Posted on November 13, 2010 by K. M.
A government that controls industry is necessarily a government that is controlled by industry. Just thought of this as I was reading this review of the movie Food Inc.
I admit my expectations were somewhat low. I was anticipating something more along the lines of a Michael Moore’s emotional yet analytically vapid productions, such as Sicko and Capitalism: A Love Story. This film had quite a few negative things to say. However, it is a bit more sober and interesting, even for a laissez-faire capitalist like me.
To see why, consider a few of its themes:
- A negative view of the large size of food industry businesses.
- A positive view of government power when it’s used to mandate food industry practice.
- A negative view of the control of government by the food industry.
- A positive view of small/organic/non-factory farming.
Holding both views 2. and 3. involves a contradiction.
Filed under: Concepts | Tagged: Capitalism, Government, Industry, Regulation | Leave a comment »
Posted on September 14, 2010 by K. M.
These days, several local TV channels here in Mumbai show advertisements for trinkets, bracelets, necklaces, armbands and what not with mystical powers. Usually these advertisements are preceded with a disclaimer stating that the channel does not take any responsibility for the claims made in the advertisements. I suppose most rational people would be disgusted by this and would be indignant at the channels and the swindlers who make such “products”. I cannot help feeling disgust myself but this is merely the free market at work and it is all for the good. There is a large number of people who are superstitious and desperate enough to try out these things and it is inevitable that someone will cater to them. The beauty of the free market is that it “works” even when the participants in the market are irrational. Whatever one may think of the swindlers and the channels involved, the free market (in this case) transfers money from superstitious fools to more rational people. That is good. And as more and more such “entrepreneurs” step into the market, the ineffectiveness of their “products” becomes easier to see. That is good too. Perhaps some fools will come to their senses after burning their fingers. That is good too. Those who don’t deserve to lose their money. That is justice. And the free market achieves this without coercion and without the altruism involved in activist efforts to reform people. Leave men free to deal with reality on their own terms and you have freedom, justice, efficiency and progress.
Consider the opposite where a government tries to regulate and restrict the sale of such “products”. Who pays for the government’s efforts? The rational tax payers. Who benefits? The superstitious fools. The net result? Money is transferred from the productive rational people to superstitious fools. Virtue is penalised and stupidity is protected. Can one imagine injustice worse than this? The only thing that can justify this is the miserable doctrine of altruism. Prevent men from dealing with reality on their own terms and you have bureaucracy, injustice and inefficiency.
Filed under: Concepts | Tagged: Altruism, Free Market, Government, Superstition, TV | 3 Comments »
Posted on July 5, 2009 by K. M.
Aristotle The Geek has written a partial response to the debate on my previous post. He writes
What is an “unfree” market? Let me ask the question the other way round – what is a “free” market? It is a market in which the State does not interfere (the only “interference” would be of the enforcement of contracts kind). Political/ economic freedom is always defined in terms of the State, not in terms of non-State actors. The latter don’t lay any claim to morality when they engage in fraud, theft, murder, confinement etc. It is the State which does that. So, an “unfree” market would be one with State interference.
At this point I would ask “What is the State?” Ayn Rand defines government (which I will use interchangeably with State) as
A government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area. (emphasis in original)
I will modify it to make one aspect of it more explicit
A government is an institution whose exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area is generally accepted.
Compare that to a modern democracy. Modern democracies are characterized by the lack of acceptance of any fundamental rule for social conduct. Any rule or law (no matter how fundamental) passed by a legislature may be repealed, completely modified or contradicted in its next session. Read this very illuminating article about how Oliver Wendell Holmes’ dissent in a famous case has served to create a legal orthodoxy that believes that the American constitution does not contain any fundamental principle. In a modern democracy, there is no inviolate fundamental principle that the state or its members are bound by. This means that the modern state lacks an identity. The state is a collective and the identity of a collective is determined by the identity of its constituents. But the modern democratic state is highly disparate. The only thing that is generally accepted is that there are no fixed rules.
The state in a modern democracy is an ever-changing group of men who enforce certain ever-changing rules of social conduct in a given geographical area.
This is about as close to anarchism as I think (and hope) we will ever get. Anarcho-capitalists such as Rothbard (based on some quotes by ATG) write of competing (while also cooperating with each other) private defence agencies. If these competing-yet-cooperating private agencies bind themselves by fundamental principles and refuse to allow other private agencies that do not accept those principles, then they together form an entity which is remarkably similar to a state. If they do not bind themselves by any fundamental principles but still cooperate among themselves, then they are remarkably similar to a modern democracy – a disparate set of power wielders that manages to avoid open warfare.
The only difference between anarchism and modern democracy is the issue of the size of government. But the size of the government is an inessential characteristic. What is essential is the principles that make up its identity. Modern democracies are constantly increasing the size of government and at the same time destroying its identity. But no entity can last long without an identity, especially large ones. A large government devoid of any fundamental identity is just waiting for some autocratic group to seize it (something that seems to be beginning in the U.S.). Anarchists want to do away with government altogether. But that is something that can never happen. Anarchy must degenerate into smaller states (waiting to be conquered by a more powerful state intent on conquest) or into a democracy for the reasons in the paragraph above.
Filed under: Concepts | Tagged: Anarchy, Ayn Rand, Democracy, Government, Politics, Rothbard, State | 5 Comments »
Posted on May 5, 2009 by K. M.
This post (via Gus Van Horn) shows how the government operates in the U.S. these days. There doesn’t seem to be much difference between it and a criminal gang. Except that unlike a criminal gang, it has the entire coercive apparatus of the state behind it. Scary.
Filed under: Current Events | Tagged: America, Fascism, Government, Tyranny | Leave a comment »
Posted on April 27, 2009 by K. M.
Donald Luskin asks “Is TARP a criminal enterprise?” and goes on to describe a number of dubious details such as:
…it was disclosed that “nearly 20 preliminary and full criminal investigations” are underway, including “large corporate and securities fraud matters affecting TARP investments, tax matters, insider trading, public corruption, and mortgage-modification fraud.”
…Perhaps this refers to the controversy that surfaced last January when it was said that Barney Frank (D., Mass.), the powerful head of the House Financial Services Committee, intervened to get TARP funding for a favored constituent, Boston’s OneUnited Bank.
…It’s easy to guess that Barofsky is looking into the possibility that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson coerced the CEOs of the nine largest banks to accept capital investments from TARP, even though several of them didn’t want the government as a stakeholder.
…Cuomo writes that according to a deposition by CEO Lewis, “Bank of America did not disclose Merrill Lynch’s devastating losses . . . and would have done so but for the intervention of the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve.”
But the important question to ask is not “Is TARP (or any other particular program) a criminal enterprise?”. The important question is “Could it have been otherwise?” The government is nothing more than an organization of people. A private organization does not have the authority to confiscate people’s property and use it for its own purposes, whatever those purposes may be. Neither does a government. The proper term for such confiscated property is loot. Is there a non-criminal way to acquire or distribute loot? I think not.
Filed under: Current Events, Media articles | Tagged: Government, Government spending, Loot, Property, TARP | 2 Comments »