29 May 2010


is wrong!

Or something like that.

1) "Forgetting that things were even worse in the past." - I would not say this is a principle limited to the "left". I encounter it constantly in terms of social and political freedoms for people who might be termed on the political right thinking we or some other country is about to get sucked into the 10th level of hell. See the right's convulsions over Holland and it's legalised marijuana markets, or the experience of most of Europe and Massachusetts or even Iowa after legalising gay marriages.

2) "Assuming that Dickensian conditions implies a country must be capitalist." - This would be hilarious, if it weren't also tragic. So by definition, the countries with greatest amounts of social inequality and widespread poverty (Haiti for example) are ardent capitalists... yes.

5) "Assuming neoliberal reforms are associated with authoritarian governments." - This is Naomi Klein's entire shtick, and her subsequent basis for attempting to discredit all or anything Milton Friedman ever wrote, thought, or did. I've read it. I was amused.

6) "Capitalism is based on greed." - Perhaps reading that crazy liberal Adam Smith would have corrected this presumption. Self-interest is not quite the same as greed, as it would include benefits that extend beyond yourself in an altruistic sense (for example building a road to facilitate your own trade). As noted at the bottom, it is markets and the capacity to meet the needs of others with your goods or services that make you "behave" far more so than laws will do (in most cases, at least for most people).

8) "European countries have more progressive tax systems than the US." The VAT is a national sales tax system. It's very efficient at gathering revenues. But it's also very regressive since it's a SALES TAX. This error also occurs on the right with great consistency when only the federal income tax is listed as a means of paying tax here in the US while excise, payroll, sales, corporate income taxes raising imputed tax, (all regressive), are ignored.

1) "Countries with big government tend to be poorer." - I've had this argument with people over whether Denmark or the UK are to be considered as "socialist" rather than "capitalist", because of their large public sector spending. Mixed economies tend to be socialist on some measures and capitalistic on others, the key thing would be the output of result that is produced. If it has a big but very efficient public sector (Nordic countries) rather than a big gluttonous state, like the Soviet Union, it's probably not much of a drag on real economic freedom and growth.

3) "Singapore and Hong Kong are not really capitalist." - most people who raise this are not raising the intelligent objections here that HK and Singapore mess with their real estate prices and force people to buy health insurance or something and that they're thus not pure capitalistic societies. They're raising less sophisticated nationalistic objections that they cannot believe that any place in the world is more decentralised in government and freer than we are. The entire rest of the world is peopled with radical socialists as far as they are concerned. The objection is based on deliberate ignorance of the manner and conduct of policies in other countries as though we might not find them instructive, at times. Even if only to learn what not to be doing.

4) "Europe/Canada/Australia, etc, are much more socialist than the US." - Europe, among other things, has a highly decentralised primary education system, with extraordinary levels of individual or private control relative to the US. Many regulatory agencies are also farmed out to private contracts in these places (for instance airport security). Maybe they have a more centrally controlled industrial policy (then again, how much does GM owe the taxpayers?, and how much are we paying oil and farming companies?), or maybe they have a more centrally controlled health care policy (again, how much does medicare/aid cost us? looks about the same scale and cost as most of Europe's universal health care systems). This objection may be sensible, but it does us no credit to operate from the assumption that we are in a free market paradise when we examine serious dysfunctions in our various industries (financial, health care, etc). All this does is allow more progressive left-wing economic theories to offer their own alternative explanations and have them taken with greater seriousness (such as fiscal stimulus over monetary or "more regulation" over sensible and enforceable rules and laws).
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