Friday, October 05, 2007

The Religion of Economics: Left and Right

Economics is an activity of individuals, groups, and societies amongst themselves, so as to encompass activities across a wide spectrum of aims. In the modern day the attempt to boil everything down to economics is, however, changing the tenor and tone of ideological outlook for the United States and the world. By wishing to monetize all activities, and demonstrate worth as representing only economic output, other values that an individual puts forth, such as knowledge of a skill or trade and enjoyment in its exercise for its own sake, become relegated to secondary value to the monetized value of something created. Further, creativity to be creative, beyond monetary reward, is also shifted in that way to something that gains value in transaction, but loses the import of the value of thought, insight and hard work that went into it. Money is not the actual root of all evil, but wanting to put money on top of all other activities is such a root of evil: it destroys and denigrates human culture and insight with an aim towards getting simple cash value out of something that may be beyond price to the actual individual that created it. By not recognizing the original value and putting only a trade value upon something, even great works of art become mere commodities to be bought and sold: the creativity and worth that an individual put into its creation is lost in the translation to monetization.

This has been brought up as something of concern in the Republican party as its voter base has given a look, via a poll looking at foreign trade agreements and, as a concomitant to that, 'free trade', at what the values of such foreign trade has been to the US. I have written on that topic elsewhere, and see it as a shift on the belief that foreign trade is an unrestrained 'good thing' for the US. The two major points of outlook for societal and industrial justice are given by two Presidents: Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt. Both of these Presidents saw need, and great need, not only for America to have a self-sustaining economy and to have just compensation for created goods, but they both, particularly Jackson, saw that foreign changes and control over parts of the US economy, in his era banking, would slant not only US domestic policy but US foreign policy. Neither of these men would leave America to the mercies of overseas interests, and each would utilize their powers to ensure that America was self-guiding and sustaining with just recompense between the US and foreign Nations. Jackson would do that by the Bank Veto which would remove a National Bank and its foreign investors who were the majority in that era. Roosevelt would utilize treaties and agreements, but also see that the working man needed the ability to address larger organizations via self-organizing. By 1913 President Wilson would establish a Federal Reserve Bank and by the early 1970's the power of trade unions would rival that of the companies they sought to address and be just as oppressive in their structure as the industrialists they sought to hold accountable.

During the 18th and 19th century economics started to shift from a basis of something done as you go along, and to gain regularized outlooks that attempted to analyze economic activity. One individual who would see the investment in static monetary reserves as something that stultified trade was Adam Smith. This shift towards one of economic efficiency and removing barriers to effect moral based social change due to economic expansion and the birth of what we call Capitalism. Within a century, Karl Marx would shift economic outlook towards pure labor input as work as the only value for a good, and that any value on top of that as a trade value, would lead to 'surplus value' also known as 'profit'. Marxist economic theory would also contain its own social dynamics towards that of creating a worker-based state as the minority extracting 'surplus value' would be at odds with the class of people actually making the goods. That system in which the workers control the means of production and remove the 'surplus value extracting class' is Socialism.

I have previously written on Socialism in The Limits of Socialism, which examines it from a practical standpoint, and in how those that today profess wanting Socialism seem to have forgotten Marx in The Theory and Practice Conundrum. Socialism, however, gained credence in the 19th century as it put forward a widely accepted concept of 'limited room of expansion and resources'. In a world in which there are hard and fast bounds on what can be utilized for production and how much can be discovered, the conception of Socialism is a natural outgrowth. It is an 'end-state' view of economic theory and utilizes that to change social theory to adhere to that view. Capitalism does not recognize such constraints and allows human creativity to step in to find new and different ways to approach production, utilization and resource allocation.While other viewpoints and systems have been seen before and during the utilization of both Capitalism and Socialism, such as the pre-existing Mercantalism and the post-existing Anarcho-Syndicalist concepts, these two views put down by Smith and Marx have served as the basis for 20th century thought and have shifted towards more and more distancing of the economic activity from the society that allows such activity to go on.

It is that third view of economics that is unaddressed by the two-party system today and by modern economic theory, although Adam Smith had deep views on it from his era. Today, however, with the abolition of slavery and the shift to market-based, non-mercantalist economics, this earlier conception of economic activity as an outcome of society is no longer pushed. In abstracting it on the Right side of the political spectrum, to create 'free trade creates freedom' the actual equation of the control of trade by society is reversed: economic activity controls society. That is, strangely enough, the view of Karl Marx. By cutting the constraints of social control over Capitalism, we are now seeing the first shifts towards Marxist views coming from the Capitalist side of things: by implicating that trade and value out to be efficient, with the lowest overhead possible, one does not wind up with efficient Capitalism but with Socialism. By having no social value to work imported by the goods made, and wanting there to be no value based overhead, those that put forward 'free trade' are making an end-state valuation on human activity that is Marxist based. Without the societal values attached to trade, society is then at the mercy of trade.

That is why when Republicans are asked about the value of foreign trade in relationship to the US economy and jobs, we get a 2/3 majority not agreeing that this is a good thing. And as the Republicans have been pushing 'free trade' for nearly three decades as a balm to mankind, and all trade agreements that have bi-partisan buy-in reflecting this, particularly NAFTA, the Republican voter is saying that the US is getting a 'raw deal'. It is not just a question of economic expansion and jobs, but something different beyond that which is being looked at slant-wise: the value of work by the American worker. It is true that as a society the US has a high economic overhead, part of that overhead and, indeed, large part of it, is government regulations. In two of my articles before this, Insurance, assurance and prosperity and When change is not progress, the intrusion of Federal Government and its encroachment upon activities that had been under the sole purview of the individual and the States shifting to the Federal Government have created larger and larger societal overhead that not only costs money, but also devalues the judgment of individuals in favor of that of the government for personal decision making. Such overhead has made it difficult for the most productive people on this planet, the American worker, to actually compete with foreign Nations with lower social overhead and even less valuation upon their Peoples. While 'free trade' may create jobs, the type of jobs being created are those in the non-creative areas called: the service sector. That sector has now surpassed manufacturing as the largest employer of the United States.

That can be expected to some degree, as more goods need servicing due to increasing productivity per person in manufacturing, the service sector is not generally seen as a creative, inventive and prosperity producing area in times past. George Will taking a look at the economic adviser for presidential candidate Barack Obama, Austan Goolsbee, puts forward Goolsbee's view on the service sector as follows:

"Globalization" means free trade and various deregulations that supposedly put downward pressure on American wages because of imports from low-wage countries. Goolsbee, however, says globalization is responsible for "a small fraction" of today's income disparities. He says "60 to 70 percent of the economy faces virtually no international competition." America's 18.5 million government employees have little to fear from free trade; neither do auto mechanics, dentists and many others.

Goolsbee's rough estimate is that technology -- meaning all that the phrase "information economy" denotes -- accounts for more than 80 percent of the increase in earnings disparities, whereas trade accounts for much less than 20 percent. This is something congressional Democrats need to hear from a Democratic economist as they resist trade agreements with South Korea and such minor economic powers as Peru, Panama and Colombia.
This is, perhaps, not something that rings well in the ears of those wanting a relatively low social overhead. Putting forth that 18.5 million Americans in government employment is *good* because they have safe jobs, is not a selling point for 'globalization' or 'free trade'. Just the opposite, in fact, it points out the continuing shift in America's manufacturing base away from Americans and to overseas production facilities, staffed by individuals often in repressive regimes or exploited because their Nation puts little value in human liberty or freedom. Further, the 'information economy' is not something that accounts for absolute widespread prosperity for all, as it inherently targets such things as software and the services economy for economics and trade. While trade may account for only 20% or less of the disparity in incomes in America, the other 80% is not widespread, either. And as 'services' become automated or 'farmed out' to overseas call centers, additional jobs in the US 'services economy' likewise disappear.

And it is in that valuation of trade, and its support of human rights that we cherish in America, that is part of the view that Republican voters have on the unfairness of trade deals: they do not uphold the rights that we hold as fundamental in our overseas activities and all putting forward that trade will create the space for rights to grow have proved false sincethat was first put forward by President Wilson in 1917. Americans, in particular, can judge if the stated goal of an activity, in this case expanding freedom abroad by trade, are in any way in accord with the outcomes that we have seen. President Wilson applied the balm of trade to the Middle East to avoid conflict there in WWI, and we are now there 90 years later with soldiers on the ground having to create peace and teach our values directly by our Citizen Soldiers. Apparently this 'trade creating freedom' business does not work.

It is a lie as given by the evidence we can see with our own eyes today.

Dogma (via
Source: WordNet (r) 1.7


n 1: a religious doctrine that is proclaimed as true without proof [syn: belief, tenet]
2: a doctrine or code of beliefs accepted as authoritative; "he believed all the Marxist dogma"

Those that put forward free trade and the value of 'globalization' are putting forth a dogmatic tract that adheres to economic doctrine. As much as the Right detests Marxist dogmatic adherence to the 'value means of production', so are they, themselves, spouting something that is demonstrably false across the Middle East and in China. Freer trade or, indeed, expanded trade, has not brought forth Western liberal values in either place, and has proven impossible to overcome societal and governmental views against such liberal ideas even when lots of goods get into the hands of people in those places. Even worse, as these goods tend to placate the population in both those regions, they do not come to understand or appreciate the Western value of human liberty and, instead, see it as another authoritarian talking point that the West has no intention of backing.

How do they know that?

We trade with tyrannical and despotic governments that can take the rights of their people away on a whim.

Damned simple. A 2x4 across the head could not be more direct, really.

The Left/Marxist side, by putting forth government control of the economy (in theory by 'the workers' but, somehow, the actual individual workers never get asked about it) has been putting forward its own concept of that control as 'freeing'. That has led to some of the worst repression, starvation and outright disintegration of social systems as has ever been seen before in history. Forced mass migrations by Stalin caused untold hardship and ethnic strife that exists as his legacy today. The farming and 'collective' policy around such did nothing to boost production and, in fact, removed private gardens and small farm holding for local support from the overall mix of social structure. In China the 'great leap forward' wound up with millions impoverished or dead, along with re-education camps that would seek ideological purity. That after coming to power and truly eliminating the opium problem in China: Mao had everyone in the drug trade and their families killed. Today the shift to 'capitalism' in China is that of 'crony capitalism' of the State guided sort which we have come to know under another name: Fascism. The accounts of cities and working conditions inside China and the outright destruction of the social structure to provide cheap labor reads like something out of Dickens than of any 20th century industrial work. Even worse is that the crony capitalist system accumulates a bad debt structure that does not get paid back, every, thus 'inflating the economy' in the short term but trending towards a long term collapse as the bubble is not sustainable. The entire banking system of China under the direction of the government, is corrupt, unwilling to hold favored individuals to any standard and have little or no oversight over those businesses that fail, thus the money sunk into such companies disappears leaving behind unstructured debt.

Today the Leftist dogma is to centralize things, move more into the government sphere and remove it from personal oversight. This will, somehow, work out 'for the better' by centralizing power in the hands of the few.

The Right/Capitalist side, by putting forth that private control is better, sees no harm, at all, in trading with non-free peoples to make a fast buck. For multiple product scares to come *out* of China, the interior system must have serious and systemic flaws, particularly in quality assurance and even such things as 'product safety standards'. They don't have any and on contract work will aim for 'least viable acceptance' to pass off shoddy work or even toxic work as meeting specifications. From Nations with problems of supporting terrorism, like Saudi Arabia, no restrictions on trade or trade goods is put in place because of the one vital resource, oil, that actually flows into a global market to sustain price points. The loss of Saudi oil would be a disaster for the global economy, but the support of the regime and its rich nobles that pay out to terrorists for their own petty views, puts the lives of millions at risk. Requiring accountability of the Saudi banking system is done, but the 'traditional' corruption and bribery make that less than useless: it actually undermines the system by allowing transactions to happen for well-connected individuals. And if you try to hold Saudi Arabia responsible or any of its ruling class, well that threatens world oil markets now, doesn't it? So we have the lovely specter of the US supporting a regime that allows and encourages terror financing and has done so since the mid-1950's. And when 'rogue regimes' like Syria need to do business, they just go through their Rolodex of intermediaries to find the right hook-ups for the things that they can pay for and get through minimal sanctions regimes. The entire chemical weapons and long-range missile systems development all happened with Syria *under sanctions*, which demonstrate just how much trade sanctions do to tyrannical regimes. Not that the US would ever want to hold 'friendly' despots to account for anything, like the regimes of Samoza, Marcos and other such sweeties as the Shah of Iran. And just how much *did* each of those individuals ensure the expansion of liberty and freedom while they were in power? How about terrorist supporting Carlos Menem and his ties to Syria and Iran, which would only cause lack of sleep once nuclear and improved missile technology was in the kitty from the Argentinian side?

I am sure that trade will make everything better for everyone, don't mind the body count along the way.

Say, whatever happened to all that wonderful stuff in the Declaration of Independence? Or our seeing that upholding rights is necessary and that the best government is 'small, limited government'? Well, we have 18.5 million people working FOR government, so that can't be so bad, right? Ensured jobs and all.... and it is those folks, and the elected representatives and Presidents that now want to hand even *more* out via trade and the actual expansion of our ideals by them has been.... well, I am sure they will get around to addressing that once they convince Americans that those ideals aren't so special and, really, we should be just like any other Nation that allows 'free trade' but controls every other aspect of our lives. It makes good money! Can't be that important if we don't look to actually utilize trade to hold such regimes accountable, now, does it? Don't mind the blood at Tienanmen Square we won't hold the regime accountable for that by TRADE now will we?

Even worse is that by making trade the be-all, end-all to diplomacy, and that actually taking a military stance might just jeopardize *trade*... why! Heavens, no! If people actually stand up to assert their rights against a government because the US said it would back them, like the 300,000 dead in the Shia uprising against Saddam Hussein, well, a nice Oil For Food deal might get some flowers to the mass graves if they can be found. Really that trade will make everything A-OK!

Which is why we now have soldiers on the ground setting things right when Woodrow Wilson, George HW Bush and William Clinton just couldn't be bothered to do much of anything.

Yes, I would say that 60% of Republicans have a major gripe with their party on trade. When an agreement like NAFTA has Mexico agreeing to clean up its economic house and not to export its unemployment problem northwards, and then they start printing maps for people wanting to go north into the US against all treaties and laws, well, you know, what part of the word 'patsy' doesn't that fit? Gullible? Chump? Fool? Easy to take advantage of? I'm so glad that NAFTA was bi-partisan in nature, as it shows just how the two parties view America, the treaties she makes as a Nation and holding other accountable for their end of such things.

My guess is that the large percentage of Americans who do not vote feel that they have been victims of the two party system which now exists only to support the dogmatic ideologs within them. Our history is not assured, and we write it as we go, and for democracy to succeed it must have broad acceptance and exercise by the people involved. We put economics ahead of the interests of the Nation and our own founding outlooks only at our collective peril. Apparently fewer and fewer are prepared to accept that democracy is a good thing in its present form in America, and many in the Republican party are seeing some displeasure with the concept that more goods leads to greater liberty. That hasn't happened yet where it has been practiced on non-free societies. Perhaps it is time to change that around so that those that support democracy and the US can get good and substantive trade so long as they are friendly with us and we with them.

You know, our Friends and Allies? The people we should be honoring with our thanks and freedom of access to our market, no matter the size of their Nation. Does anyone remember them? UK, Poland, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan... a long list of coalition partners and Nations that show up by our side again and again to help us? How about those recently free from tyranny that look to the US for help and understanding to make democracy work? Don't they deserve 'free trade' with us, too?

And, perhaps, those that are tyrannical, authoritarian, despotic or just downright don't care should have to pay for access to the works of free people.

And our enemies deserve NOTHING.

That is aligning trade to a Foreign Policy, not Foreign Policy to trade. You don't hear much of the former, but you hear lots of the latter all the time.

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