Roubini, Marx, Capitalism, Socialism, and Interventionism

Very nice discussion:

Words and language can hold a lot of power. If your task is to destroy the people’s desire for peace and individual liberty, and if you can convince them that the US system over the past century is what free marketers mean when they say ‘capitalism‘, then your job is pretty much done.

But today’s shifts in public opinion seem very clear to me, just from comments I gather here and there: Fewer and fewer people are buying this story. More and more are beginning to try and think for themselves, simply out of plain necessity.

I have been harping on this for about 5 years now: The key concept that public discourse is still missing, the one word that explains all of today’s economic and political troubles is Interventionism.

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Meth and Other Drug War Facts

An interesting piece about the prevalence of crystal meth in the modern US:

Suppliers of drugs, consumers of drugs, and even drug addicts have long been known to be “rational” as a group — yes, rational, but stick with me. They respond to changes in prices; they respond to quality differentials and to changes in quality. They also respond — rationally — to changes in risk. So if drug users select their drug of choice using a rational decision-making process, what explains this “march to the bottom” and the emergence of meth in illegal drug markets?

The answer is that crystal meth is a cheap date; it has been referred to as the poor man’s cocaine. Cocaine and meth are both stimulants, so it is reasonable to assume that they appeal to the same subset of drug users. During cocaine’s heyday, meth was nearly extinct on the illegal market.

This changed with Reagan’s “War on Drugs,” which was effective in raising prices for illegal drugs by imposing greater risks and thus higher costs on production, distribution, and consumption. The initial shock of the war on drugs sent black-market entrepreneurs back to the drawing board; they needed to reduce their risk and their costs. What they came back with included highly potent marijuana, crack cocaine, and crystal meth.

It doesn’t take much to figure out that the War on Drugs, just as any other government program, is a very lucrative means used by bureaucrats to transfer extorted money to friends, lobbyists, and themselves.

The United States is the world leader in terms of the percentage of people sitting in prison. Yes, there are more people per 100,000 citizens incarcerated in the US than in China, Russia, or Iran!

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice, of the 2.2 million Americans that are currently incarcerated, 21.2 percent of them are non-violent drug offenders. That’s about 466,000 people serving time in rape rooms and mandatory labor camps without having violated anybody else’s rights.

When you make it risky to obtain a substance you drive up its price to ridiculous levels. When you drive up its price you make it immensely profitable for dealers to get people hooked on drugs through free samples or even forceful inducement. Obviously it’s in the dealers’ best interest to keep such policies going.

Then there are prison companies, such as the Geo Group, who are contracted by state and local governments, getting paid based on how many people they imprison, and whose stocks are traded on Wall Street. So their investors and banks have an incentive to keep this racket going by lobbying politicians who vote in a favorable manner.

There are law enforcement agencies with agents, police officers, sheriffs, prison guards who all benefit from such policies because their budgets are increased.

There are pharmaceutical companies whose drugs have been proven to kill or cause long term depression and mental disorders in more people than marijuana would ever even come close to. In fact, there are zero deaths reported as biochemical results of marijuana use. There are more people dying dying from Tylenol, Aspirin or Advil per year. Meanwhile marijuana has been proven to provide many of the desired pain relief effects at much less cost, people can even grow it at home! So obviously the huge pharmaceutical lobby, representing about 50% of Wall Street profits, has an enormous vested interest to invest in Congresspeople who will keep the drug war going.

There are Alcohol and Tobacco companies who were the main sponsors of the anti drug campaigns of the 80s. Alcohol and Tobacco combined kill over 500,000 Americans a year. So you can imagine how much of an incentive they have to ensure that their big competitor, marijuana, remains expensive.

The C.I.A itself was and probably is still trafficking drugs into the US because the business has become so lucrative. There is evidence and testimony from several former federal agents confirming this. You can find more on this in the movie American Drug War – The Last White Hope.

So there are all these people, all from completely different walks of life, unknowingly pulling on the same string to protect their own interests.

In a stateless society such people would have no vehicle to implement their destructive agendas.

It is the existence of a state in the first place, that allows them to bring these plans to fruition.

So long as liberals and other statist drug war opponents don’t understand this simple causality and relentlessly start pointing at the root cause of the problem, they need not be surprised if things won’t change for the better one tiny bit.

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Socialism for the Rich a.k.a. Neoliberalism

Here is an accurate analysis as to why libertarians shouldn’t count on most conservatives out there when it comes to defending what they view as free markets:

Because that’s what “privatization” means, to the typical “free market” wonk at Heritage or AEI: Instead of taxing the public to organize a public service through government bureaucrats who operate as a legal monopoly, you tax the public and hire a private company to perform the service. A private company which — thanks to no-bid contracts and all sorts of legal protections — usually operates as a monopoly and has the same outrageous cost-maximizing incentives as a “defense” contractor or public utility. And the tax burden may well actually be greater, because rather than just paying a bunch of white collar civil servants with GS classifications, you’ve got to pay white collar corporate drones — plus the cowboy CEO’s salary and the shareholder dividends. Taxpayer-funded either way, but with “free market reform” you get two layers of parasites instead of just the one. Woo-hoo!

See, it’s only “socialism” if you give the money to poor folks. If you give the money to corporations, that’s “pro-business.” And “pro-business,” of course, means “free market.”

I would be fully content with lefties using the term neoliberalism if they ever clarified that what they are talking about is a system with heavy government intervention, yet with the bulk of the money being distributed to businesses instead of bureaucrats.

This is really something that liberals and conservatives out there (who think they are oh so different from each other) need to grasp at some point if they care to make any sense:

Us voluntaryists and consistent libertarians are not proposing that extorted money be handed to the rich instead of the poor. We are proposing that aggression, and with that extortion, be universally proscribed; that there be no extorted money to play with in the first place!

You’re not a “free market guy” if you continue to tax people and, instead of paying government bureaucrats directly, you hire private businesses out of the voluntary market to do the job.

Just look at the unspeakable killing sprees, such as the murders of 1.4+ million Iraqis along with who knows how many injured for life or languishing in refugee camps, that had to occur in order to transfer wealth from US taxpayers to well-to-do war contractors.

I would argue that there seems to be a lot of evidence out there that hiring a private business for public money leads to far fewer checks and balances and less oversight and to far more chaos and wealth destruction, than if you use the money to pay government bureaucrats directly.

To be sure, the difference is one in degree not in kind. A shit sandwich is still a shit sandwich.

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Internet Censorship Bill Passes First Hurdle

The Orwellian disease continues to spread as the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act passes the Senate judiciary committee:

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) sets up a system through which the US government can blacklist a pirate website from the Domain Name System, ban credit card companies from processing US payments to the site, and forbid online ad networks from working with the site. This morning, COICA unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.

This comment beautifully exemplifies the government’s and its lobbyists’ hilarious hypocrisy:

“With this first vote, Congress has begun to strike at the lifeline of foreign scam sites, while protecting free speech and boosting the legal online marketplace,” he said. “Those seeking to thwart this bipartisan bill are protecting online thieves and those who gain pleasure and profit from de-valuing American property.”

This makes perfect sense of course! You see, because the government, that group of people who sustain their activities by taking other people’s property via aggression or threat thereof, is soooo concerned about property rights. =)

It is hard for many people to see it in the fog of inane and repetitive propaganda, but this kind of global madness and hypocrisy is at the root of the society we live in.

Since it is difficult to sell the public on legalizing outright censorship, the process of eroding civil liberties is a slowly creeping one. So don’t expect internet censorship to end here.

I work in the web business. The truth is, if a website is found to produce illegal or stolen content, then there are already legal means that can be pursued via the court system, local authorities, or even just by contacting the hosting company. Yes, of course there are those tech savvy folks that cannot be tracked down by those means, but those will not go away just because suddenly someone in Washington DC instead of a local authority initiates action.

Meanwhile, on the downside, centralized power is getting bigger and bigger.

The purpose of such laws, just as for example antitrust legislation, is not to protect people from property rights infringements. It is to give the government yet another stick in its arsenal that it can wield whenever it deems necessary. It is a tool by which special interest groups can invoke the power of the state to initiate shakedowns of sites that may represent a thorn in their side.

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