On Free Trade
Free trade is good!-- it must be because its got the word free in it!-- and a rising tide lifts all boats, amirite?
Where's my boat?
Free trade is not some sort of magical mystical good-in-itself. Making trade more free is obviously profitable for some traders. But higher tariffs are just as obviously good for other people, by protecting American companies and jobs. Similarly, ensuring safe food and other commodities is good for consumers, and not always conducive to the freest of trade relationships.
Free-for-all trade is good for capitalists. (And I don't mean entrepreneurs or small business owners. I mean capitalists: people who buy and sell and make a profit without adding value. This confusion of terms has long contributed to Main Street mistakenly thinking its interests are perfectly aligned with those of Wall Street.)
The people who were young adults when NAFTA passed are middle-aged now. We know what happened to our jobs, or the jobs of our friends and relatives. NAFTA was a disaster for the working class.
In fact, we voted for Obama partly based on his promise to renegotiate NAFTA.
He did not honor that promise. He didn't even try. Instead, he tried (is still trying!) to stick it to us again, with the TPP.
We know what happened with NAFTA, and we know TPP is more of the same. So: stop it.
Labels: free trade, Obama, TPP
No one would have planned this: "Hey, I know! Let's set up a city in such a way that most people have to spend an hour or more every day navigating a river of cars
But here we are. That's the free market unfettered by planning for the common good.
And then we become hypnotized.
Perhaps we were shocked once. Perhaps there was a moment in one of those seemingly spontaneous, utterly inexplicable gridlocks when one might normally say "This Sucks" and instead we say, "Wait a minute! This is insane. Really, truly a world gone mad."
But we get over it. We forget it. We push it away, and collaborate in re-hypnotizing ourselves.
You'd have to be some kind of laughing Buddha to not repress or despair.
Further: It's easy to fall into the 'logic' of competition and join in the race when people are rushing past you to the next red light. And something one does as much as most people drive around here affects the way one thinks, the way one perceives other aspects of life. So we rush through everything and slow down only when we have to.
Labels: cars, commuting, stupid capitalism
Lead in politicians
So the U.S took lead out of paint and gasoline and 20 years later crime rates dropped.
Maybe there is an arc like that having a further 20 or 30 years delayed effect on politics. I'm figuring elected politicians are typically 20 or 30 years older than the young men responsible for the crime numbers.
In other words, maybe our leaders are at the height of their lead induced criminality and psychopathy, but it will start getting better soon.
The Continuing Adventures of Joe Smartypants, Libertarian
Episode the First
Joe woke up one day to find himself in a clearing surrounded by jungle with about a hundred other people. No one knew where they were or how they'd gotten there. The jungle stretched out endlessly in all directions, so there was no way for them to walk out-- they'd just have to start a new civilization from scratch.
"My goodness," thought Joe. "This would be the perfect opportunity to start a libertarian utopia." And so he explained to everyone that they were all rational pleasure seekers, and that they didn't need a government except a court to enforce contracts, if even that.
He was very persuasive.
"I know I'm a rational pleasure seeker," said a teenage boy who was gripping a dogeared copy of Atlas Shrugged
. "Oh, and nothing else. And people who say they are something else are just deluding themselves, or defrauding others."
"I thought I was a Christian," said a little old lady. "Now I realize I am a rational pleasure seeker. And that every human interaction is merely a transaction based on rational pleasure seeking. And that our society and our personal lives should reflect that transcendent notion. All that Christian loving kindness is for the birds."
"There you go," said Joe. "If we are all out just for ourselves, we'll maximize utility, and we'll all end up with the most pleasure possible."
"Agreed," said a middle-aged man. "And the first thing I'm going to do is demand more sex from my wife if she is going to continue to get anything from me."
"Oh, yeah?" said his wife, and she scowled at him. "Well, the first thing I'm going to do is start demanding more of you
"You see!" cried Joe. "You'll come to an equitable arrangement because you're both rational pleasure seekers who can negotiate!"
"Maybe it wasn't so bad before," mumbled the man.
"Oh, it's going to be bad now," said his wife, still scowling.
"And prostitution will be legal, of course," said Joe.
"Oh, you'd like that, you old goat," said the wife, staring at her husband. She was even angrier.
"And there'd be competition, a free market," said Joe, "so you'd be able to get the best sex at the best price."
All this time Mr. Strong, Mr. Wiley, and Mr. Greedy had been conferring in whispers. Now Mr. Wiley stood and addressed everyone.
"Mr. Smartypants is clearly correct. The people all agree on that. We just need to work out a few details. We'll need a mayor, and I agree to serve. Mr. Greedy here will be our banker. And Mr. Strong will be our policeman."
"We'll certainly need a cop," agreed the teen. "I, for one, will steal whenever I know I won't be caught."
"Wait a minute," said Joe. "But what about the Golden Rule?: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That's rational isn't it? Besides, surely you'd be caught eventually, and then everyone would shun you."
"What would be more rational for me," countered the teen, "would be to say
I follow the Golden Rule, and encourage everyone else to follow the Golden Rule, and then to steal whatever I could get away with. I'll make my bets and take my chances. The Golden Rule is for rubes."
"He's right," said Mr. Wiley. "There's no Golden Rule in libertarianism. The idea is unfettered competition. The Golden Rule is some kind of socialist nonsense. And as my first act as Mayor I hereby declare the Golden Rule to be illegal. And I direct Mr. Strong here to place Joe Smartypants in custody. He will be tried, found guilty, and executed."
There was scattered applause.
"Wait, wait!" cried Joe. "Perhaps we could vote..."
"Voting!" scoffed Mr Greedy. "That would be mob rule. And who knows what voters might do. They might want public education or a social safety net. They might vote to tax me in order to pay for it."
"There will be no voting," said the Mayor. "The very concept is seditious. Never mind the trial. Mr. Strong, proceed with the execution."
Joe screamed and woke himself up. He was in a cold sweat.
"What went wrong?" he wondered. "It started out so well..."
He shook his head, and looked at his bedside clock. "Oh, well. I've got to get ready for work, and tonight's the Libertarian Party strategy meeting."