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Home > Politics
Much of What's Called "Socialism" Is Just Pragmatic
by Bob Powell, 3/19/15
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Overview
Contents

Short Summary:

The complaints about how Sanders wants to give people "free stuff" make it sound like he's going to give everyone video games and iPods. But what he's about is assuring that people have better health care and education. That's in order to make the country more efficient and effective, which it is when everyone is healthier and better educated. That should be obvious. It's why we have public education; to be an advanced nation we must have advanced education that does not burden students for the remainder of their lives.

Of course, "conservatives" who "respect life" don't believe everyone should have health care even though they are poor due to U.S. policies that 1) drive people into poverty and keep them there and 2) favor the wealthy to make them even richer.

And "conservatives" don't believe in public education because it teaches the science of evolution and global warming. Worse, they don't believe in "critical thinking". From the Texas 2012 Republican Party Platform (also see Texas GOP rejects ‘critical thinking’ skills. Really. By Valerie Strauss, 7/9/12).

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

The U.S. requires citizens to have health care and education -- yes, even educating the poor -- to take advantage of a little-known economic concept: positive externalities.

The "he wants to give everyone "free stuff" propaganda is typical of the nonsense posted by those who do not understand the many important economic principles and effects described in this article.

So it's not about people getting "free stuff". It's about avoiding the systemic failures resulting from the dynamics that produce economic dysfunction.

What's more, "conservatives" ignore the many ways government subsidizes them with "free stuff." Some examples of government subsidies -- meaning we all pay for the "free stuff" for others:

-Subsidizes homes: Individuals deduct mortgage interest, which is greater for those more wealthy (even on a second home).

- Subsidizes Health Insurance for the Employed: For those who have health insurance provided by an employer, the employer deducts that cost and so government subsidizes that insurance. Yet they hate that the ACA subsidizes the health insurance of those who buy their own.

- Subsidizes Corporations: Somehow when corporations get tax breaks "conservatives" don't consider that to be "free stuff" for CEOs and stockholders, but it is. And many of them, especially the large ones, pay little, if any, taxes ... some even pay negative taxes. Corporations Should Pay Taxes explains that when corporations do not internalize all costs associated with producing and selling their products & services, that's a "free stuff" subsidy for them.

- Subsidizes Fossil Fuel Corporations: Fossil Fuels With $550 Billion Subsidies Hurt Renewables

Fossil fuels are reaping $550 billion a year in subsidies and holding back investment in cleaner forms of energy, the International Energy Agency said. Oil, coal and gas received more than four times the $120 billion paid out in incentives for renewables including wind, solar and biofuels, the Paris-based institution said today in its annual World Energy Outlook.

Note: This is in addition to the implicit subsidies they derive from not paying the costs of polluting the environment.

The Hidden Cost of Fossil Fuels: ... some energy costs are not included in consumer utility or gas bills, nor are they paid for by the companies that produce or sell the energy. These include human health problems caused by air pollution from the burning of coal and oil; damage to land from coal mining and to miners from black lung disease; environmental degradation caused by global warming, acid rain, and water pollution; and national security costs, such as protecting foreign sources of oil.

Since such costs are indirect and difficult to determine, they have traditionally remained external to the energy pricing system, and are thus often referred to as externalities. And since the producers and the users of energy do not pay for these costs, society as a whole must pay for them. But this pricing system masks the true costs of fossil fuels and results in damage to human health, the environment, and the economy.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies Cost $5 Trillion Annually and Worsen Pollution: The International Monetary Fund notes that subsides for burning fossil fuels enrich the wealthy and make air pollution worse.

Global energy subsidies, including the social and environmental costs associated with heavily subsidized fossil fuels, are costing the world’s governments upward of $5 trillion annually, according to new estimates released yesterday by the International Monetary Fund.

That lost revenue is punching gaping holes in the budgets of both wealthy and poor nations, according to IMF, while the benefits of the subsidies are flowing disproportionately to the wealthy.

Energy subsidies are also exacerbating pollution problems in many of the world’s large cities and discouraging investment in newer, cleaner energy sources, states the IMF working paper titled, “How Large Are Global Energy Subsidies?

Many freak out at even the mention of the word, socialism. It's "politically incorrect" to even mention the word thanks to more than six decades of propaganda against it. Bill Maher: "America's real religion is capitalism. And like any religion, it needs a devil. And that devil has always been socialism."

Indeed, I'd been subconsciously indoctrinated to have a religious-like belief that democracy and "free market" capitalism go together ... that they complement each other. And that the righteousness of capitalism is not to be questioned as I describe here.

Trigger Warning: There are positive aspects of the mentality that we no longer have to be "politically correct." For decades it's been politically incorrect to criticize capitalism ... doing so makes one a communist and subject to blacklisting, if not execution. So, this is a "trigger warning": this is not a "safe space" for those who have a fundamentalist, religious belief in capitalism. It's a space to review the objective reality of systems effects in capitalism.

Those who value freedom must realize that freedom is about more than "individual freedom." 
True freedom is about individual freedom and being free from system failure.

That's what this article is about: taking back the concept of freedom from the limited view of "freedom" promoted by "conservatives" and libertarians. There is little to no "freedom" for individuals in the midst of economic collapse. Individuals can do all the right things and still be financially devastated through no fault of their own. This article reviews those realities from a systems thinking perspective. A major purpose of this article is to describe areas where collective action through government is necessary to avoid system failure.

Those who respect the U.S. Constitution must be made aware that government action -- that means (OMG!) collective action -- is absolutely necessary in some cases to "promote the general Welfare" instead of the "special interest welfare." It's not about "Big Government" vs "Small Government" ... it's about having the necessary kind of government. It's not either-or; it's both-and.

Though collective action is necessary in some cases, it is not necessary in all cases. Though millions can fail financially through no fault of their own does not deny that many are irresponsible and fail because of their actions.

A major focus in both business and in government must be to create systems that do not set people up to fail, but which make it easier for individuals to succeed. We must think of our economy as a garden to be cultivated, not one in which the fastest-growing weeds limit the ability of the garden to produce.

No economic system (neither communism nor socialism nor capitalism) is mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution is about our Governing System, not our Economic System. Governing Systems are different from Economic Systems; most of the negative views about socialism conflate the two concepts. What's obvious from history is that any economic system can become dictatorial absent a strong democracy.

There's often an argument as to whether the U.S. governing system is a democracy or a republic. What's actually true is that it's a "proportionally-represented democratically-elected, constitutionally-limited republic". So we have (in theory) government that is both a democracy and a republic, with the former about representation and the latter about protecting minority rights.

The propaganda is that,

- on the one hand, that Hitler was a socialist (he was not) and that socialism is the beginning of the slippery slope toward a fascist dystopia.
or,
- on the other hand, that socialism is the slippery slope toward the opposite extreme, a communist, collectivist dystopia.

What's also needed to prevent sliding into authoritarian dictatorship -- as we essentially have -- is transparent, democratic government and an informed electorate. Sadly, the U.S. is lacking in having everyone represented, in protecting minority rights, in having transparent government, and in having an informed electorate.

Also one hears from "conservatives" that "Socialism has failed everywhere it's been tried." The fact is that many of those "failures" have been because the U.S. has supported coups to overturn democratically-elected governments. What's more, look around, capitalism is failing in nations around the planet ... and, because of Global Warming, it's failing Life on Earth. So obviously so that Frank Luntz advised Republicans to stop using the word.

I realize this will not convince any of those who have bought into the demonization of the word, socialism, without the understanding I provide here: that being pragmatic is doing what works, not following the dictates of any ideology. This tendency to reject contradictory information, no matter how well reasoned, is an all-too-human handicap.

Biased Assimilation and Attitude Polarization: The Effects of Prior Theories on Subsequently Considered Evidence, Charles G. Lord, Lee Ross, and Mark R. Lepper, Stanford University, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1979, Vol. 37, No. 11, 2098-2109

People who hold strong opinions on complex social issues are likely to examine relevant empirical evidence in a biased manner. They are apt to accept "confirming" evidence at face value while subjecting "discontinuing" evidence to critical evaluation, and as a result to draw undue support for their initial positions from mixed or random empirical findings. Thus, the result of exposing contending factions in a social dispute to an identical body of relevant empirical evidence may be not a narrowing of disagreement but rather an increase in polarization.

Why Debunking Myths About Vaccines Hasn't Convinced Dubious Parents by Christopher Graves, Harvard Business Review, 2/20/15

... Arguing the facts doesn't help -- in fact, it makes the situation worse. In 1979, Charles Lord performed a seminal piece of research that revealed when you show someone factual, scientific evidence that they are wrong, they react badly. They will only accept the evidence that fits their pre-existing views. Lord called this effect "confirmation bias." There have been hundreds of studies since, all finding the same results: when you argue using facts and evidence, people generally reject or discount your evidence. Instead of changing their minds, most will dig in their heels and cling even more firmly to their originally held views. Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth and Jason Reifler of the University of Exeter have also documented an even more alarming tendency, which they call "the backfire effect." In their study, correcting people actually increased their misperceptions. ...

A cartoon about the backfire effect as a barrier to changing beliefs with examples.

Why facts don't matter to Trump's supporters By David Ignatius, Washington Post, 8/4/16

Social scientists have some intriguing explanations for why people persist in misjudgments despite strong contrary evidence. Trump is a vivid and, to his critics, a frightening present-day illustration of this perception problem. But it has been studied carefully by researchers for more than 30 years. Basically, the studies show that attempts to refute false information often backfire and lead people to hold on to their misperceptions even more strongly. ...

So believe me when I say I understand that nothing here will sway the views of those who recoil in horror at the mention of the word, socialism, and cannot accept the necessity for policies that consider the whole instead of the parts.


Overview:

Many policies that some call "socialist" are not really socialist at all. They're actually merely "liberal", because those policies are pragmatic to address failures and weaknesses of "free market" capitalism; they are necessary for preventing system failures. That should, one would think, make them be seen as independent of either the economic left or economic right. That they're not seen that way is because the economic "free market" right ignores, and mostly even denies, these failures & weaknesses.

Among these failures & weaknesses are the economic effects of negative externalities, tragedy of the commons, positive externalities, inelasticities, long delays, path dependence, adverse selection, escalation, the attractiveness principle, game theory, monopoly & oligopoly (& monopsony) effects on competition, game theory, Net Present Value (NPV) calculations, and Cost-Benefit Analysis.

I love these memes that illustrate the typical black propaganda about socialism.

MANSION: The mansion shown is in New Jersey ($56M, 30,000 sqft); it's taken from a Forbes article on The Biggest Mansions For Sale In America by Morgan Brennan, 12/23/11 - she says "I write about real estate markets, outrageous homes and cities". The article says this mansion is one of the "gargantuan homes ... actually built by real estate developers on speculation". Developers like this hope that one of the 20 people mentioned below who own as much as 50% of Americans will buy it.

So the meme saying it's a politician's is a bald-faced lie. That matters not a whit to "conservatives" who are incredibly eager to spread this kind of propaganda.

As Bill Maher said: "America's real religion is capitalism. And like any religion, it needs a devil. And that devil has always been socialism."

If that mansion were to belong to a politician, it would be to one who got rich by doing the bidding of the banks and other corporations that control the nation's economy. After all, 20 People Now Own As Much Wealth as Half of All Americans ... and they're the ones called Job Creators who are seen as Gods, not the parasites they are.

The mansion, if sold, will likely to to one of the wealthy who control polticians, i.e. CEOs of corporations and banks, developers, and the wealthy who get enormous tax breaks.

Note: Tax Expenditures for the top 20% ($617B) exceed military spending ($599B)!!! ... now that's "free stuff" redistribution to the wealthy. But never mind that, be outraged at the food stamp (SNAP) benefits of $74.1B. 

Tax Expenditures are the real "entitlements" that are not voted on every year, but remain in the tax code until rescinded -- i.e., essentially forever, which is how they've grown so large.

Former Federal Reserve Board Chair Alan Greenspan referred to Tax Expenditures as "tax entitlements" and said they should be looked at alongside spending entitlements. That should be obvious ... no wonder the U.S. has debt!

Donald Trump knows he's entitled: "Trump: We're entitled because of the laws that people like her passed to take massive amounts of depreciation and other charges, and we do it." ... But not only by "her", but by "conservatives" of all stripes doing the bidding of their corporate masters.

Or, that mansion could belong to an evangelical minister of a mega-church. For example Kenneth Copeland's net worth is $760 Million.

CITYSCAPE: The picture of a city block is undoubtedly one destroyed by "free trade" that's loved by those who believe in the "free market" religion that's cost the nation many millions of high-paying manufacturing and IT jobs ... see the data. It's Republican/Trumpian/Obama neoliberal/"conservative" faith-based economics that "free trade" agreements as structured are good for the nation, not reality.

Bill Clinton colluded with Republicans against majority Democratic opposition to pass NAFTA. Trump at 3rd Presidential Debate: "... the NAFTA deal by her husband, one of the worst deals of any kind signed by anybody. It's a disaster." Indeed, it's been a continuing disaster, but what Trump ignores is that it's by far Republicans who are responsible for the disaster. Republican vs Democratic support for NAFTA: it only passed with massive Republican support (166 for, 53 against), with whom Clinton colluded despite massive opposition from his own party (Dems: 129 for, 184 against). That's 184 Dems vs 53 Reps against; 3.5:1 more Dems against than Reps against!

Obama similarly colluded with Republicans against majority Democratic opposition to pass TPP Fast Track (13 Democratic senators voted with Republicans to get the 60 required ... that's 47 Republicans vs. 13 Democrats, 3.6:1 more Reps for than Dems for).

Yes, Trump has said he'd do something about jobs lost to trade, but there's a snowball's chance in hell Republicans would let him ... unless it's to slash U.S. wages. Based on his statements, to bring jobs back it's most likely he would want lower U.S. wages to bring back jobs. He said that the problem is that wages are too high in the U.S. and that, along with high corporate taxes (that's a lie, by the way), is why the U.S. isn't competitive.

As on many issues Trump has made exactly contradictory statements, saying both that "he doesn't want the federal government raising, or even setting, the minimum wage floor" and also that: the "federal" minimum wage "has to go up." Donald Trump gets a Full Flop for stance on minimum wage by Louis Jacobson, Politifact, 7/28/16.

HOSPITAL: The "Your hospital on socialism" section of the meme is another lie. Even a single-payer system would not be "socialism"; it would only eliminate the deadly and inefficient health insurance corporations that have high overhead, high executive pay, and a failed business model ... which is why they were all in for the Affordable Care Act.

With single payer everyone would be covered to correct the health insurance system failure due to adverse seletion, a dynamic that has not penetrated "conservative" minds despite a Nobel Prize being awarded for its understanding.

I explain at Single-Payer Health Insurance that's why privatized health insurance without universal coverage is fatally flawed. Add to that a bunch of other reasons for it: When privatized there's less U.S. innovation, higher costs, personal bankruptcy, death, corporations between patients and doctors, obscene CEO pay, and high overhead & profit.

Many don't understand that a single-payer system is not "socialized medicine". That's what the VHA is. This article explains.

When socialism works in America By Ezra Klein, The Washington Post, 6/9/11

... The thing about the Veteran's Administration's health-care system? It's socialized. Not single payer. Not heavily centralized. Socialized. As in, it employs the doctors and nurses. Owns the hospitals. And though I think there's some good reason to believe its spending growth is somewhat understated - it benefits heavily from medical trainees, for instance - accounting for that difference still means a remarkable recent performance.

... beneficiaries of the VHA seem to have health outcomes - including mortality - that are the same as or better than those of Medicare and private sector patients. These findings are noteworthy given the population served by the VHA, which is recognized to be highly and relatively burdened by socioeconomic disadvantage, comorbid illness, and poor self-reported health. It is remarkable that the VHA has been able to attain this superior-quality care at a lower cost than that purchased through Medicare, with expenditures that have increased at a much slower rate (adjusted annual per capita growth rate, 0.3% vs. 4.4%)

Anyone can find many right-wing diatribes against socialism. This article is an antidote that addresses quality of life and freedom:

Going Dutch By RUSSELL SHORTO, New York Times, 4/29/09

... Geert Mak, the Dutch author, insisted that happiness is tied directly to the social system. We were sitting at his favorite cafe, a hangout of Dutch journalists since the end of World War II, and the genial, old-wood setting of the place, as well as its location, around the corner from the Dam and the center of the city's history, added a bit of luster to his words and reminded me, for the thousandth time, why I'm still here, despite the downside. "One problem with the American system," he said, "is that if you lose your job and are without an income, that's not just bad for you but for the economy. Our system has more security. And I think it makes our quality of life better. My American friends say they live in the best country in the world, and in a lot of ways they are right. But they always have to worry: ‘What happens to my family if I have a heart attack? What happens when I turn 65 or 70?' America is the land of the free. But I think we are freer."

Those who don't understand these effects lack necessary understanding of both economics and business. When we don't have a government that addresses these failures and weaknesses -- that is, when we have a government that has bought into neoliberal policies of deregulation -- we get system failure. We get, as the video Crises of Capitalism explains, fundamentally flawed economics and government.

The purpose of this article is absolutely not a blanket endorsement of dreaded "collectivism". It describes specific cases where it's absolutely necessary for government to prevent system failures. Unless these dynamics are addressed by government, it cannot live up to the Constitutional requirement to "promote the general Welfare."

Policies to address these dynamics should not be seen as "collectivism" for collectivism's-sake. They're necessary because individually-logical decisions can be collectively irrational because systems have emergent properties. Their existence means systems do not behave in the same way that the individuals who compose them behave.

Besides, on the one hand, the U.S. provides enormous benefits and privileges to the "collectives of money" we call corporations. On the other hand, the U.S. has many restrictions on the "collectives of persons" we call unions. Our economic system is rigged against those who work for a wage.

The very use of the word, socialism, can provoke, and has provoked, extremely negative reactions against what's actually a caricature of the word. That's thanks to over six decades of propaganda against the word by those who profit from the system as it is. They oppose admitting, much less addressing, capitalism's failures. They portray doing so as the ultimate in being politically incorrect.

One negative reaction to this article's use of the word, socialism, is the basis for another article on Conservative Criticism of 'Much of What's Called Socialism is Just Pragmatic'. Though those criticisms do not address the issues I raise here, they have been helpful in prompting me to thoroughly research them. Thanks to these criticisms I've learned things I did not know and had not addressed.

In addition, I've added sections to this article on economic systems. I make clear the distinction between economic systems and governing systems. Conflating them is a mistake that confuses understanding. Any economic system (be it communism, socialism or capitalism) can become an authoritarian or dictatorial governing system in the absence of a well-functioning democracy, the lack of which has led the U.S. to become a plutocratic sham of democracy.

And this article is not an argument for communism (state capitalism). It's an argument for recognizing the reality of how the world works and for correcting "free market" weaknesses and failures. Not doing so will, it seems to me, inevitably lead to an authoritarian governing regime.

Libertarians and economic "conservatives" believe that when all individuals behave in their own self interest, all will work out for the best. That false belief is insane and why this nation is failing; see Reality: The Dagger in the Black Heart of Libertarian Ideology. The root of the problem is that the "freedom" to make some individually-logical decisions can bankrupt you, sicken you, injure you, and kill you. A myopic view of "freedom" undermines the economic and national security of the United States of America. Even more, it's an existential threat to life on Earth.

When laissez-faire capitalism succeeds, even on its own terms -- producing "growth" and wealth -- it fails ... it has failed ... for the vast majority of Americans. This failure has become so obvious that in 2011 Frank Luntz advised Republicans to stop using the word, capitalism, because Americans "think capitalism is immoral". Luntz' advice is wise because capitalism has obviously failed: if an economic system does not provide jobs with a decent standard of living for the vast majority of its citizens, what good is it?

What's Left and Right? When I refer to left/right here, it's to economics, not social, issues. These are orthogonal axes, as explained at The Political Compass.

Collectivist ideology. On the far left communist extreme, government owns and operates everything and people are cogs in the machine of state.

Individualistic ideology. On the far right "free market" libertarian extreme virtually everything is privatized and people are commodities to be bought and sold.

At neither extreme are people valued as human. Communism's imperative is for humans to serve the state. Capitalism's imperative is that humans be commodified.
Evil lies at both the extreme economic right and extreme economic left.

We hear the privatize-everything mantra of the "right" every day. Few, if any, say that government should own and run everything. There is virtually no "left" left in America.

Liberal is the pragmatic center between those extremes. Liberal means valuing true freedom: individual freedom and freedom from system failure.

Bernie Sanders, running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 as a Democratic Socialist, has unfailingly been referred to in the media and by his opponents as a "self-described socialist". That's despite major Hillary Clinton ally, Claire McCaskill, stating "I very rarely read in any coverage of Bernie that he’s a socialist." Rather than attack Sanders on specific issues, she raised the issue of "electability." She said, "I think Bernie is too liberal to gather enough votes in this country to become president."

What this means is that they're essentially saying, "I'm not demeaning him by calling him a socialist; he says that about himself." I look forward to the day when the media refers to "conservatives" as "self-described conservatives" ... implying they demean themselves.

These attacks show right-wing Democrats like Clinton and McCaskill are corporatists who are terrified by Bernie Sanders' positions on issues -- on most of which the majority Americans agree -- and so they don't dare attack him on the issues. When Clinton does, as she did on single payer, it backfires. Instead, in the face of Sanders' success, Clinton's strategy has been to blur distinctions by using carefully constructed wording that make it appear their policy positions are pretty much the same.

Despite the negative attention, despite the scheduling of the debates to suppress his visibility, despite documented DNC collusion with Clinton, and despite the lack of media coverage compared to other candidates, he got 45.6% of the delegates won.

As the Political Compass notes:

The US Presidential Candidates 2016 on 7/26/16
Please note that the positions on the chart are based on speeches, manifestos and, where applicable, voting records .If positions markedly change during the campaign, we will revise the chart accordingly. Already the positions of Trump and Clinton differ slightly from the primaries chart.

... It remains a mystery to us why Sanders chose to describe himself - incorrectly - as a socialist, and in America of all countries. His position is that of a mainstream social democrat - a Keynesian in the mould of the New Deal, and the mainstream left in all other democracies. You wouldn't need a degree in marketing to see that 'social democrat' would be a much more appealing self-description, so why did he insist on such an unhelpful misnomer? It was helpful, though, to his right wing primaries opponent, who was able to present herself as a centrist, between an off the wall socialist and a quasi-fascist. ...

See, Bernie Sanders says Americans back his agenda — and he’s mostly right, By Philip Bump, Washington Post, 6/12/16 and the January 2015 National poll of 1,500 likely 2016 voters (Republicans, Independents, Democrats) conducted by GBA Strategies on behalf of the Progressive Change Institute.

The criticisms of socialism, in the most pejorative of ways that ignore systemic failures, often assert that Hitler was a socialist. This assertion advances the view that any move toward socialism puts the nation on the slippery-slope to an inevitable collectivist hell in which we're all slaves to an authoritarian dictatorship. As I explain below, Hitler was no socialist. What's clear from our history, though, is that capitalism is perfectly compatible with slavery. What we have now, thanks to our rigged economic system, amounts to wage slavery.

That this nonsense narrative is mainstream was evident in the CNBC interview with Bernie Sanders when John Harwood asked him this:

"People on Wall Street, people in business ... some have even likened the progressive/Democratic crusade to Hitler's Germany hunting down the Jews. What do you think when you hear stuff like that?"

Bernie Sanders' response: "It’s sick. ... What a disgusting remark."

Exactly. The subtext of this kind of exchange is, "A socialist, a Hitler, for president?! OMG!"

By contrast, the question that should be asked instead is:

"Did you know Albert Einstein was a socialist who wrote that 'the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development'? What do you think he knew that so many others don't?"


Here's the link to my article explaining why the attacks on Sanders claiming he wants to take 90% of your money are, not to put too fine a point on it, lies.

 

Contents

Preface

Governing Systems and Economic Systems

  • What about "Scary" Socialism?
  • What is "Democracy"?
  • Why is Democracy Vital?
  • Attacks on Democracy
  • -- Money in Politics
  • -- Privatizing Government Functions in General
  • -- Privatizing Voting
  • -- "Trade" agreements: NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership
  • -- Media consolidation
  • -- Propaganda
  • What's Left and Right
  • Plutocracy
  • Communism
  • "Free-market" Capitalism: aka, Neoliberal Capitalism or deregulated (i.e., lawless) Capitalism
  • Why Capitalism is Failing: Internal Contradictions
  • Fascism
  • Christian Dominionism or Christian Fascism
  • Socialism
  • The Military is Socialist and Authoritarian
  • Democratic Socialism
  • Capitalism - Socialism Overview
  • Crony Capitalism
  • The Next System Project
  • Belief in "Free Market" Capitalism
    Hitler Was Not a Socialist

    -- Who supported Hitler? Capitalists, not socialists.
    Einstein Was a Socialist!?
    What Does Lead to Fascism?
    Capitalism is Perfectly Compatible with Slavery
    Capitalism Also Leads to War?
    The Whole and the Parts
    But Government Is Evil to Many

    Free Market Failures and Weaknesses Overview


    Preface

    Many policies that some refer to as "socialism" are not simply socialist. That is, they are not collectivist for collectivism's sake. They should more properly be seen as pragmatic, in that without such policies an economic system fails.

    I realize it's not politically correct to talk about "free market" failures, that is, the failures of capitalism. Many deny there are even such a things as "free market" failures: there are only failures because the market is just not "free enough."

    When systems are dynamically complex, "simple" is wrong.

    And what's called "common sense" is usually nonsense.

    Even when some admit there are problems with the "free market", they're seen as "features", not bugs, and the well-worth-it price of "freedom". Others see the obvious failures as the result of "Crony Capitalism", not admitting that capitalism is perfectly designed to cater to capitalists, who are crony capitalists.

    Even suggesting the "free market" fails, questions the sacred "invisible hand," which many see as the "Hand of God" in action, unsullied by government interference.

    There are positive aspects of the mentality that we no longer have to be "politically correct." For decades it's been politically incorrect to criticize capitalism ... doing so makes one a communist and subject to blacklisting, if not execution. So, this is a "trigger warning": this is not a "safe space" for those who have a fundamentalist, religious belief in capitalism. It's a space to review the objective reality of systems effects in capitalism.

    The typical "conservative" response is that trying to do anything about the problems inherent in capitalism will just make things worse. It's practically a knee-jerk mantra, but funny thing, that's exactly the 16th century thinking of Machiavelli. He wrote:

    When a problem arises either from 
    within a republic or outside it, 
    one brought about either by 
    internal or external reasons, 
    one that has become so great that 
    it begins to make everyone afraid, 
    the safest policy is to delay dealing with it 
    rather than trying to do away with it, 
    because those who try to do away with it 
    almost always increase its strength and accelerate 
    the harm which they feared might come from it.

    Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses, 1519
    Quoted in Sterman, John, "Learning in and about Complex Systems", System Dynamics Review 10, No 2 - 3, Summer-Fall 1994, and in Sterman, John, Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World, Irwin/McGraw-Hill, 2000, p. 8.

    Sterman's paper on "Learning in and about Complex Systems" is a must-read for those who wish to even begin to understand the difficulty we have dealing with the behaviors of economic systems. See Sterman's reaction to Machiavelli's assertion at Government Dysfunction: it's now the 21st century and we know how to do better.

    Now that I've examined business and economics from a systems thinking perspective since around 1994, I've come to understand much about how to apply systems principles in these areas. Systems thinking is a lens that allows understanding of behaviors that would be, for me and I think for everyone, virtually impossible to understand otherwise.

    In this article I review some of the "free market's" weaknesses and failures, and why government is necessary to prevent systemic failure.

    This is more typical propaganda against socialism.

    But no. People flee authoritarianism for better economic and political lives. People do not "flee from" Scandinavian nations.

    What's more, people are fleeing the U.S. Those many call, "illegal immigrants", are leaving America because of the lack of jobs and because of persecution.

    Undocumented Immigrant Population Levels Off in U.S. -- More People Have Been Leaving the U.S. for Mexico Than Coming From There By MIRIAM JORDAN, WSJ, 11/18/14:
    "The population of illegal immigrants in the U.S. has stabilized at 11.2 million since the Great Recession, according to a new report, with their numbers declining in 14 states and rising in seven states from 2009 to 2012."

    Note that democracy and "free market" capitalism conflict. Libertarians, the ultimate "free marketers", see democracy as two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner. They ignore that U.S. democratically-elected, representative, constitutionally-limited republic, with the "republic" part about protecting the minority.

    It's clear that capitalism and democracy are adversaries and that plutocracy has overwhelmed democracy.

    Governing Systems and Economic Systems

    This section is an overview of governing and economic systems. They are not the same.

    Any economic system can have governance that's authoritarian or dictatorial. Democracy, as I define it below, is all that keeps us from that. Communism, capitalism, or mixed-economy socialism can all be dictatorial in the absence of a transparent, well-functioning democracy and an informed electorate.

    What about "Scary" Socialism?

    There's lots of scare-mongering about socialism. Many think Hitler was socialist and that socialism will inevitably lead to a Hitler-like fascist dictatorship. That's absurd; see the section below on Hitler explaining why that's ridiculous.

    But what about it? Many see the very idea of socialism as a slippery slope. Here's why it's not: democracy. Absent a strong democracy, any economic system can become authoritarian and dictatorial.

    What is "Democracy"?

    In the U.S. that's shorthand for a "proportionally-represented democratically-elected, constitutionally-limited republic" (credit to Thom Hartmann). So it's both a democracy and a republic, with the latter about protecting the rights of the minority. Protecting the rights of the minority takes care of the "two wolves and a sheep deciding what's for dinner" problem.

    Unfortunately, we only have this system in theory. We do not have the transparent, well-functioning democracy and informed electorate that's necessary.

    A major objection by "conservatives" to democracy is that it's tyranny by the majority. The irony is that what we have from the 2016 election is tyranny by the minority. Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the Presidency and got the majority of votes in none of them.

    The U.S. has hit the trifecta:

    Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy BY RICHARD W. BEHAN, L A Progressive, 10/1/16

    "Oligarchy is rule by the few. Plutocracy is rule by the wealthy. Corporatocracy is a society governed or controlled by corporations. We have all three."

    What we have now, with Republicans in total control of all 3 branches of government, is also tyranny of the minority and Republican kleptocracy.

    Why is Democracy Vital?

    Primarily because, as noted above, absent a strong democracy, any economic system can become authoritarian and dictatorial. Democracy allows change without violence. Here's Karl Popper's explanation:

    Karl Popper: Political Philosophy

    ... Democracy happens to be the best type of political system because it goes a long way toward solving this problem by providing a nonviolent, institutionalized and regular way to get rid of bad rulers-namely by voting them out of office. For Popper, the value of democracy did not reside in the fact that the people are sovereign. (And, in any event, he said, "the people do not rule anywhere, it is always governments that rule" [All Life Is Problem Solving, 93]).

    Rather, Popper defended democracy principally on pragmatic or empirical grounds, not on the "essentialist" view that democracy by definition is rule by the people or on the view that there is something intrinsically valuable about democratic participation.


    We have only the Appearance of Democracy

    With this move, Popper is able to sidestep altogether a host of traditional questions of democratic theory, e.g. ... On what grounds are the people sovereign? Who, exactly, shall count as "the people"? How shall they be represented? The role of the people is simply to provide a regular and nonviolent way to get rid of incompetent, corrupt or abusive leaders. ...

    Attacks on Democracy

    Money in Politics

    Getting Big Money Out of Politics and Restoring Democracy, Bernie Sanders Website on the Issues

    ... Six years ago, as a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, by a 5-to-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially said to the wealthiest people in this country: you already own much of the American economy. Now, we are going to give you the opportunity to purchase the U.S. Government, the White House, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, Governors' seats, legislatures, and State judicial branches as well.

    The Citizens United decision hinges on the absurd notion that money is speech, corporations are people, and giving huge piles of undisclosed cash to politicians in exchange for access and influence does not constitute corruption. ...

    I assert that:
    Money is property, not speech.
    Corporations are property, not people.

    To say otherwise is a perversion of reality.

    How Can the U.S. Shrink the Influence of Money in Politics? by RUSSELL BERMAN, The Atlantic, 3/16/16
    Campaign finance is at the very heart of complaints about elections. Let's look at some of the claims about money's role, and proposals to change it.

    The problem of money in politics is so universally recognized that even Donald Trump, the ultimate capitalist, and Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist, agree on it. Sanders has spent his career railing against the corrupting influence of wealthy and corporate donors, while Trump has unmasked the game by admitting that he gave money to politicians to curry favor with them. The success of both of these politicians suggests the degree to which Americans are fed up with the influence of money on politics. If we don't reduce that influence, our system risks losing its legitimacy.

    The Supreme Court has totally legalized political corruption. As if it's not obvious.

    Justices overturn former Va. governor McDonnell's corruption conviction by Richard Wolf, USA TODAY, 6/27/16

    The Supreme Court granted a reprieve Monday to a former Republican governor of Virginia convicted of corruption, and in doing so made it harder for prosecutors to use federal fraud statutes against public officials.

    In a unanimous decision that could benefit politicians and other public officials entangled by bribery, extortion and fraud statutes, the justices vacated the conviction of former governor Bob McDonnell while leaving open the possibility of a new trial.

    Once seen as a potential Republican vice presidential candidate, McDonnell was convicted in 2014 and sentenced to two years in prison for accepting luxury gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman in exchange for performing "official acts" on his behalf. But the high court ruled that those acts were commonplace actions taken on behalf of constituents. ...

    In McDonnell's case, more than $175,000 in gifts he and his wife received were legal under Virginia law, no matter how unseemly. The issue was whether his actions - giving Jonnie Williams, the CEO of a Virginia company marketing vitamins and dietary supplements, access to government officials - constituted a quid pro quo.

    The McDonnells, whose separation became public during their 2014 corruption trial but who sat together at the Supreme Court, accepted lavish gifts from Williams, such as $20,000 in designer clothes, $15,000 to cater a daughter's wedding and a $6,000 Rolex watch. In return, they helped Williams gain access to state university and health care officials who could assist in winning federal approval for one of his products.

    Bob McDonnell was sentenced in 2015 to two years in prison; Maureen McDonnell received a year-and-a-day sentence. McDonnell's conviction was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit last summer. He could be retried, but it's not clear federal prosecutors will do that. ...

    Hillary Will Appoint Corporatists, Not Progressives, to the Supreme Court by Roland Vincent 7/13/16

    After last week's unanimous decision by the Supreme Court overturning former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonald's conviction for corruption, any suggestion that there are progressives on this court has been soundly refuted. The justices endorsed political corruption as the norm, and gave a green light to bribery of public officials. The entire court is made up of corporatists who differ slightly on social issues.Basing one's vote upon any illusion that Hillary Clinton would appoint one or more progressives to the court is laughable. But there is nothing funny about her penchant for military belligerence, her support of trade agreements, her opposition to universal healthcare, her support of the death penalty, and her opposition to legalizing marijuana. ...

    It is preposterous to presume that Hillary Clinton will appoint a progressive to the Supreme Court. Neither Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama ever did, and Hillary is substantially more conservative than either her husband or Obama. ...

    Privatizing Government Functions in General

    Privatization of government services and corporate control of the media are used to prevent transparency and assure that citizens are uninformed.

    The "conservative" efforts to defund and underfund education are designed to keep the public unable to understand what's happening. The 2012 Texas Republican platform explicitly rejects the need for critical thinking. And "conservative" efforts clearly demonstrate antipathy for protecting the rights of minorities.

    The rationale for creating an economic crisis is to reduce government revenue and use that as an excuse to sell off government assets for a song to the wealthy. For example, the U.S. Postal Service:

    Why the Post Office Matters by R. H. Lossin, The Jacobin, 10/2/15.
    The privatization of America's postal buildings, and the New Deal art inside them, represents an assault on democracy itself.

    ... the historical and cultural significance of postal properties makes this a particularly tragic instance of the government's growing willingness to hand over public property. It is also a singular example of the lengths to which right-wing politicians and their corporate beneficiaries will go in order to justify the transference of public wealth to the private sector. ...

    Privatizing the Post Office by KEVIN DRUM, Mother Jones, 9/9/10

    ... You know, if the postal service were allowed to account for its pensions the same as anyone else, it would be in fine financial shape and there'd be no talk of killing off Saturday service. So why not privatize and let them? Because of the universal service requirement, of course. If you allowed private competition in first class mail, someone would very quickly snap up delivery in dense urban and suburban areas for less than 44 cents an ounce. The postal service, stuck with its universal service requirement, would then have to raise rates astronomically until eventually it would have virtually no business left except for rural areas at two bucks an ounce or something. So much for universal service. ...

    Privatizing water services. Michigan's Republican government is a criminal enterprise:

    After court threat, state of Michigan removed Flint's power to sue by Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, 9/19/16

    Days after Flint Mayor Karen Weaver served notice that her city might file a lawsuit against the State of Michigan over the Flint drinking water crisis, the state removed Flint's ability to sue.

    Though Flint has not been under a state-appointed emergency manager since April 2015, the state still exerts partial control over the city through a five-member Receivership Transition Advisory Board, whose members are appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

    The board moved quickly to change the rules under which Flint is governed so that the city cannot file a lawsuit without first getting approval from that state-appointed board.

    In other words, Flint cannot sue the state without getting the state to sign off on it first. ...

    Michigan Republicans Strip Flint Of Their Power To Sue The State Over Poisoned Water By Stephen D Foster Jr, Addicting Info, 9/19/16

    This news segment on Democracy Now! discusses the series of NY Times articles on how government services are being privatized.

    "When You Dial 911 and Wall Street Answers": How Private Equity Profits off Our Daily Lives, Democracy Now!, 8/3/16

    When you woke up this morning, chances are your morning routine was touched in some way by a private equity firm. From the water you drink to the roads you drive to work, to the morning newspaper you read, Wall Street firms are playing an increasingly influential role in daily life. So says a compelling new article in The New York Times, "This Is Your Life, Brought to You by Private Equity." For more, we speak with New York Times reporter Danielle Ivory, one of the contributors to the series as well as co-author of the recent article "When You Dial 911 and Wall Street Answers."

    Now Wall Street investors are controlling critical public services in municipalities across the country, including fire and ambulance. According to the report, under the control of private equity firms, response times for fire and ambulance services have often increased, companies have fallen into bankruptcy, residents have been made to pay higher costs for poorer service.

    Well, for more, we're joined by New York Times reporter Danielle Ivory, one of the contributors to the series, as well as co-author of the recent article, "When You Dial 911 and Wall Street Answers." ...

    The articles:

    This Is Your Life, Brought to You by Private Equity By JENNIFER DANIEL, JOSH WILLIAMS, BEN PROTESS and DANIELLE IVORY, NY Times, 8/1/16
    Since the financial crisis, the private equity industry has become hugely influential. Here's how it plays out in your daily life.

    BOTTOM LINE NATION What Can Go Wrong When Private Equity Takes Over a Public ServicNY Times, 6/25/16

    BOTTOM LINE NATION | PART 1, When You Dial 911 and Wall Street Answers By DANIELLE IVORY, BEN PROTESS and KITTY BENNET, NY Times, 6/25/16

    BOTTOM LINE NATION | PART 2 How Housing's New Players Spiraled Into Banks' Old MistakesNY Times, 6/26/16

    BOTTOM LINE NATION | PART 3 How Private Equity Found Power and Profit in State Capitols NY Times, 7/14/16

    A Primer on Private Equity NY Times, 6/25/16

    Privatizing Voting

    Privatizing Our Vote: The Ultimate Crime By The Daily Take Team, The Thom Hartmann Program, Truthout, 11/06/13

    ... over the past decade or so our elected representatives have slowly but surely handed the power to decide our elections over to a handful of giant, mostly Republican-connected corporations. And they've done so by giving them the right to count our votes.

    Could the 2016 Election Be Stolen with Help from Electronic Voting Machines?, Democracy Now!, 2/23/16

    Harvey Wasserman of Columbus, Ohio, has been a vocal critic of electronic voting machines. He co-wrote the book, "What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election." His upcoming book is titled "The Strip & Flip Selection of 2016: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft."

    ... The electronic voting machines are owned by private corporations, which are Republican in orientation, generally. And the courts have ruled that the source code on these electronic voting machines is proprietary. So, even the governments that buy or lease these machines have no access to a final verification process. Even Ronald Reagan said, "Trust, but verify." ...

    "Trade" agreements: NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

    What are called "trade agreements" are attacks on democracy in favor of corporate power. They're not about "trade" but about "transfer of the factors of production". Beyond the undermining of wages, they attack national sovereignty ... the United Nations does not, but "trade agreements" do.

    For example, like NAFTA before it, TPP is a pro-corporate "free trade" agreement among the United States and 11 other countries that constitutes a massive attack on national sovereignty. They essentially privatize government in favor of corporate lawmaking and courts to adjudicate the law.

    Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): More Job Offshoring, Lower Wages, Unsafe Food Imports

    Foreign corporations would be empowered to bypass domestic courts and directly "sue" the U.S. government before a tribunal of private lawyers that sits outside of any domestic legal system. These lawyers would be authorized to order the U.S. government to hand millions of our tax dollars to the corporations for laws that they find inconvenient.

    How could foreign corporations attack domestic health, environmental and financial protections that local companies have to follow? The TPP would give foreign firms special privileges, including the ability to challenge new policies - from Wall Street regulations to climate change protections - because they frustrated the corporations' "expectations."

    Bill Moyers on why the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement is death for democracy by Gaius Publius, AmericaBlog, 11/5/13

    ... It's not really hard to understand TPP though, once you see the pattern - TPP puts the ruling class (and the corporations they control) in charge of most aspects of our economic and regulatory life. It rewrites the laws of every nation that signs it, all to increase the wealth of our pathological betters. We just need more people saying that.

    Now comes Bill Moyers with an excellent, listenable primer on what TPP is and why it spells death to democracy (literally) and breathes even more life into the predator 1% of the 1%.

    But don't take my word for it. Listen to Moyers' great introduction, then to the discussion with Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism and Dean Baker of CEPR. This is one of the best ways to come up to speed on TPP I've found - very tight, very clear: ...

    Nobel prize winner Stiglitz calls TPP 'outrageous' by Heather Long, CNN Money, 8/23/16:Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says it's "absolutely wrong" for the U.S. to pass the trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

    It will only help big corporations, not American citizens, he says.

    "The advocates of trade said it was going to benefit everyone. The evidence is it's benefited a few and left a lot behind," Stiglitz told CNN's Richard Quest on Quest Means Business Tuesday.

    Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are against TPP, a free trade agreement that President Obama has been pushing with 11 other Asian nations. China is not a part of the deal.

    There's a chance Obama might try one last time to get Congress to pass TPP. Lawmakers typically come back to Washington for a few days after the presidential election. It's known as a "lame duck" session.

    "I find that outrageous," says Stiglitz. "To rush it through in a lame-duck session, I think, is absolutely wrong." ...

    Much like TPP, Stiglitz says NAFTA did not include enough protections for workers and intellectual property.

    "The rhetoric that everyone was going to be better off was a lie," he says. ...

    Media consolidation

    Incredibly, this Conspiracy Theory Rock By Robert Smigel video on media consolidation and media power was on Saturday Night Live in 1998 but only aired once. It was then pulled from any future syndication... you can see why.

    Democracy in Peril: Twenty Years of Media Consolidation Under the Telecommunications Act By Michael Corcoran, Truthout, 2/11/16

    ... Twenty years ago this week, President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The act, signed into law on February 8, 1996, was "essentially bought and paid for by corporate media lobbies," as Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) described it, and radically "opened the floodgates on mergers."

    The negative impact of the law cannot be overstated. The law, which was the first major reform of telecommunications policy since 1934, according to media scholar Robert McChesney, "is widely considered to be one of the three or four most important federal laws of this generation." The act dramatically reduced important Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations on cross ownership, and allowed giant corporations to buy up thousands of media outlets across the country, increasing their monopoly on the flow of information in the United States and around the world. ...

    Twenty years later the devastating impact of the legislation is undeniable: About 90 percent of the country's major media companies are owned by six corporations. Bill Clinton's legacy in empowering the consolidation of corporate media is right up there with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and welfare reform, as being among the most tragic and destructive policies of his administration. ...

    "[The] only grounds for political independence in this case," he [McChesney] wrote about the debate over the Telecommunications Act, "would be if there were an informed and mobilized citizenry ready to do battle for alternative policies. But where would citizens get informed?"

    In other words, how can we have a real debate about media issues, when we depend on that very media to provide a platform for this debate? It is no surprise, for instance, that the media largely ignored the impact of Citizens United after the Supreme Court decision helped media companies generate record profits due to a new mass of political ads. "Super PACs may be bad for America, but they're very good for CBS," said CBS president Les Moonves, in a rare moment of candor at an entertainment conference in 2012. ...

    Propaganda

    Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, Published 1993. [On YouTube.}

    Funny, provocative and surprisingly accessible, MANUFACTURING CONSENT explores the political life and ideas of world-renowned linguist, intellectual and political activist Noam Chomsky. Through a dynamic collage of biography, archival gems, imaginative graphics and outrageous illustrations, Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick's award-winning documentary highlights Chomsky's probing analysis of mass media and his critique of the forces at work behind the daily news. Available for the first time anywhere on DVD, MANUFACTURING CONSENT features appearances by journalists Bill Moyers and Peter Jennings, pundit William F. Buckley Jr., novelist Tom Wolfe and philosopher Michel Foucault. This Edition features an exclusive ten-years-after video interview with Chomsky.With thousands of advertisements seen by Americans everyday, and a corporate media that reinforces the needs of Empire, propaganda in the U.S. is more pervasive and effective than ever before.

    Propaganda & Engineering Consent for Empire with Mark Crispin Miller // Empire_File028, Abby Martin, 6/4/16

    The manipulation of public opinion through suggestion can be traced back to the father of modern propaganda, Edward Bernays, who discovered that preying on the subconscious mind was the best way to sell products people don't need, and wars people don't want.

    To get a deeper understanding of how propaganda functions in today's society, Abby Martin interviews Dr. Mark Crispin Miller, professor of Media Studies at New York University.

    What's Left and Right?

    When I refer to left/right here, it's to economics, not social, issues. These are orthogonal axes, as explained at The Political Compass.

    Collectivist ideology. On the far left communist extreme, government owns and operates everything and people are cogs in the machine of state.

    Individualistic ideology. On the far right "free market" libertarian extreme virtually everything is privatized and people are commodities to be bought and sold.

    At neither extreme are people valued as human.
    Communism's imperative is for humans to serve the state.
    Capitalism's imperative is that humans be commodified. 
    Evil lies at both the extreme economic right and extreme economic left.

    We hear the privatize-everything mantra of the "right" every day. Few, if any, say that government should own and run everything. There is virtually no "left" left in America.

    Liberal is the pragmatic center between those extremes. Liberal means valuing true freedom: individual freedom and freedom from system failure.

    Plutocracy

    We live in a plutocracy in which moneyed-interests control not only which candidates win, but even the candidates from which we have a choice (Bernie Sanders is the only exception). The plutocracy rules by campaign contributions to candidates who will promote their agenda and by control of the media through consolidated media ownership and money for advertising propaganda.

    A Study in Plutocracy: Rich Americans Wield Political Influence, the Rest of Us Don’t by John Light 8/14/14

    5 signs America is devolving into a plutocracy by TOM ENGELHARDT, 3/22/15

    1. 1% Elections
    2. The Privatization of the State (or the U.S. as a Prospective Third-World Nation)
    3. The De-legitimization of Congress and the Presidency
    4. The Rise of the National Security State as the Fourth Branch of Government
    5. The Demobilization of the American People

    Who rules America? By Allan J. Lichtman, 8/12/14

    A shattering new study by two [Princeton] political science professors has found that ordinary Americans have virtually no impact whatsoever on the making of national policy in our country. The analysts found that rich individuals and business-controlled interest groups largely shape policy outcomes in the United States. ...

    Your Voice Really Doesn't Matter, Princeton Study Confirms by By Jane Susskind, 5/7/15. Summary point on the Princeton Study:

    In the last 5 years alone, the 200 most politically active companies in the US spent $5.8 billion influencing our government with lobbying and campaign contributions.

    Those same companies got $4.4 trillion in taxpayer support - earning a return of 750 times their investment.

    The United States as a Plutocracy by David Korten

    A plutocracy is a system of rule by people of wealth, which describes our situation far more accurately than the term democracy. We have been an Empire ruled as a plutocracy since our founding. Hear my video commentary on American Plutocracy and the transition to Deep Democracy.

    Oh, wait. Maybe it's an oligarchy ... controlled by the few, the wealthy few.

    Jimmy Carter: The U.S. Is an "Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery" by Jon Schwarz, The Intercept, 7/30/15

    Former president Jimmy Carter said ... the United States is now an “oligarchy” in which “unlimited political bribery” has created "a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors." Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, "look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves."

    In addition, minority rights are undermined by policies of "conservatives" who seem to care little about them, and even oppose their having equal rights. They maintain that, somehow, calling explicitly for some groups to have equal rights is actually giving them "special rights."


    We must not conflate economic systems and governance systems as Ayn Rand does.
    They are not the same.

    Any economic system (be it communism, socialism, or capitalism) can have governance that's authoritarian or dictatorial. Democracy as I define it is all that keeps us from dictatorship and slavery. Communism, capitalism, or mixed-economy socialism can all be dictatorial in the absence of a transparent, well-functioning democracy and an informed electorate.

    Some may have noticed that capitalism is perfectly compatible with slavery.


    Already an Oligarchy: Corporate Dominance Negates Democracy by Jake Johnson, Common Dreams, 10/25/16

    ... It is with this context in mind that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, appearing together at a rally in Colorado, warned that "if we do not get our act together, this country is going to slide into oligarchy, where a handful of billionaires will control the economic and political life of this nation."

    Though such words are refreshing given the usual platitudes about the robust nature of American democracy, they don't go far enough. Plenty of research suggests that the "slide into oligarchy" has not only already begun, but is quite close to completion.

    Well-known is the 2014 study conducted by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, who argued that "average citizens' influence on policy making...is near zero." And when policies favored by "average citizens" are enacted, it is "only because those policies happen also to be preferred by the economically-elite citizens who wield the actual influence."

    Given these facts, Gilens and Page conclude, "America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened."

    A working paper by Thomas Ferguson and several of his colleagues at the Institute for New Economic Thinking bolsters this conclusion. ...

    The U.S. has hit the trifecta: Plutocracy, Oligarchy, and Corporatocracy!!!

    Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy BY RICHARD W. BEHAN, L A Progressive, 10/1/16

    "Oligarchy is rule by the few. Plutocracy is rule by the wealthy. Corporatocracy is a society governed or controlled by corporations. We have all three."

     

    Communism

    The state owns and runs the means of production -- also known as "state capitalism." Investments are made by the state and returns on investment go to the state to distribute. Communism is the redistribution of income (as opposed to "free market" capitalism which is the redistribution of costs).

    In the communist extreme, people are cogs in the machine of state. This is evil.

     

    "Free-market" Capitalism: aka, Neoliberal Capitalism or deregulated (i.e., lawless) Capitalism

    This ideal of this ideology is minimal, or even no, government. In the extreme, virtually all economic functions and the means of production are privatized. Investments are made by private entities and returns go to private entities.

    What is Neoliberalism? A Brief Definition for Activists by Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia, CorpWatch

    ... "Liberalism" can refer to political, economic, or even religious ideas. In the U.S. political liberalism has been a strategy to prevent social conflict. It is presented to poor and working people as progressive compared to conservative or Rightwing. Economic liberalism is different. Conservative politicians who say they hate "liberals" -- meaning the political type -- have no real problem with economic liberalism, including neoliberalism.

    "Neo" means we are talking about a new kind of liberalism. So what was the old kind? The liberal school of economics became famous in Europe when Adam Smith, an Scottish economist, published a book in 1776 called THE WEALTH OF NATIONS. He and others advocated the abolition of government intervention in economic matters. No restrictions on manufacturing, no barriers to commerce, no tariffs, he said; free trade was the best way for a nation's economy to develop. Such ideas were "liberal" in the sense of no controls. This application of individualism encouraged "free" enterprise," "free" competition -- which came to mean, free for the capitalists to make huge profits as they wished.

    Economic liberalism prevailed in the United States through the 1800s and early 1900s. Then the Great Depression of the 1930s led an economist named John Maynard Keynes to a theory that challenged liberalism as the best policy for capitalists. He said, in essence, that full employment is necessary for capitalism to grow and it can be achieved only if governments and central banks intervene to increase employment. These ideas had much influence on President Roosevelt's New Deal -- which did improve life for many people. The belief that government should advance the common good became widely accepted.

    But the capitalist crisis over the last 25 years, with its shrinking profit rates, inspired the corporate elite to revive economic liberalism. That's what makes it "neo" or new. Now, with the rapid globalization of the capitalist economy, we are seeing neo-liberalism on a global scale. ...

    What's called deregulated, "free trade", "free market" capitalism allows the redistribution of costs onto the public. That's the "other kind of socialism" that's inherent in capitalism. That's the other kind of "socialist" redistribution that's a generally-ignored feature embedded in capitalism.

    This redistribution of costs is the collectivism inherent in capitalism.

    It's where negative externalities are allowed and protected as a right. When (as now) there's insufficient regulation to require business to internalize costs, there's redistribution of costs. When costs are externalized, market forces do not properly regulate supply and demand.

    Many of those promoting capitalism see the "market" as the purest form of citizens expressing their preferences -- "voting" -- by way of making their market purchases. But that's not democracy.

    In the "free market" capitalism extreme, people are commodities to be bought and sold. This is evil.

    Those who support this extreme say this explicitly; an example is Steve King (R-IA) who believes that your Labor Is A Commodity Just Like Corn Or Beans. See Labor as a Market Commodity. Capitalism is perfectly compatible with slavery; it's with us to this day.

    In fact, though there's no mention of any economic system (not capitalism, socialism, or communism) in the Constitution, slavery was recognized. For example, in addition to Article I, Section. 2 [Slaves count as 3/5 persons] there's:

    Article I, Section. 9, clause 1. [No power to ban slavery until 1808]
    The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

    Article IV, Section. 2. [Free states cannot protect slaves]. No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

    Article V [No Constitutional Amendment to Ban Slavery Until 1808]
    ...No Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article.

    The profit motive in capitalism kills. It kills because it externalizes the cost of doing business ... that's "cost redistribution". It's socializing costs instead of socializing income. Deregulated capitalism allows corporations to steal, injure, maim, sicken, and kill to increase profits. That's why "conservatives" want deregulation to eliminate, for example, the EPA and OSHA.

    Prime example:

    GM Did the Crime, Drivers Do the Time: Ralph Nader on Failure of U.S. to Prosecute Car Executives, Democracy Now! 9/18/15

    Under the terms of the Justice Department’s $900 million settlement, no GM executives will be prosecuted for covering up the faulty ignition switch linked to at least 124 deaths.

    Mother of GM Crash Victim: Why Is Justice Dept. Allowing GM Write a Check to Get Away with Murder?, Democracy Now! 9/18/15

    The Justice Department’s deal with GM has been widely criticized by consumer advocates and families who lost loved ones. Clarence Ditlow, head of the Center for Auto Safety, said, "GM killed over 100 people by knowingly putting a defective ignition switch into over 1 million vehicles. … Today, thanks to its lobbyists, GM officials walk off scot-free while its customers are six feet under." We speak to Laura Christian. Her daughter Amber Rose died after her Chevrolet Cobalt crashed and the air bag failed to deploy on July 29, 2005. Amber was just 16 years old. Since then, Laura Christian has become an auto-safety advocate. She runs the Facebook page "GM Recall Survivors."

    Those who get all, or the great majority, of their income from returns on capital are capitalists. Others may believe in capitalism, but they are not "capitalists." The rules are vastly different for capitalists and those who work for a wage. See The U.S. has policies that drive people into poverty and keep them there and make the wealthy even richer.

    Many who advocate for capitalism see any "government interference" as only making things worse. An often-heard lie is that Thomas Jefferson said, "That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves." We hear all the time from Republicans, like Scott Walker, "That government is best which governs least." It's often repeated in the current Republican primary debates.

    Not only is there no evidence Jefferson said it, it's obviously not even true -- See Why Government and for What.

    But it is the 16th century thinking of Machiavelli, as noted above. It was the thinking of the "conservative" Edmund Burke in early U.S. history and it's the thinking of current-day David Brooks, who, like other "conservatives", are still stuck in the 16th century.

    But this is the 21st century and we now know better. We can understand how to design policies and not do as Machiavelli suggested. At least some of us can; John Sterman, Jay W. Forrester Professor of Management, Director, MIT System Dynamics Group wrote a text book on policy design with examples in business and government: Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World.

    We're well on the way to this privatize-everything extreme. Many functions that have thought of as public have been partially privatized. Much of many military functions (using mercenaries and military contractors), education (private charter schools), the post office (postal annexes are private businesses), and medicare (Medicare Advantage and Part D). Even much of election democracy has been privatized by way of proprietary voting machines, leaving it vulnerable to manipulation; see: Will Your Vote Be Counted in 2008? Electronic Voting Machines and the Privatization of Elections.

    When it becomes authoritarian, where moneyed interests and corporations control government, it's fascism ... or corporate feudalism.

    Here's How NASA Thinks Society Will Collapse by ALEX BROWN, The Atlantic, 3/18/14
    Too much inequality and too few natural resources could leave the West vulnerable to a Roman Empire-style fall.

    Few think Western civilization is on the brink of collapse - but it's also doubtful the Romans and Mesopotamians saw their own demise coming either.

    If we're to avoid their fate, we'll need policies to reduce economic inequality and preserve natural resources, according to a NASA-funded study that looked at the collapses of previous societies.

    "Two important features seem to appear across societies that have collapsed," reads the study. "The stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity and the economic stratification of society into Elites and Masses."

    In unequal societies, researchers said, "collapse is difficult to avoid.... Elites grow and consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society." ...

     

    Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems by George Monbiot, The Guardian, 4/15/16

    Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative?

    ... Neoliberalism's ... anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, the collapse of ecosystems, the rise of Donald Trump. But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly?

    Inequality is recast as virtuous. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

    So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power. ...

    Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

    Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

    [My bolding added above. That is why I maintain that capitalism/neoliberalism is a religion -- faith-based economics: Belief in "Free Market" Capitalism]

    We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

    Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers. ...

    ... As Donald Trump would say.

    Neoliberalism ("conservative" economics) has failed economically; making it worse is that state terror and neoliberal capitalism go hand-in-hand -- neoliberalism has millions of casualties:

    After Empowering the 1% and Impoverishing Millions, IMF Admits Neoliberalism a Failure by Benjamin Dangl, Common Dreams, 5/31/16

    Last week a research wing of the International Monetary Fund came out with a report admitting that neoliberalism has been a failure. The report, entitled, "Neoliberalism: Oversold?" is hopefully a sign of the ideology's death. They were only about 40 years late....

    Many of the report’s findings which strike to the core of the ideology echo what critics and victims of neoliberalism have been saying for decades.

    "Instead of delivering growth," the report explains that neoliberal policies of austerity and lowered regulation for capital movement have in fact "increased inequality." This inequality "might itself undercut growth…" As a result, the report states that "policymakers should be more open to redistribution than they are." ...

    The IMF suggests neoliberalism has been a failure. But it has worked very well for the global 1%, which was always the IMF and World Bank's intent. As Oxfam reported earlier this year, the wealthiest 1% in the world now has as much wealth as the rest of the planet’s population combined. (Similarly, investigative journalist Dawn Paley has proven in her book Drug War Capitalism that far from being a failure, the Drug War has been a huge success for Washington and multinational corporations.)

    The IMF report cites Chile as a case study for neoliberalism, but never mentions once that the economic vision was applied in the country through the US-backed Augusto Pinochet dictatorship - a major omission which was no casual oversight on the part of the researchers. Across Latin America, neoliberalism and state terror typically went hand in hand.

    The fearless Argentine journalist Rodolfo Walsh, in a 1977 Open Letter to the Argentine Military Junta, denounced the oppression of that regime, a dictatorship which orchestrated the murder and disappearance of over 30,000 people.

    "These events, which stir the conscience of the civilized world, are not, however, the greatest suffering inflicted on the Argentinean people, nor the worst violation for human rights which you have committed,” Walsh wrote of the torture and killing. “It is in the economic policy of this government where one discovers not only the explanation for the crimes, but a greater atrocity which punishes millions of human beings through planned misery. . . . You only have to walk around greater Buenos Aires for a few hours to check the speed with which such a policy transforms the city into a 'shantytown' of ten million people."

    This “planned misery,” as Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine vividly demonstrates, was the neoliberal agenda the IMF has pushed for decades.

    The day after Walsh mailed the letter to the Junta he was captured by the regime, killed, burned, and dumped into a river, one of neoliberalism’s millions of casualties. ...

    You're witnessing the death of neoliberalism - from within by Aditya Chakrabortty, The Guardian, 5/31/16.
    IMF economists have published a remarkable paper admitting that the ideology was oversold

    ...What makes the fund's intervention so remarkable is not what is being said - but who is saying it and just how bluntly. In the IMF's flagship publication, three of its top economists have written an essay titled "Neoliberalism: Oversold?".

    The very headline delivers a jolt. For so long mainstream economists and policymakers have denied the very existence of such a thing as neoliberalism, dismissing it as an insult invented by gap-toothed malcontents who understand neither economics nor capitalism. Now here comes the IMF, describing how a "neoliberal agenda" has spread across the globe in the past 30 years. What they mean is that more and more states have remade their social and political institutions into pale copies of the market. Two British examples, suggests Will Davies - author of the Limits of Neoliberalism - would be the NHS and universities "where classrooms are being transformed into supermarkets". In this way, the public sector is replaced by private companies, and democracy is supplanted by mere competition.

    The results, the IMF researchers concede, have been terrible. Neoliberalism hasn't delivered economic growth - it has only made a few people a lot better off. It causes epic crashes that leave behind human wreckage and cost billions to clean up, a finding with which most residents of food bank Britain would agree. And while George Osborne might justify austerity as "fixing the roof while the sun is shining", the fund team defines it as "curbing the size of the state ... another aspect of the neoliberal agenda". And, they say, its costs "could be large - much larger than the benefit". ...

    From the 1980s the policymaking elite has waved away the notion that they were acting ideologically - merely doing "what works". But you can only get away with that claim if what you're doing is actually working. Since the crash, central bankers, politicians and TV correspondents have tried to reassure the public that this wheeze or those billions would do the trick and put the economy right again. They have riffled through every page in the textbook and beyond - bank bailouts, spending cuts, wage freezes, pumping billions into financial markets - and still growth remains anaemic.

    And the longer the slump goes on, the more the public tumbles to the fact that not only has growth been feebler, but ordinary workers have enjoyed much less of its benefits. Last year the rich countries' thinktank, the OECD, made a remarkable concession. It acknowledged that the share of UK economic growth enjoyed by workers is now at its lowest since the second world war. Even more remarkably, it said the same or worse applied to workers across the capitalist west. ...

    ... what you're witnessing amid all the graphs and technical language is the start of the long death of an ideology.

    Waiting for the Barbarians By Chris Hedges, Truthdig, 11/27/16

    ... And where were all the economists pointing out the absurdity of the neoliberal ideology that told us that human society should be governed by the dictates of the market-that is, until the market collapsed in an orgy of fraud and corruption and needed the government to bail it out? Why did the political scientists chase after "value-free" data, carry out quantitative projects and seek an unachievable scientific clarity? Why didn't they and others warn us about the dire consequences of eroding democratic institutions? Why did they stand mute as money replaced the vote and lobbyists authored our laws? Where were they when constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations were criminalized? ...

    History has amply demonstrated what was to come next. The rot and political paralysis vomited up a con artist as president along with an array of half-wits, criminals and racist ideologues. They will manufacture scapegoats as their gross ineptitude and unachievable promises are exposed. They will fan the flames of white supremacy and racial and religious bigotry. They will use all the tools of legal and physical control handed to them by our system of "inverted totalitarianism" to crush even the most tepid forms of dissent.

    The last constraints will be removed by a crisis. The crisis will be used to create a climate of fear. The pretense of democracy will end.

    "A fascism of the future-an emergency response to some still unimagined crisis-need not resemble classical fascism perfectly in its outward signs and symbols," Robert Paxton writes in "The Anatomy of Fascism." "Some future movement that would ‘give up free institutions' in order to perform the same functions of mass mobilization for the reunification, purification, and regeneration of some troubled group would undoubtedly call itself something else and draw on fresh symbols. That would not make it any less dangerous."

    Our ruling mafia will use the crisis much as the Nazis did in 1933 when the Reichstag was burned. It will publish its own version of the "Order of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State." The U.S. Constitution will be in effect suspended. Personal freedom, including freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom to organize and freedom of assembly, will be abolished. Privacy will be formally eradicated. Search warrants will be unnecessary. America's emergency decrees will cement into place what largely exists now. When they come, the loss of freedoms will be openly acknowledged and made permanent. ...

    See also Sheldon Wolin and Inverted Totalitarianism By Chris Hedges, Truthdig, 11/1/15

    Another view of neoliberalism:

    Tony Benn - 10 min History Lesson for Neoliberals

    He notes that in war we never say we don't have enough money to pay people to wage war -- we have full employment -- and that that should also be the case in peace when it comes to having enough jobs. He maintains that in both cases we should do what we need to do.

    Tony Benn also makes the statement that we often hear from the right:

    In Mein Kampf Hitler said that democracy inevitably leads to Marxism. ... what he recognized was that if people knew what was going on, organized and had the right to organize, things would change in a way he did not want.

    What's not recognized in that statement is that in the U.S. democracy is, as noted above, shorthand for a "proportionally-represented democratically-elected, constitutionally-limited republic". So we have (in theory) both a democracy and a republic, with the latter about protecting the rights of the minority to prevent sliding into authoritarian dictatorship.

    Addressing the neoliberal threat: Eliminate Monopoly Capitalism

    Populism With a Brain by Barry C. Lynn and Phillip Longman, Washington Monthly, Jun/Jul/Aug 2016
    Ten old/new ideas to give power back to the people.

    1. Protect democracy by restoring market competition (no monopoly/oligopoly)
    2. Disrupt attempts by trading partners to monopolize control over any vital manufactured good
    3. Ban price and data discrimination (prevent corporations charging different people different prices for the same service)
    4. Break up corporations like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Comcast (again, virtual monopolies)
    5. Localize banking, retail, and farming
    6. Make all government public (eliminate privatization of government services)
    7. Use labor law and securities law to shift power away from the predatory financier to the scientist, engineer, and skilled worker
    8. Take back leisure (Louis Brandeis: “A short workday is as essential as adequate food and proper conditions of working and of living")
    9. Keep transportation out of the hands of plutocrats (Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938: the goal was to promote “adequate, economical, and efficient service by air carriers at reasonable charges, without unjust discrimination, undue preferences or advantages, or unfair or destructive competitive practices.”
    10. Provide world-class power and broadband service to all Americans.

    Anti-Capitalist Meetup: How Neoliberal is Hillary Clinton? By Le Gauchiste, 7/19/15

    ... it is clear that Hillary Clinton ideology is fundamentally neoliberal, albeit softened or tempered by a desire to ameliorate some of the harsher consequences of the neoliberal order. But can such efforts succeed when the basic ideas of neoliberalism hold that those consequences are actually a positive aspect of the capitalist system, and that ideology actively undermines even the impulse to help the less fortunate?

    Former World Bank Staffer Explains How Neoliberalism Is Destroying The World By Dylan Charles, Popular Resistance, 1/20/17

    So-called "conservatives" don't understand the difference between micro- and macro-economics. They apply microeconomics to macro issues.

    Micro to Macro Nonsense. It's Everywhere Thanks to Neoliberalism by Ellis Winningham, 8/10/16

    ... propaganda:

    "Business is the job creator. Without business, none of us would have jobs! The reason there is unemployment, is because lazy people don't want to work. If they did want to work, there wouldn't be any unemployment. If you want to get ahead, you've got to bust your ass, work hard and be responsible. These moochers on welfare don't want to work. They're too lazy and irresponsible to find a job. If you do give them a job, these lazy bottom-feeders damage businesses, 'costing' business 'money' and causing harm to the economy."...

    Neoliberalism begs all of us to see no difference between the micro level of the economy and the macro level. The purpose of an economics education to neoliberalism is to prey upon the political leanings of the people and then disseminate anti-knowledge for the financial industry's gain. The modern neoliberal mantra of "business is the job creator" is one of the most pernicious lies ever to grace the economics profession and to be handed down as so-called "common knowledge". Borrowing and modifying a couple of lines from the film "THX-1138" for our purposes concerning work ethics, neoliberalism teaches you, the citizen, that:

    "You are to be a true believer in private sector supremacy and freedom. Let us be thankful we have an occupation to fulfill. Work hard, increase production, prevent accidents and be happy."

    Which then follows with a lesson from neoliberalism to you, the citizen, on proper consumer behavior:

    "You are to be a true believer in private sector supremacy and freedom. Let us be thankful we have commerce. Buy. Buy more. Buy more now. Buy. And be happy."

    The former, concerning what constitutes a proper work ethic, is abject nonsense. It asserts that through hard work, happiness is the end result. The truth is, the scarcer the federal government makes US dollars, the harder the working class must work to obtain US dollars. ...

    The latter statement regarding consumption, is a mix of truth and a whole lot of nonsense. The latter speaks honestly to a point about how an economy operates.

    An economy operates on consumer spending. Without it, there is no economy to speak of. Business is 100% dependent on consumers spending their dollars so that business can derive an income from that spending. It is how a business earns ‘money'. Did you think there was a huge difference between business and a worker with regard to income? Both earn an income. Business earns an income selling goods and services and the worker earns an income using his/her labour to help the former produce goods and services to sell. Everyone, both worker and business owner is a consumer. Somebody's spending is somebody's income.

    However, that reality is not revealed by neoliberalism in the lesson about consumer spending. What neoliberalism wants consumers to learn is that business is their provider and it is the consumer's duty to show gratitude by spending, whether you have enough dollars to spend or not. If you are short of dollars, then the financial industry will make credit cards and loans easily available to you. ...

     

     

    Capitalism is killing the market for its products. It's temporary gain at the expense of long-term failure. For each corporation it is individually logical to offshore jobs, use offshore slave labor, use prison labor, and use low-wage undocumented immigrants, but it's collectively irrational because it undermines their customer base.

    Time for a better capitalism by Henry Blodget, 6/13/16

    Over the past few decades, the US economy has undergone a profound change.

    This change has helped rich Americans get richer. But it has also contributed to growing income inequality and the decline of the middle class. And, in so doing, it has fueled populist anger across the political spectrum and slowed the growth of the economy as a whole.

    What is this change?

    The complete embrace of the idea that the only mission of companies is to maximize profit for their shareholders.

    Talk to people in the money management business, and they'll proclaim this as a law of capitalism. They'll also cite others, including the idea that employees are "costs" and competent managers should minimize these costs by paying employees as little as possible.

    These practices may help boost stock prices, at least temporarily. ...

    Capitalism is the best economic system known to man, and the “profit motive” helps drive it.

    The problem is that when capitalism is practiced the way it is today, wealth becomes so concentrated that much of it doesn’t get spent. ...

    Yes, it's the "best economic system".
    If only it were for the long term, not just the short term.
    If only it weren't collapsing on itself by undermining its customer base.
    If only it weren't a threat to life on earth.
    If only.

    Why Capitalism is Failing: Internal Contradictions

    This section is not an argument for communism (state capitalism). It examines the feedback structure that causes capitalism to inexorably fail: it destroys its own markets; it eats its customers.

    I get comments that socialism hasn't worked anywhere it's been tried. Somehow they neglect to notice that capitalism is failing in nations all over the planet. Here's an example of why:

    Corporations make the individually-logical decision to offshore work to nations like China, use prison labor, undocumented-immigrant labor to undercut wages to increase profits and make the rich even richer.

    But it's collectively irrational because those whose wages have been suppressed don't have the money to buy their products.

    To keep the scheme going, the banks and the Federal Reserve make borrowing easier. This runs up tremendous personal debt. And it runs up public debt because of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

    Lax mortgage lending practices and mortgage rating-agency behavior led to the housing collapse and the 2008 Great Recession from which recovery has been weak. Competition among ratings agencies for business led them all to give higher security safety ratings.

    But more lending and increasing debt only works for so long. Now those huge factories in China built to sell products in the U.S. aren't paying off because U.S. consumers are now greatly in debt and can't afford to buy because of the stagnant wages and because so many are homeless or on the edge. So the capitalism that boosted the Chinese economy is failing there, too.

    And so it goes around the planet.

    The world economic system is in overshoot and collapse because capitalism has eroded its "carrying capacity" (the purchasing power of its customers) similar to the way planetary environmental carrying capacity (ability to support life) has been eroded by practices like polluting, over-fishing, and clear-cutting of forests.

    Capitalism is individually-logical, but collectively irrational. It's internal contradictions are the seeds of its own destruction and why it's a threat to humanity and life on earth.

    This cost redistribution (cost-side socialism) is not a "bug" in the ideology of capitalism, it's an inherent feature. See From Growth to Overshoot and Collapse.

    Those who defend capitalism argue against increases in the minimum wage, and especially against a "living wage", saying it destroys jobs. Never mind that's a lie; but even if it were true, how can anyone defend a system they believe will collapse upon itself were people to get a "living wage" ... a living wage so they don't DIE? Arguing for such a system is insane.

    Should you doubt that capitalism destroys its customer base, Obama and General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt admit that future sales will not be to customers in the U.S.:

    Hillary's Agenda Here and Abroad Intertwined: "Full Spectrum Dominance" Around the Globe, A Swelling Precariat at Home by ALAN NASSER, Counterpunch, 6/17/16

    In an April 14, 2009 ... General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, two years before he was appointed head of The President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, reminded the Detroit Economic Club that "We all know that the American consumer cannot lead our recovery. This economy must be driven by business investment and exports..." ...

    In a 2010 speech to the Import-Export bank, Obama stressed the policy priority of export competitiveness: "The world's fastest-growing markets are outside our borders. We need to compete for those customers because other nations are competing for them." As Immelt put it in 2011, "We've globalized to sell our products. We're a big U.S. exporter.... Today we go to Brazil, we go to China, we go to India because that's where the customers are. That's where the markets are... Of our big products, 80% of them will be sold outside the U.S." The message is plain: overseas consumers are to perform the now discarded function of the U.S. worker - they will purchase the output of U.S.industry. American workers will look like the low-wage slaves of export-dependent poor countries. ...

    The inexorable result is an entire planet for which the vast majority of persons cannot afford to buy the products produced by capitalist enterprises.

    David Harvey explains in Crises of Capitalism, 4/26/10, that capitalism never solves its crises, it just moves them from place to place. Points he makes:

    - The problem is the internal contradictions of capitalism. Diminish wages and then where does demand come from? Debt.

    - The racking up of wealth hasn't fixed anything. Last year (2009), leading hedge fund owners got $3B each in one year, a few years ago it was $250M ... obscene.

    - Home ownership was promoted in the 30s and since because debt-encumbered homeowners don't go on strike.

    - "Any sensible person right now would join an anti-capitalist organization."

    What's more, capitalism doesn't give a damn about the long term viability of the nation or the planet because Net Present Value (NPV) calculations are embedded in capitalist decision-making.

    Capitalism is destroying planetary carrying capacity:

    Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050 by Drew Hansen, Forbes, 2/9/16
    Capitalism has generated massive wealth for some, but it’s devastated the planet and has failed to improve human well-being at scale.

    ... Human activities are behind the extinction crisis. Commercial agriculture, timber extraction, and infrastructure development are causing habitat loss and our reliance on fossil fuels is a major contributor to climate change. ...

    Oh, never mind, let's continue to worship the utopian "free market" and its "invisible hand" God.

    Fascism

    Fascism defined at wordiq.com [site no longer active]:

    ... refers to the right-wing authoritarian political movement which ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943 under the leadership of Benito Mussolini. The word fascism (uncapitalized) has come to mean any political stance or system of government resembling Mussolini's ...

    Besides totalitarianism, a key distinguishing feature of fascism is that it uses a mass movement to attack the organizations of the working class: parties of the left and trade unions. Thus Fritzsche and others describe fascism as a militant form of right-wing populism. This mobilization strategy involves Corporatism, Corporativism, or the Corporative State, all terms that refer to state action to partner with key business leaders, often in ways chosen to minimize the power of labor unions.

    Mussolini, for example, capitalized on fear of an imminent Socialist revolution, finding ways to unite Labor and Capital, to Labor's ultimate detriment. In 1926 he created the National Council of Corporations, divided into guilds of employers and employees, tasked with managing 22 sectors of the economy. The guilds subsumed both labor unions and management, but were heavily weighted in favor of the corporations and their owners. The moneyed classes in return helped him change the country's laws to raise his stature from a coalition leader to a supreme commander. [bolding/italics added]

    From Google search "fascism definition"

    - an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.

    - synonyms: authoritarianism, totalitarianism, dictatorship, despotism, autocracy; Nazism, rightism; nationalism, xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism; jingoism, isolationism; neofascism, neo-Nazism

    - (in general use) extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practice.

    From the Modern History Sourcebook: Benito Mussolini: What is Fascism, 1932:

    ... Fascism combats the whole complex system of democratic ideology, and repudiates it, whether in its theoretical premises or in its practical application. Fascism denies that the majority, by the simple fact that it is a majority, can direct human society; it denies that numbers alone can govern by means of a periodical consultation, and it affirms the immutable, beneficial, and fruitful inequality of mankind, which can never be permanently leveled through the mere operation of a mechanical process such as universal suffrage....

    ...Fascism denies, in democracy, the absur[d] conventional untruth of political equality dressed out in the garb of collective irresponsibility, and the myth of "happiness" and indefinite progress....

    ... For if the nineteenth century was a century of individualism it may be expected that this will be the century of collectivism and hence the century of the State....

    ...The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone....

    From Father of Fascism Studies: Donald Trump Shows Alarming Willingness to Use Fascist Terms & Styles, Democracy Now!, 3/15/16.

    ROBERT PAXTON: Well, fascism is a mass nationalist movement intended to restore a country that’s been damaged or is in decline, by expansion, by violent attacks on enemies, internal as well as external enemies, and measures of authority, the replacement of democracy by an authoritarian dictatorship.

    Fascism will soon be on our doorstep if you don't act immediately: Yale historian, by Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet, 3/13/17

    ... Democracy only has substance if there's the rule of law. That is, if people believe that the votes are going to be counted and they are counted. If they believe that there's a judiciary out there that will make sense of things if there's some challenge. If there isn't rule of law, people will be afraid to vote the way they want to vote. They'll vote for their own safety as opposed to their convictions. So the thing we call democracy depends on the rule of law. And the things we call the rule of law depends upon trust. Law functions 99 percent of the time automatically. It functions because we think it's out there. And that, in turn, depends on the sense of truth. So there's a mechanism here. You can get right to heart of the matter if you can convince people that there is no truth. Which is why the stuff that we characterize as post-modern and might dismiss is actually really, really essential.

    The second thing about ‘post-truth is pre-fascism' is I'm trying to get people's attention, because that is actually how fascism works. Fascism says, disregard the evidence of your senses, disregard observation, embolden deeds that can't be proven, don't have faith in god but have faith in leaders, take part in collective myth of an organic national unity, and so forth. Fascism was precisely about setting the whole Enlightenment aside and then selling what sort of myths emerged. Now those [national] myths are pretty unpredictable, and contingent on different nations and different leaders and so on, but to just set facts aside is actually the fastest catalyst. So that part concerns me a lot.

    Where we're going? The classic thing to watch out for is the shift from one governing strategy to another. In the U.S. system, the typical governing strategy is you more or less have to follow your constituents with legislation because of the election cycle. That's one pulse of politics. The other pulse of politics is emergency. There's some kind of terrorist attack and then the leader tries to suspend basic constitutional rights. And then we get on a different rhythm, where the rhythm is not one electoral cycle to the next but one emergency to the next. That's how regime changes take place. It's a classic way since the Reichstag fire [when the Nazis burned their nation's capitol building and blamed communist arsonists]. ...

    Timothy Snyder was on "The Daily Show" to discuss his book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. He explained the steps through which authoritarianism, or fascism, or whatever you want to call it, can become a reality anywhere, even in the U.S. Here is his comment in its entirety:

    Fascism says nothing's true. Your daily life is not important. The facts that you think you understand are not important. All that matters is the myth - the myth of one nation as together the myth of the mystical connection with the leader.

    When we think of "Post-truth," we think it's something new. We think it's something at campuses. We think it's something irrelevant. Actually, what post-truth does is it paves the way for regime change. If we don't have access to facts, we can't trust each other. Without trust, there's no law. Without law, there's no democracy.

    So if you want to rip the heart out of a democracy directly, if you want to go right at it and kill it, what you do is you go after facts. And that is what modern authoritarians do.

    Step one: You lie yourself, all the time. Step two: You say it's your opponents and the journalists who lie. Step three: Everyone looks around and says, "What is truth? There is no truth."

    And then, resistance is impossible, and the game is over.

    My take on Hitler and fascism: Hitler Was Not a Socialist

    Christian Dominionism or Christian Fascism

    Dominionism or Christian Reconstructionism.

    This ideology calls on anointed “Christian” leaders to take over the state and make the goals and laws of the nation “biblical.” It seeks to reduce government to organizing little more than defense, internal security and the protection of property rights. It fuses with the Christian religion the iconography and language of American imperialism and nationalism, along with the cruelest aspects of corporate capitalism.

    The intellectual and moral hollowness of the ideology, its flagrant distortion and misuse of the Bible, the contradictions that abound within it—its leaders champion small government and a large military, as if the military is not part of government—and its laughable pseudoscience are impervious to reason and fact. And that is why the movement is dangerous. ...

    Most believers within the Christian right are struggling to survive in a hostile world. We have failed them. Their very real despair is being manipulated and used by Christian fascists such as the Texas senator. Give to the working poor a living wage, benefits and job security and the reach of this movement will diminish. Refuse to ameliorate the suffering of the poor and working class and you ensure the ascendancy of a Christian fascism.

    The Christian right needs only a spark to set it ablaze. Another catastrophic act of domestic terrorism, hyperinflation, a series of devastating droughts, floods, hurricanes or massive wildfires or another financial meltdown will be the trigger. Then what is left of our anemic open society will disintegrate. The rise of Christian fascism is aided by our complacency.

    Ted Cruz SuperPAC Head Pushes Dominionist Seminars To 'Take Control Of Government' By Karoli Kuns, 4/12/16

    This is why Ted Cruz is, in many ways, more terrifying than Donald Trump. Trump is a secular fascist. Cruz is a religious zealot as well as a fascist who thinks the United States government should be a theocracy.

    David Barton Will Train Christians To Take Control Of Government And Transform America Into The 'Nation That God Wants It To Be' by Kyle Mantyla, 4/12/16

    Seven Mountains theology teaches that conservative Christians are to take control of the seven primary institutions, or "mountains," that shape and control our culture — (1) Business; (2) Government; (3) Media; (4) Arts and Entertainment; (5) Education; (6) Family; and (7) Religion — and use them to implement biblical standards and spread the Gospel.

    The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government By Chris Hedges, 10/6/13

    There is a desire felt by tens of millions of Americans, lumped into a diffuse and fractious movement known as the Christian right, to destroy the intellectual and scientific rigor of the Enlightenment, radically diminish the role of government to create a theocratic state based on “biblical law,” and force a recalcitrant world to bend to the will of an imperial and “Christian” America. ... “Christian values” and “family values” will, in the new state, be propagated by all institutions. Education and social welfare will be handed over to the church. Facts and self-criticism will be replaced with relentless indoctrination. ...

    This adds my comments to a chart at the Political Compass on the U.S. Primary Candidates 2016. The point here is that any economic system can have authoritarian/dictatorial governance, be it communism (government-run economy), socialism (mixed economy), or capitalism (privatized economy).

    It's only democratic governance that prevents any of these economic systems from becoming dictatorial, where democracy is shorthand for a "proportionally-represented democratically-elected, constitutionally-limited republic".

    Socialism

    This is when there's a mix: some economic functions are performed by the private sector and some performed, or regulated, by government. This allows some redistribution of income for those government services and opposes some of the redistribution of costs inherent in "free market" capitalism.

    We have socialism now. In the U.S. socialized services include public education, medicare, social security, the post office, public health, public utilities (water & power), public fire & police, public parks, public highways, etc.. Unfortunately, we also have enormous Tax Breaks "redistribution" that goes primarily to the wealthy: Tax Expenditures to the top 20% are greater than Military Spending.

    Absent a strong democracy, which we do not have, our mixed economy of partially-regulated capitalism and some socialism is unstable. It's led to plutocracy and, in too many ways, it's essentially a fascist, corporate-ruled dictatorship.

    Some scream "socialism" about the Affordable Care Act, even though it uses private health insurance corporations, private doctors, and private hospitals. Yes, those with lower incomes get subsidies, but so do many corporations that have huge profits. And every employee who has a job in corporations that provide heath insurance is subsidized because that corporate expense is tax deductible and so all Americans who pay taxes pay the bill. Go figure.

    The Military is Socialist and Authoritarian

    Yes, in many ways the military is socialist.

    "Support the Troops" rhetoric is about the troops as a collective. We don't hear the slogan, "Support the Soldiers", which would be about individuals. They have health care without pre-existing conditions that covers eyes and teeth (Medicare does not), base housing, and base commissaries. It's an enormous jobs program. It's an all-in-it-together", supported-by-government institution.

    It's also authoritarian, though one view is that it's not actually dictatorial because a person can opt-out after their term of duty, as expressed in this article:

    Military Life is Socialism and I Love It BY: AMY BUSHATZ, Military Life, 4/22/14

    Military life is a perfect example of socialism in action says Daily Beast columnist and Iraq and Afghanistan vet Jacob Siegel.

    Other than a few key ways it's not actually socialism at all (example: we are an all volunteer force), which Siegel's article does point out, and a few statements I find inaccurate (like his idea that living on base is free - HA!) he's basically spot on.

    Military bases are as close to a U.S. Government sanctioned socialist paradise as we're going to get. And that's the way I like it.

    Speaking as a blue-blooded American, I know that real socialism (and its extension Communism) has heaps of flaws, not the least of which that it generally leads to tyranny.

    In a real socialist society, you can't opt-out and personal freedoms are basically non-existent.

    You don't need to look far for some glaring examples of why socialism doesn't lead to overwhelming health and happiness. Words like "Russia," "Karl Marx," and "Chairman Mao," should all ring a bell. ...

    She makes the typical mistake of conflating economic and governing systems, not realizing that any economic system can become tyranical dictatorship. In a Democratic Socialist system, personal freedoms are not non-existent any more than they are in a Democratic Capitalist system.

    But the point she makes that it's "all volunteer" is telling. There are a total of 1.46 Million active personnel in the US military who willingly give up their freedom and expose themselves to enormous risk in exchange for the certainty of economic support. It's an authoritarian system in which members are converted into GIs (Government Issue) who lose their individuality.

    It's kind of astounding that so many willingly join the military in a nation that claims to value freedom. They trade their freedom in exchange for economic security. While they sign up for more risk of dying in combat, they avoid the risk of life in a "free market" where life in precarity is subject to economic forces beyond their control (systemic risk).

    It's also ironic that those who say that government can't do anything right somehow idolize a military that's run by government. There is no doubt, though, that it's inefficient. It can't keep track of the money allocated to it:

    The War On Waste By ALEEN SIRGANY, CBS, 1/29/02

    ... More money for the Pentagon, CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports, while its own auditors admit the military cannot account for 25 percent of what it spends.

    "According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions," Rumsfeld admitted.

    $2.3 trillion - that's $8,000 for every man, woman and child in America. To understand how the Pentagon can lose track of trillions, consider the case of one military accountant who tried to find out what happened to a mere $300 million.

    "We know it's gone. But we don't know what they spent it on," said Jim Minnery, Defense Finance and Accounting Service. ...

    U.S. Army fudged its accounts by trillions of dollars, auditor finds By Scot J. Paltrow, Reuters, 8/19/16

    The United States Army's finances are so jumbled it had to make trillions of dollars of improper accounting adjustments to create an illusion that its books are balanced.

    The Defense Department's Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year. Yet the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up.

    As a result, the Army's financial statements for 2015 were "materially misstated," the report concluded. The "forced" adjustments rendered the statements useless because "DoD and Army managers could not rely on the data in their accounting systems when making management and resource decisions." ...

    Even so, the right-wing does not support the soldiers even as it shouts "Support the Troops". They love the collective, but not the individual.

    Senate rejects bill on veterans benefits by Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY, 2/27/14
    The biggest spending bill for veterans in decades goes down to defeat in a divided Senate

    Wrangling over an issue -- veterans -- that often receives bipartisan support, the legislation died on a vote of 56-41, with only two Republicans voting for it.

    Most Republicans said it was too large, too costly and would burden a Department of Veterans Affairs already struggling to keep up with promised benefits.

    Sen Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent and chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee who authored the bill, argued that many provisions in the bill have won bipartisan support in other pieces of pending legislation before Congress.

    Republicans complained about how to pay for it. Sanders' legislation had more than 140 provisions costing $21 billion over 10 years.

    Most of that money was to come from billions of dollars the government projected it would be allowed to spend on wars overseas in the fight against al-Qaeda.But Republicans argued that this is "phony" budgeting becasue U.S. participation in the Iraq War is over and operations in Afghanistan are winding down. ...

    41 Republican Senators Voted Against a Landmark Veterans Bill in February, Today They Blame the VA by H. A. Goodman , Huffington Post, 05/27/2014, Updated 6/02/15

    Earlier this year, the GOP had a chance to prove that it could fund veterans' health care as eagerly as it borrowed for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Long before the current VA crisis, an event described as "a gift from God" by Dr. Ben Carson, Senate Republicans had a chance to vote on a landmark bill. Before the Senate vote, organizations devoted to the needs of veterans and their families offered widespread support to the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014. ...Unfortunately, S.1982 was killed by Senate Republicans, with a vote of 56-41 - only Republicans Senators voting nay and with only two Republicans voting for the bill. The logic behind every vote against the bill being Republican rests in the following statement from North Carolina Senator Richard M. Burr:

    With $17 trillion in debt and massive annual deficits, our country faces a fiscal crisis of unparalleled scope. Now is not the time, in any federal department, to spend money we don't have. To be sure, there's much to like in the Sanders bill. And if those components were presented as separate, smaller bills, as part of a carefully considered long-term strategy to reform the VA, hold leadership accountable and improve services to veterans, we would have no problem extending enthusiastic support. ...

    HAPPY VETERANS DAY? 5 TIMES REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS SCREWED VETERANS by James Woods, U.S. Uncut, 11/11/15
    These Republicans should stop pretending they give a shit about vets.

    Of course "conservatives"vote against supporting the veterans; after all, such support would be "socialist."

    Democratic Socialism:

    Socialism, as described above, is when there's an economic system with mix of government and private.

    When the mix determined by way of democracy (see definition of democracy above), it's Democratic Socialism that responds to the wishes of citizens as determined democratically.

    There are many who see the very idea of "Democratic Socialism" as outrageous. They even contradict themselves when they see it as the slippery-slope road to fascism or communist dictatorship, which are economically-opposing versions of authoritarianism. Some, falsely, say it's communism; it is not.

    Such views of Democratic Socialism are nonsense. As long as we have a well-functioning, transparent democracy and an informed electorate (if only we did), we're safe from capitalism becoming a fascist dictatorship on the economic right and from communism being a communist dictatorship on the economic left.

    It's hardly outrageous for citizens voting to decide on the mix of what's public and what's private and to what extent private enterprises are to be regulated to protect and promote the public interest (note that pesky "general Welfare" in the U.S. Constitution); that's democracy. But some say, "OMG, socialism!", thanks to decades of propaganda that omits the part about democracy.

    Doesn't socialism mean that the government will own and run everything? No, that known as "communism" or "state capitalism." It's "state capitalism" when the state makes economic decisions and investments and dispurses the profits as the state decides. That is, instead of private interests making decisions, the state makes them.

    Democratic Socialism is about who controls business, "worker and consumer democracy" or "authoritarian owners". Richard Wolff''s view of democratic socialism (see below) is that, ultimately, "workers and consumers who are affected by economic institutions should own and control them."

    Democracy in the workplace??? OMG, can't have that!

    Louie Gohmert provides the typical conflation of economic system and governing system and, of course, has no clue that Democratic Socialism is not the same as Socialism:

    Louie Gohmert defends Trump from pope - and accidentally admits socialism would be heavenly by Travis Gettys, Raw Story, 2/25/16

    Gohmert then joined Trump in slamming Pope Francis, saying the pontiff was wrong to focus on climate change and wealth inequality.

    "He can't see that socialism, anywhere it's ever been done, it's always led to, you know, just a totalitarian government," Gohmert said.

    The Republican lawmaker suggested that socialism might be a godly form of government that could never be administered on Earth.

    "When everybody's in heaven, socialism will be great," Gohmert said. "But in this world it's never worked, it requires totalitarian government, it requires giving up your freedoms, your freedom of speech and religion and all these things. So it's amazing to see a pope who's saying, ‘Let's all get behind the thing that always destroys freedom of religion.'"

    Capitalism - Socialism Overview

    I realize that the U.S. has been indoctrinated to freak out over the word "socialism", and even more so at the word "Marxism", but the video below does a great job of explaining what's going on.

    In this video, Dr. Richard Wolff notes the contradictions internal to capitalism. He states that by offshoring jobs to reduce labor costs -- paying people less -- capitalists forgot one thing, "That people won't have the money to buy the things they produce."

    I disagree in that they did not "forget". They ignored, because it does not suit their economic interest to take it into account. They ignored the feedback structure, The Fallacy of Composition, that's responsible for offshoring that results in what's individually-logical for each corporation being collectively irrational for all corporations and for the economy as a whole. Systems don't operate on "individual logic." The result: "free trade" offshoring is Economic Treason that sabotages the U.S. economy.

    Marxism 101: How Capitalism is Killing Itself with Dr. Richard Wolff // Empire_File022 (video), Published on Mar 22, 2016.

    Despite a concerted effort by the U.S. Empire to snuff out the ideology, a 2016 poll found young Americans have a much more favorable view of socialism than capitalism.

    Though he died 133 years ago, the analysis put forward by one of the world’s most influential thinkers, Karl Marx, remains extremely relevant today. The Empire’s recent rigged presidential election has been disrupted by the support of an avowed socialist, Bernie Sanders, by millions of voters.

    To find out why Marx’s popularity has stood the test of time, Abby Martin interviews renowned Marxist economist Richard Wolff, Professor Emeritus of Economics at UMass - Amherst, and visiting professor at the New School in New York.

    Prof. Wolff gives an introduction suited for both beginners and seasoned Marxists, with comprehensive explanations of key tenets of Marxism including dialectical and historical materialism, surplus value, crises of overproduction, capitalism's internal contradictions, and more.

    Another article on the collapse of global capitalism. I've never studied Marx; I'm thinking I should as what I'm doing in this article is describing some of the weaknesses and failures of capitalism by describing economic reality.

    Karl Marx Was Right By Chris Hedges, Truthdig, 5/31/15

    ... He [Marx] foresaw that capitalism had built within it the seeds of its own destruction. He knew that reigning ideologies—think neoliberalism—were created to serve the interests of the elites and in particular the economic elites, since “the class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production” and “the ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships … the relationships which make one class the ruling one.” He saw that there would come a day when capitalism would exhaust its potential and collapse. ... Marx was keenly aware of capitalism’s ability to innovate and adapt. But he also knew that capitalist expansion was not eternally sustainable. And as we witness the denouement of capitalism and the disintegration of globalism, Karl Marx is vindicated as capitalism’s most prescient and important critic. ...

    The final stages of capitalism, Marx wrote, would be marked by developments that are intimately familiar to most of us. Unable to expand and generate profits at past levels, the capitalist system would begin to consume the structures that sustained it. It would prey upon, in the name of austerity, the working class and the poor, driving them ever deeper into debt and poverty and diminishing the capacity of the state to serve the needs of ordinary citizens. It would, as it has, increasingly relocate jobs, including both manufacturing and professional positions, to countries with cheap pools of laborers. Industries would mechanize their workplaces. This would trigger an economic assault on not only the working class but the middle class—the bulwark of a capitalist system—that would be disguised by the imposition of massive personal debt as incomes declined or remained stagnant. Politics would in the late stages of capitalism become subordinate to economics, leading to political parties hollowed out of any real political content and abjectly subservient to the dictates and money of global capitalism. ...

    In the article below Matt Taibbi makes the discouraging point that Capitalism Defeats Democracy:
    "organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy".

    The Great American Bubble Machine By Matt Taibbi 4/5/10
    From tech stocks to high gas prices, Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression -- and they're about to do it again

    ... The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. In fact, the history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled dry American empire, reads like a Who's Who of Goldman Sachs graduates. ...

    The heads of the Canadian and Italian national banks are Goldman alums, as is the head of the World Bank, the head of the New York Stock Exchange, the last two heads of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York — which, incidentally, is now in charge of overseeing Goldman — not to mention …

    But then, any attempt to construct a narrative around all the former Goldmanites in influential positions quickly becomes an absurd and pointless exercise, like trying to make a list of everything. What you need to know is the big picture: If America is circling the drain, Goldman Sachs has found a way to be that drain — an extremely unfortunate loophole in the system of Western democratic capitalism, which never foresaw that in a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy. ...

    ... italics and bolding added.

    Crony Capitalism

    Some say the problem isn't really"true capitalism", but the "crony capitalism" that allows government to favor cronies. But a capitalist economic system -- and a governing system inevitably controlled by it -- by definition caters to capitalists and is Crony CapitalismCapitalism is perfectly designed to cater to capitalists.

    Beyond that, true believers in "laissez faire" capitalism ignore the failures and weaknesses described in this article.

    As long as there's money in politics -- allowing legalized bribery -- there will be crony capitalism. This is why many maintain that capitalism cannot be effectively regulated; any regulation that's passed will be later reversed thanks to corporate control of government in a plutocracy. For example, the plutocrats got rid of Glass-Steagall, the Banking Act of 1933 that prohibited banks from speculating -- read gambling -- with depositor money and are fighting like hell to make sure it doesn't return so they can count on more financial bailouts in the future.

    The Next System Project

    As noted just above, many maintain that capitalism simply cannot be regulated because regulations will always be undermined by money in politics. They maintain we need an entirely different system. From The Next System Project:

    "We need to think through and then build a new political economy that takes us beyond the current system that is failing all around us. Systemic problems require systemic solutions."

    That's what this whole article is about: the systemic failures and weaknesses of capitalism. We avoid facing that at our peril.

    The Next System Project: New Political-Economic Possibilities for the TwentyFirst Century (pdf), March 2015, by Gar Alperovitz, James Gustave Speth, & Joe Guinan

    An article about what's wrong and about what to do. It says "goodbye democracy" as it's practiced today, which is a sham of democracy, not effective democracy as I've described it.

    Goodbye Democracy and Capitalism by Floris Koot, Medium.com, 8/26/16
    Shifting to new paradigms to replace dysfunctional ones.

    ... The root of the problem. What is clear is that a small minority of humans are willing to lie, cheat, manipulate all others for power and riches. Many people are caught in damaging paradigms that result of this. They too will support the manipulative ones. They endorse ideas like: 'It's either us or them'. 'My belief has so much more worth than yours, so your voice may be silenced if you threaten my position (or even just speak out)'. Ideas often reshaped into 'Make me, rich or more powerful, and you'll benefit from it.' or 'Let us raise our profits and it will prove to enrich everyone.' 'Buy this thing or idea and become happy/safe/rich/powerful.' ...

    The new system. Oops. Yes, it's still in the making. Many voices around the world talk about this. Here are some of my suggestions to include:

    Science has to embrace the new realities it is discovering. If everything is intricately connected in a delicate system, then science can't continue being of service to big corporations, creating lump solutions to drive profit. True science should be: How is it all hanging together? And more importantly: What impact would this ‘solution' have for the whole system of life on this planet?

    Just bringing new products to the market for fast profits has to lose out to making choices that help heal, improve the whole web to flourish. ...

    It's Time to Face the Depth of the Systemic Crisis We Confront, Next System Project

    We Face a Systemic Crisis

    ... The challenging realities of growing inequality, political stalemate, and climate disruption prompt an important insight. When big problems emerge across the entire spectrum of national life, it cannot be due to small reasons. When the old ways no longer produce the outcomes we are looking for, something deeper is occurring. We have fundamental problems because of fundamental flaws in our economic and political system. The crisis now unfolding in so many ways across our country amounts to a systemic crisis.

    Today's political economic system is not programmed to secure the wellbeing of people, place and planet. Instead, its priorities are corporate profits, the growth of GDP, and the projection of national power. If we are to address the manifold challenges we face in a serious way, we need to think through and then build a new political economy that takes us beyond the current system that is failing all around us. However difficult the task, however long it may take, systemic problems require systemic solutions. ...

     

    *** Link back to Conservative Criticism of 'Much of What's Called Socialism is Just Pragmatic', if that's where you came from.

     

    Belief in "Free Market" Capitalism

    Belief in capitalism is much like belief in religion. I first realized this when I began examining issues around urban growth (The Growth Facts of Life). I had a sudden realization that "democracy" and "capitalism" are not the same. I'd never thought this before, and was somewhat shocked when an inner voice said, "You can't say that." It felt like sacrilege.

    I'd been subconsciously indoctrinated to have a religious-like belief that capitalism and democracy and "free market" capitalism go together ... that they complement each other. And that the righteousness of capitalism is not to be questioned. Uh, oh. Illusion busted.

    Years later, this led me to give a presentation on Systems Thinking for Free Thinking about the 'Free Market' to inquire whether free thinkers, who reject religious belief, can be as free thinking about economics as they are about religion. I now understand that capitalism is the enemy of democracy, which is all that prevents a slide into fascism.

    Matt Taibbi makes the discouraging point in The Great American Bubble Machine that Capitalism Defeats Democracy: "organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy".

    Bill Maher makes this point: video: Real Time with Bill Maher: New Rule – Capitalism Eats Everything - 5/3/16.

    Maher: "America's real religion is capitalism. And like any religion, it needs a devil. And that devil has always been socialism."

    ​"America's real religion is capitalism" by DANIELLE HENDERSON, Esquire, 5/4/16

    Last night on Real Time, Bill Maher took capitalism to task with a small rant about America's fear of socialism. "America's real religion is capitalism. And like any religion, it needs a devil. And that devil has always been socialism."

    Maher pointed out that while a lot of Americans "hate the word socialism but love the concept," there's a deep disconnect with all of the ways our country depends on social programs for survival, citing Medicare, unemployment, disability, farm subsidies as examples.

    Last night on Real Time, Bill Maher took capitalism to task with a small rant about America's fear of socialism. "America's real religion is capitalism. And like any religion, it needs a devil. And that devil has always been socialism."

    Someone needs to explain to the free-market-everywhere crowd that when it comes to socialism, you're soaking in it. Marco Rubio says 'If you want to live in a socialist country, why not move to a socialist country?' Oh, you mean like Florida, where everyone is on Social Security?

    Maher also notes that the unfounded fear of socialism spreading out of control is nothing compared to how we've let capitalism spread out of control. "It's eaten our democracy. It's eaten our middle class. It's eaten our health care system, our prison system, our news media. ...

    Donella Meadows described "free market" failures in System dynamics meets the press. It was an invited paper at the 1988 System Dynamics Conference, published in the 1989 System Dynamics Review. She describes how criticizing the "free market" in the corporate, conservative media is too often just not allowed. To do so is the economic right's version of being politically incorrect.

    Woe unto us when ideology, instead of pragmatism, drives public policy.

    Capitalism is also a confidence game ... it's a religious belief that "the Invisible Hand God will save us", that I, too, can be rich", and that it produces a "rising tide that lifts all boats." Hardly. What besides religious belief can explain the insanity of libertarian ideology?

    The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova ... excerpts:

    ... It’s the oldest story ever told. The story of belief—of the basic, irresistible, universal human need to believe in something that gives life meaning, something that reaffirms our view of ourselves, the world, and our place in it. “Religion,” Voltaire is said to have remarked, “began when the first scoundrel met the first fool.” It certainly sounds like something he would have said. Voltaire was no fan of the religious establishment. But versions of the exact same words have been attributed to Mark Twain, to Carl Sagan, to Geoffrey Chaucer. It seems so accurate that someone, somewhere, sometime, must certainly have said it.

    And it seems so accurate, most of all, because it touches on a profound truth. The truth of our absolute and total need for belief from our earliest moments of consciousness, from an infant’s unwavering knowledge that she will be fed and comforted to an adult’s need to see some sort of justness and fairness in the surrounding world. In some ways, confidence artists like Demara have it easy. We’ve done most of the work for them; we want to believe in what they’re telling us. Their genius lies in figuring out what, precisely, it is we want, and how they can present themselves as the perfect vehicle for delivering on that desire.

    The impostors, like Demara, showing up where they are needed, in the guise they are most needed:  ... the religious leader who promises hope and salvation when everything seems to have hit a low point, who swears that, somewhere, sometime, the world will be just.

    In the 1950s, the linguist David Maurer began to delve more deeply into the world of confidence men than any had before him. He called them, simply, “aristocrats of crime.” Hard crime—outright theft or burglary, violence, threats—is not what the confidence artist is about. The confidence game—the con—is an exercise in soft skills. Trust, sympathy, persuasion.

    The true con artist doesn’t force us to do anything; he makes us complicit in our own undoing. He doesn’t steal. We give. He doesn’t have to threaten us. We supply the story ourselves. We believe because we want to, not because anyone made us. And so we offer up whatever they want—money, reputation, trust, fame, legitimacy, support—and we don’t realize what is happening until it is too late. Our need to believe, to embrace things that explain our world, is as pervasive as it is strong.

    Given the right cues, we’re willing to go along with just about anything and put our confidence in just about anyone. Conspiracy theories, supernatural phenomena, psychics: we have a seemingly bottomless capacity for credulity. Or, as one psychologist put it, “Gullibility may be deeply engrained in the human behavioral repertoire.”

    For our minds are built for stories. We crave them, and, when there aren’t ready ones available, we create them. Stories about our origins. Our purpose. The reasons the world is the way it is. Human beings don’t like to exist in a state of uncertainty or ambiguity. When something doesn’t make sense, we want to supply the missing link. When we don’t understand what or why or how something happened, we want to find the explanation. A confidence artist is only too happy to comply—and the well-crafted narrative is his absolute forte.

    ... The real confidence game feeds on the desire for magic, exploiting our endless taste for an existence that is more extraordinary and somehow more meaningful. But when we’re falling for a con, we aren’t actively seeking deception—or at least we don’t think we are. As long as the desire for magic, for a reality that is somehow greater than our everyday existence, remains, the confidence game will thrive. ...

    Yes, what else can the Invisible Hand be? ... other than "magic" and what "promises hope and salvation"? Our beliefs, our mental models, are invisible to us and difficult to examine. Here's John Sterman on Mental Models and how "It's turtles all the way down."

    Democracy as anathema. Note that "conservatives" and libertarians view the very idea of "democracy" as anathema, with the view that "Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what's for dinner."

    Hitler was neither on the "left" nor "right" on economics. But he was an extreme authoritarian ... a dictator.

    There are economic systems and governance systems. Any economic system can be authoritarian.

    From the Political Compass: "... despite popular perceptions, the opposite of fascism is not communism but anarchism (i.e., liberal socialism), and that the opposite of communism ( i.e. an entirely state-planned economy) is neoliberalism (i.e., an extreme deregulated economy)".

    This is a false analogy, of course, because in the U.S. what we call "democracy" is not simply about "majority rules". We have, in theory at least, a democratically-elected, representative, constitutionally-limited republic, with the "republic" part being about protecting the minority. That's "in theory" because "conservatives" have no problem with not protecting minority rights ... ironically, because "freedom!".

    Libertarians begin with the idea of individual freedom and everything flows from that. One told me, as promoted by Ron Paul to Republican applause, that "Yes, some will die, but that is the price of freedom."

    What they do not realize is that people are not "free" in the midst of system failure; many suffer and die through no fault of their own. Freedom is about more than "individual freedom"; see Freedom? Liberal vs. Conservative.

     

    Hitler Was Not a Socialist

    Aside from dismissing the pragmatic necessity of many policies that are called "socialist", a scare tactic directed against such policies, and socialism in general, is that, supposedly, Hitler was a socialist. See for example 7 Quotes That Prove Adolf Hitler Was A Proud Socialist. What must be concluded from this assertion is that socialism leads to tyranny and death camps.

    But Hitler was a fascist, not a socialist. Yes, the name of the Nazi Party was the "National Socialist German Workers' Party." That's even though it was rabidly anti-union, anti-worker, anti-gay, and anti non-Aryan (that is, not of the master race; for example, "approximately 250,000 to 500,000 Gypsies were murdered during the Holocaust").

    Those who believe that the Nazi Party was "socialist" should also believe the name for East Germany, the "German Democratic Republic", indicated it was really a democracy. It's quite shocking that so many continue to believe the lie.

    Hitler was, to say the least, an authoritarian and ruthless dictator, but he was far from being a socialist. As the Political Compass indicates at right, while he was an extreme authoritarian, he was only slightly to the right on economics. While the Nazi Germany economy was a mixed economy, some government-run and some private, that does not mean it was "socialist" ... much less Democratic Socialist. Any economic system -- communist, mixed (socialist), or capitalist -- can become a dictatorship absent a strong democracy.

    Libertarians and "conservatives" often maintain that socialists and liberals are fascists because laws passed democratically impose on the "freedom" of many to do as they please. "FreedomWorks" sent a suggestion that I'd enjoy the book, Liberal Fascism. In their confusion, they see any talk of attending to the whole as socialist ... or the fascist opposite ... or both!!!

    But not attending to the whole, as well as to the parts, is insane: a prescription for failure and a betrayal of the nation.

    What's more, Hitler professed to be a Christian, though I expect most Christians would bridle at that fact. He said:

    "Which faith conquers the other is not the question; rather, the question is whether Christianity stands or falls... We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity … in fact our movement is Christian." From a speech in Passau 10/27/28 cited in Holy Reich: Nazi conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 60-61.

    The Great Scandal: Christianity’s Role in the Rise of the Nazis By Gregory Paul, Free Inquiry, 10/11/03

    A growing body of scholarly research, some based on careful analysis of Nazi records, is clarifying this complex history.[2] It reveals a convoluted pattern of religious and moral failure in which atheism and the nonreligious played little role, except as victims of the Nazis and their allies. In contrast, Christianity had the capacity to stop Nazism before it came to power, and to reduce or moderate its practices afterwards, but repeatedly failed to do so because the principal churches were complicit with—indeed, in the pay of—the Nazis.

    Most German Christians supported the Reich; many continued to do so in the face of mounting evidence that the dictatorship was depraved and murderously cruel. Elsewhere in Europe the story was often the same. Only with Christianity’s forbearance and frequent cooperation could fascistic movements gain majority support in Christian nations. European fascism was the fruit of a Christian culture. Millions of Christians actively supported these notorious regimes. Thousands participated in their atrocities.

    What, in God’s name, were they thinking? ...

    Now most would now say that, while Hitler professed to be a Christian, the NAZIs were not real Christians ... quite the opposite. That said, perhaps it was what passed for Christian at the time given the Catholic church allied itself with the fascists. See God’s Bankers: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican by Gerald Posner and listen to the interview with Posner on The Majority Report with Sam Seder ... fascinating.

    In the same vein, the name of the NAZI party included the word, socialist: National Socialist German Workers' Party. But, Hitler's actions were not socialist. Hitler was an extreme, right-wing, nationalist authoritarian. While Germany had a mixed economy, he was not "of the left" on either economic or social policy.

    And "conservatives" also propagandize that gun control leads to a fascist takeover ... sad to say, we've pretty much got corporate/fascist control of government now and they've done it without guns or gun control.

    The Hitler gun control lie, 1/11/13, Alex Seitz-Wald
    Gun rights activists who cite the dictator as a reason against gun control have their history dangerously wrong

    ... University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt explored this myth in depth in a 2004 article published in the Fordham Law Review. As it turns out, the Weimar Republic, the German government that immediately preceded Hitler’s, actually had tougher gun laws than the Nazi regime. After its defeat in World War I, and agreeing to the harsh surrender terms laid out in the Treaty of Versailles, the German legislature in 1919 passed a law that effectively banned all private firearm possession, leading the government to confiscate guns already in circulation. In 1928, the Reichstag relaxed the regulation a bit, but put in place a strict registration regime that required citizens to acquire separate permits to own guns, sell them or carry them.

    The 1938 law signed by Hitler that LaPierre mentions in his book basically does the opposite of what he says it did. “The 1938 revisions completely deregulated the acquisition and transfer of rifles and shotguns, as well as ammunition,” Harcourt wrote. Meanwhile, many more categories of people, including Nazi party members, were exempted from gun ownership regulations altogether, while the legal age of purchase was lowered from 20 to 18, and permit lengths were extended from one year to three years.

    The law did prohibit Jews and other persecuted classes from owning guns, but this should not be an indictment of gun control in general. Does the fact that Nazis forced Jews into horrendous ghettos indict urban planning? Should we eliminate all police officers because the Nazis used police officers to oppress and kill the Jews? What about public works — Hitler loved public works projects? Of course not. These are merely implements that can be used for good or ill, much as gun advocates like to argue about guns themselves. If guns don’t kill people, then neither does gun control cause genocide (genocidal regimes cause genocide). ...

    An excellent review of how the right-wing Tea Party and Libertarians are promoting fascism in the U.S.

    The Repackaging Of The Fascist Playbook by Johnny Hill, 2/21/15

    ... Just like Joseph Goebbels, who headed the Nazi propaganda machine, present day pundits like Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and politicians like Ron Paul are making the same claims today as did Goebbels in Nazi Germany.

    While claiming to be all about freedom and liberty, any fair evaluation of their agenda tells a much deeper and darker story. These groups seem to stay up nights trying to erode our civil right to live a quality life. Moreover, their platform would have us barely existing, languishing in debt. They have been successful in many regions of this nation, through their highly funded media echo chambers, at taking away many of our social protections and denying the American people the social justice We The People have fought so hard for over the years. ...

    The Tea Party and Libertarian movements in this country amount to nothing more than Social Darwinism. Their agenda is plutocracy. They demonize government as evil. They demonize groups of citizens with the intent to divide and conquer. All in all, this is nothing more than the repackaging of the Fascist playbook. Just like we saw in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. With unconstitutional overreach by the Judicial branch, which upheld the claim money as free speech and corporate person-hood, we have seen this type behavior before from the Anarcho-Capitalist Corporatism of Nazi Germany. ...

    Who stands to benefit from this propaganda? Is it the middle-class? Is it the moderate and working poor? No, it’s the corporations and the elitist who need We The People out of their business so they can run their enterprise to the detriment of our environment, our workforce, all in the name of capitalism and the free markets. This is not a classroom theory this is history repeating itself.  The right-wing, the Libertarians, the Tea Party are using Social Darwinism to demonize and separate groups for the purpose of demonizing them as threats to our country,our culture, our society as threats to our free markets and democracy. It’s scapegoating 101. Just like the Nazi Party, these radical modern-day organizations have waged a war against equality of the person. They don’t want free healthcare for all. They don’t want a good free public education to survive. They have cut programs to the poor, sick, veterans of wars, taxed the middle class while giving huge tax breaks to the upper one percent. These are not theories they are facts. Moreover, they have ostracized groups who have tried to help these segments of our population. Calling them socialists, communists, and have turned the word "liberals" into a pejorative. Name calling is their forte  which they have made into a science. ...

    Hitler hated mainstream established knowledge, science, publicly funded schools and institutes of higher learning. He claimed they were bastions of Liberals, Communists, Zionists, and Socialists. Hitler ruled the German people with speeches of hate and lies that these groups were spies trying to deceive the real Aryan German.

    The Tea Party and their Libertarian counterparts have a similar hatred of historical record and facts. They highly question reality and facts. Scientists question reality by using inductive reasoning. But the Tea Party and Libertarians use deductive reasoning. This type of argument is surely not intellectual nor science in any manner. These organizations run on gut feelings based on misguided indoctrination, false assumptions, and faith in preconceived notions no matter their validity or not. ...

    Who supported Hitler? Capitalists, not socialists.

    Fueling Fascism: The Secret History of How Texaco Supplied Oil to Fascists in Spain, Democracy Now!, 3/31/16

    While thousands of Americans fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War, some chose to back Franco’s fascist regime. The most notable was the CEO of the American oil giant Texaco. He violated U.S. law by selling Franco’s regime discounted oil on credit. Also in violation of U.S. law, the oil was transported to Spain on U.S. ships. While thousands of Americans fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War, some chose to back Franco’s fascist regime. The most notable was the CEO of the American oil giant Texaco. He violated U.S. law by selling Franco’s regime discounted oil on credit. Also in violation of U.S. law, the oil was transported to Spain on U.S. ships.

    The Kochs & the Nazis: Book Reveals Billionaires' Father Built Key Oil Refinery for the Third Reich, Democracy Now!, 1/20/16 ... Book Review

    In .. "Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right," New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer explores how the Koch brothers and fellow right-wing billionaires have funded a political machine aimed at shaping elections and public policy. The book contains a number of revelations and new details. Mayer begins with revealing that the Kochs' father, industrialist Fred Koch, helped build an oil refinery in Nazi Germany-a project approved personally by Adolf Hitler. The refinery was critical to the Nazi war effort, fueling German warplanes.

    What Hitler's rise was like ... sound familiar? ...

    Book Review of Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939, 1,008 pp. From Foreign Affairs March/April 2017 (p.176).

    " . . . In this biography, which covers the Nazi leader's life up to the outbreak of war in 1939, [Hitler] is an eerily familiar figure: inexperienced, impulsive, ignorant, egomaniacal, petty, and resentful of established experts-yet gifted with an extraordinary theatrical talent for emotionally compelling, demagogic appeals to nativism. His opponents underestimated his political skill, viewing him as an incompetent bumbler and a temporary celebrity who could be easily tamed by the conservative establishment. As Hitler rose, his rivals waged internecine political squabbles-until it was too late to stop him."

     

    Einstein Was a Socialist!?

    Most people don't know this; but, yes, he was. OMG. See

    Albert Einstein on Socialism, 1/24/08. Einstein reflects on capitalism, on socialism, on what he calls the "economic anarchy of capitalist society," and on what to do about it. Einstein sees "the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development". I add comments.

     

    What Does Lead to Fascism?

    Capitalism. Yes, that's correct, capitalism.

    The fairy tale is that "true capitalism" will operate without government interference in a "free market. The reality is that the fairy tale inevitably morphs into oligopolies and monopolies with an absence of competition. Thanks to enormous economic power, the oligopolies control of government and undermine democracy. Corporations in control of, and operating in concert with, government is known as fascism.

    A "free market", capitalist economy operates exactly like what happens in the game, Monopoly. One person ends up with everything. That's not a result of higher intelligence or working harder. It inevitably happens because of the "path dependence" dynamic. The dynamic is one of the systems thinking archetypes [see The Archetypes, Generic Structures & Examples]. True "conservatives" either have no clue about this dynamic, or they must totally ignore it, because it gores their competitive, "true capitalism" fantasy.

    Capitalism fails the vast majority of Americans, even as it succeeds on its own terms of producing "growth" and wealth.

    American capitalism has failed us: We’re overworked, underemployed and more powerless than ever before by ANN JONES, TOMDISPATCH.COM, 2/4/16

    ... The truth is that almost a quarter of American startups are not founded on brilliant new ideas, but on the desperation of men or women who can’t get a decent job. The majority of all American enterprises are solo ventures having zero payrolls, employing no one but the entrepreneur, and often quickly wasting away [with] income and wealth ... going to the top 1 percent.” (As George Carlin said, “The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.”) ...

    More propaganda. Seriously? This ignores the dire problems of joblessness and poverty in America and at the same time implies that fascist Germany was actually socialist. While Germany had a "mixed economy", it was not socialist in the sense of the "wealth redistribution" charge being leveled today about Democratic Socialism.

     

    Those who call themselves "conservative" constantly promote deregulation -- read lawlessness -- that won't allow corporations to be constrained. And so, as now, we get corporate control of government. That makes sense because in a capitalist economy, the purpose of government becomes promoting and serving capitalism -- being "business friendly".

    Many say, in defense of the problems with corporate control of government, that the problem isn't with capitalism itself, but because it's become crony capitalism. They say that "the essential nature of capitalism is hands off".

    But capitalism is, really by definition, crony capitalism because it *serves* capitalists! Duh. It's obvious this is true on the national level. It's just as true on the local level where developers and allied growth interests rule; on the local level it's euphemistically called "local control", which is short for "local control by developers" (example: City for Champions vs City for Developers).

    Dismantling Corporate Control Isn't a Spectator Sport: An Interview With Thomas Linzey, 3/25/16

    ... For ... economic alternatives to grow, we have to clear the way for them by ridding the system of corporate and governmental power. We also have to get used to what makes us uncomfortable -- using our governments to actually promote and mandate those alternatives. Liberals are particularly uncomfortable with, say, a local law that requires that the only agriculture done in a community is organic; or a local law that requires grocery stores to carry 30 percent locally-produced vegetables. Yet the corporate boys have no worries about using the law that way -- it's why they use farm laws, for example, to prohibit neighbors from suing over factory farms. They use government and laws to actually support the type of production that favors them. We have to begin doing the same thing – seeing law and government as a way to fashion the markets that we want. But we haven't done that over the past 50 years -- instead, we keep pretending that the corporate boys will leave us alone to build these alternatives. The problem is that when the alternatives get big and threatening enough, they use their power to shut them down. It's why we can talk about "alternative" economics all we want, but without dealing with corporate power, it goes nowhere. ...

    Community rights activism directly targets preemption [bills to remove localities' power to legislate on ... issues], because preemption itself is caused by corporate control over the governmental system. When something becomes a big enough problem, the corporate boys in a particular industry simply use government to shut down local activism around the issue. I haven't seen any of these movements begin to directly target preemption -- the power of preemption -- rather, they lobby to stop the preemption from happening. Almost nobody questions the authority of the state or federal government to preempt community lawmaking -- the authority itself -- it's just accepted that the federal should be able to trump the state and the state trump the local. But, the operation of that machine is exactly the opposite of democracy -- it pulls decision making into hands further away from where the problem is, and into fewer hands. ...

    Here's how the US empire will devolve into fascism and then collapse - according to science by Travis Gettys, Raw Story, 12/07/16

    Johan Galtung, a Norwegian professor at the University of Hawaii and Transcend Peace University, first predicted in 2000 that the "U.S. empire" would wither away within 25 years, but he moved up that forecast by five years with the election of President George W. Bush, reported Motherboard.

    Now, nearly 17 years later, Galtung predicts that decline could come even quicker under a Trump administration. ...

    He predicted in his 2009 book, "The Fall of the American Empire - and then What?" that the U.S. was plagued by 15 internal contradictions that would end its global power by 2020, and Galtung warned that phase of the decline would usher in a period of reactionary fascism.

    American fascism would spring from its capacity for global violence, a vision of exceptionalism, a belief in an inevitable and final war between good and evil, the cult of a strong state leading that battle, and a cult of the "strong leader."

    Galtung said all of those elements presented themselves during the Bush era, but he fears fascist tendencies could sharpen under Trump as those cultists lash out in disbelief at the loss of American power.

    The sociologist identified unsustainable economic, social, military and political contradictions that would eventually topple the U.S. as a world power.

    Overproduction relative to demand, unemployment and the increasing costs of climate change would weaken the U.S. economy, according to his model. ...

    Rising tensions between America's Judeo-Christian majority and Islam and other religious minorities created cultural contradictions, which are further sharpened by social contradictions between the so-called American dream and the reality that fewer Americans can achieve prosperity through hard work.

    The decline of the U.S. as a global power would probably rip apart its domestic cohesion, Galtung said, which could potentially reshape American borders.

    "As a trans-border structure the collapse I am thinking of is global, not domestic," Galtung said. "But it may have domestic repercussion, like white supremacists or even minorities like Hawaiians, Inuits, indigenous Americans and black Americans doing the same, maybe arguing for the United States as community, confederation rather than a 'union.'"

    That breakup could potentially bring a revitalization of the American republic, Galtung said - if Trump makes a surprising shift in his persona and policies.

    "If he manages to apologize deeply to all the groups he has insulted and turn foreign policy from U.S. interventions - soon 250 after Jefferson in Libya 1801 - and not use wars (killing more than 20 million in 37 countries after 1945): A major revitalization!" Galtung said. "Certainly making 'America Great Again.' We'll see."

    Don't hold your breath for that apology.

     

    Capitalism is Perfectly Compatible with Slavery

    U.S. history illustrates quite nicely that capitalism is compatible with slavery. But it's worse than that. As described in Empire of Cotton: A Global History by Sven Beckert, "... slavery was not a hidebound institution that capitalism destroyed, but an integral one that made capitalism possible."

    In fact, though there's no mention of any economic system (not capitalism, socialism, or communism) in the Constitution, slavery was recognized. For example, in addition to Article I, Section. 2 [Slaves count as 3/5 persons] there's:

    Article I, Section. 9, clause 1. [No power to ban slavery until 1808]
    The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

    Article IV, Section. 2. [Free states cannot protect slaves]. No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

    Article V [No Constitutional Amendment to Ban Slavery Until 1808]
    ...No Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article.

    To this day -- and this is stunning -- capitalism is compatible with slavery because those who work for a wage in the U.S. are in competition with slave and prison labor. Specifically, relative to current, treasonous TPP legislation, whether to allow slavery is being debated. That it's even being debated is an outrage:

    Is the TPP Okay With Slavery? Really? by Mike Lux, 05/28/15

    So the fast track plan to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership has run into a new wrinkle after an amendment passed in the Senate debate: slavery. Yes, really, slavery: the Senate voted for an amendment that would make it more difficult for countries that engage in slavery to be in the TPP, and the Obama administration objected. This is bizarre stuff, folks, but welcome to the world of international trade deals. From Ryan Grim's article the day Fast Track was passed, about the amendment in question:

    That measure would bar governments considered to be complicit in human trafficking from receiving the economic benefits of a fast-tracked trade deal. Menendez, the author of the provision, has described it as a human rights protection that will prevent U.S. workers from competing with modern-day slave labor. ...

    The President does not want an anti-slavery provision in what he calls the "most progressive trade deal of all time" because it would keep a country noted for its egregious slave trade out of the treaty? I have to admit this bothers me just a little. Okay, a massive amount. We're not going to object to slavery because a country that openly engages in it might trade more with China than with us? Doesn't this kind of blow up the whole "most progressive trade agreement in history" thing? ...

    Yes, it damn well does! It reveals what's obvious since he appointed Geithner & Summers as his economic advisors. Obama is not a socialist, but at the extremist "right" on economics. Want a valid reason to hate Obama? Well this is it.

    Much more on this at You're in Competition with Slave Labor, Too.

     

    Capitalism Also Leads to War?

    TPP abandons democracy in favor of corporate-one-world-government rule.
    Capitalism leads to war? Yes, that's correct, capitalism does not lead to peace. Look around; that should be obvious. America Has Been At War 93% of the Time – 222 Out of 239 Years – Since 1776.

    Empire of Cotton: A Global History describes

    "... the changes wrought by thousands of years of cotton production in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, with Europe — and England in particular — a relative latecomer to the plant's marvels. These developments prompted the rise of 'war capitalism' in the 1500s, a stage of economic development rooted in the violence associated with forcible land and labor acquisitions. This was what the Europeans excelled at: violently intruding on global cotton networks, then using their newly acquired power to further dominate and exploit the system."

     

    The Whole and the Parts

    One "conservative" wrote that "promote the general Welfare" in the U.S. Constitution means "stealing the wealth and labor of one person to give it to someone that the government thinks needs it more." That's what "conservatives" call "socialism" or even "communism." These are used as pejorative labels to attack government and imply that promoting the general Welfare leads to dictatorship.

    But that, of course, is not what the phrase "promote the general Welfare" in the Constitution means. It demeans our founding document to portray it as that. Promoting the "general Welfare" is about governing to prevent systemic failures. Actually, it seems that should really be the only legitimate purpose of government. After all, individuals can do their own thing to better their individual circumstances.

    What government is about is promoting the "general interests" of the nation, as opposed to "individual interests" or "special interests." The purpose of government must be to avoid system failures that result in the failure of many individuals, even millions of individuals, through no fault of their own. This is simply pragmatic, not "socialist".

    Libertarians and economic "conservatives" maintain that there is no such thing as "general interests" or "collective interests" ... there are only individuals. They believe that, if everyone does their own thing in pursuit of their individual interests, then all will work out in the best possible way.

    But that denies the reality that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This isn't just a saying; it's reality (see Primacy of the Whole). This aspect of reality is that collectives display what are known as "emergent properties": properties and behaviors of the whole that are not characteristic of the parts (for much more on this, see Reality: The Dagger in the Black Heart of Libertarian Ideology).

    Libertarians and economic "conservatives" seem incapable of understanding this. They often call it "socialism, communism and fascism " -- mixing completely different and even opposite ideologies -- to object to the very idea of "promote the general Welfare."

     

    But Government Is Evil to Many

    It can be. Many "conservative" government policies not only don't address market failures and weaknesses, they make their impact worse.

    And there really are too many cases where government is evil. Anything I write here, or anywhere on my website, should not be taken as justification of the things government does do wrong. Examples:

    • regulatory capture where corporations control and weaken government agency attempts to address negative effects like pollution, worker health,
    • "free trade" that offshores jobs, U.S. technology capability, and pollutes the environment,
    • defining money as speech instead of property,
    • defining corporations as being people instead of property,
    • wars declared against countries that are not a threat (Iraq),
    • spying on Americans,
    • mass collection of data on the communications of Americans (phone calls, e-mails),
    • torture,
    • pursuing and prosecuting government whistle blowers, but not those who committing the offenses
    • bailing out the banks with taxpayer dollars for their bad bets, but not homeowners who lost their jobs because of bankster fraud
    • police killing unarmed civilians with seeming impunity for running away or "manner of walking".
    • It goes on and on.

    But that does not mean that there are not necessary and vital roles for government in the economy. Understanding that "government is needed for some purposes" does not make one a "statist" who approves of everything government now does or worships government or wants "big government."

    What's needed is government for necessary purposes as I describe at Why Government and for What. Essentially it's about the freedom of individuals to not be subjected to systemic failure where they fail through no fault of their own. As long as we can maintain and protect a proportionally-represented democratically-elected, constitutionally-limited republic, government for these purposes is not a path to tyranny.

     

    Free Market Failures and Weaknesses Overview

    This section describes some of the failures and weaknesses of "free market" capitalism from a systems thinking perspective. That is, cases where the "free market" does not allow "market forces" to effectively or efficiently balance supply & demand. Those who call themselves "conservative" either do not understand, or completely ignore, these concepts; they do not understand major aspects of either economics or business. Those not aware of these factors and their effects must learn about the economic issues and dynamics described here if the nation is to avoid failure and prosper.

    Among these failures & weaknesses are the economic effects of negative externalities, tragedy of the commons, positive externalities, inelasticities, long delays, path dependence, adverse selection, escalation, the attractiveness principle, game theory, monopoly (& monopsony) & oligopoly effects on competition, game theory, Net Present Value (NPV) calculations, and Cost-Benefit Analysis.

    The key point is that government is absolutely necessary to prevent systemic failure resulting from not effectively dealing with them. That's because in these cases, individually-logical decisions are collectively irrational. This very idea is anathema to economic "conservatives".

    Economic "conservatives" see government as "interference" in market forces and the cause of market dysfunction. The economic "conservative" category includes Libertarians, Republicans and Democrats who are corporatists pushing right-wing, laissez-faire economic policies (the defunct Democratic Leadership Council, New Democrats, & Third Way). While they're liberal on social issues, all these groups believe that the problem with the "free market" is that "it's just not free enough."

    This is seriously delusional and a major barrier to addressing our economic problems. It's why our nation's economy is failing.

    Now I do not use the term, ignorance, as an insult. After all we're all ignorant about many things ... most things. Of course those who have a simplistic view of economics and argue that what's relevant is only invisible hand Economics 101, will view saying they're ignorant about economics and business is an insult. But there's more to economics than microeconomics, which is quite different from macroeconomics.

    Having a Ph.D. in physics and an MBA does not make me an expert in biology. Or even economics, which is what this article is about. That said, studying systems thinking has educated me on fundamental aspects of realty that profoundly affect the success of our economy. This is a call for truth, reason and true freedom.

    Thomas Jefferson on truth: "When describing the University of Virginia: Here, We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."

    Those who remain ignorant of, or willfully ignore, these factors are those who fear the truth about how the economy works. They argue in favor of an idealized, idolized/religious, fundamentalist view of capitalism that does not exist and that is an existential threat to life on earth. Instead of facing reality, they argue against their invented, delusional parody of what's meant by democratic socialism.

     

    Sections below:

  • Negative Externalities Shift Costs onto the Public: Why we need regulation, the EPA, OSHA, "development" impact fees, & a health insurance mandate
    -- Pollution
    -- Growth's Local & National Cost Redistribution
    -- The Banking System's Rampant Theft is a National Disgrace
    -- Not Having Health Insurance has Negative Externalities
    -- Death and Debilitation by Privatized Government: Austerity Man
  • Tragedy of the Commons: How individually-logical decisions are collectively irrational and are an existential threat to life on earth.
    -- Global Warming
    -- Ocean fish depletion
  • Negative Externalities in the Workplace: Sickness, Injury, Death: How insufficiently-regulated capitalism is killing you
  • Positive Externalities: Why an economy needs public education and health services
    -- Compassionate Conservatism: thinly-veiled cover for callousness
  • Inelasticities: Why the "free market" fails for farming
  • Long Delays: Why we have Boom & Bust Economic Cycles, Market Instabilities
  • Path Dependence: Why Monopoly (& monopsony) & Oligopoly are inevitable w/o government regulation / antitrust enforcement
  • Adverse Selection: Why a Health Insurance mandate is necessary, why we have Used Cars Lemon Laws
    -- Privatized health insurance corporations should not exist. Here's why:
  • Escalation: The Cold War and Gun escalation dynamic
  • The Attractiveness Principle: On Urban Growth and why we have infrastructure backlongs
  • Game Theory: On the Labor Market and why Unions are necessary to prevent wages going to between zero and subsistence level
  • Net Present Value Calculations: Why short-term thinking is embedded in capitalism and corporate decision-making, and why only government can attend to the future
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: The point of view that, if the benefits obtained by correcting a safety or environmental problem don't exceed the costs a company incurs to correct the safety problem, then it should not be done. Logical when for an individual where the individual who saves the costs loses the benefit. Theft when the public loses the benefit to increase corporate profit.
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    Negative Externalities Shift Costs onto the Public

    Individually logical: When we, individually or as a business, can pollute or not take precautions to assure worker safety, we save money and increase our income.

    Collectively irrational: When everyone does this we foul the air and water, maim and kill, and emit CO2 pollution, we contribute to making the planet uninhabitable ... it's an existential threat to life on earth.

    These negative externalities allow companies privatize the profits and socialize the costs; this is the most prevalent, insidious form of the real "socialism": cost-redistribution is embedded within capitalism itself that overwhelms any redistribution of income. It's "cost-side socialism", the laissez-faire "free market" ideal.

    If the effects of negative externalities are not prevented, the inherent characteristic of unregulated (lawless) "free market" ideology is theft from the public in $$s, sickness,  injury, death, debt and Global Warming destroying life on earth. See discussion of the effects below and The Physics of Global Warming and From Growth to Overshoot & Collapse).

    Those who care about freedom won't want to be burdened by the cost of negative externalities.

    While corporations do it for profit, some pollute just to be obnoxious in the name of their "freedom". For both it's to hell with everyone else.

    This one quote shows what angry white guys mean when they talk about government overreach by David Roberts, Vox, 9/9/16

    ... Even more than Trump’s ascension, it seems to perfectly capture a moment in time, an inarticulate yawp of protest from angry white men. They feel disdained and overlooked and they will blow thick black smoke in your face until you pay attention.

    There’s no faux nostalgia involved. Unlike with, say, hunting, there’s no tale of rugged rural self-sufficiency to draw on. This is not some sturdy heartland tradition with which meddlesome elites want to interfere.

    Rolling coal is new; it just caught on a few years ago. It does not improve the performance of a truck. It has no practical application or pragmatic purpose of any kind. It is purely aggressive, a raw expression of defiance: I can pollute your air, for no reason, and no one can stop me. ...


    Pollution

    Businesses have intrinsic incentives to pollute; there's more profit when no one cleans up the mess or when the public cleans up the mess. Pollution is an obvious case where the public bears the cost instead of the business that made it.

    30 Million Gallons Under the Sea: Five Years After BP Disaster, New Drilling OK’d by Spill Site, Democracy Now!, 5/14/15. Interview with Antonia Juhasz, who spent two weeks on a ship in the Gulf of Mexico as part of a scientific research mission exploring the impacts of the BP Gulf oil spill. Her report in Harper’s Magazine headlined "Thirty Million Gallons Under the Sea: Following the Trail of BP’s Oil in the Gulf of Mexico." Also, Antonia is author of the book, Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill.

    ... we went within two miles of the site of the blowout, which is as close as you can get, because the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon is still there. And we—it took two hours to get down. We then made a curve around the site of the disaster, taking sediment samples all along the way. And when we got down there, you know, really, the most stark thing to report was that it—there’s basically nothing there. It’s a moonscape. Basically, all of the sea life that could get out of the way of the oil got out of the way of the oil; everything that couldn't was just, in Dr. Joye's words, nuked and killed. And there is a blanket of oil, as much as two inches thick, covering 3,000 square feet of the ocean floor.

    The solution: STOP ... just say NO! Here's why we must:

    ANTONIA JUHASZ: You know, the United Nations has told us very matter-of-factly, as has every climate scientist in the world, just about, that 80 percent of fossil fuels need to stay in the ground, if we’re to avert the worst of climate crisis. To me, that means that there are just certain areas that have to just start being checked off the list as just no-go zones, that it’s too risky, we don’t need it that badly, and the risks are too profound. And to me, offshore drilling belongs on that list. Instead, the Obama administration, in addition to okaying—almost okaying the Shell project, has opened up for the first time drilling off the Atlantic coast, from—you know, up to Virginia, where new, for the first time, oil and gas development would take place off the Atlantic coast starting in 2017.

    You know, I think it’s—I didn't appreciate the significance of the cycle of life that exists from the bottom of the ocean to the top of the ocean to us. So, there’s little creatures, like tube worms, that are supposed to live on the bottom of the ocean, but most of them don’t anymore, as a result of the oil spill, that break down food particles. And those food particles are critical for phytoplankton, which needs to eat it. And the phytoplankton provide 50 percent of the oxygen on the Earth. So if they don’t have food and they can’t live, then we can’t live, either. And as Dr. Joye said, you know, if you kill the Earth—I mean, if you kill the oceans, basically, none of us can live. And that was an important message to take forward for me.

    The epitome of personal nasty.


    And the disasters continue ...

    Calif. declares emergency after oil spill fouls sea and beaches near Santa Barbara By Lindsey Bever, 5/21/15

    "It’s important to remember this stretch of California coastline is unique to the world. It’s beautiful and pristine," Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr said, according to NBC Los Angeles. "This is more than an inconvenience. This is just a disaster. We are taking it very seriously."

    This  is so out of control that years ago I was at the point to say, "Nationalize the fossil fuel industry!" That's also because, despite the "drill, baby, drill" rhetoric, the fact is that much of the oil is for export: US Oil Exports Soar, 1/4/13. Plundering national resources for private gain like corporations do to third-world nations.

    Stephen Hawking: Humankind is still greedy, stupid and greatest threat to Earth, by Mary Bowerman, USA TODAY Network6/28/16

    Physicist Stephen Hawking says pollution coupled with human greed and stupidity are still the biggest threats to humankind.

    During an interview on Larry King Now, the science superstar told King that in the six years since he's spoken with the talk show host people haven't cleaned up their act.

    "We certainly have not become less greedy or less stupid," Hawking said. "The population has grown by half a billion since our last meeting, with no end in sight. At this rate, it will be eleven billion by 2100."

    Corporate nasty!

    Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil Into Yellowstone River By ANAHAD O’CONNOR. NY Times, 7/2/11

    An ExxonMobil pipeline running under the Yellowstone River in south central Montana ruptured late Friday, spilling crude oil into the river and forcing evacuations.

    The pipeline burst about 10 miles west of Billings, coating parts of the Yellowstone River that run past Laurel — a town of about 6,500 people downstream from the rupture — with shiny patches of oil. ...

    He noted that the massive problem of pollution has only grown in the last five years.

    "Air pollution has increased over the past five years," he said. "More than 80% of inhabitants of urban areas are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution."

    When asked what the biggest problem facing the world is, Hawking said climate change.

    Hawking told King he wonders if we are past the point of no return. "Will we be too late to avoid dangerous levels of global warming?" ...

    Growth's Local & National Cost Redistribution

    But this goes beyond dollar costs. People are inconvenienced, made sick, injured, and even killed by corporate negligence. 

    Developers in Colorado Springs (and around the nation) leave the public to pay for much of the cost of infrastructure necessary to support selling their product. These include stormwater drainage (~ $B), water delivery systems (~ $B), roads and schools. They even get tax subsidies for burdening the public. This is the "free market" in action which is not opposed because "conservatives" don't understand the need to allow market forces to work properly.

    When the public is left to pay the bill, it produces anti-tax reactions: TABOR/Gallagher in Colorado. The need for higher taxes is often blamed on "tax & spend" liberals when it's actually "conservative" "business friendly" policies that get corporations off the hook for paying the full costs required to support their economic activity.

    Some of my articles and letters on this:

    "Market forces" vs the "free market", 10/15/14.
    City for Champions vs City for Developers, 9/23/14
    Colorado Springs: A Broken Region, 10/26/10
    The Growth Facts of Life, 1/19/04
    Growth, Potholes, and Farm & Ranch Lands, 5/28/14
    Corporations Should Pay Taxes, 9/4/14
    Colorado Springs Conservative Crazy, 5/23/11

    Problems associated with growth are rampant and irresponsible ... and the federal government will bail them out:

    In Texas, the Race to Build in Harm’s Way Outpaces Flood-Risk Studies and Warming Impacts By ANDREW C. REVKIN, 5/26/15

    ... Houston is flooded and Hays County, west of Austin, is still in search and rescue mode after Memorial Day weekend flash flooding swelled rivers to record heights, inundating fast-growing riverbank towns and sweeping away a home packed with vacationers. (A Mexican border town and parts of Oklahoma are also reeling.)

    What connects wildfire and raging waters?

    Somewhere, deep in the statistical noise, there is a contribution from the global buildup of heat-trapping gases changing the climate system.

    Among the clearest outcomes of global warming are hotter heat waves and having more of a season’s rain come in heavy downpours. But the picture gets murky, indeed nearly insoluble, at the scale of states or smaller regions. ...

    The Banking System's Rampant Theft is a National Disgrace

    Those so outraged about welfare and "entitlements" should be way more concerned about the how the banks rob from the public. They gambled with depositor money and then got a $700B bailout ... and the banksters still got their $32.6 billion in bonuses! That's the ultimate in arrogance and greed.

    Tracking the $700 Billion Bailout By MATTHEW ERICSON, ELAINE HE and AMY SCHOENFELD, NY Times

    Banks Paid $32.6 Billion in Bonuses Amid U.S. Bailout (Update4), By Karen Freifeld, 7/30/09

    Citigroup Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co. and seven other U.S. banks paid $32.6 billion in bonuses in 2008 while receiving $175 billion in taxpayer funds, according to a report by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

    Cuomo analyzed 2008 bonuses at nine banks that received Trouble Asset Relief Program financing from the U.S. government. New York-based Citigroup and Merrill, which has since been taken over by Bank of America Corp., received TARP funding totaling $55 billion, Cuomo said.

    "When the banks did well, their employees were paid well. When the banks did poorly, their employees were paid well," Cuomo's office said in the 22-page report. "When the banks did very poorly, they were bailed out by taxpayers and their employees were still paid well. Bonuses and overall compensation did not vary significantly as profits diminished."

    The study, called “No Rhyme or Reason: The ‘Heads I Win, Tails You Lose’ Bank Bonus Culture,” comes as Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission examine whether to limit the compensation paid to top corporate executives. ...

    In October, industry veterans including John Gutfreund, president of New York-based Gutfreund & Co. and the former chief executive officer of Salomon Brothers Inc., said Wall Street would insist on paying bonuses in the face of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, a taxpayer bailout and mounting political outcry. ...

    Secrets and Lies of the Bailout By Matt Taibbi, 1/4/13 The federal rescue of Wall Street didn't fix the economy – it created a permanent bailout state based on a Ponzi-like confidence scheme. And the worst may be yet to come

    Excerpt:

    Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, committed $700 billion in taxpayer money to rescue Wall Street from its own chicanery and greed. To listen to the bankers and their allies in Washington tell it, you'd think the bailout was the best thing to hit the American economy since the invention of the assembly line. Not only did it prevent another Great Depression, we've been told, but the money has all been paid back, and the government even made a profit. No harm, no foul – right?

    Wrong.

    It was all a lie -- one of the biggest and most elaborate falsehoods ever sold to the American people. We were told that the taxpayer was stepping in – only temporarily, mind you -- to prop up the economy and save the world from financial catastrophe. What we actually ended up doing was the exact opposite: committing American taxpayers to permanent, blind support of an ungovernable, unregulatable, hyperconcentrated new financial system that exacerbates the greed and inequality that caused the crash, and forces Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to increase risk rather than reduce it. ...

    The public has been lied to so shamelessly and so often in the course of the past four years that the failure to tell the truth to the general populace has become a kind of baked-in, official feature of the financial rescue. Money wasn't the only thing the government gave Wall Street – it also conferred the right to hide the truth from the rest of us. And it was all done in the name of helping regular people and creating jobs. "It is," says former bailout Inspector General Neil Barofsky, "the ultimate bait-and-switch." ...

    The theft and criminal behavior continues, it seems, without limits.

    Matt Taibbi: World's Largest Banks Admit to Massive Global Financial Crimes, But Escape Jail (Again), Democracy Now!, 5/21/15

    We turn now to the felons on Wall Street. Five of the world’s top banks will pay over $5 billion in fines after pleading guilty to rigging the price of foreign currencies and interest rates. Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland pleaded guilty to conspiring to manipulate the price of U.S. dollars and euros exchanged in the five trillion foreign exchange -- $5 trillion foreign exchange spot market. UBS pleaded guilty for its role in manipulating the Libor benchmark interest rate. ...

    MATT TAIBBI: Well, what’s humorous about this is that virtually all of these so-called too-big-to-fail banks now have been embroiled in scandals of varying degrees of extreme seriousness since 2008. So for them to say, "Oh, it’s just a few bad apples in this one instance," is increasingly absurd. They have been dinged for everything from bribery to money laundering, to rigging Libor, to mass fraud in the subprime mortgage markets and now the forex markets. It’s one mass crime over—you know, after another, and there’s no consequence.

    This is so out of control that I'm at the point where I say, "Nationalize the damn banks!"

    Not Having Health Insurance has Negative Externalities

    The ignorance about externalities is not only that of ordinary non-economists, it extends to right-wing extremists on the Supreme Court who clearly don't understand economics. Pathetic ignorance that overwhelms knowledge is particularly disgusting when it's on the Supreme Court determining the life and death of U.S. citizens. Or is it simply their evil ideology that cannot abide understanding the concept?

    The Second Day of the Supreme Court’s Hearing on the Health Care Law by Henry J. Aaron, 3/27/12

    ... The initial presentation was by Don Verilli, the solicitor general, who quickly came under assault from Justices Scalia, Alito, Roberts, and to a lesser extent, Kennedy through a series of questions whose common element was "if you can compel people to buy insurance, what can't you compel them to do?" The response, repeated from written briefs, was twofold. First, virtually everyone uses health care time or another during their lives and most use insurance at one time or another. Second, the absence of (near) universal coverage generates costs that are imposed on those who do buy insurance; and, since Congress clearly has the authority to regulate insurance, the act of not buying insurance affects something Congress can regulate and hence is, in turn, subject to regulation.

    Several of the justices, notably Scalia and Alito, responded to the externalities argument by saying that every economic transaction creates similar externalities. "If I don't buy a Volt, I raise the price of Volts," said Scalia. Alito said much the same thing. So did Paul Clement's brief for the plaintiffs.

    This response was and is bad economics. It is true that every commodity is produced along what economists call a "cost curve"—raising output may lower average or marginal unit costs by spreading overhead or achieving economies of scale, but it may also raise costs by forcing up the cost of inputs or incurring diseconomies of scale. None of this occasions concerns about fairness or free-loading or, to use the economist's term, "externalities." But the cost shifting that occurs when uninsured patients fail to pay their bills does; it causes one group—the insured—to have to pay part of the cost of services others use.

    Perhaps the most glaring instance of the failure to appreciate what an externality really is came from Justice Alito who at one point challenged the solicitor general by positing that the cost of all of the care currently used by those who are uninsured is less than would be the cost of the insurance they would be forced to carry. That being the case, Alito asked, how can one say that the uninsured are shifting costs to the insured? This query is painfully detached from an understanding of what an externality really is, how insurance works, or what the impact of insurance would be on service use. ...

    Another article on the Supreme Court's struggles dealing with reality.

    Conservative justices struggle to understand ACA basics By Steve Benen, 03/24/16

    ... Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum was right to be gobsmacked.

    This is really beyond comprehension. These justices have already heard two major cases on Obamacare, and they’ve presumably read the briefs for this one…. Nobody expects judges to be subject matter experts on every case that comes before them. But this is kindergarten-level stuff. How can they possibly pretend to produce a reasoned opinion if they literally have no idea how health insurance under Obamacare works in the first place? ...

     

    Negative Externalities in the Workplace: Sickness, Injury, Death

    This major example of negative externalities that inflict sickness, injury and death on citizens that are the result of insufficiently regulated, or deregulated (lawless), capitalism deserves its own section that's about much more than "cost". It's about how citizens and those who work for a wage are made sick, injured, or killed.

    Death

    For example, in The Nation article, Boston, West, Newtown: For Whom the Bells Toll, For Whom the Alarms Ring, 4/21/13,  Richard Kim points out that, in the West Chemical and Fertilizer Company disaster (4/17/13), many died, but the response is minor compared to when terrorists cause. That explosion killed 15 people and wounded another 226 in West, Texas (video shows moment of deadly blast). Destruction was not limited to the plant, but the company only had a wholly-inadequate $1 million liability insurance; but Texas law allows fertilizer storage facilities to operate without any liability insurance at all, even when they store hazardous materials. One year later, in 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that fertilizer storage regulations in the US were unchanged.

    As Richard Kim writes,

    "... the blunt and awful truth is that, as a nation, we pay orders of magnitude more attention to the victims of terrorism than we do to the over 4,821 workers were killed on the job in 2014 (3.4 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers) - on average, more than 92 a week or more than 13 deaths every day.

    [Updated data link at OSHA from which this is drawn. ... I updated the statistic in what he wrote ... he had 4,500]

    As former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis once put it, "Every day in America, thirteen people go to work and never come home." Very little is ever said in public about the vast majority of these violent and unnecessary deaths. And even when a spectacular tragedy manages to capture our collective attention ... it is inconceivable that such an event would be constituted as a permanent emergency of world-historic proportions.

    The  chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, Rafael Moure-Eraso, said these deaths and injuries "should never have occurred. ... It resulted from the failure of a company to take the necessary steps to avert a preventable fire and explosion and from the inability of federal, state and local regulatory agencies to identify a serious hazard and correct it."

    The board's supervisory investigator, Johnnie Banks, said all levels of government also failed to adopt codes to keep populated areas away from hazardous facilities. This is not unique to West, Banks said. "We found 1,351 facilities across the country that store ammonium nitrate," he said, adding that farm communities are just beginning to collect information on the proximity of homes and schools to ammonium nitrate storage facilities.

    Kim's major takeaway from this is, essentially, that the profit motive in capitalism kills, but deaths from that cause are taken to be a fact of life and not the existential threat that Muslim terrorism is painted to be. Here he explains that point:

    If it’s found that the company that owns the plant, Adair Grain, violated safety regulations, as it had last year at another facility, we might call it criminal negligence and attribute culpability. But would we ascribe ideology? And which ideology would we indict? Deregulation? Austerity? Capitalism? Would we write headlines that say Officials Seek Motive in Texas Fertilizer Explosion? And could we name “profit” as that motive in the same way that we might name, say, “Islam” as the motive for terrorism? Would we arrest the plant’s owners, deny them their Miranda rights and seek to try them in an extra-legal tribunal outside the Constitution, as Senator Lindsey Graham has suggested we treat US citizen Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? Would we call for a ban on the production of ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia? Would we say that “gaps and loopholes” in our nation’s agricultural policies were responsible for the tragedy, as Senator Chuck Grassley has suggested about immigration in the Boston bombing case?

    No, we won’t. We won’t do any of these things, because even if the West fertilizer plant disaster is ultimately understood as something more than “just an accident,” it will still be taken as the presumed cost of living in a modern, industrialized economy.

    When it comes to terrorism, we have the opposite response. We launch wars against other countries, denude the Constitution and create massive state bureaucracies for espionage, covert operations and assassinations. Since 9/11, it’s become a political imperative that our nation must express zero tolerance for terrorism, even though, like workplace fatalities, terrorism has been with us long before globalization lent it a more exotic and threatening provenance.

    This also is capitalism; think this doesn't happen everywhere?

    Death by overwork on rise among Japan's vulnerable workers By Stanley White, Reuters, 4/19/16

    Japan is witnessing a record number of compensation claims related to death from overwork, or "karoshi", a phenomenon previously associated with the long-suffering "salary man" that is increasingly afflicting young and female employees.

    Labor demand, with 1.28 jobs per applicant, is the highest since 1991, which should help Prime Minister Shinzo Abe draw more people into the workforce to counter the effect of a shrinking population, but lax enforcement of labor laws means some businesses are simply squeezing more out of employees, sometimes with tragic consequences.

    Claims for compensation for karoshi rose to a record high of 1,456 in the year to end-March 2015, according to labor ministry data, with cases concentrated in healthcare, social services, shipping and construction, which are all facing chronic worker shortages.

    Hiroshi Kawahito, secretary general of the National Defense Counsel for Victims of karoshi, said the real number was probably 10 times higher, as the government is reluctant to recognize such incidents.

    "The government hosts a lot of symposiums and makes posters about the problem, but this is propaganda," he said.

    "The real problem is reducing working hours, and the government is not doing enough." ...

    Another example of what the profit motive with insufficient regulation produces, though the punishment is rare: CEO Who Knowingly Poisoned Hundreds & Killed 9 Will Spend The Rest Of His Life In Prison by SHANNON ARGUETA 9/22/15.

    Here's yet another nightmare that doesn't get the kind of reaction that terrorism does.

    Deepwater Horizon’s Final Hours By DAVID BARSTOW, DAVID ROHDE and STEPHANIE SAUL, 12/25/10

    But this was a disaster with two distinct parts — first a blowout, then the destruction of the Horizon. The second part, which killed 11 people and injured dozens, has escaped intense scrutiny, as if it were an inevitable casualty of the blowout.

    It was not. ...

    What emerges is a stark and singular fact: crew members died and suffered terrible injuries because every one of the Horizon’s defenses failed on April 20. Some were deployed but did not work. Some were activated too late, after they had almost certainly been damaged by fire or explosions. Some were never deployed at all.

    At critical moments that night, members of the crew hesitated and did not take the decisive steps needed. Communications fell apart, warning signs were missed and crew members in critical areas failed to coordinate a response.

    The result, the interviews and records show, was paralysis. For nine long minutes, as the drilling crew battled the blowout and gas alarms eventually sounded on the bridge, no warning was given to the rest of the crew. For many, the first hint of crisis came in the form of a blast wave.

    The paralysis had two main sources, the examination by The Times shows. The first was a failure to train for the worst. The Horizon was like a Gulf Coast town that regularly rehearsed for Category 1 hurricanes but never contemplated the hundred-year storm. The crew members, though expert in responding to the usual range of well problems, were unprepared for a major blowout followed by explosions, fires and a total loss of power.

    They were also frozen by the sheer complexity of the Horizon’s defenses, and by the policies that explained when they were to be deployed. One emergency system alone was controlled by 30 buttons. ...

    It wasn't only people who died, but untold wildlife as well. And it continues to this day.

    New study links 'unprecedented' dolphin deaths with 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, By T.J. Raphael, 5/27/15.

    It appears that no amount of cleaning can fix the long-term effects of oil contamination in fragile coastal habitats.

    While officials in Santa Barbara, California, continue efforts to clean up from this month's oil spill, scientists say they can now definitively link the deaths of an unprecedented number of bottlenose dolphins to the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010 — the largest offshore oil spill in US history.

    Along the northern Gulf of Mexico, dolphins have been found dead with severe lesions in their lungs and damage to their adrenal cortex -- the region of the brain that regulates essential body functions like metabolism and blood pressure, among other things. ...

    When such "accidents" happen over and over, it's no accident. It's criminal behavior, it's murder. But no one is charged, much less goes to prison.

    Podcast on the problem. Majority Report podcast on the "Boston Shutdown & The Texas Explosion", 4/22/13.

    Austerity Man, Mark Fiore, The Progressive 1/22/16. Now that Michigan governor, Rick Snyder, is getting credit for saying he’s really super-dooper sorry about poisoning thousands of children in Flint with lead, let’s not forget how he did it.  In his zeal to be a fiscally conservative budget turnaround artist, Snyder and his crew played fast and loose with science, safety and even democracy. ... (cont'd)

    Austerity Man: Death and Debilitation by Privatized Government

    Example of Negative Externalities associated with private government

    Some think that it's government that poisoned the population in Flint, not any corporation. But, no! It was undemocratic, privatized control -- a perverse "corporate government" that is "run like a business" without those "burdensome regulations" or democracy. This is the "conservative" Libertarian and Republican ideal. This is what it gets us.

    See the video: "Able to poison thousands of children with the stroke of a pen ... it's Austerity Man!" By Mark Fiore Animated Political Cartoons. Posted by Daily Kos on 1/21/16

     

    Tragedy of the Commons

    Individually logical: When we have access to a common resource or market such as the ocean or the market for farm products, it makes sense individually for each person or business to appropriate as much of that as possible to increase wealth.

    Collectively irrational: Overuse can overwhelm ocean resources to the point where overuse destroys the resource for everyone. When market demand is inelastic (as in farming), everyone producing too much can drive down prices so no one can make a living.

    In "tragedy of the commons" situations, as in many others, individually-logical actions are collectively insane.  True freedom requires avoiding environmental overshoot and collapse.

    Global Warming & Climate Change

    It's not a choice of what to call it. The earth is warming as a whole and regional climates are changing. Continued burning of fossil fuels is an existential threat to life on earth. If aliens were doing what the oil corporations are doing, we'd be dedicated to killing every damn one of them ... and their collaborators!

    Global Warming: The Carbon Bathtub, 4/23/15. This 3 minute presentation on global warming to the Colorado Springs Utilities Board on 4/22/15 (Earth Day) explains the physics of the system: why global warming is happening, why humans are causing it, and why stopping the increase in emissions is not enough ... we must cut them in half.

    Global Warming Denial, 4/6/15. At current emissions rates, CO2 is released into the atmosphere nearly twice as fast as it’s removed. Our "atmospheric bathtub" is filling with CO2. We must stop and reverse this because, at current CO2 levels, more energy is absorbed from the sun than is emitted back into space. That's why the planet is warming and regional climates are changing! To prevent further warming we must cut CO2 emissions at least in half, not just halt increases. Despite flawed "common sense" thinking used by global warming deniers, global warming is an existential threat to life on earth. Billions will die, more species extinct. The physics of the system tells us that waiting for "direct, incontrovertible" proof sufficient to convince deniers is not an option.

    And animal agriculture plays an enormous role.

    Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret ... and Capitalism, 9/23/14. The film informed me of something about which I had no idea: animal agriculture is the number one factor fueling global warming. I knew it played a role, but not that big. In this article I describe the role of the economic externalities inherent in "free market" capitalism. Vegetarians and vegans are described in the most venomous terms: terrorist, treasonous. That's because, if you're one, you're a threat to the fundamentalist religion of capitalism itself. And, you're a threat to the profits it allows. That global warming is an existential threat to life of earth be damned.

    Ocean fish depletion

    Think depletion of ocean fisheries where to increase income every fisherman logically adds more boats to the fleet; but more boats increases fish scarcity, which drives up the price, prompting even more fishing. The market sends a signal exactly opposite to that required to preserve the resource.

     

    Positive Externalities

    Individually logical: Education and health care benefit the individual so it should be paid for by the individual who benefits. I'll pay for mine; you pay for yours.

    Collectively irrational: This ignores the benefits to others (externalities) when an individual invests to increase one's education and improve one's health. When we work together I benefit from your health and education. Companies generally don't invest in employee education because employees take their education with them.

    Positive externalities happen when individuals spending for their personal benefit also benefits others, whether they want it to or not. This is true for education and health care. Those who want the freedom to thrive want to take advantage of positive externalities.

    Education: When we work together, your spending on your education benefits me. I'm more productive when you're better educated. Our society, all of us, benefit from spending on public schools and libraries whether we're aware of it or not.

    Because other corporations benefit from a corporation's investment in the education of their workers, the private sector systematically under invests in education.

    In a workforce meeting over a decade ago, one manufacturer complained that when they trained employees on their process, the employees would go across the street for an extra $0.25 an hour. Corporations hate positive externalities, such as training, because they cannot fully capture the returns from that investment; instead other companies, including their competitors, benefit from their expenditures.

    Another reason is that the returns from education are extremely uncertain and take too long to be realized. See in the section below on Net Present Value Calculations why no self-respecting capitalist would ever invest in education.

    Health Care: Your spending on your health benefits me. Because
    1) when you don't get a communicable disease, I'm less likely to get sick and
    2) when we work together, I'm more productive when you're not out sick.

    We all benefit when our nation is more competitive because we're better educated, more healthy, and therefore more productive.

    At Single-Payer Health Insurance I explain that, not only is privatized health insurance without a mandate fatally flawed because of adverse selection, there are many other reasons it's dysfunctional: there's less U.S. innovation, higher costs, more personal bankruptcy, more death, corporations between patients and doctors, obscene CEO pay, and highly inefficient overhead & profit.

    Compassionate Conservatism: thinly-veiled cover for callousness

    The "Don't Make Them Dependent" lie.
    Those who criticize liberals as soft-headed and ignorant on economics say that "The bottom line is that is you give people stuff for free, it will never give them an incentive to go out an earn those things."

    It's the "don't feed the animals because you'll make them dependent" tack taken by the "compassionate conservatives." Yes, they actually say this.

    But people are *not* animals and our economy is not "nature". This "don't feed the animals" analogy ignores the reality that "conservative" economic policies drive millions into poverty and enrich the already wealthy ... it's not an accident that wealth inequality has sky rocketed.

    You don't think that's happening and that there aren't policies that drive it? Think again. As Nobel Prize Economist, Joseph E. Stiglitz, wrote, American Inequality Didn’t Just Happen. It Was Created.

    This is obscene and deadly: Richest 62 people as wealthy as half of world's population, says Oxfam and 20 People Now Own As Much Wealth as Half of All Americans.

    Former Kissinger CEO Says The World Is Run By 30 Families by Sean Adl-Tabatabai, YourNewsWire.com 9/5/16

    A former CEO for Henry Kissinger has said that he believes just 30 families run the world, and that these families are the driving force behind the New World Order.

    David Rothkopf, author of ‘Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making,' and former CEO of Kissinger Associates, says that 30 families and their 6,000 minions control the entire human race of six billion people.

    His findings mirror a study conducted by the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich which found that a mere 147 corporations (out of 40,000 studied) had real power and influence in the world economy. All of these 147 companies had interlocking Boards of Directors. ...

    The World Bank did a study of 213 banking scandals and found that 150 were traced bank to offshore trusts linked either to drug cartels or to the 30 or so families whose wealth has been fully invested in slave trading, drug smuggling and other crimes against humanity for centuries. ...

    Those who see themselves as "compassionate conservatives" not only ignore those dynamics, policies and effects, they ignore the economic reality that it's important for the nation to invest in, and take advantage of, positive externalities (see above).

    Instead, the "compassionate conservative" adheres to beliefs based on an "I've seen it" mentality. They have anecdotal experiences -- they've actually seen people who won't work or take responsibility for themselves. But all the while they ignore the systemic policies and dynamics that drive people into poverty and keep them there (listed at "conservative" economic policies drive millions into poverty).

    It's not "either-or" -- that either people are irresponsible or that they are prey to systemic forces over which they have no control. It's both-and.

    Instead, the "compassionate conservatives" engage in acts of individual charity that lets them feel good about themselves. They remain blissfully unaware that those helpful acts are a drop in the bucket compared to the systemic forces drenching our economy in poverty, crime and prisons. Charity and welfare are bandaids that do little to nothing to dress these gaping wounds.

    In fact, assuring people have a good education, health care, and even food and housing support when it's needed is about giving them the freedom to make the most of their abilities, not generally enabling sloth. Not taking advantage of positive externalities is not only hard-hearted, it's economically-flawed thinking.

    Aside from practical considerations, it's particularly immoral for children to not have health care, a good education, food and housing simply because they happened to be borne to poor or irresponsible parents. So-called "conservatives" apply this argument to interfering in a woman's decision on whether or not to have an abortion in cases of rape or incest -- "it's not the fetus' fault" -- then why can't they apply this argument to a living child?

    Oh, that's right; it's the parents fault and so they must all suffer. Never mind about any American ideal of "equal opportunity."

    The "conservative" view:
    - If those who work for a wage are paid too much, they won't work as hard.
    - If the wealthy aren't paid more; they won't work as hard.

    So-called "conservatives" say that if you give money to people they'll just waste on things like cigarettes and alchohol. Well, it's not true.

    Give those in need money and they'll waste it. No.

    Definitive data on what poor people buy when they're just given cash by Dan Kopf, Quartz, 12/07/16

    For decades, policymakers have been concerned that poor people will waste free money by using it on cigarettes and alcohol. A report on the perception of stakeholders in Kenya about such programs found a "widespread belief that cash transfers would either be abused or misdirected in alcohol consumption and other non-essential forms of consumption."

    The opposite is true.

    A recently published research paper (paywall) by David Evans of the World Bank and Anna Popova of Stanford University shows that giving money to the poor has a negative effect on the consumption of tobacco and alcohol. Evans and Popova's research is based on an examination of nineteen studies that assess the impact of cash transfers on expenditures of tobacco and alcohol. Not one of the 19 studies found that cash grants increase tobacco and alcohol consumption and many of them found that it leads to a reduction. ...

    Why on earth would this be? Evans and Popova highlight several possibilities.

    One, the cash transfers may change a poor household's economic calculus. Before receiving the cash, any spending on education or health might have seemed futile, but afterwards, parents might decide that a serious investment in their children's school was sensible. To make this happen, it might mean cutting back on booze and smoking.

    Two, there's what economists call the "The Flypaper Effect." Behavioral economics research shows that when money is given for a specific purpose, people and organizations do tend to use it for that purpose, even when there is no one forcing them. In the case of cash transfers, households are generally told to use the money for family welfare.

    Lastly, cash transfers are usually made to women. When women rule over household income, it's more likely to be used on food and children's health, studies find.

    Regardless of why, the idea that poor people will use any cash they get for cigarettes and alcohol has been laid to waste.

     

    Inelasticities

    The "Invisible Hand" feedback structure of markets. Figure 5-26 of Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World.

    The typical view is that the primary factor equilibrating (balancing) supply & demand is price. That is, the higher the price, the less demand and vice-versa.

    This mechanism becomes ineffective when either supply or demand is inelastic or when there are long delays associated with changing either supply or demand.

    Individually logical: It's logical that markets should set prices based on supply & demand and the individual will make individually-logical choices based on price. What are called "free market" principles tell us that more supply decreases prices and that more demand increases prices. Therefore markets should prevail in setting prices in response to changes in supply & demand.

    Collectively irrational: The problem is that when supply & demand do not change -- or change little -- in response to changes in price, then markets cannot equilibrate (balance) supply & demand in response to changes in price.

    Farming is a prime example. The "free market" does not work for farming. OMG! I know it's a shock for some that there are "free market" failures, but there it is. That it doesn't work is clear from the fact that farm subsidies continue despite the efforts of "free market" ideologues to kill them.

    When market supply/demand curves are flat or vertical -- inelastic -- the dependent variable (usually on the y-axis) doesn't change when the independent variable (on the x-axis) changes. it means that the sacred, infallible "invisible hand" cannot work at all.

    Those who want to be free from market failures because of inelasticities realize that the "free market" cannot deal with them. The figure at right, from the article on Free Market Fundamentalism, shows the causal loop diagram of the "invisible hand" dynamic that equilibrates (balances) supply & demand when supply & demand are elastic without long delays.

    Why are they inelastic for farming? Briefly:

    Supply is inelastic: Every farmer logically puts more land in production with more mechanization. But this produces too much overall supply and drives down prices so no farmer can cover costs without government subsidies.

    Demand is inelastic: People don't eat twice as much when prices are cut in half. Following "free market" ideology, Republicans passed the "Freedom to Farm" Act in 1996 to eliminate subsides, but they tripled to over $22 billion from 1996 to 2001.

    When either supply or demand is inelastic, market forces alone fail and government intervention is required (but not intervention to provide subsidies). See Farm Policy Failure for a complete explanation and what to do about it; it would require what would be called socialism to prevent market failure :-).

     

    Long Delays

    Individually logical: It's logical that markets should set prices based on supply & demand and the individual will make individually-logical choices based on price. What are called "free market" principles tell us that more supply decreases prices and that more demand increases prices. Therefore markets should prevail in setting prices in response to changes in supply & demand.

    Collectively irrational: When there are long delays associated with changes in supply & demand, supply & demand are effectively inelastic and markets cannot balance supply & demand in a short enough time to be to prevent large, and possibly enormous, swings in price.

    Long delays in the system have an effect similar to inelasticities. Even when variables are elastic, but there's a long delay in seeing a change, the result is boom & bust economic cycles and rampant speculation instead of true investment. See the effects of adding delays at From Growth to Overshoot & Collapse.

    Those who want to be free from economic boom and bust will understand that government regulation is necessary to moderate market instabilities. We get enormous price oscillations when there are long delays between price signals and the ability of either supply or demand (or both) to respond. Price can stay high for a long time before the either supply or demand can adjust.

    Example: Recall the price instabilities and power interruptions during the California power crisis. The enormous price fluctuations provided Enron with opportunities to manipulate energy markets. They inconvenienced and robbed millions of people.

     

    Path Dependence leads to Monopoly (& Monopsony) & Oligopoly

    Individually logical: Individuals are responsible for their own success and failure. I'm responsible for my success or my failure. This inevitably leads to some succeeding and others failing ... that's the way it should be.

    Collectively irrational: Individual behaviors and abilities are important in determining success and failure. But it's not that simple. Path dependence is a natural dynamic that results in those who get ahead tending to get even further ahead. Those who get behind tend to get even further behind. Getting ahead or behind can be for myriad reasons including inheritance, political connections, and luck. This happens even when everyone starts with equal resources and abilities.

    The path dependence dynamic results in extremes of poverty and wealth. Those who want to be free from the predations of monopoly (& monopsony) and oligopoly, as with fossil fuels and banking, want market sectors to not be rigged by being concentrated in only a few hands. Path dependence also results in one or a few corporations becoming the dominant buyers in markets; these cases are known as monopsony and oligopsony. The result of these effects is effective slavery.

    One can see this played out in the game, Monopoly. It's not always -- or even most often -- that the smartest or the most efficient wins. Those who first get ahead tend to get even further ahead and those who first get behind tend to get even further behind ... that's about luck, not skill.

    In a Harvard Business Review (April 2002) article, Wealth Happens, Mark Buchanan describes from a complexity theory perspective that disparities in wealth happen due to natural dynamics, even when everyone starts out with equal ability and resources.

    The dynamic he describes is called "path dependence" in system dynamics and "success to the successful" in systems thinking. It is the result of two interacting positive feedback loops. See this structure and examples in Systems Thinking Archetypes & Examples.

    Extremes in the distribution of wealth are greater when capital gains taxes are lower (for obvious reasons) and when sales taxes are higher (introduces "resistance" in the flows between individuals, impeding a leveling of wealth).

    This is the "rich get richer and the poor get poorer" dynamic. It's easier to get a loan when you don't need one, and more difficult when you do. When you don't need one, you also get a lower interest rate loan.

    More resources makes it easier to earn even more, and vice-versa. Vast inequalities of wealth are due to more than differences in individual initiative. There's luck, privilege, criminal behavior, other people's efforts and society's investment that allows creation of individual wealth, such as intellectual property protectionism (patent and copyright laws), enforceable contracts, open courts, property ownership records, police and fire protection, national defense, and public education.

    Hence the need for progressive taxation to pay for the support systems that make wealth accumulation possible; those who have the most accumulated wealth have benefited more from these systems and should pay progressively more.

    An additionally important factor is that "conservative" economic and taxation policies put this natural dynamic on steroids.

    When there's monopoly and oligopoly, the market -- the sacred "free market" -- is rigged. On the one hand, "conservatives" decry any monopoly and oligopoly of government; on the other hand, when they're corporate, they say "Don't break them up and punish success." Amazing.

    Robert Reich gives examples: pharmaceuticals, banks, cable, internet service providers, airlines, agriculture corporations, and health insurance corporations.

    The Rigging of the American Market by Robert Reich, 11/01/15

    ... Yet as long as the big corporations, Wall Street banks, their top executives and wealthy shareholders have the political power to do so, they’ll keep redistributing much of the nation’s income upward to themselves.

    Which is why the rest of us must gain political power to stop the collusion, bust up the monopolies, and put an end to the rigging of the American market.

    At one time the U.S. had, and enforced, antitrust laws. No more.

    Bring Back Antitrust by David Dayen, American Prospect, Fall 2015
    Despite low inflation and some bargain prices, economic concentration and novel abuses of market power are pervasive in today's economy—harming consumers, workers, and innovators. We need a new antitrust for a new predatory era.
    Interview on The Majority Report with David Dayen: Why We Need a New Antitrust Revolution 12/1/15

    ... "You turn on the TV and watch politicians talk about unleashing the power of the free market, that’s absurd," Shaw says. "The American public is being denied a free market, being denied competition."

    THE TIGHT GRIP OF incumbents on the medical-supply industry is far from exceptional. Much of what we buy comes from a deceptively concentrated market. This is all the more surprising, given the wave of competition unleashed by the Internet. ...

    America gets its cable and Internet service mostly from four companies, after AT&T’s successful merger with DirecTV. There are only three big airlines, four if you count Southwest; four big commercial banks; and five big trade-book publishers, six before Random House merged with Penguin. ...

    The unaware consumer walks into a supermarket and sees aisles brimming with a daunting array of choices. But the majority of products come from just ten manufacturers. You’re made dizzy by the sheer variety of toothpastes, for example, but 70 percent of sales go to just two companies: Proctor & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive. ...

    This accelerated consolidation can be self-perpetuating, with incumbents discouraging competitors from getting a foothold, or buying them up as soon as they gain some market share. Market concentration has a powerful impact on the day-to-day lives of every American, not just because monopolists have pricing power. Monopolies can also stunt innovation, degrade quality of service, increase inequality, and concentrate political power. ...

    There are a lot of reasons for runaway monopolies: an intellectual hijacking by Chicago-school conservative economists, the over-financialization of the economy, a failure of federal antitrust enforcement. But perhaps the biggest reason is that antitrust policy has become divorced from politics, confined to specialized lawyers and mathematicians instead of citizens and activists. Without grassroots momentum, politicians and enforcement agencies can safely ignore the issue. That’s the challenge for a small band of academics, think-tank fellows, and activists: to make monopolies a vital issue again, connecting with the severe economic anxiety Americans feel.

    "In 2016, I hope that there's 20 candidates running on an anti-monopoly platform, making it the heart of their campaign," Zephyr Teachout says. "It’s important to not believe that our current pathological capitalism is the only kind you can have. We can have a version of capitalism that’s not this concentrated."

    A law professor's warning: we are closer to oligopoly than at any point in 100 years by Jeff Stein, Vox, 12/23/16

    Today we don't so much have single companies dominating an entire industry as much as a handful of extremely powerful ones. Over the past few decades, the number of markets consolidated by a few mega-companies has skyrocketed, according to Columbia law professor Tim Wu.

    "It's almost like global warming: You can just look out and say, ‘The economy is way more concentrated,' for almost any given thing," says Wu, a former senior adviser to the Federal Trade Commission, on the latest interview of The Ezra Klein Show. Wu has written widely on the problem of America's burgeoning oligopoly - or the control of major industries by a handful of companies. "You go industry by industry, count the numbers of players there are - and it's just much more concentrated."

    Wu points to the beer industry as a perfect example. "People may not realize this, but domestically, there are two companies that sell 75 percent of the beer in the United States - Molson Coors and Anheuser Busch, both owned by foreign companies," he says. "That is an industry that used to have five or six actors and now has two." ...

     

    Adverse Selection

    Individually logical: Individuals should be allowed to make their own decisions in the marketplace. I can make my own decisions; you can make yours.

    Collectively irrational: Because of asymmetric information in the marketplace one individual can know more about a product or service than others. The result is an adverse selection dynamic that causes market inefficiencies and even market failure.

    Asymmetric information means you know more about, for example, your health or used car than anyone else. Such asymmetry makes some markets fundamentally different from normal product and service markets.

    The adverse selection dynamic is why a health insurance mandate and auto lemon laws are necessary if we are to have the freedom from fear of unexpected accidents and health failures.

    For health insurance the reason the health insurance market collapses without a mandate is that healthy people tend to take the risk that they can do without insurance, leaving the less healthy in the system. Premiums rise and again the most healthy, as well as many who just can't afford it, drop out. The rising premiums and increasing dropouts of the healthiest is a reinforcing feedback that causes a death spiral. This is adverse selection.

    See Health Care Dynamics ... why the "free market" fails and Single Payer Health Insurance for why we need government to be the health insurance provider and why health insurance corporation should suffer corporate death so that on millions of people don't suffer actual death.

    This would not be, of course, "socialism" because health care providers would be private.

    In our economic system, rigged against those who work for a wage, millions of persons are driven into poverty, as noted in the section above. This requires subsidies for health insurance to prevent the costs of their care to be carried by hospitals.

    Too many do not understand that the adverse selection dynamic requires there to be a mandate to prevent health insurance market failure. This is why the ACA rescue of the failed insurance corporation business model was necessary. Akerlof, Spence, & Stiglitz got the 2001 Nobel Prize for understanding the effects of adverse selection on markets with asymmetric information, but the impact of this still hasn't found its way into "conservative" minds.

    Also, many people object to paying for the health insurance of others ... that's "theft" they say. This ignores that everyone who has employer-based health insurance is subsidized; that's because employers get to deduct what they pay toward employee health insurance as a business expense, which means that's a tax break that all taxpayers pay for.

    Some compare health insurance to car insurance asking, "Do you resort to your car insurance when you need a new set of tires?"

    This is ridiculous because car insurance is for accidents, not the "health of your car." Health insurance is for your "health" and insurance costs are lower when people take preventive action (that's true for cars, too, but car insurance is only for accidents).

    Note: Pointing to these facts got this response from a "conservative."

    "I am truly humbled by your vast knowledge of bullshit."

    Brilliant. This illustrates "conservative" dedication to ignorance and why it's impossible to communicate intelligently with them.

    More importantly, car insurance is required for everyone who owns a car because, if you cause an accident and don't have insurance, others have to pay, if you can't. Some say, "Well, owning a car is optional, so you can avoid buying car insurance."

    True, but health insurance is required for everyone who has a body, because those who get care (we treat people in emergency rooms and don't simply let them die, if they don't have money) and can't pay, have that cost passed on to others ... now that's "theft". Everyone has a body ... not optional ... so everyone must have insurance.

    Privatized health insurance corporations should not exist. Here's why:

    Protesters, in front of health insurer Aetna's headquarters, hold signs with the company's profit for 2007's first quarter, $434 million. The company would report $27.6 billion in revenue for the year and $31 billion for the following year.

    Some Data:

    Percentage change since 2002 in average premiums paid to large US health-insurance companies: +87%

    Percentage change in the profits of the top ten insurance companies: +428%

    Chances that an American bankrupted by medical bills has health insurance: 7 in 10

    —Harper’s Index, September 2009

    This Isn't Reform, It's Robbery By Chris Hedges, 8/24/09

    Capitalists ... should never be allowed near a health care system. They hold sick children hostage as they force parents to bankrupt themselves in the desperate scramble to pay for medical care. The sick do not have a choice. Medical care is not a consumable good. We can choose to buy a used car or a new car, shop at a boutique or a thrift store, but there is no choice between illness and health. And any debate about health care must acknowledge that the for-profit health care industry is the problem and must be destroyed. This is an industry that hires doctors and analysts to deny care to patients in order to increase profits. It is an industry that causes half of all bankruptcies. And the 20,000 Americans who died last year because they did not receive adequate care condemn these corporations as complicit in murder. ...

    Single-Payer Health Insurance ... my article on Single Payer, including why it's Constitutional.

    Why Single-Payer Health Insurance? Because privatized health insurance without a mandate is dysfunctional. Worse, it does not even work; it cannot! With private insurers, even with a mandate, it's a bloated, inefficient, and parasitic system run for profit by psychopathic corporations that don't give a damn about your health.

    First, privatized health insurance is fatally flawed because of adverse selection. Added to that are a bunch of other reasons. When privatized there's less U.S. innovation, higher costs, personal bankruptcy, death, corporations between patients and doctors, obscene CEO pay, and high overhead & profit.

     

    Escalation

    Individually logical: Entities should rightly act in their individual self interest. That way all works out for the best.

    Collectively irrational: W Acting in one's individual self-interest can backfire when everyone does that because individual advantage is negated by others doing the same. For example: price wars, gun proliferation, nuclear weapon proliferation.

    We see the escalation dynamic play out in the cold war and gun proliferation. Those who wish more freedom from fear want reasonable regulation of Weapons of Mass Murder.

    People and nations concerned about their safety prompt more and more individuals and nations to arm themselves with ever more powerful weapons. The more people have guns, the more other people think they have to get a gun of their own to protect themselves. The gun industry loves this dynamic and helps drive it by fear mongering.

    These are individually-logical decisions but they are collectively irrational because everyone is actually less safe. Another case of individually-logical actions being collectively insane. See:

    The NRA is wrong: Owning a gun is far more likely to harm you than protect you By Evan DeFilippis and Devin Hughes, 1/25/15.

    Despite facts to the contrary, NRA propaganda is effective: Do Guns Make Us More Safe or Less Safe? The NRA Seems to Be Winning the Argument 1/10/15.

    ... In 2011 David Hemenway published a review of the literature on this argument (through 2007) and found that the published studies confirming the idea that more guns equals more violence outpaced the published studies that argued the reverse by something like 20 to 1. ...

    More information is undesirable say Republicans. In 1995 the NRA successfully moved to cut off funding by the CDC of all gun violence research, citing Kellerman's work among others as promoting a negative view of guns, gun ownership and gun owners, not necessarily in that order. ...

     

    The Attractiveness Principle

    Definition: This principle informs us that no business or region can be all things to all people, where "attractiveness" is the composite of factors that attract. This informs us that there are no utopias for business enterprises or in social systems. The result: given free selection or migration, no business or region can long remain more "attractive" than any other business or region.

    I find it difficult to explain the individual vs collective logic without an example; relative to growth:

    Individually logical: For example, individual regions should rightly be able to compete for industry and jobs by being more "business friendly". This competition can be by imposing lower taxes. less "burdensome" regulation, or having lesser worker rights and protections. Longtime economic development professionals take this to be obvious.

    Collectively irrational: When there are fewer jobs than people because of federal-level policy or economic recession, competition among regions leads to ever more depressed wages and ever greater infrastructure backlogs. It's called a "race to the bottom."

    For businesses this means that no business can have, at one time, the best quality, service, and prices. Any business that tries will be overwhelmed on at least one dimension and fail. Businesses must have value propositions.

    For regions this has led to infrastructure backlogs, higher taxes on individuals, and lower taxes on corporations all across America in the zero-sum game pursuit of jobs in a system designed to have fewer jobs than people who want and need them. Competition is worshiped in America, but competition among regions fails all regions.

    Everyone has less freedom when there are mounting infrastructure backlogs that result in failing bridges, stormwater flooding, and potholes.

    A key point Jay Forrester makes in his paper on the "Counterintuitive Behavior of Social Systems" is that "programs aimed at improving a city can succeed only if they result in eventually raising the average quality of life for the country as a whole."

     

    Game Theory

    Individually logical: It's logical to act in one's self interest ... to defect from cooperation with others when it's to one's personal advantage.

    Collectively irrational: Cooperation has advantages for the whole when it's individuals dealing with entities that have greater power and/or market advantage than the individuals do. Even when everyone will be better off by acting collectively, those who defect undermine collective action that benefits everyone.

    The typical example is seen in police dramas where two perpetrators are interrogated separately ... known as the "prisoners' delimma". Each is offered a lighter sentence to betray the other. If both cooperate, they both go free. The police strategy is to get one to defect for their personal advantage.

    Relative to regional growth, it's necessary to realize that the U.S. has national policies that assure there are always more people who need jobs than there are jobs (see The Structure Driving Wages to Between Zero & Subsistence Level).

    Consider what happens when there are 10 people and only 9 jobs.

    The "added value" of that 10th person is zero ... that extra person is simply not needed. Therefore, the added value of any one of the 10 is zero. Why? Because employers can ask each person, "One of you 10 is going to be without a job, do you want it to be you?" Employers have all the leverage. They can, and do, drive down wages. The game is rigged!

    The fact that the "labor market" is rigged against those who work for a wage is Why Unions and a Minimum Wage Are Necessary. There is no freedom in the wage slavery of insufficiently-regulated capitalism.

     

    Net Present Value Calculations

    Individually logical: The proper way to make investment decisions is to calculate that future returns are devalued by the time value of money. This can be interest rates or the business decision on the needed rate of return required to make an investment.

    Collectively irrational: The result is that long-term investments are not made because out-year returns are increasingly devalued and become negligible.

    Net Present Value (NPV) calculations devalue future returns and embed short-term thinking in our economy. Very long-term investments are not made.

    NPV calculations explained: At a typical 20% discount rate required for investments, $100 next year is effectively worth only $83 this year. Similarly, an investment that would be worth $1 billion in 100 years is only worth $12.07 today; it's not worth making. Often the corporate "hurdle rate" is 30% [the required percent return for a positive investment decision to be made], which makes long term investments even less desirable.

    The payoff from higher education is so delayed (16 - 21 years) and uncertain (maybe no work in the selected field because the job is offshored or because technology becomes obsolete or because the person dies or ...) that no self-respecting capitalist would ever make the investment.

    Freedom is limited when the tyranny of NPV results in the private sector inadequately representing the future to the present. Because of the tyranny of NPV, government must make long-term investments; the private sector will not.

    Other entities that have made long-term investments are churches. Capitalism would never build the massive medieval cathedrals that took decades and even centuries to complete.

    Here's How NASA Thinks Society Will Collapse by ALEX BROWN, The Atlantic, 3/18/14
    Too much inequality and too few natural resources could leave the West vulnerable to a Roman Empire-style fall.

    Few think Western civilization is on the brink of collapse - but it's also doubtful the Romans and Mesopotamians saw their own demise coming either.

    If we're to avoid their fate, we'll need policies to reduce economic inequality and preserve natural resources, according to a NASA-funded study that looked at the collapses of previous societies.

    "Two important features seem to appear across societies that have collapsed," reads the study. "The stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity and the economic stratification of society into Elites and Masses."

    In unequal societies, researchers said, "collapse is difficult to avoid.... Elites grow and consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society." ...

     

    Cost-Benefit Analysis

    Individually-logical: If the benefits obtained by correcting a safety or environmental problem don't exceed the costs a company incurs to correct the safety problem, then it should not be done. The benefits don't outweigh the costs.

    Collectively-irrational: This is not valid when a corporation decides whether to spend to protect public health and safety. That’s because the corporation saves costs but, another entity, the public, loses the benefit.

    The "conservative" point of view is that of Republicans like Sen. James Inhofe, OK, who endorse what they call "fiscally responsible policies ... based on ... cost-benefit analyses." They believe that if the benefits obtained by correcting a safety problem don't exceed the costs a company incurs to correct the safety problem, then it should not be done. They use the same logic for arguing against pollution controls to maintain clean air and clean water.

    On the surface, this sounds reasonable. Here's why: "Cost-benefit" analysis is valid when an individual decides whether to spend to obtain benefits: the person who saves the costs loses the benefit. That is, some people have increased costs and get to be injured and even die so corporations can increase profits. But no one gets jail time, much less the death penalty. (Examples: The Pinto gas tank; 55,000 Vioxx deaths even though company studies revealed problems years earlier.)

    Corporate cost-benefit analysis privatizes profits and socializes costs; it's an insidious form of the collectivism that libertarians supposedly despise. Communism is a no-no when it comes to redistributing income, no matter what the social good. But it's OK to redistribute costs, no matter what the social harm. More importantly the problem with cost-benefit analysis is that it's "people in service of the market," rather than "the market in service of people." William Greider notes in his book, Who Will Tell the People, that "cost-benefit" analysis has the "whiff of fascism."

    This is relevant now in Trump-world. Here's an article on the change: "Guess Which Word the EPA Just Deleted From Its Science Mission Statement. "Science" is out. "Technologically achievable" is in.

    Diabolical Republicans are now pursuing what they should realize is what they dread: a "collectivist mindset" that "we're all in this together". That's the effect when the EPA's Office of Science and Technology substitutes "economically and technologically achievable" standards for "science-based" standards. Their goal is to impose "cost-benefit analysis" on their decisions. This scam is a form of "capitalist collectivism" to allow more pollution and even more redistribution of costs onto the public.

     


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