Quotulatiousness

December 10, 2013

The pundits are “mad as hell” and hope we’re ready to man the barricades for them

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:03

Jim Geraghty notes the common theme among anguished pundits both left and right:

One problem with the “this is intolerable, and we need an uprising!” cry is that we’ve already had at least two “uprisings” at the ballot box in recent years: The Obama wave of 2008 and the Tea Party wave of 2010. But their remedies for the “intolerable” condition are contradictory — one envisions a much greater role for government in Americans’ daily lives, while the other concludes government’s growing role exacerbates the problems instead of solving it.

Ironically, the two sides agree in their denunciation of crony capitalism, but what they usually mean is that they’re opposed to the other guy’s crony capitalism. Obama voted for TARP and then exploited its discontent, shrugged at the taxpayers getting stuck for the bill of Solyndra and other green energy boondoggles, then did his part to help walking conflict of interest Terry McAuliffe become governor of Virginia. The flip side of the coin too many Republicans are all too comfortable with their own versions of crony capitalism — loans and loan guarantees subsidize U.S. exporters, state economic development boards, and Bob McDonnell’s cozy financial arrangements with donors, among other examples. While crony capitalism isn’t really a driving force behind our national sense of diminishing economic opportunities, it certainly doesn’t help anyone except the cronies, and enhances the sense that wealth is built through cheating and secret deals, not hard work or innovation.

(Notice that this expression of economic discontent is so generic that everybody’s got a grievance, and nobody thinks they’re the beneficiaries. This is how you get multimillionaire rapper/mogul Jay-Z selling Occupy Wall Street-themed t-shirts, or the CEO of bailed-out insurance giant AIG explicitly comparing the treatment of his company to lynchings in the South, or the number of members of Congress who have complained about their $174,000 per year salary.)

March 11, 2013

Science fiction’s blindspot on the looming corporate menace of the future

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:36

Kevin Williamson wonders why the dystopic corporate giant of so many science fiction books and movies doesn’t seem to be getting any closer to reality:

That the future will be dominated by amoral international (or interstellar) corporations is a constant theme of science fiction and, not unrelatedly, of progressive political thought. The rogues’ gallery includes Cyberdyne Systems (Terminator), Weyland-Yutani (Alien), Omni Consumer Products (Robocop), and Charlton Heston’s friends at Soylent Inc. The gold standard of the genre is the Tyrel Corporation, from Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner, an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. The film, which is indisputably a visual masterpiece, is much heavier on the theme of corporate dominance than the novel is, which is strange: The corporation of 1982 was a smaller and weaker thing than the corporation of 1968.

At its best, science fiction imagines a future that illuminates the present, but on the subject of the social role of the corporation, science fiction has long been backward-looking, out of touch with the reality it would analyze. The cultural imagination at large shares this error, though it is difficult to say how much this defect in science fiction is a result of the cultural error and how much it is the cause. But it would be difficult to overstate how deeply the specter of the villainous corporation shapes American political thought. The influence is more visible the farther to the left one moves along the political spectrum. Occupy Wall Street was probably at least as much influenced by science-fiction visions of corporate dystopias as it was by any kind of organized political thought. There were unmistakably Maoist elements to Occupy, but the sinister connotations of the very word “corporation” are by no means heard by only those ears attached to the addled heads of committed leftists.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was set in 1992, Blade Runner in 2019, yet here we are, well into the 21st century, and there is still no colossal Tyrel Corporation bestriding the globe, and nothing like the corporate sovereignties of Jennifer Government. As myth, the corporate dystopia remains undiminished in its power. But the function of myths is to illuminate reality, and the reality is that there is no Tyrel Corporation today, and none on the horizon. If you want to know what the corporation of tomorrow looks like, don’t think Cyberdyne — think Groupon.

You would not know it from reading fiction, speaking with Occupy types, or listening to the speeches at the Democratic National Convention, but the corporation as we know it is in decline: The average size of a corporation as measured by personnel has been diminishing since 1975. In 1955 the largest U.S. company, General Motors, employed 576,000 people out of a U.S. population of 166 million; today Exxon Mobil, the largest U.S. company, employs only 82,000 people. Microsoft employs fewer than 100,000 people worldwide; Google employs about 54,000, and Facebook fewer than 6,000.

December 27, 2012

“We had no idea how to handle them without offending our agonised liberal consciences”

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:11

George “The Great Moonbat” Monbiot has an unscheduled trip down memory lane:

A group of us had occupied a piece of land on St George’s Hill in Surrey, 70 miles from where we now sat. In 1649, the Diggers had built their settlement there, in the hope of establishing a “common treasury for all”. Our aim had been to rekindle interest in land reform. It had been going well — we had placated the police, started to generate plenty of public interest — when two young lads with brindled staffordshire bull terriers arrived in an old removals van.

Everyone was welcome at the site and, as they were travellers, one of the groups marginalised by the concentration of control and ownership of land in Britain, we went out of our way to accommodate them. They must have thought they had died and gone to heaven.

Almost as soon as they arrived they began twocking stuff. A radio journalist left his equipment in his hire car. They smashed the side window. Someone saw them bundling the kit, wrapped in a stolen sleeping bag, into their lorry. There was a confrontation — handwringing appeals to reason on one side, pugnacious defiance on the other — which eventually led to the equipment being handed back.

They wound their dogs up, making them snap and snarl at the other occupiers. At night they roamed the camp, staffies straining at the leash, cans of Special Brew in their free hands, shouting “fucking hippies, we’re going to burn you in your tents!”

We had no idea how to handle them without offending our agonised liberal consciences. They saw this and exploited it ruthlessly. Eventually the police solved the problem for us. Most of the cars parked at a nearby attraction had had their windows smashed and radios stolen, and someone had followed their lorry back to our site. As they were led away, my anarchist beliefs battled my bourgeois instincts, and lost.

September 24, 2012

One thing the Occupy movement was absolutely right about: crony capitalism

Filed under: Business, Government, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:29

In the Calgary Herald, Mike Milke says that the Occupy protest movement was spot-on in their criticism of crony capitalism:

With the recent first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, consider one beef from protesters that was legitimate: crony capitalism.

In general, Occupy Wall Street types could be described as a little too naive about the downside of more government power, and too critical of people who exchange goods and services in markets.

But insofar as any protester was annoyed with politicians who like to subsidize specific businesses — corporate welfare in other words, and which is an accurate example of abused capitalism — hand me a protest sign and give me a tent.

When taxpayer dollars are given or “loaned” (wink, wink, nod, nod) to specific businesses, such taxpayer-financed subsidies are not cheap.

According to the OECD, in 2008, at least $48 billion was proposed for automotive companies alone. Annually, global taxpayer subsidies to the energy industry clock in at more than $100 billion. And in Canada, between 1994 and 2007, governments spent $202 billion on all types of subsidies to multiple corporations in all sorts of industries.

July 11, 2012

Crony Capitalism: the issue that unites the Tea Party and the Occupy movement

Filed under: Business, Government, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:17

Matthew Mitchell at the Mercatus Center:

Despite the ideological miles that separate them, activists in the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements agree on one thing: both condemn the recent bailouts of wealthy and well-connected banks. To the Tea Partiers, these bailouts were an unwarranted federal intrusion into the free market; to the Occupiers, they were a taxpayer-financed gift to the wealthy executives whose malfeasance brought on the financial crisis.[1] To both, the bailouts smacked of cronyism.

The financial bailouts of 2008 were but one example in a long list of privileges that governments occasionally bestow upon particular firms or particular industries. At various times and places, these privileges have included (among other things) monopoly status, favorable regulations, subsidies, bailouts, loan guarantees, targeted tax breaks, protection from foreign competition, and noncompetitive contracts. Whatever its guise, government-granted privilege is an extraordinarily destructive force. It misdirects resources, impedes genuine economic progress, breeds corruption, and undermines the legitimacy of both the government and the private sector.

[. . .]

… regulations can be especially useful to firms if they give the appearance of being anti-business or somehow pro-consumer. Regulations are often supported by strange bedfellows. Bruce Yandle of Clemson University has studied the phenomenon extensively:

The pages of history are full of episodes best explained by a theory of regulation I call “bootleggers and Baptists.” Bootleggers … support Sunday closing laws that shut down all the local bars and liquor stores. Baptists support the same laws and lobby vigorously for them. Both parties gain, while the regulators are content because the law is easy to administer.[25]

The moralizing arguments are often front and center in regulatory policy debates, while the narrow interests that stand to benefit from certain regulations are much less conspicuous.

June 11, 2012

We can’t “save” capitalism, because we don’t “have” capitalism

Filed under: Economics, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:38

James Delingpole in the Telegraph (the italicized opening paragraph is a quite from Tim Morgan):

    Reforming capitalism so that it serves the majority, and strengthening the individual against the collectivist and the corporate, are inspiring visions. This is where government should be taking Britain.

Easier said than done, of course — as I was reminded yesterday when I Tweeted it under the headline “How to rescue capitalism….” only to have some Twentysomething smartarse Tweet back “Rescue it? Bury it!”

This is the kind of fifth-form, sub-Banksy political analysis which passes for conventional wisdom these days. It’s the dominant strain of thinking at the Guardian, at the BBC, among the studio audience at Channel 4′s apocalyptically lame 10 O’Clock Live, on Twitter, in the right-on brains of groovester opinion-formers all the way from Ben Goldacre to Graham Linehan to Polly Toynbee — and, of course, across the world in the entire Occupy movement. Capitalism, they all maintain, has failed.

No, capitalism has not recently been tried: that’s the real problem. And what I particularly like about Morgan’s report — well worth reading in full — is that it addresses this extremely important point. What we’re experiencing around the world at the moment is not laissez-faire, self-correcting, authentic, free-market capitalism but an excedingly corrupt and bastardised form thereof.

What we’re seeing is a grotesque stitch up between the banking class, the corporate class and the political class — at the expense of the rest of us.

One day, I like to hope, those of us on the libertarian right will find common cause with (at least some of) the Occupy crowd and unite against our real enemy.

May 11, 2012

Sneering at both the rich and the poor: the modern “equality” campaigners

Filed under: Economics, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:16

Daniel Ben-Ami on the equal-opportunity snobs in the so-called “equality” movement:

It is easy to make the mistake of assuming there is a big drive towards equality in the world today. Politicians, pundits and even billionaire financiers rail against the dangers of inequality, excess and greed. A handful of Occupy protesters claiming to represent the ‘99 per cent’ against the super-rich ‘one per cent’ are widely lauded in influential circles. Parallel campaigns slate the wealthy for failing to pay their fair share of tax. Officially sanctioned campaigns promote fairness, social justice, social equality, equal access to education and the like.

From this false premise it appears to follow that radical politics is alive and well. If equality was historically a core principle of the left then, so it is assumed, the current discussion must be enlightened and humanistic. Those who oppose the plethora of apparently pro-equality initiatives are therefore cast as reactionary souls who are probably in the pay of giant corporations.

[. . .]

In contrast, the discussion in recent years has shifted decisively against the idea of economic progress and towards a deep suspicion, even hatred, of humanity. It promotes initiatives to counter the dangers of social fragmentation in an unequal society. Indeed, this fear of a disintegrating society can be seen as the organising principle behind a wide range of measures to regulate supposedly dysfunctional behaviour. These range across all areas of personal life, including childrearing, drinking alcohol, eating, sex and smoking. Such initiatives assume that public behaviour must be subject to strict regulation or it could fragment an already broken society.

A distinct feature of the current discussion is that the rich are also seen as posing a threat to social cohesion. Their greed is viewed as generating unrealistic expectations among ordinary people. In this conception, inequality leads to status competition in which everyone competes for ever-more lavish consumer products. A culture of excess is seen to be undermining trust and a sense of community.

The contemporary consensus thus marries the fear of social fragmentation with anxiety about economic growth. It insists that the wealthy must learn to behave responsibly by maintaining a modest public face. It also follows that prosperity must be curbed. This is on top of fears about the damage that economic expansion is alleged to do to the environment.

This drive to curb inequality is informed by what could be called the outlook of the anxious middle. It is middle class in the literal sense of feeling itself being torn between the rich on one side and ordinary people on the other. Its aim is to curb what it regards as excesses at both the top and bottom of society. It sees itself as living in a nightmare world being ripped apart by greedy bankers at one extreme and ‘trailer trash’ at the other.

April 8, 2012

Sexual humiliation as a tool of political control

Filed under: Government, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:15

Writing in the Guardian, Naomi Wolf discusses the ways the US government has incorporated sexual humiliation into their toolkit for dealing with both prisoners and innocent people:

In a five-four ruling this week, the supreme court decided that anyone can be strip-searched upon arrest for any offense, however minor, at any time. This horror show ruling joins two recent horror show laws: the NDAA, which lets anyone be arrested forever at any time, and HR 347, the “trespass bill”, which gives you a 10-year sentence for protesting anywhere near someone with secret service protection. These criminalizations of being human follow, of course, the mini-uprising of the Occupy movement.

Is American strip-searching benign? The man who had brought the initial suit, Albert Florence, described having been told to “turn around. Squat and cough. Spread your cheeks.” He said he felt humiliated: “It made me feel like less of a man.”

[. . .]

Believe me: you don’t want the state having the power to strip your clothes off. History shows that the use of forced nudity by a state that is descending into fascism is powerfully effective in controlling and subduing populations.

The political use of forced nudity by anti-democratic regimes is long established. Forcing people to undress is the first step in breaking down their sense of individuality and dignity and reinforcing their powerlessness. Enslaved women were sold naked on the blocks in the American south, and adolescent male slaves served young white ladies at table in the south, while they themselves were naked: their invisible humiliation was a trope for their emasculation. Jewish prisoners herded into concentration camps were stripped of clothing and photographed naked, as iconic images of that Holocaust reiterated.

[. . .]

The most terrifying phrase of all in the decision is justice Kennedy’s striking use of the term “detainees” for “United States citizens under arrest”. Some members of Occupy who were arrested in Los Angeles also reported having been referred to by police as such. Justice Kennedy’s new use of what looks like a deliberate activation of that phrase is illuminating.

Ten years of association have given “detainee” the synonymous meaning in America as those to whom no rights apply — especially in prison. It has been long in use in America, habituating us to link it with a condition in which random Muslims far away may be stripped by the American state of any rights. Now the term — with its associations of “those to whom anything may be done” — is being deployed systematically in the direction of … any old American citizen.

February 28, 2012

Occupy London has become an open-air asylum

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:16

Brendan O’Neill in the Telegraph on the state of the Occupy London protests:

Even though I am an absolutist with it comes to the right to protest, I couldn’t help feeling relieved when a court decided this week that the Occupy camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral should sling its hook. For what started life as a middle-class shantytown packed with self-righteous haters of the rich — an annoying spectacle, yes, but hardly the end of world — has in recent weeks descended into something far more degenerate. Occupy London is now effectively a holding camp for the mentally ill, a space where the psychologically afflicted and deeply troubled can gather to eat, drink and be un-merry. And to have such a makeshift lunatic asylum on the steps of St Paul’s is not good for London nor for the inhabitants of the camp, who clearly need somewhere better to go.

On the five occasions I have visited Occupy London, I have noticed a steady decline in the calibre of the campers. To begin with, the inhabitants were mostly young, with red cheeks and purple hair, talking utter rubbish, of course, but not unpleasant to look at. Before long, that contingent seemed to disappear, to be replaced by straggly-haired conspiracy theorists banging on about 7/7 and the chemicals in our food. Now the camp has the distinct whiff of rotting food and decaying socks, and its dwellers are all sad-eyed and pathetic, many of them old, confused, and clearly too fond of booze. “GET TAE F**K!” one of them was shouting, at absolutely no one, the last time I was there.

[. . .]

All those commentators who wrote glowing reports about the camp a few months back, who took their organically fed children on day trips to visit it, who slammed anyone who criticised it and said we didn’t understand its “historic momentum” or “strategic function”, are now nowhere to be seen. That’s not surprising. What they giddily described as a turning point in radical politics has turned out to be more like a modern-day Bedlam, where respectable people on their way to work peer with increasingly wide-eyed bemusement at the strange, mumbling folk inside this unhygienic and collapsing institution.

January 10, 2012

When “everyone agrees” about excessive executive pay, something else is being sold

Filed under: Economics, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:45

Tim Black on the amazing unanimity of thought that the most pressing problem in the world right now is big pay packets for corporate CEOs:

Occupy London, the Labour Party, the Lib-Con coalition, the Archbishop of York… It doesn’t matter to what or to whom you look, you’ll find the same simple-minded sentiment: the root cause of our economic and social problems is greed. The greed, that is, of bankers, of overpaid CEOs, of those at the top of society who simply have and want too much.

[. . .]

If there was ever a striking indication of the deadening political conformism, the dearth of social imagination, that so characterises our contemporary impasse, it is there in the sheer ubiquity of the Greed-is-Bad argument.

So what is driving this pervy, across-the-board obsession with the pay packets of super execs? It’s certainly not impelled by a desire to get to grips with the economic crisis that holds most of the developed world in its grip. No doubt there are some simple-minded souls in a state of Occupation who believe that blaming and bashing company CEOs or bankers is somehow to understand the economic crisis. But just as the remuneration packages of a few bankers and bosses did not bring about the current crisis, so seeking to limit their wages, to impose a maximum national wage, will not solve the crisis. And while £3million or £4milllion for a CEO’s annual salary does seem huge, such figures amount to very little in the grand economic scheme of things. As the Investor’s Chronicle points out: ‘The average FTSE 100 CEO is paid £3.9million year. But this is only one four-thousandth (0.025 per cent) of the average market capitalisation of a FTSE 100 company.’

The current fashion for attacking large pay packages, then, is economic neither in impulse nor intent. Rather it is driven, in the first instance, by a narrow moralism. For its numerous proponents, either in party offices or in spartan tents, it represents an easy posture, a cheap critical pose. One Guardian columnist virtually gave the game away: ‘Like phone hacking or MPs’ fiddled expenses, this is an issue that only needs to be described to seem reprehensible.’ That is, to the right-thinking types on liberal broadsheets, criticising large salaries is just too good an opportunity to miss. Indeed, like attacking tabloids and MPs, it is a mark of one’s membership of the right-thinking to have a pop at the really, really rich.

But there’s a deeper, darker impulse driving this cheap attack on exorbitant pay packages than just preening self-righteousness. And that’s the belief that the large pay packets pursued by the undeservedly wealthy are a symbol of a society-wide pathology. The cheap attack on top earners is also an attack on the material aspirations of the rest of us. We are, in short, just too greedy now to be left to our own unregulated, uncontrolled devices. A report from the High Pay Commission — a grandiosely monikered body established by centre-left think tank Compass, a few trade unionists and business secretary Vince Cable — makes this clear by drawing the highly questionable link between this putative celebration of ‘greed’ — or ‘an elevation of the concept of the rational self-interested man to unprecedented heights’ — and the August riots. ‘It should not perhaps surprise us’, the report states, ‘that the rioters took the trappings of wealth that they could not afford — the TVs and designer trainers. It reflects a sense of entitlement that pervades society from the very top to the bottom.’

December 21, 2011

It’s A Wonderful Life is a movie that only an Occupod could love”

Filed under: History, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:31

Michael Graham explains why the much-loved Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life is actually awful:

Consider George Bailey. In your mind, you see him after a lifetime of poverty, grief and bad luck, running through Bedford Falls shouting “Merry Christmas you old Building and Loan,” just happy to have a family he loves.

Well I agree that having a loving family can help us all get through crises. (Remember the stewardess in the disaster-film spoof “Airplane?” “At least I had a husband . . . ”)

But the name of the film is “Wonderful Life,” not, “Well, Things Could Be Worse.” And in George Bailey’s case, things are truly tragic.

Smart, ambitious George gets stuck at the modest Building and Loan back in Hickville when his brother marries into a cushy corporate gig and his father dies. After years of dreaming of going off to college, traveling the world and becoming a top engineer or architect, his life is spent scraping by, and helping others do the same.

Somehow the movie — like the Occupiers of today — tries to turn that into a virtue. Despite his wife and kids, George turns down $20,000 a year so he won’t have to work for that “evil banker,” Mr. Potter.

Occupy Bedford Falls!

December 20, 2011

The kind of folks who make up the bulk of the “Occupy” movement

Filed under: Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:49

Charles Cooke reports on a recent study of the membership of the “Occupy” groups:

The report, Shortselling America, reveals that, below the surface, there is a lot more going on than meets the eye, and most of it has very little to do with “social justice.” Its author, Frontier Lab takes an interesting approach, applying techniques of market research to political science. The group’s aim is to move away from the short-term model employed by political pollsters — which, although valuable, essentially provides just a fleeting snapshot — and instead to conduct a more thorough assessment of participants’ values. From these data, they then seek to predict future behavior. An example: Surface-level polling will see consumers tell us that the reason they buy a particular dish soap is because it is green, or cheap, or conveniently sized. But research shows the deeper truth is that, overwhelmingly, people buy the same brand as their mother did. (Nobody will write that on a survey.)

What did Frontier Lab discover? First, that many of the rank-and-file occupiers feel isolated in their lives, and appear to lack basic community ties such as are provided by participation in clubs, churches, and strong families. Indeed, much of the report could have come from the early chapters of Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone. They thus attach to their political causes with something like a religious fervor. For many, a commitment to “social justice” is “not the end, but rather a means to an inflated sense of self and purpose in their own lives.” Crucially, involvement with others who agree with them provides an “overwhelming feeling of being part of a family.” I noticed this on my first trip down to Zuccotti Park, when I saw a telling sign adorning the entrance to the tent city: “For the first time in my life, I feel at home.” On subsequent visits I was struck by the importance of the commune to the project. As much as anything else, vast swathes of occupiers were simply looking for a new club. This group, Frontier Lab dubs the “Communitarians.”

The second group, which to all intents and purposes forms the leadership, is less existentially lost, and derives its fulfillment from the “prestige,” “validation,” and “control” afforded by the movement’s coverage in the media. Frontier Lab calls this group the “Professionals.” Its members fill the ranks of the professional Left and boast long histories of attending and organizing protests. For them, indignation is quotidian, “community action” is a career, and they feel “validated by the fame and attention” and “rewarded for their life choices.” Unlike the Communitarians, the Professionals actually want tangible change, or a “win,” but politics is still playing second fiddle to self. There is nothing spontaneous or organic about the movements they lead. They are waiting for the revolution and hope to be in its vanguard. Their careers depend upon it.

H/T to Ace, who added this post-script to the quote: “Testing on the Myers-Briggs personality profile consistently put the rank-and-file in the Stunted Weakling category, and the leadership in the Gigantic Colossal Douchebag group”

Next on the protest agenda: Occupy Xmas

Filed under: Economics, Liberty, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:33

Patrick Hayes talks about the new agenda item for the self-declared 99%:

At a time when Occupy protesters are closing up camps the world over — either due to force by the authorities or because it’s too cold to protest outside — the widely acknowledged founders of the Occupy movement, Vancouver-based magazine AdBusters has claimed protesters’ next move should be to ‘Occupy Christmas’. The rationale for this, is as follows: ‘You’ve been sleeping on the streets for two months pleading peacefully for a new spirit in economics. And just as your camps are raided, your eyes pepper-sprayed and your head’s knocked in, another group of people are preparing to camp-out. Only these people aren’t here to support Occupy Wall Street, they’re here to secure their spot in line for a Black Friday bargain at Super Target and Macy’s.’

What bastards the 99 per cent are! Occupy protesters have experienced an ordeal akin to Christ being nailed to the cross, and all the greedy, selfish, Judas-like masses want to do is shop! The new Occupy protests began on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) in the US last month, where goods are heavily discounted in shops in an attempt to kick-start spending and get shops’ P&L sheets ‘into the black’ in the run-up to Christmas. Occupy protesters left their tents and headed to the malls to tell consumers — or ‘cum-sumer whores’ as some protesters put it in their leaflets — to stop buying Christmas presents at discounted prices for their loved ones.

The idea behind this, as AdBusters — renowned also for founding Buy Nothing Day — noted is that ‘Occupy gave the world a new way of thinking about the fat cats and financial pirates on Wall Street. Now let’s give them a new way of thinking about the holidays, about our own consumption habits… This year’s Black Friday will be the first campaign of the holiday season where we set the tone for a new type of holiday culminating with #OCCUPYXMAS.’

December 13, 2011

The Zero Sum Fallacy

Filed under: Economics, Humour — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:02

P.J. O’Rourke on the big economic issue that the Occupy folks always get wrong:

The “Occupy This, That and the Other Place” people are right about the sins of the financial system and right about the evil of government supporting and subsidizing this malfeasance. It’s not fair that 1 percent of Americans are rolling in dough while the rest of us are scrimping to pay for our Internet connection so we can go on Groupon.

But the Occupiers are wrong about something much more important. They believe in the Zero Sum Fallacy — the idea that there is a fixed amount of the good things in life. Anything I get, I’m taking from you. If I have too many slices of pizza, you have to eat the Dominos box. The Zero Sum Fallacy is a bad idea — dangerous to economics, politics, and world peace. It means any time we want good things we have to fight with each other to get them. We don’t. We can make more good things. We can make more pizza — or more tofu, windmills and solar panels, if you like.

The Zero Sum Fallacy is just that, a fallacy. Economic history since the Industrial Revolution proves — be the rich however stinking rich — we ordinary people can make more of the good things in life. But we have to make them ourselves, with our knowledge, skills and hard work. Government can’t give us good things. Government doesn’t make things, it just redistributes them. This brings us back to fighting with each other.

December 8, 2011

The Law of Misguided Subsidies

Filed under: Economics, Government, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:44

T.J. Rogers explains the latest corollary to the well-known Law of Unintended Consequences (for examples of that law in operation, see your local, regional, or national government):

Wall Street understands how to make money, up-market or down. “Margin Call” may fuel Occupy movement ire, but in creating mortgage-backed securities, Wall Street did nothing other than facilitate home-financing access to the next tier of less-qualified home buyers, as demanded by every president since Bill Clinton. After that, the bankers did exactly what their shareholders wanted: bundle those risky loans into securities, sell them to lock in the profits, and dump the risk right back onto the federal government — where it belonged.

My purpose is not to debate the morality of mortgage-backed securities but to update the Law of Unintended Consequences with the corollary Law of Misguided Subsidies: Whenever Washington disrupts a market by dumping subsidies into it, Wall Street will find a way to pocket a majority of the money while the intended subsidy beneficiaries are harmed by the resulting market turmoil.

Rogers also explains why so many “special Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs)” are getting into the solar power business — not the manufacturing side, but the retail side. The profit margins are obscene. If the government hadn’t set up the market to work this way with their subsidies, the profit margins would be much lower.

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