Your Lying Eyes

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17 July 2006

Progressive Realism

Robert Wright's op-ed in Sunday's NYT proposing a new "Progressive Realism" is worth reading, but what he proposes has little value. It's thesis seems to be grounded in this thought: "Free markets are spreading across the world on the strength of their productivity, and economic liberty tends to foster political liberty." His example is China. Since there are about a billion people in China, you could argue that any trend in China equates with "spreading across the world," but otherwise there's little evidence of such a contagion. Africa? Where exactly - Sudan, Angola? South America - Venezuela, Bolivia? Free markets will work where you have an intelligent, productive populace - the kind of people who can make a democratic society work. Otherwise, neither the free market nor democracy have a fighting chance.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reminds me of an incident which I described in a recent thread here, when Karl Rove allowed himself to be "overheard" launching a barage of F-you's in front of reporter Ron Suskind, knowing full well that his words would be published verbatim in Suskind's piece for Esquire magazine.

We've had numerous examples of leading politicians in recent years (Cheney, Kerry and others) "unintentionally" overheard using colorful language. Funny how they're never "accidentally" caught discussing things that are potentially truly embarassing, like explaining just what kinds of political favors can be expected in return for a hefty campaign contribution while meeting with donors.

The issue isn't that our leaders are publicly using language their mothers would have washed their mouths out for when they were children. If they never did, who outside of Jimmy Carter would ever hold office?

No, the objectionable thing about politicians being crude is what it reveals about the low opinion our ruling class has for their subjects. They apparently believe that we are all a bunch of dumbed-down louts who take our political clues from the likes of "South Park", and that this will make them more identifiable to the "common man".

July 18, 2006 5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant to post that at the last thread.

But while I'm here, let me just add that there are few subjects more full of hubris and sanctimonious nonsense than the "free markets". As long as any nation has a functioning central government, there will inevitably be "unnatural" market distortions. The fact that Washington D.C. is such an economic boomtown these days is proof of that. It is a city that owes absolutely none of its current prosperity to the vaunted free markets. That is why Libertarians tout the supremacy of the free markets more vocally than any other political camp. Because Libertarians, even though they hate to admit it, are anarchists, and as such nobody takes their ideology seriously. Their "pure" free market utopia will never come about.

I noticed that some of the posters here are regulars at Dean Baker's Beat the Press blog. Small world, the blogoshere is. He is fairly liberal, but his critiques of America's "Free Market" is spot on.

July 18, 2006 6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My problem with absolutely free markets with utterly open borders would be disastorous for the people who live in America now.

To wit: Doctors from third world countries would come here and force the pay docs recieve down by (guess a percentage guys, say 50%).

Nurses, engineers, software writers and computer programmers (already has happened as guys are stuck at the same levels of income they had over decade ago because HP can just hire Indians now on H-visas).

If we let in Lawyers to practice law here (and let in a couple of MILLION of them) and journalists from other countries (and let in a good million of them) who would work for 60% of what our journos get now, THEN you'd hear cauterwailing about it in the MSM.

The point is, is that free markets, would lower the pay of about everyone in America and Europe if labor could simply be imported. AND ALL JOBS ARE LABOR. Doctors, lawyers, electricians, engineers, scientists. EVERYONE.

We will produce NOTHING in factories if we completely allow the open market to reign supreme here. We will NEVER be able to compete with 75-cent an-hour-labor of 13 year old Chinese kids sewing shoes together, or making cars either.

Ive said it time and time again, for us to be able to pay less money from our corporations to employees and remain copetitive, we need to find ways to make housing cheaper. Better building materials than just wood and brick that last longer and cost less, cheaper ways of making good concrete foundations, and ways to build (3 story condos and the like) that conserve space and bring the cost of land back down. If the average rent/mortagage that someone paid was what it was in 1970 or so (about $200), we could pay LABOR (i.e. ALL of US) much less, and people would still have a nice high standard of living in real terms (let me define nice high standard of living, a comfortable mortagage, a car in the driveway, enough money to put away 10% for retirement, enough free money that you aren't looking at your checkbook everytime you want to buy a little something). Paying 1200 a month for a 30 year mortgage on a two-bedroom house with no garage is NOT going to make us have compeditive wages. The math just does not add up.

July 18, 2006 7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of the math not adding up, did you hear the latest figure on credit card debt? Americans' total credit card debt has increased by 10% in the last year. Their incomes certainly haven't gone up by that much. Corporate America is pushing credit card debt as a way of keeping consumer spending strong without having to give their employees a raise. Debt as income.

The Free Marketeers have been making the argument that Open Immigration is just another aspect of "Free Trade", that since goods, services and capital are now internationally mobile, labor should be too. This is the Gregeory Mankiw school of economics (the libertarians' hero).

I can't think of making a better case for dumping the whole idiotic concept of free trade.

July 18, 2006 10:44 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

When fuel prices skyrocket people don't cut their spending - I know I sure don't - and if things are tight, they just borrow. However, it has to reach a turning point soon, if it hasn't already. The piper will be paid, in one form or another.

July 18, 2006 11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nameless and Ziel,

I had an ex-girlfriend (she's a loan officer) who believed in buying EVERYTHING on credit. Pay off the bill at the end of the month, or even better..............try to pay things off at ten months (therefore it could be considered long term-debt and improve your credit rating).
She honestly believed that this would allow you to afford MORE house, with which she equated with real tangible wealth. She was a big believer in buying and selling houses, asking for too much, and finding a sucker to just "give you" an extra 7-10K about every three years you did a little landscaping on one and turned it over. She, of course, believed in the stock market and not ever considering paying down your house until you had the money to pay it all off in one fell swoon.

I mentioned to her that if the market was overvalued and went pretty much flat for a good decade and you couldn't rid yourself of a couple of houses, you could finish a decade not much better off than before while the guy across the street, paying three months equity at a time, would have a paid-off house and no bills (and could have done it even quicker than that if he'd have put in a few more hours). So who was the fool?

I think the notion of "buying-low and selling-high" is American as apple pie, but there is a limit to as to how much of this can go on. Her parents, in retirement, make quite a bit of money doing this on E-bay and in flea markets. My argument is that they are actually doing the economy a disservice as they are robbing some poor yob of a good deal. Debt-living is something like that. Living beyond ones means buying things on time, guessing that you will always have the income to pay it all off and hoping the overvalued stock market (of our increasingly distressed corporations) brings off another decade like the nineties real soon now. I think the nineties were a fluke brought on by the deregulation of the banks that forced Joe Sixpack to take his money out of CD's and give it to Wall Street, fattening it beyond all recognition (and well beyond its real worth in earnings).

As nameless said, ...................this really cant go on forever. If this bubble ever has a truly good burst, alot of people like her will be royally screwed.

On her personally as she relates to larger things happening economically right now and the REAL problems America faces. She thinks the hispanic gangs are bad and is afraid of them, but wants them to keep coming here because she reasons that she does their loans and makes money off of them. She moved out into the damned sticks to avoid them though. So Freakin' typical of a leftist. Took her kid AWAY from them, but some who dont want to commute an entire HOUR to work have to live with them. She also likes it that they are making developers, construction companies, and real-estate agents rich, which in a round about way sends more money to her via the ol'network. So despite the fact that she avoids these people like the plague and has moved to the boonies to get away from them, she's all for more immigration.

And we wonder why this nation is in slow-fall with people like this. mh

July 19, 2006 2:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But I bet she wouldn't too happy if Congress voted to issue hundreds of thousands of visas to the banking industry each year to bring in Indian loan processors, would she be? Yeah, another example of the galling hypocrisy of free market blather.

But back to Ziel's article. China is neither a "free market" economy or politically a free society. Everybody knows that. It is a country that is fiercely protectionist and mercantilist in trade, and intolerant of polical dissent. So what exactly is Robert Wright's point?

If he is trying to imply that if China ever becomes a "free market" economy, political pluralism will soon follow, then he need only look at the ethnic Chinese state of Singapore.

It is perhaps the only truly open economy in the Orient. But it is a one-party, dictatorial police state (albeit a fairly benevolent one, as far dictatorships go). If a small and stable, culturally Chinese nation like Singapore doesn't feel its safe to liberalize its politics, do you actually think a huge and historically unstable nation of Chinese like the People's Republic is ever going to be truly democratic?

July 19, 2006 11:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best regards from NY! » »

March 06, 2007 2:56 PM  

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