Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 02:04 PM
Number of posts: 69,123
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 02:04 PM
Number of posts: 69,123
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(oddly enough, this picture is from The Hindu newspaper. Perhaps they aren't so anti-smoking as the West)
Yes, it is a HORRIBLE pun on my part. Yet how could I resist? While the author of The Hunt for Red October is laid to rest, we are entering a real Red October, one of bloodshed, potential for bloodshed, and bloodthirstiness, not to mention the usual avarice, coveting, and theft. But first, we remember....
Thomas Leo "Tom" Clancy, Jr. (April 12, 1947 – October 1, 2013) was an American author best known for his technically detailed espionage and military science storylines that are set during and in the aftermath of the Cold War, along with video games which bear his name for licensing and promotional purposes. Seventeen of his novels were best-sellers, with over 100 million copies in print. His name was also a brand for similar movie scripts written by ghost writers and many series of non-fiction books on military subjects and merged biographies of key leaders. He was a part-owner of the Baltimore Orioles and Vice Chairman of their Community Activities and Public Affairs committees...wikipedia
So, a Man of the 1%, or at very worst, the 10%, though he didn't start out wealthy. And yet, he had vision: a vision of what is, what could be, what would be; and the gift of story-telling. No doubt that's how he kept his sanity, while in his original line of work: insurance.
Clancy was born at Franklin Square Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland and grew up in the Northwood neighborhood. Clancy was the second of three children to Thomas, who worked for the United States Postal Service, and Catherine who worked in a store's credit department. His mother worked in order to send him to the private Catholic Loyola Blakefield in Towson, Maryland, graduating with the class of 1965. He then attended Loyola College (now Loyola University) in Baltimore, graduating in 1969 with a degree in English literature. While at university, he was president of the chess club. He joined the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps, however he was ineligible to serve due to his nearsightedness, which required him to wear thick eyeglasses. After graduating he worked for an insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1973, he joined the O. F. Bowen Agency, a small insurance agency based in Owings, Maryland, founded by his wife's grandfather. In 1980, he purchased the insurance agency from his wife's grandmother, and wrote novels in his spare time. While working at the insurance agency, he wrote The Hunt For Red October.
Clancy's literary career began in 1982 when he started writing The Hunt for Red October which in 1985, he sold for publishing to the Naval Institute Press for $5,000. The publisher was impressed with the work; Deborah Grosvenor, the editor at the Naval Institute Press that read through the work, said later that she convinced the publisher that "I think we have a potential best seller here, and if we don’t grab this thing, somebody else would," and considered that Clancy had an "innate storytelling ability, and his characters had this very witty dialogue". The publisher requested Clancy to cut numerous technical details, amounting to about 100 pages. Clancy, who had wanted to sell 5,000 copies, ended up selling over 45,000. After publication, the book received praise from President Ronald Reagan, calling the work "my kind of yarn", subsequently boosting sales to 300,000 hardcover and 2 million paperback copies of the book, making it a national bestseller. The book was critically praised for its technical accuracy, which led to Clancy meeting several high-ranking officers in the U.S. Military.
Clancy's fiction works, The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears, have been turned into commercially successful films with actors Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck as Clancy's most famous fictional character Jack Ryan, while his second most famous character John Clark has been played by actors Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber. All but two of Clancy's solely written novels feature Jack Ryan or John Clark.
The first NetForce novel was adapted as a television movie, starring Scott Bakula and Joanna Going. The first Op-Center novel was released to coincide with a 1995 NBC television mini-series of the same name (Tom Clancy's Op-Center) starring Harry Hamlin and a cast of stars. Though the mini-series did not continue, the book series did, but it had little in common with the first mini-series other than the title and the names of the main characters.
With the release of The Teeth of the Tiger, Clancy introduced Jack Ryan's son and two nephews as main characters; these characters continue in his three latest novels, Dead or Alive, Locked On and Threat Vector.
Clancy wrote several nonfiction books about various branches of the U.S. armed forces (see non-fiction listing, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Clancy ). Clancy also branded several lines of books and video games with his name that are written by other authors, following premises or storylines generally in keeping with Clancy's works. These are sometimes referred to by fans as "apostrophe" books; Clancy did not initially acknowledge that these series were being authored by others, only thanking the actual authors in the headnotes for their "invaluable contribution to the manuscript".
By 1988, Clancy had earned $1.3 million for The Hunt for Red October and had signed a $3 million contract for his next three books. By 1997, it was reported that Penguin Putnam Inc. (part of Pearson Education) would pay Clancy $50 million for world rights to two new books, and another $25 million to Red Storm Entertainment for a four-year book/multimedia deal. Clancy followed this up with an agreement with Penguin's Berkley Books for 24 paperbacks to tie in with the ABC television miniseries Tom Clancy's Net Force aired in the fall/winter of 1998. The Op-Center universe has laid the ground for the series of books written by Jeff Rovin, which was in an agreement worth $22 million, bringing the total value of the package to $97 million.
In 1993, Clancy joined a group of investors that included Peter Angelos and bought the Baltimore Orioles from Eli Jacobs. In 1998, he reached an agreement to purchase the Minnesota Vikings, but had to abandon the deal because of a divorce settlement cost.
In 2008, the French video game manufacturer Ubisoft purchased the use of Clancy's name for an undisclosed sum. It has been used in conjunction with video games and related products such as movies and books...
We'll follow his story, and many more, to the bitter end (or surprise twists, as it may befall).
His website: http://www.tomclancy.com/
Posted by Demeter | Fri Oct 4, 2013, 05:08 PM (74 replies)
A research team in Europe has achieved a world record-setting solar conversion efficiency of 44.7 percent, and assuming that higher efficiency translates into lower costs, it’s yet another indicator that we’re only at the beginning of a long, steep decline in the cost of solar power....
Posted by Demeter | Thu Oct 3, 2013, 08:59 PM (2 replies)
The private sector allied with government is a second IRS...
The government of the “world’s only superpower,” the “exceptional,” the “indispensable” country, claims to know what is best for Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Mali, Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, China, indeed for the entire world. However, the “indispensable” country cannot even govern itself, much less the world over which the “superpower” desires hegemony. The government of the “world’s only superpower” has shut itself down. The government has shut itself down, because it cannot deal with the budget deficit and mounting public debt caused by twelve years of wars, by financial deregulation that allows “banks too big to fail” to loot the taxpayers, and by the loss of jobs, GDP, and tax base that jobs offshoring forced by Wall Street caused.
The Republicans are using the fight over the limit on new public debt to block Obamacare. The Republicans are right to oppose Obamacare, but they are opposing Obamacare largely for ideological reasons when there are very good sound reasons to oppose Obamacare.
Last February 3, I posted on this website a column, “Obamacare: A Deception,” written by an expert on the subject. http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2013/02/03/obamacare-a-primer/
When Republicans for ideological reasons blocked a single-payer health system like the rest of the developed world has and, indeed, even some developing countries have, the Obama regime, needing a victory, went to the insurance companies and told them to come up with a health care plan that the insurance lobby could get passed by Congress. Obamacare was written by the private insurance industry with the goal of raising its profits with 50 million mandated new customers.
Obamacare works for the insurance companies, but not for the uninsured. The cost of using Obamacare is prohibitive for those who most need the health coverage. The cost of the premiums net of the government subsidy is large. It amounts to a substantial pay cut for people struggling to pay their bills. In addition to the premium cost, it is prohibitive for hard pressed Americans to use the policies because of the deductibles and co-pays. For the very poor, who are thrown into Medicaid systems, any assets they might have, such as a home, are subject to confiscation to cover their Medicaid bills. The only people other than the insurance companies who benefit from Obamacare are the down and out who are devoid of all assets. This might prove to be a growing percentage of Americans. On September 19 the New York Times on the front page of the business section reported what I have reported for years: that real median family incomes in the US are where they were a quarter of a century ago. In other words, in a quarter of a century there has been no income growth for the median American family. In 2013 payroll employment is below where it was six years ago. During 2013 most of the new jobs, barely sufficient to stay even with population growth and insufficient to recover the job loss from the recession, have been part-time jobs that do not provide any discretionary income with which to drive a consumer economy.
Obamacare has resulted in the health insurance companies, who thought that they would be living in high profits from the mandated health coverage, being outsmarted by employers, who have reduced their full-time workers to part-time in order to avoid Omamacare’s requirement to provide health coverage to those employees who work 30 hours a week or more. Employers can get away with this, because jobs are hard to find. The lack of employment opportunities results in Americans with engineering degrees working as retail sales clerks and as shelf stockers in Walmart and Home Depot. Despite the abundance of unemployed and under-employed American technical and engineering workers, the large corporations lobby Congress for more H-1B visas to bring in lowly paid foreigners with the argument that there is a shortage of qualified Americans for technical work. As I have pointed out so many times, if there were a shortage of engineering and technical workers, salaries would be rising, not falling.
For millions of employees, Obamacare means cut hours and less take home pay plus out-of-pocket expenses to purchase an Obamacare health policy. For most people covered by Obamacare, this is a lose-lose situation. It is also a lose-loss situation for the vast majority of the young. Most young people, unless they have jobs that provide health coverage, do without it, because the chances of the young having heart attacks, cancer, and other serious health problems is low. Obamacare, however, requires the healthy young to pay premiums for coverage or to pay a penalty to the IRS...In my day this might not have been a problem. However, today there are few jobs for the young that pay enough to have an independent existence. The monthly payroll jobs reports do not show well-paying jobs. The Labor Department’s projections of future jobs are not jobs that pay well. For the youth, it seems that the penalty is less than the premium, so youthful penalties paid out of waitress and bartender tips will subsidize the unusable Obamacare health policies for the poor adults who are not thrown into Medicaid, which confiscates their assets, if any.
Obamacare benefits only two classes of people. It benefits employers who drop their employees working hours below the hours specified for Obamacare coverage, and it benefits the insurance companies or the IRS who collect the premiums and penalties. Many of the people who pay the premiums won’t be able to use the policies because of co-pays and deductions. The very poor with no assets might receive health care if they reside in states that accept the Medicaid provisions of Obamacare.
In 21st century America, the few people who have experienced income gains are the executives and shareholders of firms who offshored their production for US markets, Wall Street which makes bets covered by the Federal Reserve, and the military-security complex which has been enriched by the neoconservatives’ wars. Every other American has lost.
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is now available.
Posted by Demeter | Wed Oct 2, 2013, 09:43 PM (0 replies)
I am reading and rereading the debates among some of the great radical thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries about the mechanisms of social change. These debates were not academic. They were frantic searches for the triggers of revolt.
Vladimir Lenin placed his faith in a violent uprising, a professional, disciplined revolutionary vanguard freed from moral constraints and, like Karl Marx, in the inevitable emergence of the worker’s state. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon insisted that gradual change would be accomplished as enlightened workers took over production and educated and converted the rest of the proletariat. Mikhail Bakunin predicted the catastrophic breakdown of the capitalist order, something we are likely to witness in our lifetimes, and new autonomous worker federations rising up out of the chaos. Pyotr Kropotkin, like Proudhon, believed in an evolutionary process that would hammer out the new society. Emma Goldman, along with Kropotkin, came to be very wary of both the efficacy of violence and the revolutionary potential of the masses. “The mass,” Goldman wrote bitterly toward the end of her life in echoing Marx, “clings to its masters, loves the whip, and is the first to cry Crucify!”
The revolutionists of history counted on a mobilized base of enlightened industrial workers. The building blocks of revolt, they believed, relied on the tool of the general strike, the ability of workers to cripple the mechanisms of production. Strikes could be sustained with the support of political parties, strike funds and union halls. Workers without these support mechanisms had to replicate the infrastructure of parties and unions if they wanted to put prolonged pressure on the bosses and the state. But now, with the decimation of the U.S. manufacturing base, along with the dismantling of our unions and opposition parties, we will have to search for different instruments of rebellion.
We must develop a revolutionary theory that is not reliant on the industrial or agrarian muscle of workers. Most manufacturing jobs have disappeared, and, of those that remain, few are unionized. Our family farms have been destroyed by agro-businesses. Monsanto and its Faustian counterparts on Wall Street rule. They are steadily poisoning our lives and rendering us powerless. The corporate leviathan, which is global, is freed from the constraints of a single nation-state or government. Corporations are beyond regulation or control. Politicians are too anemic, or more often too corrupt, to stand in the way of the accelerating corporate destruction. This makes our struggle different from revolutionary struggles in industrial societies in the past. Our revolt will look more like what erupted in the less industrialized Slavic republics, Russia, Spain and China and uprisings led by a disenfranchised rural and urban working class and peasantry in the liberation movements that swept through Africa and Latin America. The dispossessed working poor, along with unemployed college graduates and students, unemployed journalists, artists, lawyers and teachers, will form our movement. This is why the fight for a higher minimum wage is crucial to uniting service workers with the alienated college-educated sons and daughters of the old middle class. Bakunin, unlike Marx, considered déclassé intellectuals essential for successful revolt.
It is not the poor who make revolutions. It is those who conclude that they will not be able, as they once expected, to rise economically and socially. This consciousness is part of the self-knowledge of service workers and fast food workers. It is grasped by the swelling population of college graduates caught in a vise of low-paying jobs and obscene amounts of debt. These two groups, once united, will be our primary engines of revolt. Much of the urban poor has been crippled and in many cases broken by a rewriting of laws, especially drug laws, that has permitted courts, probation officers, parole boards and police to randomly seize poor people of color, especially African-American men, without just cause and lock them in cages for years. In many of our most impoverished urban centers—our internal colonies, as Malcolm X called them—mobilization, at least at first, will be difficult. The urban poor are already in chains. These chains are being readied for the rest of us. “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets or steal bread,” W.E.B. Du Bois commented acidly....
Posted by Demeter | Wed Oct 2, 2013, 09:11 PM (0 replies)
The richest 400 Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 180 million taken together. The political system is in deadlock. Social and economic pain continue to grow. Environmental devastation and global warming present growing challenges. Is there any path toward a more democratic, equal and ecologically sustainable society? What can one person do? In fact, there is a great deal one person working with others can do. Experiments across the country already focus on concrete actions that point toward a larger vision of long-term systemic change - especially the development of alternative economic institutions. Practical problem-solving activities on Main Streets across the country have begun to lay down the elements and principles of what might one day become the direction of a new system - one centered around building egalitarian wealth, nurturing democracy and community life, avoiding climate catastrophe and fostering liberty through greater economic security and free time.
Margaret Mead famously observed: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Some of the ten steps described below may be too big for one person to take on in isolation, but many are exactly the right size for a small and thoughtful group committed to building a new economy, restoring democracy and displacing corporate power. As the history of the civil rights movement, women's movement, and gay-liberation movement ought to remind us, it's precisely actions of this sort at the local level that have triggered the seismic shifts of progressive change in American history.
1. Democratize Your Money! Put your money in a credit union - then participate in its governance.
2. Seize the Moment: Time For Worker Ownership! Help build a worker co-op or encourage interested businesses to transition to employee ownership and adopt social and environmental standards as part of their missions.
3. Take Back Local Government: Demand Participatory Budgeting!
Organize your community so that local government spending is determined by inclusive neighborhood deliberations on key priorities.
4. Push Local Anchors to do Their Part!
Make nonprofit institutions like universities and hospitals use their resources to fight poverty, unemployment, and global warming.
5. Reclaim Your Neighborhood With Democratic Development!
Build community power through economic development and community land trusts.
6. Public Money for the Public Good! Organize to use public finances for community development.
7. Stop Letting Your Savings Fuel Corporate Rule! Get your workplace to offer more retirement-plan opportunities for responsible investment.
8. Democratize Energy Production to Create a Green Economy! Get involved in public and cooperative utilities to fight climate change.
9. Mobilize the Faith Community! Get your religious organization to move its money to a local financial institution involved in community development.
10. Make Time for Democracy! Fight unemployment by joining the fight against work
And There's More SEE LINK FOR DETAILS
There are many additional practical precedents to build on, refine and adapt. The examples outlined above aim to encourage thinking about how we move beyond partial experiments toward greater publicly benefiting democratization over time. For many others, see Community-Wealth.org and What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution, by Gar Alperovitz. But all of this hinges on the strategic and self-conscious decision to adopt a sustained course of institution-changing action - one linked to movement-building politics and explicitly understood as a way to begin laying the necessary groundwork for something more.
Posted by Demeter | Tue Oct 1, 2013, 09:26 PM (1 replies)
...Obedience and disobedience are universal social experiences. All human beings know what it feels like to obey - with varying degrees of enthusiasm - and we all know what it feels like to disobey. Each of us has plenty of experience with both, and we are always capable of one or the other at any given moment. Every individual with the capacity for independent thinking and action makes multiple daily decisions about whether to obey or disobey various laws, rules, wishes and suggestions of others, whether we are aware of these decisions or not.
Modern societies are largely founded on the seductive idea that valuing obedience over disobedience will bring personal success and social cohesion. We are taught from an early age that even minor disobedience will sharply increase the likelihood of scary prospects like personal failure and social chaos. These emotionally powerful messages are drilled into us at home and at school, cultivating the necessary habits for powerful interests to function effectively, from parents and teachers to state institutions and large multinational corporations.
When it comes to the nature of obedience-disobedience, there is nothing we could accurately call normal. While obedience can be a particularly strong habit to break, humans (in contrast to other primates with more hard-wired social behavioral programming) are born neither obedient nor disobedient. We have strong tendencies to engage in both types of behavior across cultures and generations, in rational and irrational ways. Whether to obey or disobey in any given situation is a personal choice. Human social reality is extremely variable and complex. As long as we remain social creatures, we must deal with the obedience-disobedience question.
Acts of obedience have over the centuries been the cause of far more destruction and savagery than have acts of disobedience - maybe most dramatically during World War II. Humanity witnessed an eruption of systematized violence on a scale never before seen, an outcome fully dependent on the obedient behavior of ordinary people. The war ended with two extraordinarily destructive acts: a handful of men obediently followed orders over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, resulting in the instant incineration of several hundred thousand human beings. Soon afterward, as a result of the Nuremberg Tribunal, it became crystal clear for anyone touched by the war that personal considerations of conscience were simply unavoidable when making decisions in hierarchical contexts. The duty to obey authority could no longer justify inhumane actions, neither morally nor legally. Questions regarding obedience and disobedience were revealed to the world as intensely personal, deeply ethical and of supreme consequence. In a post-Nuremberg world, the ultimate responsibility for one's actions falls on the individual, not on powerful interests that persuade or coerce....
AND EVEN COMPLETE OBEDIENCE BRINGS NO PROTECTION
THOUGHTFUL, PROVOCATIVE PIECE
Posted by Demeter | Tue Oct 1, 2013, 07:04 AM (0 replies)
By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program
The president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, spoke this morning at the United Nations and delivered a powerful indictment of spying by the NSA on behalf of the United States. She said, "Without respect for a nation's sovereignty, there is no basis for proper relations among nations," adding that "Brazil knows how to protect itself. Brazil ... does not provide shelter to terrorist groups. We are a democratic country."
The Brazilian president is so outraged at American spying, both on her country and on her personal emails and her personal life, that she canceled a state dinner with President Obama.
While most Americans see this as a rift between Brazil in the United States over the issue of our spying on them, President Rousseff highlighted the most important point of all elsewhere in her speech this morning.
She said, "Without the right of privacy, there is no real freedom of speech or freedom of opinion, and so there is no actual democracy."
This is not just true of international relations. It's also true here within the United States.
Back before the Kennedy administration largely put an end to it, J Edgar Hoover was infamous in political circles in Washington DC for his spying on and blackmailing of both American politicians and activists like Martin Luther King. He even sent King tapes of an extramarital affair and suggested that King should consider committing suicide.
That was a shameful period in American history, and most Americans think it is behind us. But the NSA, other intelligence agencies, and even local police departments have put the practice of spying on average citizens in America on steroids.
As Brazil's President points out, without privacy there can be no democracy.
Democracy requires opposing voices; it requires a certain level of reasonable political conflict. And it requires that government misdeeds be exposed. That can only be done when whistleblowers and people committing acts of journalism can do so without being spied upon.
Perhaps a larger problem is that well over half – some estimates run as high as 70% – of the NSA's budget has been outsourced to private corporations. These private corporations maintain an army of lobbyists in Washington DC who constantly push for more spying and, thus, more money for their clients.
With the privatization of intelligence operations, the normal system of checks and balances that would keep government snooping under control has broken down.
We need a new Church Commission to investigate the nature and scope of our government spying both on our citizens and on our allies.
But even more than that we need to go back to the advice that President Dwight Eisenhower gave us as he left the presidency in 1961. Eisenhower warned about the rise of a military-industrial complex, suggesting that private forces might, in their search for profits, override the protective mechanisms that keep government answerable to its people.
That military-industrial complex has become the military-industrial-spying-private-prison complex, and it is far greater a threat to democracy then probably was envisioned by Eisenhower.
Government is the protector of the commons. Government is of by and for we the people. Government must be answerable to the people.
When the functions of government are privatized, all of that breaks down and Government becomes answerable to profit.
It's time to reestablish the clear dividing lines between government functions and corporate functions, between the public space and the private space.
A critically important place to start that is by ending the privatization within our national investigative and spying agencies.
This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.
Posted by Demeter | Mon Sep 30, 2013, 08:00 AM (0 replies)
With this Weekend, we say goodbye to one of the nicest Septembers I can remember. The weather was delightful, politics was entertaining, and nothing really awful happened (that I can remember).
Our new hero, Edward Snowden provided the focus of a new paradigm in political thought, and everyone is mad at Obama.
October will be different. With the debt ceiling crashing down on our heads, the budget debacle still boiling away, Syria and Iran still unsettled and Europe lying its head off. Jamie Dimon isn't going anywhere fast.
So what do you say to a late vacation? Let's take a trip down the Silk Road...and tour China! The Mystery of the Orient beckons....
Posted by Demeter | Fri Sep 27, 2013, 06:32 PM (52 replies)
By request, we are taking a couple steps back from the edge of the cliff we've all been dancing on, and chilling with Mary McPartland, late of this planet.
Margaret Marian McPartland, OBE (née Turner; 20 March 1918 – 20 August 2013), was an English-born American jazz pianist, composer and writer. She was the host of Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz on National Public Radio from 1978 until 2011.
After her marriage to Jimmy McPartland in February 1945, she resided in the United States when not traveling throughout the world to perform. In 1969 she founded Halcyon Records, a recording company that produced albums for ten years. In 2000 she was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master. In 2004 she was given a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement. In 2007 she was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Known mostly for jazz, nonetheless, she composed other types of music as well, performing her own symphonic work "A Portrait of Rachel Carson" with the University of South Carolina Symphony Orchestra in 2007. In 2010 she was named a member of the Order of the British Empire...
Posted by Demeter | Fri Sep 20, 2013, 06:05 PM (63 replies)
There has never been and never will be a "free" market. All markets have rules.
One of the most deceptive ideas continuously sounded by the Right (and its fathomless think tanks and media outlets) is that the "free market" is natural and inevitable, existing outside and beyond government. So whatever inequality or insecurity it generates is beyond our control. And whatever ways we might seek to reduce inequality or insecurity -- to make the economy work for us -- are unwarranted constraints on the market's freedom, and will inevitably go wrong. By this view, if some people aren't paid enough to live on, the market has determined they aren't worth enough. If others rake in billions, they must be worth it. If millions of Americans remain unemployed or their paychecks are shrinking or they work two or three part-time jobs with no idea what they'll earn next month or next week, that's too bad; it's just the outcome of the market. According to this logic, government shouldn't intrude through minimum wages, high taxes on top earners, public spending to get people back to work, regulations on business, or anything else, because the "free market" knows best.
In reality, the "free market" is a bunch of rules about (1) what can be owned and traded (the genome? slaves? nuclear materials? babies? votes?); (2) on what terms (equal access to the internet? the right to organize unions? corporate monopolies? the length of patent protections? ); (3) under what conditions (poisonous drugs? unsafe foods? deceptive Ponzi schemes? uninsured derivatives? dangerous workplaces?) (4) what's private and what's public (police? roads? clean air and clean water? healthcare? good schools? parks and playgrounds?); (5) how to pay for what (taxes, user fees, individual pricing?). And so on.
These rules don't exist in nature; they are human creations. Governments don't "intrude" on free markets; governments organize and maintain them. Markets aren't "free" of rules; the rules define them.
The interesting question is what the rules should seek to achieve. They can be designed to maximize efficiency (given the current distribution of resources), or growth (depending on what we're willing to sacrifice to obtain that growth), or fairness (depending on our ideas about a decent society). Or some combination of all three -- which aren't necessarily in competition with one another. Evidence suggests, for example, that if prosperity were more widely shared, we'd have faster growth. The rules can even be designed to entrench and enhance the wealth of a few at the top, and keep almost everyone else comparatively poor and economically insecure. Which brings us to the central political question: Who should decide on the rules, and their major purpose? If our democracy was working as it should, presumably our elected representatives, agency heads, and courts would be making the rules roughly according to what most of us want the rules to be. The economy would be working for us; we wouldn't be working for the economy. Instead, the rules are being made mainly by those with the power and resources to buy the politicians, regulatory heads, and even the courts (and the lawyers who appear before them). As income and wealth have concentrated at the top, so has political clout. And the most important clout is determining the rules of the game. Not incidentally, these are the same people who want you and most others to believe in the fiction of an immutable "free market."
If we want to reduce the savage inequalities and insecurities that are now undermining our economy and democracy, we shouldn't be deterred by the myth of the "free market." We can make the economy work for us, rather than the other way around. But in order to change the rules, we must exert the power that is supposed to be ours.
Posted by Demeter | Tue Sep 17, 2013, 10:46 AM (0 replies)