New Liberalism

I had dinner last night with one of the most important conservative media voices in America and some of his friends. I had gone to the dinner expecting some fireworks, but was totally caught off guard by his charm and what he had to say.

First, he was disgusted by “the pygmies” in the Republican Presidential Race. As much as he dislikes Obama, there was not a one of the current Republican candidates that he could be enthusiastic about.

Second, we found ourselves in agreement that the issue of Crony Capitalism is perhaps the most pernicious threat to our Republic. Crony Capitalism distorts everything from Crop subsidies flowing to agribusiness to our inability to cancel useless Pentagon weapon systems. And the disease effects both political parties.

As the evening progressed I kept trying to move us beyond the Left-Right dialectic we are trapped in and to suggest that we might find some common ground in the liberal principles that are the basis for our Republic:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Now the word “liberal” is seen as poisonous to conservatives, but it’s origins in John Locke’s Natural Rights theory were the basis for our revolution. The basis of Liberal Philosophy is fairly straightforward.

At its very root, liberalism is a philosophy about the meaning of humanity and society. Political philosopher John Gray identified the common strands in liberal thought as being individualistegalitarianmeliorist, and universalist. The individualist element avers the ethical primacy of the human being against the pressures of social collectivism, the egalitarian element assigns the same moral worth and status to all individuals, the meliorist element asserts that successive generations can improve their sociopolitical arrangements, and the universalist element affirms the moral unity of the human species and marginalizes local cultural differences.

I have a feeling my new conservative acquaintances could sign on to those four principals. So what would a Liberal Party stand for?

  • Subsidiarity-“Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority.”(Wikipedia). That means the devolution of power and money away from the Federal Government towards the States and Cities. Lower Federal taxes and budgets, but a growth in State and City revenues perhaps through sales or VAT tax. This also mean expanded state and city ability to experiment in how we teach our children. Thats the individualist.
  • Equality of Opportunity-Poor First Graders should have the same access to great teachers as rich First Graders. Middle Class kids should not have to leave college with $200,000 of debt to begin their working lives. The state should provide a decent education for a reasonable price for in state students from K-College.  Thats the egalitarian
  • Technology and Productivity-We live in a Moore’s Law World–technology and communications will get faster and cheaper every year. These technologies will empower people seeking freedom from dictatorships around the world. As with the founding of the Internet, smart Public/Private partnerships can help spur innovation and raise living standards. That’s the meliorist.
  • Sustainability-We need to create an economy in sync with the times. On one side we have an abundance–electronic spectrum, cheaper microprocessors, cameras. On the other side we have the beginnings of scarcity.Here is a bit from a recent private research report on Energy return on investment (EROI): “The petroleum sector’s EROI in USA was about 100-to-1 in the 1930s, meaning one had to burn approximately 1 barrel of oil’s worth of energy to get 100 barrels out of the ground. By the 1990s, that number slid to less than 36-to-1, and further down to 19-to-1 by 2006. It has fallen even further in recent years. Oil extraction has evolved by leaps and bounds since the early 1900s, and yet companies must expend much more energy to get less and less oil than they did a hundred years ago. If one were to go from using a 19-to-1 energy return on fuel down to a 3-to-1 EROI, economic disruption is guaranteed as nothing is left for other economic activity at all!” The challenges of sustainability are real, not fake. We must somehow figure out how to leave this planet in decent shape to our grandchildren. This is the Universalist
  • Foreign Policy-We no longer want to be the unpaid cop of the world. We will make sure of our own defense, but we will pull back our military footprint substantially from the rest of the world. We will no longer borrow money from China to fight wars to keep their oil flowing.
  • Personhood-Liberals believe in the “primacy of the human being” and so disavow “the personhood of corporations”, that is currently laying waste to our democratic systems with Super Pacs. We totally support Senator Bernie Sanders’ Saving American Democracy Amendment.

I’m not saying there is an easy meeting ground for the left and the right in a New Liberalism. But I was struck by an article this morning on some internal polling Ron Paul had done about his foreign policy stance.

Jesse Benton, Mr. Paul’s national chairman, says internal polling has found that more than 70 percent of probable Republican voters in Iowa and New Hampshire would be more likely to support someone who wanted to bring troops home, foster a strong national defense and end the United States’ role as the world’s policeman.

Well if they are even close to being right, there is clearly an anti Imperialist fervor on both the left and the right. Whether we could also agree on subsidiarity, personhood, sustainability and our other issues would be the interesting challenge.

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56 Responses to New Liberalism

  1. but the polling results are BS as you can tell from just reading the phrasing of the question. Its throws in “fostering a strong national defense” with “bringing troops home” and “ending US role as world policeman.” But Paul is for anything but a strong national defense. Denying the threat of a nuclear Iran is just one example. That’s why he’s hit a ceiling among Republicans in Iowa. Not only would 70% of Republicans in Iowa and NH support the three pillars of pablum in this ‘Internal poll”, so too would about 80% of everyone else.

  2. len says:

    Ron Paul may make up for Republicans that won’t support him with Democrats who will. The conundrum is getting the nomination and thus the third party momentum our here. Otherwise, like myself, a lot of former Dems who can’t stomach it anymore so have gone indie are going into the election with out a candidate. If a third party can push both of the mainstream parties away from the suicide watches they are on, off the brink so to speak, that would be a very good thing and historically, an American thing.

    I don’t know if there is time but it’s good to hear advance emissaries from the two poles are talking. Conversation is always good.

    Still at work in a very big building full of the very stuff y’all want to bring home and I can’t disagree. But the rosy vistas Obama is selling for this may not be all that. Just sayin’…

  3. Morgan Warstler says:

    Once again, you skip over the OBVIOUS argument, the one I make here constantly.

    YOU REFUSE to let there be a plain choice between keeping tax dollars in pockets OR having strong military.

    Since you want to put your grubby paws on those tax dollars for your own ideological ends, you instead give tax payers the choice between: having a strong defense or giving money to lazy people.

    1. Forget the public space. trust markets. And GUARANTEE that public employees deliver the same productivity gains as the private space. End the post office immediately.

    2. Beggars can’t be choosers. Once people are getting a hand out, LIMIT what they can use it for. Forget EBT, give everyone flour, sugar, cheese, milk, vegetables, meat and some cookware.

    3. Idle hands are the devils workshop. Give everyone who asks for it, a Guaranteed Income. Here’s your Paypal debit card, we’ll stick $300 a week on it. BUT, you are now registered on a site like Ebay where your 40 hour week is being auctioned starting at $1 per hour. Let whole neighborhoods bid $80 per week on JTM’s time to pick up dogshit in their yards. Let mommies get in home child care for $100 per week.

    If you do these things, the folks who are footing the bill WILL BE far more progressive in their thinking about the system… including educational funding.

    These are true progressive ideals. They enforce bootstrap work ethics, but still make sure everyone has a roof, heat , food, and path forward.

    Your side screws up the argument for aiding those at the bottom.

    No other analysis is viable. You could easily win super majorities to your good causes, IF you first adhere to the rules above.

  4. John Papola says:

    A well-meaning post, Jon. I’m a little exhausted to weigh in on your specifics, so instead I’ll point you and the group to a very interesting series of articles at Cato which I myself have been meaning to read which seem very relevant:

    http://www.cato-unbound.org/archives/october-2011-for-a-new-liberalism/

    One of the authors, Pete Boettke, is a friend of mine and a true scholar’s scholar.

  5. JTMcPhee says:

    @Morgan Warstler
    What, you can’t even pick up your own dog’s shit? But then your “economics” doesn’t account very well for excrement, externalities and excretions, does it.

  6. len says:

    It’s meaningless now. Obama signed the NDAA last night putting an end to habeas corpus and posse commitatus. Our Constitution has been broken by a man who talks about listening, agreeing to disagree, fighting for the middle class.

    He is lieing. He signed it. As Romney says, “he’s had his moment.”

    Barack Obama is now an enemy of American freedom. You can side with him, Jon, but that means you are on the wrong side by any measure of values you claim to have supported. If you don’t understand just how wrong what he has done is, you don’t have an honest bone in your body and you and your friends just became the Bad Guys. You can dismiss it, but you can’t deny it or defend it.

  7. Noel says:

    Right. And Ron Paul would do a better job at protecting the constitution?

    I keep asking libertarians (or the new version of republicans for that matter) to show me an example in history of unfettered markets leading to anything other than crushing poverty for all but a few. They never answer. Because there isn’t one.

    I’ll take broken liberalism over unchecked capitalism any day of the week. At least liberalism attempts to correct itself. The robber-barrons will go until there’s nothing left.

  8. John Papola says:

    @Noel

    Noel,

    your history on government intervention doesn’t appear to be very strong. The track record on government “regulation” is clear: it benefits the politically connected incumbents, reduces competition, hurts consumers and reduces industrial change and innovation. This is the reality. It’s a reality that has been recognized by honest scholars from many different points of view. But the grade-school propaganda about “robber barons” and their emergence due to free markets seems to be an adequate replacement for even mild reading on the subject. Google “regulatory capture” and “public choice economics”.

    There’s never been a purely free market or society. There’s never been a perfectly ethical people either. Are we to give up on ethics because such a society has never existed? Should we give into social darwinism, eugenics and other horrors (many with a sad association to historical progressivism, btw) simply because the perfectly ethic society has never happened and will never happen? This is obviously false.

    Pointing out that there has never been and likely never will be perfectly free, competitive markets doesn’t invalidate anything about the ideal. It’s a fallacy. The nirvana fallacy to be exact.

    In reality, there is also a very nice correlation between freer markets and higher absolute incomes for the bottom 10%. If you put yourself behind the Rawlsian “veil of ignorance”, you would surely wish to be born in the USA, Singapore, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Switzerland, or Hong Kong rather than Venezuela, Argentina, Greece, Spain or Cuba. And, before you go there, much of Scandinavia is actually more free market along many dimensions than the USA.

    Of course, real competitive markets ARE much MORE “checked” than highly “regulated” ones. It’s WAY harder to compete and innovate in, say, the relatively free world of high tech vs the hyper-“regulated” world of Wall Street finance, for example. Notice that after the dot-com bust, none of those firms were bailed out. Leadership in tech changes hands all the time. Newcomers oust stalwarts regularly. Real competition where you are free to succeed and free to FAIL is MUCH more regulated than the scam of government bureaucratized, bailed out “regulation”.

    The Big Lie is this notion that people are evil and corrupt and thus they need monopolist police to lord over them… elected by a popularity contest judged by all of us evil and corrupt people. It’s an inherently self-destroying concept. If people are so rotten, democracy is doomed to elect rotten people. Public choice economics shows us why even good people end up facing incentives that lead them to do rotten things, so there’s that problem too.

    But if we are good enough to create social institutions that enforce shared values-based rules such that we can cooperate… we are in fact good enough to have these institutions compete with one another rather than lord over us with a monopoly of force. Hence, as Jon point out, decentralization and the ability to vote with our feet for the government we feel works best is great. Taken to it’s most logical conclusion, I would expect that the ideal polis is closer to a city-state than a United State. That, however, is a view overwhelmingly opposed by so-called “liberals” here in America and always has been since the birth of this perverse use of the term during the progressive era. All roads lead to Washington in the progressive vision from TR to FDR to LBJ to BHO.

    We don’t have broken liberalism. We don’t have liberalism much at all. We have defunct progressivism. It’s always been defunct. It stole the word “liberal” here in the USA, though not elsewhere. Adam Smith and JS Mill want it back. Mises and Hayek wants it back. I want it back.

    As for Ron Paul defending civil liberties better than Obama… as a REAL liberal, Glenn Greenwald, brilliantly points out, it’s frightening to imagine anyone doing any WORSE than Barack:

    http://www.salon.com/2011/12/31/progressives_and_the_ron_paul_fallacies/singleton/

  9. Noel says:

    So John – I can add you to the list of very smart libertarians who still can’t show me an outcome of Ron Paul’s policies that don’t place us somewhere in the nineteenth century.

  10. John Papola says:

    @Noel

    Noel, which of Ron Paul’s policies are going to introduce time travel or erase a century of technological progress? I don’t understand your assertions at all. How about you walking me through something specific? This is sounding more like handwaving then an interest in learning.

  11. John Papola says:

    @Jon Taplin

    Jon, I’ll read and then discuss…

  12. John Papola says:

    @Jon Taplin

    Alright. Read the post. It’s baloney. It’s a neo-con/progressive justification for the unjustifiable in the name of some “real world”. Meanwhile, in the REAL real world, drunk driving kills more Americans in 6 months than terrorism ever has and Obama’s DOJ (like Bush’s) has terrorized ore americans in the name of the silly “war on drugs” than the actual terrorists. Al Queea isn’t the Nazis or the Soviets for that matter, and we managed to survive the latter without suspending habeus rights or assisting Americans by executive fiat, even though they were an actual threat with real nukes.

    As an asside Obama’s talk of “we” regarding action and inaction is “we = me”. It’s a slight of hand. Collective action by way of the president is, in my view, a largely illegitimate concept. He isn’t we. He’s him, running an organization that has its own interests that are different from ours. They sometimes overlap, but often/usually not.

    It’s lovely that Obama and David Brooks both like the same faux-Christian proto neocon bully philosopher. It only confirms that he’s no more a “liberal” than Brooks is.

    I’ll dig into the post contents tomorrow. Have a good one. Happy New Year.

  13. John Papola says:

    Oh, and judging from that guy’s website, he’s an Obama sychophant. Not liberal. Just an apologist.

  14. Fentex says:

    I personally am usually unimpressed with Libertarian arguments because they often seem to flounder on a common logical confusion of what is with what ought be.

    But I think the positive ideas in the philosophy are, probably surprisingly and annoyingly to Libertarians (because it will seem to contradict premises of Libertarian ideology), contained in the story of Finnish academic success.

    This article discussing the impressive academic excellence delivered by the Finnish school system spends some time explaingin how it appears to be a side effect of a decision to be equitable.

    I’ve read at leb=ngth of the Finns descision to re-work their education system and I know the emphassi on equitable opportunities in this article aren’t all of what they sought when they revamped their system.

    But it remains an interesting consequence that making all children comfortble, safe and equally valuable on the care of carefully (nd well renumerated) trained teachers lead to to a population of academically successful children because it takes an effort to supress peoples interest in the world.

    It speaks to the core ideological principal that given an equal basis we can all acheive. Except in Finland an empiric example of purposefully, an cooperatively, building that base is provided rather than a distraction of spending the effort competing for opportunity.

  15. Jon Taplin says:

    I’m frustrated that there is no discussion of the six principles of a New Liberalism I laid out in my post. If this blog is going to degenerate into rehashing Obama’s Civil Liberties record, I’m not sure I’m that interested.

  16. John Papola says:

    Subsidiarity – Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority.”(Wikipedia). That means the devolution of power and money away from the Federal Government towards the States and Cities. Lower Federal taxes and budgets, but a growth in State and City revenues perhaps through sales or VAT tax. This also mean expanded state and city ability to experiment in how we teach our children. Thats the individualist.

    I love this and fully support it. Whether those local budgets are large or small would be a function of local democratic feedback. And so, as intended, the United States would return to THESE United States and our true democratic choice, the choice to vote with our feet for the government we desire, would be restored more fully.

    Jon, you have a massive mountain to climb on the left with this as there is a massive desire for “universal” everything from healthcare to pre-k (aka daycare). I suggest starting with the efforts by DC to smack down Californians on their choices with drug laws.

    Equality of Opportunity-Poor First Graders should have the same access to great teachers as rich First Graders. Middle Class kids should not have to leave college with $200,000 of debt to begin their working lives. The state should provide a decent education for a reasonable price for in state students from K-College. Thats the egalitarian

    I can support this in the sense that we should join arms to stripping away the grants of power and privilege which give the big, the rich and connected a leg up on their competitors and the rest of us. That means the radical scaling back of patents (or elimination if possible). That means the end of all corporate welfare and tax credits/expenditures for favored firms or industries.

    What we really need is equality under the law. Imagine what would happen to legislating if the constitution was amended with the following:

    “The congress shall pass no law which applies to some individuals or groups while excluding others, including the members of congress, the president and all employees and offices of this government. All laws must apply equally to all people without exception.”

    THAT would change the game and move us much farther toward equality of opportunity while reducing the kind of discretionary power that attracts billions in campaign funding.

    As for this education stuff, we should end district-based schooling by instituting state-wide school vouchers/tax credits with no restrictions on the school they are used. Charters are a start, but they’re a half-measure. We need diversity and innovation in school both in composition, form and function. If sweden can do it, so can we.

    As for the large college debts, we need to end subsidization of college at the federal level. In keeping with New Federalism, the failed and worthless department of education should be abolished immediately. Colleges capitalize subsidies into higher prices. Too many people are likely going to college studying unproductive nonsense on other people’s dime. Let’s just stop that and expand our notion of what education actually is. College isn’t always it. Most of what I’ve learned, I learned outside of school. Let’s see less pressure to go school, less statutory credentialing and scam licensure.

    Technology and Productivity-We live in a Moore’s Law World–technology and communications will get faster and cheaper every year. These technologies will empower people seeking freedom from dictatorships around the world. As with the founding of the Internet, smart Public/Private partnerships can help spur innovation and raise living standards. That’s the meliorist.

    I’m opposed to this. “Public/Private Partnerships” are the source of our corruption and problems. Worse, whenever things go wrong, the “private” side gets the blame and the “public” side gets interest group pressure to take over full control. We’ve seen that with the college loans, medicare advantage, and many other things. Every time you hear this PPP, think instead of GSE. Government Sponsored Enterprise. Fannie and Freddie.

    This model sucks. It’s an engine of corruption. It’s totally counter to the ideals of equality of opportunity or equality under the law. It’s a massive magnet for favor/rent-seeking campaign financing. Give it up.

    Sustainability-We need to create an economy in sync with the times. On one side we have an abundance–electronic spectrum, cheaper microprocessors, cameras. On the other side we have the beginnings of scarcity.Here is a bit from a recent private research report on Energy return on investment (EROI): “The petroleum sector’s EROI in USA was about 100-to-1 in the 1930s, meaning one had to burn approximately 1 barrel of oil’s worth of energy to get 100 barrels out of the ground. By the 1990s, that number slid to less than 36-to-1, and further down to 19-to-1 by 2006. It has fallen even further in recent years. Oil extraction has evolved by leaps and bounds since the early 1900s, and yet companies must expend much more energy to get less and less oil than they did a hundred years ago. If one were to go from using a 19-to-1 energy return on fuel down to a 3-to-1 EROI, economic disruption is guaranteed as nothing is left for other economic activity at all!” The challenges of sustainability are real, not fake. We must somehow figure out how to leave this planet in decent shape to our grandchildren. This is the Universalist.

    Entrepreneurs will figure this out and we should let them compete for our voluntary dollar with their solutions. Look at what happened to hybrid sales when the easy-money fueled oil spike in 2008 struck. The prius went from being a car that you literally couldn’t pay people to drive to one with a wait list. We should look to ensure that our system of property rights are accounting for true externalities and pricing them accordingly. We should withdraw the troops and end the military subsidy to cheaper oil. We should sell off the highways and let them be priced according to sustainable (aka cost-covering) levels. But what we DON’T need is more boondoggles in the name of “green”. The Federal government’s track record on the environment, from Corn-ethanol to the Bureau of Reclamation’s massive record devastation is HORRIBLE. Let’s find solutions to problems of the commons that fall within the equality under the law ideal. Leave the rest to entrepreneurial trial and error paid for by their own money, not mine or yours.

    Foreign Policy-We no longer want to be the unpaid cop of the world. We will make sure of our own defense, but we will pull back our military footprint substantially from the rest of the world. We will no longer borrow money from China to fight wars to keep their oil flowing.

    Boom. Dead on. Ron Paul is the only leader on this front.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKfuS6gfxPY

    Personhood-Liberals believe in the “primacy of the human being” and so disavow “the personhood of corporations”, that is currently laying waste to our democratic systems with Super Pacs. We totally support Senator Bernie Sanders’ Saving American Democracy Amendment.

    This amendment is a mixed bag at best. What it does is say people can’t act collectively to make their voices heard through the multitude of collective enterprises such as films, YouTube videos, plays, etc. That was, after all, what Citizens United was all about. If you take care of the equality under the law part, the money flowing to DC will slow.

    Notice, for example, the pattern of Microsoft’s political spending pre-anti-trust and post. Hell, look at Silicon Valley writ large over the past decade. When the government can pick winners and losers, everyone lines up to make sure they can be the former and their competitors can be the latter. Stop that power and you end the incentive to rent-seek.

    All that being said, I’m open to ways of limiting concentrated interests. Lawrence Lessig’s approach is interesting as well. I don’t think I understand what the full consequences of either, and surely there will be plenty of unintended ones.

    I think campaign finance reform is largely a red herring. Some empirical studies of campaign spending such as those cited in Freakonomics suggest that the level of spending in an election doesn’t have much of an impact on the outcome. Hell, look at California. If Meg Whitman couldn’t buy her way into Sacramento, why is this such a big issue. There is a MASSIVE advantage all incumbent have via status-quo bias and name recognition. Just look at the puny turnover in Congress, even during “massive” so-called “change” elections. It’s silly.

    Meanwhile, the REAL action is all at the regulatory level, where the closed door special interest rig the legal system to keep out competitors, raise prices and hurt us all. The solution, again, is stripping from the government its power to pick winners and losers via the regulatory machinery. That isn’t “de-regulation”, it’s simply the return of regulation to competitive forces. In most cases, the results will be an increase in the pressures firms face to serve customers, lower prices and deliver value.

    SO…

    There’s plenty for us to work on, arm-in-arm, in the name of restoring liberalism. Most of it is very much about gutting the Rooseveltian “progressive” warfare/welfare state components out and restoring the classical ideals of equality under the law, peace and trade.

  17. Jon Taplin says:

    @John P. This is very constructive criticism. On Technology and Productivity, I could easily take out the public-private partnership, but I must tell you it worked pretty well in founding the Internet as Vintage Cerf will tell you. As to Personhood. Go read Bernie Saunders Bill and see if you couldn’t support it. We are not as far apart as we imagined.

  18. BERNARD. says:

    I like that :

    Foreign Policy-We no longer want to be the unpaid cop of the world. We will make sure of our own defense, but we will pull back our military footprint substantially from the rest of the world. We will no longer borrow money from China to fight wars to keep their oil flowing.

  19. Doug Dilg says:

    I can’t see how the policy of Subsidiarity fits in with the other principles, or perhaps how it should mean “the devolution of power and money away from the Federal Government towards the States and Cities. Lower Federal taxes and budgets.” If you do that you immediately cancel out Equality of Opportunity. How will Subsidiarity in that respect result in Equality of Education between Mississippi and New Hampshire, for example? Only by putting an organizational principle that “matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority” within the overall umbrella of a Federal Government can we accomplish our goals.

    The conservative principle of returning power to the States is counter to the movement of a smaller more connected world we see in action in your principles of Technology and Productivity as well as Sustainability. We have less borders, not a need for more. Certainly the internet and environmental awareness should tell us that.

    And what you state as Foreign Policy is really Military Policy, which is the only way Ron Paul’s name can be uttered alongside the word Liberal. A liberal foreign policy, in my view, is based upon Empathy, an Obama-ian concept if ever there was one. There’s not an empathetic bone in Ron Paul’s isolationist body. He is against War because he doesn’t want to spend the money. Period. Our foreign policy should be based on the principle the the self-evident truth that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. This is not something shared only between Liberals and Conservatives in America. It is the uniting principle of everyone who shares this fragile and increasingly more interconnected world we live in.

    (PS. What’s happening Tap?)

  20. Alex Bowles says:

    Pap – as far as I can tell, your relative faith in government (or rather, the complete lack thereof) makes you an outlier, even among libertarians. That’s fine – I’m not arguing with it. But please recognize, it puts you in a very distinct minority here. And while a diversity of views is good, perpetual thread jacking – where every argument is reduced to how well it does or does not conform to your own ideology – actually reduces diversity, to say nothing of civility.

    So your new year’s resolution – should you choose to accept – is to recognize that most people don’t share your views. And that’s not for a lack of exposure. Indeed, the opposite is closer to the mark.

    As it happens, I also believe strongly in the classical ideals of equality under the law, peace and trade. But I see them as being completely, utterly, and totally dependent on the existence of a strong – and often forceful – state. Moreover, that conclusion comes after a long period of growing disillusionment with libertarianism. It’s like the atheist who rejects the church as a result of having seen too much of it, not too little.

    At this point, we all know where you’re coming from. And you should know where others are coming from too. A little more respect for that, and the quality of the conversation is likely to improve for everybody.

    Happy New Year.

  21. Fentex says:

    Public/private partnerships are a terrible idea and only serve to funnel public money into private profits. In Britain they appear to have quadrupled the cost of provision of servcies where they’ve been attempted.

    What must be done publically has no need to provide private profit, and I agree with J.P that it only serves to prime pumps of corruption to mesh public programs with private business.

    This amendment is a mixed bag at best. What it does is say people can’t act collectively to make their voices heard through the multitude of collective enterprises such as films, YouTube videos, plays, etc.

    The need to establish a distinction between incorporated bodies and actual persons does not forbid cooperative investment. The idea that a body of people is indistinguishable from each individual is incorrect. The whole is not merely the sum of it’s parts – just as each of us is more than the sum of our mass of carbon and hydrogen.

    If corporations were indistinguishable from people then no one would be allowed to own any part of one. They are different from people and it is quite propoer to regulate them where you cannot regulate people as needs be.

  22. Jon Taplin says:

    @Doug-How the hell are you?

    As to subsidiarity, here’s my thinking. If California can enforce its more stringent air pollution standards, it becomes the Nation’s standards. Ford is not going to make two different engines.

    Also, the cost of a Greyhound, coast to coast is probably less than $100. If blacks fleed the South for Chicago and Detroit in the 1930’s , anyone can move today from a state that won’t sanction gay marriage t o one that will.

  23. JTMcPhee says:

    @Jon Taplin
    “If you don’t like it, just LEAVE!”

    ?

    Is your if-then a false equivalence, or what?

    Hear that before. That same suggestion was even discussed here, not too long ago.

    Moving from A to B costs one hell of a lot more than the price of a bus ticket, and the blacks leaving Sweet-Home-Alabama had reasonable hopes of decently paid work in the mills and plants of the Midwest and NOTHING, other than family (and night visits from guys in sheets, and stepping off the sidewalk) to tie them to (and drive them from) A. [Was it Cosby who observed that "Down south, they (the whites) don't care how close you get, long as you don't get too big. Up north, they don't care how big you get, as long as you don't get too close..."]

    But then one might observe that those with substantial wealth and who live amongst more of the same may have inevitable blind spots when it comes to perceiving the realities of life for those who live day to day on Worgon’s idea of appropriate wages. Where did you lunch with that noted “conservative” again?

    My conclusion, what a surprise, is that we, all of us, the true believers in fractured economic fairy tales, and the set-for-life, and the common-sensical, and the struggling-for-understanding, and the groping-for-hope alike, are teetering on the edge of Ragnarok — or the End of Interregnum, which does not actually require that there be any significant number of humans left alive on the other side of the Resolution (or Revolution, if you prefer.)

    As to regulations, Papola talks out his backside. His arguments are pretty much “You are wrong and I am right and what you say is bullshit.” Wonder if he drinks milk, and is willing to trust that the Voluntary Associations will properly pasteurize it? As to envirnomental regulations, Jon, do you really think that if Ford could concentrate its regulatory-capture energies on California, that they would have to build two engines in a Subsidiarized world? My bet is that CAFE would look nothing even like what it is today.

    Our bodies have a kind of wisdom that moves all that complex chemical action (and maybe even some part of “thought”) in the direction of survival and health. Too bad that function seems to disappear in the scaling to larger structures.

    Seems to me that for way too many of us, it’s getting to be the case that the base notion for our relations with the rest of our fellows is simply “I don’t care.” Maybe I should spend more time following Cramer on CNBC, and “investing…”

    I looked back through some of the site archives recently, and it’s interesting how the discourse here has soured and shrunk from even a year ago. Maybe Amber has the right idea — though maybe she was just fed up with me, personally. Who knows?

  24. Alex Bowles says:

    @Fentex I’m with you on the public/private partnership thing. Absolutely no need for that whatsoever. Every company in the world recognizes the difference between a free-standing competitor, and one that has the government as a “partner”. Likewise, no sensible taxpayer wants an agent sitting on the same side of the table as an organization that could just as easily be a vendor.

    I recognize the value that governments can develop in conjunction with universities. To my mind, that’s a different beast entirely – especially if the results of government funded research enter the public domain immediately.

    Your point about ownership is excellent. If corporations are people, why can we buy and sell them freely?

  25. John Papola says:

    I love the bipartisan consensus on the corruption of PPP. Very promising. Also, Jon, I read the bill before commenting. I’m not fully against it or anything. As I said, I’m curious about the consequences for status quo bias. And, again, the real issue is in lobbying at the legislative and regulatory level, not the popularity contests. And here, I think that restrictions would constitute speech chilling and rights violations. But I’m open here.

    Could someone really spell out for me what this notion of corporate “personhood” really means in practical terms rather than rhetorical ones. I’ve watched “The Corporation” and still didn’t come away with a clear understanding.

    Alex, have I not been civil? I will try to do better. Perhaps I should just ignore broad strokes anti-libertarian rhetoric. I’m not going to change my views for the sake of being accommodating. I will change them when I’m convinced of the merits to change. But I will continue to seek out the ample common ground.

  26. John Papola says:

    Alex, what caused you to believe that a powerful state is necessary to protect rights as you suggest?

  27. Alex Bowles says:

    And more to the point, how do you propose we handle justice in the absence of a state?

  28. Alex Bowles says:

    I don’t know what the percentages are, but there is a class of humans who are independently good. They see the law as an extension of their human dignity, and a (potentially) elegant codification of civilized virtue. They would no sooner violate it than they would shoot themselves in the foot.

    There is a larger class of humans who obey because it’s what most other people do. They lack they same inner allegiance to the law, but they are sensitive to, and respectful of prevailing social norms. To the extent that these include following the law, they do so freely, and without any sense that the threat of legal sanction is what motivates their choices. If the law is routinely flouted, well, they’ll do that too. Again, the guide is “whatever others are doing and consider normal.” Their only real concern is fitting in and getting along.

    There is a third class of humans who will do whatever they can get away with. Here’s where punishments become important. These people have no sense of morality or even social decency. The only thing they respect (fear, really) is the prospect of actual punishment. These people have an acute sense of the law’s coercive capacity. Not getting caught is a primary motivator in whatever strategies they use to get through life. In turn, the intent of the law is to catch them in the act so at to legitimately suppress and frustrate their natural desires to attack, exploit, defraud, or otherwise harm others.

    Finally, you have a group of people who just don’t give a damn about anything – the law included. Here, the threat of punishment is meaningless. You actually have to go out there with guns and billy clubs and handcuffs, place them under arrest, haul them in front of a judge, and throw them in jail – for decades if the circumstances demand it. Punishment is only part of the picture. If they’re truly dangerous, their removal from society is a good thing in and of itself.

    The existence of classes 2-4 demands a backstop for individual rights. And that backstop – by definition – is the State.

  29. Alex Bowles says:

    Let me add that these classes are not permanent, like gender or race. People can – and do – move between them at different points in their lives, or even the same day, if it’s dramatic enough.

    That said, different people spend more or less time in particular classes, giving their lives (or at least, major phases of their lives) the character of whichever class they occupy most frequently and comfortably.

  30. Alex Bowles says:

    A final point – people’s lives have different dimensions. So it’s possible to represent one class is some ways, and another in others, or with regard to certain laws, all at the same time. For instance, a normally upstanding citizen may get themselves arrested as a result of an act of civil disobedience, challenging the law to assert that they are, in fact, dangerous.

    But again, one class of behavior is likely to dominate at any given time, and none of this gets around the point that, at any given time, any given person is likely to represent class 2-4. In the absence of strong law enforcement, what those people do is increasingly likely to harm the liberty of others, with those in class 4 being the fastest to do harm, 3 shortly thereafter, and 2 once it becomes clear that everyone else has started looting, or joined a lynch mob.

  31. Alex Bowles says:

    And a final final point for the “but what about Somalia?” crowd, who note that provate militias, self-regulation within clans, and other semi-reliable forms of social control mitigate the need for a state while keeping society from imploding.

    I’d just like to say that the concepts of equality under the law, individual dignity, civil rights, and so on are all stripped from the picture. It’s not anarchy, but it’s not civilization either. And no one would call people living in this in-between state “citizens”.

  32. John Papola says:

    Alex, why are you going back to this discussion of anarchism and Somalia? Did anything in my comments above suggest that I was actively putting that forward? Are school vouchers anarchist? Are constitutional amendments anarchist?

    This seems like a needless detour that takes us away from the meaty center of the debate and off into the mostly fruitless fringes. I find those fringes interesting academically. I think leeson makes a good case that stateless society is superior to the predatory states that lord over the people in places like Somalia, the Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma, etc.

    But I think that you may be arguing with anarchism as a way of trying to dismiss me in totality. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am, because this is a really unproductive approach to the discussion.

    Can someone help me understand the corporate personhood complaint in a rich way, please? If Alex won’t, maybe Jon can?

  33. Morgan Warstler says:

    JTM, I have no problem with picking up dogshit, doing dishes, or any other thing.

    I have a problem with 25M not being put to work by the private market for the UI, food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, energy assistance, disability, etc. they receive.

    It isn’t a big deal that 25M+ Americans can’t cover their own nut, they can make a rightful claim on that sustenance from the rest AS LONG AS they are put to work privately.

    And that REQUIREMENT:

    1. is the way you get the “we’re all in this together” attitude that you desperately think we’re missing.
    2. is how you reduce the costs and increase the times savings for countless people at the low end of the totem pole.

    For the talk about getting your hands dirty in this thread, there is no appreciation for the imperative need to get something positive in return for any and all investments.

    If you want to give aid, and not having it be anything other than a hand-out, then that aid has to come with a boss, even if it is just someone telling JTM to pick up dog shit.

  34. Fentex says:

    Can someone help me understand the corporate personhood complaint in a rich way, please

    We grant that people have inalienable rights because we wish our own protected. I agree not to restrict your right to expression so as to protect my own.

    If my rights are not respected I will become angrry and agressive and my appreciation of the society around me will decrease. If this happens often enough to enough people society will falter, splinter and eventually fail. We will all suffer insecurity and inability to protect ourselves, our families, our property and our investments.

    We do not extend this protection to cows we wish to eat or sheep we wish to shear for to honour such rights in the things we wish to exploit would be to close off the opportunity for exploitation. These things will protect themselves, limiting our opportunities.

    Corporations also are not people with egos to protect, nor conciences to honour. Just like the farm tractor which is subject to regulation they are tools to be bent to task and restricted by law.

    Whether or not any particular legislation is right, reasonable or effective with regards to corporations is debateable but such debate cannot be predicated on the fallacy they have rights excluding or limiting the extent of legislation that may bind them.

    The inalienable rights we recognise in people may not be gifted, proxied to, or masked by, other entities than the people we solely provide them for.

  35. Morgan Warstler says:

    Fentex, companies are PEOPLE. And money is speech. What you don’t like is your relative size in such a world. nothing more or less.

    A single man with $100M in cash with a desie to use it to convince politicians and voters to eat vegetables is no different from a man with $100M in Apple stock fully are that Apple is going to spend $1B in the next election to fire 50% of the teachers.

  36. John Papola says:

    @Fentex

    Okay. That is interesting as an attempt to justify human rights on golden rule/utilitarian grounds. But it doesn’t really get at what I’m trying to understand. Rather it transfers my question to corporate “rights”.

    So now please enumerate what these “rights” are and how corporations are granted such rights in such a way where it is more than the sum of the parts.

    I own a company with my two partners. Emergent Order, LLC. What “rights” does “Emergent Order, LLC” have which are distinct from us the owners? Which of these “rights” are at the heart of the complaint by those who rail against corporate “personhood”? Why? It seems to me that corporations are just a legal fiction we use to enable collective action. What am I missing?

  37. Fentex says:

    companies are PEOPLE

    No they are not. I can own a company, but not a person. A person, of age, has freedom of independent choice and concience, companies do not. People are at risk of imprisonment and hurtful social sanction as punishment for crimes. Companies are not, at best their insubstantial form may be adanboned in favour of a new one.

    The very reason for incorporated entites to exist is most often to make use of a limited liability for the express purpose of taking risks to their existence people will resist.

    Though not all incorporated entities have limited liability it is an oft used facet and purpose that reflects their inhuman existence and purpose and demonstrates their legally mandated differecnes from people.

    So now please enumerate what these “rights” are and how corporations are granted such rights in such a way where it is more than the sum of the parts.

    As I understand the argument there are legal cases in the U.S, of particular concern to some people, that have been decided by treating corporations as if they have the inalienable rights of people.

    I don’t know the details but I believe law intended to restrict behaviours of incorporated bodies, in particular contributions to political campaigns, has been ruled invalid by courts using logic predicated on those incorporated bodies having the rights of people.

    Such logic would be wrong as it is founded on a false premise – incorporated entities are legal inventions, not people.

    As to any question as to what rights incorporated bodies have my answer is none but what legislation precribes for them. They are not people with inalienable rights, they are legal instruments and as such exist purely by legal invention and may be constrained by whatever legal boundaries legislatures wish to erect.

    Such laws being circumscribed by the usal consideration of just, reasonable and equitable law making (or lack thereof).

  38. JTMcPhee says:

    Fentex, the deal about “legal persons” is that corporations are structures that can write their own rules, create the frame and extent of their own “personhood,” by domination or subornation of the institutions of “legal relationships” that real persons have struggled to create to control the unbridled exercise of all the behaviors that libertarians think will magically be controlled by the mystical self-interest of warring and colliding “voluntary associations.”

    Anyone who’s followed the changes in the Corporation Law of Delaware, and the provisions on shareholder derivative actions under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, not to mention the antitrust and securities laws, or the whole body of federal regulations on “safety” of stuff like food and drugs and “consumer products,” both of which give easy nodes for “corporate persons” to manipulate “the law” to protect their management’s predatory instincts, can give you chapter and verse on how it really works.

    There may be some nominal “utility” to the corporate form, but inherent in the structure is the inevitable development of the Greedhead miseries we REAL people are suffering today. There’s a reason that whole sets of “corporate” structures are “outlawed” (e.g., the Mafia, which has its own “efficiencies,” but a good part of that has to do with escaping taxation and preying on corporate “persons” that have not achieved the same insouciance about flat-out killing anyone who impedes the Corporate movement toward accumulation of wealth and power.

    As you point out, corporations are at root devices for escaping the liabilities that attach to REAL persons. Which is why partnerships, in which the REAL persons and their estates remain liable for all acts and injuries they perform, and which include MUTUAL liability of one partner for the bad acts of other partners, are disappearing from everywhere that partnership liability used to act as a check on some of the worst excesses. One of the hugest changes in “the law” was doing away with the former mandate that “ethically,” lawyers engaging in joint practice HAD to be in partnership, in recognition of the salutory effects that mutual exposure to each others’ bad acts had. (and that is no argument for “libertarianism:” that mutual liability existed purely by the existence and operation of a complex, government-provided legal system of courts and prosecutors.)

    Now that “the law” can be bought, now that nominal “But it’s not illegal (any more)” legitimacy can be purloined from the apparently “representative” legislative body, and protected and enforced by the other parts of governance/rulership (executive and judiciary,) there’s no limit but what physics imposes to the amount of power to engulf the rights and property of REAL persons that “corporations” can take.

    It’s a scale problem, and a frame problem: The individual REAL person needs the Code of Hammurabi and all the subsequent given law to protect him or her from predatory behaviors of other humans. In Jewish moral thinking, to structure and direct and limit the “yetzer ra” instinct by sufficient empowerment of the the “yetzer tov” aspect of human nature. http://www.jewfaq.org/human.htm . Ra is a more potent force, of course. So there’s a legal structure that regulates day-to-day human interactions, lets you sue the drunken guy who drove his car into yours, but is now but a tiny part of a much huger structure that says, e.g., massive counterfeiting by creating “derivatives” is simply “NOT ILLEGAL,” to which the average schmuck says, “Oh. Okay, if that’s the law…,” not recognizing the two-tiered nature of the system and feeling that Justice applies equally at all levels.

    Don’t get suckered by the comforting and erroneous notion that there is some Solonic “legislature” up above the Foggy Bottoms of the world where “good law” magically gets made to preserve and protect the General Welfare against the vampire squids… That’s exactly the myth that the REAL greeedy-ass people that hide themselves and their booty behind huge corporate masks want people to go on believing.

    Worgon and Papola have bare-assed assertions and fancy logical faery-castles to “explain why that’s not so,” but all one has to do is read the newspapers and even bloggery in pseudo-places like cnbc.com to see what’s happening. Ask the Kochs and Rockefellers and Blankfeins and any number of other Robber Barons how it works.

  39. Morgan Warstler says:

    Fentex, you are concerned with liability of companies. As in we can’t sue the owner of X company after it declares bankruptcy.

    I am concerned about all MONEY that flows into or out of a company does so at the behest of individuals (for the benefit of those individuals)…. as in SPEECH and TAXES.

    Your concern with going after some criminal liability part of corporations is a fine discussion, but it never gets you around the corner of “lets keep companies from spending money on campaigns.”

    You can’t get from A to B.

    You completely skipped my point: If an individual has an unlimited right to speech, defined as spending as much money as he wants, then he doesn’t LOSE THAT RIGHT, when he forms or invests in a company.

    And his economic interest, as in change the law to tear down the swamp and build a condo, it THE SAME AS him wanting everyone to eat more vegetables.

  40. JTMcPhee says:

    Keep saying it, over and over and over and over and over and over again, and maybe it will become “true,” right?

    It ain’t just criminal liability, or what used to be more important because it involved Real Money in judgments won by those evil Trial Attorneys against individuals who Did Bad and are now personally immune to the consequences, it’s the power at large scale to fuck over small or large segments of the populace “for the benefit of those (incorporated) individuals” who subsume themselves for personal gain to the corporate entity. People that research shows lose the small-scale humanities and empathy and altruism and decencies that keep cultures and species alive. Corporate managers and workers apparently and inevitably lose their personal mores and inhibitions in sublimating themselves to the narrower, ethically smaller and meaner goals of the corporate group.

    There’s a bit of unaccountably straight reportage in today’s WSJ that addresses Citizens United (sic) and its national impact on states’ laws regulating campaign money from corporations. (To all you “libertarians” who applaud the CU decision, which like the Gore case is as straight an application of coercive national central government power as one might imagine, extra points for an angel-pinhead “explanation” of how that particular overreach is ok, compared to all the others that you deplore, like yes, imperfect and subject-to-perversion, but gee, so often absolutely necessary, regulations — see Ford Pinto, Vioxx, any number of other examples.) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204368104577139100369896494.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

    How comforting that 26 states have had their governments and laws “worked over,” over time, so they don’t restrict unlimited corporate spending, and that Justice Kennedy could conclude that “the government failed to show that independent political expenditures by corporations actually had corrupted federal elections.” The same Government that really did not try to make that argument, and that still runs Guantanamo and thinks prison-industrial slave labor is A-OK, and never met a (US-or-agent) torturer it didn’t like.

    Said the article,

    Most states with such regulations conceded that they were voided by the Citizens United decision. But Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock argued that his state’s peculiar history and geography provided a rationale the federal law lacked.

    Last week, the Montana Supreme Court agreed, finding that corporate spending in fact had corrupted elections in the resource-rich and sparsely populated state. Should the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately accept Montana’s reasoning—which many observers find doubtful—it could open the door to additional campaign-finance regulation if justified by specific facts.

    Soon after Montana’s admission to the Union in 1889, the big copper companies and other out-of-state mining interests flooded Montana with political spending, and sometimes outright bribery, to seize control of its courts and statehouse, the opinion said. “This naked corporate manipulation of the very government…of the State ultimately resulted in populist reforms that are still part of Montana law,” state Chief Justice Mike McGrath wrote for the majority. “The question then, is when in the last 99 years did Montana lose the power or interest sufficient to support the statute, if it ever did.”

    By a vote of 5-2, the court held that those interests remained valid. The state’s sparse population and reliance on farming and natural resources “make Montana especially vulnerable to continued efforts of corporate control to the detriment of democracy and the republican form of government,” Chief Justice McGrath wrote.

    And the corporate shills, who are much more subtle about using money and bribery to seize control of government than they used to be, who challenged the Montana law?

    The Montana law was challenged by conservative activists led by American Tradition Partnership, a group based in Virginia that collects funds for political advertisements from mining and other corporate interests. Executive director Donald Ferguson said the group was considering its options, which would likely include an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    “I don’t see how having less information for voters is a good thing,” Mr. Ferguson said.

    Gee, since when does the vastly “negative” shit that gets flooded into imagespace by folks who happily tell lies about candidates or positions, brazenly brag about it, and justify it on the ground that corporate political speech is just fair-game “agit-prop” that “everybody does,” constitute “information?” UNformation, maybe — not the same thing…

    Yeah, a corporation corrupting the zoning board and battering down the environmental agencies to make it “not illegal” to make a killing by burying a wetland to build a condo is just exactly “the same as” another person wanting people to eat more vegetables. Ask the folks who “enjoyed” Hurricane Katrina’s enhanced effects how that worked out. And if runoff, and other externalities of those “profitable”condos, increases flooding and screws other people, well hey, the Government can make it all better, at taxpayer expense, right? Like for high-end waterfront homes and condos ’round here, where storm erosion of beaches that is inevitable gets “repaired” by hundreds of millions of dollars of tax meny from people who live nowhere near the shore and indeed are excludes from most of it, to “renourish the beaches.” If that ain’t a totally fucked concept, I don’t know what is.

    Said the two dissenting MT Justices, feeling that they were bound to follow what they think of as “the law of the land,” even though they disagree with the CU ruling:

    Neither of the two dissenting Montana justices voiced agreement with the Citizens United ruling, instead saying they believed the Corrupt Practices Act must fall because Justice Kennedy had already rejected the rationales cited by the majority.

    “The notion that corporations are disadvantaged in the political realm is unbelievable. Indeed, it has astounded most Americans,” said dissenting Justice James Nelson. But because the Citizens United ruling left him no choice, “I have never had to write a more frustrating dissent,” he said.

    CU was 5-4 — and gee, how did that composition of the court come to exist, anyway? Lots of little Worgons running around ensuring that the predators and parasites have “full representation?” And quoth the US Supremes dissenters there:

    A dissenting opinion by Justice Stevens[8] was joined by Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, and Justice Sotomayor. It concurred in the Court’s decision to sustain BCRA’s disclosure provisions, but dissented from the principal holding of the majority opinion. The 90-page dissent argued that the Court’s ruling “threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will…do damage to this institution.” The dissent also argued that the Court’s holding that BCRA §203 was facially unconstitutional was ruling on a question not brought before it by the litigants, and so claimed that the majority “changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.” Stevens concluded his dissent with:

    At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.

    The Worgons and such can now chime in here with their subtle versions of “Nyah-nyah-na-nyah-yah.”

  41. Morgan Warstler says:

    Your rights to use your money in unlimited fashion to sway the minds of your neighbors should not end when you put your money in a company.

    Dance around that all you want, in the end, money is always some individuals money, and money is speech.

    None of this would bother you at all if the folks on the left just spent more of their money to speak. Don’t get angry with the rational for not pretending your arguments don’t have big gaping logical holes.

    Your ideas don’t need special treatment. Trust them to fend for themselves.

  42. John Papola says:

    I don’t know the details but I believe law intended to restrict behaviours of incorporated bodies, in particular contributions to political campaigns, has been ruled invalid by courts using logic predicated on those incorporated bodies having the rights of people.

    Fentex, you’re getting right at the point. The core of this “corporations aren’t people” deal is all about campaign finance. So, here’s my question:

    Is it okay if a billionaire spends 10 million dollars to produce a movie claiming that Obama is the messiah and distribute it on cable the night before the election if he doesn’t incorporate? Let’s say that he doesn’t care about limited liability protection and has so much personal liability insurance that he’s comfortable. Surely preventing this would be an infringement on speech, is it not? Hell, let’s say that the movie is just a monologue this guy films of himself, employing no one in its production, and advertises it with the 10 million. Surely this is protected speech, right?

    Why is this okay, but a group of people coming together under an agreement that incorporates them not okay? I don’t understand the material difference between these two things.

    The corporate veil is just a legal fiction. Yet people on the left talk about “corporations” as if they are a thing unto themselves. That seems to have taken on a near religious belief and yet I just don’t get it. The distinction appears to be an abstraction on no consequence. Am I missing something?

  43. John Papola says:

    CU was 5-4 — and gee, how did that composition of the court come to exist, anyway? Lots of little Worgons running around ensuring that the predators and parasites have “full representation?”

    JT… that sure sounds like you’re dismissing democracy itself.

  44. JTMcPhee says:

    Like I said, bare-assed assertions.

    How’s Breitbart doing these days? Delegated any good projects? Web crawlers produce interesting results sometimes: http://vanishingdollar.blogspot.com/2011/03/annoying-barking-mad-genius-of-morgan.html

    How’d you make out with the lawyers?

  45. JTMcPhee says:

    @John Papola
    Nope, fella, just obliquely pointing out how the perversion of democracy gets easier and easier the more money you have. What we got now is a nice combination of minority rule and kleptocracy, and you are a fool and a liar if you maintain that is “the people’s choice.”

    But then you are smart enough to know how it really works, aren’t you? More like the Gore-Bush election-ender, and every-day slime flowing through the Halls of Power in the various capitals. And from what I read of your thinking, there’s a lot of anti-democratic juices flowing in your veins.

    Keep whacking on that little “free $10 million speech” meme of yours, and pretend (or can it be true that you really don’t get the nature of “corporate personhood?”) that the inevitable formulation of your “involuntary associations” won’t be in total derogation of those classical-liberal inherent rights of individual humans. That’s a sick world you think you want to live in — you are not strong enough to protect yourself or your family, even through “voluntary associations” and Security NGOs, against the more predatory creatures among us. That “legal fiction” you sneer at, along with “people on the left” and jeez, that now includes a lot pf people on the “right” too, is very real.

    You don’t get it? I don’t believe it.

  46. John Papola says:

    @JTMcPhee

    you are a fool and a liar if you maintain that is “the people’s choice.”

    Hey now. Nobody’s as skeptical of the “democracy” we have in America than I am buddy. Chill out.

    I believe in democracy, but I don’t believe it is the end-all-be-all. I don’t believe that majority rule should be allowed to have dominion over all of our choices and lives. It’s a crude tool. It should be limited to those areas where one-size-fits-all decisions can be applied justly. It should be prevented from morphing into a lose mandate to do whatever the hell the politician wants behind closed doors.

    That means small, limited government, and ideally competitive governance so that the tyranny of the majority can be kept in check by the flight of the people to better places.

    You don’t get it? I don’t believe it.

    I don’t believe in angels or magic, JT. So when I hear efforts to empower the incumbent political class to decide who can and can’t engage in political speech, please excuse me if I’m just a bit skeptical that the outcomes will result in more just elections and more representative governance. You talk about control over who can do what as if the entity and people exercising that control are sent from heaven with omnipotence and benevolence. And yet you use the rhetoric of someone who thinks all of mankind is doomed scum.

    You contradict yourself in a self-destroying vortex like this one:

    That’s a sick world you think you want to live in — you are not strong enough to protect yourself or your family, even through “voluntary associations” and Security NGOs, against the more predatory creatures among us.

    Who, then, is going to protect me and my family, JT? Huh? If you want democracy to do it, and you think that crooks run the world and people are dark-hearted, why shouldn’t we expect the worst to get on top? How do you square this thing?

    You don’t seem to care to. You haven’t answered any of my questions, even though I’m asking them honestly. I’m a skeptic of the notion of limited liability. I want to hear the arguments fleshed out. But you’re not doing that. You’re just making assertions. Like this bigoted nonsense:

    Corporate managers and workers apparently and inevitably lose their personal mores and inhibitions in sublimating themselves to the narrower, ethically smaller and meaner goals of the corporate group.

    What garbage. What insulting, ignorant hate you write here. I’ve worked in a big corporation and I have my own tiny little company. I’ve met amazing people at all levels and encountered bad guys at all levels… just like everywhere else in life. Of course, I imagine that you haven’t had any experience in a large organization, so you can just spew ignorant generalizations about millions of people at will without the burden of knowledge to weigh on your conscience. Gross.

    You seem to advocate for government, yet you seem to smash humanity to the point where I don’t understand what government you’re even advocating for. Government by angels in the nirvana of your mind, I must assume. I should go back to ignoring your comments. They get me nowhere.

  47. Morgan Warstler says:

    “Though, for now, it looks as if Europe is headed for a two-tier society without any plan for improving the lot of the lower tier. How can Brussels excite a generation of ambitious young people — the ones who will determine Europe’s future success — when too many of them are offered low-wage, short-term work in stagnant industries to pay for the far more generous benefits their elders receive? How can Europe compete if its youth experience the flexibility while the old get the security?”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/magazine/the-other-reason-europe-is-going-broke.html?_r=2

    JTM, things go well!

    Don’t feel put upon by the $10M example. Money is speech. But people are not sheep. There are countless examples of the guy spending the most money not winning the election. That should calm your down far more than it does. Reflect on it.

  48. Fentex says:

    Why is this okay [acting individually], but a group of people coming together under an agreement that incorporates them not okay? I don’t understand the material difference between these two things.

    Corporations speaking are not individuals speaking. You are making an unwarranted assumption that what the corporation says is what each of it’s owners, including minoiorty shareholders, would want to say.

    If corporations spoke with the voice of their owners then every owner would be liable for every act of a corporation. Yet if a corporation breaks a law not every owner is equally punished.

    I expect you have no problem understanding why when a trucker exceeds the speed limit not every owner of his company pays the fine, or slightly more abstractly if a corporation implements an illegal policy not every owner will go to jail when it’s revealed.

    Free speech is protected because people speaking are seen and heard and responsible for what they say. Corporations are not responsible for themselves, they have no right to free speach.

    Authority and responsibility are inexorably intertwined. Corporations are not persons responsible for their actions, they do not have a persons rights to authority to act freely.

  49. John Papola says:

    Fentex,

    First, your position rests on the assumption that all rights are grants from the state. We can only act and speak insofar as the state allows it. All else must be justified to the state before it can be permitted. This vision of government by prior restraint is one I wholeheartedly reject and I think my rejection is solidly in the spirit of the US founding and the constitution.

    The notion that that which is not explicitly protected must therefore be the dominion of state control is a complete inversion of the American conception of rights and my own. Here’s the 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    I expect you have no problem understanding why when a trucker exceeds the speed limit not every owner of his company pays the fine, or slightly more abstractly if a corporation implements an illegal policy not every owner will go to jail when it’s revealed.

    Are you sure about this? Any fines which come from the firm are taken out of the firms revenue and subtracted from profits. Aren’t reduced profits taken out of distributions that would go to the owners of the firm? How are corporations not responsible for the actions of their members? Companies get sued ALL THE TIME for the actions of their members, and the companies are forced to pay.

    If you want to strengthen the connection between responsibility and authority within corporate entities, let’s talk about eliminating state-granted limited liability. To instead believe that we must keep this grant but then layer on even more power and privilege to the power elite in the way of controlling what collective enterprises can peacefully do is self-contradictory based on your claimed root ideal.

    None of this matters, of course, because the link between campaign spending and electoral victory is weak to nonexistent. The single greatest advantage politicians gain is by already being in office. Campaign finance reform seems to be a scheme designed to make it harder for challengers to participate. How convenient for the power elite. That it gets wrapped up in anti-corporate rhetoric is a smokescreen.

  50. Fentex says:

    First, your position rests on the assumption that all rights are grants from the state.

    You seem to misunderstand me because my point is quite the opposite.

    The state does not grant rights, and because of that those rights known to be inalienable to people must be protected.

    It is precisely because corporations do not have inalienable rights, being mere legal inventions, that the state may legislate for them as it pleases.

    [referring to a trucker p[aying traffic fines rather than their employer]
    Are you sure about this? Any fines which come from the firm are taken out of the firms revenue and subtracted from profits.

    If a corporation pays an employees fines I’m sure that is a choice made by the corporation and not legislated. I’m confident the ticket issued by a trtaffic cop is addressed to the driver.

    None of this matters, of course, because the link between campaign spending and electoral victory is weak to nonexistent.

    I am not arguing the efficacy of the legislation in question. I am arguing the legal principles and precedents set regarding it. Any particular legislation is of no consequecne to the point that whether it ought or ought not exist cannot be decided on the presumtpin of corporations having equal rights to people, as they do not.

  51. Fentex says:

    talk about eliminating state-granted limited liability.

    I absolutely agree that Libertarian theory and ideology logically mandates this. It is however unusual, in my experience, for Libertarinas to recognize it.

    Limited liability is a tool to enable risky ventures, allowing failures to be absorbed by society and successes to generate new wealth. Doing without it would be an impressive commitment by people arguing their policies would encourage wealth creation as the removal of limited liability would have substantial effects on the current methods of pooling resources.

  52. len says:

    Third night of 14 hour days… waiting for processor to spawn so while waiting, let’s look at the principles and ask questions:

    matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority

    This is described as the taxes stay in the local government. IOW, weaken the Federal capacity to spend the states broke. The richest states remain the richest states by dint of historical possession of national resources or other reasons. So the Federal government decides to build a new power plant or create another big system? Who gets funded for the work? In 1963 LBJ decided to move the astronaut core to texas. Are you saying a future LBJ can’t do that? IOW absolutely no pork barrel? Or, the US needs to fund a Federal program of some kind and say, Montana objects but Pennsylvania says yes? Can Montana withhold funds? Arizona doesn’t want more problems with illegals. DOJ says they have to because it is a Federal perogative to ignore the problem so Arizona has to pay for it.

    smart Public/Private partnerships can help spur innovation and raise living standards

    So given Subsidiarity, Nevada can’t benefit from the intellectual property of Stanford univeristy. Only California can raise their living standards from that. IOW, the States engage in the same IP wars as say Apple (which by the way litigates the living hell out of their patent portfolio)?

    we will pull back our military footprint substantially from the rest of the world

    I like it. So we empty the Pacific Rim forces and allow China to occupy Taiwan, etc. Our adversaries quickly fill the gaps we leave and we give them our investments in equipment and bases as well as sell them new Apple iPhones to call our customers and tell them the new owners of their supply routes are raising tolls.

    We totally support Senator Bernie Sanders’ Saving American Democracy Amendment.

    Me too.

    The law of unintended consequences seems to haunt one through three and maybe even four but I’d happily risk that one since we did pretty well for over two centuries without the myth of corporate personhood.

    Poor First Graders should have the same access to great teachers as rich First Graders

    Oh good. My deserving daughter gets to go to Princeton despite the fact that currently I have to work 14 hours a day while undergoing chemo so she can go to Alabama. I’d like that one.

    C’mon Santa Claus, I’m rooting for ya.

  53. JTMcPhee says:

    len, only area of disagreement is with assumption that “our forces” are “what keeps the Commies in check.”

    You know something about what “the military” does, in all its parts, day by day. Whether it’s ours, or theirs, the net bureaucratic atherosclerosis is huge and growing daily. Maybe the missiles in the silos (which oopsie, it appears that Command and Control and Jerkoff “lost communications with” for “a few hours,” recently,) will still accept targeting coordinates and launch codes. And the autonomous drones will obey, and go where they are supposed to, and will blow up only “legitimate” targets. And GIs won’t form up into boredom-and-vengeance-incented “kill teams,” and thus activate stuff like Pasthunwali, that obliges the relatives of the fucked-over to fuck over some different bunch of “NATO Coalition Soldiers” (see NYT reporting of 5 “NATO” USGIs killed in IED explosion on “NATO” mission to “NATO” clear the roads used by “NATO” convoys to deliver “NATO” munitions and fuel to The Current Active Battlespace, one fucking lie piled on another) in turn. And serial lessons on the futility of activating the War Racket for another exercise in “Asia.” And encouraging the stupid, VOTING motherfuckers, whose stupidity is reinforced from all six directions every moment of every day, the ones that comment everywhere (not HERE, of course) that USA!USA! is the meanest, toughest, roughest customer on the planet, and can blow the fuck out of anyone, especially Mooslim towelheads, and turn entire sectors of the planet (now conveniently divided into War Department “Areas of Operation”) into sheets of radioactive glass if that so pleases US. But accepting that once again, the only way that “security” is achieved is by putting the whole fucking planet on a hair-trigger once again, with constantly evolving and ever-closer-to-the-ragged-edge-of-outofcontrollability Innovative New Systems, is a walk toward the gallows for us all. The current puffery about Chinese increases in war spending and “stealth fighters” and shit like that is just fucking tomfoolery.

    Seems to me (and Ron Paul, if you dig down, is a fucking fraud on this issue of “shrinking the military footprint” and “isolation” as he is on every other one of the “points of agreement” that Taplin occasionally finds with our Liberwhatevertheydefinethemselvestobetoday fellow guests here, there and scattered across the politispace, pretending to be the Silver Surfers hanging ten on the Great Wave of EverymanforhimselfFuture,) that there might be a tiny particle of wisdom in the idea that “trade,” depending on how you define it, is a part of that other way. Not the kind Papola and Worgon sell, and there’s still the enormous hurdles of the momentum and inertia of the International War Racket Complex, and all the tribal instincts and groupings all busily being fertilized and fomented by the ambitious, amoral and avaricious gluttony of the relatively few who understand and can play the martial, staccato, major-chord notes that stir the atavistic juices.

    It is past time, OWS please, please note, to come up with a different algorithm than “They kill some of us, so we kill some of them, so they kill some of us, so we kill some of them… (repeating decimal),” and constantly seek more efficient ways to more effectively “kill some of them,” too often trumped by recourse to bombs and shells the Managerial Warfighters spill and lose track of, and Enfield rifles left over from past “Wars to End All Wars” and of course the true Planetary Weapon of Mass Destruction, the good ol’ reliable AK-47, all to the tune of “I never met a profitable weapon system procurement or idiot ‘doctrine’ of Managerial Warfighting I didn’t like.”

    I don’t hate humanity, just am sorry that we are built the way we are and do what we do and think the way we do, but since my little peabrain processes things the way it does, it sure looks to me like not much potential for any kind of really hopeful, really survival-based, really possible change exists out there. There’s ever more little loci of personal gain, and some masterful stroking of the keys on the organs of the idiot masses, bound to their little horizons and pursuits, too blind, deaf and dumb to see how it all adds up to Ragnarok. Or whatever comes after the Interregnum, which Mr. Taplin seemingly has the idee fixe might actually end, somehow, well. Please forgive me if I read too much positivism into your theorem, Jon.

    We are all in this together — too bad we all don’t try pulling on the same end of the rope.

    There is enough of everything that matters to go all the way around the table, if we can keep the Pigs in Suits and Uniforms from stuffing all but one of the cookies in their obscene faces, and tricking the rest of us into fighting over that last cookie…

  54. len says:

    As LSU is crumbling… (oh this is good)….

    @jtmc: It’s a bit of bait but I do think a massive withdrawal of forces is unlikely. Yeah, I know a bit about things to come and we will see a big increase in botWarz, but we also both know only boots on the ground can hold ground. On the other hand, less and less is ground worth holding. We are transitioning toward a lightning strike strategy to stop whatever the masters of war want to stop. As they said some decades ago, bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran.

    We finally have to face up to some nasty truths:

    1. Our mainstream media is bought and controlled to the last talking head. This is disturbing in the extreme but nothing else explains the kind of event coverage we’ve seen particularly since Obama was elected. Levers are being pulled and CNN, MSNBC, obviously FOX, CBS, ABC are now simply marionettes. We’re on our own for getting news now and if they can do it, the same law (SOPA) some folks want here to protect their fortunes will be used to silence their critics too.

    2. Our military is a wildcard. For the most part, they won’t fire on their own citizens but the officer corps has become increasingly Romanesque and ready to sell out their own to advance their own plutocracy. Remember these are people coming home to get their own and as they set up companies with ties to the Beltway, they are expecting and getting handsome rewards for doing the dirty work of the last ten years.

    3. Our national leadership has failed us in every way possible. The idea is to put us back to sleep but it is only barely working. Even the die hards no longer trust Obama and they seriously don’t like the Republicans. The national elections are a wash. Our only hope for real change is in the local elections.

    4. Chinese influence is huge but not unbreakable. We need to look at those high tech products we are addicted to and ask ourselves if innovation is all it is cracked up to be. Unless we are employing Americans, Americans are defecating iPatches on our lawns. A turd is a turd is a turd.

    5. Social issues are taking a back seat to reality policy making. None of it is real but the little bites to our freedoms and liberty are coming faster and faster. Some group of somebodies somewhere is convinced they have to get this done before the enormity of their crimes in light of rapidly diminishing opportunities to advance becomes so glaringly apparent, it become worth a shooting war. Fancy talk and a-school educated snake charms aren’t going to work much longer. No one gives a frick about the kinds of economic theories or even class war we talk here. They want justice and results and unless they see them, it will go to hell fast. It only took one self-immolation in Tunisia to set the Middle East on fire. The Syrian people aren’t laying down. They are absorbing the punishment and they just keep coming. Mike Bloomberg, Peter King and other sons of bitches might want to reconsider their options.

    At some….. INTERCEPTION!!!!! ok… enough politics. Game on. ROOOLLL TIDE!!

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