying the unfairness (increased income inequality) between people are due to the lack of strict government controls, right wingers, communism, decreased democracy, increased population segregation, and decreased religion.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 6, 2013 - 7:11pm
You cite elementary scientific facts as if they refuted what 97.4% of peer-reviewed scientific papers from specialists in the field conclude and reams of very strong evidence from our satellites and ground observations, ice cores, etc. are indicating. This is not to mention that they are same, standard, scientifrically naive arguments I hear from everyone who shares your view. You also cite political sources and government organizations as if they were primary sources of scientific informatin rather than consumers of it like the rest of us , or at least those of us who ever bother to consume real scientific data or can even understand them.

Your own positions about politics seem to indicate you know that political sources are the very least reliable sources of just about any kind of information, yet your arguments regarding AGW almost exclusively depend on them and a few elementary facts that are irrelevant to the science in terms of any impact on climate change.

The Antarctic circumpolar winds and ocean currents isolate that continent and make it 40+ degrees colder than the Arctic. This freezes salty ocean water that releases billions of tons of heavy brine that falls from the surface to the bottom of the ocean. From there it is distributed throughout the globe berfore it eventually gets diluted in terms of both salt and temperature. This cycle maintains the long-term global average temperature within one degree Celsius. There are a number of other cycles that are critical to more local temperatures...how the Gulf Stream flows, for example.

These things all have trigger points. Most people assume intuitively but very wrongly that global temperature is a linear function of what we're doing to the atmosphere. All we have to do is cross a threshold of any of these trigger points and the weather shifts radically on a global scale. We had very limited ways of studying these things before sophisticated satellite technology came along. We were only looking at tiny little, earthbound pieces of the puzzle before. Now we can see how the whole shebang interacts globally and the specific mechanisms behind this with dozens of satellited that look at our blue marble in space from myriad different angles. They see different wavelengths of light and microwave, measure the ocean bottom using gravity sensors, measure the ocean surface within and inch of accuracy, etc.

The remainder after the 97.4% of peer-reviewed scientific papers that clearly support human-caused global warming present no opinion on AGW. They are neutral on the issue. The vast majority of the small fraction of 1% after that are either petroleum geologists or somehow financially beholden to the fossil fuel industry.

It is a purely huge and absurd political lie that there is no scientific consensus on AGW. Nearly all of the dissent comes from scientists in unrelated fields with a strong political or emotional bias or they are engineers, or in some rare case, meteorologists who are not involved directly in any scientific research. It's 100% political just as your red-scare fantasies about the very unlikely motivation of virtually all the scientific experts in the field substantiates.

Try looking at primary scientific sources instead of relying on politically motivated denial that is very dangerous for all of us, including you, your kith and kin, and your offspring. Although I, like you, believe you are incapable of seeing past your current view, I predict you will have a lot of egg on your face in a few years if you stick around. Even if you somehow magically ended up correct in your assessements, we are burning a limited resource that provides all kinds of very valuable chemical stocks. I hear so often a disgusting argument, which to me is utterly amoral, or rather, immoral, that we have enoough fossil fuel to last a hundred hears. So what!? Sheesh! I have an uncle who's almost 102! What if the age of Shakespeare had technology like ours and burnt up all the resources, and did it somehow magically with no impact on climate? How would you feel about them if they hadn't left us anything to burn and no renewable technology to take its place because THEY didn't need it? I have a moral problem with that.

Of course, there are the religious fanatics who believe it doesn't matter because the Second Coming is imminent. Never mind that St. Paul thought the same thing about 2,000 years ago. I pray every day. I also fervently pray that stupid political "fanatasies" don't trump science and send the whole planet to an earthly hell. Watch EArth form Space at this link:
http://video.pbs.org/video/2334144059/

It is scientifically fascinating, extremely informative
Robert Wendell Added Jul 6, 2013 - 7:13pm
and doesn't so much as even mention AGW until near the very end.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 7, 2013 - 12:46am
Janss, you're not the least qualified to talk to anyone about beating around the bush. I can't get a straight response out of you to anything I say. You never address directly what I say, but what you think what I say means about who I am. It seems to me that both of you just look to certain key words that to you spell liberal. You both seem to be looking for some way to pigeonhole me based on particular political triggers you arbitrarily assign to some pieces of vocabulary. Life doesn't work that way.

For example, anyone who thinks vetting scientific sources for solid data on anything and drawing conclusions that disagree with their views makes them a liberal is guilty of an absurd approach to any kind of legitimate understanding of anything. Whether an issue like AGW is real or not is an obejctive reality one way or the other and has nothing to do with politics either way except as politicians attempt to make it so. I don't subscribe to a lot of what people consider conservative views today, but that doesn't make me a believer in socialism, much less communism. Socialist thinking and what is really going on in the earth's atmosphere one way or the other and its implications for our future, for example, have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Some people, apparently present company included, seem to look for any single piece of another's positions, label it liberal, and then conclude that this person subscribes to every other belief on the list you label liberal. It should not take a rocket scientist to understand what an utterly invalid approach that is to finding the truth in anything.

I am very strongly commited to my belief in a just, but merciful and loving God. I predicted to leftist co-workers in a job that had nothing to do with politics that the Soviet Union was doomed to collapse of its own weight a full decade before it did. I don't like very much at all about socialist thinking, but I think there are some things that government should and must supply as services in any just and compassionate society.

I don't believe in abortion. However, I also don't think government has any place in attempting to legislate that kind of morality and so drive women to wielders of coat hangers and make a bad situation worse. I don't recommend marijuana to anyone, but I don't think the government has any business filling our jails with pot smokers and costing taxpayers tons money to educate them in our top universities of crime.

I personally live a very morally circumspect life and wish more people did. I don't drink unless you count sipping a a tablespoon of 10% table wine at parties, or one beer every six months or so, and we never buy either to take home ourselves. I don't smoke. I eat healthy, mostly organic food. I bet you think that makes me a liberal! Sheesh! What does eating organic food have to do with socialism? Explain that one to me. I want a clean environment, clean air and water, and a healthy planet for our future generations. I call than common sense; not liberalism!

I'm certainly not liberal in the sense of any belief that morality is a matter of cultural relativism as many liberals do. However, I don't think the government has any business legislating morality except as it infringes on the well being and freedom of others. There are cases, such as unborn babies, where it does indeed infringe on the well being of others, but in those cases, we have to consider whether the alternatives are even worse.

In the 19th century, marijuana was available at any pharmacy. Of course, we didn't have the large numbers of people misusing it then, but now our prohibition is supporting criminal risk takers who don't mind living potentially very short lives for untold riches and killing each other to do it, corrupting political systems and police, and pretty much dragging Mexico and some Central American countries toward becoming failed states. And we're the main market for their products despite it's illegality.

I believe that morality is long term practicality. People who profit from immoral behavior in the short run end up paying for it in the long term, if not in this life, then in the next. So immorality is not practical in the long run, but only looks that way to its short-sighted practitioners. We have to be practical in how we deal with that and not make bad situations worse here in this life with religious absolutism as applied to legislation. If you want to call these liberal positions, so be it, but don't conclude from these positions that I'm a Marxist thinker, which is an absolutely different and unrelated issue. Marxist economies have been historically much more oriented toward prohibitions of all kinds than we have.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 7, 2013 - 1:57pm
"Every one of the so-called Green companies that Obama poured Billions into during his first term has either failed, ..."

Utterly bogus "information". What's your source...Rash Limbo?
Robert Wendell Added Jul 7, 2013 - 2:13pm
Voting a reply like that down is a pitifully feckless response. It speaks volumes about how twisted and irrational thought is logically impenetrable. It labels anything that lies outside its bubble of fiction "liberal" and dismisses it out of hand. It remains clueless that this strategy makes you always right in your own eyes. It makes all of your conjectures unfalsifiable and impervious to the reality of any contrary evidence. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that, but I'm sure neither of you will admit this to yourselves even if deep down inside you suspect its true.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 7, 2013 - 2:17pm
Oh, and so much for your "Christian" wishes that God bless me. I welcome any sincere blessings,but I don't value the blatant hypocrisy that only blesses me when I agree with whatever irrational cow poop I'm supposed to worship.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 8, 2013 - 3:43am
Just kidding. You can comment all you like. It makes my points about you folks crystal clear to everyone except you and all those in your little mutual backslapping club.
William Stockton Added Jul 8, 2013 - 4:44am
I clearly understood your english in your little tirade there. I dont know why your articles have to sound more intelligent than they need to be. It's like you're trying to sound smarter than . . . well . . . you are.
When you dont pour over your work and just let it flow (get emotional? Being real?), I dont need to read a sentance 5 times to get it.
William Stockton Added Jul 8, 2013 - 10:43pm
Approvals mean little as all a person needs are unique email accounts to stack them up.
Whatever man. Thanks for the pro feedback.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 9, 2013 - 4:13am
Good grief! Is that what you're doing, and maybe some of your friends? I'm certainly technically knowledgeabe enough to figure out such a scheme if I had wanted to, but it would never have occurred to me to do a dumb thing like that in the first place. Who would I be fooling? Me? Maybe that kind of thinking is why your paranoid politics sees communist plots all over the place...you know, classical projection as it's known in psychology.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 9, 2013 - 4:42am
Well, well, now for once I agree with you on everything you just said. AGW denial is nuts, but that's a wholly different and unrelated issue despite the paranoid fantasies of those who see virtually the whole scientific community in fields related to it as pawns in a Marxist plot. Wow! But people the government should not be outlawing non-psychotropic commercial hemp, a product that is extemely valuable for all kinds of uses and that could be earning a good income for lots of farmers. We have to eat very nutritional, non-intoxicating hemp food products imported from Canada because it's outlawed here. There are lots of commercial uses for it and it has no value as an intoxicant like its cousine marijuana. The problem is they look very much alike and make the detection of the psychotropic plant much more difficult.

But I don't think it makes sense for us to be legislating against marijuana. It is in many ways much less damaging to people's lives than alcohol. I don't like the way the federal government is currently trying to stick their noses into state's rights to legalize it. It would take away the black market and drop its value to criminals to practically zero considering the risks. It would create a really lousy reward/risk ratio for them.

Uruguay has legalized marijuana under a state monopoly. I can see why you might object to the role of government in that context, but it pulls the rug out from under the high black market prices and makes it available to people who must register with the government to get it, but who can buy it for a song compared to the black market. The growers are angry because the government took a path that fails to reward them for their illegal past. So in a way they are actually getting retroactively punished for their crimes without any legal action directly taken against them. But even if the government had let them participate, it wouldn't pay anything like what it did before. These farmers were risk takers and the market was rewarding them for that. It's the same with the criminal networks we're fighting. But are we really fighting it? That's another very interesting story. The whole thing is an interesting situation. There is a lot of internation politics involved with everyone, including the United States, talking out of both sides of their mouths.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 9, 2013 - 5:27pm
Oops, that just got reduced to two a couple of days ago. One of them goes bananas the minute you hit on something he dislikes intensely enough.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 10, 2013 - 3:04am
See my most recent answer below Janns' comment to both you and Janss.
Robert Wendell Added Jul 10, 2013 - 3:07am
I have clearly stated my opinions on a lot of issues. Your confusion about who or what I am seems to be coming from your inability to grasp that labels are arbitrary. They often get associated in the minds of those who use them with a whole list of specific opinions that don't necessarily fit any particular person. T'hey are only generalizations about a whole chunk of society that tends to believe the items in the list, but the simple truth is each person has opinions of each issue. These often fail to stack up to fit the prefabricated lists people tend to associate with terms like "conservative" and "liberal". One size doesn't fit all when it comes to political issues. Is that so hard to grasp?

So am I getting it right that you two want me to label myself? Is that what you mean by asking me to state "in plain language" what my opinions are? My question to both of you is why can't you accept the answers I give on each issue and understand that these opinions, one by one, stack up to define me politically. I'm conservative on many issues and liberal on others.

I'm a musician as well as having worked in highly technical fields for a good chunk of my life, including electronics, IT, and high-end industrial tech sales. I inevitably have quite a few acquaintances and some friends who happen to be gay. I don't reject them. A very few of them are good friends. However, I'm straight as they come. I used to joke to my Mormon graduate professor that there were so many gays in the music department that I was thinking of starting a straight support group. That got a good long laugh out of him.

So I'm liberal on that issue. Does that one issue make me a liberal? Does accepting the scientific consensus on AGW, not on faith, but because I actually understand the arguments, make me a Marsixt simply because you speculate that the whole issue is a Marxist ploy to control us? What about all the conservative opinions at least one of you has admitted make me "sound like a conservative"?

So do you have some ultimately meaningless scale you use to weigh each opinion and sum it all up to figure out where I am on a continuum between conservative or liberal or do you insist that I've got to be one or the other? Whatever you decide about which I am, does that definition then strike all the opinions that fit the opposite label off the list and add the ones you think fit that label but don't have anything to do with my opinion on those issues? How would that add any information to your understanding of what or who I am? Or how would placing me somewhere in between on some linear scale connecting them tell you anything about what I actually believe? Why do you insist in your little black-and-white world that I have to confess that I'm one or the other so you can either slap me on the back or spit on me? Why does it bug you two so much that I tell you exactly what I think about each issue and why the hell isn't that enough?
Robert Wendell Added Jul 10, 2013 - 3:47pm
After I asked just above "why the hell that isn't that enough", it occurred to me that the reason it's not for you two is because you want me to agree with all you opinions. It seems that's because neither of you actually wants the truth. All you really want is social confirmation that you're right. Note that I didn't say anything about real, objective confirmation, scientific or otherwise, but social confirmation. You want to feel you're right a lot more than you want to find the truth and you really need your mutual back-slapping society to feel good about what you think because that's all your opinions are based on in the first place.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 14, 2013 - 2:26pm
I'm glad to see you're beginning to understand where I'm coming from, Steve. We may be very far apart on some of the specifics with regard to current politics, but I'm beginning to feel that maybe we're closer together on the big picture than either of us thought.
Robert Wendell Added Sep 29, 2013 - 10:02pm
Despite that what you're saying mostly LOOKS good in principle, everyone knows that such a requirement will keep many legitimate American citizens from voting, with most of them coming from the Democratic side of the ledger. So in practice, I with many others consider it to be Republican political subterfuge. I'm not enamored of either side of the political spectrum, but I most adamantly posit that the Republican Party has historically been the party that most blatantly supports the criminal oligarchy that rules the world. I most certainly do consider Democrats to be the least disgusting choice.
 
I said "mostly" in the first sentence, because I disagree with the protection of culture. Culture changes and changes fast. Today's culture is nothing like the one I grew up in and it has little to do with immigration. It has a lot more to do with commercial pop culture and Hollywood. I don't freak out either because some U.S. citizens speak other languages. I speak Spanish so fluently that most Latins mistake me for an Argentine, since I'm married to one and have those speech habits. I also speak enough French and German to get along in rural European areas where no English is spoken. I don't have much time for Americans who are so provincial they get all shook up by perceived threats from invading languages. I find other cultures exciting and intensely fascinating.
Robert Wendell Added Oct 1, 2013 - 3:47pm
There is good, solid research and reams of anecdotal evidence to back up the reality of a powerful international corporate oligarchy that pretty much runs all western governments. They both compete against and cooperate with the dark powers than run the rest of the world, like China, Russia, etc.
 
By the way, your rant about the interests I oppose so "vociferously would flood the US and change it into another social democratic republic so that the(y) can get cheap labor for the jobs they couldn't export" ignores the hypocrisy of that, since we did that to Mexico in the 19th century not only to Texas, but half of what used to be Mexico. Then we began to treat the original inhabitants like dirt and still do.
 
You're right, though, in the sense that I don't want that to happen to our entire country. But we don't have a big problem with voter fraud except with the Diebold machines the Republicans gamed to get Bush into the White House in 2000. If you don't know about that, there were whistle blowers who worked for them to do that, so do a little research, please. That's the real problem. Electronic voting and people cheating at the poles. I have friends who had personal experience with that. Remember the district in New Hampshire that reported zero votes for Ron Paul when entire families had voted for him. They screamed bloody murder at the results and Paul made the mistake of paying the state for a recount via PayPal whose CEO was Republican and delayed the payment until after the state deadline. Guess you've forgotten about all that or never knew?
Robert Wendell Added Oct 2, 2013 - 9:33pm
On Mexico, before 1848 when the U.S. won the Mexican-American War, Mexico was about twice as large as it is now. A good chunk of what is now Texas had already been taken from Mexico by the U.S. citizens, mostly Tennesseans led by Sam Houston, who had moved there and decided they wanted to take it over. It became independent, then later became a U.S. state.
 
Here's a map showing what is Mexico now and what used to be Mexico before the war with Mexico ended in 1848:
 
http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/mex-war/mex-war-map.jpg
 
Please include the whole of Texas if you want to know what was Mexico before Sam Houston, the Alamo, etc. We took half of it away from them and then made all the residents second-class citizens or much worse, took all their property, etc. They're typically called Chicanos now and ask anyone who considers themselves part of that culture and they'll tell they're still effectively the n-words of the southwest. New Mexico is the only exception because the population there had very few U.S. citizens living there. Their politics is still dominated by people of Hispanic decent. You've got to know a little history before you can put things in context. Many Mexicans feel like they deserve to be able to cross the border. We deported a bunch of the original residents of the southwest after we took it over. It's a complicated history full of injustice and the U.S. population doesn't understand their viewpoint at all.
Robert Wendell Added Oct 2, 2013 - 9:37pm
It's funny how our U.S. population typically doesn't know anything about this. It's part of our history. Wonder where most of us think we got all those Spanish place names in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, etc.?
Robert Wendell Added Oct 4, 2013 - 4:32pm
@ Emperor - I'm not talking international law or that any of this has to do with current rights. I'm just pointing out that we violated their rights big time and still treat the ones who remained here like warm crap, American citizens who predate the immigrants who most of us are descended from. 150 years is not a long time in terms of family history. I have an uncle who is 102, for Pete's sake. 150 is not even two long lifetimes ago. So there's still a sore spot there. Is that incomprehensible to you? Yeah? Are you 18 or something?
Robert Wendell Added Oct 4, 2013 - 11:46pm
@ Joy - Quoting you:
"Simply because government power was abused in the past does not give one the right to violate it today."
 
And I don't say it does. On the voting issue, I'm just pointing to the practical reality and you're pointing to a principle that per se is correct if it really worked the way you assume it does. Yet it is not nearly as relevant in practice as all the legitimate American voters who will be turned away at the polls. I'm pointing to the hypocrisy of pretending to stand on principle, selling the idea that way while the true motivation has nothing to do with principle, but quite the opposite. The practical results reduce our democracy by curtailing the ability of legitimate voters to vote.
 
I'm glad to see you did some good research. Your next to last paragraph is pretty much the essence of my position on the issues we're discussing. I just added to this in an earlier comment here, and repeat it now perhaps more clearly and explicitly, that often irrational American feelings and emotions regarding all this ignore that those on the other side also have irrational feelings and emotions that are quite different and which have some strong historical basis. Nobody is recommending that we give all that territory back to Mexico, but only that we be a little more humane in our appreciation of the situation.
 
People don't risk their lives and spend money on coyotes that took a lifetime of very hard labor to put together because they just want to improve their lives a little bit. If you had to put up with what some of them have had to put up with, you would do anything possible to get away from it and get to something better. People don't behave this way for trivial reasons and a lot of Americans just can't understand that. We start dehumanizing them and treating them like cockroaches invading our kitchen.
 
So, yes, we don't want to let what happened in Texas to get reversed here. I can empathize with that viewpoint very easily. I have had to drive in Central America and I know how crazy the driving habits are there. A colleague I was working with there and who basically trained me on how to drive there used to tell me (translated), "If you drive like an American here, you will get killed."
 
He was right and I didn't. However, all you have to do is go to the area around Miami to see how some of that culture has influenced things there precisely with regard to how people drive. It's more like it is in Central America, but not as bad. I would not like to see that happen all over the country and that's just one little cultural issue among many. You can believe me, too, when I tell you I'm very familiar with Latin culture. I'm literally married to it. So I see both sides of the issue and I don't pretend to have an ideal solution for it, but I believe we need a more balanced perspective, that's all. That doesn't imply to me that we need some of the knee-jerk, simple-minded reactions some comments here typify.
Robert Wendell Added Oct 5, 2013 - 10:37am
Excellent analysis, Joy. I think we're pretty much on the same page with this, despite the initial appearances. I like debating with people like you who are open to reasoning sensibly about issues.
Johnny Fever Added Oct 6, 2013 - 12:04am
The immigration discussion is one of those divisive issues that divides both parties in a number of different ways.  The concept that at the root of the problem is border patrol is a fallacy.  For starters, the issue on everyone’s mind has a lot to do with the 11 million already here illegally.  Close the borders completely and that problem still exists. 
 
Worse is the thought you could close the borders.  40% of all illegal immigrants arrived to this country legally.  The other 60% are still going to arrive here, perhaps not in as great as numbers with a two-thousand mile 20 foot fence, but they could buy a 21-foot ladder. 
 
And leave Walmart out of the discussion.  Major employers can’t hire illegal immigrants.  These workers work in the shadows, a company like Walmart wants nothing to do with the obvious legal trouble that hiring illegal immigrants would cause.  Long lines at checkout lanes (I’ve never seen one at a Walmart) have to do with the fact there aren’t enough legal residents willing to work at the wage the company is willing to pay.  If they were allowed to hire employees at less than the minimum wage, the problem would be solved.  
Robert Wendell Added Oct 6, 2013 - 11:31am
@ Fever -
For once you've contributed some productive input. Now you just need to learn how to speak your native tongue, assuming it is English.
 
Fever:
"... perhaps not in as great as numbers with a two-thousand mile 20 foot fence..."
 
Why not try this? -
...with a two thousand mile, twenty-foot fence, perhaps not in such great numbers...
 
You also arrive in a country and not to it. You arrive at a destination, not to it. I've never heard of "arriving to" anything.
Contractor Added Oct 6, 2013 - 10:37pm
Robert: "I don't see the United States, though, as free from domination by an oligarchy. I don't see our government as being truly elected and serving our citizenry anything like it allegedly does in our civics books."
 
The American public education sector is little more than institutionalized day care and cultural indoctrination ... read, brain washing. Agreed, our government operates nothing like intended.
 
Robert: "I see it as serving a powerful international oligarchy in which U.S. financial elites play a major role."
 
I did the research in 2008 as part of a paper I was writing. Here's an interesting link on lobbyist (Senate side only) and the amount of money they put into their efforts on behalf of clients:
http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/
 
Robert: "I've known family members of people who were privvy to and participated in private meetings involving others who actually run the show in a major part of this world, mostly in the west. These people have a disdainful attitude toward the general population; see themselves as somehow on such a competely different level that in their minds we don't count except as we have value in serving their interests. They not only dehumanize anyone not in their "class" as some of our ancestors did with African Americans in order to justify slavery, but their whole strategy for development on this planet is executed with that mentality."
 
Agreed and it is my observation that those who would be King, Senator, Congressman, whatever, tend to be cut from the same cloth so to speak.
 
People keep going on about fixes that are systemic in nature. I don't care how well you tune a car and set it up if you put a monkey in the driver's seat it's not going to perform as designed. 
 
We need a major paradigm shift and a good start point is to reconfigure "public service" ... do away with the obscene perks and privileges, and have limit terms.
 
If you wrap dog crap in gold or silver it is still dog crap. We need to quit drawing from the same pool for electing our officials. The problem is to be found in the human element and not the political system.
Robert Wendell Added Oct 7, 2013 - 7:33am
@ Joy - Johnny can't read or write. He looks at the words and strings them together whatever way he decides to. You did mention Wal-Mart. It doesn't matter to him that you used them as an analogy or metaphor. He wouldn't notice that. He just knows you mentioned them in the context of a discussion on immigration and HE made the connection. So in his mind you're doomed no matter what you say. Oh, he may recant in this case. I don't know. But in his "critiques" (to be very generous) of my articles and comments, he never does. He just goes on stringing things together HIS way. He has made up his mind about who you are and what you think and he makes sure whatever you say fits that.
Johnny Fever Added Oct 8, 2013 - 4:57am
@ Joy
 
Let’s try and have a civil conversation deep in content and treat Wendell’s grammar lessons and personal attacks as just background noise.
 
I think you misunderstood my thoughts on illegal immigration and divisiveness. Let’s deal with the Republicans first. There are many Republicans that believe we can’t forcibly remove 11 million people and we can’t realistically close the borders (I’m one of them). Other Republicans think we can.
 
I’ll go a step further and say that I’m of the opinion illegal immigration is a tremendous boost to our quality of life. After all, cheap labor is nice because it leaves us all more money to afford other things. I’m well aware that the step I’m willing to go is very much a minority position in the Republican Party.  And because Democrats love the Minimum Wage and view low wage labor as exploitation, I imagine none of them agree with me.   

Like Republicans, Democrats don’t advocate having a porous border. In addition, the party isn’t as compassionate for immigrants as the media has portrayed them. Labor unions hate cheap labor and the Democratic Party is clearly the voice of labor unions. On the other hand, there are many practical Democrats that recognize the fact we can’t forcibly remove 11 million people. I don’t think you’ve fairly represented the Democrats position via your comments on Walmart or shop lifting.
Robert Wendell Added Oct 8, 2013 - 2:03pm
Just a little bow to blatant hypocrisy:
 
"I really don’t understand why I continue to read your dribble. Yes I used an insulting word to describe your work but your work is nothing more than a massive insult to conservatives, first paragraph being an obvious exception." - Johnny Fever
 
This is from a comment on my article Take Heart! (New Energy & Climate) that reader can check for him- herself. I referred in the article itself to a specific brand of conservatism that denies AGW and has a knee-jerk reaction to it, namely one that automatically equates it with the whole list of opinions that the same brand of conservatives considers to define "lib-tards". So no matter what you say after that, it is all "understood" through and with reference to that filter. That's not to mention replies full of straw man arguments and lack of anything that addresses perceived flaws in your arguments, but merely strong statements of opinion reiterated ad nauseum.
Contractor Added Oct 8, 2013 - 6:05pm
Stephan: "I'll forgive you that one as you don't have a history of nationalisation in the US, but you must be aware of the concept, which might not be at a fair price. "
 
See Executive Order 6102 signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The feds not only demanded privately held gold be surrendered to them, they also imposed prison terms on those who failed to comply.
Robert Wendell Added Oct 8, 2013 - 10:59pm
Joy: "Seriously, if you have no natural right to exist and that rights are only granted by man, than what is there to stop a majority or a dictator from legally taking your life?"
 
We do it all the time. Have you not heard of the Innocence Project? DNA testing has been responsible for taking innocent people off death row and quite a few more after serving decades in prison for crimes they didn't commit. The percentage of convicts who are victims of unjust convictions is shocking. There seems to be tremendous public pressure on politicians to quickly find scapegoats for whatever crime. That together with dumb law enforcement that mishandles evidence, makes knee-jerk assumptions and so ceases to look further for evidence that would have exonerated the suspect is a travesty. Here's the link: http://www.innocenceproject.org/know/
Robert Wendell Added Oct 10, 2013 - 12:34pm
@ Joy - I agree 100% with everything in your last post.
Johnny Fever Added Oct 10, 2013 - 3:08pm
For whatever it’s worth, I oppose the death penalty for financial reasons.  Just like you all have wasted time and effort discussing a complex issue that only affects a handful of people our politicians also waste a similar amount of time.  Meanwhile…the debt and deficit bomb keeps ticking.  
Robert Wendell Added Oct 10, 2013 - 6:48pm
The real reason neither Republicans nor Democrats in the government actually don't care about the deficit, is simple. If you think the Republicans really care, they just made the situation worse with this shutdown. The money lost could cover a significant amount in budget cuts, not to mention the human cost while the turkeys responsible continue to collect their pay.
 
But again, the reason is simple. When Nixon effectively shifted the dollar from the gold standard to the black gold standard, namely petrodollars, we levied a tax on everyone who buys oil from anyone. We spend at the expense of the entire petroleum-hungry world. We don't really have a deficit problem, as unfair to the rest of the world as that may be. That's why Cheney et al didn't care either and said so in no uncertain terms. Republicans didn't worry one whit about it as long as they were in the White House. This is all a shell game.
Mike Haluska Added Jan 29, 2016 - 10:37pm
Wendell - you make some very good points, but I did notice an unbalanced indictment of the "right wind" as if the "left wing" is incorruptible.  That being said, my experience has shown (much to my disappointment) that far too many people only have a problem with corruption (left or right) when it hurts them.  Many people rationalize practicing corruption as a "means to an end" or as a way to "get even because the other side cheats". 
Mike Haluska Added Jan 29, 2016 - 11:17pm
Wendell - your comment:
 
"I can win a football match against the Chicago Bears with one assault rifle as long as none of them has one. That's not fair competition and it's certainly not unrestricted competition in any practical sense."
 
is a blatant exaggeration!  As a lifelong Bears fan, you could win a football match against the Bears with a BB Gun.
 
Jokes aside, if someone uses force then the idea of free enterprise is compromised to begin with.  It seems you are preoccupied with the idea of "Fairness".  I don't believe absolute "fairness" is possible or even desirable.  It's not "fair" that someone is a gifted software programmer, but if everyone was forcibly held to some arbitrary "fairness" standard there would be no progress.  The whole "1%" argument assumes that everyone who is successful achieved it through "unfair" and therefore immoral means. 
 
Take Bill Gates for example.  His PC operating system software has a large market share, and has been dominant for a long time.  It's certainly not "fair" that Gates is so successful, but there is nothing to prevent someone from developing a better operating system. 
 
Robert Wendell Added Jan 29, 2016 - 11:18pm
Are you talking to me, Cosmos? If so, you have no idea what you're talking about. First, please explain what relevance your comments have to anything I've said. Then explain how you think my experience of Saudi Arabia or other such places would enlighten me or modify what I've said and why.
 
If you think you've found me to be an "insulated fella", explain how you define that for anyone who has been in Latin America from Mexico to Argentina and lived in Central America for a total of eleven months and in Argentina for four straight months. I speak Spanish so fluently native speakers often mistake me for one of them. I speak enough French and German to get along without English out in the European rural areas.
 
I've been in Europe five times and lived there for six months once. So how insulated is that? I have military relatives who've lived everywhere and have no clue what's going on because they don't speak the languages and filter everything they see through their extremely myopic eyesight.
Robert Wendell Added Jan 30, 2016 - 12:35am
Haluska said, "It seems you are preoccupied with the idea of 'Fairness'....It's not 'fair' that someone is a gifted software programmer, but if everyone was forcibly held to some arbitrary 'fairness' standard there would be no progress.  The whole '1%' argument assumes that everyone who is successful achieved it through 'unfair' and therefore immoral means."
 
When anyone attributes positions to someone who doesn't take those positions and then argues against that, this is the very definition of a straw man argument. You seem to be preoccupied with the use of straw man arguments. The last sentence in the quote of you above is also a straw man.
 
You attribute that definition of "unfair" to the whole 1% argument, which is the same straw man applied more generally to everyone who talks about the 1%. Your argument assumes all the 1% used legal and ethical means to do gain their wealth. I don't buy that assumption for all of the 1%. I don't assume the opposite for all of them either. For me, fairness is merit-based compensation and merciful state help for the genuinely helpless...minus fraud. Can that be perfect? You've already answered that.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Jan 30, 2016 - 8:52am
Robert
 
Freut mich, dass du deutsch sprichst :-)
 
There's nothing better than traveling and living in different cultures to broaden one's horizon.
 
When Nixon effectively shifted the dollar from the gold standard to the black gold standard, namely petrodollars
 
Oh ? That was Nixon ? WHO actually authorized him to do something that affects the whole world ? And why did the rest of the world even accept that ?
 
I wonder.
 
Robert Wendell Added Jan 30, 2016 - 9:02am
Stone-E, mein Deutsch ist jetzt ganz schwach. Ich muss es mehr üben.
 
It was initiated with the Saudis and OPEC ultimately became the instrument for its implementation.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Jan 30, 2016 - 11:32am
Oh, I see. Thanks - und dein Deutsch ist jedenfalls fehlerfrei :-)
Robert Wendell Added Jan 30, 2016 - 1:03pm
Danke sehr, mein lieber Herr! Es ist aber nicht immer so.
Mike Haluska Added Jan 30, 2016 - 5:39pm
Wendell - your comment:
 
"Your argument assumes all the 1% used legal and ethical means to do gain their wealth. I don't buy that assumption for all of the 1%. I don't assume the opposite for all of them either. For me, fairness is merit-based compensation and merciful state help for the genuinely helpless...minus fraud."
 
I never assumed all of the "1%" were legit - however ALL of the "Occupy Wall Street" assume ALL of the "1%" are crooks.  What someone earns and what they donate to charity is between them and their conscience and is NONE of our business and NOT our place to judge.  And "the State" is not capable of "mercy" - individual people are!   
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Jan 30, 2016 - 6:51pm
What someone earns and what they donate to charity 
 
Charity ? Hah !
 
http://newint.org/features/2012/04/01/bill-gates-charitable-giving-ethics/
 
Charity is business. What else ? It's part of the corporatocracy.
Robert Wendell Added Jan 31, 2016 - 12:02am
Haluska said, "ALL of the "Occupy Wall Street" assume ALL of the '1%' are crooks."
 
So you know what everyone who participated in or agreed with the OWS demonstrations thought or thinks? My hat is off to you. You seem to think you know what I think, too. At least you keep attributing to me things I never thought or said...and you do it again and again. I don't think you even know what YOU think. You're full of self-contradiction and fallacious arguments and never seem to notice, but that doesn't mean we don't.
Ryan Messano Added Jun 10, 2016 - 6:03pm
Terribly sorry I did not have the time to read the essays of comments, as I have no doubt many were great, and I hope I am not reiterating any comments made above.  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, said British historian Lord Acton, and America was not founded upon the horrible regulations you are proposing, Robert.  We were founded upon a small government made up of powerful virtuous citizens who regulated themselves in their churches and did not have to be babysat by a nanny state.  
Ryan Messano Added Jun 10, 2016 - 6:04pm
My answer is nowhere near as lengthy as your article, but then it was also said, brevity is the soul of wit.  Ben Franklin said, "Here comes the orator, with his flood of words, and his drop of reason".
Robert Wendell Added Oct 14, 2016 - 1:20pm
The content is well defended. Your tripe is not, Mr. Messano.