From Polemics

—the art of disputation, or in my own words, the art of talking shit while keeping you mouth clean. ANY person who wants or needs to argue for or against something is better off studying polemics. Great for protesters, hecklers, politicians, husbands (although chances of winning are still not favorable), commentators, writers, philosophers, and so much more….

Free-Market Faith

free market faith bart

It is one thing to believe capitalism is the best game in town and another to believe capitalism is crap, but still the best game in town. I find myself in the latter’s dugout, finding reasons to play when many misunderstand the rules. But I will now attempt to bat with this post and hope to load at least one base.

Understanding the basic tenets of capitalism is really quite simple, until you pin the origins of its canons. For just one example, people may believe Adam Smith is the father of capitalism, but may be surprised to learn Smith never heard of it. The word “capitalism” or “capitalist,” does not appear once in Smith’s book The Wealth of Nations (1776). Instead, the word “capitalism” actually appears in the later half on the 19th Century and many attribute Karl Marx in coining the term. Therefore, Smith did not create an economic system inasmuch as he identified existing and efficient economic relationships and expounded those relationships….get this…for the benefit of mankind.

Just as surprising, Adam Smith writes about the short-comings of these relationships. Although he mentions the Invisible Hand, which is only briefly mentioned in his canonized and dogmatized Wealth of Nations, is a factor in how human society organizes its economics. Smith wrote an earlier book called The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), which talks about balancing the idea of self-interest with higher moral considerations, most pronounced is the idea of community and importance of sympathy. I doubt Adam Smith and Ayn Rand would have all that in common.

When people talk about the free-market, what they are really talking about are aspects of the market they benefit from and not an entire systemic set of principles that benefits everybody. It’s why commerce is not charity. The term free-market, which also does not show up in The Wealth of Nations, is a non-sensical term because markets are never free. But it’s a great marketing ploy to brand markets as a place for freedom. A place that government, which is one of the few great powers that can restrict corporate power, should keep it’s filthy dirty hands off. Ironic when government is by default the scoundrel but corporations and banks the scamp. It’s not to say governments can’t be a major problem in our economic affairs, they often are. But listen to narratives demanding unrestrained greed and you just might see that using bad governments is a hidden ball trick.

Of course market regulations can be stupid. But think about how free-marketeers talk about how unjust the government is to them and not who loses to their quest for profit. Free-market talk is a ploy to get people who don’t profit to back people who do, even at their own expense.

The First Presidential Debate is a Rehash of Campaign Ads and Speeches

I say this as Romney gives his closing speech. I’m disappointed in the debate and in myself for not suspecting it to be a rehash of campaign ads and speeches. Granted, I have not been alive long enough to have experienced a plethora of presidential debates, but I have been alive long enough to recognize what I have already heard several times over, with little detail, barely any citation, and no originality (unless you count making a campaign ad spew out more fake cheese than Velveeta).

Jim Lehrer is a disappointment. A moderator must never let anyone speak above him and not back down on a decision when it is time to move on. Otherwise, what are you there for?!? Yes, there has been some substance on every topic but in my opinion most topics the candidates debated have been framed with script. I happen to believe the moderator must shake up the debaters and get at what they actually believe and would actually do by eliciting ad hoc moments. The race for the presidency is when candidates should discuss their ideas in detail before the election, and the moderator shouldn’t let them exaggerate with hypotheticals of November 5th or January 20th.

If you have a completely divergent opinion from mine, I guess I would have to start by saying: yes I have been paying attention. But I have debated point by point on farm bills in the past and I do not want to waste my time on something equally exciting. I will admit this, Romney brought his A game and Obama his C. I refer to their styles and not their substance.

Is it the structure of the debate? Can so many complicated issues be compressed in an hour and a half? Maybe the debate should have had been in two parts so more information could be vetted from the two candidates. Ultimately, I should not look at this debate on how it made an impression on me but on the general public. As this moment, the general consensus seems to side with Romney winning the debate (looking at CNN).

Looking at recent history, winning a debate does not at all guarantee election; just ask Kerry. But you really know who the winners and losers are when more and more of the public starts adopting the views of one candidate over the other. I say winners and losers, not winner and loser, as more and more people are impacted by the choices, or lack thereof, we all make. The substance both candidates could have delved deeper in the debate is the nature of government itself. Both candidates often touched on it, but both have not said anything more illuminating than what I have heard in the past several years. Neither candidate would ever discuss the following:

  • The outsourcing of manufacturing jobs is actually a typical trait of societies transitioning from a modern economy (industry-based) to a post-modern economy (service-based). These are the reasons. Here are some ways to develop a 21st Century industrial based economy in addition to the service-based.

Both political party’s rhetoric may have side comments, mostly some kind of small stop-gap measure, but never ever have I heard a politician acknowledging the transitional nature of a modern to post-modern economy. And forgive me if I do not go in detail myself on why economies change from industry to service. I’m sure a little bit of good research can give you a quick overview of it (I might just do it myself when I have the time). Yet, I hear simple explanations all the time in academic circles most notably architecture, economics, history, and sociology with many comments dating back since the 1950’s. The issue of outsourcing jobs can’t be solved unless public policy addresses and reflects on the mechanisms in which it exists.