S.M.B. - Logic and Rhetoric
Monday, December 15, 2003
MY OWN COMMENTS CONCERNING THE PROPAGANDA OVERDRIVE IN THE PAST 24 HOURS
Say what up to Blah 3, which is the first blog I ever read, I was drawn into the cultish blogging sub-culture by the brilliant Question mark campaign against aWol, in the fall of 2002, a time when the Democrats didn't even have the cajones to step up to the wingnuts; as a brand new voter I guess it was cool to see somebody doing it, and Blah 3 tuned me in to a world that was unafraid of the right-wing scare tactics that the politicians lacked the fortitude to confront.
Ohhhh, the mem'ries, my comments are signed 'Kalonji,' and start with the sentence "it is a propaganda shit storm out here right now."
Sunday, December 14, 2003
INFO TO CRIPPLE RIGHT-WING ATTACKS AGAINST LIBERAL VALUES
THE HISTORY AND IDEOLOGY BEHIND TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY: LAISSEZ-FAIRE
The deaths of many liberals' political hopes have been caused by the lie that deregulation and government favors for wealthy individuals and businesses help average people (ie the non millionaires). The Laissez-faire/Social Darwinism/Trickle-down axis, the three headed Godfather of George W. Bush's economic policies, is based on premises that every liberal should be able to challenge and disarm honestly and plainly; all we need is a little information.
BACKGROUND: HOW CURRENT RIGHT-WING IDEAS ABOUT ECONOMICS DEVELOPED
Following centuries of territorial wars (based on religious and nationalistic pretensions) the nations of Western Europe, having technically agreed not to attack eachother ever again (1648 Peace of Westphalia, after the religious wars), had each already begun pursuing other means of world domination. Each Western European nation's resources were too meager for any country to assemble and maintain kick ass military forces in the long-term. Spain did not have enough iron for the Spanish to keep the English from kicking their ass, and they sure as hell didn't have enough gold to pay their inbred monarchs for being such devout genocidal maniacs.
They set out to take hold of tons of resources with the devices of predatory rape and plunder. To build more warships, arms, forts and castles, they needed vitamins and minerals, a lot of trees and a shitload of labor. The conquest of the Americas was stepped up when the Indians would not roll over and allow the whities to ravage their environments and gobble up their gold reserves. The Slave Trade began and was escalated because the colonizing nations needed more and more workers to grease their killing machine, and all the Indians did was die on the job. Given their terminal mistrust for one another, the colonial nations each set out to screw eachother over by trying to haul in more resource-rich land for themselves and then trying to make sure that their rivals had no access to their own goodies.
Mercantilism became the dominating economic system among those nations that would colonize the New World in the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries. Formally, mercantilism advocates extreme protectionism, the accumulation of boat loads of gold and, most fundamentally, a system in which a colony's primary job is to supply natural resources to the factories of the mother country; consequently, laborers in the mother country would use the raw materials from the colonies, make the final products, turn around and send them back across the water and sell them for ridiculously high prices. The colonial countries would use their navies and merchant marine forces to protect their cargo ships and to keep smugglers from importing the same goods at much lower costs.
Because of the long distance relationship between customs officials--in the colonies--and their monarchs--several thousand miles away--it was easy for successful pirates and smugglers to "lobby" their local government officials to ensure business growth. This was typical of mercantilist economies and even accepted as standard operating procedure. Tellingly, the British "Salutary Neglect" of strict enforcement of customs taxes collected on British produced goods to be sold in the 13 colonies created conditions that inched much closer to the capitalism to come than any other economic situation in the world.
A SHARP REACTION AGAINST ECONOMIC REGULATION: REPUBLICAN-STYLE CAPITALISM IS BORN
Laissez-faire, in its historical context, was meant to strip the Mercantilist tariff regulations and economic culture that led to the waste and depletion of many, many resources. Laissez-faire capitalism encouraged governments to allow intuitive and able individuals to innovate and empower themselves (and, in turn, their communities) by providing jobs, technologies and resources to their own neighborhoods. Mercantilism was a system that led to harsh taxes, high tariffs, waste of human and material resources, widespread bureaucratic corruption and international tensions between competing nations. Raw materials being transported between continents were always in danger of being stolen by pirates, and consequently, cargo ships required a lot of naval protection. Laissez-faire is a fundamentally unique contrast to that old economic system.
Laissez-faire is based on the benign belief that individuals, rather than governments, are best able to power an economy to reach its full potential. In the simplest sense, I believe this is true, but the mantle of Laissez-faire theory has historically been used to undermine progressive reforms and regulations that have turned out to help the U.S. economy rather than to hurt it. Adam Smith came up with laissez-faire theory in 1776 when he realized that it just did not make sense for governments to spend so many resources trying to protect their economies from foreign threats when economically destructive corruption was all but inherent in the system.
Laissez-faire was a radical break from Mercantilism, but the elites quickly learned how to use the system to their advantage. The Industrial Revolution, which exploded in 19th Century in Western Europe, Canada and the United States, made the wealthy classes in these countries de facto masters over the vast majority of workers in these countries. These nations saw the emergence of millions of low income jobs that required few skills and little training. Living conditions, working conditions, wages, and the overall quality of life was hell for workers. Yes, laissez-faire policies provided many more jobs for the people in these nations, but a new problem was quickly recognized: laissez-faire could not alleviate the shitty quality of life of a nation's workers even if it made nations wealthier.
THE DESTRUCTIVE EFFECTS OF GOVERMENT INDIFFERENCE
In 1848 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels' "Communist Manifesto" was released upon the masses of Europe. Violent rebellions were spreading throughout Europe, and workers looked upon their employers with contempt, indignation and, alas, jealousy. The West had amassed more resources, technology and goods than ever before, but the overwhelming majority of the West's populations were not reaping the rewards of their own labor.
Laissez-faire held, perhaps correctly in the short-term, that nations would reach their full economic and material potentials when governments did not interfere in economic affairs. The hardline view throughout the 19th Century was that governments shouldn't regulate workplace safety, employment, air, water and food quality, medicine, , worker compensation, product prices or any economic development (even when it encroaches upon the environment). Nonetheless, this is the first broad historical example of people questioning whether the "benefits" of extreme wealth for the political elite and the capitalists (products of laissez-faire) were worth the costs of instability, strife and bloodshed. The elites did not blink as they stamped out the uprisings that swept Europe; for them, the end of laissez-faire was the end of their lives, and suicide was no option.
The laissez-fairies were now the status quo, making more money because of their reforms and free to be corrupt and unaccountable because their exploitation and wrecklessness brought more money to the governments that did not regulate anything that affected the industrialists' abilities to make money. So laissez-faire policy made jobs available for the millions of factory workers who had moved from the Western European countryside to Western Europe's cities, like Adam Smith contends, but the new jobs were akin to serfdom without the protection of a master, most people were desperate for these jobs depite workers' routinely suffering serious injuries on the job.
SO WHAT ABOUT REPUBLICAN EFFORTS TO CURB REGULATIONS?
The historical examples and evidence tell us concrete things about employees, businessmen and governmental action:
When laissez-faire was the approach of western countries to economic regulation, business executives set their own standards.
The general public suffered in the time when businesses, rather than governments, 'regulated' standards for working conditions.
The previous realities are not coincidences; the public's suffering is an inherent consequence of laissez-faire, hands off government.
Regulations were introduced by governments to deter or, if need be, punish those businesses and businessmen that abuse their exalted status as employers by either endangering or harming their workers, even if businesses are negligent or devious in their pursuit of profit; regulations exist to protect workers from greedy businessmen.
Regulations were also introduced to protect citizens from faulty and dangerous goods, services and necessities; to prevent or alleviate the harm done by harmful products, dangerous medicines, dirty water, polluted air, tainted food and the like. Regulations protect all citizens from unsafe products and business practices.
The Conservatives' goal to "roll back" regulations is not in the interests of any Americans, nor would it be in the interests of anyone anywhere. As has happened in the past, social strife, divisive violence and instability result when the government takes a hands off approach to regulations, any step in that direction would be a step towards the 19th Century. Many rightwingers claim that deregulation is in keeping with the spirit of individual liberty, marketplace competition and the public interest (in better, more efficient business that consequently would deliver better products for lower prices); that argument is a contradiction.
Deregulation exemplifies the spirit of democracy like a g-string covers my ass the same as a three piece suit. Marketplace competition would not be harmed by regulations if all companies operated by the same rules as they ought to; the lack of business accountability in foreign countries should not lead to a dismantling of the protections that safeguard people in the United States, or any country. The existence of regulations in the U.S. shows how every nation can protect its population from a destructive race to the lowest bottom line. Individual liberties and the public interest are harmed when anybody, a business, government and/or individual can, without regard for the national community at large, pollute, lie, or sell harmful goods or services in pursuit of a little more money for themselves.
Deregulation is not a process for the public interests, but for the big, oppressive businesses who have never demonstrated that they would act with the public interest in mind if they were not forced by government pressure. Whenever they've been free of regulations, big corporations and past big businesses and employers have consistently demonstrated that when they are given a choice between making more money by disregarding regular peoples interests or voluntarily committing to protect workers and consumers and even sometimes investors, these businesses chose to ignore the common good to increase their own wealth.
History has proven that the Liberal values of individual liberty, checks and balances, balance of power, universal rights and expanding democracy are the ideals that have fostered the innovations and improvements that we take for granted in the U.S.A. Repressive, unregulated, unbalanced, elitist societies and/or those with similarly flawed business and religious communities lie stale on the path that the radical wingnuts are steering us onto.
God help us if they aren't stopped.