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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Commies at the United Nations

As a follow up to my previous post on the glorious socialist revolution of Hugo Chavez, here is "Jean Ziegler, UN special rapporteur on the right to food."

In an interview with an Austrian newspaper, Ziegler blamed the West for mass starvation in poor countries.

In particular, Ziegler implicated biofuels, European export subsidies, and commodity speculation as factors contributing to the continual starvation of people around the world.

In the past, I've criticized the subsidization of ethanol in the United States. There's certainly a case to be made that by propping up the ethanol industry and subsidizing agriculture, western nations have worsened the situation of people in poorer countries. I kind of wish Ziegler had stuck to criticizing these policies, but it seems that he just had to get his left-wing groove on.

Ziegler said he was bound to highlight the "madness" of people who think that hunger is down to fate. "Hunger has not been down to fate for a long time -- just as (Karl) Marx thought. It is rather that a murder is behind every victim. This is silent mass murder," he said in an interview.

Ziegler blamed globalization for "monopolizing the riches of the earth" and said multinationals were responsible for a type of "structural violence".

"And we have a herd of market traders, speculators and financial bandits who have turned wild and constructed a world of inequality and horror. We have to put a stop to this," he said.

So, according to Ziegler, global capitalism actually represents the intentional mass murder of poor people through starvation and a world of "inequality and horror." Just as Marx thought, I guess.

Does Ziegler know that the worst cases of genocide-through-intentional-starvation in the 20th century were the work of Marxists, like that perpetuated against the Ukrainians? And that Engels himself endorsed  the elimination of the "Slav barbarians" and other "reactionary peoples"  from the face of the earth?

Structural violence, indeed.

Posted by Terrence Watson on April 20, 2008 | Permalink

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Comments

Things would be different if countries like Venezuela and Haiti had a decent climate and a lengthy growing season.

Posted by: John V | 2008-04-20 4:52:39 PM


Re: "commodity speculation" Here is some info SJG.

The Speculators
By Stephen J. Gray

“The hedge fund managers made money from investing in overseas stock markets and betting that prices of oil, wheat and other commodities would rise.” (Daily Mail U.K. April 16, 2008)

We are seeing the “rise” and the continued rising of food prices, oil prices and other commodities. The people hardest hit are in the poorer countries of the world - though poor people and the middle class in the so-called rich countries are also feeling the pinch. But, there is a certain class of people who are profiting from the misfortunes of the majority. These people are the speculators who feed off the labor of ordinary people. While many people labor by the sweat of their brow, these speculators “labor” from computer terminals, cell phones, and stock exchanges, “betting” on the very commodities that most people need to exist. They bet on the price of food and some are making massive profits off the hunger and starvation of people in third world countries. A hedge fund manager had this to say:
"Unfortunately, I think when people are trading commodities, I don't think they are even caring about social impact." (International Herald Tribune April 2, 2008 )

The “social impact” on the world by some of these paper shufflers is getting worse by the day. These financial vultures are somehow hailed as “successful money managers.” Yet, according to some reports these managers are responsible for deaths and famine in some countries. “Hedge funds played their part in the violent rise in spot prices early this year. To that extent they can be held responsible for the death of African and Asian children…” (Daily Telegraph U. K. April 14, 2008).

What kind of persons would take and make profits off the “death” of innocent children? Surely these people must know that their manipulation and speculation on the necessities of life for all people would result in misery and deprivation for many people. These “people” speculators are making a killing - no pun intended - in the “market” while some people are being killed off by their “market success.” And this is “legal”? Oh, I forgot this is “free enterprise" at "work!"

This kind of “work” was criticized by one principled businessman. An article in the Times U.K. of March 12, 2008 had this to say:
“The managing director of Greggs, the high street baker, has attacked speculators for driving up the price of wheat and fuelling famine in Africa. Sir Michael Darrington, who yesterday announced that he would be stepping down after 24 years in charge, said commodity traders were more to blame for spiralling food price inflation…”

Inflated prices are affecting us all. We are seeing the result when we fill our car with gas. When we go to the grocery store, we see the cost of food rising. Most people work hard for their money and they see its purchasing power depreciating. Meanwhile, many of the speculators “investing” in the “commodities markets” are seeing their profits appreciating. This is done by manipulating the markets. The Telegraph U.K. newspaper of April 17, 2008, said this “…hedge funds pour money into commodity futures as a way to exploit the collapse of the dollar.” And the Economic Times of India, April 6, 2008, stated: “Large global hedge and index funds are continuously pulling up agricultural futures in the hope of a killing in the coming months….These gold diggers need to [be] driven away before they destroy more lives through hunger and social unrest.”

There is already “social unrest” and riots in the poorer countries of the world over food prices. Some people are dying of starvation and hunger while speculators profit from their deaths. I believe it is time that those we elect to public office took action against these speculators. These manipulators of the “markets” need to be held accountable for their greed at the expense of the rest of humanity.

Stephen J. Gray
April 18, 2008.
[email protected] Website http://www.geocities.com/graysinfo

Posted by: Stephen J. Gray | 2008-04-20 5:36:17 PM


"So, according to Ziegler, global capitalism actually represents the intentional mass murder of poor people through starvation and a world of "inequality and horror." Just as Marx thought, I guess."

Ever heard of unintentional consequences? If Globalization is such a good thing, why hasn't the situation in these countries improved? Ah, I can already guess that answer: "They just don't want it hard enough".

If you have 100 pears and you have to divide them up between 100 people then either everybody gets one pear or very few people get a lot of pears. That's not really rocket science and yet on this blog this kind of understanding seems to be utterly lacking.

And to try and deflect from today's reality by saying: "But hey, the Communist back in the day killed WAY more people".... Well, the lesser evil of two evils is still evil.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-04-21 9:19:04 AM


"So, according to Ziegler, global capitalism actually represents the intentional mass murder of poor people through starvation and a world of "inequality and horror." Just as Marx thought, I guess."

Ever heard of unintentional consequences? If Globalization is such a good thing, why hasn't the situation in these countries improved? Ah, I can already guess that answer: "They just don't want it hard enough".

If you have 100 pears and you have to divide them up between 100 people then either everybody gets one pear or very few people get a lot of pears. That's not really rocket science and yet on this blog this kind of understanding seems to be utterly lacking.

And to try and deflect from today's reality by saying: "But hey, the Communist back in the day killed WAY more people".... Well, the lesser evil of two evils is still evil.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 21-Apr-08 9:19:04 AM

Whaaat?

Posted by: set you free | 2008-04-21 9:30:42 AM


Whaaat?

Posted by: set you free | 21-Apr-08 9:30:42 AM

Yeah I know. It's really hard to understand. Try again, maybe one day you'll get it.

See, not negative, I am rather an optimist, even when it comes to your reading comprehension.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-04-21 10:22:11 AM


Whaaat?

Posted by: set you free | 21-Apr-08 9:30:42 AM

Yeah I know. It's really hard to understand. Try again, maybe one day you'll get it.

See, not negative, I am rather an optimist, even when it comes to your reading comprehension.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 21-Apr-08 10:22:11 AM

Wow. You're really smart.

How do I know? All I have to do is ask you.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-04-21 10:24:00 AM


Wow. You're really smart.

How do I know? All I have to do is ask you.

Posted by: set you free | 21-Apr-08 10:24:00 AM

Done being childish? Or is that your default mode now because you can't come up with any witty insults?

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-04-21 10:29:06 AM


Wow. You're really smart.

How do I know? All I have to do is ask you.

Posted by: set you free | 21-Apr-08 10:24:00 AM

Done being childish? Or is that your default mode now because you can't come up with any witty insults?

Posted by: Snowrunner | 21-Apr-08 10:29:06 AM

Be afraid. Be very afraid, scaredey cat.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-04-21 10:36:20 AM


Global Capitalism (unfettered) produces an abundance of food. Interventionists led by Western Politicians and their cheerleaders protect domestic markets from low-cost producers causing land uses (particularly third world) to be inefficiently allocated. Ethanol, for example is primarily a vote buying commodity (rather than an efficient energy substitute) through massive subsidy all the while protected from low-cost Brazilian ethanol through a US 52% import tariff.

Commodity traders and their derivatives do not influence supply and demand of the producer and consumer. They "bet" on the ride of price movement along the way. The only exception is when commodity buyers take possession and Governments tend to be the only entities that do that. In the absense of market interventionists, commodity traders would have a lot less opportunity for profiting from wild price movements.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2008-04-21 10:52:52 AM


snowy:

For even more conspiracy theories, check out:

www.abovetopsecret.com

Posted by: set you free | 2008-04-21 10:59:24 AM


Snowrunner said "If Globalization is such a good thing, why hasn't the situation in these countries improved? Ah, I can already guess that answer: "They just don't want it hard enough"."

Anti-biotics are a good thing and yet we still have disease among us. China and India has had their situations improve immensely. Is it perfect? No, it's just better than it was.

"If you have 100 pears and you have to divide them up between 100 people then either everybody gets one pear or very few people get a lot of pears. That's not really rocket science and yet on this blog this kind of understanding seems to be utterly lacking."

To use your pear example... Say you have those hundred pears and hundred people, but 30 people grew them with their time and effort. The other 70 when they aren't at war with each other, spend most of their time lobbying the 30 to be fair and to share. So the 30 do share, time and again, though you'd never guess it by listening to the 70.

At this point, it really doesn't matter what we in the west do. We can continue to share with them and they will continue to pretend that it's all our fault that they won't build stable societies and invest in farming infrastructure and encourage birth control to create sustainable societies, so they simply come to see it as us oweing them the fruit of our labor. At some point, we could even see some kind of world wide communism/socialism take hold and force us to share, but the end result is predictable. The planet will reach carrying capacity and massive numbers will starve. The longer we delay it, the worst it's going to be.

And no matter what, in the eyes of the marxist, it will always be the capitalists fault. Just like religious fanatics think everything is the devils thought. Same kind of religious conviction devoid of reason at work.

Posted by: Benjamin | 2008-04-21 11:11:58 AM


Benjamin:

Good post about the nature of ingrates.

Not sure that your religion analogy works, though. Religious people, for the most part, are happier and more content about how they handle their challenges than atheists.

I would venture to guess ingrates, for the most part, are those who cannot understand they are responsible for their own happiness and their own misery. It's a question of attitude.

In any event, attempts to ‘evolve' humanity by commies and other utopians always fail, mainly because of their willful ignorance about human nature.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-04-21 11:17:08 AM


John Chittick,

Nice post. The ethanol fiasco is public choice economics in action. Politicians buy votes in agricultural states and transfer the costs onto others, even those living in the developing world (the very people the left claims to care about.)

Snowrunner,

The typical cause of problematic unintended consequences (not all unintended consequences are problematic) is government intervention. While removing barriers to trade may also lead to unintended consequences, there is a need to show that government intervention will not simply lead to even worse consequences.

One thing is probably true: the benefits of globalization are not distributed equally. But I don't see why that is an objection to lifting trade barriers and integrating financial markets. Or at least, I don't see why the objection trumps the benefits of globalization.

Meanwhile, I went looking and found this:
http://tinyurl.com/2un4v4

Now, I know this data is inconclusive. But it's at least suggestive. Between 2000 and 2006, GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa more than doubled. Foreign direct investment almost tripled. Life expectancy went up slightly. Infant mortality is down quite a bit. Things appear to be getting better there, not worse, as you suggested.

There are other areas of the world that are probably better evidence of the benefits of globalizaton (e.g. India.) Sub-Saharan Africa is probably contains some of the least developed of the so-called developing world, and I don't want to rest the case for globalization on just how things are there.

But look: what I really want to know is whether you think stopping globalization in its tracks (and how would we even do that?) would make things better or worse in this part of the world. Would things really be better there if the people no longer had access to foreign markets? Would the indicators I'm looking at go up or down if we stopped trading with developing nations? If we pulled up the sweat shops and brought those jobs back to the United States?

I happen to know how things would go here if we did that: many things would be a lot more expensive. Perhaps that would be a price worth paying, if it would lead to actual improvements in developing countries. But would it?

Best,
Terrence

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-04-21 11:59:40 AM


Snowrunner,

I should address your pear analogy, too. The mistake is in seeing economic benefits in zero-sum terms, as if more for person X always means less for person Y. Thankfully, the world doesn't work like that.

Suppose distributing "stuff" equally to each person would mean much less total "stuff" overall than distributing the units in an unequal manner. The fact is that an unequal distribution of stuff can raise even those at the bottom of the inequality above (in overall terms) where they would be on a more equal distribution.

This is one reason why in my previous post I suggested an unequal distribution of the benefits of globalization is not in itself much of an objection to the process of globalization.

Best,

Terrence

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-04-21 12:28:42 PM


I should address your pear analogy, too. The mistake is in seeing economic benefits in zero-sum terms, as if more for person X always means less for person Y. Thankfully, the world doesn't work like that.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 21-Apr-08 12:28:42 PM

Have you invented a way to make something out of nothing? There are only limited supplies of raw materials and thus good. We cannot grow unlimited amounts of food, extract unlimited amounts of natural resources, sooner or later we'll be hitting a limit. This could be an absolut limit or it could be a technical one, but that alone means that yes, ulitmately it will be a zero sum game.

-----------------

Suppose distributing "stuff" equally to each person would mean much less total "stuff" overall than distributing the units in an unequal manner. The fact is that an unequal distribution of stuff can raise even those at the bottom of the inequality above (in overall terms) where they would be on a more equal distribution.

This is one reason why in my previous post I suggested an unequal distribution of the benefits of globalization is not in itself much of an objection to the process of globalization.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 21-Apr-08 12:28:42 PM

Obviously if there is more "overall stuff" then the "breadcrumbs" that fall off to the bottom ones are more than if this wouldn't have been created in the first place. This works well as long as there is more stuff than is needed / wanted at the top.

The problem comes when you hit a level where the lavishing lifestyles at the top outstrip the supply, in this case the little pinch felt at the top causes huge pains at the bottom of the chain.

Again, if you live in an economic world where there is no limit to growth and (theoretical) prosperity this may be a non-argument. In the rest of the world, where people actually do have live with constraints that's a different matter.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-04-21 1:35:13 PM


Anti-biotics are a good thing and yet we still have disease among us. China and India has had their situations improve immensely. Is it perfect? No, it's just better than it was.

Posted by: Benjamin | 21-Apr-08 11:11:58 AM

Consiering the population numbers and the things coming out of China (come on, there are enough people here who like to bash China any chance they get) the overall Quality of LIfe doesn't seem to have trickeled down to the masses yet. The rising food prices also seem to have affected China quite a bit judging by the news coming out of there.

So yes, they seem to be "on the right track" but how in a limited world are all 1.2 billion Chinese going to live like us?

---------------------

"If you have 100 pears and you have to divide them up between 100 people then either everybody gets one pear or very few people get a lot of pears. That's not really rocket science and yet on this blog this kind of understanding seems to be utterly lacking."

To use your pear example... Say you have those hundred pears and hundred people, but 30 people grew them with their time and effort. The other 70 when they aren't at war with each other, spend most of their time lobbying the 30 to be fair and to share. So the 30 do share, time and again, though you'd never guess it by listening to the 70.

Posted by: Benjamin | 21-Apr-08 11:11:58 AM

Food shortages have hit areas that aren't in constant war or upheaval. Even China, one of the largest producers of food these days is suffering from it. How do you explain this?

Business of course isn't moral. So by your example we should just say: "Tough shit, pay us or go hungry". Wonder when they start knocking at our doors trying to get food anyway.

-------------
At this point, it really doesn't matter what we in the west do. We can continue to share with them and they will continue to pretend that it's all our fault that they won't build stable societies and invest in farming infrastructure and encourage birth control to create sustainable societies, so they simply come to see it as us oweing them the fruit of our labor. At some point, we could even see some kind of world wide communism/socialism take hold and force us to share, but the end result is predictable. The planet will reach carrying capacity and massive numbers will starve. The longer we delay it, the worst it's going to be.

Posted by: Benjamin | 21-Apr-08 11:11:58 AM

Just curious. Have you looked at the ability for Canada to feed itself? Any idea what would be on your store shelf today if you could only eat the food that is grown where you live? There is a book out there called "The 100 Mile diet" where two people tried this in Vancouver for a year. It's an interesting read, especially if you extrapolate this to the entire populance in the lower mainland.

The problem is: If we stop taking, pardon, trading with other parts of the world we would be a lot worse off than we are right now. There does not seem to be an understanding in the general populance about this, and making changes so that we can KEEP what we have (read, we need to re-think how we grow food in our own backyard) will lead to a rude awakening in the end.

------------------------

And no matter what, in the eyes of the marxist, it will always be the capitalists fault. Just like religious fanatics think everything is the devils thought. Same kind of religious conviction devoid of reason at work.

Posted by: Benjamin | 21-Apr-08 11:11:58 AM

The problem with Capitalism / Free Markets is that they are really really lousy in making choices that are sustainable. They aren't interested in long term solutions that are FAIR to most people but only interested in what brings the biggest ROI.

As such an unfettered Free Market is just as bad as full blown Communism. The answer lies somewhere in the middle.

And I am making a predicdtion here, based on past historic events, if we do not get a grip on this we will be heading towards totalitarianism again because when the shit hits the fan, the average person wants someone who DOES things, and democracy is really lousy in quickly reacting to crises. There's a reason why there is usually only one captain on a ship.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-04-21 1:46:15 PM


Sorry, I missed this one before:

-----------------------

But look: what I really want to know is whether you think stopping globalization in its tracks (and how would we even do that?) would make things better or worse in this part of the world. Would things really be better there if the people no longer had access to foreign markets? Would the indicators I'm looking at go up or down if we stopped trading with developing nations? If we pulled up the sweat shops and brought those jobs back to the United States?

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 21-Apr-08 11:59:40 AM

I am not against Global Trade, but the way Globalization was implemented it is pretty much a one way street: Raw materials move out, finished goods come in. The European Farm Subsidies have destroyed a lot of local farmers in Africa because they cannot compete on the dumping that was performed.

The next problem I see with the Worldbank and IMF who essentially forced countries to change to a privatization model "Western style" in order to get loans, more or less sellingg off public infrastructure.

I am AGAINST the selling ouf public infrastructure, especially utilities, because I belief they are so integral to a working society that they should not be "for profit". The argument in Germany right now over the privatization of the Railway System is a good example that other people have noticed this too.

Globalization as we have implemented it has failed spectacularly. Will we be able to stop it? No, we're too deep in the muck and as you said yourself, there are great advantages in haven open markets.

Think of it this way: The way we implemented Globalization is that the Western countries showed up to the race track with Formular One race cars, full pit crews and the latest and greatest Gadgets. Meanwhle the rest of the developing world showed up in their Mini and had their cousin with them as the mechanic should something break down.

Do you think that is a fair race?

---------------------

I happen to know how things would go here if we did that: many things would be a lot more expensive. Perhaps that would be a price worth paying, if it would lead to actual improvements in developing countries. But would it?

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 21-Apr-08 11:59:40 AM

Paying a fair price at least wouldn't hurt. Would it get to the right people? That's a different question, but if we want to raise everybody to the same leve then we have to be at least give them a chance. To give them a rigged deck of cards and then chasitizing them for not winning a hand while we clean up table over and over again can't be the answer either.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-04-21 1:54:26 PM


One day, not too far off, kids in Socialism Studies 20 may read how capitalism suffocated its own conscience in the plastic wrapper of a worn economics textbook. And how capitalists unknowingly out-destroyed all the ideologies they themselves once decried as the prime bogeymen and foremost abusers of mankind, all because they plugged their ears and screamed to drown out every warning call against their march of progress in the name of ideological purity and personal freedom.

I think all atrocities, genocide, mass murder, etc, weren't committed in the name of any political system at all. Stalin didn't murder for Marx, the SS didn't murder for Hitler and the Mongol archers didn't slaughter for Činggis Qaɣan. It was all done in the name of pride and selfishness, under the flag of whichever ism they chose to hide and self-legitimize by. Period. Each generation will have its symbol of villainy, the star, the crescent, the swastika, the dollar sign; all masking the source—evil radiating out of selfish pride.

If there's any truth to these accusations that our wealth is sustained by suffering then we have a moral obligation that transcends any petty and transient ideological interests.

The root of responsibility is response.

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-04-21 1:58:45 PM


Since we are discussing Communism and Capitalism. Here are some examples where they bed down together. SJG.
The Corporate Communists/Fascists
By Stephen J. Gray

“The authoritarian elites on both sides operate an ‘over world’ of organized conspiracy which mirrors the underworld of organized crime.” -Charles Levinson in his book Vodka Cola

The book Vodka Cola revealed in intimate detail the financial connections between the multi-national corporate elites in the west and the communist dictators in the Soviet Union before the “fall of communism.” Yet, these same corporate elites at that time were telling all and sundry about the “dangers of communism” while at the same time profiting from their business deals with the communist dictators. On pages 54 and 55 of Vodka Cola there is a detailed list of “Western multinationals with Moscow offices” at the time of the so-called “Cold War.”

And during the Second World War some of these multi-national corporations were hand in glove with Hitler’s Germany, so states the book Trading With The Enemy by Charles Higham. The beginning of the book states, “From the Standard Oil executives who diverted precious fuel to the enemy and the Ford Motor Company plants that supplied trucks to keep the German war machine running, to the ITT executives who streamlined Nazi communications and helped perfect the robot bombs that devastated London; from the Chase National Bank executives who held millions of dollars in gold—some of it refined from the fires of Auschwitz—in trust for the Reich at war’s end, to the top-ranking government officials who kept their deals running smoothly….”

So, what did the American government at the time do about all this corporate chicanery? Page 13 of Trading with the Enemy states “…the government did sanction such dubious transactions-both before and after Pearl Harbour. A presidential edict, issued six days after December 7, 1941, actually set up the legislation whereby licensing arrangements for trading with the enemy could officially be granted.” (emphasis added)

I believe these multi-nationals mentioned in this book were traitors to their country. One wonders how many families lost loved ones because of the treachery committed by these multi-national business elites?

“The multi-national companies are, therefore, the core of modern capitalism and have replaced the Western nation-state as the real political power centers of the age” (Charles Levinson page 16, Vodka Cola).

Now fast forward to today and the multi-national corporate communists/fascists have found another dictatorship to profit from. Many are now firmly ensconced in communist China. China is a country where the organs are ripped from some of the people without their consent; where a one child policy has resulted in forced abortions; where slave labour has been reported: “Thirty-one dirty and disorientated workers have been rescued from a brickwork factory in China, where they were being held as virtual slaves.” [1]
It is also a place where dissidents are tortured; and, it was reported that an alleged torturer was welcomed to Canada. The Epoch Times of May 29, 2007, had this to say:

“…Chinese official Bo Xilai was served with legal papers Monday, questions remain as to why the Chinese Commerce Minister accused of crimes against humanity was allowed to enter Canada in the first place. Despite the fact that Bo was one of a number of high-ranking Chinese officials who have been on an RCMP watch list, he freely entered the country with a trade delegation from China last Friday.” The Epoch Times article goes on to state: “Bo is accused of overseeing a systematic campaign of torture against adherents of Falun Gong, a Chinese meditation practice, in the northeast Chinese province of Liaoning, where he was governor from 2001 to 2004.” [2]

What we are seeing in our world today is a continuation of multi-national greed. Money and profits count far more than corporate ethics. They do not care who they rub shoulders with as long as there is money to be made. The Guardian, a U.K newspaper, had this to say: “a new threat is emerging which neither Britain nor other western states have prepared for—the spread of Chinese and Russian power and influence. The theatre of battle is the City of London. Over the past decade, the UK has allowed its capital city to become the home for many of the world's most cut-throat and dodgy global financiers….all in the name of global capitalism.” [3]

“Global capitalism,” I believe, has become a danger to a free society. When big business involves itself in “trading with the enemy” and invests in countries with slave labour and other atrocities then we ourselves could be next on their policy agendas. But maybe I am being to cynical; after all, we will be getting a “Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP)—that should keep us safe and free! And we also have a “Charter of Rights,” so all is well, eh?!

The evidence from the books I have quoted from is only a small part of the unethical and unprincipled practices being enacted across the world today. Nothing has changed. Oh sure, we elect politicians but the corporate communists/fascists rule.

Stephen J. Gray
July 27, 2007.
[email protected] website: http://www.geocities.com/graysinfo

Endnotes:
1 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6733045.stm

2 http://en.epochtimes.com/news/7-5-29/55849.html

3 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2134875,00.html

Note: I would suggest to readers of this article that they try and obtain copies of the books Vodka-Cola and Trading with the Enemy, which I have in my personal library for over 20 years. If people read the books they will realize how vast this multi-national network of power is.

Posted by: Stephen J. Gray | 2008-04-21 4:03:31 PM


Snowrunner,

There's no need to violate the laws of physics in order to explain how there can be positive gains from trade. Here is one example I like:

Suppose an author is writing a book. He's also a super-fast typist. Anyway, he hires a secretary to type up his manuscript pages for him. As it happens, she's a slower typist than he is. But each unit of the author's time is better spent writing than typing, so he allocates the typing task to her, even though he's technically better at it than she is.

Even when (implausibly) the only thing the typist knows how to do is type, and even when she does that one activity even more slowly than the author could, there can still be mutually beneficial interaction between the two of them.

This is a simple example of comparative advantage at work. What I take from the example is that prosperity isn't so much about the total amount of stuff we have, but about its allocation. If all the land in Canada were somehow equally divided amongst all its citizens, the result would be worse for practically everyone than the allocation of land the market produces.

With regard to some of the other things you mentioned:

"The European Farm Subsidies have destroyed a lot of local farmers in Africa because they cannot compete on the dumping that was performed."

Damn right! and I hate those subsidies, and so do a lot of other libertarians. But is that really capitalism at work, or politics? Those subsidies wouldn't exist if politicians didn't have the power and the motivation (i.e. vote buying) to implement them.

"The way we implemented Globalization is that the Western countries showed up to the race track with Formular One race cars, full pit crews and the latest and greatest Gadgets. Meanwhle the rest of the developing world showed up in their Mini and had their cousin with them as the mechanic should something break down.

Do you think that is a fair race?"

Comparative advantage makes it possible for two groups with vastly different skill levels and technical know-how to engage in mutually beneficial interaction. But, again, politics often stands in the way. Don't you think we could probably do something better with our land than grow crops on it that developing nations could probably sell to us at a much reduced cost (or one that would, comparatively, be smaller, if not for local subsidization.)

I don't know if capitalism is fair, honestly; but I do know politics, and political solutions, are unfair almost by default. Legislation is driven by vested interests, like the corn lobby, who are able to shift their costs onto the rest of us. The free market economy is built on the idea that people should be obliged to pay for the costs of their own activities. There IS something intuitively fair about that idea, I think.

Thank you for your thoughtful response. Sorry I wasn't able to address everything you said.

Best,

Terrence

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-04-21 8:00:56 PM


Stephen Gray has covered the issue extremely well. Those who consider the present system free market capitalism are in error. Personally I would be in favour of globalisation if it existed in a true free market, but we do not have that. We have more and more government intervention and regulations which favour agribusiness instead of agriculture. The goal, and it is being accomplished, is corporate control (chemical and pharmaceutical) of food world wide. In this system the "farmer" ends up working for the corporation, being no more than an assemble line worker. The public is being sold all this under the guise of "food safety".

I think the fellow from Austria has a point, although I think he got carried away. Communism and socialism are certainly not the answer. The answer would be true freedom for farmers to farm and to market their goods without government intervention. I also agree that every country should strive to be self-sufficient in food production (not always possible of course) and to be allowed to market the surplus abroad without tariffs. However this is not at all what the present system of "globalisation" is about.

I understand that most people not involved in agriculture are unaware of most of what is going on out of the eye of the general public. Unfortunately many who regularly gather world wide to protest "globalisation" are usually also unaware, so any opposition to the current situation ends up being seen as a bunch of radical kooks and does more harm than good.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-04-21 8:35:10 PM


Terrence,

the problem with the Author Analogy is that you do not account for the Authors death. Even though the typist may be slower sooner or later she will run out of things to type.

My problem isn't the "redistribution" of wealth. This has already happened, my main problem is the underlying principle of modern economics that does not account for a limited supply on the one hand, and on the other hand has a system rigged that heavily favours already the ones that already have.

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"I don't know if capitalism is fair, honestly; but I do know politics, and political solutions, are unfair almost by default. Legislation is driven by vested interests, like the corn lobby, who are able to shift their costs onto the rest of us. The free market economy is built on the idea that people should be obliged to pay for the costs of their own activities. There IS something intuitively fair about that idea, I think."

You look at politics the wrong way, and so do most people. The idea behind GOOD politics is not to "gain" or "lose" something, it is there as a mediator between different groups.

Likewise, the idea that the State is the enemy of business is also a convinient lie being told by the "have's". Without a solid infrastructure no business could operate. Imagine a world were every business would need to educate people from the ground up, build their own roads etc. No business would be able to do this.

The problem Western politics has is that somewhere over the last 30 years the idea that "private is better" has won and we have given away vast amounts of infrastructure that was paid for by the people to private interests, in the name of "Efficency".

Here's the rub though: A Government doesn't HAVE to be efficent. A Government needs to provide basic and essential services to it's citizens, even if that means there is a loss involved in directly providing this service.

Large infrastructure projects (like train lines) have the ability to spawn off possibilities for private enterprises to get access to an area and thus increasing the revenue stream, so even though the train line may be running at a loss, the third and fourth line benefits buy maintaining this line will probably outweigh this.

Have a look at public transit. Wherever there is a public transit system being build houses and businesses start building up around the corridor, this means additional tax revenue for the Government that has built the line.

If you want to have a look on how to ruin a country that was close to 1st world standard of living have a look at Argentina. Free Market and "fiscal conservative" Government have thrown the country back by 80 years.


As far as Free Market / Capitalism being fair. There are some inherit problems with this too, for one the fact that money tends to pool within certain groups making it harder for new entries into the market. The idea that the market is "self correcting" is nice on paper but in reality this doesn't happen, in part because central banks try to avoid it like the plague but also because companies have managed to externalize their losses and load it up on tax payers.

We do need trade, this has always opened up new markets and allowed us to get things we can't make ourselves and that is a good thing. What isn't a good thing though is if there is a believe that these systems will "self correct".

Trade, like any human behaviour is at it's most basic level motivated by greed, the rules that we have developed over the centuries are exactly meant to prevent one from taking it all. People like SYF will say that this is Marxism and unfair, but my stance on this is that corporations do not exist in a vacuum and are part of the society around it. A society of poor people with only a handful of rich ones is not going to be a peaceful one.

Look at the US history, the biggest leaps were not made by private corporations but by "communal" efforts like the Apollo Space Program, the moment a company could stem something like this we would have a new Government, this time though without any democratic input.

As for Marx, I know for many he is a red cloth for some reason, but read him, and look at the time in which he wrote what he did. Look at European history and what was going on back there. Personally I see signs of us going back to where we were when Marx wrote his Manifest, it resonated back then with people and it will resonate again because right now we are on a collision course between the haves and have not's and that's something that is happening right here in North America too.

The Soviet Union fell when people went on the street, how would you like Canada or the US to go down in history?

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-04-21 8:39:55 PM


Terence

Trying to mitigate the effects of an education / upbringing responsible for such concrete-bound and verbose economic illiteracy is like getting into a fight with a pig. You can't win and you only get dirty by trying.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2008-04-22 10:04:59 AM


Snowy:

The only real functional role states have in today's economic world is writing rules and enforcing them.

When corporate entities are regulated, they do have the right of input, to say how those rules affect them.

So, it's quite natural that those two institutions would develop a closer and closer relationship. Since governments in a free market system cannot function without taxes on profitable corporations and their employees, it is also in the interest of the state to maintain a fair relationship with the corporate world.

A free market embraces the concept of equality of opportunity, in which each individual uses his God-given free will and his talents to create the terms of his own economic existence.

The Marxist model is more about the equality of outcomes.

Since every human being differs in many ways such as ability, motivation, experience, it's no wonder the people of the Soviet Union took to the streets.

They saw for themselves that a person who put no effort into his work received an equal outcome as a more productive person ... a system whose only success at creating quality of outcomes was in making everybody equally miserable.

No matter how much the Central Committee tried, their efforts only made the situation worst.

That's why the former sattelite states of the Soviet Union are now the biggest supporters of the world's beacon of freedom, the US.

And, if all outcomes are equal, why are so many people clamouring to get into the US, while there are few refugee applications into countries which have suffered under the utopian/totalitarian idiots.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-04-22 11:19:01 AM


Today is Earth Day.

And, I'm sure snowy will be happy to tell you today is also Lenin's birthday.

Co-incidence? I think not.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-04-22 11:28:24 AM


Ah, despite knowing better, I play again.

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"The only real functional role states have in today's economic world is writing rules and enforcing them."

And who is going to keep all the public infrastructure going? You? Interested in paying for every road you use because it's part of a private enterprise that needs to create a certain amount of profit on any stretch of road they own?

I would really have LOVED to see you try to make it with that attitude across the prairies 150 years ago.

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"So, it's quite natural that those two institutions would develop a closer and closer relationship. Since governments in a free market system cannot function without taxes on profitable corporations and their employees, it is also in the interest of the state to maintain a fair relationship with the corporate world."

Total number of companies vs. total number of people in a country. Who do you think should have more say in how things are done? Well? Come on. You can figure out.

As far as taxes go, most companies not only pay a lower tax level then the average Joe and Jane but they also quite frequently get tax breaks in the form of write offs and subsidies.

The State's interest should not be to be "fair" (whatever that means in your world) to the corporate world, the States interest should be to provide an environment where it's citizens (not corporations) can prosper. This bollocks idea that somewhat corporations are above reproach is what has gotten us quite a bit into this mess right now. COMMON interest should not be overruled by CORPORATE interest, even if that is your ideal world for some reason.

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"A free market embraces the concept of equality of opportunity, in which each individual uses his God-given free will and his talents to create the terms of his own economic existence."

Too bad that the "free market" isn't free in the sense that anybody who wants can partake. The definition of Free market is: "Hey, Nobody tells ME how to do things, I am an honest person, I know how to behave". I wonder, would you agree that we should have "Free LIves" too? Meaning, do away with any rule of law? You seem to somewhat think that an artificial construct like a Corporation can manage to behave itself, so why not human beings too?

Let's call it the way it is in your world: Free Market Anarchy. Yes SYF, you're an Anarchist.

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"The Marxist model is more about the equality of outcomes."

Yes, the idea behind the Marxist ideal (note, ideal here, if you do not know what that word means go and get a dictionary) is equality for everybody. But as it goes with ideals that won't be achieved and quite frankly Marxism really hasn't been tried yet either. Sure sure, the ideas have been taken to some degree but human greed made sure it wouldn't succeed. In the Soviet Union it turned into Stalinism, in China into Maoism etc.

Quite frankly SYF, those two should be your heros, they did after all exactly what you advocat: They went to the top to the best of their abilities.

----------------------------

"Since every human being differs in many ways such as ability, motivation, experience, it's no wonder the people of the Soviet Union took to the streets.

They saw for themselves that a person who put no effort into his work received an equal outcome as a more productive person ... a system whose only success at creating quality of outcomes was in making everybody equally miserable."

Funny, if you talk with many people in Russia or other former Soviet States right now they seem to think it wasn't all that bad. The average Russian now is probaby worse off than they were back during the height of the cold war. But sure, there is a handful of them who have made it to the top, instead of having the KP at the head it's not a bunch of rich people living it up in London, Berlin, Paris and New York.

If the "Free Enterprise" model that you tout so much is such an efficent force, how come that in 2008 a larage majority of people in the former Soviet Union still haven't managed to reach the middle class life style common in Europe and North America? By your own logic the majority should have won. Or is your explaination now that they just don't want it?

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"No matter how much the Central Committee tried, their efforts only made the situation worst."

Actually the reason why it failed were multiple and it comes down really again to human Greed. The Marxists / Communists were idealists, so were the founding fathers of the United States. They were totally involved in their ideas and ideals and as such when they set out to their respective experiments they didn't count on some greedy little bastard coming by and undermining the effort.

That's the problem with ideologies, they tend to be created by idealistic people who are putting themselves behind the ideas, but human greed, at any point in time, will hollow out any idealistic system.

The Soviet System was a top down approach trying to manage things, in the hopes to minimize any "loss" but of course the bigger the system became the more holes appeared in it too, it's the nature of the beast.

This doesn't mean Marxims is a failed system, it just means humans are humans and ANY human system eventually will fail because most of us aren't idealists.

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"That's why the former sattelite states of the Soviet Union are now the biggest supporters of the world's beacon of freedom, the US."

Eh? Where did you get that from? The ones who thew their lot in with the US did so directly because they were getting paid to do so: "Axis of the Billing" as some people coined it rightfully.

As for "biggest friends", who knows, some news snippets that showed up seem to tell a different story but these places are so far away and mostly forgotten in the West that i doubt anybody here knows what's really going on.

"And, if all outcomes are equal, why are so many people clamouring to get into the US, while there are few refugee applications into countries which have suffered under the utopian/totalitarian idiots."

How many people ARE trying to get really into the US (if you ignore Mexico and Canada)? Seriously, got a number? I am curious to actually see some hard facts on how many people apply for refugee status every year in the US.

A quick Google found a number from 1999 where the US admitted less than 80.000 Refugees into the US (per annum), no idea though if the number was filled or not.

But I am sure you have detailled numbers to back up your claim.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-04-22 12:39:30 PM


Roger wrote:

"Everyone wants to come to America? Sure, every pimp, hooker, dope dealer, con artist..... America is the land of opportunity. If Cheney and Bush can rip off billions and be treated like they are respectable people, then the quick minds of criminals around the world will lust after the fat chickens to pluck in America! You hear of any honest upright people lying and cheating their way into America? You think all those illegal aliens are highly desirable folks whose stamp of approval is enough for you to think America is a desirable place to be? Those con artists are gonna love plucking all the money you have off you."

Seems that roger and snowy have similar opinions of immigrants. Oh, I realize you guys think the US and Canada are in different universes, but do the huddled masses really see the difference?

When roger shipped out for TO did he really think he was going to be part of the great upheaval?

Posted by: dp | 2008-04-22 12:54:25 PM


Seems that roger and snowy have similar opinions of immigrants. Oh, I realize you guys think the US and Canada are in different universes, but do the huddled masses really see the difference?

When roger shipped out for TO did he really think he was going to be part of the great upheaval?

Posted by: dp | 22-Apr-08 12:54:25 PM

Who are the "huddled masses"? The US doesn't accept poverty as an excuse to claim refugee status, neither does Canada. So who are these "huddled masses" that seem to flood into the US and Canada on a daily basis, overtaking "our" culture and marginalizing poor people like you and SYF?

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-04-22 1:04:44 PM


Snowrunner,

I wanted to address a couple of other things you said. I can't get to everything, and I think you've made some interesting points, but there are a few issues that need further emphasis.

"You look at politics the wrong way, and so do most people. The idea behind GOOD politics is not to "gain" or "lose" something, it is there as a mediator between different groups."

I agree with Plato, Thomas Aquinas, and pretty much everyone else. A good leader is after the common good of his subjects. MY point is and always has been that politicians have no incentive to be good in this way. Because of rational voter ignorance (and other reasons) democracy does not provide them with that incentive, either.

"Likewise, the idea that the State is the enemy of business is also a convinient lie being told by the "have's"."

You might find this hard to believe, but I actually agree with you, at least to some extent. Government is a friend to business, at least to some of them, like the ones who can afford a massive network of lobbyists.

When I was in D.C. last summer, I attended several parties put on by lobbying groups (I wasn't supposed to be there, but a certain somewhat attractive state senator took a liking to me and invited me along.) These were HUGE parties, with several open bars, hula girls (yes!), delicious and free food, etc. Guess who was paying for the parties? In one case, it was Altria, Phillip-Morris's lobbying arm. Now why were they putting parties on for politicians... hmm, I wonder!

So politicians make friends with the businesses that can afford to put on such great parties. Smaller businesses that can't afford an outfit like Altria don't get that kind of consideration.

In addition -- and this is a point commonly overlooked -- lobbying itself is an inherently wasteful activity. All the companies lobbying, and these included a certain pharmaceutical company, would probably do more good for the world if they spent more money on R&D and less on buying dinners for politicians. But if any given company did that, its competitors would just step up and continue rent-seeking.

Thus, lobbying has the form of a classic prisoner's dilemma. It would probably be better for all if it didn't take place, but if it IS taking place, you don't want to be the one who refrains from getting in on the action. It's hard for me to blame Altria and other organizations for their rent-seeking under those conditions.

The only solution to this problem I can see is to drastically limit the power of government so there aren't any more favors for lobbyists to buy. Then companies can redirect their resources to research and other more productive activities.

"But as it goes with ideals that won't be achieved and quite frankly Marxism really hasn't been tried yet either. Sure sure, the ideas have been taken to some degree but human greed made sure it wouldn't succeed."

Well, sure, human greed -- human nature, really -- is always a problem. But I think our ideals should be adjusted for human nature. We can't expect people to be selfless except with regard to those in the immediate vicinity, like family and friends.

It's dangerous to form public policy without considering the constants of human nature. A free market economy, too, can have its flaws (negative externalities, for example.) The open question is whether it is not often better to put up with those flaws than attempt to "adjust" and "regulate" the market in a way that (again, because of human nature) will just lead to other problems.

I tend to think that negative externalities can be managed through a good legal system -- as, in fact, they usually are (the common law is full of precedent.) Certain cases of pollution, and perhaps global warming, may not be subject to this kind of solution, though. I'm still not sure.

Best,

Terrence

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-04-23 1:16:18 PM



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