When people talk about “free markets” and how the government should keep its hands out of the markets they are showing a cultural blindness to the truth that the government is massively intervening, or “interfering” as it might be, in markets on a literal momentary basis.
Metaphorically speaking, when someone is raised in a religion, the religion seems normal to them. That the Son of God was born to a virgin, impregnated by the Holy Spirit, and visited by three wise men doesn’t sound odd to them, even though someone raised in a completely different culture might see it as a bizarre, if not fictional, belief.
We live in a similar religion, the religion of “incorporation”. That is, we don’t even think about the very basis of our “free market” capitalist system is an artificial entity called “incorporation” where “incorporation” is an entirely government (that is social) granted status. Moreover it is a status that imparts massive market manipulation by the government.
Because “incorporation” grants “limited liability”. It keeps you and me from suing or otherwise touching the owners of a company for the true debts and liabilities they may hold. If I were to open a business without incorporation and others were to buy shares in the entity (shares being a form of partial ownership), anything done by that business would fall wholly on myself and the shareholders. If the business ran out of money and owed others, I and the shareholders would be directly on-the-hook for the liabilities of the business.
However, the vast majority of businesses today are incorporated with some form of “limited liability”. That limited liability is granted, enforced ultimately at gunpoint just like taxes, by the government. Donald Trump can own a company, make horrible decisions, even potentially break the law “as the company”, and he’s not on the hook for any of it, the so-called “company” is. All the people impacted have no recourse because the government intervened, that is, interfered in the market here. Were the government not there, then Donald and any shareholders would be liable from now until the liabilities were satisfied, even if that meant their entire lives and everything they had. Instead, the government acted both as an insurance company and an enforcer. Through incorporation the government effectively transferred, just like an insurance company, the liability to a different entity.
What/who was that entity? You, me, anyone Donald owed money to, anyone Donald slighted. If it required cleanup that couldn’t be absorbed by the market (for instance, dangerous environmental damage), the government, so again, you, me.
In short – it was socialized. That is, it is socialism. The very heart of our “capitalist” system is socialism.
Because we believe incorporation allows economic growth and helps the people in general, we tell ourselves that we take on the risks of the few for the benefit of the many. It fuels our economic system. Except of course, if the system isn’t really working, increasingly it seems we the many are taking on the risks of the few, for the benefit of the few.
All of this leads to two questions:
- If it’s socialism, why is your socialism ok, and my socialism not ok (say, paying for free college)?
- If it’s government interference in the market, why is your interference, better than say my interference (say, forcing banks to hold reasonable reserves)?
You may argue that the system wouldn’t work any other way, which is fine, but what you are arguing then is that government interference and socialism are a necessary part of the system. In that case, I harken to the joke about being a prostitute:
Person 1: If I paid you five million dollars would you have sex with me?
Person 2: Yes.
Person 1: Ok then, if I paid you five dollars would you have sex with me?
Person 2: No! What do you think I am, a whore?
Person 1: We already established what you are, we are just haggling the price.
We have a capitalist system that involves massive government interference and socialism at it’s core. You say it should be one thing, I’m just haggling that that maybe it should be others.
Obviously owners, even of incorporations, can and do get sued (anyone can get sued!), however their risk is greatly limited by government regulations and protections relating to “incorporation”.
Shareholders, outside the loss of the value of the shares themselves, are entirely protected. The shareholders of Enron, even if Enron owed billions to creditors (which might be as simple as a woman that cleans their offices), are completely clear and free. In that sense, they have no skin in the game in assuring that a company is a good corporate citizen outside of the threat of losing their investment. Perhaps that is enough to make the system work, but the fact is these shareholders, that is “partial owners”, are protected from the true and full liability of ownership through government intervention and socialization of responsibility/risk. “incorporation” greatly eliminates the oh-so-important “personal responsibility”, that is endlessly harped on by Libertarians and Ayn Rand followers.
One quote stood out for me in the latest “Steve Jobs” movie, one that I think many at the top could be well served to listen to (or at least, the average person would be well served if they listened to it):
“it’s not binary: you can be decent and gifted at the same time”
– Steve Wozniak as played by Seth Rogan
From the NYT:
The president’s order, enacted with the stroke of a pen at 4:42 on Friday afternoon, suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
I want Muslims throughout the world to know, even if I may not agree on religion, even if I may decry the terrorism that is committed supposedly in your religion’s name, and I may even hold my own petty fears about the entry of refugees – I, like many, many, other Americans do not stand by Trump. I do not stand by this executive order. I do not stand by this racist and prejudiced act.
As Americans we claim to be the “good guys”, the “shining city upon a hill”, however holding those titles requires responsibility. It means being peaceful, it means following due process and the rule of law, it means not torturing, it means not detaining indefinitely, it means taking the hard path of righteousness, not the easy path of fear and hate.
This act does not live up to the vision of America I was brought up with and taught to aspire to. The good help those in need, even if it means more risk or more hardship.
I will not lie, I too fear more refugees may yield more terrorism, but I am willing to risk my life and the lives of those I care the most to do what is right in this world. That is, allow the immigration of Muslims, the vast majority who are good and loving like the rest of us, and aspire to these words:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Please, forgive us for this and know that this not only does not represent large masses if not the majority of us. It does not represent the vision of our nation that our forefathers intended.
“Where most people get it wrong is they believe we are computers with an animal strapped on, whereas in truth we are animals with a computer strapped on. In the end that wonderfully powerful computer is mostly used to justify what the animal has already decided.”
It’s not just on the right, but the left too:
I don’t argue Russia might have tried to influence our election, but if they did the largely seemed to have done so by revealing the truth (yes, perhaps selectively).
My problem is I spent my entire life being red baited for supporting people like Howard Dean. Such guilt by association was what the nasty bastards on the other side did, not our side. We liberals were stereotyped and boxed in as being just those “communists” or those “marxists” (which to note, such labelling has an ugly resonance with racism and sexism – the dehumanization and devaluation by stereotypes).
So here we are again, only it’s my side doing it.
Granted, Russia != socialism or liberalism anymore (if they ever did). Still, Dean is old enough to remember the Cold War and its awful concerns. Do we really want to play with this fire again just to score a few cheap political points?
If Russia mucked with our election (even if I can’t believe we haven’t done the same), well, yuck. However don’t start a new McCarthyism. That’s what they do.
I should also note the Iran bit – seriously, after those of us who were slurred as “Saddam loving” because we were against the Iraq war, you are going to stoop to the same tactics? What became of my side?
Perhaps the most depressing part of this last campaign season is not the outcome, but the final confirmation of just how pointless political discourse really is. Maybe in the end it has value in the “throw enough pebbles in the river and it may change course” sense, but for all the fretting and strutting, all the incontrovertible evidence one way or another, the dial simply does not nudge for most people, not even myself.
As my friend says, “politics is religion”. Which is not to say it is aligned with religious values, which in some cases it is, but rather that political views are faith based rather than reality based. In other times we might have been forgiven, because evidence was unavailable or hard to come by, but today one only has to Google to find literal transcripts if not video. If you want to find how odious either candidate was, it’s not a case of needing to trust your friends or even the news. With a modicum of effort, you can find the original evidence, unfiltered. In that regards, both Hillary and Trump looked massively awful in incontrovertible ways. There is no need to trust the word of the apparatchiks, it was all there to find for yourself.
And, yet, on both sides there was a remarkable ability to whitewash their candidates to the point that many claimed literal innocence when again, it took no effort to see innocence and guilt imbibed in stone in uncut YouTube video, or emails, or in the words of the candidates own Twitter feeds. There should have been no room for ambivalence or question, and yet, many were able to convert their candidates from at best highly compromised, to complete messiahs, practically with halos above their heads.
I had no issue with anyone saying, “Yes, (s)he has issues, but it’s the least of the two evils,” (though as a liberal I find it harder to say the same about Trump, who literally advocated torture)(go see the fucking videos!). However, on both sides with amazing examples of self-delusion, partisans described all claims against their candidates as lies made up by the other side, even where some of those so called “lies” could come only from internal dissent. That’s not to say there weren’t lies and distortions on both sides, but again, the truth of much could be found carved in the stone of verifiable recorded evidence.
But we must have our messiahs. I know not why, other than our amazing ability to take one flaw and convert it into an indictment (a favorite of the “debate school” crowd in the comment sections of many blogs – make the tiniest error, even in spelling, and your whole argument is moot).
Perhaps the only positive thing about Trump is as much as we say we want humans, we really want infallible gods, messiahs as it were. The tiniest flaw can be gleaned onto, and thus we end up with candidates like Hillary where you can literally calculate the time between any responsive thought she has and the necessary politically correct filtering prior to it leaving her mouth. Trump broke that mold and for all of his horrible flaws, at least was human, albeit all too human (which brings to mind a statement of mine – “Hillary was inhuman, Trump is too human.”).
And yet, as I note above, those like Scott Adams and even family members of mine were able to make him more than he was (or less, depending on your view). But of course as I note, my side cannot claim innocence here – those like Amanda Marcotte were able to convert Hillary from a self-interested consummate compromised politician to a kindly grandmother with only our best interests at heart.
Am I better? Perhaps some in that I can at least see the problem, but my filters exist too, which is why I feel the hopelessness of it all. As much as we delude ourselves, we are not well thought out creatures of logic, but animals with enough computational logic strapped to our heads to make arguments that sound cogent, but are ultimately just reflections of our animal instincts and biases. We use our intellect not to actually find the truth, but to simply create what looks like the truth to try to convince others (usually failing because they are doing the exact same thing!).
If it were simply a game, a matter of entertainment like some TV series it would be ok, but the result is real failure and real suffering. We create great senses of meaning, but the outcome is ultimately the arbitrary combination of the pseudo-intellect and pseudo-logic we each spew coming together. Chaos theory, with real pain. It is enough to make me wonder that my Wiccan friend is right – that in some universe our true souls are perfect, but perfection is boring, and we have decided to subject ourselves to this “entertainment” of imperfection where there is pleasure, but also suffering, and in some twisted way we enjoy both. If so, all one has to do is watch the news to see we are created in those Gods’ images. As I say, “News is what happens to you, entertainment is what happens to others.”
I can only hope someday I am proven wrong about this, and when I am it doesn’t involve lakes of fire.
I too am surprised at a President Trump, however more really because the polls were so heavily biased toward Clinton.
Still, I can’t help feeling that mainstream Democrats just didn’t get it. Hillary, for right or wrong, was really, really, disliked and not just on the right. It didn’t matter if every controversy was bullshit or not – the reality is she was incredibly unpopular to the point of being hated in many circles. She might have been the best qualified, but tactically she was a bad choice – literally the only person who could lose to Donald Trump.
It didn’t help either that not only were Sanders supporters sold out by the DNC, but once Hillary was nominated the Sanders camp was basically shunned. I don’t know how many times I saw on sites I respected where people who didn’t tow the line perfectly being described as a “disgruntled Sanders supporter”, rather than realizing and/or addressing any of their concerns. Alienation is the word really.
That’s not to say it justifies voting Trump or not voting Clinton, but no one should be surprised that it happened.
Now one response I suppose is to hippie-bash all the Sanders supporters who didn’t come through, or another might be to take it to heart and say, “Maybe we need to do something different.”
That is, if we get a chance again.
If you are a raging liberal like myself and want to understand how it feels to be a racist, there is an easy way. In fact, I would argue you, like the rest of us, are likely to do it regularly yourself.
Here’s what I want you to do. Imagine yourself hearing someone use the N-word toward someone who’s black.
What is your instinct here? What have you decided about them? Do you see them as human like you are? Would you listen to anything they might have to say about race issues, much less practically anything at all? Have you created an entire narrative about who they are and what they are worth?
Now stop and think about this again – isn’t the fundamental issue of racism the idea of unfairly putting people in boxes, of stereotyping them, of writing them off as not being human?
Racism is wrong, but how do we expect to end racism when we approve of dehumanization when it’s convenient to our worldview? How is labelling someone a racist more constructive than labeling someone with the N-word?
Same applies to “sexist”, “homophobe”, “fascist” etc.
They label and it is wrong, however if we label them and that’s ok, how do we ever hope to end the cycle of labeling?
Don’t get me wrong – there’s nuance to be had here and I’m not suggesting that we accept racism, or sexism, or homophobia. However I truly believe it’s something to think about, if nothing else in how we approach working to end these “isms”. Maybe labeling is part of the problem, maybe we need to see them as human too and think of more constructive ways to actually engage the sources of the “isms”.
God knows, that’s how we want them to engage the targets of the “isms”.