Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Fundamental Contradiction

Capitalism v. Patriotism

An intelligent discussion cannot proceed without clear definitions of the material terms so, for purposes of this post, the following definitions apply:

Patriotism - Love of and devotion to one's country.

Capitalism - An economic system based on a free market, open competition, profit motive and private ownership of the means of production.

Free market - A market in which price is determined by the unregulated interchange of supply and demand rather than by artificial means.

The world is in transition. Technology makes the world smaller, connecting us to people we would not otherwise encounter in our communities (the blogosphere is a wonderful example of this) and these changes are occurring at warp speed. Anyone who has read Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat has had his eyes opened to the globalized "flat" world and its implications for America and Americans.

Change is inevitable. Evolve or die.

But it is not the nature of human beings to accept change peacefully. They are stubborn, scared and cling to safety blankets with the fervor of a dying man. What's more is that it makes no difference whether the safety blankets are a bundle of contradictions - the human clings to them nonetheless and, as a result, lives with the resulting mental calamity of hypocrisy.

The torture of contradictions cannot be sustained without mass mental suicide and this is why Bush is dropping in the polls. This is why Republicans are deserting him left, right and center. The torture of unresolved contradictions has taken its toll.

You see, patriotism and capitalism -- the pillars of the Republican party -- are inherently incompatible. One must give way for the other to flourish. The Chimp-in-chief's tortured attempts to wed the two have resulted in great disaffection over a myriad of his stances, including illegal immigration and China.

On the one hand, patriotism, which Bush wields like a sword, demands complete devotion to America ("you're with us or with the terrists"); complete devotion to whatever he says America is. As a patriot, I should favor America, Americans; I should pay taxes to the republic to protect me from whatever I am told to fear; I should employ Americans over non-Americans, regardless of the wage differential; I should buy products made by Americans; I should make whatever sacrifices are needed to make sure my country reigns supreme in the world; I should care about morality and the morality of my neighbor.

Fair enough. All nations demand this of their citizens.

On the other hand, however, being a good American also means my unflinching belief in the American version of the free market; I should applaud capitalists and capitalism; I should respect the importance of earning a profit; I should believe that anything to earn a profit is okay and that anything that cuts into profits is bad; I should accept that corporations are amoral and that they do not and should not care about the citizens of any nation; I should accept that it is horrific and communist to expect corporations to pay taxes.

Can I love my nation and the free market at the same time?

More and more Republicans are saying NO. Illegal immigration is bad because illegals take jobs from Americans and endanger our national security (patriotism), but a "guest worker" program is necessary in order to keep grapes and strawberries cheap (capitalism). Cuba is bad because it is communist (and we patriotic Americans hate communism), but China is our friend because its population is over 1.2 billion and that's a lot of Cokes and Nikes our corporations can sell (capitalism). Americans are wonderful, kind people who deserve a dignified standard of living (patriotism), but f! them if they won't work in a factory for $.50 per hour, the corporations can find workers in China, Taiwan, Turkey, Burma, Vietnam, Mexico, Guatemala who will(capitalism). American workers should be willing to give up health benefits, wages and pensions in order to help businesses survive (patriotism), but under no circumstances should any CEO relinquish a $600 million retirement package that he "earned" (capitalism). China's currency policy is bad if it hurts America (patriotism), but the Federal Reserve's manipulation of the interest rates and currency is a-okay (faux capitalism). dependence on foreign oil is bad (patriotism), but the Bush family's close ties with the Saudi royal family and other oil-controlling dictators is forgivable (capitalism); Arabs are bad and we should fear them (faux patriotism), but Bush believes America should allow an Arab country to manage operations at our ports (capitalism). America's borders should be walled, manned and armed (patriotism), but a free-moving labor force is a necessary ingredient of a free market (capitalism).

I could go on forever with this, but you get the point.

At the heart of the conservative critique of Bush lies the contradiction between these two opposing forces. It is not possible to credibly argue that humans should be moral while you applaud the amorality and immorality of corporations. It makes no sense to demand utter devotion to America from the citizenry while American corporations provide jobs to the Chinese. Bush and the rest of the junta have effectively stirred the patriotic fervor of the citizenry, but the business elite is getting nervous because it is not patriotic -- it is capitalist.

Perhaps this contradiction has yet to be articulated, but each person must ask himself which of the pillars is more important. It is the answer to that question that will determine the direction in which this nation moves.


At 12:35 PM, May 16, 2006 , Blogger The Drunken Samurai said...

Patriot all the way. Corporations suck. Those at the top get rich, the rest suffer. Screw em.

At 2:17 PM, May 16, 2006 , Blogger Noisette said...

Great, great, super post. I would add that both parties are in thrall to similar contradictions. I get in fights with fellow Dems all the time because I refuse to follow the isolationist, anti-outsourcing, anti-trade stance of so many in my party. I am for trade (I would say "fair trade," in that an organization such as the WTO (but less of a bureaucratic mess, ideally) is necessary to allow all parties a voice at the table) because I think globalization and TRUE free trade (no cotton subsidies etc) are instrumental in improving the lot of so many in countries who deserve the chance to modernize and industrialize. Ditto outsourcing. But I could never run for office as a Dem and win on this platform- we must play to the unions et. al., who insist on an isolationist stance, and the anti-globalizers, who generally don't seem to understand what it is they fight so vehemently against. Thus so many Dems stand for helping the less fortunate, but only if those less fortunate are American, which is a narrow-mindedness that I find shameful.

At 2:41 PM, May 16, 2006 , Blogger Reign of Reason said...

Good post.

Although I have often pointed out the problems with "pure capitalism" -- your comparison to patriotism really shines the spotlight on the contradictions.

To go further, Americans value their right to elect representatives and “have a say” as to how their money (taxes) is (are) spent. However, corporate influence has much more sway in government than that of the individual citizen. But how are corporate leaders “chosen”? Do they really represent the interests of the shareholders or simply the other board members (who happen to be the majority shareholders)? In this sense corporate American more resembles a dictatorship than a democracy…

I’m not saying we should nationalize big-corporate America, but there is an inherent contradiction given our supposed “value of democracy”: those with the most power/influence in our society aren’t elected; they are part of the corporate American circle-jerk who pat each other on the back and pass around the profits. They use that influence to make sure government keeps them in the money.

At 5:25 PM, May 16, 2006 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

Interesting. I'm currently reading , in which he argues that our trade pacts are so skewed to benefit corporations (what a shocker) that the very term 'free trade' shouldn't even be used. How is it 'free trade' when the US taxpayer subsidizes outsourcing? Or the chinese government provides US corporations with slave labor? How is it 'free trade' when China doesn't enforce its own copyright laws and creates a thriving market in bootleg American intellectual property? And why do we need a government-owned Ex-Im Bank that gives billions in low-cost loans to companies that outsource our jobs?

And where is the concrete benefit to us, the citizens, of having our jobs shipped overseas? Hooray for India, but seriously, why should I pay for or care about jobs being created in that country? In retrospect, NAFTA cost us millions of jobs, and these days, those $4/day Mexicans are being replaced by $1/day Chinese.

At the same time, we keep out foreign cotton, soy beans, wheat and other produce, because Big Agribusiness gets subsidies out the wazoo. We keep out cheap Canadian lumber, too, because we can't compete with them.

So what free trade exactly are we talking about here?

As far as I'm concerned, I do care about American jobs. I do not give a damn about jobs in India, China or wherever the next source of quasi-slaves is to be found. Let them rot.

Man, populist ranting is a fun thing.

:-), StS

At 5:26 PM, May 16, 2006 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

Oopsie, a little HTML issue.

At 6:45 PM, May 16, 2006 , Blogger The Drunken Samurai said...


At 8:57 PM, May 16, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

You beat me to that comment Drunken Samurai! :-) Sharky - what's up with the HTML throw-up?

At 10:06 PM, May 16, 2006 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

I didn't close the link tag. Sorry about that. I just emailed you the code.

At 4:22 AM, May 17, 2006 , Blogger Sodium Pentothal said...

You see, patriotism and capitalism -- the pillars of the Republican party -- are inherently incompatible.

You're trying to argue that you can't love your country and be a capitalist at the same time? That makes about as much sense as saying you can't work at pizza hut and love pizza at the same time. This is nuts.

At 7:14 AM, May 17, 2006 , Blogger Reign of Reason said...

Well, you might want to address the details of the argument II makes: patriotic "actions" (like supporting American made products) are often at odds with capitalist practices (like outsourcing the manufacture of those products to nations that aren't exactly friendly to the US).

However, if you metaphor makes you feel better... by all means.

At 7:49 AM, May 17, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

I am still waiting for SP to respond to any factual argument with something more than an insult. Alas, it seems this will never happen.

At 8:13 AM, May 17, 2006 , Blogger mrsleep said...

Sodium Pentothal, S.P.

What exactly is "nuts" about II's post?

Just pick one example and break it down for us.

Let's boil it down to what you pay for. In II's example you pay more for some commodities, than in a true free market, because our government is subsidizing the industries. In actuality you pay twice, or even three times for this. First some of your tax dollars go to subsidize these industries. Second, tax dollars that you don't have "deficit spending" are also used to prop them up. Third, you pay out of pocket a higher unit price, than you would in a free market, because there are cheaper forms of supply elsewhere in the world.

We have other products that have no trade protections, and you pay a lower cost per unit, then those manufactured or produced in the USA.

In one case we have a free market and another we don't. In one case we are told to Buy American, and one case we are told not to.

At 9:57 AM, May 17, 2006 , Blogger Noisette said...

I love it. He responds viscerally to words that he's been trained to love and think compatible ("patriotism" and "capitalism"), but can't respond to your critique of these inherently contradictory concepts. C'mon, SP. Prove us wrong.

At 10:31 AM, May 17, 2006 , Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

Patriotism is one of most infantile notions in the world. I'm an American, but, shit, I love France, and Ghana too.

Essentially, this issue of patriotism and capitalism is really an issue of propaganda. People at the top, the capital class, determine what people at the bottom read and watch.

At 11:36 AM, May 17, 2006 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

Wouldn't it perhaps be considered patriotic to embrace a capitalist system for your country, assuming it delivers the greatest rewards? As opposed to, say, mercantilism?

:-), StS <--really splitting hairs

At 11:54 AM, May 17, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Delivers the greatest rewards to whom? And what are the rewards?

The more I think about what capitalism really means, it seems more and more self-evident that borders/nations inhibit capitalism. Can you give me a factual hypothetical in which capitalism delivers the greatest rewards to Americans without creating a race to the bottom with regard to wages, etc.?

At 12:35 PM, May 17, 2006 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

What's a factual hypothetical?

I'd point to WWII as an example; this country produced staggering amounts of war materiel without ever abandoning the basic framework of capitalism, if we understand it as a privately owned, freemarket economy in which the market dictates production decisions overall. In this case, obviously, the consumer who mattered most was the US military, but that doesn't obviate that the system stayed intact.

Left untended, though, it's probably true that capitalism would function much as it did in the gilded age and the 1920s, with trusts and oligopolies limiting consumer choice, wages, and benefits. To work to maximum benefit for all, capitalism clearly requires a force that keeps the playing field level, and that would be the elected government. That and a way to monetize non-financial social goods, but that's a different story.

:-), StS

At 12:51 PM, May 17, 2006 , Blogger mrsleep said...

Hey S.P.

Your reply reminds me of a line from the Movie "Prince of Tides".

Nick Nolte is being questioned about a memory of his, an awful truth.

He refuses to acknowledge the awful truth, and when objective reasoning points out the flaw in his defenses, he is left with the reply of "just cuz".

Your "this is nuts" response reminds me a lot of "just cuz".

At 4:30 PM, May 17, 2006 , Blogger Noisette said...

Fascinating. I was avoiding writing my asylum brief by puttering around amazon.com, and found this little jewel, maybe appropos of this post?


At 7:32 AM, May 18, 2006 , Blogger Sodium Pentothal said...

Patriotism and capitalism are in no way contradictory. One is a love for your country, the other is an economic system.

If your argument is that we are sometimes hypocritical to capitalism, I agree (i.e. with Cuba). But what in the bloody hell does that have to do with loving America?

Well, you might want to address the details of the argument II makes: patriotic "actions" (like supporting American made products) are often at odds with capitalist practices (like outsourcing the manufacture of those products to nations that aren't exactly friendly to the US).

This doesn't make any sense. If the products are outsourced, they aren't American made. And support of American products is in no way anti-capitalist... its the essence of the free market.

At 8:18 AM, May 18, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Your response makes no sense. Supporting American products is the essence of the free market? Hardly. The free market does not know nationality. We must have the most unpatriotic people in the world since Wal-Mart is the biggest retailer and I would venture to say that 90% of the product on its shelves was made in China.

At 9:40 AM, May 18, 2006 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

Just to jump in here, the contradiction lies in where you assign the highest valuation; in patriotism, what is good for your country is the supreme value, in capitalism, it's the bottom line. When they coincide, there's no contradiction, when they don't, there is.

Thus, if you live in a country that produces cheap goods and services, there is no difference between the two. If you don't, and you find yourself buying mainly foreign goods and services, there is a disconnect, because choosing your country's products doesn't give you the best possible value for money.

:-), StS

At 10:46 AM, May 18, 2006 , Blogger Reign of Reason said...

“To work to maximum benefit for all, capitalism clearly requires a force that keeps the playing field level, and that would be the elected government.” – This is my central gripe with “small government conservatives”.

Yeah, everyone wants minimal regulation, but I get the impression that many in government today believe regulation, in and of itself, is “evil” and that free-markets are the panacea to the worlds (and our) ills.

Nothing could be further from the truth and all you have to do (as StS points out) is look to the age of the Robber Barons – capitalism is based on greed. Pair greed with power (money) and you have the perfect formula for exploitation (e.g. – child labor, factory safety, etc. etc.)

SP – I don’t even know why I continue to try to use reason, but as II pointed out, “buying American” has nothing to do with capitalism… Market forces favor cheap labor and cheap material expenses – hence US companies go overseas for both. By spending there money overseas US companies are fueling the industrial revolution in some communist countries (China, Vietnam, etc.).

Is that “patriotic”?

At 10:49 AM, May 18, 2006 , Blogger Reign of Reason said...

" If the products are outsourced, they aren't American made. And support of American products is in no way anti-capitalist..."

It is most definitely going against capitalistic principles if I buy a more expensive American-made item when I can get the Chinese manufactured version much cheaper. It may be patriotic, but it’s definitely not in line with the way markets work in capitalist theory - in fact, its antithetical to that theory and undermines the economic system by rewarding market inefficiency.

At 12:10 PM, May 18, 2006 , Blogger Free Agency Rules said...

It is possible to believe in both the Free Market and Patriotism. It would take too long to articulate how, but I will add a few points:

1. We need the free flow of cheap labor, but do it legally, not with a disrespect for the law.

2. If we take a close look at the core reason for having Corporations, i.e., to avoid the problems of the need for tort reform, i.e., run-away judgements that encourage law suits for anything and everything, then we can revist the real need for Corporations. Are we ignoring the real problem?

Companies should refelect the personalities of the owners, and if the owners are moral and compassionate, (I have seen some that truely are), then we really have something to hold on to.

Many members of both the Dems and Repubs are guilty of protectionism. In my Economics classes in College, I became convinced that we as Americans should allow those Countires that do a better and cheaper job in a particular industry, to do that job and we as a Country should gravitate to what we do best.

Growing Sugar Cane should be left to those who do it best. China is good a mass production, while America is good at innovation, especially in technology. The Japanese used to be the "copy-cats", but now the Chineese are. Let each do what it does best.

Supporting American Made products is Stupid and not Patriotic because if they are inferior then it is hurting everyone by rewarding inefficiency.

When everyone can buy more items because some of them are made by other Countires, then we all have more disposable income.

To me Patriotism is about recognizing that no other nation values "individualism" and freedom more than we do and the things that made this country great are those that support that ideal.

Again, I believe we can be both becasue "buy American" is NOT patriotic, it is idiotic if it means spending more for something than it is worth.

How do we determine what something is worth? If the store sells a can of beans for $1.50 then when I give my money for the can of beans I am telling the store that I value the can of beans to be worth at least that amount. I would rather have the beans than the $1.50.

Voting with our money is how we determine the value of anything.

When a millionare gives $20 million for a painting, he is saying it is worth that much to "him", but it might not be worth it to us. The seller thinks it is worth that much to him because he got his asking price.

Buying a Ford or Chevy that doesn't last as long as a Toyota is not being patriotic it is being stupid.

Socialism is the worst way to determine the value of anything and that is one reason why so many want to come to this country.

"True Capitalism" can be defined in many ways, but "Free Market" is what we should all believe in because it does the best job of providing the most efficient method of determing price, which in turn does the best job of regulating supply.

There is an obvious reason why "Managed Economies" such as Communist and Socialist Countires have so many shortages. They have the impossible task of "guessing" the value of everything. So, black markets and shortages are common place. Just watch what happens if this government tries to "regulate" gas prices....viola!....shortages!

I vote with my dollars and my common "cents." (Pun) :)


At 12:38 PM, May 18, 2006 , Blogger Free Agency Rules said...


I said: "Supporting American Made products..."

I should have said..."Supporting JUST American Made product just for the sake of buying American, is Stupid!


At 1:05 PM, May 18, 2006 , Blogger Free Agency Rules said...


The Rober Barons only were able to do what they did because of Governement interference, not government regulation or the Free Market. The Government gave the Railroads Monolopies and that started the problem.

American Economics, i.e., the industrial revolution was in it's infancy and it can be argued that once the industrial age became mature then without government monopolies those problems associated with the Robber Barons would have been taken care of by the market place....i.e., the best workers will gravitate toward the best companies, i.e., the companies that treat it's workers the best in all ways will have the best employees, who in turn will run the companies with the worst employees out of business, and the cycle continues. In other words, The companies that treat their workers bad will eventually go out of business.

I worked for a company that had the best workers because of the policies it put in place. I had a company cafe that served free breakfast,lunch and supper. I had an option to work from home whenever I didn't need to attend any meetings. I had so many neat working conditions...(A couch in a room that I could take a nap on if I got tired, a free snack cart with candy, soda, etc, that came around during break time, free laundry service - pick up and delivery, stock...not options, but stock, etc.)

I could go on and on. I eventually left to go into computer consulting, ( I was a Software Engineer), I only left because I could earn the equilavelant of over a 200k per year instead of the measly $60-$80k per year that I was making at that time, ( late 1980's ), but even so, it was a tough choice because of the best working conditions that you could ever imagine and guess what, we had the pick of the employees from all of our competitors for some reason. (Could it be great pay AND great treatment?)


At 6:24 PM, May 18, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...


Nice to have you back. I was hoping for your input on this post.

Hope all is well. :-)

At 10:21 PM, May 18, 2006 , Blogger Free Agency Rules said...

Thanks ii. I just got a little burned out. Blogging can be addictive. :)

I needed a break.

But I am back!

Thanks for the kind words.


At 4:42 AM, May 19, 2006 , Blogger Odysseus said...


"Socialism is the worst way to determine the value of anything and that is one reason why so many want to come to this country."

Funny, I don't see citizens of European socialist countries wanting to immigrate to the USA. Seems to me it's the citizens of countries that have been 'globalized' by the 'globalizers' that make up the majority of immigrants. Just an observation.

""True Capitalism" can be defined in many ways, but "Free Market" is what we should all believe in because it does the best job of providing the most efficient method of determing price, which in turn does the best job of regulating supply."

This is contradictory to the popular use of the term "Free Market" because the popular use includes massive government involvement. In democratic capitalist countries, the elected politicians are responsible to those who made their election victory possible, those who funded the campaign. So, pure free markets are not compatible with a capitalist democracy. They could be compatible with a pure democracy, one with equal airtime and press space for all candidates, strict funding laws, and inclusion of multiple parties, but for a pure democracy to evolve would require the powerful controlling interests to give up their power and control, which is unlikely at best. This is to say that pure free markets are less likely than a pure system of communism.

"There is an obvious reason why "Managed Economies" such as Communist and Socialist Countires have so many shortages. They have the impossible task of "guessing" the value of everything. So, black markets and shortages are common place. Just watch what happens if this government tries to "regulate" gas prices....viola!....shortages!"

So how come there aren't shortages in socialist Europe? Because a political philosophy esouses a quality free education (through post-graduate work), a quality free health care system, a robust transportation system, and a clean environment does not mean that there will be inherent shortages. If you want to put it in economic terms, measure the value of the Euro against the US dollar. Why would investors favor the Euro over the dollar if socialism restricts supply and demand so much?

The reason Cuba has shortages is a result of the economic blockade of the tiny island by the most powerful nation on earth. Still, they have a lower infant death rate than the USA, a better health care system, and a much lower crime rate. Sure, you need to wait for medications but you do get them. Compare comfortable if not rich Cuba to capitalist Haiti or the capitalist Argentina of the 1990s, for example and you'll see a stark difference in realities. Sure, the barons in Haiti have no sense of shortages while the rest are borderline starving, but is this what we really want?

You can't call the USSR anything more than totalitarianism or facism, so if you choose that as your model of communism or socialism for comparison the comparison is flawed. Totalitarianism and facism breed corruption - power corrupts.

And finally, goverment does regulate gas prices. It doen't allow price gauging as a pure capitalist free market system would. But the gaugers would go out of business, right? Don't count on it. They already have used their economic clout to consolidate and drive out competition. Further, the goverment taxes the gasoline already, which is a form of price control, and subsidises the entire US roadbuilding industry at the expense of more efficient forms of transportation.

If you believe that the private sector has more efficient and effective solutions than governments, start by privatising the roads rather than my social security, and let's see what happens.

At 6:58 AM, May 19, 2006 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

""True Capitalism" can be defined in many ways, but "Free Market" is what we should all believe in because it does the best job of providing the most efficient method of determing price, which in turn does the best job of regulating supply."

That's a most peculiar statement, because it basically calls for a theological approach to economics. We don't have to believe anything, other than what the data tell us.

And anyway, this country doesn't have a free market.

Take a look at health care. You can't legally import foreign drugs, but you can import beef from countries with mad cow disease. Medicare Part D expressly bans the government from using its bargaining power when buying drugs. Meanwhile, that same law locks you into annual contracts, the terms of which companies can change at will and without notice. Those expensive drugs, meanwhile, are paid for by the taxpayer; 45 of the top 50 drugs come from the NIH or universities. Thing is, the price fairness rule, that said companies must offer drugs developed at public expense at reasonable prices, was abolished in 2001. As a result, we pay $5,600 per capita for healthcare, more than twice as much as other countries, and still leave one in six Americans uninsured.

If anything, that is robber baron capitalism, the kind where the consumer is powerless. And you'll see the same thing all across the US economy. So no, we don't have a free market - we have a rigged market.

:-), StS

At 12:27 PM, May 19, 2006 , Blogger Sodium Pentothal said...

II: Your response makes no sense. Supporting American products is the essence of the free market? Hardly.

The choice is the essence. You can choose to support any product - that is free market.

RoR:It is most definitely going against capitalistic principles if I buy a more expensive American-made item when I can get the Chinese manufactured version much cheaper.

B.S. Again, it comes down to choice.

At 12:37 PM, May 19, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

SP -

Your argument is circular, as many of your arguments are.

At 1:51 PM, May 19, 2006 , Blogger Free Agency Rules said...


said: "the popular use includes massive government involvement"

I'm sorry but the correct view of the word "Free" means minimum government involvement.

said" "a quality free health care system"

Woah...In Many European Countries people go on vacation to Hungary to get to see a doctor because the waiting list is too long. The Government regulates the Doctors time in "health-units", so the doctors do the fix that requires the least amount of time, instead of the best fix.

There is no "free lunch" system, health care or otherwise. The Middle Class wind up paying for everything because the rich always have loop-holes and the poor are given a pass.

I for one do not think it is fair to "vote" to "force" my neighbor to take care of me.

Anyone who thinks government does much of anything right, hasn't been on the earth for any significant time. Red Tape, CYA and empire builders insure a mess will always be the result when you have a bunch of bureaucrats in charge of anything. Doesn't matter if it is the Dems or the R's, the result is the same mess.

There is a reason that Europe has over 10% unemployment and they go to other countries when they can't wait 6 months to have their urgent health care attended to.

Study Canada's and Britain’s Health Care system and you will have a different opinion.

This country is not a true "Free Market" system and I say that government interference is the problem, while you say, "More government is the solution."

Ever been to the DMV? Ever been to a government hospital? Ever been in the Military.

I can say yes to all three, and when there is no competition, there is no customer service, poor quality, and botched results, especially when the workers are "Fire proof."

At March AFB, there is an empty, (gutted), Rocket near the front gate, I think it is an Atlas Rocket. They jokingly call it the "Civil Servant"...You can't "fire it" and it "won't work!"

In your shining example of "letting the government do it!" Waste and incompetence always abounds.


At 1:55 PM, May 19, 2006 , Blogger Free Agency Rules said...


I said: "should all believe in" meaning that the data says we should consider it as a model to strive towards, not belief as in faith. I should have made myself more clear. :)


At 2:18 PM, May 19, 2006 , Blogger Free Agency Rules said...


Said: "And finally, goverment does regulate gas prices. It doen't allow price gauging as a pure capitalist free market system would."
Have you been reading the news? There are tons of accusations of price gouging. There always have been.

Truth is the old saying.."High prices are the only cure for high prices" is right on the money!

When the price goes high enough then shale oil becomes profitable and other forms of gas subsitutes as well, which in turn drive prices down. ECON 101.

Said: "But the gaugers would go out of business, right? Don't count on it. They already have used their economic clout to consolidate and drive out competition. Further, the goverment taxes the gasoline already, which is a form of price control, and subsidises the entire US roadbuilding industry at the expense of more efficient forms of transportation."

Taxing the gas as a form of price control is like throwing gas on a fire and saying it is a form of putting out the fire!

Taxes increase the cost of the gas!
Said: "If you believe that the private sector has more efficient and effective solutions than governments, start by privatising the roads rather than my social security, and let's see what happens."

It is apparent you have never lived in Texas. Texas has tons of "toll roads" and they have worked beautifully.

To me the best tax is one where those who use it pay for it. How is it fair to tax an 80 year old woman who has never had children to pay for some upper middle income persons kids to go to public school?


At 5:26 PM, May 19, 2006 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...


your argument collapses when you introduce Medicare into the equation. It's the best-run US healthcare system, period, outperforms everything in the private sector in terms of value, and has customer satisfaction ratings in the 90s. The same is true of the European and canadian systems; I know a fair amount of people un both, and they never tell the stories you present as everyday. If you want horror stories, how about old people having to eat dog food because they can't afford their drugs, cancer patients who can't see a doctor because they have no insurance, or the fact that medical crises are the #1 reason for bankruptcy in this country? Happens every day from sea to shining sea, which is probably why we have the highest infant mortality rate and lowest life expectancy of ANY industrialized country.

Besides, in poll after poll, Americans say they want a single-payer, government-administered health system even if that requires raising taxes. We could lower overall costs today by putting everyone on the health plan for members of Congress, by the way.

:-), StS

At 2:39 AM, May 20, 2006 , Blogger Odysseus said...


I think we agree on many points, but to start I'd counter that my first hand experiences with the health care systems in Australia, Norway, and Spain have shown me a system focused on excellence rather than making a profit. My experience with Kaiser Permanente has shown me a shoddy system based on crappy service once you pay your dues. My experiences in Australia and Norway were for emergencies, and in Spain it was for a routine procedure. In Spain I had to wait a few days to get an appointment, and in Oz and Norway they took me in right away and provided excellent care. They explained to me in Spain that the focus is more geared toward the people who need immediate help rather than those who want cosmetic work or have non-urgent needs. It worked for me.

When health care is privatised the focus goes into channeling as much money as possible to the top few executives and directors, not into providing excellent customer service. The results are that doctors need to show profitability and are given incentive to misdiagnose and perform unneccesary procedures. You also find situations like the one with Senate majority leader Bill Frist's family's health care firm, HCA, where they were bilking tens of millions of dollars, iirc, from the public. The reason for the difference in US military medical care and EU medical care is one of proper funding to attract talented doctors. Same deal with education.

I've never heard of anyone going to Hungary to have faster service, but then I don't have fabulously weathy friends either.

I can't speak for the UK, all I know there is that you'd be hard pressed to call them a socialist nation these days after all the privatising that's been happening there.

We apparently agree that less government is generally good, with the exceptions of health care, education and mass transit. Take
the military, for example. Why do we need four separate branches with four separate beaurocracies in this day and age? Surely there's alot of redundancy there. Put them on a commission basis and when they accomplish clear goals, like the establishment of a peace loving democratic Iraq, then and only then do they get paid. Instead we have a operating model much like the extermination business where it's against the military's interest to completely eliminate the problems. Then we wouldn't need them, anymore, would we? Let's cut out foreign aid, too. The kind of aid we're sending only seems to create problems. So gas prices would jump - part of the solution, as we can now agree.

Part two on smaller government - get the gov't out of the road building and maintenence business. When I talk about privatising roads, I'm not talking about the gov't using emminent domain to seize land and sell it to companies to build toll roads. I'm talking about government getting out of the road building and repair business. Start by auctioning off the more used roads, all the way down to secondary ones and let the world bid. If new roads are needed, surely market forces will find the resources to make it happen profitably, but keep the politicians out. To the extent that Texas is doing this, I applaud them.

Unemployment for me isn't a problem if it doesn't result in crime. US crime rates in Europe are viewed as being appalling. I situation where an 80 yo woman's taxes go to help fund education, not that 80 yos pay much in taxes anyway, provides her with the benefit of not having uneducated unemployable thugs on the street waiting to mug her. In socialist Scandinavia and even here in Spain, it's completely safe to walk city streets in the middle of the night and I think it's worth the price, but then the gov'ts don't spend like a drunken sailor on military and roads because cooler heads prevail.

At 3:39 PM, May 20, 2006 , Blogger Free Agency Rules said...

Sts and Odysseus,

I guess we must disagree on the basic principals of Socialism. I firmly believe that taxing people to provide for others is wrong.

Both Marx and Engles have said that Socialism will without a doubt enventually lead to Communism and that means a loss of Freedom.

Here is how they say it will work...

Those on the dole will continue to grow as people find less and less incentive to provide for others at their expense, eventually leading to the government having to take over all businesses. The public will continue to ask for more and more of life's "necessities" ( House, Car, College, Health Care, etc, until more and more people will opt out of working for others "needs" and jump on the band wagon. At some point, they will say...Why not join them and just stay at home?

Let me give you a microcosm of the problem:

My wife came from a welfare family. Her mother had 10 children because each one provided her with more money from the state.

Going to work meant making less take home pay in most of the jobs that she could do. She paid no taxes and did not have to hire a baby sitter. She lived off the fruit of others labor and it cause her great guilt. When you fend for yourself you feel good not being a burdon on others. When you borrow money from relatives, you can evnetually pay them back and you again have self worth, but when your virtual neighbors, (government), "gives" you money for nothing and you have no one to have to pay back, you feel like a leech and worse than a begger.

When more and more of lifes needs, Free Health Care, Free Housing, Free Cars, etc, are given to people by the taxpayers, more and more people begin to feel like leeches.

Does any of what I said have any impact?


At 5:45 PM, May 21, 2006 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...


I'd say no, and not merely because we've had this argument before. You're basically making the slippery-slope argument, i.e., if everyone has health care, next thing you know they take away your house and send your kids to the gulag. That's nonsense from my point of view. It's also frankly more likely to happen under the current regime.

Economically and socially and from the point of view of justice, universal health care is better for us. It will be cheaper, because we currently waste obscene amounts of money; be economically beneficial, from the aspect of bankruptcies and job creation alone; lead to increased health values and create the social good of better health; I'd even posit that reducing this huge source of insecurity for Americans (and who hasn't been worried about health care before?) will provide a social stability benefit.

What I wonder about is why you don't seem to get that.

:-), StS

At 8:55 PM, May 21, 2006 , Blogger Free Agency Rules said...


I guess it is the possibility that I am either a Far-Right Conservative or a moderate Libertarian. (I am not sure either label fits me perfectly.)

You and I will just have to disagree on this one, because I see government interference in anything that does not help the basic charter of government, i.e., protect my freedom, as intrusions on my liberty.

Just a philosophical difference. I have a very hard time not understanding why it is not as clear to everyone else as it is to me.

Maybe it is my excitement and what some would call "spirtitual testimony" that I get when I read "Bastiat" and others of his philosophy.


At 9:06 PM, May 21, 2006 , Blogger Free Agency Rules said...


P.S. I do see your point of view, but feel it is a much bigger slippery-slope.

You see, it is the point of helping those who can't help themselves that is the biggest difference. We both are concerned about helping the poor.

I feel that "Charity" freely given is the best way to help them, while you have no faith in the charity of men and want the government to forceably take money to help them.

If everyone could vote on Federal Funding of the National Budget, I wonder how many would vote for entitilements and other subsidies? I am against them all including all forms of Corporate "welfare".


At 8:10 AM, May 22, 2006 , Blogger Sodium Pentothal said...


What is circular? I don't see what is so hard to understand here. Free market = choice. You can base your choice on anything. Nationality is one option. Quality is an option. Retailer is an option. There are many different choices that can be made in a free market. I'm not sure you understand economics :/

At 9:27 AM, May 22, 2006 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

Well FAR,

point well taken, and there is always room for disagreement in a free society. Your view essentially says that the individual is paramount, while I contend that there is such a thing as a social good that can be obtained through collective, directed action. By your logic, childhood vaccinations are a bad thing; I disagree.

:-), StS

At 12:00 PM, May 22, 2006 , Blogger Free Agency Rules said...


I feel social good is desirable, it is again just the means of attaining it where we disagree.


At 12:01 PM, May 22, 2006 , Blogger Free Agency Rules said...


Chicken or the egg. That is what I think ii is talking about when she says circular. One depends upon the other.


At 2:05 PM, May 30, 2006 , Anonymous intellectual_insurgent_FAN said...

so then where does the nation-state system as a means of governance fit into this discussion?

a convenient way to ensure to investors that there is something solid to invest into i.e. roads, laws, etc...

At 11:39 PM, June 10, 2006 , Blogger squawpeak said...

II, Capitalism, with it's free market which forces competition among companies, resulting in better, less-expensive products & services for the massses, along with innovation, can serve a nation, and therefore serve patriotic ends.

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this, as I've had a related discussion on several occasions with a friend.

My take is that for the U.S. in particular, the tail (capitalism, greed, quick bucks) wags the dog (a common, adhered to value system of a nation's people). When corporate & political leadership is focused first on dollars and second on people, things are, as you point out, out of adjustment.

Still, if we readjust, reaffirm that American culture is about A, B, C & Dollars, with Dollars in deserved fourth place, and that people are more important, Capitalism can serve a function, and a people.

At 8:48 AM, June 12, 2006 , Blogger squawpeak said...

Another observation...under the founding principles of the U.S., a form of governance (limited, serving to protect the people physically, and their rights), no particular mode of economic system is prescribed.

Capitalism seems to be an organic outgrowth of the people of the U.S. making the choices that by right, we make on our own, without coercion by our government and/or "central planning committees".

I have been unable to see how any forcing of an alternate economic system could be congruous with our Constitutional rights as individuals. So...the challenge is to work at promoting/instilling values which will manifest in new priorities for us capitalists. No?

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