03 October 2008

colbert sex and business

The formidable opponent skit tonight was a quite succinct summary of the situation..through an analogy which seems to fit and is rather funny to boot. Plus he used a Shakespeare quote followed by "Don't fuck with me" when interviewing a writer/expert on Shakespeare.

When they post links/video online, they're going up. And here they are:
Business Syphilis
Once more into the breach dear friends

What I did not appreciate was the appearance of Naomi Klein. She's basically an ideologue opposing the Chicago free market system. She truly loathes capitalism. And she seems blind to the fact that both socialist movements and quasi-capitalist ones create profitable industry off of the politics of disaster. Chaos is often used as an excuse to expand the reach and use of government. How often do we hear through the media calls for more regulation or some new government agency to resolve a crisis? There are even political strategies that exist which are designed to create chaos, by deliberately engineering a crisis in some political/financial system (such as welfare or some other entitlement) in order to expand its reach and so create a larger political base. Affirmative action often suffers this problem by inducing people to declare weak racial/ethnic affiliations.

The Bush adminstration, far from being a mostly capitalist enterprise, used both tactics. Creating laws like the PATRIOT act, the formation of homeland security, and the invasion of a foreign country on the one side. To funneling money to Halliburton, Blackwater, "faith-based initiatives", or pharmaceutical firms on the other. Both essentially increase the power of the people in charge. That's the entire point she should be able to reach, that both expanding the power of government and expanding the power of specific and private agents (by removing government oversight entirely or creating government mandates) can be construed as bad for the people and their available choices or freedoms. She instead dedicates a significant portion of her books to attacking Milton Friedman. While he does seem like a callous jerk in some interviews I've seen (because he himself was an ideologue for the free market), I don't think what we're seeing is the actual introduction of the free market by collapsing barriers to entry, something he would advocate. We're instead seeing the introduction of new barriers by forming independent/private agencies to perform previously public tasks in a monopolistic fashion. That's not classic Chicago school thinking; that's something else, and something she does dedicate portions examining through the Bush policies.

The manipulation of the masses into taking very large, very unwieldy proposes at face value in the absence of debate and without precautionary measures against unchecked power is indeed a valuable insight. But it's an insight which extends to both the people who would claim to 'serve the masses' and those who serve themselves first. To be a fair assessment such questions would need to be asked, and one should be able to clearly distinguish between the machinations of the free market system that defines capitalism and the machinations of political systems designed to profit from the disasters or failures that the people are suffering through. When someone instead prominently plasters the two words "Disaster" and "Capitalism" in the same phrase it suggests they have another agenda that they are not themselves giving voice to; namely that they wish to make a broad assault on the free market system without understanding what they are actually attacking is something else entirely.

Basically the system we have is not at all free market capitalism because powerful agents use their influence on government to game the system regularly. While we have a relatively high corporate income tax, there are specific tax breaks written into it for prominent corporations within some specific industry. These have the effect of lowering their competitive costs within that industry and inducing political corruption by virtually requiring their competitors to do the same. Without applying tax breaks, there are other barriers which are used, such as intellectual property rights through the patent system and its long term profitable effects (usually drug companies are the most prominent example). The government itself, because of its large operational costs, then can use the guise of privatization to sell off to its bidders (ie bribers) the operations of some specific industry that is generally most efficient in a competitive free market. It instead becomes a privatized monopoly (phone or power companies operated this way for decades and the airlines had a cartel). Klein's observations essentially indicate that it is privatizing industries that is a bad idea. Actually what we usually see is if it is done appropriately, the introduction of privatization is an introduction of competition, not merely handing over the keys to some large corporation. They're supposed to have to fight for it. The result in the airline industry has been a number of bankruptcies and mergers by the major carriers while new players, like Southwest, have prospered by offering lower fares to consumers. Everyone benefits except the old guard who was in charge.

I would prefer a fairer treatment of this idea or it be proposed by someone who wasn't blind to their biases. Socialism or the socialization of some industries becomes somewhat useful and the concept of anarcho-socialism in a small scale society is actually appealing to me. It is not however any remedy to the effectiveness of the market when we actually have one that is truly free and competitive where the society is a large and diverse one.
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