Morning Links

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
  • Bill Easterly on how U.S. national security interests and national building have taken over foreign aid.
  • New poll shows that 73 percent of Americans think there are too many or shouldn’t be any more “rich people.” If this poll is accurate, I’m with Jason Kuzinski, here. This is insane. Whatever you think about the people who currently, er, occupy the one percent, that nearly three-quarters of the country think we’d be better off with fewer wealthier people overall shows just that all this class warfare—some of it understandable, even justified—is also making people crazy.
  • Judge rebukes FBI for lying to a federal court.
  • Joe Henry sings for you.
  • Obama continues his paltry and spineless use of the pardon power. He issued five pardons and one commutation yesterday. The five pardons were for people who have already served their sentences.
  • Man asks shuttle service to stop so he can pee. Shuttle service obliges. Man steps in a hole while walking out to relieve himself, breaks his leg. Man sues shuttle service. Federal judge denies shuttle service summary judgment.
  • 569 days after he was arrested, detained, and held in isolation, Bradley Manning gets a date in court for a pre-trial hearing to see if the government has enough evidence to charge him.
  • The myth of the meth-damaged brain.
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69 Responses to “Morning Links”

  1. #1 |  Mattocracy | 

    I read a book in college titled the Elusive Quest for Growth by William Easterly. I recommend it.

  2. #2 |  Thom | 

    The demonization of the rich will keep increasing as long as the response to movements like OWS continues to be belittling and derisive. Instead of calling people who are upset dirty hippies and telling them to go out and get nonexistent jobs, the right should be trying to differentiate between the productive rich and the rest of the 1% who are just skimming off of the efforts of the productive middle class.

  3. #3 |  Mario | 

    It’s a crime for you or me to lie to the FBI, which is why no one in his right mind would say anything to an FBI agent — it’s too easy for them to construe any misstatement as a “lie” in order to bend you over a barrel with a trumped up charge. So, bravo to this judge for putting these smarmy, self-righteous bastards in their place. It should be a crime for the FBI to lie to the courts.

  4. #4 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Given that U.S. Foreign Aid is funded with tax money, I’m not sure that I see a justification for NOT passing it out according to National Security and Diplomatic policy priorities.

  5. #5 |  Deoxy | 

    OWS deserves nothing but derision… except maybe to be ignored. The only reason we even heard about this joke of a “movement” was that the media wanted to trump it up as the left’s version of the tea party. Heck, a good portion of the OWS people ARE the 1% – go see how many of them aren’t actually staying there, or the complaints about their high-end electronics being stolen, or not getting their 1%-type food (I’ve NEVER served stuff as nice as they were complaining about not getting for a couple of days).

    They are, in short, a bad joke with lots of free publicity… which they are STILL managing to ruin, despite the valiant cover-up efforts of the press (HOW many rapes and sexual assaults now? Imagine if the tea party had had even ONE!).

  6. #6 |  Thom | 

    #5 – You prove my point. There’s a real issue that needs to be addressed, OWS is actually attempting to address it (although in a way), and you resort to ad hominem attacks and anecdotes. That some people in the OWS camps are in the 1% who have nice things and that you may have heard that one of them complained about their food is not a valid counterargument.

    Regardless, the reason you keep hearing about them is because our militarized police forces keep beating them up. The press is confounded and their coverage essentially boils down to “OMG, what do they even want!?!?!?”.

    There is a great swindle going on in front of our eyes, but everybody is so committed to whichever left/right hole they’ve dug themselves into that they refuse to acknowledge it.

  7. #7 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    1. One day, maybe, people will understand what foreign aid is all about.

    2. Does everyone understand there will always be a 1%?

    3.

    Given that U.S. Foreign Aid is funded with tax money,

    Used to be. That turned out to be too constricting, so they just print money now.

  8. #8 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    “…revealed the FBI lied to the court about the existence of records requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), taking the position that FOIA allows it to withhold information from the court whenever it thinks this is in the interest of national security. ”

    This whole “National Security” ruse is starting to piss me off, just a
    way to obfuscate whenever the dirty dealings of the paranoid,
    brutal and self-serving US gov’t are exposed. Enough already.
    National chickenshit.

  9. #9 |  Doubleu | 

    Ask the same people who don’t think there should be any more rich people if they play the lotto in hopes of becoming rich.

  10. #10 |  Mattocracy | 

    Niether the majority of the 1% nor the majority of the 99% are on the moral high ground. The majority of people in all tax brackets don’t respect the free market, an by extension freedom itself, and they all think that some government subsidy is justified for themselves but not others.

    Pots and Kettles.

  11. #11 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Mr. Durkin,

    Your point 3 is well taken. As for point 1, what do YOU believe it is all about? I know a conspiracy theory or five about Foreign Aid, a couple of which have some believable points. My personal thought is that it is one of those things that certain jobholders in Foggy Bottom have persuaded a succession of Presidents that Presidents need to do to look Presidential, and that its actual function is to justify a large portion of the budget and runaway ego of the State Department.

  12. #12 |  StrangeOne | 

    Pfft, Matt, everyone knows pots are the true champions of freedom. Kettles just suck up taxpayer money and then lobby for a bigger a welfare state to get more money.

  13. #13 |  a_random_guy | 

    It should be a crime for the FBI to lie to the courts.

    Of course, it is a crime. Note this text in the article:

    The FBI attested, in documents and declarations it submitted under oath to the court, that these were all the records that existed

    Deliberately placing false information in documents submitted under oath is perjury. What’s required is very simple: prosecutors with the balls to charge the agents involved, prosecute them and throw them in jail.

  14. #14 |  Sam | 

    I must not know my theory well enough – what would happen if there were fewer obscenely rich people? A collapse of the yacht industry? Heaven forbid.

  15. #15 |  albatross | 

    Am I the only one who is finding it really fun to watch the pointing out of the OWS guys with wealthy families, as a parallel to all the pointing out of Tea Partiers who are getting government benefits?

  16. #16 |  albatross | 

    a random guy: Yeah, I expect that if I knowingly lied to a court when I was subpoenaed for documents, I’d be facing some kind of consequences. Sort of like if I was fighting a foreclosure in court and I forged documents and got caught, there would be serious consequences. Sort of like if I was caught wiretapping my worst enemy’s phone to make sure he wasn’t planning some mischief against me, there would be serious consequences.

    But that sort of concern is only for the little people, you know. The nomenklatura are not expected to follow those silly rules.

  17. #17 |  Gray Woodland | 

    I don’t think there’s anything crazy about the idea that there should be fewer ‘rich people’ at all. There is something tragic and crazy about any situation where it is plausibly true, and the so-far popular means of correcting the ‘imbalance’ have a truly vile record – but that’s another thing again.

    It is, necessarily, easier on the average for people to defend their rights against aggression by the powerful, when command of resources doesn’t vary across the population by too high a factor. This includes the property rights that underpin any genuine approximation to a free market.

    So I, for one, couldn’t give a hoot whether my neighbour is buying million-dollar bottles of wine to fill his bath with, even if I have only water to drink. But if he is buying legislators, regulators, and selective enforcement with it, in order to make damned sure that my labour continues to fill his bathtub and I’ll never accumulate fruits of it that he and his pet pols can’t confiscate, then I shall be of quite a different opinion. The problem at present is that money buys a lot of backdoor coercive and confiscatory power – and both the political and the financial specialists in the racket are quite happy with that, thank you. Further, those in either speciality who try not to play the game are apt to end up mere losers in it.

    It may be that Western civilization is not civil enough yet to allow the level of economic inequality which would, other things being equal, maximize welfare. (I don’t think many here will disagree that the strategic inequality created by unequally distributed direct political power, i.e. Big Hard Government, is pure trouble.) In this sense, those who aren’t in the ultra-rich class might rightly feel that it’s something that needs to be eliminated as such, on the grounds that billionaires and Presidents present – and routinely follow through on – threats to them that millionaires and local councillors just don’t. Alternatively, they might feel that only gross capture of regulatory and distributory powers explains the disproportionate economic power of certain professions which have not, lately, shown themselves in a dramatically productive or competent light.

    I feel there’s justice in both fears.

    What I’m suggesting, in very crude economic terms, is that there is a cost C(share) to flattening the wealth and power distribution, caused by screwing with incentives and throwing away market information; and a cost C(shaft) to a given non-flat wealth and power distribution, caused by enhanced high-end ability to just gimmick the former market into one self-accelerating rent-taking mechanism. If we are lucky, there is some compromise which will lower both of these a lot. If we are unlucky, our choice is between the misery of serfdom (high concentrated power, big pie) and the misery of all scratching a bare subsistence together (distributed power, small pie).

    Situation mad indeed, for most people to acquiesce to. Diagnosis of situation, not so mad as that. It’s the craziness of specific solution that we need to watch out for.

  18. #18 |  Brandon | 

    Sam, see USSR, 1922-1990.

  19. #19 |  Barnes | 

    Yeah, a guy at an OWS thing complained about food so ignore the whole movement because I’m sure the increasing income inequality, two tiered justice system, and corporate rights being protected and expanded over human rights will all just sort itself out some day.

  20. #20 |  la Rana | 

    The policy preference that everyone be rich, as stated by Kuzinski and seconded by Balko, misunderstands almost everything about economics.

    The idea is profoundly stupid; somehow more shallow and dumb than the poll it is criticizing. It’s like an ignorance miracle.

  21. #21 |  Joe | 

    They should prosecute Manning. If the evidence is so strong, it should be no problem to convict him.

    Leaking those records (if he did it) was reckless and probably caused far more harm than good. While I agree the obsession with secrets by the government is a problem, so is leaking secrets unilaterally.

    But even in a military court he is presumed innocent. He is entitled to his court martial and counsel and given a fair hearing in court.

    And when are we going to get some leaks about what Jon Corzine did, or Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry’s inside trading?

  22. #22 |  Joe | 

    The reason that people think there should be fewer rich people is the perception that many of the upper elites are getting there by nefarious ways. And as we are seeking with people like Pelosi, Kerry and Corzine, there is some reality with that.

  23. #23 |  CSD | 

    la Rana, spot on.

    The Economist referenced to in the article is a contributor to the book “Freakonomics” and I would think the chapter 3 of that book “The economics of drug dealing, including the surprisingly low earnings and abject working conditions of crack cocaine dealers” would be a more worthy topic for this piece of the blogosphere to delve into.

  24. #24 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    @#11 CSP…
    Foreign Aid, like all money, has many purposes. Time constraints exist so let’s list two:
    1. End-around: US gives $$ to Durkinstan but that money can only be spent buying missiles at inflated prices from US companies (who then get Senators elected to repeat the process).
    2. Puppetry: President of Durkinstan checks with US before he wipes his arse. US business interests rape Durkinstan at will and US moralists shit on local customs.

    @#17 Gary,
    <blockquote
    I don’t think there’s anything crazy about the idea that there should be fewer ‘rich people’ at all.

    It is crazy in many, many ways:
    1. If fewer rich is good, is “no rich” best? Let’s make everyone poor and find out. Wait…North Korea wants to say something. By this I mean some of the things you wrote are exactly in line with Lil’ Kim’s philosophy.
    2. If economic prosperity is not a goal, then a lot of people, programs, and effort have been wasted.
    3. The number of rich is NOT THE ISSUE. The issue is a fair marketplace where people can openly compete instead of an institution that protects and shields only the politically connected. “Number of Rich” is either an intentional misdirection or idiocy.

    Yes, “fair” is subjective.

    If we are lucky, there is some compromise which will lower both of these a lot.

    If you are looking at an answer that includes the state, you won’t be lucky. Tiny stateless solutions will be first to succeed and they won’t be available for everyone, they won’t want everyone, and not everyone will want them (fear). But for some of us, we’ll have the problem solved.

  25. #25 |  derfel cadarn | 

    Manning will not be able to attend his own trial or to defend himself as he does not or no longer holds the required clearances and telling him would be a breach of national security. Like the FBI story above the bullshit is so deep it is sickening. Land of the free ,home of the brave, my ass!

  26. #26 |  Aaron | 

    Joe, when the government is this obsessed with secrecy, unilateral leaking is the only option. I see it as the moral equivalent of self-defence. Yeah, it would normally be criminal, but in this case it really is necessary to prevent greater harm.

  27. #27 |  SamK | 

    ok, how about not taking statements to extremes so the logical fallacy becomes ridiculous?

    We’re not slaves in the US, we don’t need to demonize people simply for being rich…but saying there “should” be fewer rich people damned sure isn’t saying we should all live in a big hippie commune.

    There will always be a 1%, but that’s like saying there will always be air. We can have too much oxygen just like we can have too much concentration of wealth and it’s a damned shame we can’t have a real discussion on The Agitator of all places about real economic issues rather than name calling. OWS seems to be a bunch of people wanting to make a difference who got fed up with the lack of a clear path forward and decided the best way was to start “yelling” until the people who do understand what’s going on actually try to fix things instead of just sucking on the teat. Not everyone is yelling, not everyone is sucking on the teat, but if there weren’t a bunch of people pissed off about economics even in *this* forum we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    Be nice, make a real point. The anger exists for a reason, the same basic reason the tea party exists. If you can find one damned thing that would clearly make a difference we’d all be jumping on it. Now get back to work making someone else richer than you.

  28. #28 |  Mattocracy | 

    “The policy preference that everyone be rich, as stated by Kuzinski and seconded by Balko, misunderstands almost everything about economics.”

    Actually no. The divide between rich and poor is relative. Poor people in rich countries are much better off that poor people in poor countries, the divide between rich and poor in poor countries is much greater than in rich countries.

    The notion of making everyone rich is to open up the economy so that it is as competitive as possible without barriers. That benefits the least wealthy people the most narrowing the gap. The idea of making everyone rich is why the countries with the most free market economies have the narrowest divide between rich and poor.

  29. #29 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    One of the under-discussed problems leading to the OWS infestations is that over the past several decades – indeed, to some extent since WWII – we have been sold a bill of goods by the purveyors of Higher Education. The cold fact is that there are an awful lot of Degrees that don’t really qualify you for anything but getting more degrees and, eventually, for squabbling over a limited number of tenured positions passing out degrees to others. The widely discussed fool with the Masters in Puppetry is a case in point; time was when the general understanding would have been that anyone who wanted to be a puppeteer should hitchhike to California, and take any job that was going at Jim Henson Studio. The notion that a degree in Puppetry exists is an absurdity. The most annoying thing about OWS is that by rights they SHOULD be camping out on college campuses, throwing dung at the Tenured Twits that sold them on useless degrees.

    None of which changes the observable fact that these protests have the internal discipline of a kindergarten recess, the level of sanitation usually (unfairly) associated with the rural Third World, and (based on their slogans and interviews) the level of mentation commonly found in a colony of cherrystone clams.

  30. #30 |  Marty | 

    Joe Henry ranks with Daniel Lanois and Don Was for getting ‘THE’ sound out of a room. ‘Trampoline’ is a favorite. I’ll have to grab his latest… thanks for putting this up, made me think I was at a house concert.

  31. #31 |  Sam | 

    @18

    So if the rich are even a little bit less rich, the end result is Stalin? Got it.

  32. #32 |  Gray Woodland | 

    Boyd Durkin @ 24: Did you actually read what I wrote, with any more attention than you read my name? I ask because you seem to be addressing points made by imaginary statists, whose views I thought I was pretty explicitly scorning.

    It is, necessarily, easier on the average for people to defend their rights against aggression by the powerful, when command of resources doesn’t vary across the population by too high a factor. This includes the property rights that underpin any genuine approximation to a free market.

    What part of “L’il Kim Korea has way more command over resources than is good for anybody” did you not infer from that? In terms of the power-structure of any civilized polity, he is somewhere between a trillionaire and too rich to even put a number on it. What part of

    I don’t think many here will disagree that the strategic inequality created by unequally distributed direct political power, i.e. Big Hard Government, is pure trouble.

    suggests that I think the solution to inequality of coercive power through riches, is to build a universal corporation big and hard enough to coerce everybody at once all by itself? No: if our only hope is Leviathan, we are lost indeed.

    I submit that this does not mean that strategic inequality has no costs, nor that we have no agency except through the State to do anything about it. Further, if as I believe a great number of ridiculous fortunes are presently increased entirely through leveraging bought-and-paid-for State intervention, then curtailing that intervention will increase, not decrease, equality all by itself. But where will we get the purchase to do that?

    We are in a positive feedback loop incorporating both wealth and the official violence it can purchase. I think this is a case worth making to disaffected statists, before they fall back on regrettable old assumptions; and also a case worth acting on in peaceable and voluntary ways, at least until one is thumped for it by somebody so purchased. That’s all.

  33. #33 |  HD | 

    C.S.P. Schofield @ 29:

    we have been sold a bill of goods by the purveyors of Higher Education. The cold fact is that there are an awful lot of Degrees that don’t really qualify you for anything but getting more degrees

    The cold fact is that almost any degree except law and finance (and wait, the law school professors have proposed paying people to quit law school) has become uncertain, or will soon. You may have degrees in the hard sciences, engineering, or computer science, and watch your job be defunded (we no longer fund any sort of research, corporate or government), outsourced, H1B’ed, or simply laid off at age 55 with no further prospect of employment in the field you trained for because you’re overqualified and too old. It’s not just advanced degrees in Puppetry which are devalued, and it’s disingenuousness to pretend that that is what OWS is, or should be protesting. If you feel strongly about it, feel free to organize your protest on your local campus. Others may decide for themselves for what causes they wish to be arrested, pepper-sprayed, and beaten.

    The issues which OWS are protesting are easily found, but not something which can be reduced to a soundbite. The issues are complex, and they are so because our corporate masters desire it to be so. It’s easier to control the masses, and harder to fight every hydra head if the issue is complicated and irreducible to a soundbite suitable for a 20 second clip.

    I have been to the local version of OWS, and found the sanitation to be as well as can be expected (have you never gone camping? and what’s that got to do with anything anyway?) given that the cities do not wish to make the sanitation easier or better (have you ever tried to find a bathroom in a large American city?), the people to be articulate and intelligent, and have better stated goals and purposes than are put across by the corporate controlled media who pretend to not understand.

    Of course you may feel free to make your judgements based on whatever idiot (and of course there will be some, there are in any crowd) the MSM chose to put up in front of the camera in order to make the protests look bad. And successfully, judging by your attitude.

  34. #34 |  albatross | 

    la rana:

    A basic goal of any decent social welfare state is going to be to ensure that everyone in your country in 2011 is rich, by most of the material standards of (say) London in 1811. (And London in 1811 was the richest city of one of the great powers of the world.) There is nothing in economics that forbids a society from existing in which the poor are on average overweight, as demonstrated by the existence of exactly that condition in the US right now. There is nothing in economics forbidding just about everyone in the country from having indoor plumbing, electric lights, and free schooling of at least some minimal quality–again, this condition exists now, more or less, in all first world countries.

    It’s possible for everyone to be rich in absolute terms relative to what people 50 or 100 years would have considered acceptable. I’m pretty sure that you’re better off showing up at a public hospital with no insurance and no money on public assistance in 2011 than being the richest man in the world in 1911, for almost any serious problem. (Which would you prefer to be in the midst of a heart attack?)

  35. #35 |  Radley Balko | 

    la Rana:

    If you have a substantive point to make, then make it. I encourage dissent.

    But I’m not going to provide a forum for you to come up with lots of cute ways to call me stupid because you disagree with me about economics.

  36. #36 |  albatross | 

    CSP:

    A secondary problem wrt higher education is that a BA in anything has become a quick filter for minimal literacy and numeracy and intelligence and functionality. Several of my friends who got BAs from a good state university in the midwest found that that BA in psychology or poli-sci or sociology or english qualified them for a job as a clerk, basically. Nothing in their college education was necessary for that kind of job, it’s just that getting through any such degree at a real college required some basic level of literacy, native intelligence, and ability to show up for class on a semi-regular basis.

    My probably-too-cynical take on this is that it’s the result of grade inflation in high schools–if people routinely end up with high school diplomas despite not really being able to read very well and not being bright enough to work as a clerk somewhere, then a good strategy for an employer is to only hire people with some kind of college degree. But there’s also a kind of arms race going on–if almost everyone bright enough for even a basic clerk kind of job is getting a college degree, then it costs nothing for an employer of clerks to just throw away all the resumes that don’t have college degrees listed. That means that everyone who wants any job requiring even minimal intelligence and literacy probably has to get that BA, even though you’re now going $30K in debt and spending four years to be qualified for something your mom got a job doing with a high school diploma.

  37. #37 |  albatross | 

    Boyd and others:

    My concern is that the folks at the top (not exactly a well-defined “1%” kind of category) have been rigging the system to favor themselves and their kids, at the expense of everyone else. In particular, laws simply don’t apply to people at the top in the same way they do to normal people. Politically connected industries, companies, and individuals face much less market discipline than normal industries, companies, and individuals–at the extreme point, the most powerful and connected companies can get vast subsidies, specially targeted tax breaks, laws passed to rewrite copyright law for their benefit, previous lawbreaking retroactively legalized, customers and suppliers forced to behave in ways more to their liking, and even bailouts or loan guarantees when their bets go sour. (I haven’t spent the time to put links to these things, but I can think of at least one example for each of the things I wrote there, and probably so can you.)

    Now, here’s the thing. I like the rule of law, market discipline, and property rights. I think they’re broadly good ways to organize your society. But I only like them if they apply to everyone. I’m not interested in a version of the rule of law where I go to jail for doing something that the mortgage industry has been doing systematically for years, or a version of market discipline where small companies without pull go broke when they make bad decisions, but huge companies with connections are quietly bailed out. I’m very much in favor of property rights if that means we all get to own stuff and then that stuff’s ours, but not if that means that powerful people own their stuff, and if they want it, they get to own my stuff, too.

    I think this is one of the many issues some of the OWS people have been pushing. It’s one that resonates for me. If rule of law and property rights and market discipline are too hard for the rich and powerful to bear, then I’m not so clear on why they’re okay for me to have to bear those things. And if they don’t have to respect those things when it benefits them to, say, ignore the rule of law because it would have been really inconvenient to properly file the mortgage paperwork at the county courthouse, then I’m not at all clear why they get to hide behind the rule of law when it comes to taking away their executives’ bonuses, or allowing cramdowns in bankruptcy court, or of allowing student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy. Any of those might be good or bad policy, but folks who have gotten to ignore the rule of law when it was inconvenient to them, thanks to their political connections and importance to the economy, are in no position at all to demand protection on the basis of the rule of law.

  38. #38 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    albatross;

    You make good points. My maternal grandfather graduated from a public school in New Jersey. He was then able to read and write English, French, and Latin, and comfortable with Mathematics through basic Calculus. He would consider me at best semi-literate because I am comfortable in only one language. The causes of the slide in High School education are many, none of them flattering to the people involved. The teachers’ unions should get a share of the blame, but there’s certainly enough to go around. One of the most difficult things to fix is that the trust that at one time existed between teachers and parents is broken, so that parents don’t trust teachers to actually discipline a child, and the teachers can’t trust the parents to back them up. I flat-out don’t see any way to fix that short of universal vouchers, with each school Principal (or Headmaster, or what-have-you) understood – implicitly in the contract – to have the authority to expel. Children who are too undisciplined and whose parents won’t hear of curbing them, will end up in bottom-of-the-barrel public schools or very expensive private reformatories.

    In the meantime, the Universities need to understand that they are a luxury good, not a necessity. My Father, who was a Professor, understood that, and tried to at least provide the indulgent society that paid for his fun with published research and a minimum of uninformed blovation.

  39. #39 |  Brandon | 

    Sam, when the goal is “fewer rich people” without any other context, as was the case in this particular poll, the end result is likely to be ugly.

    If, however, the goal is simply equality of opportunity, then, as usual, libertarianism provides the best answer. If the OWS protestors are truly only angry about the bank bailouts, the solution is less government power to provide such favors to selected constituents at the expense of others.

  40. #40 |  celticdragonchick | 

    The demonization of the rich will keep increasing as long as the response to movements like OWS continues to be belittling and derisive. Instead of calling people who are upset dirty hippies and telling them to go out and get nonexistent jobs, the right should be trying to differentiate between the productive rich and the rest of the 1% who are just skimming off of the efforts of the productive middle class.

    Yep.

  41. #41 |  celticdragonchick | 

    @ albatross

    Very good comment…and you hit on a lot of salient points especially the type of crony capitalism we now have in America (and elsewhere) where it is market discipline for me and thee while the top get all the benefits of socialism AND keep all their profits while fucking the rest of us.

  42. #42 |  la Rana | 

    So now you are going to delete posts that hurt your feelings? Wow.

    The substantive point is that concepts like “rich” are relative terms conceptually – they require an opposite to have meaning – and practically – they are created through scarcity, which would be eliminated if everyone was “rich.” Thus, it not only makes no sense to say “make everyone rich,” it is fundamentally impossible. Mattocracy and albatross may intrinsically understand this, which is why they simply change the topic.

    We can disagree about whether the bottom 50 percent are best supported in a society that works to narrow inequality (me) vs. a society that does not, on the belief in some modified trickle down theory or post hoc ergo prompter hoc (you), but some of the things you write and link to are not that. They are just dumb and obviously wrong.

  43. #43 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    The corrupting influence of the Rich would matter a good deal less if the government didn’t take it on itself to do so goddamned much. That, ultimately, is the problem with Statism; as more and more power gravitates to the central State it becomes more and more worth the effort to influence said State, until inevitably you have a structure that has almost all the power, and has been taken over by whatever evil bastard had the single minded drive to do so. Stalin. Mao. Ivan IV Vasilyevich.

  44. #44 |  Mykeru | 

    @Deoxy

    If OWS is a joke, why aren’t you laughing?

  45. #45 |  Mairead | 

    In reply to the Frog (20):

    Read the literature. It’s known that flatter wealth gradients, i.e., more equality of econ. outcome, are correlated with greater health and happiness among the population, and are therefore a desirable function of government.

    The wealthy nearly always imagine (Buffett is a notable exception!) that their wealth came to them completely through their personal merit and effort, but any small thought-experiment shows how nonsensical their claim is. Imagine Bill Gates having been, on his 18th b’day, dropped into Somalia without his million-dollar birthday present or his parents’ wealth and connections. Would he own Microsoft today? Of course not! He would probably have been killed before he reached 19. With his personality, probably before he reached 18+1 week.

    He succeeded in part because of growing up amid great wealth and privilege, with all the emotional benefits such privilege conveys, and in a society that is not Somalia, and because of the vastly lucky break he got thru the hubris of Gary Kildall, who blew off a meeting with IBM, and because our system is set up not only to not be Somalia, but to provide positive feedback: the rich are helped in a myriad of ways to become richer, especially at the expense of those below a certain threshold of wealth and power. We rent our slaves, today.

    Someone is “rich” if they never have to worry about meeting their human needs. That’s certainly not outside our gift as a society, and should equally certainly not be outside the remit of government.

    Everyone should be rich, as a matter of policy.

  46. #46 |  John C. Randolph | 

    What’s required is very simple: prosecutors with the balls to charge the agents involved, prosecute them and throw them in jail.

    This is why I want President Paul to appoint Andrew Napolitano for attorney general. He’d prosecute these perps.

    -jcr

  47. #47 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Albatross, I agree with what you are saying.

    I find it hard to follow Gary.

  48. #48 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    “What’s required is very simple: prosecutors with the balls to charge the agents involved, prosecute them and throw them in jail.”

    It’s amazing how they are all in bed together.
    I remember I took my attorney to small claims court when she didn’t have the nerve to get a video in a DUI case after stating she would (the cop blew someone away, a teen with a sword, the previous month or two and any case where he was the witness was gonna be controversial.)
    To scare me, she subpoenaed the prosecutor, the clerk, the cop, and various other court weasels. All I had to when they all showed up to the case was say “See, it’s not her zealously defending me, her client…it’s me
    versus her (my atty) and THEM.”
    Oh yeah, I won the case. And she wouldn’t pay. Made my Bar Complaint even stronger.

  49. #49 |  Les | 

    la Rana, if you choose to act like a condescending asshole by calling someone stupid when you disagree with them, it’s reasonable for them to say, “I’m not going to discuss this with you if you’re going to call me stupid.”

    If you choose then to respond to this reasonable request for civility by saying, “Oh, you’re not going to provide me a forum because your feelings are hurt?”, then it’s perfectly reasonable for the rest of the readers to not really care about anything you have to say.

    There are lots of lots of people who share your opinions on economics, but who also have the essential (and elementary) skill of disagreeing without being condescending assholes. Those people are worth listening to, even when you disagree with them. But you, not so much.

  50. #50 |  La Rana | 

    Les, that’s fair. But I’m not trying to make friends. I agree with radley on almost everything and think his is among the most important work being done anywhere in America (his militarization work, mainly). But there are certain things that you can never really have an honest debate about. God and the Israeli conflict are common examples, but it varies wildly depending on personal prejudice, history, education, etc. Economics are something Radley can’t discuss openly. The telltale signs of the closed mind are not engaging worthy critiques and linking to things that are obvious nonsense. I’m just sad to see him put away his critical faculties when it comes to economics, for whatever reason that is. But I can’t think of anything else to do about it, so I heckle him.

    Maired

  51. #51 |  John C. Randolph | 

    It’s known that flatter wealth gradients, i.e., more equality of econ. outcome, are correlated with greater health and happiness among the population, and are therefore a desirable function of government.

    They’re a consequence of economic liberty. We used to have quite a bit of that in the USA.

    -jcr

  52. #52 |  Matt D | 

    Can we all stop making fun of the puppeteer? I know an MFA in puppetry just begs for it, but the fact is, the guy was responding pretty rationally to incentives. He went back to school to earn an advanced degree that, at the time, commanded a wage premium in his field.

  53. #53 |  John C. Randolph | 

    The telltale signs of the closed mind are not engaging worthy critiques

    You have yet to provide anything resembling a worthy critique.

    -jcr

  54. #54 |  La Rana | 

    Jcr – this is a longstanding dispute. I have been heckling radley for years.

  55. #55 |  Radley Balko | 

    The telltale signs of the closed mind are not engaging worthy critiques…

    I have respectfully engaged you in discussions of economic issues in the comments section on several occasions. You tend to respond by calling me and other free market types ignorant, naive, embarrassing, and other puerile name-calling. So who exactly has the closed mind, here?

    And you haven’t hurt my feelings. I’ve banned people for insulting other regular commenters on this site, particularly when they do so without also contributing something substantive. It’s about keeping up the level and tone of the discussion. I’m now giving you the courtesy of a warning.

  56. #56 |  Elliot | 

    Radley Balko:…all this class warfare—some of it understandable, even justified…

    I’d be very interested in seeing some explication of that particular aside.

    Class warfare presented as have vs. have-not generates strife on artificial boundaries, manufacturing boogeymen instead of seeing the underlying causes of injustice.

    A more useful “class struggle” would be between the political class and the private class. That’s not a perfect demarcation between bad and good, but it’s much closer to reality than have vs. have-not.

  57. #57 |  Gray Woodland | 

    Boyd Durkin @ 47: For the most part I agree with albatross, if that helps.

    The clearest I can summarize my own main point is that unconstrained wealth distribution is a valuable liberty in and of itself, but that very high levels of inequality make general liberties strategically difficult for most individuals to defend from abuses by the lawlessly powerful. The more costly it can be made to convert market clout into coercive clout, the more unconstrained the market can be without self-destructing. Which would be a good thing.

    I think that concentrating power in the government in order to prevent such dangerous concentrations of power, has neither history nor logic to commend it.

    I suspect I consider the present market more distorted than you do, and its dominant actors more effectively integrated with the State.

    On this:

    Tiny stateless solutions will be first to succeed and they won’t be available for everyone, they won’t want everyone, and not everyone will want them (fear). But for some of us, we’ll have the problem solved.

    we at least share an aspiration, and I wish I shared a greater measure of your confidence.

  58. #58 |  John C. Randolph | 

    I have been heckling radley for years.

    Have you considered getting a life?

    -jcr

  59. #59 |  John C. Randolph | 

    . It’s about keeping up the level and tone of the discussion.

    I’m glad that you do so. Pharyngula really went to seed when PZ quit caring about civility.

    -jcr

  60. #60 |  John C. Randolph | 

    A more useful “class struggle” would be between the political class and the private class.

    I’d describe that as the thugs versus the peaceful citizens.

    -jcr

  61. #61 |  JOR | 

    “Sam, see USSR, 1922-1990.”

    Yes, the USSR was such a bastion of equality that it was all owned by a select caste of deciders.

    Oops.

  62. #62 |  JOR | 

    North Korea is another wonderful example of a society where control of resources is equal. That’s totally why the whole country is basically a cross between a prison camp and amusement park for one guy.

  63. #63 |  JOR | 

    “Class warfare presented as have vs. have-not generates strife on artificial boundaries, manufacturing boogeymen instead of seeing the underlying causes of injustice.”

    Not necessarily. It could be fairly argued that wealth inequalities underly your supposedly-underlying causes (use of coercion) rather than the other way around. I don’t actually think that’s true, or rather I don’t think it’s always true; actual real life history is more complicated. Often enough, vast, lasting wealth inequalities result from the use of coercion. But the buildup of wealth inequalities also makes coercion easier for the wealthy to carry out (other things equal). People are not Randian caricatures that can be filed into classes of “producer” and “parasite”, set in stone for life. Moral reasoning aside (I don’t throw in this caveat lightly, I understand the importance of ideas), people are basically opportunistic, social-climbing hunter-gatherers. They’ll trade when it’s profitable, steal what they can, and keep down those they perceive as inferior by any means possible. If they can sell themselves a rationalization about how they “deserve” to be above whoever they’re above because they’re smarter, or more productive, or stronger, or braver, or whatever, then so much the better.

  64. #64 |  Ryan the Sea Lion | 

    Radley, don’t forget about Obama’s most meaningful pardon yet:
    http://nation.foxnews.com/thanksgiving/2011/11/23/one-lucky-bird

  65. #65 |  Matt | 

    Statists are inherently pro-inequality. The free market is a profit-minimizing device. This falls straight out of econ 101 math; as more and more conditions for a free market are satisfied, profit approaches zero. If you look at the most “profitable” industries in the US you will see the industries with the significant government regulation and control. The regulations put on these industries is what allows them to maintain their high level of profit through reduced competition.

  66. #66 |  Elliot | 

    JOR (#63):It could be fairly argued that wealth inequalities underly your supposedly-underlying causes (use of coercion) rather than the other way around. … Often enough, vast, lasting wealth inequalities result from the use of coercion. But the buildup of wealth inequalities also makes coercion easier for the wealthy to carry out (other things equal).

    Wealth and aggressive coercion are not inherently connected.

    Government and aggressive coercion are inherently connected, by definition. Government, as the assertion of a monopoly on the use of force, requires it. For that reason, people with wealth can leverage the power of government as a force multiplier. Campaign contributions are much cheaper than hiring your own muscle, and you don’t risk as much blow back in public sentiment when using rent seeking, as opposed to mafia-style intimidation.

    In a laissez faire free market, Wal-Mart or GE cannot force me to buy their products. They can’t deduct anything from my paycheck. But once the government intervenes, such corporations can use rent-seeking to steal from me.

    Also, most discussions of “wealth inequalities” are laden with all sorts of false ethical premises and epistemological incompetence. The most blatant error stems from interpreting the technical statistical term “distribution” as a verb, employing such analogies as dividing up a pie or other such departures from reality. Wealth is created. It doesn’t grow on trees and no evil cabal divides it up. As a corollary, wealth is not a zero-sum condition. If one group increases production and has an increase in income as a result, that doesn’t mean that there will be a decrease in income for others.

    People are not Randian caricatures that can be filed into classes of “producer” and “parasite”, set in stone for life.

    You’re the one bringing that woman into the discussion. I’m not an Objectivist, so I have no interest in defending that philosophy. I’d rather discuss my points.

    That said, the vast majority of critics of Rand are embarrassingly ignorant, their political ideas far less accurate than hers. For all her flaws, she could easily run circles around most intellectuals, from Chomsky to Krugman. Decades ago, it was easy to dismiss her (or Orwell, for that matter), as overly cynical. But in recent years, it’s frightening how real life politicians and journalists have become more like Randian or Orwellian villains, almost as though they used those books as blueprints for their corrupt behavior. And, that sort of rot runs the gamut from NHS/Patriot Act/renditions/predator drones to ObamaPelosiCare/TARP/GM/NLRB, all in parallel to the War on Drugs which has been a constant source of judicial precedents and frog bath temperature increases.

    Moral reasoning aside (I don’t throw in this caveat lightly, I understand the importance of ideas), people are basically opportunistic, social-climbing hunter-gatherers. They’ll trade when it’s profitable, steal what they can, and keep down those they perceive as inferior by any means possible.

    Speak for yourself. Many of us are better than that.

    Granted, due to cultural decay (driven by big government and post modernist philosophical nonsense), younger generations seem to have fewer people who are better than that. But that’s an argument against government and for reason.

    If they can sell themselves a rationalization about how they “deserve” to be above whoever they’re above because they’re smarter, or more productive, or stronger, or braver, or whatever, then so much the better.

    That psychobabble works both ways. If some Occupy loser can sell himself a rationalization about how he “deserves” to be coddled and rewarded for drawing breath, at the expense of others who are “evil”, then he can justify plundering what he took no part in producing.

    Note that I don’t include the valid objections to corporatism. On matters such as TARP, I think even Rick Santelli and some of the Occupy protesters could find common ground.

    Instead, I’m referring to idiotic demands, like the adult child who stated on camera that he wants other people to pay his student loans but who couldn’t manage to offer even a seed of justification.

  67. #67 |  Elliot | 

    Matt (#65):This falls straight out of econ 101 math; as more and more conditions for a free market are satisfied, profit approaches zero.

    So are you actually claiming that Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey would be paupers if people had the freedom to choose what computer to buy or what TV show to watch?

    Through division of labor and free trade, most people are able to profit through mutual, consensual exchanges. If they couldn’t profit, they wouldn’t choose to make them. So, if you punch rivets into widgets for $10/hr. and you pay $600 for an iPad, you’re profiting by getting a device that you couldn’t build with 60 hours of your time. Apple profits because they have more use for your money than for a warehouse full of identical devices.

    You really should refrain from phrases like “econ 101″ if you’re going to get such basic things completely wrong.

  68. #68 |  John Spragge | 

    I believe real wealth can increase two ways: technical change and concentration. Consider: if you had taken the memory size, disk size, and processing power of the computer I am working on right now to IBM in 1975, the year the US Navy launched the USS Nimitz, IBM would have called c computer of those specifications impossible to build. If the US Navy had taken the specs to IBM, and told them to duplicate the computing power whatever it took, IBM would have charged them about the cost of the USS Nimitz. In 1975 dollars. So does that make me a multi-billionaire because I have three computers in my office? No, but it does mean I have access to knowledge and resources that no billionaire before 1980 could have afforded. General societal wealth has gone up, but the actual effect does not show as an increase of money; rather it shows up as new, or substantially less expensive, goods available.

  69. #69 |  Mairead | 

    In response to JOR (63):
    people are basically opportunistic, social-climbing hunter-gatherers. They’ll trade when it’s profitable, steal what they can, and keep down those they perceive as inferior by any means possible. If they can sell themselves a rationalization about how they “deserve” to be above whoever they’re above because they’re smarter, or more productive, or stronger, or braver, or whatever, then so much the better.

    You’re making the mistake of presuming nature.

    “Human nature” is made up only of those characteristics common to all unimpaired human individuals. If we don’t find it everywhere, it’s not inbuilt, not “nature”.

    If we look at humans cross-culturally, the single characteristic that’s common to all humans is adaptability. We are able, perhaps alone among all other creatures, to completely change our behavioral repertoires within our personal lifespans. That, and only that, is our “human nature”.

    When we do that cross-cultural survey, we also see that in cultures that haven’t crossed the little-tribe/big-tribe boundary people are egalitarian, open, social, and not exploitative. Columbus wrote in his journal about how astonishingly welcoming, honest, and generous the Taino people were — it completely went against what he thought “human nature” was from having lived only in Europe. He concluded that they must be mentally defective in some way, but would make good slaves!

    Of course they were the opposite of mentally defective. Since the life of such tribes depends on their members cooperatively getting along with one another and pulling their own weight, the elders look for psychopaths among the children. Those they find that are obligative – that can’t or won’t conform their behavior – are diagnosed as being possessed and expelled or killed. The adult members of the tribe are therefore people who are naturally cooperative, eager to share, etc – all the traits that Columbus thought make them daft.

    It’s only when the culture becomes too big for the elders to monitor the kids closely that psychopaths survive to adulthood and gain positions of power as shamans or chieftains, and begin to manipulate the tribal culture for their own benefit.

    Our modern nation states are the result of ~ 20K years of that psychopathic shaping, and so it’s hardly surprising that a lot of people behave psychopathically at least some of the time.

    But, as the Ultimatum Game (and similar) shows, simple fairness – definitely not a psychopath-approved value – is still the number one desideratum among ordinary people across cultures around the world, more important than money. “Homo Economicus”, as most of us suspected from our own experience, is a Big Lie.

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