Why not have Full Technological Unemployment?

I recently came across this excellent video CGP Grey and felt the need to share it:

His videos tend to be well made, and highly informative. I highly recommend of them to all my readers. This particular piece gives an excellent exploration of the inevitability of technological unemployment, that is the possibility that we are now able to automate so much of the work that needs to be done now, that we will gradually run out of work for humans to do. This is different from previous technological expansions in that our capacity to automate, mechanize and robotize is expanding at an exponential rate, far faster than at any point before.

I have written on this topic here, at the excellent abolishwork.com (a site I also highly recommend) and have said that I actually favor the idea of full technological unemployment, or more accurately full technological retirement. That is I would like to see a world where machines do all the work and humans are free to enjoy the activities they please.

Part of the reason the automation we have had over the past century has not contributed to this to happening is that the current system has a lot of policies in place that make the population way more dependent on conventional wage labor than they would otherwise be. The state has made a lot of the self-employment/semi-employment alternatives illegal or more expensive and risky than they would otherwise be. Since so many of us have to work for someone else (on terms highly favorable to them) to pay off our basic expenses the immediate benefits of automation go to people at the top of the organization and the rest of us are still expected to work long and hard to to get access to the abundant goods that are so easy to produce. This is not to mention that government policy has generally been in favor of promoting the 40 work week in the last several decades and labor has not been strong enough to undermine it, as explained here.

Also we really do still live in an economy that is based on scarcity, when we in the developed world appears to be on abundance. Simply put the current system is set up so one has to work in order to feed themselves. This made sense when there were endless life sustaining tasks needed to be done, but it hardly makes sense now that we are literally running out of things for people to do. This topic of this need for restructure is given surprisingly good treatment in this episode of the Cracked Podcast, though it hosts seem a little bit more sympathetic to the understandable, yet still in my opinion problematic idea of a guaranteed minimum income. That may be a topic for a latter entry however.

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Let’s Stop Calling People “Illegals”… It’s Dehumanizing.

A few years back in the run-up to the 2012 US presidential election, an exchange happend that stuck with me during one of the debates between the Republican contenders. The now recently indicted Texas Governor Rick Perry told former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, “You hired illegals in your home and you knew about it for a year?” Perry declared this “the height of hypocrisy,” and arguably had a point. Though Romney never specifically hired an illegal immigrant, his lawn care company did. He saw to it that one of the illegal immigrants, (whose employment with Romney was the subject of a critical piece from the Boston Globe) was fired. Despite this Romney continued using the same company, which continued using illegal immigrant labor. Romney responded to Perry’s assertion, by explaining that he told the company: “Look, you can’t have any illegals working on our property. I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals.”

This sparked a huge reaction because it made Romney (who was already gaining a reputation as an opportunist, willing to adopt whatever position is politically expedient) look as though his primary grievance was not the illegality of what the company was doing, but how it would impact his campaign. Many media outlets went on extensively about how dishonest this made Romney look and questioned his integrity. All of these are important things when considering a candidate, but I was disturbed by the complete lack of concern by the media outlets that our presidential rhetoric had fallen to such a low standard. Is it considered acceptable for them to refer to other human beings as “illegals?”

The term is dehumanizing, dismissive and reflects an “us versus them” mentality. One can argue that it is no worse than calling someone that commits a murder a murderer. After all, these people are here illegally. I disagree. A murderer is someone who has been convicted of committing a murder. Calling a person an illegal is dehumanizing and often racist. Being in the United States without papers may be illegal but hardly criminal in the same way as a murder. It doesn’t make sense, and comes off mean. Illegal immigrants are people. They have real lives and real concerns and a great many of them hard working and contribute to society. Calling them degrading names is not respectable or consistent with human decency, especially when it comes from the very people campaigning to be government leaders.

The context of these debates only seems to make the issue worse, and the candidates are trying to outdo each other on their supposed toughness. They want to be the most xenophobic and reactionary on the issue. Let’s not mention the racist connotation. The word does not conjure up images of boarder hoppers from Canada. In world where blatantly racist language is not permitted on television, this term seems to be catching on because it is a viable substitute.

It is an appeal to the type of voters who believe that the government’s job is to protect American culture. It is the government’s job to protect the rights of its citizens from others so that they can pursue whatever cultural practices they choose, as long as they do not harm others.

Whatever you think the appropriate policies for dealing with illegal immigration are (and I’m sure there is a wide variety of positions about it), Americans and especially our political candidates can talk about it without having to resort to name calling, veiled racism, posturing, and attempts to appeal to the most bigoted voters. Public figures can and should do better. This is a sad reflection on the state of discourse on this subject of illegal immigration. Whether you agree or disagree, with me about this term, I hope you agree that the issue of how we talk about other humans, especially in the political sphere is worth discussing and taking a look at once in a while. Note I am not trying to censor anyone, nor am I advocating using any kind of force to coercion to get people to stop using the term. I am simply asking that we show a little decency.

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Why not Legalize Immigration? (and a few other suggestions)

Over the past several weeks, I have been hearing various stories of often very young immigrants from Mexican and central America crossing into the United States in great numbers. It view this as a humanitarian crisis and support anyone who has been doing anything to help. A friend asked me what I thought of this as well as immigration in general and a few thoughts came to mind. 

First off, I favor letting those who have made it here stay. My understanding is that many if not most of them do even have family to be returned to, and I think they are honestly better off here in the states. Generally speaking I am in favor of allowing people to freely move across the earth’s surface as they please (with the exception of allowing them to invade the justly acquire personal property of others, however one defines that). I tend to favor generally open borders. I tend to find it that so many self styled conservatives, small government types and free market types are so bent on restricting the crossing of boarders. After all boarders are barriers to trade and free association.

I also dislike the fact that we have a large class of people who are in the US working but have to live in constant fear and suffer various kinds of abuses because they have no legal standing and the people who employ them can turn them over to the authorities to be deported at anytime. It is especially troublesome since it is often easier to enter the country illegally than legally and the distinction between legal and illegal immigration strikes me as irrelevant to the persons actual situation. An illegal immigrant can come here and work his butt off while a legal one can come and live off the welfare system, this hardly strikes me as fair or sensible.

My stance is only reinforced by the fact that US drug policy has also played major role in creating the chaos that immigrants crossing our southern boarder are seeking refuge from. This is not to mention that these central American kids are coming from a region where the US has a long history support nasty dictatorships, exploitative (literal) banana republics and murderous death squads, and this I’m sure has contributed to the general poverty and instability of the region. On some level a case could be made that this is a humanitarian crisis that the US contributed to and that it should take some responsibility by providing for the needs of incoming refugees. Additionally the usual incoming flows of immigrants from Mexico, are here in part because NAFTA has forced their country to buy (often US government subsidized) American agricultural goods, undermining the local rural economies.

This is not to mention that much of the neoliberal structural adjustment reforms that many of the Latin American countries were subjected to (at the behest of the World Bank and IMF) largely, took government held resources, (often stolen from the general population) and handed them over to multinational companies. Furthermore, I have to question whether expanding things like American Corporate liability and entity norms, and the enforcement of US patents and copyrights into these countries has really benefited the local populations much.

That said, a line has to be drawn somewhere, there are going to be limits to the US taxpayer’s willingness and ability to feed clothe and school every any kid who can make it across the border and we do not want to create a situation where we are attracting increasingly more people by giving out free amenities. I do think it is perfectly reasonable that they should be protected by law enforcement as well as have access to emergency services. I hated seeing those Fox news pundits who seemed to imply that the local emergency people should not have answered the calls requesting water or emergency assistance. Ultimately If we are ever forced to choose between cutting back on the government services we offer or restricting the freedom of those wishing to enter the country, I prefer the former. I dislike the idea, of restricting freedom in order to cut down on the demand for using government services. This why I do not particularly like seat belt laws or the various types of “sin” taxes.

That is why I generally favor allowing people wish to come and live here peacefully to do so and I also support getting rid of the drug war, NAFTA and the above mentioned agricultural subsidies. In addition to these, measures I favor doing what we can to make it easier for immigrants and working class people to get by without many of the obstruct attempts by working class people to support themselves or stretch their budgets. This means getting rid of zoning laws and regulations that arbitrarily limit how many non-related people can live in one home, or that make it difficult or impossible do things like starting restaurants, barber shops, or day care centers from one’s home (or taxi services from one’s car). Additionally I tend to oppose zoning restrictions that prohibit people not only from operating businesses out of their homes, but also forbid them from growing foods in their yards or keeping animals like chickens on the property. Additionally, I think people should be freer to build things out of local supplies that they are able to scrounge or get for cheap. Building codes that require all building designs to be signed off by a licensed architect basically give people looking to build a choice equivalent to having either a steak dinner or starving. Additionally I would like to see policies that would make it easier for people to settle in unused pieces of land or abandoned buildings, and eventually get to own these places if they are able to reside on them long enough or convert them into livable homes.

That generally summarizes my thoughts on immigration issues in the United States. Thanks for reading.

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10 Disturbing Attitudes of the Pro-Israel (or pro-Palestine?) Commentariat.

Editor’s note: The following essay comes from Wilson Report contributor Laurie Thompson. Enjoy.

The comment section takes no prisoners. It doesn’t pull the punches. It reveals our biases and lays bear the ongoing bitterness we can’t seem to shake. Here are some of the more disturbing pro-Israel comments, boiled down to their essence.  Some of these will pop up as pro-Palestine arguments as well. They are in no particular order.

1. “We could be more cruel than we are. Thank us for showing mercy by not  being more cruel.

It’s more like “We’re as cruel as we can get away with, without fear of serious international action against us, which is, frankly, a shocking degree of cruelty.” It’s like when there’s some complaint about the police unnecessarily injuring someone in an arrest, and then the response is “just be glad no one died.” It’s horrendous.

2. “My actions are your fault. You left me with no choice.”

Sometimes people really do have no choice. Or rather, no choice that stops the violence. For example, if someone jumps at you and starts punching, you may have no choice but defend yourself with violence, at their expense, because you fear for your own life. Certainly, some nations have (and continue to have) essentially no choice but to fight back violently against  powerful oppressors. In other cases, one may choose from a range of options including diplomacy, sanctions, making alliances with more moderate factions/winning over moderates, international pressure… you get the idea. A level of skepticism is sorely lacking in sorting out those who fight because they need to and those who fight because it’s politically advantageous or it gives them a sense of satisfaction. Beware of anyone who says violence was the only choice, and then when presented with other realistic options (I mean truly realistic and reasonable options), rejects them.

3. Related: “There are only two options: attack or let yourself be attacked.”

Essentially, there are those who think that in order to stop the conflict, “we have to get them to leave” or “we have to get them to die.” But think clearly here, are either Hamas or the IDF simply going to “leave” or “die” under any realistic future scenario? Is attacking ever going NOT provoke a counter-attack? I suppose you could argue that one side might simply “give up” and decide “that’s it, we’ve been conquered, goodnight everybody” but really? I mean really?? If every attack is followed by a counter-attack, if neither side ever lets the other side “get the last word” (and by word I mean bomb or missile), then simple math suggests it will not end, not any time soon. The only way it ends is if there is another option.

4. “They are unreasonable too. Let’s talk about their unreasonableness.”

This merely derails the discussion and deflects responsibility. It doesn’t really add anything useful.

5. “This could all have been prevented if only they had given in sooner to our demands/signed the such-and-such agreement

Well they didn’t. Maybe that agreement or those demands were crap because the people on “your” side couldn’t agree to give more concessions. Or maybe the deal was just fine and dandy, but there was some disagreement on the other side, and some of “them” totally would have signed it because they really wanted peace, but they were derailed by people with their own agenda. Or maybe those demands were made so long ago that it wasn’t really “them” but rather them-plus-some people-who-aren’t-alive-anymore-minus-everyone-who’s-been-born-since-then, and so you can’t really blame the entirety of the current “them” for the oversight of the past “them.” Maybe you shouldn’t treat “them” as a monolith, but understand some nuance in who “they” are. Or maybe you aren’t really interested in revisiting the deal and trying anew, maybe rehashing the bitterness over the failed deal is merely another rhetorical cudgel you can swing against “them” to prove how it is “all their fault” because “history.”

6. “It’s all their fault because history.”

History should be taken seriously, for obvious reasons. Historical wrongs are wrongs just the same, no matter how much time has passed. We should try to right these historic wrongs and make amends as best as possible, absolutely. But there is no history that can justify cruel and intentional killing of innocents today. And yes, children are innocent in war, no matter who their parents happen to be or who they might grow up to become. Let’s look at what’s happening now – what’s happening today. Today’s cruelty costs lives and gains nothing. It includes not only the bombing and killing, but the restriction of freedom and the resulting loss of prosperity. This is the ongoing crime. This is the crime that must be righted before you’re likely to build up the kind of trust necessary to deal with history.

7. “But seriously, our cruelty is nothing compared to this other cruelty over here.” Or “Who amongst you wouldn’t do exactly what we are doing in our situation?”

Sometimes it’s a legitimate complaint that those people commenting from afar are expecting those more directly affected to act as self-sacrificing angels, and then blaming them when they fail to live up to an expected level of sainthood. But this comment has to be judged within the balance of power. Those with more power (including more money, more military might and more powerful allies) have the ability to safely and comfortably choose a less violent path. They can choose ethics and compassion without fear that their saintliness will earn them nothing but death and poverty. The ones with power are the ones that have to put on their grown-up pants, extend the olive branch, and hold themselves to a higher standard.

8. “When we kill them, their deaths are their fault. No, seriously, when we kill civilians in their sleep it is their own fault.”

This is a whole category of comment in itself, but it ranges from “they could have built more bomb shelters/crawled into dirt holes (see comment section here) to prevent themselves from dying from the weapons we aimed at them” to “essentially they are using their own civilians as hostages/human shields to deter us from attacking them” all the way up to the full-blown-nonsense of “they want their own people to die because it makes people sympathize with them and it makes us look bad, so when we kill their children it is actually them killing their children.”

It follows from the false premise of “we have no choice.” You see, if the other side is using civilians as hostages/human shields, we have no option but to kill them, including the hostages/human shields. If they happen to die from our killing them, well it was because they insufficiently protected themselves from our killing.  Apart from hypocrisy (many countries have military operations near civilian residences) and a lack of realism (you really think they should dig pits in the ground and stick themselves in them for all of the 28 days of conflict? What about when they have to eat/work/go to the bathroom?) it betrays a lack of empathy and dehumanization of the other side. In the current conflict this is a sentiment almost exclusively deployed by pro-Israel commentators. Obviously Palestinians have suffered most of the deaths, so they must be extra-at-fault for killing themselves?

9. “It’s their responsibility to end this.”

Possibly the most childish of the childish comments, this is the total abdication of responsibility, and it is more hypocritical the more powerful the person who says it. Notably, this sentiment is likely to spring forth from the mouths (or keyboards) of commentariat from the U.S., willfully or un-willfully ignoring the role of the U.S. in all Middle East conflicts, especially in Israel and Palestine.

10. “Our religion is better. Our culture is better. Our god wants us to win.”

Ok, this one is an obvious one, I admit. Granted, not everyone involved in the conflict is very religious and it’s not all about religion. But the concept that you are just simply “better” or “more deserving” because your god is totally awesome and he wants you to have this-or-that so you should totally have – that’s just never going to be productive ever. Honestly, I’ve seen this sentiment across the board, from both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine folks. And it isn’t just a Judaism/Islam thing either – the Christians want in on this action too. Of, course, I can’t say for sure if one side is more likely to use this argument, but the U.S. audience obviously sees the pro-Israel argument-from-religion as most compelling. Granted, it’s unlikely these commentators represent the majority opinion of Israelis or Palestinians, or of people within their own religion. Still, the religious fervor is disturbing.

If we are ever going to get anywhere as a species, we have to accept that people who don’t share this religion or that religion are still people with lives of the same worth and the same deservingness of rights. We have to accept the possibility we might be wrong about our religious beliefs. Yes, even you. Yes, even those beliefs. This is a big thing to ask, I know, because even people who are not in conflict-torn areas sometimes stubbornly refuse to question their own beliefs – even (or especially) the beliefs that cause suffering.

11. Bonus! “Both sides share the blame.”

This comment is as unhelpful as “it’s all your fault,” even if it seems less extreme.  It just lacks any nuance or helpful content. It’s often used like a bat to swipe away criticism of a particular person or organization. As in: “Hey, I think the UN should look into potential human rights violations by Israel against the Palestinians…” “That’s not fair, both sides share the blame.”

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Why not End U.S. Support for Israel?

I seriously question the wisdom having a put a Jewish home state in the middle east in following world war II and I think the US should gradually discontinue providing aid to that country or at the very least making further aid contingent on ending the religious apartheid, that characterizes the region. For those who have not been following the news Israel has essentially turned Gaza into an giant open air prison which they apparently feel free to bomb and/or steal land from at their leisure. The Israeli state, being the far stronger party in the conflict has shown little interest in any solution to the crisis, but rather seems to prefer managing it in over the long term, so they can steal more land a continue their domination of the population.  It is utter bullshit.

With that said, I dislike the tactics and religious leanings of the Israeli state’s adversary, Hamas and find that they often are given Israeli state justification for the horrible acts it engages in.  Their use of violence and religious ideology hardly make Hamas my choice of underdogs. That said, I think they could make far better in roads if they opted for something more like the peaceful resistance of  Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr.

Of course none of this is going to happen. The violence is only popularize this push for more violence amongst hawkish Hamas Leaders and the Israeli political right. What is worse is that the US has no sign of ever reigning in on its assistance to the stronger party in this conflict. In presidential debates the candidates tend to see showing support for Israel as a point of competition between them and Israel provides the US with a convenient foothold/client state in the Mideast, a third party to assist with weapons sells/transfers and Israel has a long history of voting with the US on UN resolutions, when no one else will.

That said, the type of mass imprisonment, killing of civilians and religious apartheid that should not be something US tax money goes to support. What it more that it all so often seems to be justified on insane and superstitious religious grounds, with American Christians committed to the belief that Israel needs to be in place in order for Jesus to return. US support of Israel has caused a great deal of violence and has continued heavily to both anti-Americanism and anti-antisemitism around the world. This is includes the anti-Americanism that fueled the September 11th Attacks in 2001. It is time to give US support for Israel some reconsideration.

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Atheist Book Review: The Book of Job

It seems nowadays everyone is talking about jobs: job creators,  joblessness, Steve Jobs and even certain sexual acts featuring the word job. Perhaps then, this would be a good time to look back at the original job, the biblical Job. The Story of Job, appears in the old testament’s appropriately titled Book of Job, though reading it is not as much of job as many other old testament books (Leviticus anyone?).

Believers point to Job as a story of how God rewards faithfulness, while I see it as a fantastic illustration of what a nasty piece work the Christian God is. This of course is ironic, since the English word Job is apparently rooted, not in this biblical story, but in the expression: “jobbe of worke” meaning piece of work (as opposed to continuous work). Or at least that is what the Internet says.

Enough with the word, play let’s get to the story. In this story we meet Job, who is described as a “perfect, and upright” follower of God. He is the “greatest man in east,” and apparently has great wealth, including “seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household.” Needless to say, God thinks this Job character is just the bee’s knees. God gathers his council, who are apparently referred to as “the sons of God”… Wait God has sons other than Jesus? Apparently, and among them comes Satan. God asks Satan where he has been. Apparently the notion of God as all-knowing, either has yet to enter the tradition or is only selectively applied by old testament writers.

Keep in mind, The Book of Job marks an early appearance of Satan as a character, in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Satan comes from a noun form of a Hebrew verb meaning to obstruct or oppose. In Job, he appears as ha Satan or the satan, which is apparently like the accuser,” or “the adversary”. In other words, as he appears in the book of as more of a devil’s advocate than an actually devil. He won’t develop into the ultimate enemy of humanity, until latter.

Anyway, as the story progresses. God starts talking up what a great and loyal servant this Job character is to his “sons”. Satan points out, that it’s easy for Job to be so loyal, after-all look at how well God has rewarded him. Satan suggest that if Job lost everything, he would “curse thee to thy face.” God answers Satan’s challenge by putting Job’s fate into Satan’s hands and the bet is on!!!

God’s on limit on what Satan can do is not put thine hand on Job himself.

So let the games begin: God allows Satan to kill Job’s slaves and animals killed with swords and through burning to death. Way to keep it classy, God!!  But wait, Job’s children are next: Satan takes them in a windstorm! Through all this Job remains loyal, continues to worship god and never blames God for these happenings (though God did in fact, approve all of them).

In the second book, it’s round two, and this time God gives Satan the go ahead, on violating Job’s flesh bone, but requires Satan stop short of killing him. So Satan “ smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown”. Job takes “a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.” Job eventually curses the day he was born, but at no point does he lose his loyalty toward God, or assign blame to God. Eventually God, rewarding Job’s loyalty, God cures Job’s boils and gives him even more animals and children than he had to begin with.

So, in other words, God gave the go-ahead for the murder of a man’s children and slaves, and killed his animals, then allowed him to be afflicted with boils, all for a stupid bet. This is utterly repulsive. Any human that did any of the things that God, and is buddy Satan do to job would be recognized as a monster. So, what if Job, got a new family and animals? How could that possibly justify killing his first family? The whole story reflects what a nasty tribal war God the Jews of this time worshiped. I’m glad to say we have moved well beyond the morality of the bible.

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Response to Thomas Picketty and Mises’ “The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality” by Andrew B. Wilson

I recently had the pleasure of reading this essay at the Ludwig Von Mises Institute website. While I agree with at least some of the general gist of the piece I found the parts I disagreed with worthy of commenting on. Before I do this I would like to note that this piece uses Ludwig von Mises’ “The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality” to critique Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which apparently expresses concern about inequality and has some anti-market sentiments. I have not read either Mises’ or Piketty’s books, but I am going to grant the assumption, for the sake of conversation, that this author Andrew B. Wilson represents them accurately.  So onto my issues with Andrew B. Wilson’s piece.

First, I favor disowning of the word “capitalism”, among free market types. It causes confusion, and sounds bad to a lot of people. While this author and Mises may have used the word to simply mean free exchange, for a lot of people it means something like “the economic system we have now”, or “the domination of society by big business” or “the hyper-commercialization of society”, and I think there are plenty of reasons why a libertarian can object to the things implied by all these meanings. The word just has a lot of baggage and ambiguity.  I have similar feelings about the word socialism as well. Further discussion on the problems with using the label “capitalism can be found here.

Additionally I find the Author’s statement “Few people credit capitalism for the fact that they “enjoy amenities that were denied to even the most prosperous people of earlier generations.” Telephones, cars, steel-making, and thousands of other advancements are all “an achievement of classical liberalism, free trade, laissez faire, and capitalism” highly problematic.  To start all three of the examples he gives are things that government infrastructure played a major role in making as ubiquitous as they are. They can hardly be called achievements of classical liberalism, unless by classical liberalism one means government and business collusion. What is worse is that a lot more of the amenities that make modern life as rich as it is are products of government funded R&D, often in the form of the military or space program research. I’m not saying that the resulting amenities justify such interventions, only that attributing them to free trade or classical liberalism strikes me as misguided, since this is clearly not the case.

My next objection comes when Piketty goes onto claim that objections to what he calls “capitalism” spring from “envy, the green-eyed monster, which causes many people to think they have gotten the short end of the stick.” I have written about my problems with this common trope here, but here is a quick summary. I know a lot of people who are political liberals, progressives or adherents of ideologies other than free market ones. Some of these individuals are quite wealthy, others are not, but I do not believe any of them holds the positions they hold because they are simply jealous or envious of the rich.  Most are motivated by things like a desire to not have poor people starving to death, or see the people around them suffer from greater levels of insecurity if they get laid off or whatever. It strikes me as highly tone deaf and obnoxious to here a bunch elitist libertarians claiming that anyone who disagrees with them simply jealous. I think this sort of attitude probably turns a lot of people off from libertarianism.

This of course is not to mention that a lot of the super elites dominate the economy did get so rich, through government contracting, licensing cartels, subsidies, war-spending, ect. Criticism of such things should hardly be dismissed as jealousy. It is a reality is that a lot of people have gotten rich at the expense of the tax-payer and the consumer, and they should be called out on this. I also tend to think that despite validity of his ideas, Mises brought an elitism to the libertarian movement that is both misguided and generally obnoxious to a lot of people.

My next objection comes when the author list the third reason why he/Mises think people have an anti-capitalist mentality: “And finally, the third factor is the unceasing vilification of capitalism by those who seek to constrain or destroy it.”  While there may be some truth to this I find promoters of what is labeled capitalism are even more responsible. For decades (if not centuries) government managed corporatism, cronyism and American international intervention have been marketed as “capitalism” and “free market reforms” or “the free market”. If people believe that these things are what the free market is all about than it is no wonder they are rejecting it. We have seen free market language and appeals to capitalism used to justify horribly interventionist policies by the likes of GW Bush and Reagan and even regimes like Pinochet’s Chile. If these things are what is being marketed under those labels it should be little surprise that much of the population is looking elsewhere.

The author goes on to state that Piketty “contends that disparities in income and wealth are spiraling out of control, setting the haves- against the have-nots”. As I mentioned before I have not read Piketty’s book nor am I familiar with his data, enough to comment on it. But my understanding is that huge wealth disparities are usually not a sign of societal health or stability. I find it strange and self-defeating that so many libertarian writers have this knee-jerk impulse to defend economic inequality, without qualification, whenever and wherever they find it. I would think a better strategy would be to acknowledge that inequality is a problem when it is not the product of a free and competitive market and to point out all the things the government does that leads to wealth being concentrated in the hands of a narrow elite. I think a narrative that focuses on all the ways the government enriches the few at the expense of the rest of us would be a much easier sell than a knee-jerk defense of all inequality. I do acknowledge that this author seems does go on to make a similar point in his footnote.

My next objection comes when the author points to the growth in numbers of Chinese and American billionaires and claims it a result of the freeness of the economies in these countries. My problem with this is that both of these countries are unambiguously corporatist and cronyist. I suspect that in a true free market (one without government infrastructure, licensing, subsidies, patents/copyrights, liability limits ect.) there probably would not be a whole lot of billionaires. Simply put it may be I suspect that a frees society would produce a much more egalitarian distribution of wealth since all enterprises would be subject to high levels of competition and their would be no state imposed barriers to entry. Simply put it does not seem likely that one could make the equivalent of billions of dollars without patent protections, government infrastructure or special opportunities to extract resources from government lands.

One a final note, the author goes onto state “Mises would have challenged Piketty’s assumption that the heirs to great fortunes would manage their money wisely, or that they would have the same success as others (more driven than they) in searching out the best investments.” I am sure there is some element of truth to this, but I does seem to me that the Mitt Romneys and Charles Kochs of the world, did have, and will be able to give their children, advantages above and beyond what most of the rest of us had. Even if their children squander these advantages they still will be living better than most of us for a good while. My understanding is that many very wealthy and powerful people had huge advantages over the rest of us starting at very young ages and I do not think this is a reality of the current system we should be trying to sweep under the rug.  Those are my main thoughts  on this piece. Thanks for reading.

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