Skip to comments.The Long March From California to Copenhagen [Hanson on debate between capitalism and socialism]
Posted on 12/21/2009 7:22:09 AM PST by Tolik
The Great Debate Oddly Is Not Over
We are still in a great public debate between capitalism and socialism, and individual freedom versus statism odd since hundreds of millions worldwide have escaped poverty the last 30 years due to the spread of Western-inspired free markets.
Many choose sides in the debate based on their own predicaments. Sometimes the more independent and secure who have thrived under capitalism promote it, the more dependent who have not - detest it.
At other times the realist mind is opposed to the idealist. And we can also envision the split as an age-old dichotomy between the tragic view and the therapeutic: either man is born pretty awful and must toughen himself through denial of the appetites, or he is by nature wonderful but corrupted and hurt through the burdens placed on him by society.
In whatever way we frame the debate, again more than ever Americans are choosing sides.
On the one, are those who believe personal freedom and liberty trump egalitarianism and fraternity. Oh, they dont believe in letting the less successful perish, but they seek to help those who do not do as well in the open arena through three mechanisms:
1) a limited government that in extremis would support only the needy, sick, disabled and aged (no more self-esteem counseling, 6-year student loans, or research grants for self-adjustment);
2) reliance on entrepreneurship, freedom of action, and private enterprise to allow real economic growth that enlarges the pie itself rather than perennially haggling over the pieces of a shrinking whole.;
3) A culture of shame that makes the more successful help those less so in his family, in his community, and in his nation through philanthropy and private giving.
On the other side are those who wish a large government to ensure an equality of result. Their notion is that personal responsibility, talent, behavior, luck, fate, etc. do not so much determine why one is well off and another not so. Instead, there is insidious racial, gender, and class oppression everywhere sinister forces at work that conspire to keep those down who otherwise in a fair system would thrive.
Therefore a big paternalistic all-knowing, all-powerful government must step in, rein in the wild horses, break them, and harness them to pull the collective cart. At the end of the day, those who like to work long hours, start businesses, or take risks can continue for the sheer enjoyment of it; while others who chose not to will end up with about the same house, car, medical care, college, and travel opportunity. Does the son who likes to lay inside on Saturday mornings go unfed, just because he wont help his brother mow the lawn? Is he any happier for his sloth, the other any better for his zeal?
Key to the statist mind is the acceptance that compensation is inherently unfair: why should a brain surgeon who takes out 3 meningiomas successfully a day make any more than the poor floor cleaner who washes the linoleum between operations? The former gains more status anyway, so why deepen the wound of inequality through unequal pay for the latter?
Ultimately that is what the present struggle is over. The Obamians wish to err on the side of egalitarianism rather than freedom of the individual.
Traditionally there has been a balance in the US, but we are witnessing a genuine attempt to swing the pendulum hard to the left.
Example 1: California
Nowhere is there a better example of the collective effort than in California. Politics dont matter here; both Republicans and Democrats embrace statism, high taxes, and growing entitlements.
So we have the highest gasoline taxes, highest income taxes, highest sales taxes and collect enormous amounts of revenue to pay the highest-compensated and most numerous state employees in the nation to allot these revenues for others. We have the largest number of illegal aliens, and offer the most generous state subsidies for health, welfare, and education and legal aid. We pay more per prison convict than anywhere else, and have more of them per capita as well.
State Worker Paradise
If one is a teacher, a public nurse, or a state bureaucrat, and stays close to home, life is not too bad. Two tenured teachers at midlife can easily make together $160,000 with summers off far more than the owner of a brake shop or a farmer of 40 acres of trees and without worry over burdensome regulations or the daily need to drive down the 99 for a living, or to fly out of LAX for business, or to depend on the local CSU to provide literate, skilled employees. Life is therefore pretty good, at least so far.
But if you are a private company, dealing with high taxes, all sorts of regulations, a crumbling infrastructure (take a 300-mile drive from Gilroy south on 101; spend a day at LAX, or try finding a convenient east-west route out of California in the winter), and poorly educated employees, the experiment in egalitarianism has failed.
Answer? The best job in California is a state one; the worst a private-sector one. Result? 3,500 flee per week with capital, education, and know-how; 2,500 arrive with far less capital and training.
The state is billions in the hole; the public employee unions are furious that there is no they left to fork up more money.
And the big companies are gearing up to leave as well. Agriculture is under assault by affluent green state-employed professors, biologists, lawyers, and park officials. Prison union employees, prison administrators, lawyers etc. are all haranguing each other over shrinking funds. Los Angeles is a mess broke, subpar schools, a place where grandees arrive for the work day and leave asap at 5. San Francisco survives by its natural beauty that snags tens of millions of tourist dollars; without it, it would devolve into Lima or Cairo.
On the National Scene
This California model is important because Obama is adopting it as a blueprint on a national scale. If he wins (and dont count him out), life really would be more patterned on an equality of result. New payroll, income, state, local, and health care surcharge taxes would hit those over $200K with about a 70% take of ones income. The public sector employees double in number, unionize, and demand ever more from them. Cap-and-trade charges raise monthly utility bills 20%. Things like SUVs, Winnebagos, and private jet travel are taxed out of reach except for a guardian class that uses public moneys for a rarefied lifestyle of governance and enforcement (sort of like the jets parked on the tarmac at Copenhagen or Baracks night out on the Big Apple).
We would all want a job at the DMV but would never want to go there for any service a model for health care to come. In short, the poor get a little better off, the better-off a lot worse, and America becomes a sort of collective lower middle class at about a 1950s lifestyle, praised and congratulated for ending poverty.
And On to the World
Hugo Chavez was greeted as a rock star at Copenhagen, despite his anti-democratic, anti-Semitic, violent and corrupt rule. The climate change conference doesnt seem to be just about climate change, but rather is degenerating into a call for universal socialism, with money going from West to the South.
Americas model, we see now at Copenhagen, can be expanded globally as well. The poor nations (many fabulously wealthy, like Zimbabwe, in natural resources) demand money from the wealthy West to even the playing-field under the guise of carbon-offset penance.
The West taxes its populace to hand over trillions to those without as many polluting cars and industries on the socialist belief that impoverishment in Latin America and Africa is due to oppression, neo-colonialism, and economic imperialism rather than endemic corruption, tribalism, ethnic and religious strife, gender apartheid, the lack of legal protection for property and the individual, and statist bureaucracies. They, not we, did it to us.
(Never mentioned is the corollary of the Copenhagen shake-down: wealthy countries produce the steel, plastics, and information-based knowledge that poor countries use: paying a Zimbabwe billions for using less carbon would be as asinine as charging them billions for R&D full costs for the cars, industries, pharmaceuticals, eyeglasses, and technology their people use, but have not invented, fabricated, and in most cases maintained and repaired.)
The Great Chain of Socialism
In other words, we are seeing a strange era in which the once last bastion of capitalism, the free-market US, is trying to emulate the California modeland in turn the world wishes to follow what the Obama administration is trying to do in America.
Note well: California depends on them producing real wealth in food, fiber, manufacturing, oil, gas, timber, construction, and high-technology. In turn, the US depends on 50 states doing the same to provide for the expansive regulatory and administrative federal class, and the world relies on the US economy to provide the growth and capital to redistribute. (e.g., We cant all be the Obamas, Valerie Jarretts, David Axelrods, Rahm Emanuels, Van Jones, Timothy Geithners, etc. who have made good livings as advocates, regulators, bureaucrats, legislators, etc. without having to worry about meeting a payroll).
In truth, in some ways, the world economy depends every day on some engineer, farmer, architect, radiator shop owner, truck driver or plumber getting up at 5AM, going to work, toiling hard, and producing real wealth so that an array of bureaucrats, regulators, and redistributors can manage the proper allotment of much of the natural largess produced.
The whole system from California to Copenhagen will keep on working as long as the productive classes feel there are still incentives to jump out of bed at 5AM. When they dont, the power is cut off to thousands of gears and cogs and the world looks more like Ecuador or Somalia than the U.S.
Just a partial list: http://www.freerepublic.com/tag/victordavishanson/index:
Just a partial list. Much more at the link: http://www.freerepublic.com/tag/victordavishanson/index
Obama and the Malleability of History. In pursuit of noble goals, Obama ignobly twists the truth. Our Flip-Flopping Wars - Iraq was never lost and Afghanistan was never quite the easy good war The Palin Wonder Obamas Wheel of Fortune. The presidents luck has changed and he doesnt seem to have noticed Why Are We Tiring of Obama? Has War Really Changed? War always involves a military solution. Change, Weakness, Disaster, Obama: Answers from Victor Davis Hanson If Iran Refuses To Cooperate, Block Its Ports Resetting the Reset Button [Victor Davis Hanson dissects 0's pathetic diplomacy] Dean Obama [Victor Davis Hanson dissects 0's West Point speech on Afghanistan] Change We Can Believe In [Victor Davis Hanson: A list of modest suggestions for REAL change] Riding the Back of the Tiger [Victor Davis Hanson on Obama not understanding What Causes Wars...] We Ain't Seen Nothing Yet The New War against Reason - Medieval heretic-hunters had nothing on Obama when it comes to closed-mindedness Circling Sharks Smell American Blood: America should keep quieter abroad and try finding a bigger stick Palin-Odes? What Drives the Fear and Loathing of Sarah Palin? Obamas Prissy America - Why does Obamas tolerant, apologetic America seem so very self-centered? What Bush Inherited, and What He Left Left Behind Who Are They? To Obama, they are responsible for all our troubles. Problem is, they are most of us Afghan Mythologies. We have everything we need to defeat the Taliban. The Discreet Charm of the Left-wing Plutocracy Truman and the Principles of U.S. Foreign Policy. Jimmy Carter rejected the postwar consensus. President Obama appears to be following a similar path Americas Obama Obsession - Anatomy of a passing hysteria The Kitty-Cat Who Roared - The loud reformer Obama himself proves even emptier in his promises than Bush Dr. Barack and Mr. Obama - The backlash is sharp as voters learn that Obama is not the man they thought he was Obama and "Redistributive Change". His real agenda Bullying Israel-only country with which the U.S. has worse relations since Obama took office The War Against the Producers President Palins First 100 Days. Imagine if Sarah Palin had Obamas record Thoughts About Depressed Americans Our Battered American [gets angrier - Must Read Rant]
Nailed It !
This ping list is not author-specific for articles I'd like to share. Some for the perfect moral clarity, some for provocative thoughts; or simply interesting articles I'd hate to miss myself. (I don't have to agree with the author all 100% to feel the need to share an article.)
I will try not to abuse the ping list and not to annoy you too much, but on some days there is more of the good stuff that is worthy of attention.
You are welcome to browse the list of truly exceptional articles I pinged to lately. Updated on September 15, 2009. on my page.
Besides this one, I keep 2 separate PING lists for my favorite authors Victor Davis Hanson and Orson Scott Card.
Clearly, the world described by Hanson and advocated by bammy is a world that will reward tax cheats or those who can avoid the cash economy for their daily bread. I think it time to give thought to ways to make a living without paying the beast.
Had he said "circumstances" rather then "predicaments" I think he'd have been spot on. I think the reason most of my colleagues in academe are leftists is not leftist indoctrination by previous generations of academics, but the fact that if one is an academician one has found something one loves to do so much one would do it without regard to financial reward (be it physics, mathematics, literary criticism, one of the arts, or whatever), so the idea of a fiduciary taking care of all one's material needs is appealing. The foolishness is the belief that that circumstance would be universally beneficial or even universally feasible--neither is the case.
Of course, I would also take to task those who think that the circumstances which are beneficial to commerce are universally beneficial (though they are certainly universally feasible as the rise of business-modeled 'megachurches' and the march of the bean-counters through the institutions shows). Kirk's notion that particularity is valuable applies not only to place and culture but to domains of human activity: universities and churches should no more be run like commercial businesses than commercial businesses should be run like social service agencies.
This is interesting, but I think he’s wrong. Statists do not seek equality: they seek power, status, wealth, and luxury for themselves, irrespective of the cost to others. In this model, the whole point is for the “rulers” to be above the “ruled” in every possible way.
I find a number of columnists make the same mistake, of accepting leftists’ egalitarian happy-talk instead of looking at how they actually live. It’s sweet to want to think the best of people ... no, I mean it’s dangerously naive, in this context.
He makes a strong case for the failure and export of the California model. It is an ugly model that seems to be sweeping the country even as the failure becomes more evident. Amnesty will seal our fate.
His assessment about energy prices is far understated. If (perhaps when) the rats drop the carbon bomb, we will long for only a 20% increase in energy prices. At a minimum, we are looking for a 300% increase. Germany is our energy future with triple our energy costs. Even 300% does not seem enough. I think that we are headed for 500% to 600% increase along with major lifestyle changes.
Speaking of California’s socialist model, why isn’t Hollywood taxed all to sh*t? They’re the exponents of Liberalism and socialism and yet the entertainment industry one of the wealthiest industries. Oh, I forgot, they’re all a bunch of sneaky, feel-good hypocrites and hide their money at the first sign of taxation trouble — so much for the common weal if you can get away just paying lip service.
There should be a new “Hypocrisy” tax. Hypocrites have to pay more than non hypocrites as a new form of “entertainment.” A bevy of beautiful people served up to the common man. The Michael Moores will be stalked by IRS scouts and it will be broadcast weekly. Tune into the “Spot Your Favorite Hypocrite Show” and see them pay for wanting you to pay.
Yes and no.
I think you are correct when we apply all you said to everybody involved in politics. They indeed want power no matter the cost (to somebody else). There are also politicians who indeed believe honestly and sincerely in all the statist/socialist/welfare-state crap. That’s not to say that they don’t clamor power to implement their ideas. There are sincere leftists who think they love America and believe that America would be better if humbled with a bloodied nose. So they were advocating for defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. To me they are dangerous idiots, but they can kill me if I say that they are less patriots than you and I.
There are also all that people who bring the left to power by voting for them. All those people don’t get power themselves (only lousy handouts at best), but they believe in socialist ideas of egalitarianism - equality of result. It’s a wishful thinking of course, but there lies the power of socialist ideas, their undying attraction: they require no proof of success in reality, just wishful thinking, and there always will be enough of fools to believe that that’s enough.
Yes, the topic did cover a lot of ground. I was addressing the case of those in positions of power, who are verifiably not interested in “equality of results” if it affects themselves.
Oh yeah. Soviet nomenclatura was a vivid example. Those animals were more equal than others.
“... theyre all a bunch of sneaky, feel-good hypocrites...”
Hey! I resemble that remark! I work in Hollywood - er - I mean, I’m looking for work in Hollywood...
These idiots ignore the fact that capitalism made us the richest, most powerful country in the world, and socialism destroys wealth wherever it is implemented.
But, capitalism is unfair because some become richer than others...yeah, that doesn't happen in socialism, now, does it?
Okay, rambling on more:
In capitalism, the richest are those who provides goods and services that society desires.
In socialism, the richest are those who are politically well connected, who can change the laws to benefit themselves at the expense of ‘the workers’, and those who can work dark deals at 1AM in the morning with the doors locked. Really, such a warm and fuzzy system.
Thanks, Tolik .............. FRegards
If you read Burt Folsom's book, "New Deal or Raw Deal" about the depression, it's apparent that Zero is following FDR's playbook right down the line. FDR, who may be the most despicable person to set foot in the Oval Office until recently. It's a good book and easy to read.
Read this blog post: Economic Fundamentals: The Forgotten Depression. There's an audio recording embedded of Folsom addressing Young Conservatives of America where Folsom contrasts Harding and Coolidge's performance with Hoover (the first RINO) and FDR's.
Personally, I feel like I'm living in an Ayn Rand novel, but which one? Is it "Atlas Shrugged" or "We The Living?"
If you were to list all the many functions of local, state and federal governments, and then note which ones are sometimes or usually also performed by private for-profit companies, I'd suggest there is only a small core of activities which only governments ever perform.
These would include those items specified in the US Constitution as appropriate and necessary for the government. Beyond that would be very few functions.
So, we have to ask: if a private company CAN do the work, then why SHOULD it be reserved to a government agency?
Conservatives, of course, take to task those who insist that circumstances which are beneficial to the government are universally beneficial. ;-)
To add to your post:
In socialism (of the Soviet type) when there is scarcity of, well, practically everything, your money have different purchasing power depending on where you live and who you know. Of course, the best was to be a member of the nomenclatura. If not... Central cities were supplied better with more goods. You would have to travel further and pay bribes to get same material goods. And generally speaking, people with better access to the “trough” could cash in on selling/bartering the access. You did not even have to be a top manager of any “trough” to benefit, laborers greased their palms as well. So, if you were sitting on a trough or knew people who knew people, you did not have to overpay on the black/gray market. You see, market does not care if somebody denies its existence, it just transmogrifies into something uglier, but its still there.
As you say: such a warm and fuzzy system. I want to make sure: we are still far from there. But we are moving in that direction.
Nailed it seems an understatement but it’s what we have to work with :)