Discussion:
Economist's eutopia
(too old to reply)
Steve Murgaski
2005-08-22 05:29:45 UTC
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I was thinking about the sort of people who would make the free market
system work the way it's supposed to. I don't think I'd like that
sort of people much.

In order for competition to be maximized, wouldn't it be best if
everyone hated everyone else? That way we'd have no compunction about
maximizing everything else. But the rule of law would still need to
be enforced, so it would be best if everyone feared the police even
more than they hated everyone around them.

Hatred and fear would also help everyone to consume as much as
possible. It would be perfect for increasing GDP.
zzbunker
2005-08-22 06:41:34 UTC
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Post by Steve Murgaski
I was thinking about the sort of people who would make the free market
system work the way it's supposed to. I don't think I'd like that
sort of people much.
In order for competition to be maximized, wouldn't it be best if
everyone hated everyone else? That way we'd have no compunction about
maximizing everything else. But the rule of law would still need to
be enforced, so it would be best if everyone feared the police even
more than they hated everyone around them.
It's been done before, the Pharoh's did it.
Economists and New York are way too stupid
to do it, since you need aircraft to do it.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Hatred and fear would also help everyone to consume as much as
possible. It would be perfect for increasing GDP.
It's does but, that the Chinese also
rediscovered that GDP only exists in
London, so it's also irrelevent to
economics.
Just Cocky
2005-08-22 14:10:42 UTC
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On Mon, 22 Aug 2005 01:29:45 -0400, "Steve Murgaski"
Post by Steve Murgaski
I was thinking about the sort of people who would make the free market
system work the way it's supposed to. I don't think I'd like that
sort of people much.
Me thinks you might think wrong.
Post by Steve Murgaski
In order for competition to be maximized, wouldn't it be best if
everyone hated everyone else?
No, it would not. In any case, capitalism requires a great deal of
voluntary cooperation (think trading).
Post by Steve Murgaski
That way we'd have no compunction about maximizing everything else.
Huh?
Post by Steve Murgaski
But the rule of law would still need to be enforced, so it would be best if
everyone feared the police even more than they hated everyone around them.
Oh boy!
Post by Steve Murgaski
Hatred and fear would also help everyone to consume as much as
possible. It would be perfect for increasing GDP.
I think you ought to get rid of that alcohol habit...
David
2005-08-22 17:24:09 UTC
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[...]
Post by Just Cocky
Post by Steve Murgaski
Hatred and fear would also help everyone to consume as much as
possible. It would be perfect for increasing GDP.
I think you ought to get rid of that alcohol habit...
I think you should try to come up with a counter-argument instead of
flying to a textbook-worthy example of "ad hominem".
--
"You'd better understand that you're alone, a long way from home."
...................................................................
(C) 2005 TheDavid^TM | David, P.O. Box 21403, Louisville, KY 40221
Just Cocky
2005-08-22 17:33:09 UTC
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Post by David
[...]
Post by Just Cocky
Post by Steve Murgaski
Hatred and fear would also help everyone to consume as much as
possible. It would be perfect for increasing GDP.
I think you ought to get rid of that alcohol habit...
I think you should try to come up with a counter-argument instead of
flying to a textbook-worthy example of "ad hominem".
"Hatred and fear would... would be perfect for increasing GDP" is not
an argument. It is simply a silly opinion. Now, is there anything else
I can do for you?
Les Cargill
2005-08-22 22:43:37 UTC
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Post by Steve Murgaski
I was thinking about the sort of people who would make the free market
system work the way it's supposed to. I don't think I'd like that
sort of people much.
In order for competition to be maximized, wouldn't it be best if
everyone hated everyone else?
No. That wouldn't work at all. Capitalism more or less presumes
a basic spirit of cooperation to operate at all. It's arguably
the least coercive system available, but it doesn't
work if there's no trust.
Post by Steve Murgaski
That way we'd have no compunction about
maximizing everything else.
You mean essentially minimizing quality of life? Who was it,
Rosseau? who essentially called this a "state of war",
or "state of nature". At any point, it's nasty, brutish and
short.
Post by Steve Murgaski
But the rule of law would still need to
be enforced,
Why bother? If there's no society or polis to defend,
why defend it? In actual state of war, people are
scrabbling for food, not checking their bank balances.
Post by Steve Murgaski
so it would be best if everyone feared the police even
more than they hated everyone around them.
According to about ten volumes of Solzhenitsyn, you've just
described the state of affairs in the Soviet Union.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Hatred and fear would also help everyone to consume as much as
possible. It would be perfect for increasing GDP.
The swamps would go undrained, as everybody fought alligators.
Dunno about GDP per se, but real output wouldn't be much at
all.


--
Les Cargill
Steve Murgaski
2005-08-23 04:01:45 UTC
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Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
In order for competition to be maximized, wouldn't it be best if
everyone hated everyone else?
No. That wouldn't work at all. Capitalism more or less presumes
a basic spirit of cooperation to operate at all. It's arguably
the least coercive system available, but it doesn't
work if there's no trust.
I don't see that. Any capitalist relationship I can think of could be
made with a contract. Then, both partners are legally obligated to
fulfill their side of it. If you fear law enforcement, then I can
trust you to fulfill your side.

Things would be cheaper if we trusted each other. There could be
fewer police, and lower legal fees, and less taxation to support the
whole legal system. But if we had a trusting relationship, then we
might not want to compete at full intensity. We might feel secure and
relax -- slack off.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
That way we'd have no compunction about maximizing everything else.
You mean essentially minimizing quality of life?
Essentially, yes.

Lets try an example, just for fun. Suppose I run an advertising
company, and my research shows that kids are very insecure about what
brand of shoe they wear. If I'm being properly competitive, I see
this as an opportunity, *not* as a social problem. I ask, "How can we
make kids even more insecure about whether their shoes are trendy
enough, and then position one brand as the solution?"

Other times, I could literally create a problem and then sell the
solution. If my company produces something that generates a lot of
toxic wastes, for example, I might buy stocks in pharmaceutical
companies. Then I could lobby the government to weaken regulations
against dumping toxic wastes. If I succeed, I know that the water
supply will be contaminated, so a lot of people will get sick and need
treatment. My drug company stocks will go up; my
toxic-waste-producing company will be worth more, and it will all more
than pay for the bottled water that I now drink.

All of that is great for GDP, as well. Before the water supply was
contaminated, people were healthy *without* consuming any drugs, or
being hospitalized. Now, consumption is up, production is up, and
everything looks rosey in the economic indicators.

Admittedly, it might start to look bad if too many workers got killed
off. But once people realized that they'd be fine if they drink
bottled water, it would be absolutely perfect. Good for the water
industry; and plus, people who can't afford bottled water will get
cancer (or something) and die off. Well, if they couldn't afford
water, then they were probably unemployed anyway. "Superfluous
people," is I think how the Nazis referred to that sort of person.
The market would be better off without them anyway, yes? Isn't that
the philosophy?
Post by Les Cargill
Who was it,
Rosseau? who essentially called this a "state of war",
Hobbes, I think you mean. But perhaps this system, taken to an
extreme, would be even worse than the solution he proposed: an
absolutist dictator to keep everyone in line.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
But the rule of law would still need to be enforced,
Why bother? If there's no society or polis to defend,
why defend it?
Because I'm not assuming, as you do above, that capitalism needs some
level of trust in order to survive.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
so it would be best if everyone feared the police even more than
they hated everyone around them.
According to about ten volumes of Solzhenitsyn, you've just
described the state of affairs in the Soviet Union.
Granted. And the Soviet Union worked pretty well economically, at
least in the beginning. They didn't become the world's second
'superpower' by selling rice on the world market.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
Hatred and fear would also help everyone to consume as much as
possible. It would be perfect for increasing GDP.
The swamps would go undrained, as everybody fought alligators.
If you mean this literally, then yes, it could be a problem. Who
would upkeep the cities?

One good free market solution, as I see it, would be for the
government to hire a PR firm to recruit volunteers. (The model tries
to keep government out as much as possible, but I imagine they're okay
as long as they're hiring private corporations with tax dollars.) We
could have movies about the romance of draining swamps and killing
alligators. Whenever we don't want to pay someone for their work,
it's best to create emotional reasons for them to do it. (E.G., the
military ads say "Be all that you can be," not "Fight for America and
be rewarded with good regular pay, and regular health benefits".) I'm
seeing a Clint Eastwood type organizing a posse to go drain the swamp
threatening the town, and hooking up with a tough alligator-hunting
chick with impressive clevage. Once they finish mud wrestling in the
cleaned out swamp, things get interesting.
Les Cargill
2005-08-23 23:02:30 UTC
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Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
In order for competition to be maximized, wouldn't it be best if
everyone hated everyone else?
No. That wouldn't work at all. Capitalism more or less presumes
a basic spirit of cooperation to operate at all. It's arguably
the least coercive system available, but it doesn't
work if there's no trust.
I don't see that. Any capitalist relationship I can think of could be
made with a contract.
Exactly. Enforcing contracts through the courts is expensive.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Then, both partners are legally obligated to
fulfill their side of it. If you fear law enforcement, then I can
trust you to fulfill your side.
Law enforcement is for matters of criminal law. Civil law
is seperate.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Things would be cheaper if we trusted each other.
Right. That's really all we need to know. That makes trust
a valuable thing.
Post by Steve Murgaski
There could be
fewer police, and lower legal fees, and less taxation to support the
whole legal system.
Not to mention less mucking around setting up artifical "games"
to verify or establish trust.
Post by Steve Murgaski
But if we had a trusting relationship, then we
might not want to compete at full intensity. We might feel secure and
relax -- slack off.
Why? And besides, the traditional, Murkin-football-coach groupthink
verison of "competition" isn't very competitive, anyway.

It allows the other guy to set the pace, dyadically, in a
feedback loop.

The real competition is Entropy, anyway.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
That way we'd have no compunction about maximizing everything else.
You mean essentially minimizing quality of life?
Essentially, yes.
Then it's clearly wrong *:)

TO borrow from the Objectivists, you are sacrificing the higher
value of your life for a lesser value of "competition".
Post by Steve Murgaski
Lets try an example, just for fun. Suppose I run an advertising
company, and my research shows that kids are very insecure about what
brand of shoe they wear. If I'm being properly competitive, I see
this as an opportunity, *not* as a social problem. I ask, "How can we
make kids even more insecure about whether their shoes are trendy
enough, and then position one brand as the solution?"
I don't think that's very imaginary - we've seen the rise of NIke
and Reebok through this. Very effective. Buncha bovine
defecation, but still extremely effective.

I see that as not being very illustrative. Exploiting a "crack" in
the surface of the marketplace doesn't sound like it's devaluing
anything - it's just an attempt at a evolutionarily
sound strategy.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Other times, I could literally create a problem and then sell the
solution. If my company produces something that generates a lot of
toxic wastes, for example, I might buy stocks in pharmaceutical
companies. Then I could lobby the government to weaken regulations
against dumping toxic wastes. If I succeed, I know that the water
supply will be contaminated, so a lot of people will get sick and need
treatment. My drug company stocks will go up; my
toxic-waste-producing company will be worth more, and it will all more
than pay for the bottled water that I now drink.
And that's fine if you don't get caught. See the concept of
"Pigovian taxes" for a mathematical treatment of this.

The point is that humans will detect and recognize this pattern and
you'll have been identified as comitting a tort.

Ostensibly, you're deceiving yorself that you're actually making
money at this gambit. All you're doing is buying a big fine, or
even a prison sentence with it, if not outright lynching :)
Post by Steve Murgaski
All of that is great for GDP, as well. Before the water supply was
contaminated, people were healthy *without* consuming any drugs, or
being hospitalized. Now, consumption is up, production is up, and
everything looks rosey in the economic indicators.
And that's why we have to caveat the use of those indicators.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Admittedly, it might start to look bad if too many workers got killed
off. But once people realized that they'd be fine if they drink
bottled water, it would be absolutely perfect. Good for the water
industry; and plus, people who can't afford bottled water will get
cancer (or something) and die off. Well, if they couldn't afford
water, then they were probably unemployed anyway. "Superfluous
people," is I think how the Nazis referred to that sort of person.
The market would be better off without them anyway, yes? Isn't that
the philosophy?
No. That's a broken, sick pilosophy. It says that an artificial
medium of exchange is somehow more important
than human life. This is called reifying the symbol.

Money only matters as a means of exchanging value. The score is
not the game.

What capitalism claims is that it is efficient, and that this
efficiency has the color or morality - less waste is a moral
Good. But it does not say that money in any way trumps other values.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Who was it,
Rosseau? who essentially called this a "state of war",
Hobbes, I think you mean.
There ya go.
Post by Steve Murgaski
But perhaps this system, taken to an
extreme, would be even worse than the solution he proposed: an
absolutist dictator to keep everyone in line.
I agree. We will always have some sort of an organic
hybrid of systems, unless some calculus which proves
the best course makes unnecessary the experimentation
in hybrids.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
But the rule of law would still need to be enforced,
Why bother? If there's no society or polis to defend,
why defend it?
Because I'm not assuming, as you do above, that capitalism needs some
level of trust in order to survive.
But now you've made a false "God" of Mammon, speaking
metaphorically.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
so it would be best if everyone feared the police even more than
they hated everyone around them.
According to about ten volumes of Solzhenitsyn, you've just
described the state of affairs in the Soviet Union.
Granted. And the Soviet Union worked pretty well economically, at
least in the beginning.
It never worked. I will say that Stalin managed to do A Lot, by
Catherine the Great or Peter the Great standards, but it was
never gonna work.
Post by Steve Murgaski
They didn't become the world's second
'superpower' by selling rice on the world market.
No, they stole it fair and square. First they stole from
the Whites, then from the intellectuals, and finally
from themselves.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
Hatred and fear would also help everyone to consume as much as
possible. It would be perfect for increasing GDP.
The swamps would go undrained, as everybody fought alligators.
If you mean this literally, then yes, it could be a problem. Who
would upkeep the cities?
I think the shellfire would take care of that. NO cities, no
upkeep.
Post by Steve Murgaski
One good free market solution, as I see it, would be for the
government to hire a PR firm to recruit volunteers. (The model tries
to keep government out as much as possible, but I imagine they're okay
as long as they're hiring private corporations with tax dollars.) We
could have movies about the romance of draining swamps and killing
alligators. Whenever we don't want to pay someone for their work,
it's best to create emotional reasons for them to do it. (E.G., the
military ads say "Be all that you can be," not "Fight for America and
be rewarded with good regular pay, and regular health benefits".) I'm
seeing a Clint Eastwood type organizing a posse to go drain the swamp
threatening the town, and hooking up with a tough alligator-hunting
chick with impressive clevage. Once they finish mud wrestling in the
cleaned out swamp, things get interesting.
--
Les Cargill
Steve Murgaski
2005-08-24 05:13:34 UTC
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Raw Message
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
In order for competition to be maximized, wouldn't it be best if
everyone hated everyone else?
No. That wouldn't work at all. Capitalism more or less presumes
a basic spirit of cooperation to operate at all. It's arguably
the least coercive system available, but it doesn't
work if there's no trust.
I don't see that. Any capitalist relationship I can think of could
be made with a contract.
Exactly. Enforcing contracts through the courts is expensive.
The courts function as deterrents. Party A is afraid of having to pay
a fine if it breaks the contract, so it normally doesn't. But there's
a simple calculation which Party A can do, weighing the probability of
getting caught and the fine for getting caught against the potential
benefit of breaking the contract. If they calculate that it looks
worth breaking, then Party A should break it, if Party A is a
"Rational, profit-maximizing entity." That's good market logic, I
think.

Maybe it depends, though, on how you define "trust". We do have to
trust that firms will look out for their own interests. I can buy a
can of Coke and "Trust" that it isn't just carbonated water, because
the risk of bad publicity which Coca Cola would run by doing that
wouldn't be worth the .3 cents worth of syrup that they should put
into my drink.

On the other hand, I can trust that if Coca Cola calculates that it's
cheaper to assassinate Colombian union organizers than it would be to
pay higher wages there, then the company will have them assassinated.
According to the theories I learned, Coca Cola would be irrational not
to do that, if the probable benefits outweighed the probable costs.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
But if we had a trusting relationship, then we might not want to
compete at full intensity. We might feel secure and relax -- slack
off.
Why? And besides, the traditional, Murkin-football-coach groupthink
verison of "competition" isn't very competitive, anyway.
It allows the other guy to set the pace, dyadically, in a
feedback loop.
The real competition is Entropy, anyway.
Sounds good, but I don't understand.
Post by Les Cargill
TO borrow from the Objectivists, you are sacrificing the higher
value of your life for a lesser value of "competition".
What do the objectivists say about the value of the lives of others?
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
Lets try an example, just for fun. Suppose I run an advertising
company, and my research shows that kids are very insecure about
what brand of shoe they wear. If I'm being properly competitive, I
see this as an opportunity, *not* as a social problem. I ask, "How
can we make kids even more insecure about whether their shoes are
trendy enough, and then position one brand as the solution?"
I don't think that's very imaginary - we've seen the rise of NIke
and Reebok through this. Very effective. Buncha bovine
defecation, but still extremely effective.
Exactly.
Post by Les Cargill
I see that as not being very illustrative. Exploiting a "crack" in
the surface of the marketplace doesn't sound like it's devaluing
anything - it's just an attempt at a evolutionarily
sound strategy.
You see it as something rare, then, to profit from people's
insecurities?

According to the lectures on marketing that I've been listening to,
it's better to position your product to fulfill an emotional need than
a physiological one. The example given is that beer might quench
people's thurst, but that isn't the aspect of the product which
commercials emphasize. It's much more important to show that a brand
of beer will help you find a beautiful girl to spend time with. (Of
course there are hundreds of similar examples, from cars to
toothpaste.)

Or, look at the so-called "Defence industry". I suppose it's money in
the bank for Boeing, Halliburton, et al. whenever the TV tells us that
the terrorism alert level has changed from dull-grey alert to
hot-tropical-pink alert.

But I guess my point is that the economic theories I know of (which
aren't many) provide complete justification for that sort of behavior.
It seems that all we should expect of firms is that they will try to
maximize their profits.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
Other times, I could literally create a problem and then sell the
solution. If my company produces something that generates a lot of
toxic wastes, for example, I might buy stocks in pharmaceutical
companies. Then I could lobby the government to weaken regulations
against dumping toxic wastes. If I succeed, I know that the water
supply will be contaminated, so a lot of people will get sick and
need treatment. My drug company stocks will go up; my
toxic-waste-producing company will be worth more, and it will all
more than pay for the bottled water that I now drink.
And that's fine if you don't get caught. See the concept of
"Pigovian taxes" for a mathematical treatment of this.
The point is that humans will detect and recognize this pattern and
you'll have been identified as comitting a tort.
Ostensibly, you're deceiving yorself that you're actually making
money at this gambit. All you're doing is buying a big fine, or even
a prison sentence with it, if not outright lynching :)
I went to a lecture once, given by a former torte lawyer who'd quit
practicing law to become an organizer for the Sierra Club. She said
that in order to have any chance of making a tort case like the one
we're talking about stick, you would need clear proof that the
contaminant released by the company had caused the diseases being
experienced. In other words, if people were just getting cancer,
there'd be practically no chance of proving that any particular thing
had been responsible.

I also remember watching spokespeople for the tobacco industry on TV,
as a kid, explaining that there was no proven link between smoking and
cancer.

In other words, I think we'd have to linch them. :-/
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
All of that is great for GDP, as well. Before the water supply was
contaminated, people were healthy *without* consuming any drugs, or
being hospitalized. Now, consumption is up, production is up, and
everything looks rosey in the economic indicators.
And that's why we have to caveat the use of those indicators.
Thank-you. That's mainly the point I wanted to make.

I've had four different economics profs so far, and only one of them
has pointed out any need to use caveats with the indicators. The one
who did seemed to be very much an anomaly. She often talked about how
her husband was from a `third-world country', and how visiting his
family had changed her perspective on economic theories.
Post by Les Cargill
No. That's a broken, sick pilosophy. It says that an artificial
medium of exchange is somehow more important
than human life. This is called reifying the symbol.
I'm glad that you say so.

When I want to give myself waking nightmares, I think about how the
Nazi program seems very compatible with economic theories I've
learned. They didn't even waste all of the bodies of the people that
were executed: some of them were used as valuable experimental
subjects. Very efficient. What a boon it would be to the
pharmaceutical industry if there were a large pool of human subjects
being held in concentration camps, ready for use.

But anyway...
Anton Vredegoor
2005-08-25 13:03:50 UTC
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Post by Steve Murgaski
I went to a lecture once, given by a former torte lawyer who'd quit
practicing law to become an organizer for the Sierra Club. She said
that in order to have any chance of making a tort case like the one
we're talking about stick, you would need clear proof that the
contaminant released by the company had caused the diseases being
experienced. In other words, if people were just getting cancer,
there'd be practically no chance of proving that any particular thing
had been responsible.
It's a matter of perspective. Suppose someone builds a bridge, writes a
book (or a usenet post :-) the rewards are highest for the last person
in the chain of events that led to a specific accomplishment. It's just
lazy thinking to factor the child rearing, exchange of ideas between
scientists and people on the street, history , (and so on) out of the
economic process that led to the airplane, the bridge or the cityblock.

In a way this resembles your point above about not being able to prove
the instance responsible for causing the cancer. However since current
reality is defined by persons with interest in the last chain in the
series of events that led to our reality construct, we get rewards
based on end-point evaluations (except if it's large companies causing
cancer)

I propose a kind of NULL-E rewards economy, where E stands for
Einsteinian reward systems where only the last person (who is standing
on the shoulders of not giants but legions of seemingly unrelated
people) gets all the credit. (Not stolen from Korzibsky because he was
only the last chain in a process leading to postmodernism and internet
reality construction)

Anton

"Riemann don't lose that zeta function, it's the only one you've got"
Les Cargill
2005-08-26 03:04:49 UTC
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Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
In order for competition to be maximized, wouldn't it be best if
everyone hated everyone else?
No. That wouldn't work at all. Capitalism more or less presumes
a basic spirit of cooperation to operate at all. It's arguably
the least coercive system available, but it doesn't
work if there's no trust.
I don't see that. Any capitalist relationship I can think of could
be made with a contract.
Exactly. Enforcing contracts through the courts is expensive.
The courts function as deterrents. Party A is afraid of having to pay
a fine if it breaks the contract, so it normally doesn't. But there's
a simple calculation which Party A can do, weighing the probability of
getting caught and the fine for getting caught against the potential
benefit of breaking the contract. If they calculate that it looks
worth breaking, then Party A should break it, if Party A is a
"Rational, profit-maximizing entity." That's good market logic, I
think.
The people designing the law can do that math, too,. and make the
penalties some multiple of the expected value of that gamble.

The whole point of the law is "the house always wins".
Post by Steve Murgaski
Maybe it depends, though, on how you define "trust". We do have to
trust that firms will look out for their own interests. I can buy a
can of Coke and "Trust" that it isn't just carbonated water, because
the risk of bad publicity which Coca Cola would run by doing that
wouldn't be worth the .3 cents worth of syrup that they should put
into my drink.
On the other hand, I can trust that if Coca Cola calculates that it's
cheaper to assassinate Colombian union organizers than it would be to
pay higher wages there, then the company will have them assassinated.
First, we cannot assume that the leadership of Coca Cola
is a collection of sociopaths. Second, even sociopaths will
avoid a crime that has significant downside risk.
Post by Steve Murgaski
According to the theories I learned, Coca Cola would be irrational not
to do that, if the probable benefits outweighed the probable costs.
I am saying that you cannot calculate the probable costs. That any
such calculus is indeterminate, and there's no win.

This is *clearly* Bad Business. This is how mineowners thought
in 1900, and they've been repeatedly proven wrong.

Just ask RIchard Nixon if it's worth it. And that was an emergent
Constitutional crisis, where these assasinations are not even
that.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
But if we had a trusting relationship, then we might not want to
compete at full intensity. We might feel secure and relax -- slack
off.
Why? And besides, the traditional, Murkin-football-coach groupthink
verison of "competition" isn't very competitive, anyway.
It allows the other guy to set the pace, dyadically, in a
feedback loop.
The real competition is Entropy, anyway.
Sounds good, but I don't understand.
The real compeitition is the general decline of the lot of Man.
We can go to Angkor Wat and visit where a great civilixation
once stood. That could happen here. Sort of a general
Joseph Conrad thing....
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
TO borrow from the Objectivists, you are sacrificing the higher
value of your life for a lesser value of "competition".
What do the objectivists say about the value of the lives of others?
That the lives of others significantly impact our lives. That
crime has personal costs, and that a person who
commmits a crime should report themselves.

They also say that without moral behavior, not much of anything
else is remotely possible.

I like *that* part of Objectivism, because it's clear. It fits
observed phenomena.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
Lets try an example, just for fun. Suppose I run an advertising
company, and my research shows that kids are very insecure about
what brand of shoe they wear. If I'm being properly competitive, I
see this as an opportunity, *not* as a social problem. I ask, "How
can we make kids even more insecure about whether their shoes are
trendy enough, and then position one brand as the solution?"
I don't think that's very imaginary - we've seen the rise of NIke
and Reebok through this. Very effective. Buncha bovine
defecation, but still extremely effective.
Exactly.
And?
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
I see that as not being very illustrative. Exploiting a "crack" in
the surface of the marketplace doesn't sound like it's devaluing
anything - it's just an attempt at a evolutionarily
sound strategy.
You see it as something rare, then, to profit from people's
insecurities?
No, not at all. I don't see exploiting *that* as particularly
immoral. The fact that dollars cross palms pretty much "reveals
the preferences" of the parties involved. Don't
consider outlawing stupidity; I'm too pretty to go to prison...

It's not coercion. It is manipulation. Fine line.
Post by Steve Murgaski
According to the lectures on marketing that I've been listening to,
it's better to position your product to fulfill an emotional need than
a physiological one. The example given is that beer might quench
people's thurst, but that isn't the aspect of the product which
commercials emphasize. It's much more important to show that a brand
of beer will help you find a beautiful girl to spend time with. (Of
course there are hundreds of similar examples, from cars to
toothpaste.)
Well, sure. That's the Madison Avenue pheonomenon ( although it
was antedated by print ). It's fairly old hat; you younger guys
just don't have a Rod Serling and Paddy Chaefsky around to
*remind* you. Go find "The HIdden Persuaders" in a library,
or rent "Network".
Post by Steve Murgaski
Or, look at the so-called "Defence industry". I suppose it's money in
the bank for Boeing, Halliburton, et al. whenever the TV tells us that
the terrorism alert level has changed from dull-grey alert to
hot-tropical-pink alert.
Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't. Frankly, those guys will enter a
sort of Bonfire of the Vanities Domain of Hubris not long from
now, and they'll be rebagdged into different companies, as
Enron was (roughly).
Post by Steve Murgaski
But I guess my point is that the economic theories I know of (which
aren't many) provide complete justification for that sort of behavior.
It seems that all we should expect of firms is that they will try to
maximize their profits.
And we should, and they should. But maximizing profits has an awful
lot to do with understanding and managing risk.

I know what you are saying - this is often treated as though Wealth
of Nations were Holy Writ. It's not - it's a damn good theory which
has sevred well. But it's *served* us, not the other way 'round.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
Other times, I could literally create a problem and then sell the
solution. If my company produces something that generates a lot of
toxic wastes, for example, I might buy stocks in pharmaceutical
companies. Then I could lobby the government to weaken regulations
against dumping toxic wastes. If I succeed, I know that the water
supply will be contaminated, so a lot of people will get sick and
need treatment. My drug company stocks will go up; my
toxic-waste-producing company will be worth more, and it will all
more than pay for the bottled water that I now drink.
And that's fine if you don't get caught. See the concept of
"Pigovian taxes" for a mathematical treatment of this.
The point is that humans will detect and recognize this pattern and
you'll have been identified as comitting a tort.
Ostensibly, you're deceiving yorself that you're actually making
money at this gambit. All you're doing is buying a big fine, or even
a prison sentence with it, if not outright lynching :)
I went to a lecture once, given by a former torte lawyer who'd quit
practicing law to become an organizer for the Sierra Club. She said
that in order to have any chance of making a tort case like the one
we're talking about stick, you would need clear proof that the
contaminant released by the company had caused the diseases being
experienced. In other words, if people were just getting cancer,
there'd be practically no chance of proving that any particular thing
had been responsible.
I hope that's the standard, and that it continues to be the
standard.
Post by Steve Murgaski
I also remember watching spokespeople for the tobacco industry on TV,
as a kid, explaining that there was no proven link between smoking and
cancer.
Um, the links are still much more tenuous than perhaps they should
be... and it took a long time to get *that* close.
Post by Steve Murgaski
In other words, I think we'd have to linch them. :-/
I think that the tobacco cases provide an excellent case study in
just how difficult this sort of thing can be.

What makes me queasy is that the management of Big Tobacco has been
proven right by their adversaries. And that the truth is the first
casualty of war....

The words that should scare you most of all are "but it's
for your own good...".
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
All of that is great for GDP, as well. Before the water supply was
contaminated, people were healthy *without* consuming any drugs, or
being hospitalized. Now, consumption is up, production is up, and
everything looks rosey in the economic indicators.
And that's why we have to caveat the use of those indicators.
Thank-you. That's mainly the point I wanted to make.
I've had four different economics profs so far, and only one of them
has pointed out any need to use caveats with the indicators. The one
who did seemed to be very much an anomaly. She often talked about how
her husband was from a `third-world country', and how visiting his
family had changed her perspective on economic theories.
Post by Les Cargill
No. That's a broken, sick pilosophy. It says that an artificial
medium of exchange is somehow more important
than human life. This is called reifying the symbol.
I'm glad that you say so.
But by the same token, inefficient systems of economics
*have* killed people.
Post by Steve Murgaski
When I want to give myself waking nightmares, I think about how the
Nazi program seems very compatible with economic theories I've
learned.
I'd recommend a good course of readin', there. Start with "Rise and
Fall", work yer way out. Get soem Orwell in there, too...
Solzhenitsyn.
Post by Steve Murgaski
They didn't even waste all of the bodies of the people that
were executed: some of them were used as valuable experimental
subjects. Very efficient. What a boon it would be to the
pharmaceutical industry if there were a large pool of human subjects
being held in concentration camps, ready for use.
Nah. Just advertising-bomb the media channels with a message
extolling the virtues of the product. You don't have to build
a concentration camp, that way....
Post by Steve Murgaski
But anyway...
--
Les Cargill
Steve Murgaski
2005-08-26 10:55:44 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
On the other hand, I can trust that if Coca Cola calculates that
it's cheaper to assassinate Colombian union organizers than it
would be to pay higher wages there, then the company will have them
assassinated.
First, we cannot assume that the leadership of Coca Cola
is a collection of sociopaths.
Right. In their everyday lives, they probably aren't sociopaths at
all. But it isn't at all necessary to assume that they should be.

It sort of amazes me that so many people can be trained to get into a
plane, fly it over a country that they know nothing about, and press
buttons that will drop tons of unguided explosives on whomever happens
to be standing around down there. If all those people were
sociopaths, the United States would be destroyed by its own citizens
in one afternoon. But I've met some of them, and they didn't kill me
and take my wallet. So I know they must be very nice people.

The leadership of Coke has definitely been trained to get financial
results. We could even call that a "Selection pressure". If they
hadn't gotten good financial results in the past, they wouldn't have
been promoted to leadership positions; and if they don't continue to
get good results, then they won't stay there. Simple enough.

We can't assume that the shareholders of Coke -- the bosses of the
leadership, in a sense -- are sociopaths either. Most of them
probably have very nice goals, like sending their children to Harvard,
so that they can achieve up to their full potential. Those investers
have nothing personally against the trouble-making union organizers in
Colombia, and certainly wouldn't shoot one if they met him/her. But
they're not going to waste their time reading Human Rights Watch
reports on Colombia, either. These investers are serious people, with
real-world concerns: not a bunch of long-haired, pot-smoking, liberal
idealists.

You see where I'm going, yes? The investers pay attention to the
financial state of the companies they've invested in, because that's
how they'll pay off their son's new car -- he's a great kid, and he
shouldn't look like a bum compared to his friends. So they make sure
that the people in charge will make the stock prices keep going up,
and not worry too much as long as that's happening. There's more than
enough to worry about in life without seeking out problems to get
upset over. What do people expect, anyway: "World peace"?
Post by Les Cargill
Second, even sociopaths will
avoid a crime that has significant downside risk.
I looked up "Downside risk," and still don't know what you mean. But
if you think the stock prices might go down because some union
organizers in bottling plants in Colombia are getting killed, and Coke
contracts out their bottling to those plants ... well, nothing in the
mainstream culture will make that happen. Do you think the New York
Times will run an expose of this unethical behavior, and face the
certainty of law suits which they would definitely lose? Because
really, Coke *isn't* responsible. They told the owner of the plant to
get results, or they'd contract out to someone else. They never said
to "Kill" anyone!

Sure there are a few memos from Coke employees saying things like "The
organizing efforts must be stopped at any cost ... if you need help
with the Colombian government, our corporation has certain links which
we could exploit on your behalf..." But *really*, any suggestion that
the company condones violence is utterly slanderous! (I'm making most
of this up, naturally.)

Same with sweatshops; coffee; etc... If you don't think so, then
explain why coffee growers get payed $.30/lb for coffee which sells in
the American market for $7/lb? Isn't that strange? Why don't they
get together and demand higher wages?
Post by Les Cargill
This is *clearly* Bad Business. This is how mineowners thought
in 1900, and they've been repeatedly proven wrong.
If you're talking about doing business within a "Developed" country
like the US, where some people can afford lawyers and such, then I'm
sure you're somewhat correct.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
Lets try an example, just for fun. Suppose I run an advertising
company, and my research shows that kids are very insecure about
what brand of shoe they wear. If I'm being properly competitive,
I see this as an opportunity, *not* as a social problem. I ask,
"How can we make kids even more insecure about whether their shoes
are trendy enough, and then position one brand as the solution?"
I don't think that's very imaginary - we've seen the rise of NIke
and Reebok through this. Very effective. Buncha bovine
defecation, but still extremely effective.
Exactly.
And?
So it's easier to market products to insecure people. Since the
economic indicators mostly represent that as a good thing, insecurity
shows up as a benefit in the statistics.

I'm arguing that this is a fundamental problem with the system; not
some little anomaly that shows up now and then. Long-term happyness
in the population is bad for anyone who wants to sell more and more,
all the time. Contented people are harder to manipulate into buying
what they don't need.

Which might not matter, except that many corporations have the
resources to make people unhappy. You can hire a bunch of behavioral
psychologists, and say "Design a commercial that will sell our
deodorant". The psychologists aren't naive: they won't come back and
say, "We could do that, but we'd have to create a lot of anxiety in
people, and that would be unethical. Are you marketing people
*really* sure that you want us to do this bad thing, just so the
corporation can make even more money?" No no: the children of
psychologists have to go to Berkeley, or else how will they ever make
their way in this nasty world?
Post by Les Cargill
It's not coercion. It is manipulation. Fine line.
It is a fine line. The ideology I see in most economics classes
*encourages* any amount of manipulation, short of coercion.
Post by Les Cargill
Well, sure. That's the Madison Avenue pheonomenon ( although it
was antedated by print ). It's fairly old hat; you younger guys
just don't have a Rod Serling and Paddy Chaefsky around to
*remind* you. Go find "The HIdden Persuaders" in a library,
or rent "Network".
Well, I'm old by college student standards.

I know that a lot of this isn't new at all. I recently went to an
old-style market, with the craftspeople at the booths, all trying to
sell their wares. Of course there's a component of manipulation
involved, and has been for longer than anyone can remember.

What's frightening is to see it all dressed up like a science, and
crammed down people's throats in classrooms. "Efficiency," and all
these other exalted concepts. There's a pretense that it has nothing
to do with politics at all: that people just *are* these consuming
machines, and statistics in labour markets, and holders of "Human
capital". A world view disguised as scientifically revealed truth, is
how it often feels.
Post by Les Cargill
I know what you are saying - this is often treated as though Wealth
of Nations were Holy Writ. It's not - it's a damn good theory which
has sevred well. But it's *served* us, not the other way 'round.
Yes, it should.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
I went to a lecture once, given by a former torte lawyer who'd quit
practicing law to become an organizer for the Sierra Club. She
said that in order to have any chance of making a tort case like
the one we're talking about stick, you would need clear proof that
the contaminant released by the company had caused the diseases
being experienced. In other words, if people were just getting
cancer, there'd be practically no chance of proving that any
particular thing had been responsible.
I hope that's the standard, and that it continues to be the
standard.
As a former science student, I really believe that "Scientific proof"
is an oxymoron. You just don't "Prove the theory right," even in a
lab. Especially in biology.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
I also remember watching spokespeople for the tobacco industry on
TV, as a kid, explaining that there was no proven link between
smoking and cancer.
Um, the links are still much more tenuous than perhaps they should
be... and it took a long time to get *that* close.
Sometimes we need the precautionary principle. Just because I can't
prove that eating feces would be bad for me doesn't mean that it would
be okay to try it. Same with global warming: we have wide-spread
consensus among the people who've studied it, but the only way to
prove it definitively would be to wait and see. Even then, we could
go on pointing out that the storms and temperature shift might be
coincidental anomalies right up to the end. A scientist doesn't
expect God to come down and put it in writing -- which might be proof,
of a sort.
Post by Les Cargill
What makes me queasy is that the management of Big Tobacco has been
proven right by their adversaries. And that the truth is the first
casualty of war....
I can't guess what you mean, except that your perspective is probably
quite different. ;)
Post by Les Cargill
The words that should scare you most of all are "but it's
for your own good...".
That's what I hear from the economists I've met. That I *am* happiest
when I'm consuming the maximum amount, so whatever system encourages
efficiency will be the best one for me.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
When I want to give myself waking nightmares, I think about how the
Nazi program seems very compatible with economic theories I've
learned.
I'd recommend a good course of readin', there. Start with "Rise and
Fall", work yer way out. Get soem Orwell in there, too...
Solzhenitsyn.
I do read some of that.

But I suppose your point is that there aren't concentration camps or
gulags here. People aren't picked up in the middle of the night for
writing subversive things like this post, or for not having
identification papers. True enough.

But you agree that Stalin and Hitler were able to accomplish a great
deal of what economists consider success, speaking in purely
statistical terms? They both inherited terrible economic situations
from previous wars, and were able to increase almost everything. Sure
it meant killing large numbers of people, but that's not an economic
statistic -- except that it probably helped make unemployment go down.

I don't think it should surprise anyone that harsh dictators can look
really good in an economic assessment. The whole idea is that people
should be as machine-like as possible -- except for the innovators in
management. Machines are simply more efficient than we are, in
general. The closer we can immitate them, the better it looks from
that perspective.

In the long-run, yes, it is better if the guys on top innovate. The
Soviets had some systems that tried to encourage that, but apparently
they weren't as effective as our system of producing wide-spread
anxiety through advertising, and then exploiting that to make everyone
feel that they need more and more in order to be safe. So the motive
force behind this machine is probably more effective.

But if/when the thing does quit performing, for some reason, we're all
set to make good economic arguments for becoming a dictatorship. It
would be in everyone's best interests (excepting maybe the ones who
die, and no longer show up statistically).
b***@my-deja.com
2005-08-26 16:02:51 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by Steve Murgaski
Same with sweatshops; coffee; etc... If you don't think so, then
explain why coffee growers get payed $.30/lb for coffee which sells in
the American market for $7/lb? Isn't that strange? Why don't they
get together and demand higher wages?
That is the million dollar question.

I will give you the answer for free. There is a vast oversupply of
humans. We simply do not need all of these workers. In fact, ninety
percent of the people who are working are performing superfluous
activities. Our utopian french brethren think the solution to this is
reduction in work week to 30 to 25 to 20 to 15 hours and everybody can
still keep a job which is a GREAT theory. Problem being you do not want
a brain surgeon or mathematician or a divorce lawyer who only works 15
hours a week. They will be fat flabby and incompetent.

So all us little rats race to compete for the privilege keeping the
mighty military industrial complex humming along. It is Hobbes nasty
brutish short life writ largely.

Except for the winners it ain't so bad so I advise you to

GET BACK TO WORK.

B.
Steve Murgaski
2005-08-27 20:22:19 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by b***@my-deja.com
Post by Steve Murgaski
Same with sweatshops; coffee; etc... If you don't think so, then
explain why coffee growers get payed $.30/lb for coffee which sells in
the American market for $7/lb? Isn't that strange? Why don't they
get together and demand higher wages?
That is the million dollar question.
I will give you the answer for free. There is a vast oversupply of
humans. We simply do not need all of these workers. In fact, ninety
percent of the people who are working are performing superfluous
activities. Our utopian french brethren think the solution to this is
reduction in work week to 30 to 25 to 20 to 15 hours and everybody can
still keep a job which is a GREAT theory. Problem being you do not want
a brain surgeon or mathematician or a divorce lawyer who only works 15
hours a week. They will be fat flabby and incompetent.
Mmm. But there's no need to be all eurocentric about it, methinks.
We can ask how it's being dealt with in Japan, India, China... It
might take more work to apply their ideas in our cultural context, but
it should be worth looking into.
Post by b***@my-deja.com
So all us little rats race to compete for the privilege keeping the
mighty military industrial complex humming along. It is Hobbes nasty
brutish short life writ largely.
Japan has had a pretty minimal military system since 1945. They had
better unemployment figures than the US for part of that time, and
might still.

We could try resurrecting Keynes' ideas. Strengthen the welfare state
again: put those soldiers to work doing something constructive. There
might even be political will for reforms like that, if oil prices make
the MIC slow down. (This is just off the top of my head. The point
is that there should be options, so you should shelf your fatalism and
design yourself a creative banner to march under (or something).)
Post by b***@my-deja.com
Except for the winners it ain't so bad so I advise you to
GET BACK TO WORK.
My parents would probably like you.

(More follow-ups to come.)
David O'Bedlam
2005-08-29 04:11:13 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Bukky, if you don't evacuate and something untoward happens to you, I will
be very upset.

(If anybody hears from Buk say so, okay? Yes, I'm worried.))
--
"Some think it's noise, I think it's pretty."
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
(C) 2005 by 'TheDavid^TM' | David, P.O. Box 21403, Louisville, KY 40221
bob
2005-08-31 02:32:12 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
On Sun, 28 Aug 2005 21:11:13 -0700, David O'Bedlam
Post by David O'Bedlam
Bukky, if you don't evacuate and something untoward happens to you, I will
be very upset.
(If anybody hears from Buk say so, okay? Yes, I'm worried.))
I emailed him on Sunday and didn't get a response. I assume he exited
stage west.
Les Cargill
2005-08-27 03:53:06 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
On the other hand, I can trust that if Coca Cola calculates that
it's cheaper to assassinate Colombian union organizers than it
would be to pay higher wages there, then the company will have them
assassinated.
First, we cannot assume that the leadership of Coca Cola
is a collection of sociopaths.
Right. In their everyday lives, they probably aren't sociopaths at
all. But it isn't at all necessary to assume that they should be.
It sort of amazes me that so many people can be trained to get into a
plane, fly it over a country that they know nothing about, and press
buttons that will drop tons of unguided explosives on whomever happens
to be standing around down there.
It amazes me not at all. But Joseph Heller did it better already.
Post by Steve Murgaski
If all those people were
sociopaths, the United States would be destroyed by its own citizens
in one afternoon. But I've met some of them, and they didn't kill me
and take my wallet. So I know they must be very nice people.
We didn't claw our way to the top of the food chain by writing
thank you notes.
Post by Steve Murgaski
The leadership of Coke has definitely been trained to get financial
results. We could even call that a "Selection pressure".
Nah. Not even close. There's no evidence of evolutionary
stability anywhere. The could completely Win, and fail to
reproduce, and thereby fail.

In fact, one of the more interesting things about the
drive to acheive financial results is the downward
pressure it exterts on reproducability and
reproduction.
Post by Steve Murgaski
If they
hadn't gotten good financial results in the past, they wouldn't have
been promoted to leadership positions; and if they don't continue to
get good results, then they won't stay there. Simple enough.
No. In a dead heat, the differences are random, and we know
humans will enforce a self-reinforcing pattern on the randomness.
Post by Steve Murgaski
We can't assume that the shareholders of Coke -- the bosses of the
leadership, in a sense -- are sociopaths either. Most of them
probably have very nice goals, like sending their children to Harvard,
It's be kinder just to give them drugs and books without
the ambiance.
Post by Steve Murgaski
so that they can achieve up to their full potential. Those investers
have nothing personally against the trouble-making union organizers in
Colombia, and certainly wouldn't shoot one if they met him/her. But
they're not going to waste their time reading Human Rights Watch
reports on Colombia, either. These investers are serious people, with
real-world concerns: not a bunch of long-haired, pot-smoking, liberal
idealists.
You have got to be kidding. The business class is almost
exclusively populated by people who *used* to be long-haired,
pot-smoking idealists.

We don't *really* want to know where the term "seed money" comes
from, do we?
Post by Steve Murgaski
You see where I'm going, yes? The investers pay attention to the
financial state of the companies they've invested in, because that's
how they'll pay off their son's new car -- he's a great kid, and he
shouldn't look like a bum compared to his friends. So they make sure
that the people in charge will make the stock prices keep going up,
and not worry too much as long as that's happening. There's more than
enough to worry about in life without seeking out problems to get
upset over. What do people expect, anyway: "World peace"?
People who expect productive results do.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Second, even sociopaths will
avoid a crime that has significant downside risk.
I looked up "Downside risk," and still don't know what you mean.
That's okay.
Post by Steve Murgaski
But
if you think the stock prices might go down because some union
organizers in bottling plants in Colombia are getting killed, and Coke
contracts out their bottling to those plants ... well, nothing in the
mainstream culture will make that happen. Do you think the New York
Times will run an expose of this unethical behavior, and face the
certainty of law suits which they would definitely lose? Because
really, Coke *isn't* responsible. They told the owner of the plant to
get results, or they'd contract out to someone else. They never said
to "Kill" anyone!
If you have a reference to a specific incident, and not the General
Orwellian Expose of Colonial Disease ( which is again, old hat ),
then I'd like to see the reference.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Sure there are a few memos from Coke employees saying things like "The
organizing efforts must be stopped at any cost ... if you need help
with the Colombian government, our corporation has certain links which
we could exploit on your behalf..." But *really*, any suggestion that
the company condones violence is utterly slanderous! (I'm making most
of this up, naturally.)
But of course. In fact, real corporate functionaries aree trained
from birth to avoid scandal. This breaks down, and Bad Things
Happen.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Same with sweatshops; coffee; etc... If you don't think so, then
explain why coffee growers get payed $.30/lb for coffee which sells in
the American market for $7/lb? Isn't that strange? Why don't they
get together and demand higher wages?
Really? because they don't actually have title to the land
on which the coffee is grown. Generally.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
This is *clearly* Bad Business. This is how mineowners thought
in 1900, and they've been repeatedly proven wrong.
If you're talking about doing business within a "Developed" country
like the US, where some people can afford lawyers and such, then I'm
sure you're somewhat correct.
No. It's bad Bbusiness in general. People do have a sort of native
sense about Entropy, and they understand that it's Bad.

That just a sort of paint in which lawyers work art. You don't
think they really *made* all that money, do you? Tsk.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
Lets try an example, just for fun. Suppose I run an advertising
company, and my research shows that kids are very insecure about
what brand of shoe they wear. If I'm being properly competitive,
I see this as an opportunity, *not* as a social problem. I ask,
"How can we make kids even more insecure about whether their shoes
are trendy enough, and then position one brand as the solution?"
I don't think that's very imaginary - we've seen the rise of NIke
and Reebok through this. Very effective. Buncha bovine
defecation, but still extremely effective.
Exactly.
And?
So it's easier to market products to insecure people.
Yes. Yes it is. And it's a mark of art to create the insecurity
rather than exploit it.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Since the
economic indicators mostly represent that as a good thing, insecurity
shows up as a benefit in the statistics.
Bull. Insecurity shows up as froth. Nobody likes froth, but they'll
take in the absence of a ground floor position with the Union Pacific.
Post by Steve Murgaski
I'm arguing that this is a fundamental problem with the system; not
some little anomaly that shows up now and then. Long-term happyness
in the population is bad for anyone who wants to sell more and more,
all the time. Contented people are harder to manipulate into buying
what they don't need.
So who the hell is *contented*? We all get *bored* - why do you
think I'm typing this?
Post by Steve Murgaski
Which might not matter, except that many corporations have the
resources to make people unhappy.
Not at any fundamental level. Unhappiness is sort of the background
radiation of the human condition.
Post by Steve Murgaski
You can hire a bunch of behavioral
psychologists, and say "Design a commercial that will sell our
deodorant". The psychologists aren't naive: they won't come back and
say, "We could do that, but we'd have to create a lot of anxiety in
people, and that would be unethical.
These are not very representative psychologists, then.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Are you marketing people
*really* sure that you want us to do this bad thing, just so the
corporation can make even more money?" No no: the children of
psychologists have to go to Berkeley, or else how will they ever make
their way in this nasty world?
I would consider Berekely mostly a form of child abuse.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
It's not coercion. It is manipulation. Fine line.
It is a fine line. The ideology I see in most economics classes
*encourages* any amount of manipulation, short of coercion.
And that is *fine*. People are lazy. Go do something, even if it's
wrong.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Well, sure. That's the Madison Avenue pheonomenon ( although it
was antedated by print ). It's fairly old hat; you younger guys
just don't have a Rod Serling and Paddy Chaefsky around to
*remind* you. Go find "The HIdden Persuaders" in a library,
or rent "Network".
Well, I'm old by college student standards.
I know that a lot of this isn't new at all. I recently went to an
old-style market, with the craftspeople at the booths, all trying to
sell their wares. Of course there's a component of manipulation
involved, and has been for longer than anyone can remember.
I think that's slightly magical, that. The bazzar hath charms to
soothe.
Post by Steve Murgaski
What's frightening is to see it all dressed up like a science, and
crammed down people's throats in classrooms. "Efficiency," and all
these other exalted concepts.
They are not exalted at all when you deal with people, as I have,
who are the children of the survivors of the Great Leap
Forward.

They become quite real.
Post by Steve Murgaski
There's a pretense that it has nothing
to do with politics at all: that people just *are* these consuming
machines, and statistics in labour markets, and holders of "Human
capital". A world view disguised as scientifically revealed truth, is
how it often feels.
But how could it have been otherwise?
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
I know what you are saying - this is often treated as though Wealth
of Nations were Holy Writ. It's not - it's a damn good theory which
has sevred well. But it's *served* us, not the other way 'round.
Yes, it should.
I'm not very smart, really, but I think it has. The arguments
for the ending of the British occupation of India were
primarily economic, against the normative grain.

"We cannot abide the deaths of uncounted foreigners just
to supplant the indigo trade". Accepting that takes an
uncommon political courage.

This actually happened.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
I went to a lecture once, given by a former torte lawyer who'd quit
practicing law to become an organizer for the Sierra Club. She
said that in order to have any chance of making a tort case like
the one we're talking about stick, you would need clear proof that
the contaminant released by the company had caused the diseases
being experienced. In other words, if people were just getting
cancer, there'd be practically no chance of proving that any
particular thing had been responsible.
I hope that's the standard, and that it continues to be the
standard.
As a former science student, I really believe that "Scientific proof"
is an oxymoron. You just don't "Prove the theory right," even in a
lab. Especially in biology.
Science isn't about being right. It's about accepting the *FACT* of
the possibility of being wrong.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
I also remember watching spokespeople for the tobacco industry on
TV, as a kid, explaining that there was no proven link between
smoking and cancer.
Um, the links are still much more tenuous than perhaps they should
be... and it took a long time to get *that* close.
Sometimes we need the precautionary principle. Just because I can't
prove that eating feces would be bad for me doesn't mean that it would
be okay to try it. Same with global warming: we have wide-spread
consensus among the people who've studied it, but the only way to
prove it definitively would be to wait and see. Even then, we could
go on pointing out that the storms and temperature shift might be
coincidental anomalies right up to the end. A scientist doesn't
expect God to come down and put it in writing -- which might be proof,
of a sort.
I'm not going to expand scope to this. Sorry.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
What makes me queasy is that the management of Big Tobacco has been
proven right by their adversaries. And that the truth is the first
casualty of war....
I can't guess what you mean, except that your perspective is probably
quite different. ;)
Post by Les Cargill
The words that should scare you most of all are "but it's
for your own good...".
That's what I hear from the economists I've met. That I *am* happiest
when I'm consuming the maximum amount, so whatever system encourages
efficiency will be the best one for me.
Assuimng said efficiency can be identified...
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
When I want to give myself waking nightmares, I think about how the
Nazi program seems very compatible with economic theories I've
learned.
I'd recommend a good course of readin', there. Start with "Rise and
Fall", work yer way out. Get soem Orwell in there, too...
Solzhenitsyn.
I do read some of that.
But I suppose your point is that there aren't concentration camps or
gulags here. People aren't picked up in the middle of the night for
writing subversive things like this post, or for not having
identification papers. True enough.
But you agree that Stalin and Hitler were able to accomplish a great
deal of what economists consider success, speaking in purely
statistical terms?
No, I am not prepared to do that. Various forms of Potemkin
Village window dressing do nothing to hide the facts.
Post by Steve Murgaski
They both inherited terrible economic situations
from previous wars, and were able to increase almost everything. Sure
it meant killing large numbers of people, but that's not an economic
statistic -- except that it probably helped make unemployment go down.
No, it just means they killed a lot of people.
Post by Steve Murgaski
I don't think it should surprise anyone that harsh dictators can look
really good in an economic assessment. The whole idea is that people
should be as machine-like as possible -- except for the innovators in
management. Machines are simply more efficient than we are, in
general. The closer we can immitate them, the better it looks from
that perspective.
Machines are a hell of a lot *less* efficent. Look around you;
it's not all gravy and taters.
Post by Steve Murgaski
In the long-run, yes, it is better if the guys on top innovate.
That is almost never the case.
Post by Steve Murgaski
The
Soviets had some systems that tried to encourage that, but apparently
they weren't as effective as our system of producing wide-spread
anxiety through advertising,
Oh, cute.
Post by Steve Murgaski
and then exploiting that to make everyone
feel that they need more and more in order to be safe. So the motive
force behind this machine is probably more effective.
So go read of Abraham Maslow. And consider the climactic facts of
Russia versus America.
Post by Steve Murgaski
But if/when the thing does quit performing, for some reason, we're all
set to make good economic arguments for becoming a dictatorship. It
would be in everyone's best interests (excepting maybe the ones who
die, and no longer show up statistically).
There are no good economic arguments for dictatorship, regardless.

We'll take properly vetted opressions for those unknown and
unproven.

--
Les Cargill
David
2005-08-27 06:44:46 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
On Sat, 27 Aug 2005, Les Cargill wrote:
[...]
We didn't claw our way to the top of the food chain by writing thank
you notes.
Are you a Social Darwinist? Look it up if you're not sure what it
means, most people aren't.

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Darwinism>

You might also look up Lamarckianism as well.

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamarckianism>


I ask because you seem misinformed about what evolution is is about.
For example, it's not that the giraffes got long necks by reaching for
high leaves, it's that the giraffes that happened to evolve long necks
happened to get more to eat.

So you see homo sapiens did NOT "claw its way to the top of the food
chain" (and in fact we're not at the top anyway, see that Wikipedia
article too <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_chain>). What happened
took much less effort than that: there was no clawing involved, it's
just that those who could do something like what you're talking about
had a slight advantage over those who couldn't, which they passed
on. E.g., Those who could not kill and eat animals got much less fresh
meat, while those who could passed down whatever accidental mutations
helped them do that - and also taught their offspring the secrets of
how to _use_ these mutations. (This is oversimplifying, true, but it's
nowhere near as oversimple as "clawed their way to the top of the
food chain".)

But that's okay, most high schools don't teach this stuff because the
fundies will get them if they do. Maybe your grades will be good
enough to get into a decent secular college where they'll teach you
this stuff.
--
"You'd better understand that you're alone, a long way from home."
...................................................................
(C) 2005 TheDavid^TM | David, P.O. Box 21403, Louisville, KY 40221
Les Cargill
2005-08-27 15:29:16 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by David
[...]
We didn't claw our way to the top of the food chain by writing thank
you notes.
Are you a Social Darwinist? Look it up if you're not sure what it
means, most people aren't.
God, no. That was intended to be funny, in an
ironic manner.

I maybe shoulda smileyed ? If so, here... :)

I do more or less hold to the "progress" portion of
Social Darwininsm. I also think that lassez faire
is necessary to create a climate of increasing
material wealth.

But I don't hold to the portions that, say, Henry
Ford would have held. Those have been very carefully
dismantled - humans aren't sufficiently diverse
genetically for any of that old time
phrenological horse muffins to hold.
Post by David
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Darwinism>
You might also look up Lamarckianism as well.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamarckianism>
I ask because you seem misinformed about what evolution is is about.
For example, it's not that the giraffes got long necks by reaching for
high leaves, it's that the giraffes that happened to evolve long necks
happened to get more to eat.
You are 100% right. Except there's nothing "social" about the
Darwinism which caused giraffe necks to grow.
Post by David
So you see homo sapiens did NOT "claw its way to the top of the food
chain" (and in fact we're not at the top anyway, see that Wikipedia
article too <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_chain>).
That's a good article.

What happened
Post by David
took much less effort than that: there was no clawing involved, it's
just that those who could do something like what you're talking about
had a slight advantage over those who couldn't, which they passed
on. E.g., Those who could not kill and eat animals got much less fresh
meat, while those who could passed down whatever accidental mutations
helped them do that - and also taught their offspring the secrets of
how to _use_ these mutations. (This is oversimplifying, true, but it's
nowhere near as oversimple as "clawed their way to the top of the
food chain".)
Right. That's a good. synopsis. And Lamarckianism *has*
been a great deal of trouble, principally in it's abuse
towards racial superiority theories.
Post by David
But that's okay, most high schools don't teach this stuff because the
fundies will get them if they do. Maybe your grades will be good
enough to get into a decent secular college where they'll teach you
this stuff.
Interestingly, they didn't much talk about evolution at all
when I was in school. Couple of days in bio class.

--
Les Cargill
r***@telus.net
2005-08-28 04:06:48 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by David
[...]
We didn't claw our way to the top of the food chain by writing thank
you notes.
Are you a Social Darwinist? Look it up if you're not sure what it
means, most people aren't.
Are you familiar with the term, "metaphor"? Look it up if you're not
sure what it means; most people aren't.

-- Roy L
David O'Bedlam
2005-08-29 19:52:21 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by r***@telus.net
Post by David
[...]
We didn't claw our way to the top of the food chain by writing thank
you notes.
Are you a Social Darwinist? Look it up if you're not sure what it
means, most people aren't.
Are you familiar with the term, "metaphor"? Look it up if you're not
sure what it means; most people aren't.
Are you familiar with the term "eat shit and die"? But if you don't feel
like doing anything terminal, I'd suggest you go on the Eat Shit Diet.
It's good for the Earth too, a renewable resource and all.
--
"Some think it's noise, I think it's pretty."
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
(C) 2005 by 'TheDavid^TM' | David, P.O. Box 21403, Louisville, KY 40221
Les Cargill
2005-08-30 02:54:47 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by David O'Bedlam
Post by r***@telus.net
Post by David
[...]
We didn't claw our way to the top of the food chain by writing thank
you notes.
Are you a Social Darwinist? Look it up if you're not sure what it
means, most people aren't.
Are you familiar with the term, "metaphor"? Look it up if you're not
sure what it means; most people aren't.
Are you familiar with the term "eat shit and die"? But if you don't feel
like doing anything terminal, I'd suggest you go on the Eat Shit Diet.
It's good for the Earth too, a renewable resource and all.
David, thanks for playing. Here's our lovely and talented asisstant
to show you your parting gift and the door.

--
Les Cargill
David O'Bedlam
2005-08-30 04:50:03 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by Les Cargill
Post by David O'Bedlam
Are you familiar with the term "eat shit and die"? But if you don't feel
like doing anything terminal, I'd suggest you go on the Eat Shit Diet.
It's good for the Earth too, a renewable resource and all.
David, thanks for playing. Here's our lovely and talented asisstant
to show you your parting gift and the door.
Parting gift my arse. I've been on Usenet since 1994, and now I'm in the
blogosphere too. Perhaps you'd like to claw your way back down the food
chain for convesation at your level?
--
"Some think it's noise, I think it's pretty."
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
(C) 2005 by 'TheDavid^TM' | David, P.O. Box 21403, Louisville, KY 40221
r***@telus.net
2005-08-31 04:55:30 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
On Mon, 29 Aug 2005 21:50:03 -0700, David O'Bedlam
Post by David O'Bedlam
Post by Les Cargill
Post by David O'Bedlam
Are you familiar with the term "eat shit and die"? But if you don't feel
like doing anything terminal, I'd suggest you go on the Eat Shit Diet.
It's good for the Earth too, a renewable resource and all.
David, thanks for playing. Here's our lovely and talented asisstant
to show you your parting gift and the door.
Parting gift my arse. I've been on Usenet since 1994, and now I'm in the
blogosphere too.
Yes, well, it can happen in the best of neighborhoods...
Post by David O'Bedlam
Perhaps you'd like to claw your way back down the food
chain for convesation at your level?
My nominee for Unconscious Self-Reference of the Month.

-- Roy L
Les Cargill
2005-09-01 03:20:35 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by David O'Bedlam
Post by Les Cargill
Post by David O'Bedlam
Are you familiar with the term "eat shit and die"? But if you don't feel
like doing anything terminal, I'd suggest you go on the Eat Shit Diet.
It's good for the Earth too, a renewable resource and all.
David, thanks for playing. Here's our lovely and talented asisstant
to show you your parting gift and the door.
Parting gift my arse. I've been on Usenet since 1994, and now I'm in the
blogosphere too. Perhaps you'd like to claw your way back down the food
chain for convesation at your level?
I do not share your coprophagic tastes, I'm afraid.

--
Les Cargill
Steve Murgaski
2005-08-29 15:56:11 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
The leadership of Coke has definitely been trained to get financial
results. We could even call that a "Selection pressure".
Nah. Not even close. There's no evidence of evolutionary
stability anywhere. The could completely Win, and fail to
reproduce, and thereby fail.
Yes, good. I meant it in a more metaphorical sense, but you're
literally right.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
they're not going to waste their time reading Human Rights Watch
reports on Colombia, either. These investers are serious people,
with real-world concerns: not a bunch of long-haired, pot-smoking,
liberal idealists.
You have got to be kidding. The business class is almost exclusively
populated by people who *used* to be long-haired,
pot-smoking idealists.
Yes. Tell me why.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
What do people expect, anyway: "World peace"?
People who expect productive results do.
Smith's dream. But keep in mind that he was a shit-disturber in his
own day. Believe it or not, there used to be powerful business
interests who used the governments to their own advantage, and who
didn't care if a different system would enrich everyone. In economics
classes those are called the "Mercantalists," which sounds like some
extinct species of monster. Thank God we're safe now, huh? Thank God
we now have the free market.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
if you think the stock prices might go down because some union
organizers in bottling plants in Colombia are getting killed, and
Coke contracts out their bottling to those plants ... well, nothing
in the mainstream culture will make that happen. Do you think the
New York Times will run an expose of this unethical behavior, and
face the certainty of law suits which they would definitely lose?
Because really, Coke *isn't* responsible. They told the owner of
the plant to get results, or they'd contract out to someone else.
They never said to "Kill" anyone!
If you have a reference to a specific incident, and not the General
Orwellian Expose of Colonial Disease ( which is again, old hat ),
then I'd like to see the reference.
I think the law suit against Coke is still going on. It was filed by
the "International Labor Rights Fund" (ILRF), and a steel workers
union, on behalf of some Colombian workers who were kidnapped and
tortured. Coke says they have no control over the bottling plant, and
anyway US law doesn't apply.
http://www.laborrights.org/projects/corporate/coke/
That's from the ILRF site, which looks pretty comprehensive. But
there are lots of others.

It is "Old hat," as you say. Very much so.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
explain why coffee growers get payed $.30/lb for coffee which sells
in the American market for $7/lb? Isn't that strange? Why don't
they get together and demand higher wages?
Really? because they don't actually have title to the land
on which the coffee is grown. Generally.
I think the producers are generally quite small. But suppose you're
right.

There would still be things that workers could do through their
governments, theoretically. That would be in the interest of the
governments as well, because it would help the countries to "Develop,"
if foreign companies had to pay higher wages. But there are good
reasons for not trying any such thing, if you're the president of a
Latin American country. There's the example of Gwatemala vs. United
Fruit, for example. Lots of others.

I have the feeling that you simply must know this, at some level.

Do you know that the average wage in the world is about $2 US/day? I
know that we can do a lot of hand-waving about how capital and
technology make some workers more efficient than others, and
efficiency is rewarded fairly by the free market... but you don't
completely buy all that, do you? When the disparity is so extreme...
and lets say you're making $20/hour, and you know how efficient you
are: are you really helping to produce as much value every 3 minutes
as an average person can produce in a day?
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
I'm arguing that this is a fundamental problem with the system; not
some little anomaly that shows up now and then. Long-term
happyness in the population is bad for anyone who wants to sell
more and more, all the time. Contented people are harder to
manipulate into buying what they don't need.
So who the hell is *contented*? We all get *bored* - why do you
think I'm typing this?
Would it help if I sold you something?

I have a buddha statue that I'm not using.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
What's frightening is to see it all dressed up like a science, and
crammed down people's throats in classrooms. "Efficiency," and all
these other exalted concepts.
They are not exalted at all when you deal with people, as I have,
who are the children of the survivors of the Great Leap
Forward.
China has been through too much to imagine. Mao had some successful
programs too though, I think.

Do you think he was terrible enough to justify sending so much
military aid to Chiang Kai-shek? (Maybe there's no point getting into
it, though.)
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
that people just *are* these consuming machines, and statistics in
labour markets, and holders of "Human capital". A world view
disguised as scientifically revealed truth, is how it often feels.
But how could it have been otherwise?
Consumption doesn't need to be so glorified.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
I know what you are saying - this is often treated as though Wealth
of Nations were Holy Writ. It's not - it's a damn good theory which
has sevred well. But it's *served* us, not the other way 'round.
Yes, it should.
I'm not very smart, really, but I think it has. The arguments
for the ending of the British occupation of India were
primarily economic, against the normative grain.
The Brits were sort of bankrupt, after WW II. The Americans said they
didn't want the old imperial system anymore: they wanted "Open
markets". The US economy had thrived during the war, whereas their
European competitors had been virtually destroyed. So if the
Americans didn't support it, it often didn't happen.

Gandhi helped too, I think. Public support for another war would've
been low, to put it mildly.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
Sometimes we need the precautionary principle. Just because I
can't prove that eating feces would be bad for me doesn't mean that
it would be okay to try it. Same with global warming: we have
wide-spread consensus among the people who've studied it, but the
only way to prove it definitively would be to wait and see. Even
then, we could go on pointing out that the storms and temperature
shift might be coincidental anomalies right up to the end. A
scientist doesn't expect God to come down and put it in writing --
which might be proof, of a sort.
I'm not going to expand scope to this. Sorry.
Just as well. The latest hurricane is depressing me. To think that
mr.-anti-Kyoto-protocol got hiself reelected...
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
In the long-run, yes, it is better if the guys on top innovate.
That is almost never the case.
I expect you're right.
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
The Soviets had some systems that tried to encourage that, but
apparently they weren't as effective as our system of producing
wide-spread anxiety through advertising,
Oh, cute.
Thanks.
Post by Les Cargill
There are no good economic arguments for dictatorship, regardless.
I think Samuel Huntington has argued that the conditions aren't right
for democracy until the economy has been sorted out. He'd be a famous
example, but lots of others have argued it. Often the dictators
themselves, no doubt.
Steve Murgaski
2005-08-29 16:24:45 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by Steve Murgaski
Do you know that the average wage in the world is about $2 US/day?
I know that we can do a lot of hand-waving about how capital and
technology make some workers more efficient than others, and
efficiency is rewarded fairly by the free market... but you don't
completely buy all that, do you? When the disparity is so
extreme... and lets say you're making $20/hour, and you know how
efficient you are: are you really helping to produce as much value
every 3 minutes as an average person can produce in a day?
Sorry: as much value every *6* minutes...
Les Cargill
2005-08-30 02:53:28 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
The leadership of Coke has definitely been trained to get financial
results. We could even call that a "Selection pressure".
Nah. Not even close. There's no evidence of evolutionary
stability anywhere. The could completely Win, and fail to
reproduce, and thereby fail.
Yes, good. I meant it in a more metaphorical sense, but you're
literally right.
I'm familiar with water conflicts with Coke and local
populations. LIterally :) . Coke simply has a demonstrable,
non-traditional/unwritten claim.

But it's such a *HUGE* PR downside that they Have To
Behave Well.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
they're not going to waste their time reading Human Rights Watch
reports on Colombia, either. These investers are serious people,
with real-world concerns: not a bunch of long-haired, pot-smoking,
liberal idealists.
You have got to be kidding. The business class is almost exclusively
populated by people who *used* to be long-haired,
pot-smoking idealists.
Yes. Tell me why.
Altamont? Manson?

I have no idea why, other than to point to a few works of
literature on the subject - Tom Wolfe, HS Thompson, even
Richard Farina. Maybe Pynchon.

Even the guys in "The Big Chill" were inside trading on
the chief radical's IPO.

And finally, there's an excellent "Duckman" which
essentially exposes Zappa's observation that
all the hippies became yuppies after the acid
stopped.
http://www.tv.com/show/165/episode_guide.html&printable=1
Episode 18. ( Csupo was one of those guys who put himself
thru college pirating Zappa in the Eastern Bloc or
something).

Why? Probably because they got tired of playing
commie and decided to commute sides, in a
style worthy of a magnetic polar shift. Or
they decided to afford more expensive drugs.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
What do people expect, anyway: "World peace"?
People who expect productive results do.
Smith's dream. But keep in mind that he was a shit-disturber in his
own day.
Worse. A Scot. Please note my surname :)
Post by Steve Murgaski
Believe it or not, there used to be powerful business
interests who used the governments to their own advantage, and who
didn't care if a different system would enrich everyone. In economics
classes those are called the "Mercantalists," which sounds like some
extinct species of monster. Thank God we're safe now, huh? Thank God
we now have the free market.
You are CORRECT! It's BAAAACK. Really, did it ever leave? Wotta
bunch of illitierate, ignorant pseudohumans, these
neo-Mercantilistas.

BY the same token, we cannot become isolated from the
world. Mistakes will be made, either way.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
if you think the stock prices might go down because some union
organizers in bottling plants in Colombia are getting killed, and
Coke contracts out their bottling to those plants ... well, nothing
in the mainstream culture will make that happen. Do you think the
New York Times will run an expose of this unethical behavior, and
face the certainty of law suits which they would definitely lose?
Because really, Coke *isn't* responsible. They told the owner of
the plant to get results, or they'd contract out to someone else.
They never said to "Kill" anyone!
If you have a reference to a specific incident, and not the General
Orwellian Expose of Colonial Disease ( which is again, old hat ),
then I'd like to see the reference.
I think the law suit against Coke is still going on. It was filed by
the "International Labor Rights Fund" (ILRF), and a steel workers
union, on behalf of some Colombian workers who were kidnapped and
tortured.
Holy crap. This is for real? Wow!
Post by Steve Murgaski
Coke says they have no control over the bottling plant, and
anyway US law doesn't apply.
They're right, most likely.
Post by Steve Murgaski
http://www.laborrights.org/projects/corporate/coke/
That's from the ILRF site, which looks pretty comprehensive. But
there are lots of others.
It is "Old hat," as you say. Very much so.
It's also in Colombia. Go figure. We dunno. MIght even
be tribal, there.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
explain why coffee growers get payed $.30/lb for coffee which sells
in the American market for $7/lb? Isn't that strange? Why don't
they get together and demand higher wages?
Really? because they don't actually have title to the land
on which the coffee is grown. Generally.
I think the producers are generally quite small. But suppose you're
right.
They have no formal title to the land. They cannot raise capital
to improve, to aprticipate in the Industrial Revoluc'ion in
a post-Smith manner. So .... this is from
the work of Hernando DeSoto.
Post by Steve Murgaski
There would still be things that workers could do through their
governments, theoretically. That would be in the interest of the
governments as well, because it would help the countries to "Develop,"
if foreign companies had to pay higher wages. But there are good
reasons for not trying any such thing, if you're the president of a
Latin American country. There's the example of Gwatemala vs. United
Fruit, for example. Lots of others.
It's way more complicateder than that. The *only* person I know
of who has a start on a theory is Hernando DeSoto. Obviously,
the present World bank prgram works... not at all.

It could be that there is no "grain of sand" on which to grow
an economy.
Post by Steve Murgaski
I have the feeling that you simply must know this, at some level.
I do. It's as old as the original Hatian slave
rebellion. It might be as old as Cortez.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Do you know that the average wage in the world is about $2 US/day? I
know that we can do a lot of hand-waving about how capital and
technology make some workers more efficient than others, and
efficiency is rewarded fairly by the free market... but you don't
completely buy all that, do you? When the disparity is so extreme...
and lets say you're making $20/hour, and you know how efficient you
are: are you really helping to produce as much value every 3 minutes
as an average person can produce in a day?
Yes. I can produce that much more. Most of that isn't my
humble superhumanity , it's luck of the draw. But it still
*is*. Compared to pushing a plow behind a mule, I
work at a meta-meta-meta-meta level, and that means
leverege.

Sorry, I refuse to rend my garment in atonement. It's
just a funny ol' world....might be my turn next
week. I can only do what I can do.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
I'm arguing that this is a fundamental problem with the system; not
some little anomaly that shows up now and then. Long-term
happyness in the population is bad for anyone who wants to sell
more and more, all the time. Contented people are harder to
manipulate into buying what they don't need.
So who the hell is *contented*? We all get *bored* - why do you
think I'm typing this?
Would it help if I sold you something?
I have a buddha statue that I'm not using.
That's okay. They're all over the local flea market,
for dang cheap. I'm sure less than shipping.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
What's frightening is to see it all dressed up like a science, and
crammed down people's throats in classrooms. "Efficiency," and all
these other exalted concepts.
They are not exalted at all when you deal with people, as I have,
who are the children of the survivors of the Great Leap
Forward.
China has been through too much to imagine. Mao had some successful
programs too though, I think.
He did, he did. It's really a great drama,
that, but the Leap... *whew*.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Do you think he was terrible enough to justify sending so much
military aid to Chiang Kai-shek? (Maybe there's no point getting into
it, though.)
Yes. I think it was the wrong thing to do, but we could not have
known any better.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
that people just *are* these consuming machines, and statistics in
labour markets, and holders of "Human capital". A world view
disguised as scientifically revealed truth, is how it often feels.
But how could it have been otherwise?
Consumption doesn't need to be so glorified.
Consumption is pretty ... banal. But people like it. The
glorification of consumption is from people trying to
*sell* you something.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
I know what you are saying - this is often treated as though Wealth
of Nations were Holy Writ. It's not - it's a damn good theory which
has sevred well. But it's *served* us, not the other way 'round.
Yes, it should.
I'm not very smart, really, but I think it has. The arguments
for the ending of the British occupation of India were
primarily economic, against the normative grain.
The Brits were sort of bankrupt, after WW II.
YUP! And colonial economic reality being what it is...
Post by Steve Murgaski
The Americans said they
didn't want the old imperial system anymore: they wanted "Open
markets". The US economy had thrived during the war, whereas their
European competitors had been virtually destroyed. So if the
Americans didn't support it, it often didn't happen.
Gandhi helped too, I think. Public support for another war would've
been low, to put it mildly.
Yes, but mainly the Gladstone view of the Empire had faded
in the mountain of evidence accumulated since then. Orwell
helped.
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
Sometimes we need the precautionary principle. Just because I
can't prove that eating feces would be bad for me doesn't mean that
it would be okay to try it. Same with global warming: we have
wide-spread consensus among the people who've studied it, but the
only way to prove it definitively would be to wait and see. Even
then, we could go on pointing out that the storms and temperature
shift might be coincidental anomalies right up to the end. A
scientist doesn't expect God to come down and put it in writing --
which might be proof, of a sort.
I'm not going to expand scope to this. Sorry.
Just as well. The latest hurricane is depressing me. To think that
mr.-anti-Kyoto-protocol got hiself reelected...
Well, sure. I, um, have to agree with him there, too. Sorry.
Maybe some day. Is there a 12-step program for oil addiction?
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
In the long-run, yes, it is better if the guys on top innovate.
That is almost never the case.
I expect you're right.
They mostly can't. A Churchill might, but he has the
occasional Gallipoli for his trouble...

Anybody do a compare/contrast between Gallipoli and the
Adventure in Iraq? :)
Post by Steve Murgaski
Post by Les Cargill
Post by Steve Murgaski
The Soviets had some systems that tried to encourage that, but
apparently they weren't as effective as our system of producing
wide-spread anxiety through advertising,
Oh, cute.
Thanks.
Post by Les Cargill
There are no good economic arguments for dictatorship, regardless.
I think Samuel Huntington has argued that the conditions aren't right
for democracy until the economy has been sorted out.
The economy can't be sorted out until the law works.

Some catch, that Catch-22. We Murkins just think it's falling
off a log. We have no idea how lucky we were...
Post by Steve Murgaski
He'd be a famous
example, but lots of others have argued it. Often the dictators
themselves, no doubt.
There are cases where *only* dictatorship works. *Gulp*. Mainly,
tho, The Law Must Function, regardless of architecture.

--
Les Cargill
Epizoot Wilkins
2015-01-10 01:51:01 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by Steve Murgaski
I was thinking about the sort of people who would make the free market
system work the way it's supposed to. I don't think I'd like that sort
of people much.
In order for competition to be maximized, wouldn't it be best if
everyone hated everyone else? That way we'd have no compunction about
maximizing everything else. But the rule of law would still need to be
enforced, so it would be best if everyone feared the police even more
than they hated everyone around them.
Hatred and fear would also help everyone to consume as much as
possible. It would be perfect for increasing GDP.
I just let my subscription to the Economist lapse. It was too depressing.
j***@gmail.com
2015-02-08 14:32:54 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by Steve Murgaski
I was thinking about the sort of people who would make the free market
system work the way it's supposed to. I don't think I'd like that
sort of people much.
Hey, it isn't so bad.

There are two big problems with free markets. Both could be palliated some.

The first big problem is that people don't know about the long-run bad consequences of their actions, and sometimes they don't care. When nobody knows, there isn't much you can do about it. Except you can do science and stuff and try to find out about potential bad consequences.

Free markets aren't necessarily worse about selling stuff people don't know is bad than other systems are. If you know something is bad and you sell it anyway, you have to figure that eventually your customers will find out. So you have to plan ahead for what you'll do them. The pharmaceutical industry has that problem, after they spend close to a billion dollars on a drug and find out it doesn't work, they can fudge the results and sell it anyway while they keep looking for something better. But they have to keep looking for something better, because not only will the MDs eventually notice that it doesn't work, but also the patents will run out.

The second big problem is that after you have competition for awhile, somebody's going to win the competition. That's where the big money is. In industries where there's high competition there is low profit, and the stock prices languish. But when one big competitor approaches bankruptcy then the other competitors see their stock prices rise because of it, because the stock market gamblers think they will get more profitable.

Customers and suppliers benefit when there is lots of competition, and are hurt when there isn't much. Businesses themselves benefit when there is very little competition.

So if we wanted actual free markets, we would want to establish the custom that whenever a business got too large, it would split into two smaller businesses that would compete. Then instead of becoming a big fat business that could outcompete smaller competitors by bribing the government to drive them under, and threatening suppliers unless they dump a big surcharge on the smaller competitors, and dominating the supply chain etc, a business that was particularly competitive would eventually become 8 or 16 competitive businesses.

And when most businesses voluntarily did that, it would not be a big deal for the government to enforce it on a few holdouts.

So WalMart is our biggest company by revenue. If we had four WalMarts that competed, we would be better off.

Second is Exxon -- if Exxon became two companies each the size of Chevron, wouldn't we be better off?

Third is Chevron. If Exxon and Chevron became 6 companies each the size of Pemex, we could get some competition.

Fourth is Apple. I'm not sure about splitting Apple. They get their income because customers believe in the brand, and if that got diluted they might not do as well. If there were two Apples they might likely produce twice as many new products of comparable quality, and they might likely not overlap functions much more than they already do, but the customers probably wouldn't have as much faith and they might not sell nearly as much.

Fifth is Bershire Hathaway. They obviously should be split, but their investors have faith in one man, and that would be damaged by a split. Also, how much of their income depends on their clout, on the fact that they are so big nobody can go head-to-head with them? Do they lobby the government to do things for them? They talk like they don't, but.... OK, I'm convinced. Do it.

Phillips 66. About 50% bigger than the six that used to be Exxon and Chevron, but about 75% as big as the new companies. Either do it now or wait until the others get split again.

GM. They got their start by buying a lot of auto companies and manipulating them, using the advantages they got from being #1. They used the government to avoid competition until the public got so outraged the government had to let foreign cars in, and they haven't done very well since. It was good for GM but was it good for the country? If they were smaller companies that knew they had to compete, maybe they'd recover.

Ford. We don't have enough domestic auto companies, unless you count the local subsidiaries of the foreign companies. Maybe twice as many guys in top management would let them try twice as many ideas.

GE. They're a conglomerate? Who needs that?

Valero Energy. About the size of the other oil companies. Do we need 9 big oil companies or 18? Let's go for 18!


And then there are banks and other financial organizations....

Any business that's TBTF is too big to be allowed to exist in a free market.

Free markets would work a lot better if we didn't let the winners get so big they can change the rules of the game.
Epizoot Wilkins
2015-02-10 20:13:32 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by j***@gmail.com
I was thinking about the sort of people who would make the free market>
system work the way it's supposed to. I don't think I'd like that>
sort of people much.
Hey, it isn't so bad.
There are two big problems with free markets. Both could be palliated some.
The first big problem is that people don't know about the long-run bad
consequences of their actions, and sometimes they don't care. When
nobody knows, there isn't much you can do about it. Except you can do
science and stuff and try to find out about potential bad consequences.
Free markets aren't necessarily worse about selling stuff people don't
know is bad than other systems are. If you know something is bad and
you sell it anyway, you have to figure that eventually your customers
will find out. So you have to plan ahead for what you'll do them. The
pharmaceutical industry has that problem, after they spend close to a
billion dollars on a drug and find out it doesn't work, they can fudge
the results and sell it anyway while they keep looking for something
better. But they have to keep looking for something better, because not
only will the MDs eventually notice that it doesn't work, but also the
patents will run out.
The second big problem is that after you have competition for awhile,
somebody's going to win the competition. That's where the big money is.
In industries where there's high competition there is low profit, and
the stock prices languish. But when one big competitor approaches
bankruptcy then the other competitors see their stock prices rise
because of it, because the stock market gamblers think they will get
more profitable.
Customers and suppliers benefit when there is lots of competition, and
are hurt when there isn't much. Businesses themselves benefit when
there is very little competition.
So if we wanted actual free markets, we would want to establish the
custom that whenever a business got too large, it would split into two
smaller businesses that would compete. Then instead of becoming a big
fat business that could outcompete smaller competitors by bribing the
government to drive them under, and threatening suppliers unless they
dump a big surcharge on the smaller competitors, and dominating the
supply chain etc, a business that was particularly competitive would
eventually become 8 or 16 competitive businesses.
And when most businesses voluntarily did that, it would not be a big
deal for the government to enforce it on a few holdouts.
So WalMart is our biggest company by revenue. If we had four WalMarts
that competed, we would be better off.
Second is Exxon -- if Exxon became two companies each the size of
Chevron, wouldn't we be better off?
Third is Chevron. If Exxon and Chevron became 6 companies each the size
of Pemex, we could get some competition.
Fourth is Apple. I'm not sure about splitting Apple. They get their
income because customers believe in the brand, and if that got diluted
they might not do as well. If there were two Apples they might likely
produce twice as many new products of comparable quality, and they
might likely not overlap functions much more than they already do, but
the customers probably wouldn't have as much faith and they might not
sell nearly as much.
Fifth is Bershire Hathaway. They obviously should be split, but their
investors have faith in one man, and that would be damaged by a split.
Also, how much of their income depends on their clout, on the fact that
they are so big nobody can go head-to-head with them? Do they lobby the
government to do things for them? They talk like they don't, but....
OK, I'm convinced. Do it.
Phillips 66. About 50% bigger than the six that used to be Exxon and
Chevron, but about 75% as big as the new companies. Either do it now or
wait until the others get split again.
GM. They got their start by buying a lot of auto companies and
manipulating them, using the advantages they got from being #1. They
used the government to avoid competition until the public got so
outraged the government had to let foreign cars in, and they haven't
done very well since. It was good for GM but was it good for the
country? If they were smaller companies that knew they had to compete,
maybe they'd recover.
Ford. We don't have enough domestic auto companies, unless you count
the local subsidiaries of the foreign companies. Maybe twice as many
guys in top management would let them try twice as many ideas.
GE. They're a conglomerate? Who needs that?
Valero Energy. About the size of the other oil companies. Do we need 9
big oil companies or 18? Let's go for 18!
And then there are banks and other financial organizations....
Any business that's TBTF is too big to be allowed to exist in a free market.
Free markets would work a lot better if we didn't let the winners get
so big they can change the rules of the game.
That's an awful lot of typing, Jonah. Even for you.
j***@gmail.com
2015-02-10 23:56:15 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by Epizoot Wilkins
Post by j***@gmail.com
I was thinking about the sort of people who would make the free market>
system work the way it's supposed to. I don't think I'd like that>
sort of people much.
Hey, it isn't so bad.
There are two big problems with free markets. Both could be palliated some.
The first big problem is that people don't know about the long-run bad
consequences of their actions, and sometimes they don't care. When
nobody knows, there isn't much you can do about it. Except you can do
science and stuff and try to find out about potential bad consequences.
Free markets aren't necessarily worse about selling stuff people don't
know is bad than other systems are. If you know something is bad and
you sell it anyway, you have to figure that eventually your customers
will find out. So you have to plan ahead for what you'll do them. The
pharmaceutical industry has that problem, after they spend close to a
billion dollars on a drug and find out it doesn't work, they can fudge
the results and sell it anyway while they keep looking for something
better. But they have to keep looking for something better, because not
only will the MDs eventually notice that it doesn't work, but also the
patents will run out.
The second big problem is that after you have competition for awhile,
somebody's going to win the competition. That's where the big money is.
In industries where there's high competition there is low profit, and
the stock prices languish. But when one big competitor approaches
bankruptcy then the other competitors see their stock prices rise
because of it, because the stock market gamblers think they will get
more profitable.
Customers and suppliers benefit when there is lots of competition, and
are hurt when there isn't much. Businesses themselves benefit when
there is very little competition.
So if we wanted actual free markets, we would want to establish the
custom that whenever a business got too large, it would split into two
smaller businesses that would compete. Then instead of becoming a big
fat business that could outcompete smaller competitors by bribing the
government to drive them under, and threatening suppliers unless they
dump a big surcharge on the smaller competitors, and dominating the
supply chain etc, a business that was particularly competitive would
eventually become 8 or 16 competitive businesses.
And when most businesses voluntarily did that, it would not be a big
deal for the government to enforce it on a few holdouts.
So WalMart is our biggest company by revenue. If we had four WalMarts
that competed, we would be better off.
Second is Exxon -- if Exxon became two companies each the size of
Chevron, wouldn't we be better off?
Third is Chevron. If Exxon and Chevron became 6 companies each the size
of Pemex, we could get some competition.
Fourth is Apple. I'm not sure about splitting Apple. They get their
income because customers believe in the brand, and if that got diluted
they might not do as well. If there were two Apples they might likely
produce twice as many new products of comparable quality, and they
might likely not overlap functions much more than they already do, but
the customers probably wouldn't have as much faith and they might not
sell nearly as much.
Fifth is Bershire Hathaway. They obviously should be split, but their
investors have faith in one man, and that would be damaged by a split.
Also, how much of their income depends on their clout, on the fact that
they are so big nobody can go head-to-head with them? Do they lobby the
government to do things for them? They talk like they don't, but....
OK, I'm convinced. Do it.
Phillips 66. About 50% bigger than the six that used to be Exxon and
Chevron, but about 75% as big as the new companies. Either do it now or
wait until the others get split again.
GM. They got their start by buying a lot of auto companies and
manipulating them, using the advantages they got from being #1. They
used the government to avoid competition until the public got so
outraged the government had to let foreign cars in, and they haven't
done very well since. It was good for GM but was it good for the
country? If they were smaller companies that knew they had to compete,
maybe they'd recover.
Ford. We don't have enough domestic auto companies, unless you count
the local subsidiaries of the foreign companies. Maybe twice as many
guys in top management would let them try twice as many ideas.
GE. They're a conglomerate? Who needs that?
Valero Energy. About the size of the other oil companies. Do we need 9
big oil companies or 18? Let's go for 18!
And then there are banks and other financial organizations....
Any business that's TBTF is too big to be allowed to exist in a free market.
Free markets would work a lot better if we didn't let the winners get
so big they can change the rules of the game.
That's an awful lot of typing, Jonah. Even for you.
No, it isn't. You've probably forgotten.
Epizoot Wilkins
2015-02-11 04:26:06 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by j***@gmail.com
Post by Epizoot Wilkins
Post by j***@gmail.com
I was thinking about the sort of people who would make the free market>
system work the way it's supposed to. I don't think I'd like that>
sort of people much.
Hey, it isn't so bad.
There are two big problems with free markets. Both could be palliated some.
The first big problem is that people don't know about the long-run bad
consequences of their actions, and sometimes they don't care. When
nobody knows, there isn't much you can do about it. Except you can do
science and stuff and try to find out about potential bad consequences.
Free markets aren't necessarily worse about selling stuff people don't
know is bad than other systems are. If you know something is bad and
you sell it anyway, you have to figure that eventually your customers
will find out. So you have to plan ahead for what you'll do them. The
pharmaceutical industry has that problem, after they spend close to a
billion dollars on a drug and find out it doesn't work, they can fudge
the results and sell it anyway while they keep looking for something
better. But they have to keep looking for something better, because not
only will the MDs eventually notice that it doesn't work, but also the
patents will run out.
The second big problem is that after you have competition for awhile,
somebody's going to win the competition. That's where the big money is.
In industries where there's high competition there is low profit, and
the stock prices languish. But when one big competitor approaches
bankruptcy then the other competitors see their stock prices rise
because of it, because the stock market gamblers think they will get
more profitable.
Customers and suppliers benefit when there is lots of competition, and
are hurt when there isn't much. Businesses themselves benefit when
there is very little competition.
So if we wanted actual free markets, we would want to establish the
custom that whenever a business got too large, it would split into two
smaller businesses that would compete. Then instead of becoming a big
fat business that could outcompete smaller competitors by bribing the
government to drive them under, and threatening suppliers unless they
dump a big surcharge on the smaller competitors, and dominating the
supply chain etc, a business that was particularly competitive would
eventually become 8 or 16 competitive businesses.
And when most businesses voluntarily did that, it would not be a big
deal for the government to enforce it on a few holdouts.
So WalMart is our biggest company by revenue. If we had four WalMarts
that competed, we would be better off.
Second is Exxon -- if Exxon became two companies each the size of
Chevron, wouldn't we be better off?
Third is Chevron. If Exxon and Chevron became 6 companies each the size
of Pemex, we could get some competition.
Fourth is Apple. I'm not sure about splitting Apple. They get their
income because customers believe in the brand, and if that got diluted
they might not do as well. If there were two Apples they might likely
produce twice as many new products of comparable quality, and they
might likely not overlap functions much more than they already do, but
the customers probably wouldn't have as much faith and they might not
sell nearly as much.
Fifth is Bershire Hathaway. They obviously should be split, but their
investors have faith in one man, and that would be damaged by a split.
Also, how much of their income depends on their clout, on the fact that
they are so big nobody can go head-to-head with them? Do they lobby the
government to do things for them? They talk like they don't, but....
OK, I'm convinced. Do it.
Phillips 66. About 50% bigger than the six that used to be Exxon and
Chevron, but about 75% as big as the new companies. Either do it now or
wait until the others get split again.
GM. They got their start by buying a lot of auto companies and
manipulating them, using the advantages they got from being #1. They
used the government to avoid competition until the public got so
outraged the government had to let foreign cars in, and they haven't
done very well since. It was good for GM but was it good for the
country? If they were smaller companies that knew they had to compete,
maybe they'd recover.
Ford. We don't have enough domestic auto companies, unless you count
the local subsidiaries of the foreign companies. Maybe twice as many
guys in top management would let them try twice as many ideas.
GE. They're a conglomerate? Who needs that?
Valero Energy. About the size of the other oil companies. Do we need 9
big oil companies or 18? Let's go for 18!
And then there are banks and other financial organizations....
Any business that's TBTF is too big to be allowed to exist in a free market.
Free markets would work a lot better if we didn't let the winners get
so big they can change the rules of the game.
That's an awful lot of typing, Jonah. Even for you.
No, it isn't. You've probably forgotten.
Really, Jonah. Your "body of work" was all just an awful lot of typing.
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