An MMT site bringing you dogma-free economics without the pleadings of self interest
What exactly does Ayn Rand, a follower of Mises and the Austrian School, have to do with rationing of government-provided health spending? What exactly does Ayn Rand, a follower of Mises and the Austrian School, have to do with the Krazed Keynesian, Paul Ryan?Someone needs to explain to Mr. Rattner that the government can never run out of anything, including finding the personnel to employ in an unlimited manner the most expensive procedures to the most hopeless elderly medical cases because the government can never run out of "dollars".
Virtually every other part of government and industry puts a price on life. They perform cost-benefit analysis on almost all rules and regulations using those values. It shouldn't be controversial.
I don't see how this piece is relevant to the MMT paradigm, Matt. MMT is about the monetary system. It is not a proclamation of infinite real resources.No matter what its stage of medical technology, a society always has to make decisions about what percentage of its real resources should be devoted to the production of health care goods and services, and what percentage should be devoted to the production of other things. It also has to make decisions about how those goods and services should be distributed.The production of goods and services always has a real cost. We should never say that we cannot employ unemployed real resources and people to produce needed goods and services simply because we are "out of money". But we can say sometimes that we cannot afford to produce more of certain kinds of real resources because the real costs of producing them do not equal the real benefits of their production. We can't run out of money. But we can run out of nurses, or the ingredients for some cancer-fighting drug, or dialysis machines. Or we can get to the point in our resource management where we can produce more of these things, if we want, but only at the price of - for example - more educational services for our children.With double digit real unemployment and weak labor participation, these constraints are not an issue right now. Unemployment is a social choice, and its existence signifies that our society has chosen to produce less than its full capacity, in order to preserve the power of property-holders over workers and over their rate of compensation. But MMT is not a theory of the existence of free lunches. If we do employ everyone, then we will still have to make painful and difficult choices over what to produce.
Dan,"If we do employ everyone, then we will still have to make painful and difficult choices over what to produce."Of course but just like the general employment situation, let's get there first then .. moron Rattner (whom I assume represents a new "Peterson Faction" within the Democrat Party) thinks we are already there...I get your point about real issues, but Dan, no reasons that Rattner discusses here are REAL.Here is his basis: "the exploding cost of Medicare will swamp the federal budget."This is not a REAL concern.rsp,PS to people of the Left: "don't drink the koolaid"...
That's a good point Matt. The Federal budget is not a fixed thing. If at its current size it would become "swamped" by health care expenditures if we increase the amount of health care deliverables, then the budget can always be expanded.
Quote: "What exactly does Ayn Rand, a follower of Mises and the Austrian School, have to do with rationing of government-provided health spending?"You answered your own question. Your crowding out argument is essentially the same as a forced rationing argument. What Bob can't seem to understand that purpose of public credit is to build up a stock of physical resources so that they can be used commonly at low cost. The logic of "cost reduction" by either government rationing or "free market" prices ultimately destroys the value having medical care because medical care's value is found in people's ability to have access to it. Bob's idea that letting the poor "useless eaters" die in ditches because they can't afford the market prices is good somehow improves the medical system over that "evil socialist" Mr. Rattner's "let the government" deny services to the hopeless soon to die "useless eaters" even if we can render them services physically because the government can't afford the dollars is a sham debate. A pox on both of your houses. The fact is that neither both "let em die" Bob Robbis or "Kill em Old People" Rattner are operating off they same fallacy. A "lump of services" fallacy that there is fixed amount of Medicare that be purchased and we therefore must be forced to "ex post" ration access to fixed quantity rather consider an ex ante system based on creating more access and services by provide the public credit necessary to create those new services. Bob Robbis is now actually violating his so-called "libertarian principles" by defending a profits based medical system because all such systems are in fact racketeering i.e. fraud but Bob being a libertarian can't see why some voluntary contacts should be illegal and can't therefore understand how most racketeering works and will denies it exists. I know what Bob is going to do that and even what Bob thinks before Bob does because synthetic ideologies like "Libertarianism" are designed to direct his thinking into controlled responses and so like Pavlov's dog he can't think but only come back some inane reactionary rhetoric. It's sad to see a human being reduced to the level of an animal thanks to evil corporatist "think tanks" like the Von Mises Institution for Mind Control. It's why I fight for "republican" rule. The only way to free Bob is too force him to take responsibility for his own political rights and public duties rather than hand his sovereignty of political choice to the "free market" whatever plutocrat sponsored delusion he now takes comfort in. Bob Robbis should be forced to grow up and it will be good for him and a moral thing to do to him.
"MMT is not a theory of the existence of free lunches"Well it kind of is, in that it posits that foreigners are willing to produce real goods and services in return for pieces of paper, therefore we can get real goods and services for the cost of printing pieces of paper.Why foreigners would want to do that is rarely questioned.
Sept,You have got the Rothbardian's number COLD!!!keep it up!Bob seems to have omitted the "adult diaper changing" code here for once at least ;) rsp,
"What exactly does Ayn Rand, a follower of Mises and the Austrian School, have to do with the Krazed Keynesian, Paul Ryan?"Bob demonstrates his profound confusion yet again. Perhaps this is why he is so concerned with senility in old age.In Ryan's 'Roadmap for America's Future' he mentions that Hayek and Friedman are his main economic influences. http://roadmap.republicans.budget.house.gov/plan/#IntroRyan has on several occasions stated that Ayn Rand is a major influence on his moral and political views.
Virtually every other part of government and industry puts a price on life. They perform cost-benefit analysis on almost all rules and regulations using those values. It shouldn't be controversial.Engineering decisions are based on rationing by reason, and price enters into this. Engineers are trained not to overdesign because it adds unnecessary cost. So they have to use criteria to decide. These criteria are not given and may change. For example, the Army Corps of Engineers planned for the levees to resists a Cat 3 hit. Now they know that they erred on the low side, allow that's what the data indicated at the time. With climate change the criteria have to updated to resist a Cat 5 hit.Should they have anticipated Cat 5 when the levees were initially built? Were they penny-wise and pound-foolish wrt to money and life?These kinds of questions apply in life all the time and all over. It's not like health care is an outlier. The country needs to face up to this an have an intelligent debate that is based on facts and correct understanding of the issues. But this is most unlikely to happen. Instead, it will be decided by special interests, probably in a deal behind closed doors.
MMT is about the monetary system. It is not a proclamation of infinite real resources.The borrom line of MMT as I understand it is where monetary economics connects with the real economy, and that is with reference to availability of real resources.According to the MMT view, affordability is never the fundamental issue. Availability of real resources in present and future is. Preferences in terms of needs and wants present opportunities and challenges that available real resources can be marshaled to meet. Money and credit play a subsidiary role in deployment and distribution or real resources, as well as in planning and keeping score.
Here is his basis: "the exploding cost of Medicare will swamp the federal budget."Notice how it is never, "the exploding cost of the military will swamp the federal budget."Nor, "the obsession with monsters under the bed and bogeymen lurking in the closet will deprive us of our freedoms."
septeus7 It's why I fight for "republican" rule. The only way to free Bob is too force him to take responsibility for his own political rights and public duties rather than hand his sovereignty of political choicThen when it fails big time, Bob will complain that they did not do things his way. There's no winning this kind of argument.
y Well it kind of is, in that it posits that foreigners are willing to produce real goods and services in return for pieces of paper, therefore we can get real goods and services for the cost of printing pieces of paper.Why foreigners would want to do that is rarely questioned.Here's a link to a post at ZH yesterday that explains Triffin's dilemma and the history of the USD as the global reserve that replaced gold in international trade. Forget the last part of the post, which is a pitch for gold, but the historical part is a useful summary of how we got here. More to it than real goods of actual utility v. "worthless" paper. There are a number of issues involved.Gold And Triffin's Dilemma
Kinda off topic Tom, but continuing with that topic:I don't think it's good policy to encourage these trends. Maybe I'm a hopeless believer of 'balanced trade', but I don't think these trends have been historically sustainable and always ended in violent wars of domination (some people may argue successfully that we have been in that phase for some time, and it has aggravated as years pass).I don't think that you can't sustain giving more paper than goods in the long term, does not look to me that historically this has been sustainable. Although I'm uncertain of how much US government & population can do about it, because it's something that is more controlled by banks, corporations (and their wealthy shareholders) and foreign elites.Anyway I had one hour ago the usual conversation about the crisis in Spain, and apart of getting the feeling of being hopeless because people misunderstanding I thought that giving the wrong dominant logic of suppressing demand nationally there is little left only that balancing trade as a solution to problems. The problem I see with this is that the easy way to do it is suppressing wages and its the way it will be done, and that's a long path of pain that will get the economy into even a more deflationary path.I say this because I think that eventually the same could happen in USA as a 'solution', inducing a low-intensity depression by deflationary wage spiral until trade balances are reverted. That could only happen if the USD is 'dumped' as reserve currency, so the demand from US corporations abroad (hard for these to dump the USD as their main currency) and foreigner governments/elites perceive a fade of USA economic power because it's depression state.I find getting to this situation will be really hard so I don't see any sing of this trend reverting any time soon.
Thanks. "Every nation on earth other than the United States has a limit to their potential trade deficit confined by their existing reserves plus their borrowing capacity."I think this is correct. However, if a (non-US) CAD country runs out of reserves or willing foreign creditors they'll still be able to deficit spend, but their currency will depreciate. A severe depreciation would represent a currency crisis, which could in the very worst case be hyperinflationary. So (non-US) countries which have their own 'sovereign' currencies still face this real constraint.
In fact the only real reason why the above doesn't currently apply to the US is because oil, which everyone needs, is sold in dollars, so the US always has willing foreign creditors.The problem is that the US is only able to keep oil sold in dollars because it is the global military hegemon. Its allies are happy to support the dollar's privileged position in this regard because they depend on the US for protection.
In fact the only real reason why the above doesn't currently apply to the US is because oil, which everyone needs, is sold in dollars, so the US always has willing foreign creditors.Yes, the US designed the system that way. It was obvious since WWI that oil is the trump card.The problem is that the US is only able to keep oil sold in dollars because it is the global military hegemon.Yes, the chief purpose of the outsized military spending way in excess of need for defense. The US regards control of oil as primary to national security. Its allies are happy to support the dollar's privileged position in this regard because they depend on the US for protection.Yes, as long as the US is the global hegemon and the world's largest economy (read export market), then USD is secure as the global reserve. US policy is not to allow competitors to challenge this arrangement.
I'd like to follow through a little on what David Graeber discussed about what's really the communism of everyday life. He points to communism almost as a factor of production - unpriced cooperation, sharing and moral solidarity. This quality of action is also part of caring for each other, particularly the young and old when they are very dependent. This IS the economy of simple groups, as Graeber describes also in his discussion of debt. Debt being unknown in these groups. MMT or not, we are talking about price here - wether to use PRICES or not. Prices were how social accounting took place in Soviet Russia during the pre-communist project that corrupted into gangster capitalism. There was no roadmap as to how to travel safely from capitalism to communism, sadly, and what we got was a travesty.Despite this catastrophic failure, our moral compass is still set by the 'instincts' left to us from pre-debt social relations. As Graeber reminds us, these values are still deeply set in our culture, and our moral compass is still not a calculus of prices, one action vs another because of shortage say. We can still 'spend' until there is no more left as was the custom amongst the peoples that Graeber describes. This can still be the instinct we have about the very young and old.MMT in itself can't remind us of this. We have to do the politics at the same time.
This IS the economy of simple groups, as Graeber describes also in his discussion of debt. Debt being unknown in these groups.I don't think he's right about this. In this societies, people have all kinds of debts. The young have debts to the old, the old have debts to the young, the strong have debts to the weak, etc. The societies are held together by mores or systems of mutually understood rules, and those rules in many cases concern obligations various members of the society have to other members.
Good points, Jim. Cooperative community is an evolutionary advantage and the teaching of the wise about lovingkindness and compassion as being enlightened self-interest is an evolutionary goal.Pursuing maximum utility individually base on narrow self-interest is considered anti-social when children do it and parents and educators attempt to redirect this impulse in the socialization process that is a major aspect of upbringing and education.In addition, the global informal economy is the second largest economy globally, depending on how one monetizes non-monetary ("gifts" and "favors") or quasi-monetary ("credit" in a broad sense) exchange and interaction. I suspect intuitively that it is the largest economic factor, and it is the dominant social and political factor as well. Humanity is organized as much by custom as by institution.When there is an attempt to institutionalize custom as mindset and behavior (ethos, mores), there is often a disconnect between the prevailing customary view and a view that an interested group seeks to impose for its own advantage that doesn't mesh with custom. Then other criteria are brought in such as affordability and efficiency to override the customary.Differences also exist with a customary view, such as a a complex culture. In a modern democracy there is a dynamic tension among liberty, egality, and community, so the argument is dialectical and there is disagreement over fundamental criteria.
To DanI felt on reading Graeber that he successfully dismissed the 'debt-as-imposed-obligation' or 'debt-as-rules' ideas as being, for example, non-calculable - we don't do obligations in this sort of way, nor are the 'rules' immutable or always exactly followed. He isn't saying that simple societies were without politics. My understanding is that wise elders would be acutely politically aware, and there would be consequences of their decisions - which would be why wise wise elders would not decide in isolation. In New Zealand Maori have hui. This is a pre-European custom - pre debt/European market. Elders can sometimes pay with their lives.
To TomFor me, much of what you say can be true, but only is so much as these ideas enter into or are descriptive of the actions of people and institutions. But they are not the only dimension - they aren't the 'mechanism' of social relations and there are many other things that affect our social/economic lives as well. Global warming can never be entirely man made in the strictest sense for example.
To TomI definitely don't agree with evolutionary biology though. To put it bluntly, we take no account of evolutionary advantage when we can 'push the button' so to speak. We will paddle our own canoes to extinction I'm sure. What we can do with the ideas of evolutionary biology is FOLLOW them, and design erroneous policies based on them. H.G. Wells was a vulgar evolutionary elitist for example. It was common at the time. These ideas can be said to have lead to the invention of the gas chamber to kill off lesser people - the disabled for example. I'm sure Wilson's followers have done similar damage. Steven J Gould wrote some brilliant critiques of adaptationism.
Human beings are part of nature, not independent of it, or worse, above it and in control of it, as many seem to think. As such we are in a web not only not of our choosing but also one that is beyond our ability to comprehend other in than is some details. However, intelligence is a product of evolution and provides an evolutionary advantage, shown by the fact that humans easily dominate and often replace other life forms they come in competition with. What the outcome of this process will be we simply do not know and cannot know, since the future is radically uncertain in that increasing complexity yields results that cannot be predicted based on available knowledge.This is taken by some as an indication that humans should just follow "natural processes" like individual pursuit of self-interest and nature will "work things out for the best." That is an unwarranted assumption, too.As Heidegger observes, human beings are thrown into a world they did not choose and the existential challenge is dealing with this "being thrown," together with a relative degree of freedom of choice and limited knowledge.That's the human condition that human ingenuity and creativity is constantly grappling with more or less successfully depending on the criteria selected to evaluate this. The human being doesn't come with an operating manual and there are no absolute criteria — it's either stipulation-rationalization, turtles all the way down, or dogs chasing their tails. Some chose to remain in denial and others to make up narratives that submerge realization of this existential condition.
Jim,(#1 Welcome here I dont know if I have ever seen you comment here before...)"whether to use PRICES or not."I would point out that MMT (Warren) always says that under the current type or monetary system we are currently running (ie free floating non convertible) PRICES are necessarily a FUNCTION of what price the govt agrees to pay for things or what price they allow their banks to lend against things...So govt is to a great extent the "price setter" for things.... prices are not "independent" or there is not an "invisible hand" setting the prices for anything... including healthcare...rsp,
Matt, 'price level', not 'prices'!Warren:"a monopolist sets two prices. First is what Marshall called the ‘own rate’ which is how the monopolist’s thing exchanges for itself. For a currency that is the interest rate set by the CB.The second is how that thing exchanges for other goods and services. For a currency we call that the price level. I say it this way- the price level is necessarily a function of prices paid by the government of issue when it spends, and/or collateral demanded when it lends."
though I suspect that whilst in theory the government could potentially always control the 'price level', in practice this isn't always feasible.
Rattner's whole, sickening, argument rests on the mistaken belief that the health care needs of the elderly will bankrupt the system in a monetary sense. He's an ignorant, selfish, jerk.
I find this idea of Marshall's of the "own rate" utterly confusing. The rate of interest is not simply the rate at which "money exchanges for itself". It is fundamentally based on time. The rate of interest is based on the difference between the value we attach to the possession of some good now and its possession in the future - or at least to a promise of its possession in the future.You could see interest at work even in the case of exchanges of utterly different commodities. If I am willing to exchange 10 bushels of wheat for 1000 apples right now, but will demand 1100 apples if the apples are to be delivered a year from now, then that difference reflects an interest rate. If prices are uniform and stable, price ratios are coherent, and such present-wheat for future-apples exchanges always take place at that 10% addition to present-wheat for present-apples exchanges, then you would expect to see present-apples for future-apples exchanges to involve a 10% rate of interest.
Dan, Mosler's talking about a monopoly supplier, "how the monopolist’s thing exchanges for itself".the Fed doesn't set the interest rate based on time preferences
Jim, I found Graeber's argument for those ideas completely unconvincing. His idea that the very concept of debt depends on precise numerical computation seems confused to me. It's similar to claiming that there were no concepts of hot and cold until people invented mercury thermometers.I believe all societies we know of apply standards of debt, obligation and the discharge of obligation. People have a sense of when a person's obligations have been discharged, when the person has fallen short of discharging those obligations, and when a person has gone beyond the call of duty in providing for others. This is even true in communistic societies where the obligation is to the society as a whole, rather than to private individuals or organizations that create obligations through private contracts. The formula "from each according to his ability to each according to his need" is itself a rule determining debt relations. A society that elevates such a rule to the status of a universally agreed-upon and sanctioned standard of social expectation is saying that each member of the society owes a debt of labor up to ability to the society, and that the society owes a debt of labor product up to need to the member.
Dan, Graeber is arguing that the concept of credit-debt is a development of a much more primitive behavior. In fact it is one that begins to develop at the pre-human level in reciprocity. That so-called primitive behavior remains along with the the developed financial concept of credit-debt and the legal concept of contract that replaces or at least supplements the more primitive trust in reciprocity. Families and friends, and even associates (my word is my bond), dont usually write up contracts or keep books.Moreover, Graeber's development of the concept of financial debt from "blood money" and even earlier "moral" custom is not original. He is just repeating what historians and anthropologist already held. It also explains how and why "debt" retains its moral dimensions conventionally, even though in business and finance "strategic default" is regarded simply as a matter of rational decision-making.
I find this idea of Marshall's of the "own rate" utterly confusing.The basic idea, as y observes, is that a monopolist can set price or quantity. The two prices that are available for the monopoly currency provider can set can be expressed as rates — the interest rate as the price of the currency ("own rate") and the price of what the currency is used to exchange, e.g., goods and fiancial assets. The goods price is the price level (inflation rate). Asset price level can be influenced through govt control of banking as a public/private partnership, e.g., through affecting lending against assets. The fx rate might also be mentioned. While the fx rate is supposed to be a market rate, cb's do attempt to keep the rate within a corridor or may even peg, as the Swiss recently did against the euro. There are relationships among the interest rate, the inflation rate (price level) and the fx rate.Operationally, govt sets these rates either directly, by delegation (interest rate setting is delegated to the banks in the UK), or by choice to leave matters to the market (which non-interventionists prefer).Whatever, govt is making the choice whether those in govt realize it or not.
The production of goods and services always has a real cost. We should never say that we cannot employ unemployed real resources and people to produce needed goods and services simply because we are "out of money". But we can say sometimes that we cannot afford to produce more of certain kinds of real resources because the real costs of producing them do not equal the real benefits of their production.Yes, and externalities, positive and negative, enter into this, as well as knock-on effects.This is the true real cost. Often it is difficult to put a precise number on it but it's real. Just looking at nominal figures can mask this and very often does by design, for someone's benefit at the expense of others. "Privatize the gains, and socialize the losses."
the Fed doesn't set the interest rate based on time preferencesy, a monopolist can set whatever price it wants for the good it supplies, and it can determine the quantity it is willing to supply at that price, but it can't determine the demand for that good that will be demonstrated at that price. If the monopolist sets the price too high, no one will want to purchase the good.Obviously time plays a role here. If the money monopolist charges 20% interest for a one week loan, then many fewer people will take the loan than would take it at a 1% rate of interest for the same period. But charging 20% for a 10 year loan may find plenty of takers.In all these cases, what is being determined is not just the rate at which "money exchanges for itself" but the rate at which money delivered immediately exchanges for promises of money to be delivered at some more-or-less definite time in the future.
Mike,I think Rattner represents a new, "Peterson wing" of the Democrat Party, and this is a shame, it is corrupting the Party who held the recent mantle of progressivism...Peterson hired Walker, who, as bean counter in chief sued sitting VP Cheney, and Peterson looks like an avowed atheist based on his wiki page, Peterson is persona non grata in the GOP now to a great extent.Like all corrupting parasites, Peterson is looking for a new host, and is now slowly infiltrating the Democrats...Democrats: Eschew Peterson!rsp,
Dan, "the interest rate" is the overnight rate for borrowing funds in the interbank market.And if you recall, Paul Volker jacked the fed funds rate up to 20% in June 1981. Created quite a stir.
Tom, it seems to me that what Graeber is doing is falsifying the cultural record and promoting willful conceptual and empirical confusion in order to define away debt as some sort of recent, depraved institution. He's a romantic and primitivist who should have read a lot more economics and legal theory before presuming to write a book on the "history of debt".There is no single, monocausal source for the origin of debt in institutions like redemption from slavery. As you note, the concept of reciprocity occurs widely, in all societies and in many spheres of life. And the application of any concept of reciprocity contains a built-in intuitive assessment of debt and debt discharge. There are always standards as to when someone has successfully reciprocated and when they have not.His seeming promotion of the idea that societies can be based on purely voluntary "gifting" is also ludicrous and backward. No complex productive enterprises, no matter by whom those enterprises are organized, privately or socially, can be based on flows of inputs and outputs that are unpredictable and subject to the whims of voluntary discretion. The technologies of calculation of the terms and time frames for the delivery of goods and services among individuals and enterprises are a hallmark of human progress, not the marks of some "fallen" condition.
"And if you recall, Paul Volker jacked the fed funds rate up to 20% in June 1981. Created quite a stir."Yes, Tom, and when he did that he created a recession. If you increase the price of funds you lower the demand for borrowing them.I'm not doubting that governments can set policy interest rates as they prefer. I'm just saying that understanding of these rates and their natures is not helped by Marshall's confused notion of the "own rate".
Matt, Rattner is a creature of Big Finance, and a classic Clinton-style New Democrat. These people have been trying to unravel the New Deal legacy for 30 years and increase the power of private finance and the private sector. Obama is one of their disciples.
Dan, much of the anarchism of the left is based on the organization of so-called primitive societies. There are contemporary anarchist communities experimenting with this. It's been then the way of life of many spiritual communities globally across centuries, including Western monasticism. It's possible on a relatively small scale but that scale is actually larger than a lot of people imagine. The question is how far it can scale up. I have suggested that this is a function of the level of collective consciousness, and research indicates that collective consciousness is evolving in the direction of greater universality and humanity becomes more species-conscious and well as more conscious of interconnectedness.
I'm not doubting that governments can set policy interest rates as they prefer. I'm just saying that understanding of these rates and their natures is not helped by Marshall's confused notion of the "own rate".Well, Warren doesn't seem to think it is confused since he cites it. Why not take it up with them?
Tom, monastic communities are almost never anarchistic. They are usually highly structured and rule-governed, with quite rigid systems of duty, worship and work organized on precise time schedules. Also, many monastic communities are not self-supporting, and depend heavily for their well-being on the work and donations of the faithful who labor outside the monastery.As you know, I don't think much of anarchism, which is a modern western intellectual conceit that appeals to a certain number of the very young and inexperienced, along with various other escapists and ivory tower dilettantes who are unable to face and grapple with the material challenges of our mortal animal existence and the demands of social life and obligation, but which has an unblemished record of almost comic failure and fruitlessness.
That is your view, Dan. My experience is different.
I would also say that there are people who have a chiefly exchange-based, quid pro quo worldview and those that don't. The former cannot understand the latter, and the latter think that the former have lost their way and are wandering in the wilderness.
monastic communities are almost never anarchistic.They are economically, in that they are not exchange-based and eschew the use of money. Many if not most Western monastics have traditionally taken vows involving poverty (non-ownership) and simplicity (need only). A basic (economic) rule has been, "From each according to ability, to each according to need."The modern anarchists didn't invent this stuff, they adapted and repurposed it.
Tom, I think the difference is between those who have a individualistic orientation - based on the pursuit of one's own well-being, personal freedom, spiritual fulfillment or what have you - and those who have a social orientation based on the achievement of the best possible life for all human beings.My emphasis on contract, law, debt and obligation isn't grounded in personal acquisitiveness, but rather on the pursuit of the predictability and order that are needed for a social life in which we are able to generate goods in sufficient and reliable quantities to provide a very good life for everyone and sustain a harmonious social existence.Think about a sophisticated and efficient manufacturing operation of any kind - one that produces clothing for example. It doesn't matter that much whether we consider a profit-based capitalist enterprise with a highly stratified pay scale or a non-profit, egalitarian enterprise with a more equal pay scale. The point is that it needs to have organized contracts with its suppliers and customers based on what those parties owe them. If not, the enterprise falls apart and runs to ruin. If it pays its supplier some quantity of its resources, it cannot then organize its production in an effective and sustainable way if the supplier only supplies the needed inputs in return if the supplier feels like it, or if it supplies them only on the schedule it likes.Similarly, the operation cannot be sustained if the outputs are given to others and those others only pay for them according to their whims. The resulting productive "system" would be far too unpredictable and unreliable to endure. It would be like a body in which the muscles expend energy walking around, eating and breathing, but in which the lungs only supply oxygen to the bloodstream when they feel like it.Organized social life requires enforced rules achieving coordination, calculation, reliability and predictability. These complex systems of enforced rules are a kind of technology of social living that have improved human existence tremendously, and should be celebrated, not disparaged as some awful oppression.The challenge for the left should be to make our social life more broadly prosperous, secure and equal - not to elevate the will and whim of the individual to the highest level, where each person is a kind of sovereign of a private universe of the self, and where all interactions among individuals conceived as acts of grace and discretion among these sovereign egos making their own private rules as they go along.
They are economically, in that they are not exchange-based and eschew the use of money.I would dispute the claim that they are not exchange-based. They are not laissez faire societies in which exchange is based on voluntary private contracts. But each monk owes a duty of assigned labor to the community, and receives in exchange some assigned share of the community's output. This is exchange, but it is socialized exchange. The exchange obligation isn't between the individual and other individuals; it is between individuals and the whole community.
"From each according to ability, to each according to need."Tom, imo if you take this and couple it with a view that "money" is exogenous (outside the authority of human civil law), then it cant work as you are setting up a dog fight with 10 dogs after 8 bones....This is where Marx went off the rails as Marx view was that "money" was exogenous like this... this then becomes what the right calls "redistribution". but of course the right believes that "money" is exogenous in this way also... This cocktail is divisive to humanity.From my point of view this gets back to the false Christendom belief that they should be "their brother's keeper"... Jesus never used these words, they were said by Cain... think "zookeeper".Jesus used the metaphor "ideal Shepherd" which implies for the sheep yes a good deal of "freedom" but UNDER JUST AUTHORITY AND WITHIN PROTECTIVE BOUNDS...rsp,
Organized social life requires enforced rules achieving coordination, calculation, reliability and predictability. These complex systems of enforced rules are a kind of technology of social living that have improved human existence tremendously, and should be celebrated, not disparaged as some awful oppression.We disagree on this, Dan. Libertarians of the left and right that top-down hierarchical organization itself if the problem, especially when the reward is fame, fortune and power. Because not only can it be hijacked but also since history shows that when this type of organization is scaled to any significant degree it is always captured 'by hook or by crook."I prefer to associate with individuals and communities on a scale in which decentralized and "loose" organization works, cognizant of the likely reality that this will not scale until humanity matures sufficiently. But I'm not going to wait around for it. BTW, this approach has worked out pretty well and is starting to proliferate in the mainstream. The Internet and social networking is giving it a big boost, and a lot of younger people are getting it pretty spontaneously because it is obviously mutually beneficial. It is also more fun.The DFH's learned this in the Sixties and Seventies and went underground with it. Occupy is learning the same lesson today and also going to ground operationally instead of trying to take and hold territory against heavily armed and armored "knights" with no honor who are willing to use their weapon against the plebs with no concern for decency, let alone honor. Such is the rule by thieves, and it is wiser to ignore them an carry on rather than to confront them — until the final battle is waged, whenever that is. Lions can swat away hyenas sniping at their ankles until they are either old and decrepit or else greatly outnumbered. But I suspect it may just be a series of velvet revolutions as evolution takes care of it as the dinosaurs die off.
I would dispute the claim that they are not exchange-based. They are not laissez faire societies in which exchange is based on voluntary private contracts. But each monk owes a duty of assigned labor to the community, and receives in exchange some assigned share of the community's output. This is exchange, but it is socialized exchange. The exchange obligation isn't between the individual and other individuals; it is between individuals and the whole community.That's how centralists think about it in their terms, but it is not a very good expression of the reality as it is lived. This is a problem with thinking v. doing. A holistic person is a warrior-scholar-artist-lover. Holistic communities are about developing holistic people. That is their chief purpose.One may ask, what is "warrior" doing in there. The warrior ideal is the hero, the person of honor who has real power, which is chiefly internal, and uses it for universal good rather than narrow interest.
Matt, Plato considered the use of power and authority in the state in his discussion of the "guardians" and their function and training for it in The Republic. It is clear that Plato meant that those who govern must be enlightened in order to have ideal society. He was pretty clearly thinking of Socrates as a model.BTW, Socrates was a "man of power." Athens had a citizen army and when they fought, Socrates took his place in the ranks. He was short and stout, wore no armor, and went barefoot, dressed in his tunic and carrying a short sword. In battle he walked straight ahead. It is reported that no enemy ever dared encounter him in combat, such was his internal power. Those seeing Socrates walking on a collision course with them got out of the way.The concept of authority is a complex one and philosophically very tricky. There are many types and levels of power and authority, and that makes all the difference in an organization. The only real power is "spiritual power," and it is very tricky indeed, with many levels and permutations, and it is beyond the ability of ordinary conscious to grasp.
Tom, it seems to me that what you are doing is just defending the intellectual foundations of laissez faire economic organization. The fact that these ideas of spontaneity, self-organization, decentralization and repudiation of government caught on again in the 60's is the direct cultural reason why we ended up with four decades of neoliberalism, deregulation and the exacerbation of inequality. The strong codes of fraternity, citizenship and shared prosperity that were built up during the New Deal and WWII years were undermined by boomer individualism and neo-transcendentalism.Laissez faire organization does not lead to growing social equality; it leads to growing inequality. Laissez faire does not lead to financial resilience and robustness; it leads to innovative and creative forms of rent-seeking and exploitation - and then to financial instability."Going to ground", "do your own thing", "turn on and drop out" - these are all the slogans of American egoism and radical individualism. Many American generations seems to respond to the failure of government and society by planting the anti-social seeds of further failure and social disorder - all in the name of freedom and personal liberation.Graeber is another classic American lover of personal liberty, voluntariness and individualism; so he is just re-creating and re-packaging the same American disease that has given us the stark inequality of our contemporary world. Counter-culturalists often fail to realize how they are their parents' children.Organization and a rule of law promoting equality don't have to be top-down systems. They can be democratic systems animated by democratic citizens practicing self-government. But rules and order are needed I believe, because human beings are what - in Matt's language - would be called "sinful". Left to their own devices they cultivate their own egos and ignore others; they take from others without giving; they exploit and subordinate others; they seek to dominate others; and they undermine the foundations of harmonious social existence.
Tom, it seems to me that what you are doing is just defending the intellectual foundations of laissez faire economic organization. The fact that these ideas of spontaneity, self-organization, decentralization and repudiation of government caught on again in the 60's is the direct cultural reason why we ended up with four decades of neoliberalism, deregulation and the exacerbation of inequality. The strong codes of fraternity, citizenship and shared prosperity that were built up during the New Deal and WWII years were undermined by boomer individualism and neo-transcendentalism.Sorry, Dan, I regard that as over-intellectualizing. If fact, I would put on the level of CRA "causing" the GFC. The DFH's did not cause the neolibetral rise in any way shape or form. That's a myth. The people you are talking about were the dress-up types, not the real ones. They always show up late when the party is already going and they can sneak in. By the time of Woodstock, the counter-cultural movement had become a fad and was being monetized. The people who were real didn't fall for that.
"Going to ground", "do your own thing", "turn on and drop out" - these are all the slogans of American egoism and radical individualism. Many American generations seems to respond to the failure of government and society by planting the anti-social seeds of further failure and social disorder - all in the name of freedom and personal liberation.Sorry, Dan, it is obvious that you are not speaking from actual experience but something spun out of the head. You are hardly the only one saying such things, and I regard it as repetition of a myth.
"And if you recall, Paul Volker jacked the fed funds rate up to 20% in June 1981. Created quite a stir.""Yes, Tom, and when he did that he created a recession. If you increase the price of funds you lower the demand for borrowing them."Did Volcker really create the 80's recession?According to Warren Mosler interest rate policy is ineffective either to increase or decrease aggregate demand. The recession was caused by an aggregate supply shock - a huge increase in oil prices - and went away when that shock reversed and oil became cheaper.So where does MMT stand on the issue of the effectiveness of monetary? If, empirically, it can be demonstrated that Volcker did cause the recession this would mean that interest rate increases do affect aggregate demand and have a deflationary impact.This, btw, is the view of Rodger M. Mitctell @ Monetary Sovereignty, a close cousin of MMT that does consider interest rate hikes to be a useful tool in fighting inflation.
good point. Warren's criticism of monetary policy strikes me as being the sketchiest bit in MMT.
Warren's view is that increasing interest rates is at least neutral if not inflationary since increasing interest payment adds to non-govt NFA. As I recall, Warren attributed to the risse in price level to the oil crisis and its abating when natural gas came on line in competition after it was deregulated.
More important than whatever view Warren may have, is empirical relevance.Did Volcker's high interest rate policy cause the 80's recession, or didn't it?Mainstream economists say yes, so do many heterodox ones. MMT apparently thinks not. This is an extremely important point of divergence - yet, sadly, not much elaborated upon by MMTers.Note I am not advocating for monetary policy. In Brazil - as Stephanie Kelton has rightly pointed out - President Dilma decreased interest rates by a factor of hundreds of basis points and the apparent effect on economic growth was zilch, nada.But it does seem at first sight at least that Volcker's massive hikes did contribute to the economy's downward spiral in the 80's.So, once again: are there any MMT-based studies on the 80's recession? What's the take of Kelton, Wray, etc. on this particular episode and how it may impact conclusions on the relative merits of monetary versus fiscal policies?MMT simply cannot shy away from dealing with these questions if it wants to be taken as a serious alternative to mainstream economics.
José, MMT economists have addressed the using the interest rate channel (instead of fiscal) to deal with recessions in depth, granting for the sake of argument that monetary policy does what it does (although they dispute this).
Even if it functions as represented it works by increasing the buffer of unemployed to lower the bargaining power of labor and thus reduce wage pressure, i.e., it acts to create a recession. This involves increasing idle resources, a very costly therapy (both quantitatively and qualitatively), to treat what the cb regards as an unacceptable rise in price level.
MMT economists argue that there is a more efficient (no idling of resources) and effective (more tightly targeted) way to address the issue. Why shrink that pie for everyone, harming especially the less advantaged who are forced into unemployment, when it is unnecessary to do so since there is a fiscal alternative available?So even if the monetarist were to be shown to right on this based on causation rather than only correlation, theirs is not the optimal policy solution in terms of cost/benefit, as well as social consequences.
Mainstream economists don't think that you can get growth just by having a loose monetary policy. They think that money is neutral in the long run. In the short run, however, it still has real effects and even the power to do a lot of damage.
"money is neutral in the long run"is there any evidence to back up this claim?
Yes, lots. It's one of the most well established things in economics. Do you have access to a university library?
Actually, that might be hyping the issue a bit. There's a fair amount of evidence though.
Laissez faire does not lead to financial resilience and robustness; it leads to innovative and creative forms of rent-seeking and exploitation Laissez faire MEANS that rent seeking is abolished and forbidden. Under laissez faire, government does not have the power or authority to grant a special privilege that would amount to rent seeking. This type of statement is typical and is nothing more that the usual "progressive" Orwellian destruction of plain language.
Tom,"MMT economists have addressed the using the interest rate channel (instead of fiscal) to deal with recessions in depth".Perhaps so, but if that is the case then a layman would conclude that they have been very successful at hiding those studies from the general public.Take for instance Randy Wray's otherwise excellent (if at times a bit too technical for its intended non economics-trained audience) Modern Money Primer.No word - much less a chapter - on the effectiveness of monetary versus fiscal policy to be found there.A reader who has his first contact with MMT via the Primer will thus be left with the impression that the theory has got nothing to say about an issue discussed every single day in the media and dealt with at length (probably in an erroneous manner, but at least addressed)in mainstream textbooks.It's this handicap that I think MMT developers should try to overcome, the sooner the better.
"Many current studies of rent-seeking focus on efforts to capture various monopoly privileges stemming from government regulation of free competition. The term itself derives, however, from the far older practice of appropriating a portion of production by gaining ownership or control of land."http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent-seeking
Bob, you're an idiot. The concept of rent was not created by government. All of Wall Street runs on rent-seeking. You buy an ownership share in an enterprise; you are then given dividends which are shares of the output of the enterprise. That's economic rent.
Tom, I'm not blaming all the hippies for neoliberalism. Many of the people from the sixties movements were socialists or social democrats. Many of them exhibit high levels of civic participation and community spirit. Many are very active in the political life of what is left of democracy. But many of them had an anarchic, libertarian, highly individualistic and anti-government spirit which plays directly into a conservative approach to the economy.It can't just be a coincidence that we have been living through an extremely conservative, unequal, market oriented period in our history. Hatred of government in a young person easily turns into hatred of taxes, regulation and the social contract in an older person.
"That's economic rent."isn't that investment?
"Rent", payment for the use of the private property of another, is clearly a different concept than "rent-seeking" which means a special privilege from government."Progressive" arguments generally depend upon a destruction of the language. Thanks for proving my point.
Dan, there are different personality that can be used to categorize a large population of individually unique people. Left and right (or liberal and conservative) and authoritarian and libertarian are four of the those types arranged in a matrix that may be more or less useful. As Joe Firestone pointed out some time ago, it is really to simple a model to cover much ground.But being a person who finds use in the dialectical approach, I often set up polarities of opposites, mindful that opposites are complementary in terms of a system. The tension between two opposing values or forces creates a dynamic and a system can be views in terms of the relationship of many such sets of opposites.I use the term "libertarian" rather than anarchist" because "anarchist" implies "no rule," and social anarchists are not naive enough to think that that societies can do without an organizing principle. They just want an organic one and not one that is imposed and enforced. Those who have strong libertarian tendencies tend to value individual liberty and freedom of choice and they distrust imposed authority, although they tend to be OK with "natural" authority, that is leadership by those of actual merit rather than title or office. They view authoritarians as too prone to accept anything with the stamp of authority on it regardless of worth.Libertarians also absolutely reject authority based on any kind of privilege rather than proven worth. Some (confused) libertarians too readily accept the proven "worth" of imbalanced leaders that are good in one department but fail in other important respects. A fundamental question becomes who is worthy to lead and under what circumstances.A great deal of the work of the arts and humanities, as well as philosophy, is coming to a greater appreciation of human ideals, such as the hero, the sage, the saint, etc., as exemplars worthy of emulation. They often do this by contrasting the ideal with failed examples, such as the protagonists of ancient Greek drama that fell short of the mark (hamartia) due to either their own shortcoming, e.g., hubris, or else to fate.
Rent-seeking can mean seeking special privilege from government, or it can mean seeking special privilege in the absence of government. Your mistake is to assume that rent-seeking can only occur as the result of government actions.
Broadly speaking, economic rent is extraction of gain without productive contribution. It's a "free lunch" and economic rent is a free rider problem.The concept of economic rent derives from the classical economists. Smith and Ricardo were concerned with rent, since this was the unwinking down of the feudal age, which was characterized by economic rent and social privilege based on birth. To oversimplify perhaps, they were interested in seeing the replacement of rent by profit.Again oversimplifying a bit, Marx attempted to show that profit was a form of rent in that ownership of land was replicated in another form by ownership of capital in industrial capitalism. Capitalists either joined or replaced the feudal lords the socio-economic structure.Later thinkers further developed the concept of economic rent into land rent (Henry George), monopoly rent (pricing power of industrial capital), and financial rent (wealth extraction by finance capital). Mercantilism. colonialism, neo-imperialism and neo-colonialism can also be considered forms of international rent imposed on one society by another, often through force, either military or economic.
Libertarians have spent the last hundred years destroying every form of natural authority that they could find. The idea, then, that libertarians are "okay" with it is not really credible, as far as I can see. Libertarians view personal freedom as the highest good and political hedonism is the predictable result.
"Libertarians have spent the last hundred years destroying every form of natural authority that they could find"how on earth did you reach that conclusion?
Libertarians have spent the last hundred years destroying every form of natural authority that they could find. The idea, then, that libertarians are "okay" with it is not really credible, as far as I can see. Libertarians view personal freedom as the highest good and political hedonism is the predictable result.Anarcho-socialists are libertarians with a small "l." Being "anarchists" or "libertarians" they are accused of being extreme individualists, and being socialists, they are also accused of being collectivists. That is a contradiction. It is not a contradiction but a paradox, although it is only paradoxical to people who have difficulty conceiving various potential expressions of co-existing liberty, eqality, and community.
Bob, it's actually von Mises, not Mises. Same goes for von Hayek.
"Von" is titular, meaning "of" in German. It was officially dropped after WWI when the monarchies were replaced with democracies, although some people retained it as a vanity.
Libertarians view personal freedom as the highest good and political hedonism is the predictable result.Libertarians are concerned only with the prohibition on the initiation of force. What you do with your freedom is not the subject of libertarianism. http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard168.htmlFurther, WTF does "political hedonism" even mean and how could it possibly follow from the prohibition of the initiation of force?
Bob, Surely it's not that hard to figure out. Here is a Wikipedia page if you really are having trouble: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedonism
Tom, I agree that there is not necessarily a contradiction. One of the problems with the ultra-progressive approach is that the satisfaction of individual desire doesn't really provide any principle for resolving conflicts. If all of human desire can be reduced to preferences over consumption, then this problem is substantively solved. Of course, this can only if people are transformed into something new, and for that we need the power of the state. Thus we see that the market and the state bureaucracy are two sides of the same coin.
That's also why the two-dimensional model of politics doesn't really work. In reality there's only one dimension, and it has right wing / rule of authority at one end and left wing / rule of king mob at the other. Libertarians of any stripe obviously belong on the left, unless we're talking in strictly local terms--for instance, in the way that Lenin might be described as more right wing than Trotsky, even though both were communist revolutionaries.
Bob said:""Rent", payment for the use of the private property of another, is clearly a different concept than "rent-seeking" which means a special privilege from government."Private property is a special privilege from government. Who's stamp is on the title to your house or car?
vimothy said:"Libertarians of any stripe obviously belong on the left,"Some Libertarians give ultimate authority to ownership or merit. How can they belong to the left?
Jeff, The right is about legitimate authority and the moral significance of the social order. Private property is one solution of the technical problem of how to maximise individual pleasure for the greatest number of people. It's not really that different from having a social planner make the allocations directly.
vimothy,Your answer is not conveying to me a coherent point of view. What are you trying to say?
The left tries to provide a technical solution to a particular problem. Libertarianism is one such solution. There are others. The right on the other hand does not think that maximising individual happiness is the be all and end all of existence.
Tom, I agree that there is not necessarily a contradiction. One of the problems with the ultra-progressive approach is that the satisfaction of individual desire doesn't really provide any principle for resolving conflicts. If all of human desire can be reduced to preferences over consumption, then this problem is substantively solved. Of course, this can only if people are transformed into something new, and for that we need the power of the state. Thus we see that the market and the state bureaucracy are two sides of the same coin.A chiefly economic approach to what is essentially a human issue assumes homo economicus. I not only dispute this assumption as reductionistic but also see it as at the root of the contemporary human condition that dehumanizes and depersonalizes so many while promoting sociopathy at the top.IMy view is that it is necessary to begin with an approach to reality (ontology) and within that to formulate a conception of human nature. This requires an epistemological stance, as well as a a philosophy of language in that thought must be expressed, From there the inquiry proceeds through ethics to social and political philosophy to the various arts, sciences, and humanities. Obviously, there are many approaches that can be taken to this inquiry and many different viewpoints generated. A society that accommodates human freedom for self-actualization in community must accomodate different approaches to structuring worldviews and providing means for living them with others. Otherwise freedom, equality of persons, and community are just slogans without substance.This implies decentralization and diversity of options. Homo economicus is one alternative in understanding human nature. If imposed as an overarching institutional structure it conflicts with the views of many people while imposing a socio-economic system that is far from ideal.Building up from a particular economic system is a really poor choice that eliminates a lot of viable alternatives or at least makes it difficult for them to operate freely and openly.The challenge is to develop a a more flexible approach that lets a hundred flowers bloom in global society. The neoliberal push is toward homogenization, but that is getting a lot of push back internationally as well as from within the nations pushing it.
But that's precisely why we have neoliberalism in the first place.
That's the irony of most criticism of economics. People think that economics is some kind of reactionary discipline filled with right wing free-marketeers. It's nothing of the sort. It's revolutionary leftist to its very core. Homo economicus is revolutionary leftist.
Homo economicus is revolutionary leftistHomo economicus, the representative agent rationally pursuing (material) utility maximization, doesn't exist. There is no serious philosophical or scientific view of human nature that corresponds to this assumption, and if there are some humans that do, they are sociopaths.
The rep agent is just a methodological convenience. No one imagines that he actually exists. Economics views people in largely the way that modern liberalism views people: everyone is the same, who you are is an irrelevance, sex, age, culture, ethnicity are all irrelevant. Of course this is all very abstract. That's the point!
"economics is revolutionary leftist to its very core"huh?
Yes, and so simplistic as to be wrong when used in policy formulation as if people were actually like this.As I have often said, I don't give a hang about what models economists generate or what assumptions they stipulate theoretically. I do care about policy formulation, and I object to a policy assumption that society is actually like that.
Right, but why is economics like that? It's like that because it reflects the consensus among the educated elite, which is Rawlsian-style liberal.
Y,I'm over-exaggerating for effect there. You have to see economics as arising out of and consistent with a broad set of beliefs about humanity that began with the Enlightenment.
vimothy said:"The left tries to provide a technical solution to a particular problem. Libertarianism is one such solution. There are others. The right on the other hand does not think that maximising individual happiness is the be all and end all of existence."It's no wonder you and I fail to communicate. Perhaps you should take your own advice to Steve Keen with respect to reinventing definitions...
Right, but why is economics like that? It's like that because it reflects the consensus among the educated elite, which is Rawlsian-style liberal.Rawlsian?The three most fundamental ideas that Rawls finds in the public political culture of a democratic society are that citizens are free and equal, and that society should be a fair system of cooperation. All liberal political conceptions of justice will therefore be centered on interpretations of these three fundamental ideas. As there are many reasonable interpretations of free, equal and fair, there are many liberal political conceptions of justice. Since all the members of this family interpret the same fundamental ideas, however, all liberal political conceptions of justice will share certain basic features: 1. A liberal political conception of justice will ascribe to all citizens familiar individual rights and liberties, such as rights of free expression, liberty of conscience, and free choice of occupation; 2. A political conception will give special priority to these rights and liberties, especially over demands to further the general good (e.g., greater national wealth) or perfectionist values (e.g., the values of cultural flourishing); 3. A political conception will assure for all citizens sufficient all-purpose means to make effective use of their freedoms.These abstract features must, Rawls says, have concrete institutional realizations. He mentions several institutional features that all liberal political conceptions will share: fair opportunities for all citizens (especially in education and training); a decent distribution of income and wealth; government as the employer of last resort; basic health care for all citizens; and public financing of elections.By Rawls's criteria a libertarian conception of justice (such as Nozick's in Anarchy, State, and Utopia) is not a liberal conception of justice. Libertarianism does not assure all citizens sufficient means to make use of their basic liberties, and it permits excessive inequalities of wealth and power. By contrast Rawls's own conception of justice (justice as fairness) does qualify as a member of the family of liberal political conceptions of justice. The use of political power in a liberal society will be legitimate if it is employed in accordance with the principles of any liberal conception of justice—justice as fairness, or some other.Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Jeff, My definitions of right an left are simply those of the National Assembly in revolutionary France, which is the origin of the terms.
Yes, Rawls. Read, e.g., the chapter "Against the New Liberalism" in Gray's Enlightenment's Wake and ask yourself: who does this remind you of?
vimothy,I'm not seeing a definition so specific as yours or even something close:Left-right politics
Read this section:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left%E2%80%93right_politics#History_of_the_termsRevolutionaries go on the left, supporters of the Ancien Regime go on the right.
vimothy,I'm reading that, but you'll have to convince me that has anything to do with the definition you gave above:"The left tries to provide a technical solution to a particular problem. Libertarianism is one such solution. There are others. The right on the other hand does not think that maximising individual happiness is the be all and end all of existence."
Jeff, I'm afraid that I have very painful toothache and can't manage extended essays on political philosophy at the moment. If you know something about the Enlightenment and the French revolution, then you'll know that revolutionaries wanted to overthrow the Ancien Regime a replace it with something rational that put man at the centre of everything instead of God and the natural order.You might like to read something like Burleigh's Earthly Powers if this history is unfamiliar to you.
instead of God and the natural order.Read "instead of the Church and the divine right of kings and noble birth"
Yes, precisely so: Throne and Altar. It's not actually that obscure or idiosyncratic.
vimothy,The definition you give is specifically worded to support your argument that two dimensional models of politics don't work. Subsequent clarifications and wikipedia are rather less helpful to your original argument. I can certainly see value in more dimensions than the degree to which one supports preexisting authority.
If economics is revolutionary leftist, then economists who get near the microphone are more like Bill Clinton.
well at least we've discovered that Milton Friedman was actually a revolutionary leftist all along. What about the Austrians?
Obviously, they belong to the same tradition as the philosophes. Jusy because they are to your right, doesn't put them on the right.
Jeff, not pre-existing authority, Authority. But if you don't like my model, somehow I'll have to cope.
Vimothy I think I see where you are coming from, but this is a very linear vision of ideology and politics.Yes, originally 'liberals' as in the European definition of liberalism were revolutionaries against the old social order, thus it wasn't reactionary and conservatism at all. The bases of classic liberalism were these of the Enlightenment, which were progressive ideas compared to the ones of the old social order.The elitist tendencies of economic profession could be even seen as in the old Enlightenment, in fact: "all for the people, but without the people". Most Enlightenment intellectuals were very elitists, considering the masses uneducated enough to make their own decisions.But how do you go from there to here? A big part of the mainstream economic profession supports policies that jeopardize the very core of these egalitarian Enlightenment ideas, regressing to the old social order of aristocrats and serfs, and this regressions happens exactly through economic power and extortion (instead of by force or by "God's will"), through property.If a given set of ideas (property) are made dominant to support whatever outcome regardless of how is the welfare of society this goes against the foundations, of these progressive ideas that gave origin.OFC the seed of destruction was already planted when the ideas were produced, and there was nothing leftist in the previsible outcome when capital trumps everything else (just like the old order, when bloodline and force trumped everything else). The same way that are planted in the opposite side (these which deny property at all), probably because both of them go against our very own nature, and that's why conflict will arise when tensions are unsustainable.What they fail to acknowledge is that property can be a source of coercion and initiation of force itself perfectly, and is bound to create these tensions which undermine the social fabric and peaceful coexistence. Specially when you have more dogs chasing less bones than there is. The same problems of skewed distribution of wealth will arise, and if the situation worsens, it does not matter which your theoretical foundation is, it ain't working and is producing opposite effects to the intended ones.
vimothy,What is the utility today of a model that has virtually everyone that now lives sitting to the left of the king? I guess it's useful for derailing conversations into semantics.
Jeff,You asked me, remember? If you're not interesting in continuing the conversation, it's not that hard to just stop.The reason why the original meanings of left and right matter is that there is something essential to each. They aren't just intrinsically meaningless terms that can be made to mean whatever is convenient. Of course, such nominalism is the direction society has gone in but it remains useful to retain the original perspective to locate ourselves on the historical plane relative to our point of origin. If you want progress and progressive to be meaningful then you must do as much yourself.For example, many people think that the left is constantly under assualt from the evil forces of reaction, that any gains it has made are tenuous and momentary and that is barely staving off defeat. This is only because they have beaten the forces of reaction so comprehensively that they no longer remember what they look like. The forces of reaction are gone; they left the field many years ago. The left is the establishment now. If it does not like what is has wrought this would come as no great surprise to Metternich or Maistre.
"The forces of reaction are gone; they left the field many years ago. The left is the establishment now."I'd say the forces of reaction maybe dropped certain of their views, adopted others and repositioned themselves. The UK Tory party still believes in constitutional monarchy, aristocracy, hierarchy, tradition, militarism, etc, though they've combined that with a 'free market' and pseudo-democratic ideology. Not surprisingly their favourite economists tend to be the likes of Friedman and Hayek, whose whole project was basically to come up with clever new justifications for the status quo distribution of wealth and power.
The definition you give is specifically worded to support your argument that two dimensional models of politics don't work. Subsequent clarifications and wikipedia are rather less helpful to your original argument. I can certainly see value in more dimensions than the degree to which one supports preexisting authority.Agreed that two dimensional "models" are generally to simplistic to "work" but they are useful in showing a parametric range.For example, political space can be represented on an x-y axis where the two parameters are power and orientation, with different types of governing principles being represented as functions of these parameters. The range of power can be represent as vertical axis whose range is from authority or control to freedom or liberty, with the extremes being absolute authority and the unbounded individual liberty. The range of political orientation runs from radical on the left extreme to reactionary on the right extreme. Then various governmental alternatives and preferences can be plotted on the the grid. This is essentially the tack that the Political Compass takes. This is one simple way to look at political options that can be useful if not pushed to far as representational of "reality."I like the use of opposite values to represent a range of possibility, and their combination into more complex models in that it allows for both analysis and synthesis of otherwise quite complex institutions and events. Moreover, it's the way that science deals with modeling in terms of parameters that define a system or "space." Notice that the Political Compass is plotted on an x-y grid, for instance.The added advantage is the quality can be "quantified," and fuzzy logic employed to avoid fallacy of the excluded middle, which is really what Jeff65 and I feel is inadequate in vimothy's overly simplistic two valued black or white "models."As someone who has been interested in Chinese thought for a long time, I have been impressed with the power of the yin-yang two valued model that is built on the fuzzy logic of the two lines, one solid and one broken, that are used to construct the eight trigrams and 64 hexagrams of the Book of Changes (I Ching) that represent the stages of change. So was Liebniz and it influenced his development of the calculus. It's a simple but powerful paradigm of transformation and alternatives. Starting with the conception of opposites, the ancient Chinese created a model of the evolution of "the ten thousand things" starting from emptiness (wu ji), very similar to the way that G. Spencer Brown derived propositional logic from the Sheffer stroke in Laws of Form.
(I was also exaggerating a bit btw)
Ignacio The bases of classic liberalism were these of the Enlightenment, which were progressive ideas compared to the ones of the old social order.The elitist tendencies of economic profession could be even seen as in the old Enlightenment, in fact: "all for the people, but without the people". Most Enlightenment intellectuals were very elitists, considering the masses uneducated enough to make their own decisions.Exactly. Classical liberalism was replacing one elite based on birth with another not based on birth but "merit." Classical liberals were extremely distrustful of democracy believing it to be the rule of the rabble. The paradigm for "democracy" in the West, first Athens and then America, was a republic in which suffrage was extended to a male elite that met certain qualifications. Interestingly the economies of both Athens and America were slave-driven.Economic historian Ravi Batra observes that of the four classes, warriors, intelligentsia, acquisitors and laborers, rule passes among the first three only and labors have never assumed rule nor participated in government other than in a token fashion.Democracy as the rule of the people is an ideal that has yet to be achieved. Classical liberalism was not about achieving it, and neither modern liberalism nor neoliberalism have it as goal either, other than in empty words that pay lip service to it, since laborers need to be "brought along" willingly instead of coerced. But they are coerced as necessary when it comes down to it.
But how do you go from there to here? A big part of the mainstream economic profession supports policies that jeopardize the very core of these egalitarian Enlightenment ideas, regressing to the old social order of aristocrats and serfs, and this regressions happens exactly through economic power and extortion (instead of by force or by "God's will"), through property.If a given set of ideas (property) are made dominant to support whatever outcome regardless of how is the welfare of society this goes against the foundations, of these progressive ideas that gave origin.This is the inherent contradiction between "democracy" and capitalism. When land and capital are treated as one and favored over laborer both economically and politically, how can there be the rule of the people, which is what democracy literally means. Only a republic is possible, even through suffrage is widely extended. Then institutional means must be devised to ensure continuing control by the ownership elite.
Ignacio OFC the seed of destruction was already planted when the ideas were produced, and there was nothing leftist in the previsible outcome when capital trumps everything else (just like the old order, when bloodline and force trumped everything else). The same way that are planted in the opposite side (these which deny property at all), probably because both of them go against our very own nature, and that's why conflict will arise when tensions are unsustainable.What they fail to acknowledge is that property can be a source of coercion and initiation of force itself perfectly, and is bound to create these tensions which undermine the social fabric and peaceful coexistence. Specially when you have more dogs chasing less bones than there is. The same problems of skewed distribution of wealth will arise, and if the situation worsens, it does not matter which your theoretical foundation is, it ain't working and is producing opposite effects to the intended ones.Yes, ownership of property as an absolute leads to an ownership elite and prohibition of all private property results in gross inefficiency. The correct view, that of ancient peoples, was prohibition of ownership of the commons and ownership of private property based on need and actual use. That is, ownership of goods for use was allowed but not accumulation of assets. Accumulation of assets is based on the myth that assets can be carved from the commons by individual contribution exclusive of society.
"not accumulation of assets"sounds like communism lite.
vimothy The reason why the original meanings of left and right matter is that there is something essential to each.Exactly. Liberalism grew out of a reaction to feudalism, the epitome of which was absolute control by the a monarchy/aristocracy backed by a powerful intelligentsia (institutional Church/clergy/dogma). Liberalism grew out of two sources, first, the resurgence of classical knowledge in the Renaissance and the medieval guilds that garnered a certain degree of economic freedom that peasants and serfs, who comprised the majority of the population did not have. With the introduction of technological innovation that increased the surplus beyond that of basic agriculture, a new ownership class began to develop that demanded greater recognition and freedom to operate. Resistance of the existing power structure to this resulted in revolutions and regime change. However, one elite was replaced with another. While things did improve for laborers, too, due to technological innovation and an increase in the the surplus due to increased productivity, most of the surplus was allocated to the elite, along with political control.
"God's will"I would just point out to set the record straight that the only time I am aware of in which God designed an economy for a group of humans was for Israel thru the Law of Moses and it did NOT include private property but rather land allotment to each according to both need AND ability and no title conveyed...TIP: For all of the zealous "private property" advocates you cant take it with you...rsp,
sounds like communism lite"Communalism" Tribal organization was communal rather than "communistic" in Marx's sense. The communal asset was the commons in which all shared, and individual ownership was based on need and use, e.g., clothing, shelter, weapons, etc.It's not until technological innovation resulted in surpluses capable of supporting non-workers that class structure arises, e.g., warriors to protect the surplus, specialists for technological innovation, and traders for commerce.
"Liberalism grew out of a reaction to feudalism"the austrian school was basically a bunch of petty aristocrats determined to come up with any old nonsense to justify their class' clinging on to handed-down wealth and privilege in the face of social, political and economic change. So-called "Liberals". Hans Hoppe's writings make the feudal impulse within the austrian school abundantly clear.
"Personally I prefer a liberal dictator to democratic government lacking liberalism"Friedrich von Hayek
Well, consider the following test: tomorrow, the people of the US decide that they want to deport all illegal immigrants and seal the border. Would you rather the government enacted their desires or ignored them and continued with current policies?
Tom, A good summary. I think I would emphasise the bourgeois nature of classical liberalism and as a motivating factor the desire to create private spheres of freedom. At the same time, they had and articulated positive conceptions of the good. So there are definite differences between liberalism then and now.
vimothy,what Hayek meant is that he would prefer a dictator who imposed Hayekian type views on the population to a democratic government which didn't. "Liberal" is just a word people like Hayek use as a figleaf for their quasi-feudal mentality. "The road to serfdom" just means "if we don't keep the serfs down, we might end up like them".When the right-wing brigade got together at Mont Pelerin, all of the pretty rhetoric spouted there revolved around one central, but unstated, question: how can we keep the proles down? I'm exaggerating.
But let's say that the right-wing conspiracy was not actually a right-wing conspiracy, but rather a left-wing conspiracy. Let's imagine that it was run not by industrialists and European aristocrats, but by the CFR, the Harvard faculty and the New York Times. Let's imagine that instead of trying to "keep the proles down", they wanted to raise the proles up--raise them up to the level of good liberal internationalists who understand the value of Darwinian evolution, reproductive rights and ethnic cuisine. But aim to do so regardless of their wishes. Perhaps the proles are quite attached to God and country, particularism, parochialism and other such reactionary throwbacks. The good academics realise that a better world is possible and mean to make it so. Is this a good or bad thing?
vimothy Is this a good or bad thing?What is the criterion of good v. bad, right v. wrong? That is the basic issue. There's a disagreement over norms.
vimothy Well, consider the following test: tomorrow, the people of the US decide that they want to deport all illegal immigrants and seal the border. Would you rather the government enacted their desires or ignored them and continued with current policies?"Government" is the legislative, executive and judicial branches of govt. What "the people deciding" mean? Govt doesn't follow polls now, even when the majority is overwhelming. It could become an important election issue, and Congress might pass a law directing the executive. But the president can just shelve if he chooses, according to the unitary executive doctrine. Then it's up to SCOTUS, and the president is not obliged to obey SCOTUS either, in which case Congress would have no option but to impeach and convict in the Senate, and remove from office. But what happens if the president says he will not go?
Y seemed to be suggesting that Hayek's assertion that he preferred liberal dictatorship to illiberal democracy is further evidence of mendacity or some kind of nefarious motive. I'm interested in finding out to what extent Y disagrees with the principle, if we update "liberal" to take on its contemporary meaning.
My point is that historically, power decides the norms and how they will be applied. So libertarians of left and right are very distrustful of concentrated power. While governments have been the power center historically, governments have served the ruling elite. Government has generally been used to privilege a few at the expense of the many.Of course, it need not be this way, but historically is always has been and there is no reason to expect any big changes without a change in the level of collective consciousness such that labor, the majority class, is successfully able to carve a place at the table if not assume rule. Until that happens, various elites will jockey for power wherever power is concentrated enough to capture.
As to the problems with "people power" in practice, that's really my point. What we have all over the West is hardly rule by the demos, but rather rule by permanent civil service and the elite institutions, with periodic moments of theatre where me select between marginally different political parties in elections that matter only in a very slight way. I.e., what we actually have is an aristocracy, but the character of this aristocracy is liberal in the sense that Harvard is liberal and the Carnegie Endowment is liberal and so on.
And furthermore, very few liberals would swap this for a true democracy where the people actually ruled, because it would turn out to be much less liberal than the current system. So what we have is that the stall Hayek laid out is something that we should all recognise.
Until that happens, various elites will jockey for power wherever power is concentrated enough to capture.It will always be thus. That's just how people are, how life is, how power is.
"Let's imagine"why? why not just look at the facts?"what we actually have is an aristocracy"the civil service doesn't fit any description of the term 'aristocracy' that I know of."very few liberals would swap this for a true democracy where the people actually ruled, because it would turn out to be much less liberal than the current system"depends what you mean by 'liberal'. As I said, people like Hayek call themselves 'liberals' whilst peddling a quasi-feudal philosophy and justifying dictatorship by the likes of Augusto Pinochet (friend of Hayekian Maggie Thatcher).
vimothy I.e., what we actually have is an aristocracy, but the character of this aristocracy is liberal in the sense that Harvard is liberal and the Carnegie Endowment is liberal and so on.In that sense, history has a liberal bias. And for those who value freedom, a liberal x is better than an illiberal y.
It will always be thus. That's just how people are, how life is, how power is.What we can say with some assurance is that human will follow an evolutionary path on varying degrees of success are possible depending on adaptability and future conditions. Research suggests is that humans are developing greater appreciation of universality, including greater species-awareness. How this trend will play if it continues is unknown. But it is the case that the level of collective consciousness has been rising as a result of broader education and technological innovation.
Y,The political class in contemporary Western countries are that elite. They occupy the civil service, important educational institutions, important media organisations, etc, etc. This is not, I wouldn't have thought, an idea that you are unfamiliar with.why? why not just look at the facts?And what are the facts? Do the people write laws? Read Tom's recent couple of comments. Does the CFR not have influence? Does Harvard? Are these institutions generally reactionary in their tone, or something else? If the elite pass through their august halls, do they not become influenced, or is there some other process that nullifies it?the civil service doesn't fit any description of the term 'aristocracy' that I know of."Aristocracy" means "rule by an elite"--from aristos, "excellent," and kratos "power".depends what you mean by 'liberal'. As I said, people like Hayek call themselves 'liberals' whilst peddling a quasi-feudal philosophy and justifying dictatorship by the likes of Augusto Pinochet (friend of Hayekian Maggie Thatcher).I think you may be exaggerating slightly again here...What do you mean when you say liberalism? Perhaps it would be easier to discuss the matter of we start here first.
very few liberals would swap this for a true democracy where the people actually ruled, because it would turn out to be much less liberal than the current system.The problem is that the level of collective consciousness is weighted toward the majority, and the majority of people are way less advanced in their capacity than the elite. Moreover, half are of below average intelligence (tautology).There is a reason that elites have ruled historically that goes beyond political oppression. Even when the masses successfully revolt against a repressive regime, it doesn't take very long for either the former elite to reassert itself unless exterminated or for a new elite to take its place. A surplus society requires considerable expertise to run and also to defend. A power vacuum is always filled rather quickly, often in a rather messy way.
In complete agreement with that, Tom. Rule by an elite is natural and unavoidable.
no, Aristocracy means rule by the wealthiest land owners. They refer to themselves as "the best".
BTW, Ravi Batra explains how historically the various classes, warrior, intelligentsia, acquisitors and acquisitors in alliance with labor exchange rule cyclically as one class replaces another at top due to the decline of the ruling class and the emergence of the next rulers. The class assuming rule starts for the high ground and consistently looses ground until it is replaced at the end of the cycle and a new cycle then begins. It's an interesting theory and worth looking at. At any rate, it explains why labor has never comes to rule historically, although labor leaders are let into the club as long as they are willing to play the game and become part of the elite.
Y,That's not really a substantive argument, is it? It's quibbling. If you would prefer to call the elite in a society "the self-described elite" (or "self-described best"), then you're free to do so. It doesn't change the fact that a common pattern human history is that humans organise themselves into social groups where society is ruled by a group of people drawn from one particular class.
Rule by an elite is natural and unavoidable.As long as that is the case the libertarian goal is to keep the elite weak, and power decentralized and distributed.
But that goal is in direct conflict with the liberal goal, to keep society liberal. There is a trade-off here. In practice, modern society has tended towards the liberal in the social sphere.
vimothy is correct about the etymology of the word "aristocracy," but "excellence' as a defining characteristic of the class hasn't been the case. Instead of "noblesse oblige," the slogan has more often been "To the victor belong the spoils." And, the argument goes, hereditarily because of superior blood (genes). That has only been the case as long as successors have been able to hold power, but they have been aided by powerful institutional factors in this.
there's a big difference between a society ruled by a hereditary group of wealthiest landowners who like to see themselves as superior genetically, intellectually, morally, etc, and a society ruled by a diverse cross-section of the populace.
And after abolishing the hereditary system we find that... heredity is still ever present in our society. My view is that the reason that these structures are impervious to reform is that they are natural. As Horace advised, "Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret." (You can drive nature out with a pitchfork but she always hurries back.)
But that goal is in direct conflict with the liberal goal, to keep society liberal. There is a trade-off here. In practice, modern society has tended towards the liberal in the social sphere.Yes, but libertarians are not liberals. Liberals want a homogenous liberal society, which many people (conservatives of one sort or another) find oppressive. Conversely, libertarians want a loose confederation of communities that set there own rules within the bound of the rule of law, which is a basically not disadvantaging others in pursuing one's own advantage. This is where libertarians of the left and right disagree, because libertarians of the left think that accumulating exclusionary rights to property in excess of need and use does in fact disadvantage others, and they are well aware that historically most wealth has resulted from privatizing the commons in order to accumulate in excess of real need or fair use.
"As Horace advised, "Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret." (You can drive nature out with a pitchfork but she always hurries back.)"And what did the 20th century teach us if not that? All of those dreams of utopia and massive, totalizing schemes to implement them seemed to end up in the same place: the death camp.One of my favourite passages of Tocqueville has him reminiscing over the French revolution:"Every public passion was thus wrapped up in philosophy; political life was violently driven back into literature, and writers, taking in hand the direction of opinion, found themselves for a moment taking the place that party leaders usually hold in free countries… Above the real society… there was slowly built an imaginary society in which everything seemed simple and coordinated, uniform, equitable, and in accord with reason. Gradually, the imagination of the crowd deserted the former to concentrate on the latter. One lost interest in what was, in order to think about what could be, and finally one lived mentally in the ideal city the writers had built."
y a society ruled by a diverse cross-section of the populace.The devil is in the details about how to protect minority diversity from an elite or majority rule when the majority is opposed to a minority.See Liberal paradox about problems with a social choice function. Not everyone can get with they want. Isn't that the message of socialization that children are supposed to learn. One way to handle this is through diverse communities, such as freedom of religion allows for different congregational choices. But this is only partial and really requires different education, and in some cases, different health care, etc. So people move into enclaves with others of like minds and they resist government impinging on this. This is really quite natural behavior.
And after abolishing the hereditary system we find that... heredity is still ever present in our society. My view is that the reason that these structures are impervious to reform is that they are natural. As Horace advised, "Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret." (You can drive nature out with a pitchfork but she always hurries back.)This is true only to a degree. Institutions are erected to perpetuate this superiority beyond the limit of nature. For example, a 90% inheritance tax would greatly alter that institutional framework. Let the next generation fight its own battles on level ground with the same weapons as others have. That's how it works in nature, after all.
Nature in the broadest sense, perhaps, but I'm not sure whether that's is really natural for humans. Hence the need for an inheritance tax.
"heredity is still ever present in our society"it still exists, of course. "All of those dreams of utopia and massive, totalizing schemes to implement them seemed to end up in the same place: the death camp."The totalitarian dictatorships ended up in totalitarian nightmares. I'm not in favour of totalitarian dictatorships."the reason that these structures are impervious to reform is that they are natural."Like the Indian caste system, you mean? Is it something to do with Karma?
And what did the 20th century teach us if not that? All of those dreams of utopia and massive, totalizing schemes to implement them seemed to end up in the same place: the death camp.I would say that this was blip of history that proves virtually nothing. What historians look for is patterns.Actually Russia and China took a huge leap forward in record historical time, and the devastation involved was not all that different from what happened previously in history.Japan was simply pursuing its manifest destiny as a nation and attempting to extend its territory and influence. Again, simply a moment in history that resembles previous moments.I think that what happened in the case of Germany was more of an aberration tho. The rise of Hitler was the result of series of terrible blunders that the Allies committed, and which could easily have been avoided, and the rule of the Nazis was sheer madness. Hitler himself was completely convinced that what he was doing was the right thing. Many of his followers were sociopaths, however.While all the destruction and carnage is regrettable, it is hardly exceptional historically other than in scale due to the expanding global population and reach provided by technology. What happened in the past seems remote, whereas the events of WWII are contemporary from many since our close relatives lived through it.
Like the Indian caste system, you mean? Is it something to do with Karma?The caste system is a corruption of natural class structure. In a surplus society, there are always executors, knowledge specialists, people of commerce and workers. The caste system makes class hereditary and institutional, whereas it is based on natural ability, proclivity and expertise — a person's constitution and what that person makes of it.See Buddha, Dhammapada, "The Brahmana". (The Brahmana comprise the highest caste. They are the "experts in life," that is the sages, and the teachers. This would correspond to Plato's guardians in his class structure in The Republic.)
"But that goal is in direct conflict with the liberal goal, to keep society liberal. There is a trade-off here. In practice, modern society has tended towards the liberal in the social sphere."Not always. This depends on the economic cost of replication and distribution.Check Internet for an example, equally if new ways to produce cheap energy locally were discovered and exploited that edifice would crumble too. If you decentralized information AND energy production society would indeed change a lot. It's happening already, and the only blind to it are the elites.Old modes of production favoured that social structure but that does not mean it's the only possible, specially considering the real history of human social structures in the 170.000 years before all this across the whole planet.So yes, there is nothing written about it, there is no intrinsic nature that pushes us to the contemporary institutional and social framework. However if it changes it will change 'naturally' not because is forced by any ideologue or politician.In the future is specially uncertain how we auto-evolve thanks to our own technological breakthroughs in biology and genetics, cybernetics, psychology and education, IT, etc.
Post a Comment