Wealth of Nations

The “Wealth of Nations” may be the most significant book nobody reads. Now you can get the gist in an amusing new book by PJ O’Rourke. Adam Smith understood that true wealth consisted not of material goods, but of the skills & intelligence of people. Only people create wealth and they create it best when they are free to employ their skills and intelligence as they see fit.

If government establishes stability, enforces the rule of law and otherwise trusts people to go about their own business, prosperity almost inevitably follows. This is just too simple for most people, and especially most politicians, to grasp.

The hard part to understand is wealth creation. It makes intuitive sense that there is a certain about of wealth "out there" and that if you a bigger share there will be less for me. This is true if nothing is changing or being produced. It has not been true since the discovery of trade & agriculture, but it was only in the last centuries that wealth started to grow so fast that people noticed that the amount of wealth available was not fixed, that is was possible for one person to get more without somebody else getting less. Smith was among the first to see this. Even more than 200 years later, not everybody has got the news.

It is important not to equate Smith with the likes of Marx. It is not possible to be a "Smithist." I do not recall ever seeing a statue of Smith and most people would not recognize him at all. Smith did not try to be scientific or comprehensive and he did not want to remake the world in a comprehensive way. He also did not “invent” capitalism. He simply points out some common sense truths about how societies and economies work.

Smith published the "Wealth of Nations" in 1776, the year when our country was born. They had a lot in common. Smith encapsulated many of the philosophies and ideas of the Enlightenment and the Atlantic culture of the time. They were practical ideas that that practical men could understand. They were the type of ideas discussed in Philadelphia in 1787 and the types of ideas that allowed us to create the greatest free market democracy in the history of the world.

What I like most about the free market is the absence of dogma. Lots of variations can work and flexibility trumps ideology. If it works, do more of it; if it doesn't work, stop doing it. Free markets are always works in progress. There is no end in mind. Free markets employ incentives instead of coercion. They are based on the freedom to choose. That is why they work so well. These same characteristics give markets their image problem.

Markets are good at delivering results, but they are poor at making promises. Most other systems are better at making promises they do not keep.

I prefer results. Many others like the promises.

Posted by Jack at January 9, 2007 11:02 PM
Comments
Comment #202262

Jack, no one who reads Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nation’s understands it until they have read his preceding work and the platform for Wealth of Nations, entitled, Theory of Moral Sentiment.

There he posits that a wealthy person who ignores poverty, and suffering, and abuses human capital to achieve and sustain wealth, is not truly wealthy at all, but, only vain and a burden upon the society no less than the poor and suffering.

Because Adam Smith could not write of heady matters in less than 1,000 pages, few who quote or refer to Adam Smith have ow will ever read his works, and fewer still would understand him for his eloquent Old English, which takes wing off the tongue and flies as gracefully and with such majesty as a dove set upon the morning’s first rays.

Most people today, especially MBA students and graduates demanding the nuts and bolts to getting rich and grabbing power, could tolerate such language and leisured metaphors and allegory, and before making it through the first chapter, they set it down and buy cliff notes.

I assure you, having studied his texts and read them cover to cover, more than once, Cliff Notes cannot begin to encompass the breadth and depth of what Adam Smith had to say about society, government, industry, wealth, nations, and the all too enticing foibles and nobility which are unique to the species that both seeks wealth and power for the good of all, and oppositely, for its own sake to the detriment of all others.

I saw the author of the new rip off of Wealth of Nations speak on C-Span. What he had to say left me with serious doubt that he has even read Theory of Moral Sentiment, and is therefore a fraud, with appeal to the nuts and bolts folks for whom patience for understanding and wisdom is not a virtue, but archaic and foolish in this world that now moves so fast that to pause for wisdom or understanding of Adam Smith feels like losing a race, instead of enrichment.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 10, 2007 12:00 AM
Comment #202264

Jack, I will be so bold as to say in response to your quote below, that you too have not read nor understand the breadth of Adam Smith’s works.

For you say in your article:

Adam Smith understood that true wealth consisted not of material goods, but of the skills & intelligence of people. Only people create wealth and they create it best when they are free to employ their skills and intelligence as they see fit.

You are abjectly wrong in your last sentence about Adam Smith. Adam Smith spoke to the freedom of choice to exercise their intelligence and skills as yielding the greatest productivity, but, NOT AS THEY SEE FIT, but, for the benefit and welfare of themself, their family, their village, and their nation. Adam Smith did not tout rugged individualism, his Wealth of Nations was a sequel to a preceding work in which he acknowledges that persons are interdependent in ways numerous and often unseen, and wealth can only be a tool for greatness in a nation that recognizes the moral obligation of empathy and sharing of experience amongst and amidst the nation’s people.

That is why, in Adam Smith’s opinion, wealthy dictators and tyrants who take up a nations wealth for their own, (Saddam Hussein comes to mind), lead a nation to impoverishment of not only the people, but, of the nation itself, its character and relations to which that nation finds itself ever defensive and under attack. This renders wealth ultimately a useless tool in acquiring and developing the true potential wealth of the nation: peace, security, and freedom. For who can feel free, peaceful, and secure, imprisoned by fear and paranoia of the knowledge that the world about one, wishes toward one, what one has enforced upon others, and worse? (Bush’s United States comes to mind).

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 10, 2007 12:28 AM
Comment #202271

David,

You do a disservice to limit the fear mongering to Bush, much of the destruction of the US IMO over the past 75 years comes from the fear of another Depression, the driving force to enable the progressives in our government and take away many of our freedoms (9th and 10th amendments for example) just for some temporary safety.

Unfortunately it looks like no one is interested in rediscovering the American dream and goal of true freedom, instead looking to the government to solve all of our problems for us. I don’t know if there is any real way to solve this one, as one so eloquently stated so many years ago:

“A Democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only last until the citizens discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that the Democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, to be followed by a dictatorship, and then a monarchy.”

Now bring on that Universal Health Care!

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 10, 2007 1:30 AM
Comment #202276

Hurray for the marketplace!

Posted by: American Pundit at January 10, 2007 1:52 AM
Comment #202277

Jack writes,

“Only people create wealth and they create it best when they are free to employ their skills and intelligence as they see fit.”


But the key is the word “people”. People create wealth. No one person creates wealth.

Democracy is a group of people coming together and deciding the rules of society and business. Under the given rules a person is fee to make as much as they want. You don’t sit down at the poker table and then tell the house you deserve ALL the winnings because you have the best hand. No. The house has rules and you can win all you can in the bounds of the rules.


Imagine a brilliant business man who lived in a country of 10 people. There are just the basic laws, no regulations and a flat tax. Do you think he could get super wealthy in such a country based on his rugged individualism?

Now imagine he lives next to a country like ours with its progressive taxes and its complicated rules and regulations. Do you think he’d have a better chance of getting rich in our country. Of course he would.

And that’s as good of an explanation as I can make as to why progressive taxes and estate taxes are fair.

Left to its own an unregulated market always leads to a subsistence wage for a large underclass of working people. And often they lead to an economic collapse as in The Great Depression. History proves this over and over. Democracy is the great equalizer that not only empowers a middle class but grows an economy stronger then one which is unregulated.

Posted by: muirgeo at January 10, 2007 2:00 AM
Comment #202278

Jack,


You had a prior post. I forgot the title but its gone now. Where did it go?

Posted by: muirgeo at January 10, 2007 2:01 AM
Comment #202279

Muirgeo,

You’re going to have to explain how the two examples you stated are anything near equal.

Of course, a larger country will provide the most opportunity, but what if the larger country had a flat tax and non-complicated rules and regulations? How much could that same man make then?

If you still think that the progressive taxation, which is IMO immoral (but that’s another topic) then please explain based why that same man wouldn’t do better in the instance I describe?

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 10, 2007 2:03 AM
Comment #202280

Muirgeo,

Btw, you might want to find out what really caused the Great Depression, why it wasn’t localized and also why it lasted longer than it should have. You’re suggesting something that I don’t think is true.

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 10, 2007 2:05 AM
Comment #202285

It seems to me that Smith’s admonishments about responsible use of wealth have gone the way of the Hippocratic Oath for doctors. Wealth is a means, not an end, unlike what some people think. I think that Rhinehold made an excellent point about our fiscal policies. He might add that wealth also leads to increased influence over government in a society that is not ever vigilant. I don’t like Arianna Huffington, but I recommend that everyone read her book, Pigs at the Trough, a great expose of corruption in government. Smith would condemn this, as I think all Americans should.

Posted by: 1LT B at January 10, 2007 3:48 AM
Comment #202314

David, you are absolutely right. ‘Theory of Moral Sentiment’ must always be read first before ‘Wealth of Nations’ can be put into any kind of proper context. Ideally, I think publishers would always print the two books as a single volume.

Posted by: Adrienne at January 10, 2007 11:26 AM
Comment #202315

David

Listen to the radio program in the link. The author says almost the same things you just did. He also says that the theory of moral sentiments is the better work.

I have not read Adam Smith cover to cover (I admit) but I have read a good deal of “Wealth of Nations” (I own the unabridged book) and Moral sentiments in secondary sources. In some ways the secondary sources are better than reading the original, since they supply context you might not otherwise get. Some of the use of language has changed and it is possible to take the wrong impression.

Re - as they see fit, Smith does not advocate that we force individuals to make the right choices. He recognizes that when most people mind their own business, things work better.

The free market doesn’t preclude people doing things for reasons other than profit. In fact, it encourages it. That is why Americans are so generous as a people.

We can come to any sort of arrangments we wish, as long as we do not employ coercion.

Re the exact text of Smith. The beauty of the free market is that we do not have a dogma. One of the later particularly American philosophies is pragmatism (James, Pierce etc) which contains within it the instruments of its own contradiction. This is certainly a new and better approach.

Re dictators and tyrants - Certainly. ALL dictators have been against the free market. It is part of the definition of being a dictator. They tend not to be enthusiastic about their opponents having well paying jobs in the private sector. A private employer can be nasty, but in order to become a true tyrant you need government support.

Muirego

The free market includes rule of law. The market is never “left to itself”. Rule of law provides frameworks, context and stability. However, the economy require little planning from government. Market forces (i.e. collaboration through prices, demand etc) provides a much better way to plan and react to changes.

The market democracies broadly speaking are the most prosperous and pleasant places. If you look at the index of economic freedom and compare it to places you might want to live, you find a nearly complete correspondence.

The other posts that is gone wasn’t mine. I do not know what happened to it. My posts are like a f*art in a phone booth. They linger

Posted by: Jack at January 10, 2007 11:26 AM
Comment #202334

Jack,

How about oversight? How many ENRONs do we need to have before we realize that some businesses, when told they can do anything they want, just rip people off?

What about food companies? If left to their own devices, they product crap (literally) and sell it to Americans as gold. Shouldn’t we have standards? Doesn’t this go for a lot of businesses?

Finally, how do your own posts about taxing gas square with this one?

Posted by: Max at January 10, 2007 1:14 PM
Comment #202348


Jack: I confess that I haven’t read Adam Smith and I should have.

Did he discuss corporations and their role in capitalism?

Posted by: jlw at January 10, 2007 1:53 PM
Comment #202376

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

You sure you want to debate the finer points of Smith’s philosophy while the government who is the world’s largest supporter of that philosophy human beings like cattle or slaves, with no recourse to the laws so necessary to a functioning capitalist society? Why, Jack, are you not standing up and screaming at your Republican masters about the abomination in Guantanamo? Just wondering.

Posted by: Mental Wimp at January 10, 2007 3:41 PM
Comment #202379

Max

Rule of law.

What is it that happened to ENRON?

We have not succeeded in preventing crimes. We could probably prevent many more crimes if we just did to let people travel freely. We do not do that because the price of preventing crime in that way is too high.

jlw

Smith wrote before corporations. As I wrote to others, we need not (and no good pragamatic free marketer would) look to Smith as the alpha and omega of wisdom. He pointed out some very good and practical ideas, on which we have built.

Mental

We probably should have followed the Geneva conventions for most of these guys and shot them as spies when we first got them.

Some have useful information. I will let the courts make the final determinations. These guys are not American citizens. There are not very many of them.

I read in the paper that 3600 people die in Tehran every month from the pollution. The 400 odd guys at Guantanamo do not keep me awake at night. I have reasonable confidence that they were carrying on war against the U.S. I consider that a crime. Maybe next time they will be more circumspect.

Posted by: Jack at January 10, 2007 3:56 PM
Comment #202382
We probably should have followed the Geneva conventions for most of these guys and shot them as spies when we first got them.

What a load of crap.

Posted by: womanmarine at January 10, 2007 4:15 PM
Comment #202383

It’s interesting that conservatives always champion Adam Smith as their guru on matters of economics while also attacking university “elitism”; those sequestered in the ivory towers who think they know more then the rest of us who work in “the real world”.

Adam Smith never worked a day out of academia in his life!!

Posted by: charles Ross at January 10, 2007 4:36 PM
Comment #202391

Muirgeo,

You’re going to have to explain how the two examples you stated are anything near equal.

Of course, a larger country will provide the most opportunity, but what if the larger country had a flat tax and non-complicated rules and regulations? How much could that same man make then?

If you still think that the progressive taxation, which is IMO immoral (but that’s another topic) then please explain based why that same man wouldn’t do better in the instance I describe?

Posted by: Rhinehold


The main point is that a man doesn’t get wealthy on his own. He requires society with its rules and workers.

Now if that same man had a large country with a flat tax and minimal regulation he would probably be as rich as some of the wealthiest guys in Mexico and the rest of the country would be like Mexico.

That’s just a guess though because no such country exists. Although I do here that Iraq has a flat tax…and a stock market that’s done on a dry erase board.

Posted by: muirgeo at January 10, 2007 5:33 PM
Comment #202392

Charles

Smith wrote about common sense ideas available at the time. No free market person see him as a guru, just a guy with some good ideas that seem to have broadly worked.

That is something left wingers cannot grasp. The free market does not have ANY heroes. It has fallible people whose ideas help in the real world. There is no dogma of the free market; there is merely a set of procedures that works better than the alternatives.

Again, I refer you to Index of Economic Freedom. The ranking of the countries changes every year, but the same ones tend to appear near the top and the bottom. The successful countries have a variety of difference among them, but broadly they respect the rule of law, employ market mechanisms, and allow their citizens reasonable freedom to work and invest.

The countries are rating on ten variables:
Trade policy,
Fiscal burden of government,
Government intervention in the economy,
Monetary policy,
Capital flows and foreign investment,
Banking and finance,
Wages and prices,
Property rights,
Regulation, and
Informal market activity.

Which ones don’t you like? If you agree with them all, send a donation to the Heritage Foundation because you agree with them.

Posted by: Jack at January 10, 2007 5:45 PM
Comment #202394

Jack,

According to the index countries like Sweden, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Iceland and Ireland are as “free” as us but they are also able to give their citizens public health care, they have lower poverty rates, less income inequity and they take of 8 weeks vacation a year. What gives?

Posted by: muirgeo at January 10, 2007 5:56 PM
Comment #202396

muirego

Free market. People are making different choices. If you deconstruct the tables, country by country, you will notice that some countries score higher on some parts and lower on others.

And there is always change. For example, a decade ago most European countries has a much higher corporate tax rate than the U.S. Today most of them are significantly lower.

The U.S. loses ground on fiscal burden, for example.

The one things that all successful countries have in common is strong defense of property rights.

Posted by: Jack at January 10, 2007 6:08 PM
Comment #202397

Max

Rule of law.

What is it that happened to ENRON?


Some $51 billion owed to people by Enron will go unpaid in large part through protections afforded corporations. Meanwhile Andy Fastow will serve 6 years and then be rich as heck again.

Ken Lay is likely incognito on some gorgeous tropical island.

Mean while my home state of California continues to real from the financial hit that has effected our treasury and our kids school system. Many people are working again out of retirement to try to replace the money they lost.

And you guys worry about transfers of wealth that go to educate poor inner city kids or give their mom’s some food stamps? You think that where the problems and injustice lie. You come with a serious argument too stop picking on the poor rich people? Hummmm!?!

Right now there are hundreds of Enron’s doing their thing screwing American’s every which way they can right as we speak.

Posted by: muirgeo at January 10, 2007 6:11 PM
Comment #202400

muirgeo,

As before, this is your OPINION. It will remain an opinion until you back it up.

Posted by: tomd at January 10, 2007 6:25 PM
Comment #202403


Jack/muirgeo: Sounds like a good tradeoff, we lower the tax burden on the corporations in exchange for the benefits.

Here is another example of American free trade from the BBC online…. Ford Moter Company has resorted to extortion to get a $300 million bribe from the state of Michigan to keep two production plants open. The bribe which was provided to prevent Minnesota from bribing Ford to build plants there, amounts to $23,000 per worker.

In addition to keeping the plants open, Ford has agreed to invest several hundred million to retool for the 2008 models of the Focus and the F150. Ford has also agreed to not hire any new workers and to possibly layoff some of the existing workers.

Posted by: jlw at January 10, 2007 6:32 PM
Comment #202404

muirego

In the first days of the new year, dozens of people were murdered, thousands of robberies occured and hundreds were assaulted. These things are crimes and we all agree they are bad. We make them illegal for that reason and punish those who do them. That happened with ENRON.

As an investor, I am more than willing to punish those who lie, cheat and steal, just as I want to punish other crooks and prevent them from doing what they do.

Posted by: Jack at January 10, 2007 6:33 PM
Comment #202413

Jack,

Your analysis of Gitmo is ridiculous. Despite what military officials say, you assume they are all guilty. And even if they aren’t, there aren’t very many of them. That’s not a serious defense. Just admit you don’t care. Most don’t, so you’ve got lots of company.

Posted by: Trent at January 10, 2007 7:12 PM
Comment #202418

No dogma in the free market? Jack, are you serious? That’s like saying there is no such thing as air because you can’t see it.

Posted by: Trent at January 10, 2007 7:34 PM
Comment #202424

“No dogma in the free market? Jack, are you serious?”

Yes Trent, he is. This is Jack’s favorite topic. For years he’s been waxing rhapsodically about the free market. To him, it is sublime and perfect, and contains not even a hint of a flaw.

“That’s like saying there is no such thing as air because you can’t see it.”

Yes, but he isn’t interested in your theory about this. Or mine. Or anyone elses. If you were the new Galileo of economic philosophy, Jack would be the Pope Urban figuratively placing you under house arrest in this thread.
:^)

Posted by: Adrienne at January 10, 2007 8:09 PM
Comment #202425


Trent: It’s called dogma eat dogma.

Posted by: jlw at January 10, 2007 8:13 PM
Comment #202434

Trent & Adrienne

Re Guantanamo - You are right. I really do not care, or more precisely on the big list of event I worry about it is far down on the list.

Re dogma, I simply mean that - dogma, making a claim of truth w/o proof or reference to experience. The free market has no dogma. It is a vast experiment. The arguments you can make are whether a particular action works or not. You cannot prove of disprove anything by looking into some hallowed source. There is no final, revealed truth.

The market never works perfectly. It is never in exact equilibrium. It just works better than the alternatives in the long run.

There are times of emergency when you might want to deviate from markets. You can get away with it for a while. It is like living off your capital, however.

Adrienne - you are right. I am not interested in your theories. I judge something by its practical results and I never expect perfection. I have observed many systems in practice and many countries. I have never found a perfect one, but the ones that work the best are those that use market mechanisms, respect the rule of law and protect property rights.

Posted by: Jack at January 10, 2007 9:08 PM
Comment #202436
That is something left wingers cannot grasp. The free market does not have ANY heroes. It has fallible people whose ideas help in the real world. There is no dogma of the free market; there is merely a set of procedures that works better than the alternatives.

I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Many Republicans (not all or even most) certainly turn the free market into some kind of quasi-religion consisting of several beliefs. Basically, they believe corporations have a god-given right to do anything they wish (to pollute, bribe/”lobby” politicians, control our infrastructure, etc.). Anything that regulates them is as bad as marxism, and is always immoral (apparently the right to breathe clean air and not have toxic chemicals in our food doesn’t seem to matter). In their view, pollution doesn’t matter, greed is good, corporations can never harm the environment or do any harm when unregulated, and regardless of the evidence, it’s some kind of universal magical truth that private business always works better than government for everything. Any problems that are created as a result of the holy “free market” are to be vigorously denied (global warming, depletion of resources, etc.), and is some kind of evil liberal plot to destroy the economy (why democrats would want this is never fully explained).

Japan (usually considered to be the prime example of capitalism) has one of the most regulated economies in the world, they sure seem to be doing well. On the other hand, Russia has almost no regulations and it’s not exactly a nice place to live. The US, compared to other developed countries, actually has some of the worst internet access in the world, for example, Japan, South Korea, and many other countries have much higher broadband speeds for less money, and they have strong regulations and net neutrality.

Posted by: Thomas at January 10, 2007 9:50 PM
Comment #202437

Thomas

You described the free market as well as Karl Marx described capitalism. The “greed is good” line comes from a movie by Oliver Stone, hardly a right wing guy.

Do you have any real Republicans who have advocated any of the things you say?

The free market usually works better than the alternatives. It includes the rule of law and the defense of private property. Russia does not have that in abundance. You also cannot reasonably expect to open a business in Russia w/o political support. It is state run. It is not a market economy. The Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom list it as mostly unfree. It is still afflicted by so many years of communism.

Posted by: Jack at January 10, 2007 10:04 PM
Comment #202444

Jack, good post just one note the Boston tea party was due to the East India Co. which was a corporation. This was in 1773. Adam Smith was writing wealth of nations somewhere during that time frame.

Posted by: j2t2 at January 10, 2007 10:45 PM
Comment #202459

As an investor, I am more than willing to punish those who lie, cheat and steal, just as I want to punish other crooks and prevent them from doing what they do.

Posted by: Jack at January 10, 2007 06:33 PM


Great Jack, because then I suspect you will support the soon to be released investigations on war profiteering, the Medical drug bill, Profiteering off of the Katrina disaster….

These are just a few of the things that have happened with the “free market ” approach under the Bush administration costing the tax payers hundreds of billions of dollars.

Posted by: muirgeo at January 11, 2007 12:06 AM
Comment #202460


“Do you have any real Republicans who have advocated any of the things you say?”

I do, I just posted about my nephew on another thread. He is 22, a free market advocate and a fan of Pax Americana. He believes that the government has no right to regulate business in any way. He doesn’t believe in the minimum wage-employers should be allowed to pay what they want. He doesn’t believe in workplace safety rules, workers compensation, unemployment benefits or Social Security. He quit college and went to work at Pizza Hut for $6.50 per hour.

He did not learn this from his family or out of the thin air. He believes that Rush Limbaugh is the greatest American that ever lived. Warped!

Posted by: jlw at January 11, 2007 12:15 AM
Comment #202466

I’ve recently read about one innovative idea for taxes, taxing pollution and environmental harm. Basically, it would shift the tax burden from how much income you make to how much fossil fuel you use. For example, there could be a carbon tax so, for example, if you use up more energy (and thus place a burden on everyone which we’ll all have to pay for) you pay more. This could be applied not just to CO2 emmissions but other environmental problems as well such as general pollution. Global warming and many other environmental problems would be quickly solved.

I realize this will probably never catch on, and many Republicans won’t consider this because it’s supported by environmentalists and Al Gore. However, I think it actually would be palatable to both sides. The left would finally have action on global warming and a sustainable economy, and for the right, it doesn’t involve taxing what’s viewed as simply being successful (i.e. income and capital gains taxes) and of course involves much more free market action than traditional environmental regulation. You can use as much carbon energy and pollute as much as you want, you just have to pay more for it, and the market of course will soon provide new renewable energy sources and ways to drastically improve efficiency.

Posted by: Thomas at January 11, 2007 12:44 AM
Comment #202474
Do you have any real Republicans who have advocated any of the things you say?

Absolutely, I’ve read and heard many on the far right believe such things. They of course don’t come out and say things exactly like that openly but of course some think like this, that is, they don’t want any regulation or accountability for corporations and want to shield them from almost all liability, they want critical public government services contracted out to private companies (a privatized government), and generally think corporations are always benevolent institutions and don’t ever cause serious harm. To be fair, I’m not sure many actually believe it themselves, they often are paid to say it.

I’m not saying there aren’t people on the left who believe silly things, and like I said, I don’t mean you believe it or even most conservatives, in fact you could argue that people like this and Bush aren’t really very conservative.

If you want examples there are many, one might be a libertarian pundit on ABC named John Stossel, anytime someone wants to do something about global warming or any other environmental problem, he’ll start on a fact-free rant about how it’s just a case of socialists or marxists trying to tell people how to live. They of course go on and on about the glory of the free market, and do a great deal of revisionist history. By this I mean when they discuss things like child labor and factory conditions of the 1800s, or when environmentalists got the government to pass clean air laws, they’ll somehow demonize the people who spoke out about this and falsly claim that big business really were responsible for the changes themselves when of course they fought against it.

There are many really nutty people like this on right-wing think tanks funded by corporations. A man named Steve Milloy tried to exploit 9/11 by saying if asbestos wasn’t outlawed the two towers would still be standing (a complete lie), I think he’s also the one who said smoking is a civic duty and tobacoo really isn’t very harmful.

One editorial a while back was a conservative essentially saying how Al Gore really made his movie because he and other environmentalists hate industrial civilization and want to move us back to the stone age. (Right, a man who loves technology and the Internet, and is on the board of Apple computers ,is part of a secret liberal cabal plotting to bring down our economy because he hates our technological way of life). These aren’t just lone bloggers nobody knows about, but well-paid pundits and media people, for example the Wall Street Journal is a good publication and it’s actual news section is top-notch, however scientists point out how their editorials often have serious errors and say things that aren’t true.

Posted by: Thomas at January 11, 2007 1:21 AM
Comment #202486
The free market usually works better than the alternatives.

Jack, I’ll stipulate that that’s true, but here’s an interesting question: Should every element of our society be subject to the market? I think you’ll agree that the defense of our nation should not be outsourced to China because they can do it cheaper.

What about health care? Certainly, aspects of the healthcare industry benefit from market forces, but healthcare is not a market. I’m not the best communicator, but this guy puts it pretty well (BTW, the New Republic article referenced is definitely worth a read):

…medical care is not really a “market” in the classical economic sense. Health problems are often complex. Patients rely on professional expertise rather than their own consumer judgment. So trying to treat healthcare as a conventional market is bound to fail.

When my life depends on it, I’m not going to shop around for the cheapest diagnosis and treatment. Nobody who needs it is going to wait around for the half-yearly heart transplant blowout at the local Cardio-Mart.

Posted by: American Pundit at January 11, 2007 3:32 AM
Comment #202489

Muirgeo said, “According to the index countries like Sweden, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Iceland and Ireland are as “free” as us but they are also able to give their citizens public health care, they have lower poverty rates, less income inequity and they take of 8 weeks vacation a year. What gives?”

A few things ‘give.’ Number one, all of the coutnries you mention spent the entire Cold War under the protection of the U.S. They were not responsible for their own defendse and still mostly aren’t. They also all charge over 50% income tax rates to provide all of these services. Beyond this, Germany, for example, has 10% unemployment and has had this rate for almost a decade. Most of the nations of Western Europe and Scandanavia are socialist and are becoming less and less competitive in the world market.

American Pundit,

The Constitution specifies that one of the responsibilities of the Federal government is to maintain the Army and Navy (also the Air Force, which obviously didn’t exist in the late 1700s) and provide for the common defense. While nations have hired mercenaries, none has ever, to my knowledge, contracted out their military to a private company.

Posted by: 1LT B at January 11, 2007 3:59 AM
Comment #202498

Many Republicans (not all or even most) certainly turn the free market into some kind of quasi-religion consisting of several beliefs. Basically, they believe corporations have a god-given right to do anything they wish (to pollute, bribe/”lobby” politicians, control our infrastructure, etc.). Anything that regulates them is as bad as marxism, and is always immoral (apparently the right to breathe clean air and not have toxic chemicals in our food doesn’t seem to matter). In their view, pollution doesn’t matter, greed is good, corporations can never harm the environment or do any harm when unregulated, and regardless of the evidence, it’s some kind of universal magical truth that private business always works better than government for everything. Any problems that are created as a result of the holy “free market” are to be vigorously denied (global warming, depletion of resources, etc.), and is some kind of evil liberal plot to destroy the economy (why democrats would want this is never fully explained).

Posted by: Thomas at January 10, 2007 09:50 PM
Comment #202437
Thomas

You described the free market as well as Karl Marx described capitalism. The “greed is good” line comes from a movie by Oliver Stone, hardly a right wing guy.

Do you have any real Republicans who have advocated any of the things you say?


Posted by: Jack at January 10


Jez Jack not only have we heard Republicans and Conservatives advocating such things we’ve just seen 6 years of them acting out on these desires. And their support base either supporting these practices or remaining silent.

Posted by: muirgeo at January 11, 2007 9:14 AM
Comment #202507

1LTB
Havent we contracted out the training of the Iraqi armed forces to private contractors? Havent we contracted out support services in Iraq to private contractors?
Dont we issue contracts for military supplies to foreign companies?
While we have not contracted out all military services to private companies we have started privatizing more services than in the past. So I guess it would be fair to say we are trending towards privatization of the military, dont you think?


Posted by: j2t2 at January 11, 2007 10:06 AM
Comment #202514

Thomas

I heard that proposal on “On Point”. I think it would be a very good idea … if we offset other taxes.

Posted by: Jack at January 11, 2007 10:51 AM
Comment #381173

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