Ayn is so anti-collectivism that she willfully ignores the need for systems at all. Yet, ironically enough, in Anthem, what’s the first thing Equality 7-2521 does when he discovers electricity? Goes and tries to share it with the World Council – an oddly “altruistic” act. What does he do when he breaks from the Collective? Takes Liberty 5-3000 with him, regardless of her wishes.
The fundamental flaw in Randian Objectivism is the same flaw I find in Conservative (Greenspanian) economics – they assume that humans are “rational actors”. These systems are built upon the need for humans to have truly inhuman fortitude, …discipline, strength, and education to fulfill these roles of “enlightened self interest”. Yet Greenspan himself went before Congress and admitted “I had no idea that people would act against their own self interest”.
Fact is that we as an animal will never be these Randian Supermen – and the system needed to create these Supermen would be COMPLETELY CONTRARY TO RAND’S IDEALS in the first place. This is also the fundamental flaw in Libertarianism – for L…ibertarianism to work, everyone must be well educated and indoctrinated to the precepts of Libertarianism – which totally goes against the idea of Libertarianism. Five year olds left to their own devices don’t learn to eat vegetables, they eat ice cream until they die. Humans in a moral vacuum – which is what Rand is espousing – do not, by and large, develop moral systems that allow for a larger construct allowing people to live together in peace. They develop moral codes that reinforce their own baser instincts. See: Medieval Europe, 4Chan, any Halo server.
I’m right there with ya, tho – “The Virtues of Selfishness” changed my life. But I’m also well educated enough to apply it in an “enlightened” manner. I do believe “Altruism” is a bullshit force, like “centrifugal force”. “Altruism” a…s pure self sacrifice with no reward or self interest doesn’t – cannot – exist. However, like “centrifugal force” is a real function of centripetal force, we can expand our idea of self interest to realize opportunities to accomplish the same goals as “Altruism”, but realizing the ways in which is benefits us. I don’t support Feminism out of “Altruism”. but because it is in my greater self interest to do so – the more women are free of Patriarchal oppression, the better my world is: socially, economically, and personally. I recognize that supporting certain forms of collective and charitable acts are in my greater self interest. I recognize that a more egalitarian system of economics benefits me more in the long run than an unequal one, even one in my favor. This is not merely “self interest” which 99.999% of Randians seem to cling to, but truly “enlightened self interest”, with the much larger context of what is ultimately in my best interest. A corporation that lobbies against regulations that keep it from immediate profit potential acts in it’s self interest – but it may cost them far more in the long run. A strategy based on actual “enlightened self interest” – which would include higher wages so it;s employees would be more vested in the companies success, which would raise production, which would make sure that the population at large actual has enough money to purchase the products the company makes, and a whole host of other social and financial beneifts – would make more sense (and ultimately more profit) in the long run, however. In realizing that our self interest is inextricably linked with constructs and aggregates larger than ourselves, and that we have to take care of larger things than our immediate needs and our base desire for accruing resources, then and ONLY then can we even BEGIN to act in a way that accepts the moral responsibility Ayn tries – but ultimately fails – to ascribe to her philosophy. In turn, we also must see what collective actions are NOT in our self interest, nor in the interest of the society at large. I’m certainly no supporter of Collectivism as an ideal construct either. I feel that personal responsibility is VERY important, as is personal liberty. However, as with the smoking ban argument (also a blog post on my other page 😀 ), these competing forces must be managed. I am a firm believer in balance, and in checks against extremism. No society based on a monolithic ideology has ever succeeded, nor, I believe, can it. Life is too complex. The genius of America is that we can take the best ideas from many ideologies and apply them as needed in the context of the present, and not be slavishly devoted to ANY single homogenous ideal. In that, I appreciate Ayn’s critiques of Collectivism, yet I remain also skeptical and critical of her own monolithic and flawed ideological gestalt. 😀
Added from TGP:
I think the fundamental flaw in this entire argument is assuming the morality of profit in the first place. This line is akin to allowing thieves to not only go unpunished, and keep their ill-gotten goods, but to reward them for their success, and hold the rest of the economy hostage while they pillage even further.
Most people DON’T succeed because of hard work, they succeed because they ARE sociopathic enough to f**k whoever they need to in order to get ahead. The number of people who have become billionaires by developing a cure for cancer is far smaller than those who screwed millions of American workers out of their pension funds.
Most of these huge conglomerates and massive banks became so by gaming the system. You look at the history of business, and it’s NOT full of “self made men pulling themselves up by their bootstraps” as American economic folklore would have you believe. It’s corruption, buying off politicians, destroying competition, bullying Unions (or making corrupt deals with them), cutting corners at the expense of safety, screwing workers, polluting communities, etc etc etc. It’s vile and nasty, corrupt and diseased. And every year that more and more legislation and regulation gets dismantled, it gets worse.
I’m all for people working hard and enjoying the fruits of their labors. And that’ll happen as soon as we curtail the horrible, horrible sh*t that gets perpetrated on the hard working people of America by lazy, over-powerful, overpaid, greedy sociopathic f**kheads who add absolutely nothing to our marketplace but doom and ruin.
There has been a pogrom of “redistribution of wealth” in this country ALREADY for the last half century – redistributing America’s wealth, the rightful province of the working man, the fruits of OUR labors, to the already wealthy. Ayn’s vision of a Capitalist Utopia has led to exactly the same place EVERY TIME it has been enacted – the economy has tanked. Alan Greenspan, King of the Randists, even admitted as much before Congress.
Rand and Greenspanian economics rely on ignoring the One Great Truth of the human animal: we are NOT “rational actors”. It is impossible for humans as a whole to display the inhuman fortitude, discipline, and “enlightened self interest” that both systems demand of every single participant for their models to work.
I think Ayn has an interesting and valuable perspective, but it CANNOT be taken as a real world ideology. It’s fundamental misuse and willful misunderstanding of the concept of Freedom and Autonomy as a justification for indulgence in the “lizard brain” aspects of our psyche make it completely useless as a societal model.
The more I read about Economics, the more I realize how little these theories have to do with reality. The number of real forces they ignore to make the math work is ridiculous. Greenspan only realized this after the crash, saying that he thought banks and investment firms would always act in their own best interests.
The roles of greed, ego, malice, acrimony, and other human emotions both simple and complex, which drive every decision from consumer behavior to investment behavior, are completely ignored in Economic theory. Yet these forces are the elephant in the room when it comes to debating economic policy. In the book and subsequent documentary about the Enron scandal, “The Smartest Guys In The Room”, it is a repeated meme that the driving personalities behind the policies that ultimately destroyed the company were not focused on balancing market forces in a plan of long term managed growth. They were instead focused on extracting as much cash as possible from every angle possible, with absolutely zero regard for the health and well being of the consumers, the other workers involved, or even the company itself.
This wasn’t Vulture Capitalism, it was Viral Capitalism, rapacious parasites with no concern for the host, breeding and consuming until it all lay in a composting heap. At which point the virus simply moves on to a new host. More than once we are made aware that (if I may paraphrase) “These were nerds, kids who got beat up in High School, who were going to show everyone.”
I have yet to read an Economic theory that has metrics for hubris, financial arrogance, personal vendettas and nerd rage. Yet the story of finance is blistered with stories of massively driven people whose motivations are the same as Genghis Khan or Alexander – conquest and power. Bill Gates, despite his philanthropy, is little more than a benevolent financial dictator. But I have to wonder – would he have not done more good had he paid fair wages and benefits, not strong armed competition, made better product? Even now, Microsoft employs a small army of “private subcontractors” to avoid a whole host of Labor regulations.
It’s great that he builds schools in Mozambique. But that money has been taken from schools in Redmond. That 50 Billion dollars had to come from somewhere.
At some point, after an equilibrium with wages, prices, and costs has been reached, to continue to grow profits, you have to start fucking people. You fuck your consumers, your workers, or both. This is just reality. You cannot get blood from a stone, but you can sell it inferior goods based on a massive marketing campaign written around arousing an emotional response in place of a rational one, or you can cut the stone’s wages, benefits, or drive the stone to work 14 hours a day. You get the point.
When the people charged with making decisions for the good of the company are complete sociopaths, obsessed with the meth addiction that is the high of wielding absolute power and bathing in gold plated hookers and cocaine mixed with diamond dust, their perspective on how much they give a fuck about anyone or anything but their own Caligula-esque lifestyle becomes a little warped. When the focus is that which keeps one feeling like Jesus would if He was rock star and Paris Hilton combined, what’s a few oily birds? Or dead miners? Stuck gas pedals? Exploding trucks? A few e coli deaths? Throw some more of someone elses money at it, and that’s a weekend, folks! Off to the Hamptons! What are they going to do, fire me? Well, it’ll be hard to get by on this $220 million severance package, but I guess I can make do until one of my golf course buddies gets me another multi-million dollar job.
THIS is what Greenspan didn’t see coming.
It takes a certain personality to make decisions based on pure math with no regard for the very real consequences to others. And these business and economic theoreticals make it that much easier for these narcissistic egomaniacs to not only make but enforce these decisions. And then laugh about those that DO face these devastating consequences. How little humanity do you have to have to do this? Well, Enron not only paid huge amounts to open the California energy market, not only overcharged California for it’s “services” – which included planned outages and rolling blackouts FOR NO REASON other than to drive up profits – and not only absorbed and then raided the pensions of the smaller companies they relied on for labor, but their “traders” mocked and made jokes about little old ladies freezing to death in the dark.
I am unaware of the number in the equation for Say’s Law that accounts for massive, completely inhuman douchebaggery.
As political discourse in this country has become more partisan, it has also become more rhetorical. These “free market” ideas pushed by both parties are imbued with a righteousness, an unassailable “this is American freedom!” morality that stifles the real debate on our system. However, I believe it is NOT Capitalism per se at fault. Capitalism is just a description of a theoretical construct. It is no more malicious or benevolent than the theory of gravity. It is descriptive, not definitive. It does not affect reality, it is merely informed by it – you can’t flap your arms and fly away just because you swap a number in the gravitational constant.
We have focused our unique brand of business to base profits on imbalances, corruption, oppression, exploitation, removing the consequences that would push back against these strategies. Instead of forcing companies to pay fair wages, which would balance market forces, which would put more cash into the hands of the workers, who then become consumers, who REALLY drive the economy, we allow – nay, we REWARD – companies that exploit workers in wage depressed areas to perpetuate that imbalance. Instead of focusing on increasing market share by designing, engineering, and manufacturing superior products that command a price premium that in turn justifies increased wages (which then drives increased spending, which then drives increased standard of living… you see how this works?), companies cut costs, duck government regulations, pay off Health and Safety oversight with porn and weed, and spend a lot of energy on convincing the consumer that their offshore-produced piece of lead based horseshit is a perfectly good item that certainly will NOT catch fire and kill your entire family on Christmas Eve.
The point of this is not that these rewards are inherent in the free market. I think the “the antidote to Capitalism is Democracy” idea put forth by Michael Moore in this regard is a red herring, as much as I loved his film, “Capitalism: A Love Story”. Fact is that these loopholes and grey areas are exploited by Communists, by Socialists, by anarchists, Libertarians, Freedomtarians, Constitutionalists, Whigs, Tories, Bull Moosers, Pastafarians… a quick perusal of human history shows this greater fact: there is NO system that cannot be corrupted or exploited by those who have the drive and ego to do so.
Marxism as expressed by Soviet Russia, China, and Korea all exhibit the same hallmark – a massively egomaniacal leader whose only concern is their own wealth and power. It simply doesn’t matter what the rhetoric is, what the “theory” is. The common thread is the psychology of the PEOPLE, not the math. THIS is what economists ignore. And as far as math goes, sure. However, when applying these theories to actual humanity, these forces HAVE to be accounted for – this is the fundamental flaw in ALL discussions of Poli-Economics. It becomes incumbent on a society to decide – through legislation, regulation, whatever – how to mitigate these forces, to limit the damage done by ego obsessed sociopaths completely removed from the consequences of their actions, to try to bend this conqueror mindset to the greater good.
Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Kim Jong Il, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, all wrapped their narcissism in Collectivist ideas, true. However, the debate on whether these men were Leftists or Righties is irrelevant. The truth is that they all exploited a populist movement to serve their own ends. In the most practical sense, this is just a proven path to power. Again, the idea that any economic or political construct has an inherent moral superiority is a fallacy. There is not construct so “good” at it’s core that it cannot be warped and used to serve the greed and ego of a person, or people. None. Not a one. Religions, governments, corporations, these are all just aggregates of people. Flawed, fucked up people, who have the oddest reasons for doing what they do. People who are themselves aggregates of a complex web of forces that influence every single move they make.
Fact is that no society that has ever embraced a monolithic theoretical system and put it into practice has lasted. Life is too complex. No single theory born of Man can account for all the variables, and as soon as you abandon real life issues for rhetorical purity, you’re done. DONE. And yet that is where we are as a Nation – where it is in fact the American system’s ability to change to address new issues that makes it so effective. Yet here we are, forcing “Free Market Fundamentalism” as the new religion. With textbooks as Bibles, they come, preachin’ the word, with arcane equations, and exotic explanations.
But how do you put into an equation “but he was bullied as a child, and so his attachment to not being seen as a victim will affect his negotiations with other dominant personalities, and lead him to form stronger bonds with people he feels represent the vision he has for himself as a powerful person, and will exacerbate his contempt for those he feels represent the weakling he fears he is”? What Greek character do you use for that? Is it divisible by “she has developed a personal strategy of allying herself with strong women, and then betraying them to get ahead, seeking to dominate them as she has seen men do”? What are the Distributive principles that govern “he really wanted to design evening wear, but his Dad called him a fag, and now he hides this behind a self hating wall of oppressive hyper-maleness, acting out a personality he loathes in order to gain, at least in his head, the acceptance of his long dead Father”?
Does that go before or after the unit cost coefficient? I forgetted.
The problem that faces Progressives is not to defend Keynesian policies, or refute the absurdities of Classicists, NeoC0ns, and Reaganomics – history has done that, to be honest, and the evidence is right the fuck there the textbook Texas is trying so hard to rewrite. The challenge before us, in my mind, is to break the stranglehold that pure rhetoric has on the tribal nature of our lazy ass voters. As long as we all stick to these easily vomited purely theoretical, dogmatic and rhetorical talking points, it will do nothing but further the Culture War, one in which those willing – and sociopathically able – to prey on the lowest, most base emotions of the voting public will win, at least in the short term.
As you’ll see in the coming posts, I have a mantra of my own: Ego Is The Enemy. What seems to be missing from the economic and political discourse is this idea: people are people. Not numbers, not points on a graph, not votes, not unfeeling poll numbers to be manipulated for power. They are living, loving, fearful, amazing creatures who can dole out the abhorrent or divine in equal measure. Being poor isn’t proof of a human’s failing, nor is being rich proof of virtue. Nor should government policy be making that personal judgment.
The idea that certain theoretical ideals have a purity of morality to them is absurd, yet is the single most dominant idea in our current political caucus. It is a toxic part of the “conventional wisdom” that remains woefully unchallenged by either side. WE are morally superiority because we love FREEDOM and LIBERTY. Yet it is the egotism and callousness of this belief in a moral superiority that allows Republican and Tea Party – not to mention Blue Dog Dem, Corporate Dem, and the “fiscal Conservative/Socially Liberal” Independent -politicians to talk about cutting Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Unemployment, AFDC, Head Start and Health Care reform, with absolute fearlessness that their constituents are too disconnected, are too tribally entrenched in their Party’s rhetorical devices to take three fucking seconds to realize that the dick in their ass is their own.
In the end, for me, Progressive politics are about PEOPLE. I am honestly willing to entertain a whole host of ideas on how to fix the seemingly overwhelming leaks in our National boat. If there’s a free market solution, great. If it’s legislative, regulatory, whatever, I have no qualms about exploring the infinite ways to balance financial, social and political forces to achieve better results. I try to keep my ego out of it, to view pragmatically what solutions have shown promise, and what new ideas might have the best chance of working. At the core, tho, is PEOPLE. My fellow citizens. Let’s face it, How the FUCK do Progressives miss out on a Populist movement? One in an election based on the ECONOMY?? THAT is truly absurd. A testimony to how much of the Progressive movement has itself embraced egopolitics. Led by our own rhetorical purists, demagogues, and talking heads, the overwhelming evidence of the success of our pragmatic solutions went unnoticed and unheralded. And it cost us.
So that becomes our challenge. To make the next few years about PEOPLE. And weaning people off of tribal egopolitics to see real solutions based on reason, not fear. Even (especially!) the ones we are not politically or socially aligned with. This is not “us against them”, this is “We the motherfucking People”.
The practical application of this in terms of the economy – for all that nice feel good stuff – is to make this NOT about competing theoretical economic rhetoric. For too long, the Right has led the narrative on economic policy, even with this Administration. They have led with this “aspirational” economic picture, a rosy idea that “when YOU’RE RICH, they’re coming for YOUR money!”. The counter to this is not to debate the mechanisms on paper, or in the halls of Harvard Business School. It is to bring the pragmatic and practical back to politics, to try to sidestep the temptation of ego-politics, to compete with the Right on their own well-defined turf. We must expose and explain this culture of narcissism, greed, and selfish sociopathy, to combat those who have corrupted the system without being cast as being against the system itself.
A system is just a system. Any aggregate of people – churches, corporations, governments, football teams, World of Warcraft raid groups – is only as effective as the people involved. There are always the exploiters, there are always the ones who follow the spirit of the system. The challenge is to balance the restrictions to minimize the harm, while allowing as much freedom to do good. This is true of ANY system.
And if we are to put into place real solutions based on the Progressive principles of equality, opportunity, and fairness, we’re going to have to do more than hope and change. We’re going to have to get the American people to drop the politics-as-college-football and do the math.
There are many arguments against smoking bans, many steeped in the libertarian idea of “personal freedom”. However, given smoking’s unique gestalt, examination of these arguments fall to their own fallacious reasoning. Let’s examine a few, and try to get to what’s at the heart of this argument.
First off, smoking is harmful not only to the smoker, but to those who must live and work in environments affected by smokers and their, uh, excretions. Presenting this as an industrial choice, should we also let business owners decide if they use asbestos or lead paint? Should we allow dumping of waste into drinking water? Should business owners decide if they can pump carcinogens into the air? Should we let business owners decide if they want to follow safety regulations? Should we allow buildings and roadways to be built out of the cheapest stuff the contractors can find?
We have a host of regulations in this vein for a reason. The same sense of entitlement that lets people think that their right to get cancer extends to the right to give everyone cancer, with no compunction about holding food and entertainment hostage while making their faux libertarian argument, is the one that fits our populations complete inability to look beyond their own perspective into the rights of others. One person’s “right” to smoke can affect the right of an entire club NOT to smell like the ass end of a tire fire, mind you, so right off the bat you can see how unequal this is.
Whenever someone starts screaming “freedom!” in America lately, it’s usually with a blind eye to those who’s freedoms are impinged. In this case, it’s servers and restaurant/club staff who have to spend 8+ hours in a hazardous environment. Now, the argument “but they choose to work there” is an empty one – more than one legal case has been made against this reasoning. Again, look at legislation for limiting worker exposure to other dangerous environments or chemicals. But we have turned a blind eye to servers, bartenders, even musicians having to spend working hours in a carcinogenic environment. The “choice” between starving homelessness now or cancer, emphysema, or heart disease later isn’t really a “choice”. is it?
If we can’t ask workers to work in a building filled with asbestos, or lead paint, or in other hazardous environments, then we cannot ask the service industry to do so.
People love to support their own right to do whatever they want, a large part of why we’re a crumbling nation of whinging five year olds. In this particular case, if you don’t care enough about yourself to quit smoking, you probably aren’t going to give that much of a fuck about the consequences to others. Smoking itself is a perfect example of a choice made against one’s self interest in order to reinforce one’s self image.
As to the case of giving owners a choice and letting the “free market” decide, well, if we’ve learned NOTHING over the last few years, it’s that the “free market” assumes people are “rational actors” not “fucking douchebags”, and that the “free market” can’t tell between a fine, handcrafted Prada handbag and a well marketed bull scrotum. It then forces choices NOT based on the viability of smoking as an economic force, but on all the extraneous factors that go into making larger choices – am I going to abandon my smoker friends because I don’t smoke? If a band I like plays a smoking club, am I going to miss them just to avoid smoke? If I make these choices, am I really supporting smoking as an “economic choice”, or am I being forced to endure a social irritant and health hazard in order to make the choice I REALLY want to make? My supposed “choice” isn’t really one at all.
The larger fallacy of “choice” comes into play here, the difference between an active choice and a passive one, and the (mistaken) idea that they are the same. Smoking is an active choice. One must choose to be an active participant to begin with. Being a non-smoker is not a choice in this same way – in the way abstinence is not a sexual position (tho it may be a position on sex). Choosing to smoke AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT is a choice, IF you’re a smoker, and have actively chosen to smoke or not at any given moment. THAT’S your choice. I’m not choosing not to sky dive at this moment, because I don’t actively participate in sky diving. If I have a chute on, I’m making an active choice whether or not to use it. However, if I reach over and push someone who is NOT wearing a chute out of the plane, is it fair to punish them for going for an airplane ride? THIS is the choice smokers would ask us to allow.
Look, I view it like masturbation – I don’t want to outlaw it, but I don’t want you to do it where I’m eating, and I certainly don’t want you to get anything on me. “Freedom of” must be balanced with “freedom from”, and this notion of smoking as an inalienable right that must have no restrictions or infringements it is the height of hubris. In the real world, there are consequences. These are people’s lives. I can’t say smoking or working in clubs had anything to do with a recent friend’s death of lung cancer, but I can tell you that the idea of more friends who work in the service industry facing what he and his family, his loved ones endured is in itself a weighty argument.
So this is where we end up – with perspective. Smoking itself is a habit unlike any other. Illegal drugs at least get you high, and many were originally developed for medicinal purposes. Alcohol has actual beneficial properties in moderation. Smoking has always been marketed in modern times as a fashion accessory. It’s appeal is purely egotistical, at least until the addiction itself takes hold. It has no beneficial effects at all, yet it gets morally equated with these things, even other socially controversial topics such as breastfeeding. It’s not, tho. The World Health Organization(WHO) reports it to be the leading preventable cause of death worldwide and estimates that it currently causes 5.4 million deaths per year. How many of those are people who are having the “choice” to smoke thrust upon them? To say nothing about the health care costs, lost productivity, and disability claims that we ALL share as both taxpayers AND consumers as a consequence of “your choice” to smoke.
We all know smoking is bad for you. If you choose to put that particular gun to your head, go nuts. If you’re selfish enough to inflict your self destruction on your roommates, your family, even kids living in your home, well, there is certainly precedent for preserving your “right” to do so. However, the issue here is the idea that smokers somehow have the “right” to push that choice on the public at large.Hey, smell alone should make this a no brainer – make the case as to why people should be allowed to shit on the floor in bars. I dare ya.
So here it is in proper perspective: to think that one’s right to look cool while sucking down foul smelling carcinogens is worth befouling the air of your fellow citizens, making the places we congregate into hazy, noxious hellholes is an abominable argument of massive self entitlement. To also condemn servers, bartenders, door persons, entertainers, casino personnel, stagehands, roadies, burlesque performers, lounge singers, etc etc etc to lives shortened by their need to make a living just so that people can make a poor decision about their health in public is an absurdity beyond the range of arrogance.
“There are so many opportunities to make a living and throw some money in the bank. It basically comes down to if a person has any sense of the value of money and the moral fiber to make their own way in life rather than get into debt, or milk the system.” – Anon poster
“Hey, I can tell you that if you are poor there is as much (more?) opportunity to get an education then if you are middle class or borderline wealthy.
I got into Brown (which would have been interesting as my wife went there) and I could have gone for about $2000 a year because of my background.
These days if you can get in you can go. – Anon poster 2
There is a difference between having no money but still having opportunity, and really understanding the despair, hopelessness, and pervasive social diseases of the mind that plague the chronically poor.
There are still things people take for granted when talking about their rags-to-riches stories, things not everyone has – a healthy family, good role models active in their life, personal support from friends and family, strong mentors, good teachers, a community that values success, and opportinuties that reward hard work – these things are NOT available to all people, and make a HUGE difference, REGARDLESS of background. Rich kids without these ALSO turn out pretty crappy.
When you look at successful people, you see common threads – there are anomalies, but there are clear advantages that are NOT dependent on financial opportunity. In this sense I agree with you, Amp360, but we also have to realize that these things are not available to all people, and that they make a HUGE difference in whether someone grows up able to sacrifice for achievable goals, or whether they are more concerned with getting by. Having a strong support structure, and being able to start early with achievable and tangible success is paramount (I could go into our self defeating “self esteem” based education system, being a long time educator myself, but I won’t 😀 )
The social and psychological damage done by poverty, especially generational poverty, cannot be understated. When the culture around you is of people who have been beaten for so long – regardless of whether it’s their own actions (drugs, alcohol, infirmity, etc) or not, that poisonous thinking pervades whole communities. Not just ghettos and inner cities, but the rural poor as well. Sociologists have looked at this for decades, and the hardest thing to do when trying to alleviate poverty is breaking the mental chains that keep people from giving up. Remember, these communities often house the infirm and mentally ill, other disenfranchised and people with a very negative view of society, authority, and opportunity, and often promote counter-productive social memes. Expecting people just to shrug that off and tromp blithely to success is completely unrealistic.
We’re seeing this now with people from ALL walks of life that are giving up on finding a job, after almost two years on unemployment. People making $150,000 a year who bought homes beyond their price range, enticed by predatory lenders, who were counting on that equity for future expenses have been suddenly faced with downsizing, and have given up on finding another middle management position, but can’t work at McDonalds.
To assume moral standing via socioeconomic situation is an American disease. To say that someone is shiftless, lazy, or a criminal defrauding the government simply because of their economic situation is the height of American Prosperity Gospel hubris. NO ONE enjoys being on the bottom. NO ONE. You may find ways to compensate for the burden of shame – themselves usually counter-productive, but slightly better than shoving a gun in one’s mouth – but it’s a rare person that wouldn’t rather be a productive member of society. Yet to say that you know what challenges people face because you went without money is like saying you know what a cheeseburger tastes like because you’ve eaten sand.
Instead of viewing this as a morality play, where God punishes the weak with poverty and rewards the just with riches, we have to view this in terms of the human cost. Without compassion there can be no understanding. Without understanding there can be no solutions.
Instead of judging people for being poor, and continuing the shame-and-blame cycle that KEEPS people from trying harder (“If you’re just going to call me a lazy piece of trash, why shouldn’t I act like one?”), we need to understand the roadblocks people put in their own way as well as the systemic inequalities and psychological morasses people fall into.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans are out of work, and there’s no end in sight. The more of these people who go long enough to be snared by the poverty mindtraps of despair and hopelessness, the longer it’ll take for us to recover, and the more radical solutions we’re going to need. Every day, more people are internalizing this loathing we have of the poor, the unemployed, etc. Within the Western world, we have the most brutal and counter-productive view of our needy. And now it threatens whole swathes of American people.
Whatever political solutions you favor, if they are not based on the complex reality of the varying layers and levels of poverty and it’s vast framework of both good and bad gestalts, we’re going to fail.
I’ve been reading political Econ books all winter, and I’ve never been so appalled. Joshua Holland’s “15 Biggest Lies About the Economy” goes into these memes a bit, to debunk “supply side economics”, “tax cuts pay for themselves”, “tax cut…s for the wealthy create jobs”, etc.
Now reading “13 Bankers”, and it’s enraging. This trend of deregulation to allow for these exotic financial products has been building since Nixon, tho it was under Reagan where it became a mantra if the Right. The Dems have been complicit as well, however.
The numbers are staggering. The face value of the derivatives and credit default swap markets exceeded the output of the entire world economy at one point. More money is made packaging debt into these supposed amortized risk products than is added to the economy via the loans themselves.
Somewhere around 20% of the wealth made in this country is via financial products that don’t add a single real product to the economy. They just manipulate the flow of money. Take on debt, sell the risk to unsuspecting investors, and pocket the cash.
This is all in a political and economic climate where these ideas of deregulation and “money=speech” and “corporations are people too” are sold as conventional wisdom by people so removed from anything except the ego-fueled money-as-happiness-metric that they are essentially egomaniacal sociopaths. Wall Street and Washington – even among many Democrats – has been an echo chamber of ego and greed for so long these toxic ideas have become accepted wisdom, with even the purveyors of these myths not bothering to check them out, and so the eager to please tail wagging puppy that is our so-called media repeated these ideas verbatim, without challenge – because those that challenge lose insider access, and the perks that those privileges entail.
It’s a big fucking bubble of “we are the rock stars” made almost entirely of people nerdy enough to do well in math and computers in high school, driven enough to not care who they fuck in order to show the head cheerleader that they made a mistake not going to prom with them. In “The Smartest Guys In The Room”, about the Enron failure, more than one person mentions this psychological profile in talking about the culture at Enron. The egos, the money, the power, everyone wants in. It’s a big circle jerk between power mad politicians and money hungry billionaires, and no one gives a fuck about us.
Not even us. We’re too busy playing acting rock star, looking down our noses at Snooki and pretending we’re P Diddy or Ke$ha drinking Henny and Hypnotiq at the club to realize that we’ve been had. “Unless that shit is going to put a G6 in my mufuckin garage, I ain’t votin for it. Regardless of the fact that I’m a 22 year old unemployed suburban White mom of three on food stamps who can’t afford health care for my kids.”
We shove ego down our gullets like we do salt encrusted fat. Fuck the strain of reality, I’m just going to pretend my life away, and spend all my time trying to convince others that I’m a big shot. And this is what America is, whether you’re an urban teen or a Wall Street hustler, a sanctimonious PTA member or a stripper. It’s all just fucking heroin for the ego, and it’s going to kill us all.
(A Ron Paul-bertarian chimed in, referencing some cancer miracle cure and a “it’s the Elites of both sides” argument. My response:)
Government isn’t the problem. Oligarchic control of the government by corporate and industry spending is. That’s a significant difference. Deregulating does nothing but increase that oligarchy.
It’s worth noting that the HCR Bill that was passed had to be approved by Big Pharma. What was important is NOT the cost to the taxpayer – you’ll note that the GOP didn’t give a fuck about the damage the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy would do. It was what would happen to the corporate bottom line. What makes you think any other legislation that has been passed has been any different? But the answer simply CANNOT BE to then stop passing legislation. It HAS to be to remove the influence of corporate and industry interest from the equation. Election and lobbyist reform is what’s needed, so we can enact the other reforms – and regumotherfuckinglation that is needed to keep the greedmongers in check.
The government is the expression of the the aggregate. It’s merely a construct by which we enact the so-called “will of the people”. That’s all. It is merely a collective agreement between the citizens to make it easier to accomplish goals that are best served in the aggregate. The co-opting of that mandate by monied interests and the circle jerk of lobbyists, many of whom are former representatives, has more to do with election law than any inherent “evil” in the construct of government. The government is us – if it sucks, it’s because we make it so. For it to not suck, we have to have the political will to make it not so – elect better representatives, become more engaged, more rational, more pragmatic.
The case for HCR is pretty locked, on economic and consumer levels as well as moral. 30%+ of private health insurance costs go to administration. 3% of Medicare goes to administration. And the government competes in the labor pool just like everyone else. By definition, a for-profit paradigm for health insurance is going to result in lowered care standards – denial of care is where the profit margins lie. By definition, the fewer people that are helped, the larger that margin is. It is unique in that regard, that profit lies in NOT delivering product, but in denying it. Yet government subsidies for development keeps innovation high. This is a specific industry where the aggregate in a non-profit system makes the most sense.
IT’S MATH, BITCHES. Even the insurance company’s own paradigm – offering discounts for larger groups, with individual HC plans costing more – points right at the reason: amortizing risks and expenditures over a larger population minimizes their impact. This is Business 101. Spread risk over a larger pool. That’s the theory behind credit default swaps and mortgage derivatives, and they sure seem to love the fuck out of that shit, don’t they? So what more efficient way to do so than to have one big health care pool, where all the resources go into the product, the care itself?
Yet you are still free to try all the quack science-free medical bullshit you want. Now THAT’S some damn FREEDOM.
This false equivalency thing also shows a lack of actual analysis. What creates this paradigm of similarity is the rules of the game itself. EVERYONE is forced to kowtow to monied interests, or else they won’t get elected. Look at the numbers since the Citizens United ruling – more money was spent in these midterms than in any election prior – including presidential ones. Of course everyone acts the same with a fucking gun to their head. It’s Hobson’s Choice – take the limited power we allow you, or don’t get elected. That’s not inherent in the system, it’s not part of “evil government”, it’s just the way the game has been rigged. So we unrig that bitch.
But people are hoodwinked into thinking that they’re oh-so-smart-and-unconventional-thinkers and work just as hard to derail their own self interest, and why? Because they think it’s cool to be all up in the hemp oil and alternative cancer cures, thinking they’re smarter and more informed than anyone else? Ask the Anti-Vax crowd how that’s worked out for them. I remember the AIDS deniers meme, I have zero fucking tolerance for snake oil and miracle cure nonsense. Like I said, iRenew bracelets are a tax on stupidity (even the makers acknowlege there’s no science behind it). Indeed, without stringent medical regulation, we’d all still be swilling laudanum and dying of the plague. But back on topic.
It’s a brutal cycle. Corporations scream for deregulation, they overleverage for profit, and then hold the economy hostage, and the private risk becomes public debt. Ireland is facing stringent austerity measures because they had to bail out the Bank Of Ireland. They had to do so because it was leveraged beyond all sanity. Yet they cannot allow the bank to fail. But they also can’t raise the tax rates because then all the companies that claim Ireland – because it has the lowest corporate taxes in the EU – are threatening to leave. So what happens is the poor and lower middle class bear the burden of cut services and higher costs while any “moral suasion” that is supposed to correct these kinds of behaviors is totally lost because the fucking Bank gets away unscathed.
Which is exactly where we are.
So who’s at fault here? Big Bad Government? Or the industries that drive dump trucks of money up to everyone’s house to make all their mistakes go away? Who do we punish? The poor by cutting services? The middle class by collapsing to corporate will, allowing increasing profits by dismantling the few threadbare regulations that force the tiniest modicum of fair play? There’s a huge, glaring difference between reform and deregulation. Our economy chugged through the greatest, safest period in economic history while well-regulated, with legislation like the Fair Banking Acts, Glass-Steagal, etc in place. It is the one shiny period without bubbles and busts. Every industry that has been deregulated in modern America has contracted or collapsed, with these promises of “competition” evaporating as clearly as dew on a summer’s morn. Trains. Airlines. Banks. There are fewer of each of these offering fewer services at greater consumer cost than there were before deregulation. History is our evidence of these things. Deregulating health care does NOT promote competition, it promotes cooperation, which means more monopolies with less oversight, which means another big old dick in our asses. It means yet another blasted economic landscape with nothing but apex predators, and we’re the fucking prey.
There is no case against the concept of universal health care. Because it is an industry with a singular goal – your health – it is uniquely appropriate to be run collectively. Either a treatment is appropriate or it is not. Innovation is not profit dependent (it is funding dependent, ironically the one place where supply side economics works – fund it, and they will develop it). Making the consumer the focus, and not the profit, leads to better health care, as well as more holistic and lifestyle-oriented care, with preventative measures and alternatives – which doctors are more likely to recommend without a Blue Cross bean counter looking over their shoulder – as a larger part of cradle-to-grave comprehensive health strategies.
It makes economic sense, it makes consumer sense. The only people whining about it are the people who will no longer be able to improve their bottom line by allowing sick kids to die as they bankrupt their parents, and they’ll use any hot button issue – abortion, immigrants using social services, “evil government all up in your shit”, – to get a broad array of ideological and rhetorical memes to support their cause.
Need proof? Look at the ranting cross-platform ideology of the AZ shooter. That insane babble wafting between Right and Left wing memes is exactly what fuels this crap. Arbitrary acceptance of shadow conspiracies and apocalyptic end of days rhetoric with no real critical thinking, rolled into one violent, frustrated mess, simplified into contrarian faux libertarianism. VOTE EM ALL OUT! GUBMINT IS EVIL! GUBMINT OUT OF MY MEDICARE! PENECILLIN IS THE DEBBIL! It’s just nonsense screamed by people who don’t understand why their so fucked, when the answer is as clear as it could be.
But education reform is another rant entirely.
So this is my new omnibus blog. I’ve tried splitting things up into categories, but truth be told, considering that a mainstay of my overall philosophy is that everything is interconnected, that makes about as much sense as the final episode of Lost. It may have seemed like a good idea for a hot minute, but in the end, remains unsatisfying.
Be aware, I am a rampant Progressive Atheist, with a very low tolerance for stupidity, especially of the willful kind, and will not hesitate to wield the ole Sword of Snark. This isn’t about tolerance or fairness, this is my fucking blog. Don’t come shit on my rug and expect to be “tolerated”. Trolls are a sad fact of life in this ego-or-die world, and mocking them is one of the few pleasures I have left in this world, thanks to the collapse of my metabolism and ability to process alcohol in vast quantities. Ah, the joys of the 4 AM donuts after a night of pint glasses of whiskey. Time, you can eat a bag of shit.
Along with politics and social criticism, I’ll be doing movie and music reviews, maybe even some recording logs and gear stuff. We’ll see. I’ll try to tag stuff so people can sort easily. As if anyone’s ever going to read this. But there it is, my imaginary reader. Enjoy.