Monday, November 30, 2015

This is Capitalism?

Paul Craig Roberts is pretty good at foreign policy and empire analysis; I find him horrendous on all topics economic:

…the plummeting living standards forced on the Greek people by German chancellor Merkel and the European banks have forced large numbers of young Greek women into prostitution.

This is capitalism at work.

What are the characteristics of this “capitalism” that he decries?

In Greece the hardship is imposed from outside the country by the European Union, which Greece foolishly joined, giving away its sovereignty in exchange for austerity.

His complaints are regarding governmental and supra-governmental agencies.

The banksters and their agents in the EU and German governments claim that the Greek people benefitted from the loans and, therefore, are responsible for paying back the loans.

Here his complaints are regarding one of the most government-protected and enabled industries in the world as well as governmental and supra-governmental agencies.

The loans were made to corrupt Greek governments…

More complaints about government.

…Greek governments were paid bribes to borrow money from German or other foreign banks in order to purchase German submarines.

Complaints about a Government borrowing money to buy things made by one of the most government-supported and enabled industries.

You get the idea.  For Roberts, government supported and enabled cronyism and theft is capitalism.

Let’s look at some common definitions; from Wikipedia:

Capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and the creation of goods and services for profit. Central characteristics of capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labour and competitive markets. In a capitalist market economy, investments are determined by private decision and the parties to a transaction typically determine the prices at which they exchange assets, goods, and services.

No room for government here, although Wikipedia goes on to allow government intervention into the definition, in contradiction to this opening paragraph:

The degree of competition in markets, the role of intervention and regulation, and the scope of state ownership vary across different models of capitalism.

There is competition or there isn’t; there is private ownership or there isn’t.  Anything in-between is government intervention in a capitalist economy.

Capitalism is a social system based on the principle of individual rights. Politically, it is the system of laissez-faire (freedom). Legally it is a system of objective laws (rule of law as opposed to rule of man). Economically, when such freedom is applied to the sphere of production its result is the free-market.

[A]n economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.

A system of economics based on the private ownership of capital and production inputs, and on the production of goods and services for profit. The production of goods and services is based on supply and demand in the general market (market economy), rather than through central planning (planned economy). Capitalism is generally characterized by competition between producers.

Again, introducing a contradictory sentence:

Other facets, such as the participation of government in production and regulation, vary across models of capitalism.

Roberts does not list a single complaint toward private ownership and decision-making, market-determined prices, market competition, free markets, or rule of law – even with the minor contradictions in the definitions, the most important characteristics of “capitalism” per every definition cited.  Instead, his complaints are aimed at the government interventions, in other words, actions that move the economy away from capitalism.

Paul Craig Roberts, with his complete ignorance regarding capitalism, demonstrates that he was perfectly qualified for a position at the US Treasury Department.

Thank You, Walter

Dr. Block makes a point rather applicable to my theory regarding the government’s role in any activity that would be deemed permissible in a libertarian society (absent the method of financing, obviously):

If a cop stops a rape or murder, he is a good guy, although, of course, the manner in which his salary is financed, through coercion, is illicit.

This is certainly applicable to my position on migration and borders.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Silence is Deafening

Regular readers are aware that I have written a good amount on the topic of open borders and culture recently.  I began down this road because I was challenged to tackle Hoppe in the same way I have gone at several left-libertarian positions.  These posts have been among the most commented-on in the history of this blog, for example:

Hoppe’s Realistic Libertarianism, 41 comments (as of this moment)
Hoppe and Immigration, 28 comments
Dances With Elephants, 64 comments
Why Culture Matters, 43 comments

Two-hundred-fifty (more or less) comments and counting.  This does not include the many emails I have received on this topic.  Some of the comments are supportive of the post, some of the comments are my own – a response or clarification.  Many of the comments are critical of the positions I take in the post.

What is my point?  I have recently written two additional posts on the topic of open borders.  The first, Libertarian Open Borders, was a challenge to libertarian open-borders advocates to defend their position via the complete “open borders” situation of Germany.

The second, Borders Neither Open or Closed: Richman Gets it Right, is a review of a post by Sheldon Richman on this topic.  Richman, a leading left-libertarian, does not advocate for open borders; he advocates for managed borders.  Though he doesn’t put it in these terms, his is a position grounded in the recognition of property rights.  As a reminder, Richman’s key sentence:

We can be confident that a free society would devise methods of joint suretyship by which strangers could be vouched for, giving others confidence in dealing with them safely.

This is most certainly not an “open border,” with anyone free to come as he please; it is a managed border, no different in concept than what a private property owner might do before allowing a stranger into his home and perfectly consistent with libertarian theory and private property.

Comments on these two posts?  Crickets.  No critic took up the challenge of using the situation in Germany as a case study in support of the open borders position – the perfect experiment to test their theory.

No acknowledgment that a thoughtful left-libertarian, Richman, falls in the same place as many so-called right-libertarians fall on this issue of borders in this world.  No vulgar commentaries by illiterate left-libertarians attacking Richman on this position. 

Advocates of open borders had no problem at all blasting away on earlier posts on this topic; those who pooh-poohed the value of culture toward governance had no problem spewing vulgarities at those who dare suggest that culture matters if one is to hope for a libertarian society.

Now, when challenged by the experiment in Merkel’s Germany, nothing.  When confronted by one of their own, silence.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Odds and Ends AP*

*After Paris

A couple of thoughts on the aftermath of the attacks in Paris on Friday, November 13.

What’s With This “We”?

Patrick Smith at Salon has written much on this topic since then.  In one column, he rightly takes to task those who come to the issue of terrorist extremism without context; in the case of current events, without the context of Western (not the least of which, French) meddling in the Middle East and North Africa.  I will not cite anything directly on this subject, but he offered an interesting point – one that some have passed through more easily than others, and more easily than Smith, apparently:

I wrote above that I fail to understand why the question of responsibility is controversial. I take it back: This is why. Facing one’s part in others’ deprivation, repression, violence and all the rest is an errand requiring humility, resolve, commitment, and an enlarged vision. We Americans score poorly on all counts these days. But summoning all four—if it helps to think of it this way—is a matter of self-interest now.

There is no “one’s part in others’ deprivation…we Americans” responsible.  There are individuals, individuals who act.  The point – ignored or easily missed by too many: why do so many self-identify with the state?  Why are the actions of those employed by the state deemed to be “our” actions?

There are dozens of murders committed daily by every-day, ordinary criminals.  Does any reasonable person attach a “we” to these?  

So Much For a United Front

Again from the aforementioned Smith column, posted November 17:

First and most important, Washington seems to be opening itself at last to the idea of a united front against the Islamic State that the Russians have proposed since it emerged as a force capable of taking territory—and many lives—last year. The press picture of Obama meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 session Monday tells you all you need to know about the changing political and diplomatic environment.

To further the point, Simon Tisdall offers “Vladimir Putin: from pariah to powerbroker in one year”:

The reason is not a mystery. Under merciless attack from Islamic State, flailing on the refugee crisis, and consequently desperate to end the war in Syria, European leaders, backed by Obama, have come to an uncomfortable but, in historical terms, not wholly novel conclusion: they need Russia.

From Smith:

When we say “Paris changed everything,” we seem to mean more than what some of us understood 10 days ago. The complexities will be obvious, but there is a straight line now between a violence-adulating resistance movement in the Middle East, its attack on a European capital, a new resolve to defeat terrorism in Syria, the prospect of an orderly settlement and—dotted line here—a kind of latter-day Concert of Europe, which coalesced after the Congress of Vienna, included Russia and lasted a century.

All of this was before Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet.

Somebody decided to try to end this budding rapprochement before it started, apparently.  Take a look at the map: even if one accepts Turkey’s version of flight paths, someone would really have to want to tear Russia and NATO apart for this airspace “violation” to result in such catastrophe – no matter how many “warnings” were offered (or not).

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Getting My Money’s Worth

A trillion here, a trillion there….

Countless (and unknowable) trillions of dollars are spent annually by NATO / western countries on (so-called) defense spending and (so-called) intelligence spending and (so-called) homeland security spending.

There are satellites covering virtually every square inch of inhabited earth; every phone call, email, web site, and internet chat page is monitored.  Before boarding an airplane, passengers are strip-searched.  Armed military patrol every major airport and train station.

Every financial transaction monitored, money transfers scrutinized, detailed regulation of every commercial transaction.

The State Department on Monday issued a worldwide alert three days of ahead Thanksgiving cautioning travelers of "increased terroristic threats" from ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and other groups.

A “worldwide alert.”  Everywhere I go is at risk of a terrorist action.

Well, hopefully it will be over soon.

The alert expires Feb. 24.

I am afraid to ask…of what year?

Can they at least be specific about the tactics and targets, what I should look for?

"These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests," the alert says.

Got it?  Everywhere you go, for an indefinite period of time, and under every possible means, you are under terrorist threat.

Worth every penny????