Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Who's for Capitalism? Not Big Business

There's a myth in the mainstream media that big business is pro-capitalist. Matt Taibbi wrote a whole piece on Goldman Sachs embracing Ayn Rand (the gold standard among pro-capitalist intellectuals). The myth frequently appears in the introduction to stories about Rand. But they're not. A businessman here and there might express their admiration for Atlas Shrugged or for the 'free market', but expressing their admiration is about all they'll do for freedom. You can count on one finger the number of big businessmen that have publicly defended capitalism on a principled basis. For the most part big businessmen are for 'free markets' when convenient, government supports when possible and regulation when it hinders their competition. In the financial industry, the head of the largest bond fund has said that its critical the government continue to back securitized mortgage trash. A representative of Morgan Stanley concurred. My own pharmaceutical industry supported Obamacare for its provisions that extend patents, keep out foreign competition and vastly increase the use of pharmaceuticals at taxpayers' expense. Nor have I ever found a upper management type that wouldn't react in horror at the suggestion that the FDA be abolished. The big-business-as-pro-capitalist myth probably dates back to the communists attempt to connect pro-capitalism with fascism. Rand wrote in "Extremism," or the Art of Smearing "The choice--according to the proponents of that fraud--is: a dictatorship of the rich (fascism) or a dictatorship of the poor (communism)." As long as leftists can connect capitalism to the likes of Goldman Sachs in the eyes of the public, then it will be tarnished, tarnished by every taxpayer bailout, every regulatory exemption their competitors are denied, and every support they lend to new regulatory measures like cap and trade. The truth is that modern pro-capitalists are doctors, computer programmers, small businessmen, farmers, mechanics and housewives (see video below). They are the ones defending individual rights, an unfettered market and the right to the pursuit of happiness on a principled, moral basis. They have found a voice on the internet and in the Tea Party and more power to them! Lets hope they can drag big business kicking and screaming back to freedom. (And give those few big businessmen with hidden principles the courage to grow a pair.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Some Republicans Just Don't Get It

I'm an Objectivist, pro-capitalist and sometime participant in the Tea Party movement. The Tea Party movement started as a protest against the Bush/Obama bank bailouts and has developed into a widespread pro-constitution movement. Predictably, sympathetic Republicans have jumped on the bandwagon. While their hearts are mostly in the right place, at least with regard to Obama's rampant statism, their minds are somewhere else entirely. Since the cultural battle we're in is a battle of ideas, not hearts, the ideological mistakes they make matter. Religious republicans/conservatives are ultimately not sympathetic to the goal of the constitution, which is a secular society with a limited government protecting individual rights. Below are some of the ways Republicans stray from the founders and with a rational defense of individual rights.

When I speak of 'Republicans' or 'conservatives', I mean those members of the Republican party who defend their positions ultimately with reference to God. I mean religious conservatives, religious Republicans, the religious Right. There are 'fiscal conservatives', who argue for economic freedom, but leave the moral high ground to the 'social conservatives'. There should be such a thing as a 'secular Republican', but that's a term you rarely see.

On with my pet peeves.

Silence Regarding Regulation
Businesses and individuals are being strangled by regulation and yet deregulation is not something Republicans advocate. Not only do they not support deregulation, but many have bought into the statist line that deregulation of derivatives caused the financial crisis (e.g. Dick Morris). This is rubbish and completely ignores the fact that the derivatives were derived from government supported securities and this government support caused the bubble. The lack of Republican support for deregulation is a shame because widespread deregulation would be a costless way to unleash our economy.

The reason Republicans don't support deregulation is that they believe in original sin, that man is basically evil and left to his own devices will do evil. In the words of JD, a self-style 'conservative' on our own San Diego Tea Party website: "If we abolish welfare crime will skyrocket...If you get rid of the unions, the powerful business will abuse the workers...". But this is wrong. We are not evil by nature, we have free will. A government that protects our freedom guarantees that we will benefit from being rational and suffer from being irrational. A government that protects our individual rights, protects our ability to trade to mutual benefit. A government that forces us to act against our judgement, can only make us poorer, weaker and less intelligent.

Reduce Taxes!
I'm opposed to taxes, certainly taxes that amount to a transfer of wealth. BUT, why harp on reducing taxes all the time when our deficit is out of control? How about REDUCING SPENDING? Republicans well deserve the motto 'tax and borrow'. Why do they support reducing taxes but don't attack spending? Because they agree with the altruist morality at the base of all government spending programs and have never repealed or eliminated a major agency or program. They are in fact responsible for some of the biggest increases in spending, e.g. George W. Bush's support for the prescription drug act. Reagan was guilty as well and only managed to reduce the growth of government spending, not reduce spending itself. He increased the deficit enormously converting the U.S. from the worlds largest creditor nation to the largest debtor.

Obsession with Personalities
Yes, people can be evil and can be responsible for very bad policies. But an idea, like 'the right to a decent wage', in the minds of millions of people is much more harmful than any particular politician. So please can we have less "Obama this" and "Obama that" and more serious analysis and debunking of his policies and philosophy? Perhaps then we'd notice some of the mistakes that Republicans are making as well. Conservative commentators are making much of Obama's failed campaign promises and his now de facto support for Bush policies (e.g. the Patriot Act). They're gloating about Democratic dissatisfaction with Obama. Perhaps they should look beneath the man and start wondering why Bush supported policies that Obama does too!

Much of the political debate amounts to 'us versus them', without regard to principles. A principled analysis reveals that the Democrats and Republicans agree on most issues and their squabbling amounts to factional warfare. The real political division is not Republican versus Democrat, but statism versus individualism.

Ronald Reagan?!
Ok, he made some nice speeches, but government spending increased, regulation increased, tax receipts increased, government debt increased, it all increased under Reagan. He had a huge mandate from the voters. What did he do with it? Did he rid us of any regulatory agencies? No. Did he privatize social security? No. Did he close down the Fed? No. He hired Volker and made some nice speeches for Communist consumption. He also reintroduced religion into politics in a serious way. I guess we can think him for the threat of prayer in schools, creation 'science' in schools, weakening the separation of religion and politics, attacks on the right to have an abortion. He's not an icon. Thomas Jefferson is an icon.

Tinkering Statism
Lastly republicans are great at ignoring the causes of problems and attempting to treat the symptoms. Illegal immigrants getting free medical care and education? Should we privatize education and medical care so that open borders aren't a threat? NOOO. Republican prefer to shut the borders.

Federal Reserve pumping money into asset bubbles, which pop and create havoc? Should we shut down the Fed? Perhaps abandon our national housing policy? Not according to Republicans. Preferable to regulate it more tightly.

Schools teaching ideas contrary to parents beliefs (evolution, condom use, etc.)? Should we privatize schools, removing all barriers so that parents can educate their children as they like, and cheaply too, like it was done for a hundred years in the early US? Not according to Republicans. Better to take over and teach kids what Republicans think is right, like creation 'science' and abstinence.

There's so many Republicans supporting the constitution, bashing Democrats socialism and in general supporting 'free markets' that its hard to remember what it was like when they were in power. Remember. Remember Family Values, attacks on homosexuality, prayer in school, prayer in courts, attacks on flag burning, creationism, wiretapping your cell phones and e-mail accounts. These were the issues when Republicans were in power. They were not friends of freedom, even 'economic freedom'. They weren't friends of freedom then and they won't be friends of freedom should they, the religious Republicans, gain power once again. You've heard of RINOs (Republicans in name only). Well, how about this term? CALACs, Constitutionalists as long as convenient.

My own preference is that the Republican party dies and conservatives and right-wingers with it. I don't think you can separate religion from their politics. And as long as religion is there, service, obedience, original sin and statism are there. I'd love to see Constitutionalism, Jeffersonianism or pro-capitalism become the Democrats opponent. Or even 'liberalism' in the old sense of freedom, a sense that's been preserved in French for example. However if the Republicans do discover the enlightenment, rationality and the right to pursuit of happiness, I guess 'secular Republican' would be ok too.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Question for a Pharmaceutical Company

The following is what I'd like to ask during a company 'town hall meeting' regarding healthcare and its effects on the pharmaceutical industry.

Its pretty clear that Obamacare is going to be a disaster with its massive increases in spending, taxation, and regulation. Many are hoping that it will simply improve medical care for a few unfortunates and leave the rest of us unaffected. It won't. It will lead to where every government takeover of industry leads, to poorer care, poorer service, rationing, abuses, corruption, to public outrage, political double talk and scapegoating.

Everyone should be concerned as a private consumer of healthcare, but we should also be concerned as members of the pharmaceutical industry, because we'll probably be the next scapegoats. Costs will continue to rise, as they have to with more demand, and at some point, as the system is collapsing, the politicians will blame the 'greedy' drug makers. Then we'll have to give up all the loot we gained from the prescription drug act and probably much more. The insurance industry will already have been destroyed, the government will be the sole purchaser of medication and we'll be so bound up in regulation that we won't dare defend ourselves, even if we knew how.

So my question is, why haven't we and aren't we now defending freedom in healthcare? Why aren't we defending our right to make a profit by selling our drugs to willing customers? Sure we can get money by eating at the public trough, but it does our customers a disservice who can no longer chose their healthcare, it does a disservice to the taxpayers, who get fleeced for our sakes, and it does ourselves a disservice because we'll become tools of the state no longer deciding how to make better drugs but trying to divine how to please bureaucrats.

There are several good organizations out there defending freedom in medicine (Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine, Americans for Free Choice in Medicine), we should be listening to them, bringing them in for discussions and supporting them in the fight for freedom.