Listen to Sowell 3

Some immigrants are valuable, some are not. “If they are graduates in Sociology from the University of Berkeley – get them out of here!”

Listen to Thomas Sowell for enlightenment, fresh ideas, some surprises, some laughter – and some very dark pessimism.

Posted under Capitalism, Commentary, Economics, History by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, January 21, 2015

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Against God and Socialism (repeat) 15

This article in praise of Capitalism was first posted in 2011. We reproduce it now because our recent post Communism is secular Christianity (January 14, 2015) reminded us of it

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It is human nature to be selfish. If we weren’t selfish we wouldn’t survive. If we didn’t eat when we were hungry, warm ourselves when we were cold, seek cures for our illnesses, defend ourselves (and our children and our life-sustaining property), we’d die out pretty damn quick. Or rather, we would never have come into existence as a species at all.

We are most of us capable of sympathy with others, and we often willingly give away a thing we own to another person. Some are altruistic. A few will even give up their lives to save the lives of others. Nevertheless, we are all naturally and necessarily selfish.

Christianity and Communism require human nature to change. As it can’t, Christianity’s commandments to love our enemies and forgive those who do us harm turn many a person of good will and high aspiration into a hypocrite if not a corpse. Communist theorists have never settled the question of whether human nature must change so that the Revolution can take place, or whether the Revolution must take place in order for human nature to change. Of course it will never change, but there’s no stopping the collectivist dolts arguing about it.

Capitalism works well because it is in tune with our nature. Adam Smith called it “the natural order of liberty”. Everyone selfishly desires to provide for his needs. To pay for what he wants from others – services and goods – he has to provide something that others will pay him for. Millions do it, and the result is prosperity. Capitalism is an abstract machine most beautiful to behold in the wonder of its workings. When individuals have the incentive to achieve, acquire, and enjoy something for themselves, they’ll go to great lengths to afford it. They’ll compete with each other to provide what others want, toil to make it the better product, and set the price of it lower. The best is made available at the least cost. Everyone is both a taker and a giver, and everyone benefits. True, not everyone’s effort always succeeds, but nothing stops anyone from trying again.

Of course capitalism isn’t a remedy for every ill and discontent. But a capitalist society offers the best chance to an individual to make the best of his condition – being alive – which presents him with a tough challenge – to stay alive for a few score years, and make those years as good as his energy, cunning, and adaptability to conditions outside of his control (plus his statistically likely share of luck), can help them to be.

In a capitalist society no one has a fixed place, whether below, in the middle, or on top. A person can rise, sink, or stay. A truly capitalist society is necessarily a free society in which no one is prevented, by some ruler or ruling clique, from bettering his lot, striving, succeeding, or failing.

Capitalism is the enemy of that God of whom all the children in the British Empire used to sing at morning prayers in school assemblies before the Second World War:

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small;

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all. …

The rich man in his castle,

The poor man at his gate,

He made them high and lowly,

He ordered their estate.

The children were being taught to be content with everything as it was, trusting that God the ruler up there, all wise, permanent and unchallengeable had ordained how everyone had his fixed place and should stay in it, and because He had ordained it, it must be perfect. The recognition that such a God was an indefensible authoritarian, a whim-driven cosmic dictator, an unjust and arrogant tyrant, came – perhaps unconsciously – to the choosers of Anglican hymns only after a few of the earth’s dictators had been trounced in a prolonged and terrible blood-letting.

But then Socialists took over from God. They decided what was best for humanity. They established the Welfare State. No rich men in castles, no poor men at gates. The State would provide every citizen with depressing accommodation, dull food, health care if he were judged worthy of being kept alive, indoctrination in schools. Though the Socialist State is a slave society, the citizens are not called slaves but Social Security Recipients, National Health Patients, Students, Workers. The belief of their rulers is that they’ll be content because the State provides them with “everything”; they’ll be grateful for the food however poor, the unit in the tower block however depressing, the bed in the hospital however filthy, the indoctrination however boring. The great thing about it, to the collectivist mind, is they won’t have to strive to keep alive. And no one will have cause to pity or envy anyone else, since no one will have less or worse, or more or better – except of course the rulers up there, all wise, permanent and unchallengeable who ordain that everyone else has his fixed place. They reserve plenty, choice, comfort, luxury, information, and power to themselves.

The recognition that such a State is counter to the human instinct for freedom – call it “selfishness “ if you will – should have come to every sane adult the world over when the Soviet Empire crashed. The idea of Socialism should have died then. But if it did, it was only for a short time. Like the Christian God, it rose again, and lives now in the White House, an administration indefensibly authoritarian, whim-driven, unjust, and arrogant.

Selfish human nature with its instinct for liberty, its impelling desire to possess what is good for it materially and mentally, is the force that can and must defeat it.

Two views of capitalism 4

At Townhall, John C. Goodman presents and discusses two views of capitalism as expounded by Professor Johnathan Haidt.

The two views are summed up by these videos, made by Professor Haidt.

Capitalism as Exploitation

Capitalism as Liberation

John Goodman comments:

Now I would argue that one of these views of capitalism is factually incorrect. It’s not just a matter of “political and moral values” [as Haidt asserts]. In fact, in a video presentation of his theory, Haidt shows a chart mapping per capita income throughout all of human history. The chart shows (and this should be well known to all economists) that up until the last few hundred years the average human lived on about a dollar a day – in modern terms. At times and places, they might have enjoyed two dollars a day. If they were really, really lucky they might have hit three dollars a day. But that was it.

In other words, for 100,000 years our ancestors lived at the subsistence level. And then [with the advent of the Industrial Revolution – ed] we got capitalism. By that I mean not just free exchange, but also the institutions of capitalism, including enforceable property rights …

In all its guises the exploitation theory has one central message: the reason why some people are poor is because other people are rich. Here is Paul Krugman explaining why middle income families don’t have higher incomes. …

Soaring incomes at the top were achieved, in large part, by squeezing those below: by cutting wages, slashing benefits, crushing unions, and diverting a rising share of national resources to financial wheeling and dealing. Perhaps more important still, the wealthy exert a vastly disproportionate effect on policy. And elite priorities — obsessive concern with budget deficits, with the supposed need to slash social programs — have done a lot to deepen the valley of despond.

Really? J K Rowling (author of the Harry Potter series) is the richest woman in the world. Did she get rich by “cutting wages, slashing benefits, crushing unions,” etc.? I thought she got rich by writing books. How about Oprah? Has she “slashed” any benefits lately? What about Bill Gates and Warren Buffett? When is the last time they were out there encouraging scabs to cross a picket line?

Krugman’s point about political influence is almost as silly as his view of the economy. Earth to Krugman: the real base of the Democratic Party (the party of the left) has become the ultra-wealthy. And their political goals are harmful to the middle class, but not in the way that Krugman imagines. …

The problem for Democrats is that the party is increasingly ruled by the “new oligarchs”  … [who]  are basically anti-job creation and anti-economic growth – which they see … as a threat to their life style. This puts them squarely at odds with the working class voters who used to be the backbone of the Democratic Party. …

The Democratic Party is [now] the party of the poor and the rich. It’s the middle class that is bolting and voting Republican. And what do the rich want from Democrats? Contra Krugman, they’re not demanding smaller deficits or smaller social programs or even lower taxes. What they want – in addition to looney environmentalism – is for government to protect their life style.

Once the plutocrats settle in a community they become fiercely anti-development and shape their communities in ways that price the middle class out of the housing market. As a result, wherever wealthy liberals tend to congregate, housing is more expensive …

Limousine liberals are a threat to the average worker. But not because they are wage-suppressing, union-busting, exploiters. It’s because their anti-capitalist goals are at odds with the aspirations of ordinary Americans.

It seems to be the case that most – probably all – of the successful entrepreneurs who live in Silicon Valley vote Democratic. Having achieved their own riches in the freedom of opportunity for the individual that the capitalist system gave them, they vote for socialism and the removal of individual freedom that it ensures, so others cannot do what they did.

The free market triumphs again 5

This is from an editorial at Investor’s Business Daily:

As Russia’s ruble plunges, its economy is fast melting down. …

Russia’s central bank raised official interest rates to 17% from 10.5% in a bid to halt the ruble’s stunning plunge, the largest since 1998’s ruble crisis. But on Tuesday, even that desperate rate-hike move failed, as the ruble continued to dive another 4%.

Next up, in all probability, will be capital controls. Putin might even confiscate citizens’ savings by forcing them to swap dollar-based savings accounts for debased ruble ones. This kind of shabby thievery has been done before, but mostly by Latin American dictators. …

How could Russia’s economy go into meltdown mode so fast? …

The major reason for Russia’s implosion is the decline in oil prices. The country relies on selling oil to earn dollars, and the more than 30% drop in oil prices has hit the economy and the currency hard.

A recent estimate by Russia’s Finance Ministry says oil has to average about $117 a barrel for the government to balance its budget. At a current oil price under $60 a barrel, Russia is a fiscal disaster.

The U.S. fracking revolution is a big reason for this. America now puts out more than 9 million barrels of oil a day — up from 7 million barrels just two years ago.

The oil and natural gas fracking boom is happening on private and states’ lands – against the will and the policy of the Obama administration.

As crude prices have declined, oil producers from Venezuela to Saudi Arabia to Iran have felt extraordinary economic pain. Now Russia’s feeling it too, and with political turmoil growing, Russian and foreign investors are leaving the country in droves — and taking their hard currency with them. …

Capital flight is a disaster for the ruble, and is likely to set off double-digit inflation soon.

Interest rates may have to go even higher to stave off a total ruble collapse – 20%? 25%? 30%? No one knows.

But higher rates, soaring inflation, a 60% decline in the stock market and reduced oil revenues mean 2015 is likely to be a nasty year for Russia’s caving economy. …

“Putin’s consistent policy of increasing state economic control may well be leading Russia on the path to stagnation and economic decline,” according to a report issued by the Heritage Foundation in September. …

[Russia’s] reliance on oil exports, the trigger for this crisis, is an obvious one. … Russia also faces a shocking demographic decline — its population is actually shrinking, and it has the odious distinction of being the only industrialized nation in which the average life span is falling. … Russians with skills and schooling are leaving in large numbers, a brain drain. A 2013 survey found 45% of university students wanted to leave the country and live permanently outside the former USSR. What’s left to run Russia’s enfeebled economy is a shrinking, unproductive remnant.

Russia should try a free market economy. It is the only way to prosperity. And then we could have peaceful trading relations with Russia at last. But Russia is very unlikely to do that. The Russian people have never known freedom under the rule of law. They have never wanted it. They get the governments they deserve.

The folly of raising the minimum wage 11

minwage

There should be no minimum wage at all in the interest of a thriving economy.

But if there is going to be such a misconceived thing, it should be very low indeed.

Many minimum wage jobs can be performed by machines. Automation will be hastened by the imposition of a minimum wage.

Minimum wage enforcement can only create unemployment.

It is not what an employee needs that should determine his wage, but how much he can contribute to the business that employs him. If his job earns the business at least three times his wage, he is worth what he is paid. The more he contributes, the more he is worth. If he needs more, he can get it by contributing more. The bigger and better his contribution, the better he’ll do for himself.

This is the way capitalism – what Adam Smith called “the natural order of liberty” – works.

From each according to his need, to each according to his ability.

Posted under Capitalism, Commentary, Economics by Jillian Becker on Friday, November 14, 2014

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Oil: the market triumphs 2

Despite all President Obama’s efforts to prevent it, the US is winning the oil game. Because no human force is stronger than the market.

The knuckleheads of the Left love to hurl the accusation in the faces of conservatives that the presidents Bush “only went to war against Iraq because of oil”. (As if they themselves would never think of driving a gas-fueled car – or would be perfectly content not to.)

The accusation is not true. But perhaps the US should have gone to war against one or more Middle Eastern powers “because of oil”.

Oil is a very good reason to go to war. Would have been, when the Saudis had OPEC hyping the oil price in 1973. The results for the US and Western Europe were dire.

This is from Wikipedia:

In October 1973, OPEC declared an oil embargo in response to the United States’ and Western Europe’s support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The result was a rise in oil prices from $3 per barrel to $12 and the commencement of gas rationing. Other factors in the rise in gasoline prices included a market and consumer panic reaction, the peak of oil production in the United States around 1970 and the devaluation of the U.S. dollar. U.S. gas stations put a limit on the amount of gasoline that could be dispensed, closed on Sundays, and limited the days gasoline could be purchased based on license plates.

Even after the embargo concluded, prices continued to rise. The Oil Embargo of 1973 had a lasting effect on the United States. The Federal government got involved first with President Richard Nixon recommending citizens reduce their speed for the sake of conservation, and later Congress issuing a 55 mph limit at the end of 1973. Daylight savings time was extended year round to reduce electrical use in the American home. Smaller, more fuel efficient cars were manufactured. Nixon also formed the Energy Department as a cabinet office. People were asked to decrease their thermostats to 65 degrees and factories changed their main energy supply to coal.

One of the most lasting effects of the 1973 oil embargo was a global economic recession. Unemployment rose to the highest percentage on record while inflation also spiked. Consumer interest in large gas guzzling vehicles fell and production dropped. Although the embargo only lasted a year, during that time oil prices had quadrupled and OPEC nations discovered that their oil could be used as both a political and economic weapon against other nations.

War then would have been a far better answer to the Saudis than meek acceptance buttered with sycophancy.

War and drilling. Drilling wherever there was oil in America and off-shore. Including Alaska. Ignoring the Environmentalists with their philosophy of impoverishment.

Now all is changing. The US is becoming the biggest oil producer in the world. The Saudis and the other Middle Eastern tyrannies have no resource other than the oil discovered under their ground and developed into riches for them, by the infidel. And now they are losing it.

They, and all the evil powers that have wielded oil as a weapon, are taking desperate measures. Which will fail.

This is from Investor’s Business Daily:

With Saudi Arabia ramping up oil production, prices are tumbling, and the world’s petrotyrants — Iran, Russia and Venezuela — are taking a hit. Seems the old high-price, low-production tactic isn’t foolproof.

The Saudis don’t seem to be interested in budging. As prices fell to $83 a barrel for November-delivery crude, they’ve ramped up production even as others call on them to stop.

The first call came from fiscal shambles Venezuela, for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries [OPEC] for a production hike. They were coldly rebuffed.

And on Tuesday, Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal — a Saudi entrepreneur with a lot of non-oil money who sometimes plays gadfly to the regime — warned that the kingdom would fail to balance its own budget if oil prices went below $80. But he, too, was rebuffed.

It all may be because Saudi Arabia has a strategic need to check Iran over its nuclear program and financing of Islamic State terror and to discipline Russia for its support for the Assad regime in Syria.

It’s also almost certainly a response to the great shale revolution in the U.S., which has slashed U.S. dependency on oil exports to 20% from 60% a decade ago.

A Chilean-based entrepreneur told IBD last year that the greatest fear of Saudi Arabia’s king was America’s shale revolution, which was cutting into Saudi’s role as the world’s swing producer of oil.

However it spills out, the Saudi move to raise production may be the most dramatic move to shake events since President Reagan forced the bankruptcy of the Soviet empire by … asking the Saudis to raise production, which they did.

With this most recent move, the petrotyranny model of using oil as a weapon against smaller neighbors and the U.S. is effectively dead. Over the past decade, all of the states that have staked their futures on the power of oil have effectively burned their bridges to other models for building their economies.

When Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez took over in 1998, he scrapped that nation’s high-production, low-price, high-market-share strategy. In its place came a “model” based on high prices for consumers, low output and the expropriation of state oil company profits to pay for bigger government and an expansive welfare state, leaving the company without investment.

Foreign oil properties were also expropriated, including Exxon Mobil’s in 2007. It provided a short-term boost but left the country one of the most unattractive in the world for foreign investment and capital.

Russia, meanwhile, adopted a somewhat similar strategy after its 1998 crash. It focused on becoming a petropower, much to the detriment of the rest of the economy.

Today, more than three-quarters of Russia’s economy is oil-based, leaving it dependent on high oil prices with no balance from other sectors and wasting its most valuable asset: a well-educated workforce.

Instead of diversifying, Russia used energy as a weapon, repeatedly cutting off Ukraine’s natural gas supplies since 2009 in a bid to force its neighbor to toe the Moscow line, as well as to “Finlandize” its eastern and central European neighbors into fearing more energy cutoffs.

Then there’s Iran, whose illegal nuclear program has enjoyed soggy indifference in Europe based on the region’s dependence on Iranian oil.

These three troublemakers share one thing in common: a strategy of high oil prices and low production, plus a willingness to interfere with markets to make them into power games.

But as it turns out, that strategy was another kind of dependency. And the Saudis, egged on by the shale revolution, have just ended it.

Market manipulation is peculiar. In 1998, the Saudis tried to cut output to keep crude prices from falling further. It didn’t work. From that, they learned a valuable right lesson: Nothing is bigger than market forces.

Now, the world’s remaining petrotyrants are about to be schooled as well.

Time for a little quiet celebration. And it doesn’t have to be only a little or very quiet.

Let us crow.

One hundred years ago today World War One began 1

Today is the centennial anniversary of the start of the First World War. On 28 July, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian army fired the first shots, to crush rebellious Serbia. What happened then, and why, is traced in this video. 

Blame is laid on the growth of nationalism, and even more on imperialism – the acquisition of colonies by the powers of Europe on other continents, in fierce competition with each other, Britain being far and away the  winner. The fact that at least some empires, chiefly the British, brought incalculable benefits to the lands they conquered, colonized and ruled, is touched on briefly; in our view, too briefly.

We think it is an overview worth watching, though there are points where we would place a different emphasis.

We agree with the presenters that the day World War One broke out was the day Europe began its terminal decline.

 

Libertarian conservatism 4

From time to time visitors to this website or our Facebook page query the idea – even the possibility – of there being such a thing as atheist conservatism. They are – almost always, as far as we can make out – Americans whose understanding is that the word “conservative” denotes Christian conservatism. To them, therefore, to speak of  “atheist conservatism” is to commit a contradiction in terms. Some have called it an oxymoron.

In Europe too, conservatism has a Christian coloration. Conservative political parties usually declare themselves to be Christian –  for example, the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) of Germany. But their support does not come only from Christians. And in Britain the established Church of England has been called “the Conservative Party at prayer”, but the party does not exclude members of other Christian denominations or other religions, or the non-religious.

Yet it is an American conservatism that we embrace. It is faithfulness to the Constitution, to the essential idea that the United States was intended to embody as a nation: the idea of individual liberty protected by the rule of law.

The shortest answer we give to those who accuse us of being self-contradictory is to tell them what our prime principles are:

  • individual freedom
  • a free market economy
  • small government
  • low taxes
  • strong defense

And we point out that those are core principles of American conservatism. The Constitution – southern state critics please be reminded – does not require citizens to be Christian, or religious at all.

Just as often, perhaps even more often, we are told that we cannot be both conservative and libertarian: that the two traditions are separate and even inimical to each other, to the point of being mutually exclusive. Even if that were  true (and we don’t think it is), we consider it unnecessary to take tradition into account. The issue needs to be looked at philosophically, not historically. Our conservatism, holding the firmly conservative principles we have listed, is manifestly a conservatism of liberty.

And we think it is now, more than ever before, that the libertarian view should direct the political agenda of conservatism. A heavy counterweight is needed to bring America back from its tipping over into collectivism by the Left. Individual freedom urgently needs to be saved.

What is stopping conservatives from accepting libertarianism as its future? The libertarians themselves. Frequently, their public statements reveal them to be inexcusably ignorant of world affairs. They often advocate naive isolationism. They seem to lack a sense of what matters. The legalization of drugs could be wise and necessary, but it is not worth making a hullabaloo about  when jihad is being waged against us. A person should arguably be able to marry any other person or persons – or things – that they choose, but it is much more important that America should remain the world’s sole superpower.

John Hinderaker also thinks that this should be “the libertarian moment”. And he too reproaches libertarians with an underdeveloped sense of what matters to the existence, liberty, safety, and prosperity of the nation. 

He writes at PowerLine:

Every major strand of American conservatism includes a strong libertarian streak, because the value of liberty is fundamental to just about all conservative thought. But today, especially, is said to be the libertarians’ moment. What once was a fringe movement, politically speaking, has moved front and center in our political life.

And yet, in my view, libertarians of both the capital L and small l varieties punch below their weight. They have not contributed as much as they should to the conservative movement. This is partly because libertarians tend to founder on foreign policy, where many are merely modern-day isolationists. But it is also because they have tended to focus on secondary, or tertiary, issues of domestic policy.

A couple of years ago I was invited to a gathering on behalf of Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico who then was a libertarian candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. I was well disposed toward him, but when he started talking, his first subject was legalization of drugs. Now he is the CEO of a marijuana company. Rand Paul is probably the leading libertarian at the moment; he purports to take seriously the threat that someone drinking coffee in an American cafe will be struck by a drone-fired missile.

American liberty is indeed under attack, and a libertarian movement is needed more than ever. But the threat to freedom is not drug laws or drone attacks.

The principal threat is the administrative state, which increasingly hems in everything we do and depends hardly at all on the will of voters. …

Calvin Coolidge, who knew the Progressives well and understood how antithetical their vision of government is to America’s founding principles [said]:

It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning cannot be applied to this great charter [the Constitution]. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

Today we labor under an administrative state that has metastasized far beyond anything Coolidge could have imagined. It constrains our freedoms, it lays waste to our economy, it has largely rendered Congress irrelevant, and it threatens to make just about anyone a criminal, since no one can possibly keep track of all of the myriad regulations with which we are encumbered. And let’s not forget that the administrative state is run by liberals, for liberals.

Despite the fact that it is antithetical to the Constitution and to American traditions, there is little opposition to the administrative state as such. Conventional politicians suggest that regulations can be made less irrational and less burdensome – a good idea, certainly – but hardly anyone questions the fundamental concept of Congress delegating its powers to unelected and mostly unaccountable agencies that are charged with managing just about every aspect of our lives. Nearly everyone considers the administrative state, as such, to be inevitable.

Why don’t libertarians stake out a “radical” position on domestic policy? Why not argue, not just for a moderation in the inevitable drift toward a more and more powerful administrative state, but for a return to the Constitution’s central principle – the very first words of Article I – that “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States…”, a Congress that is accountable to the people.

A battle is being fought for the liberties of the American people and, frankly, it isn’t going well. The fight has little or nothing to do with drugs and drones. If libertarians are serious about preserving and expanding liberty, they should join the fight that matters. A libertarian movement that focuses on a rollback of the administrative state would be “radical,” but it also would put libertarians in the vanguard, not on the fringe, of American conservatism.

The injustice of “social justice” 5

The Left is intensely immoral, as unabashedly unscrupulous as a wild beast. It will shamelessly blacken the name of anybody it perceives as a danger to it with baseless lies. Example: Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, publicly announced that the Republican candidate for the presidency in 2008, Mitt Romney, had not paid his taxes.

The Left will sacrifice any number of people, destroy their hopes, their health, their lives, if in their calculation doing so might give them an advantage. Example: Far-left President Obama is drawing tens of thousands of children over the Mexican border – to become, he hopes, future voters for his Party – by announcing that children who are in the US as illegal aliens will not be deported. All the children suffer. Many are ill. Some die.

The Left will deprive a law-abiding citizen, with armed force, of everything he has striven for in the name of some new oppressive regulation it has suddenly launched with a dim ideological end in view such as “environmental protection”. Example: A man who made a pond is being fined $75,000 a day by the EPA for doing just that, on the absurd grounds that the little stretch of water on his property is contaminating a river miles away.

These are just three examples, picked at random from the top of our composite editorial head, of present-day Leftist immorality in America. (How to choose from among the misdemeanors of the Clintons? An embarrasment of riches!) ) The theme of the Left’s iniquity is so vast that volumes could be written about it, and have been. In other countries, Leftist powers have committed mass-murder on an unimaginable scale by poison-gas, firing-squad, torture, overwork, and deliberate starvation.

And what compounds the evil and swells the monstrousness of it all is that they do it  in the name of compassion. Their aim, they claim, is to better the lot of the the underdog. They will make the poor richer by taking riches from the rich and giving them to the poor until all are materially and socially equal. They do not want the only form of equality that is just – equality before the law. It offends them, they say (even the richest among them, and most of them are rich) to see inequality between the richest and the poorest.

With them, equality  is not a moral principle but an aesthetic one.

They call the ideal of it “social justice“.

Paul Mirengoff writes at PowerLine, in part commenting on an article by Peter Wehner defending “social justice” (though Wehner is not a Leftist):

Justice has always been understood in our tradition as justice for the individual, qua individual. When a person goes to court, either in a criminal or a civil case, our system strives to provide him with a result that is fair given what he has done or failed to do. This is what we understand justice to be. Thus, when we say that justice should be blind, we mean that it should be rendered without regard to a person’s social status and without regard to the demands of this or that social agenda.

If justice is an individual-centric concept, then there is no room for the concept of social justice. The pursuit of social justice may lead to action that is consistent with justice, for example a non-discrimination statute. But the concept of “social justice” isn’t required to justify such a law; nor is it invoked to do so, since arguments for simple justice are always more persuasive (for example, the sponsors of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 took pains to assure the nation, probably disingenuously in some cases, that the law would preclude racial preferences).

The pursuit of social justice may also lead to action that is inconsistent with justice, such as granting racial preferences or expropriating someone’s property for “the greater good”. Such action is not justice, but rather justice’s antithesis. Thus, we should object when it is marketed as “social justice”. 

In sum, the concept of social justice has no value. In the first scenario, it is superfluous; in the second, it is false advertising.

[Peter] Wehner argues that “any society that fails to dispense some measure of sympathy and solicitude to others, particularly those living in the shadows and who are most vulnerable to injustice, cannot really be a good society”.  I agree. But vulnerability to injustice can be countered by the rigorous pursuit of simple justice. And sympathy and solicitude can be dispensed under these labels, rather than as a form of justice.

Wehner recognizes this when he concludes: “Whether this effort travels under the banner of social justice or some other name, to do justice and to love mercy is what is required of us, as individuals and as a society”. But the banner under which the charitable project travels matters.

When it travels under the banner of social justice, it gains extra moral authority that it does not deserve. The genuine tension between our desire to do justice (as commonly understood) and to be merciful is elided because justice is subsumed under mercy.

The result will be confusion and mischief, such as the aforementioned racial preferences and expropriation of property for “the greater good”. If rationalized as “social justice”, such components of the redistributionist project become entitlements, not favors to be granted, if at all, in small doses and under limited circumstances.

As [Friedrich] Hayek, who (as Wehner notes) deplored the concept of social justice, understood, therein lies the road to serfdom.

Besides, we cannot believe that devotees of the Left (once grown out of the ignorant idealism of adolescence) give a fig for “sympathy”, “solicitude”, or “mercy”. If they did they would take pains to find out what economic system really does better the lot of the poor (namely, the free market); and they wouldn’t repeat as they do that “the end justifies the means” – their excuse for sacrificing any number of their fellow human beings.

In fact many of them have dropped even the pretense of sympathizing with human beings. The victims of their “compassion” were first the proletarians. Then, as the proletarians in the Western world became too prosperous (because they had a degree of freedom) to qualify as pretexts for vast destruction, they focused on the lumpenproletariat. That class also became too well-off to care about. So then they moaned about the lot of  “women” – by which they meant feminists – and people of unconventional sexual preferences. Many of them moved on to animals. But their ever-restless avant-garde did not stop there. They are now working to sacrifice more people than ever before on the grounds that it will be good for the wilderness, for rocks and stones, and even the vast, spinning, molten-cored planet - the ultimate victim of “social injustice”. (See our post, Fresh wild raw uninhabited world, January 2, 2012.)

It would be enormously laughable as a theory, if it wasn’t colossally tragic as historical and contemporary reality.

Capitalists against capitalism 2

We think that capitalism is practically synonymous with civilization.

But we cannot escape noticing that many a successful and powerful capitalist casts his vote, bestows his money, and expends his energy to sabotage the system by which he has become rich and powerful.

A case in point: the president of the US Chamber of Commerce recently visited Cuba, a graveyard of freedom and prosperity, and gave comfort to the communist regime by telling it that he was all for investing in it. Is  he unaware that past “investment” in Cuba enriched no one but the dictators? He surely is. What can be deduced about him then? Is he crazy? Not clinically. Does he like communism? That would make no sense. What then?

Our preferred source of information and comment on Stalinist Cuba is Humberto Fontova, who writes about this:

US Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue … as a guest of Cuba’s Stalinist regime … gives a speech at the University of Havana …

“For years, the US Chamber of Commerce has demanded that our government eliminate the commercial embargo on Cuba. It’s time for a new approach,” proclaimed Donohue this week to an ovation from communist apparatchiks, some who in 1960 stormed into almost 6000 U.S. owned businesses (worth almost $2 billion at the time) and stole them all … 

The Inter-American Law Review classifies Castro’s mass burglary of U.S. property as “the largest uncompensated taking of American property by a foreign government in history”. Rubbing his hands and snickering in triumphant glee, Castro boasted at maximum volume to the entire world that he was freeing Cuba from “Yankee economic slavery”!  (Che Guevara’s term, actually) and that “he would never repay a penny”.

This is the only promise Fidel Castro has ever kept in his life. Hence the imposition of the Cuba embargo, not that you’d know any of this from the mainstream media, much less from Thomas Donohue.

The burglarized (and often brutalized) American owners filed those property claims against Castro’s regime with the US  government. They’re worth $7 billion today – and must be settled before the so called embargo is lifted. This settlement provision for lifting the embargo was codified into U.S. law in 1996 by the Helms-Burton act, which means only Congress can lift the embargo, obviously after a vote. But the votes are not there.

Shouldn’t the President of an outfit like the US Chamber of Commerce be aware of this? Or is Donohue calling for more of Obama’s “executive overreach”?

“The reforms under Raul Castro’s government demonstrate that Cuban leaders understand that direct economic investment can be a powerful tool for economic development,” proclaimed Donahue to another ovation from his communist audience.

Oh, Cuba’s Stalinist kleptocracy understands this alright. But this “economic development” via foreign investment exclusively benefits the tiny Stalinist nomenklatura that has run Cuba since 1959 — and enthusiastically hosted Thomas Donahue this week. All foreign trade with “Cuba” is still conducted exclusively with the Stalinist regime — no exceptions. In fact private property rights still do not exist in Cuba, much less an independent judiciary and the rule of law.

According to figures from the US Department of Commerce, the US has transacted almost $4 billion in trade with Cuba over the past decade. Up until four years ago, the US served as Stalinist Cuba’s biggest food supplier and fifth biggest import partner. We’ve fallen a few notches recently but we’re still in the top half.

For over a decade the so-called US embargo, so disparaged by Thomas Donahue, has mostly stipulated that Castro’s Stalinist regime pay cash up front through a third–party bank for all U.S. agricultural products … And that’s the catch with Donahue’s gracious hosts. They’re desperate to abolish that provision.

Enacted by the Bush team in 2001, this cash-up-front policy has been monumentally beneficial to US taxpayers, making them among the few in the world not screwed and tattooed by the Castro regime … [Cuba] per capita-wise qualifies as the world’s biggest debtor nation, with a foreign debt estimated at $50 billion, a credit rating nudging Somalia’s and an uninterrupted record of defaults. … Just this year the Russians wrote off almost $30 billion Castro still owed them.

Regarding the disconnect seen above between historic truth and Castroite propaganda, what we have here, amigos, is not a “failure to communicate”. Instead it’s perfect communication – between Castro’s propaganda ministry and the US  media (and “business leaders”) to whom they issue press bureaus and visas, after careful vetting. These latter amply live up to their side of the bargain, “reporting” exactly what Castro wants them to report. …

But why?

One fine morning in February 2009 the Castro brothers woke up and decided to freeze $1 billion that 600 foreign companies kept in Cuban bank accounts. Another fine morning in April 2012 the Cuban regime arrested the top officers of Britain-based Coral Capital that had invested $75 million in the Castro brothers’ fiefdom and was planning four and luxurious golf resorts. These hapless (greedy, unprincipled and stupid, actually) businessmen find themselves with no more recourse to law than the millions of Cubans and Americans who had their businesses and savings stolen en masse in August of 1960 by Castro’s gunmen.

So not even the well-informed and enlightening Humberto Fontova casts light on the mysterious motivation of Mr Donahue and the US Chamber of Commerce.

*

The same Mr Thomas Donahue and his Chamber of Commerce support amnesty for illegals.

Investor’s Business Daily asks why:

Across Lafayette Park, facing the White House, sits an imposing stone structure, framed by ornate Corinthian columns and comprising a significant chunk of a full city block. It is home to the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, the historic bastion of American business and industry.

Since its founding slightly more than a century ago, the chamber has engaged in countless issues from keeping unions in check to job training and tax reform.

But increasingly, the chamber is straying from its original principles, and there is no greater example than its supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants.

The national chamber is one of the nation’s loudest advocates for amnesty for people who broke the law entering the U.S.

Chamber President Tom Donohue even went so far as to warn the Republican Party on May 12 not to bother running a candidate for president in 2016 absent support from the congressional GOP for immigration “reform”,  a term that has become synonymous with amnesty in recent months. …

But why?

The conventional wisdom is that business wants cheap labor. It’s a cynical argument but one that contains a grain of logic, and cheap labor would certainly be one of the byproducts of amnesty.

But if that’s an insufficient answer, what is the full explanation?

IBD does not know. “The future economic and political fallout of amnesty”, it argues, can only be bad for business and industry.

Bigger government, unsustainable federal spending, a growing welfare state and an electorate to perpetuate it hold the potential to doom the free-market system that the chamber has historically encouraged.

Amnesty would be a disaster for the federal budget. The taxpayer cost of amnesty for the estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. is a staggering $6.3 trillion, according to a 2013 Heritage Foundation study. The group’s research shows that illegal immigrants are likely to receive three times more money in government benefits than they would pay in taxes.

How this level of government spending helps promote free-market commerce is baffling.

Amnesty would also be a disaster by growing the American welfare state. There are certainly some illegal immigrants in the U.S. who possess the education and skills to compete and advance in professional careers, but most do not. Census Bureau data show that the typical illegal immigrant is 34 years old, has a 10th-grade education and an annual income of less than $25,000. Amnesty would qualify millions of people for scores of means-tested welfare programs and would stretch welfare spending to the breaking point.

Less easily quantified is how amnesty would be a moral disaster. The idea of rewarding people for illegal behavior makes a mockery of the rule of law on which this nation was built.

President Obama makes a mockery of it anyway.

Rule of law is also a prerequisite for commerce on all levels; if one particular law or set of laws can be disregarded, any law can be disregarded. The erosion of the rule of law would create a chaotic environment in which commerce cannot be well conducted.

Some analysts have claimed that the only way the Republican Party can increase its share of the Hispanic and Latino vote is to support amnesty, a claim that further defies logic. Those who are legally eligible to vote did not break the law to come here. Amnesty for illegal immigrants would be a stunning insult to the men and women who played by the rules and entered the U.S. legally … For the GOP to believe that amnesty means victory at the ballot box is delusional.

It makes no sense for the US Chamber of Commerce to support such fatally flawed policy, yet it does, inexplicably so. … Amnesty is a very dangerous position for the chamber and one that would make the organization unrecognizable to the men who founded it.

Is it possible that Thomas Donahue is to the US Chamber of Commerce what Barack Obama is to the US – a leader into ruin?

On the question of why numbers of the most successful capitalists vote for the regulation of business and socialist redistribution (by voting Democratic), and positively encourage the survival of communist dictatorship, we invite readers to offer their theories.

We also invite opinion on the question of amnesty.

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