Stupidity Is a Bigger Threat Than Socialism

And it’s not even close.

Conservative Republican opinion leaders, winners in life’s lottery, worship at the altar of free markets. In their minds, merit explains their relative success, not privilege. Acknowledging privilege would require them to admit markets are fallible, a thought that would consider a total reconsideration of themselves.

American exceptionalism is largely explained by blind devotion to free markets as if they are ordained by God. Literally. We are better than other countries because our markets are freer. Never mind our prison numbers, our opioid epidemic, our gun violence, our homeless crisis.

To conservative Republicans, taxes are always too high. The government uses its tax system to unfairly take what is rightly ours. Government, as if it consists of some insidious “others” instead of our neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens; is incompetent and wasteful. We know much better than the diabolical government what to do with our own damn money. Left to our own devices we would naturally fund private equivalents to Head Start, public libraries, Social Security, Medicare, and federal highways because they so obviously improve our quality of life.

Given that context, I probably shouldn’t be as exasperated as I am by the depressing quality of the initial 2020 campaign conversation about competing economic systems. Yes, through flawed messaging, some on the Left have contributed to the problem; but that’s no excuse for the Right’s complete unwillingness to talk about the crippling consequences of widening inequality on everyone and how it’s in our enlightened self interest to make greater (and proven) public investments in the common good.

Instead, deathly afraid their taxes will go up, those on the Right scream VENEZUELA and CUBA and demean Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as “just a 29 year old bartender”. As if the Left wants to replicate life in Venezuela. How is it that many of the most virulent anti-socialists are formally educated and yet seem completely unable to think about subtleties, nuances, and complexity?

To those virulent anti-socialists, there’s a huge middle ground between Milton Friedman and Maduro.

To the army of Presidential contenders, I don’t want to waste time talking about Venezuelan socialism. I want a critical conversation about how best to improve our economics and politics so that many more people experience the promise of our ideals. More specifically, I believe it’s in my enlightened self interest to make more investments in public schooling, in public libraries, in single payer health care, and in infrastructure. And by “more investments” I mean moderately higher taxes. Millions of others think similarly, enough to get elected.

And once gain, this is where the national conversation devolves to the point of embarrassment because my Conservative Republican friends predictably say, “Okay, go ahead and write a larger check to the Internal Revenue Service than you owe” as if the penalty for critical thinking about the status quo is having to compensate for the mindless purveyors of it.

An extra serving of ignorance in a conversation marked by mind boggling stupidity.

 italics=sarcasm

What Milton Friedman Got Wrong

First, Friedman in praise of greed or “economic self interest”.*

Oliver Hart and Luigi Zingales on what Friedman and his fellow free market true believers got and get wrong:

“. . . the conclusion is that this idea, which seems to have taken hold that companies should be all about making money and that indeed managers, the CEO, they have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to be concerned only with the bottom line. We think this is wrong — a serious mistake. Actually if they want to act — be loyal to their shareholders — which is what fiduciary duty means, they should actually ask them what they want. That’s the loyal thing to do. Rather than just assume that it’s making money at the expense of all else.

* Seriously underrated. . . Phil Donahue’s hair.

 

 

 

Beer Summit

I know, I know, I know, most over-reported story of the year. But there’s one element of the story still deserving of attention. Allegedly U.S. Brewery Distributor execs were very upset that the  beers of choice were produced by foreign owned companies. One was heard asking, “What does this phrase ‘globalization’ of which you speak mean?”

Now, picture these execs sitting in a country club restaurant after 18 holes of golf. I’m going to go be presumptuous and guess that as well-to-do business executives they’re pro free market, pro capitalism, pro Milton Friedman. But when the invisible hand slaps them in the face and foreign competitors erode their market share, they whine and seemingly seek privileged status. 

Why is it that U.S. business execs sing the praises of free markets until they end up getting their asses handed to them by foreign competitors?