J Thomas on August 01, 2010, 07:14:41 pm
As time goes by it doesn'r really matter if a nation has a democracy or a parliamentary system.  If the citizens of the country don't watch it closely and keep it from developing statist tendencies then eventually they all become either a dictatorship or an oligarchy.  Examples are all around us. 

So, if a few people get a giant share of economic power, how can they be stopped from forming an oligarchy? Particularly if they control important communication lines....

If you can get the sort of government that can keep an oligopoly from turning into an oligarchy what's the chance it won't turn statist?

A big mass of relatively poor voters can make a difference, if there's some single big issue for them to focus on and if they have a good communications network. But when it's salami-slicing, one little travesty after another, they don't have the time. They have to spend a big part of their time making a living. So they lose.

Samuel 8:5-20 probably applies here too. (That's the verse where people in Israel came to Samuel saying they wanted a king. Samuel told them how badly a king would treat them, but they said they wanted a king anyway.)

Brugle on August 01, 2010, 07:34:14 pm
So, if a few people get a giant share of economic power, how can they be stopped from forming an oligarchy? Particularly if they control important communication lines....
With a powerful government, it's relatively easy for a few people to get a giant share of economic power.  Without a government, it's essentially impossible.

A big mass of relatively poor voters can make a difference, if there's some single big issue for them to focus on and if they have a good communications network.
Like TARP, which was opposed by the American people by something like 10 to 1?  Like the communications which let Americans know that other Americans overwhelmingly opposed it?  That didn't stop Congress and the President from taking $700000000000 from the American people and giving it to their bankster friends.

jamesd on August 02, 2010, 03:58:20 am
A big mass of relatively poor voters can make a difference, if there's some single big issue for them to focus on and if they have a good communications network.
Observe that this had no effect on TARP, where the right did not want the rich bailed out because they hate bankers, the poor did not want the rich bailed out because they hate the rich, and the libertarians did not want the rich bailed out because welfare for the rich destroys incentive - in this case, the incentive to operate the financial system responsibly and avoid the next implosion.

Further, the financial reform bill was a great big issue that will tremendously affect every American, and few had much to say on it because few understand it - like most bills these days it is two and half thousand pages of incomprehensible gibberish, which does not set rules but rather grants power to bureaucrats to make future rules.  When bills are this big, democracy is irrelevant.

jamesd on August 02, 2010, 04:30:01 am
One man, one vote, once? I thought that the fact that present forms of democracy produce better results than that form of government was proven by the very existence of this forum.

That the republic produced better results than one man one vote once is demonstrated by the existence of this forum.  The republic, however, has been dead for some time.

Today western science is stagnant for the same reasons as it was stagnant from 1293 to 1648 – because it has been subordinated to religion.

“Scientists” complain that the government is interfering in “science” by denying them regulatory authority over other people’s economic activity.

Nasa’s primary goal is to make Muslims feel good about Muslim science.

In 1903 December 17, the Wright brothers flew.

In 1905 October 05, they demonstrated powered flight “of practical utility”

In 1908, they started making a profit.

In 1969 July 20, Commander Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, but the flight was not of practical utility.

So from the Wright brothers to the moon landing was 66 years, and from the moon landing to now has been forty three years – and in those forty three years, have been slowly giving up on manned presence in space, rather than developing rockets “of practical utility”.

Americans are already bailing out Greece, so will be bailing out California.  Add the unfunded state liabilities to the unfunded federal liability, there is no way the Federal government can make good on its debts.  We are not just up for the federal deficit.  We are up for the Greek and Californian deficit.

Every rising civilization was a lender, innovator, and investor, every declining civilization a borrower.  California used to be the place where the future was invented, but no longer.

America was the place where the future was created.  All the world depended on America for progress. It ceased to be that place under Clinton, and things got worse under Bush.

We cannot rebuild the two towers, we no longer have a human presence in space, and the next big thing on the internet, networked money that bypasses our legacy banking system, is coming from China, and, God-help-us, Africa.

Remember that in the 1950s, we were about to settle Antarctica, (but government swiftly stepped in and saved Antarctica from the evil humans)

I have seen the future, and it looks remarkably like Detroit and Liverpool – a barren wasteland of collapsed and disintegrating buildings where feral humans roam, murderously attacking at random.

A Chinese or a Russian is better able to do an internet mediated transaction than an America or European, and an African better able to do a cell phone mediated transaction than an American or European – because the government enforced and funded banking cartel is blocking progress.  Webmoney is Russian, because its western equivalents are in jail, or had their assets confiscated.

Similarly, we cannot rebuild the two towers, because to build anything, one hundred and one Brahmans need to be paid off, and they cannot agree amongst themselves on the distribution of payoffs, nor how much kow towing to our enemies is to be built into the new tower’s memorial museum. Dubai, however, can build high towers, because to build the tower, the builder only needs the permission of one religious authority.

That we cannot build a tower, nor transact through our cell phones, tells us why we cannot get into space.

An America that cannot rebuild the two towers, cannot possibly build nuclear power plants. If something is complicated, government cannot do it. If something is complicated and highly regulated by government, private enterprise cannot do it. Even if greenies were not determined to destroy western civilization, the US can no more build nuclear power plants than it can put a man on the moon.

Europe is crowded, yet a google earth view reveals vast expanses of unutilized or under utilized land, held out of use by greenies.

As the two towers demonstrate, the US has become the can’t do society.  This is the result of the dispersal of power between ever more numerous Brahmins.  To get anything done, you need an ever larger number of approvals and permits, which you are probably not going to get.

quadibloc on August 02, 2010, 06:38:56 am
As time goes by it doesn'r really matter if a nation has a democracy or a parliamentary system.  If the citizens of the country don't watch it closely and keep it from developing statist tendencies then eventually they all become either a dictatorship or an oligarchy.  Examples are all around us. 
Absolutely.

After all, the man who wrote "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" wasn't talking about ICBMs; they hadn't been invented yet.

So, if a few people get a giant share of economic power, how can they be stopped from forming an oligarchy? Particularly if they control important communication lines....

If you can get the sort of government that can keep an oligopoly from turning into an oligarchy what's the chance it won't turn statist?

A big mass of relatively poor voters can make a difference, if there's some single big issue for them to focus on and if they have a good communications network. But when it's salami-slicing, one little travesty after another, they don't have the time. They have to spend a big part of their time making a living. So they lose.
Of course, the same big mass of poor people who want to prevent an oligarchy are the dangerous ones who, at least under some circumstances, might be the ones to choose to bring in socialism.

I remember reading a magazine article about Brazil where a Brazilian was quoted as summing up his country's history as a series of military coups, brought about when an elected government seemed to be getting too ambitious in its plans to help the country's poor people.

The world's stable democracies went through a period where one needed to own land before one could vote. Something that combines stability with the gradual growth of freedom would seem to be exactly what a nation in Brazil's situation needs. And that could definitely include AnCap, as another way to combine freedom with keeping socialism off the table.

J Thomas on August 02, 2010, 09:14:24 am
So, if a few people get a giant share of economic power, how can they be stopped from forming an oligarchy? Particularly if they control important communication lines....
With a powerful government, it's relatively easy for a few people to get a giant share of economic power.  Without a government, it's essentially impossible.

True.

Quote
A big mass of relatively poor voters can make a difference, if there's some single big issue for them to focus on and if they have a good communications network.
Like TARP, which was opposed by the American people by something like 10 to 1? 

Well, *sometimes* they can make a difference.

In this particular case a lot of politicians believed that TARP had to be done quickly to prevent a disaster, and they couldn't wait for the media to persuade the public with incessant explanations why it had to be done. They risked their re-election to do what they could plausibly say was their fervent belief was the right thing. There was a minority of voters who  believed it had to be done to prevent a catastrophe.

One of my neighbors believes that. He's about 70. He took some undergraduate economics classes, and a few graduate classes, and he lectures me about unregulated free enterprise and how it'is the only way that can work. He was convinced we were about to have a financial catastrophe that could have been worse than the Great Depression and TARP was absolutely necessary to prevent that. "We ducked a bullet that time, but can we duck the next one?" He looks at the government economic data every month and figures out patterns and tells me how close to the edge we are. He seems almost excited and happy at the thought of a depression that would wipe out his savings. I think maybe he's bored.

How does he square unregulated free enterprise with TARP? I think he's a bit confused. But when occasionally I ask pointed questions he accuses me of thinking I know more than the experts, and points out his graduate courses mean he knows what he's talking about.

terry_freeman on August 02, 2010, 12:36:48 pm
TARP did not "duck a bullet", it merely kicked it into a boomerang path; the consequences are yet to come, and will be quite severe. What happens when China, Japan, and other countries call in American debt?

There's a lovely youtube video about the European debt crisis, by an Australian comedy show.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thSTpGnWEAs

I am looking for a recent interview with Nicholas Tabib, of "Black Swan" fame. He cranked the numbers and concluded that the recent interventions make the financial system dangerously unstable.

BMeph on August 02, 2010, 01:12:42 pm
If you can get the sort of government that can keep an oligopoly from turning into an oligarchy what's the chance it won't turn statist?

If your government can "keep" an oligopoly from turning into an oligarchy, isn't it already statist?

Not all states start off ruling everything they can get their sticky, grubby fingers on, just enough to get people comfortable with the idea of not resisting the state's rules.

J Thomas on August 02, 2010, 03:11:18 pm
TARP did not "duck a bullet", it merely kicked it into a boomerang path; the consequences are yet to come, and will be quite severe. What happens when China, Japan, and other countries call in American debt?

I don't understand the details, and I tend to think it isn't necessary to understand the details to see that you're right. There might be something in the details that would give us a reprieve, but I hate to depend on miracles.

Quote
I am looking for a recent interview with Nicholas Tabib, of "Black Swan" fame. He cranked the numbers and concluded that the recent interventions make the financial system dangerously unstable.

The financial system was already dangerously unstable. That's why they could get away with it.

About TARP, I figure if somebody's bleeding out then sure they need a transfusion. But if you have limited units of blood available, the first priority is to stop the spurting wound, and the transfusion probably needs to come second.

Also, we might have done better to quick set up a hundred new banks that would be known not to be contaminated, and let them provide banking services while we sorted out how many of the obligations of defunct banks they could absorb.

J Thomas on August 02, 2010, 08:11:05 pm

America was the place where the future was created.  All the world depended on America for progress. It ceased to be that place under Clinton, and things got worse under Bush.

I'd put the beginning of the end with Johnson who way overspent and lied about it. The economy got not only a great big burden but it had a lot of trouble planning. Hard to know how to allocate resources when you don't know from month to month what the inflation rate will be.

Nixon inherited a bad situation and made it worse.

Carter asked the USA to make short-term luxury sacrifices to get energy independence. He didn't convince them. Everything since then has sprung from that failure.

Reagan gave us lots of feel-good propaganda while he spent us out of recession. He temporarily handled the oil crisis by doing everything he could to keep the Iraq/Iran war going. It lasted from 1980 until just before the 1988 elections.

Bush I tried to be responsible and reduce the deficit by reducing government spending. But he couldn't get a consensus in Congress and wound up increasing taxes. He succeeded in reducing inflation and and interest rates, at the cost of recession and high unemployment that lost him the election. Because the economy did badly he was stuck with high unemployment insurance payments etc which left him with more deficit spending than ever.

Clinton faced a Congress that wouldn't let him do much. That was good for the deficit. And we had the internet boom -- rather similar to the dutch tulip boom, but with some vague rational reason for hope -- which made the economy look like it wasn't so bad. He didn't do anything about the fundamental problems.

Bush II inherited a bad situation and made it worse. Possibly he tried to do something constructive, perhaps he tried to control all the oil in Iraq to temporarily deal with the energy crisis. I think Saddam lied about his oil reserves. Whoops! How could anybody have guessed he might lie? Bush was left holding the bag and kept the economy moving with the biggest deficits ever.

Obama inherited a bad situation and it appears he has made a vigorous effort to avoid rocking the boat. If he does that well enough the economy will sink on a completely even keel instead of capsize.

I dunno. Government currently issues around 1/4 of the paychecks. Reduced government spending means a lot of people laid off. The best time to do that is when private businesses are ready to expand fast enough to take up that slack. It looks to me like Johnson had the last chance to do that, and he didn't try.

quadibloc on August 02, 2010, 10:05:22 pm
Carter asked the USA to make short-term luxury sacrifices to get energy independence. He didn't convince them. Everything since then has sprung from that failure.
If I believed that in precisely the way you phrased it, I could say this was an argument in favor of government-controlled thermostats and against AnCap.

But don't worry; I'm not going to use what you've written that way.

Of course Carter failed to win the cooperation of the American people.

For one thing, he didn't stop the oil companies from hoarding oil. Ordinary Americans will not consider a call for personal sacrifice legitimate if large companies owned by wealthy people are free to engage in profiteering, particularly in ways harmful to the country's ability to function - i.e., the line-ups at gas stations. (The idea that it was "their" oil, after all, besides not being in the interests of ordinary people to consider, was somewhat debatable - it may in some cases have been the government's oil that they were allowed to treat as their oil to encourage them to develop it.)

For another, he didn't offer the American people hope. Temporary sacrifices? I'm sorry, but research on better insulation and solar panels (were they considering windmills back then?) would not end a future of 68-degree thermostats and constant sniffles in the winter for ordinary people - and everybody realized that.

If Carter had initiated a crash program of converting all fossil-fuel home heating to electricity, and all fossil-fuel electrical power generation to nuclear - such a program could have included a net increase in the United States' per-capita energy production. It could have included meaningful jobs at union wages for young people leaving high school, and the black people left stranded by the collapse of Detroit.

People will make sacrifices in order to attain victory. But you can't attain victory if you have not begun to fight.

J Thomas on August 03, 2010, 05:32:12 am
Carter asked the USA to make short-term luxury sacrifices to get energy independence. He didn't convince them. Everything since then has sprung from that failure.

Of course Carter failed to win the cooperation of the American people.

You give good reasons why Carter failed. And I certainly don't want to defend him. My point is that he did fail, and no one since has even given the issue the lip service that he did. It's almost like politicians decided that Carter had shown that Americans aren't interested in energy independence so they should make it a low priority.

All the reasons for his failure -- lack of imagination, lack of charisma, inability to get bipartisan support, etc -- led him to fail. It was the critical moment when we were in enough trouble that the danger was plain but not yet too late to respond.

Carter's failure led us to where we are today. Now if Obama had a workable idea he'd be fighting with one hand and both feet tied behind his back. It would be hard for him to do anything effective even if he had an idea worth trying.

terry_freeman on August 03, 2010, 08:01:14 pm
The oil companies were not "hoarding oil" - they were prevented from selling it at market prices. Japan never had gas lines; America did, and resorted to rationing - people could buy gas only on certain days, depending ( if I recall correctly ) on one's social security number. The difference is that America fixed prices, Japan let the prices rise.

Carter ( like almost all politicians ) tried to blame the rising prices on greedy profiteers, hoarders, and so forth - anything but the real cause, which is the inflation of the money supply by the Federal Reserve and the banks. As Milton Friedman determined through extensive research, "inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon. "

Don't be giving Obama a free pass. He's not "keeping the boat on an even keel", he's doubling down on Bush's bad bets. These two clowns will go down in history, along with Helicopter Ben Bernanke, as the people who blew gigantic trillion-dollar-sized holes in the boat. This is not heroism, but hubris.



SandySandfort on August 04, 2010, 08:22:25 am
The oil companies were not "hoarding oil" - they were prevented from selling it at market prices. Japan never had gas lines; America did, and resorted to rationing - people could buy gas only on certain days, depending ( if I recall correctly ) on one's social security number...

Actually, it was the last digit of your car's license plate. If the number was odd, you could only buy on odd days; even numbers on even days.

bjdotson on August 04, 2010, 08:45:24 am
A point about smugglers underselling tobacco merchants. The only reason that this is economically viable, is that the tobacco merchants have to charge taxes which is close to 50% of the price of the product. Tobacco merchants selling at free market prices would not have this problem. Of course then the "smugglers" become rival merchants trying to get your business. Truly an example of the government being the problem, not the solution.

 

anything