Posts Tagged Jeffrey Tucker
09/19/12 Auburn, Alabama – Cover the kids’ ears! Hide their eyes! Shuffle the weak and frail from the room! A politician running for president has uttered a heresy that brings into question the holy grail of democratic politics. Romney has failed to pretend as if the country is one big happy family that uses our glorious voting system to discover ever better ways of governing ourselves.
Which is to say that Romney made a gaffe.
You know the definition of a political gaffe: inadvertent and unscripted truth. That’s what the supposed scandal of Romney’s off-the-cuff comments amounts to. He told potential donors an unvarnished truth that everyone knows but which is not part of the official civic creed of the land of the free:
“There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president, no matter what… All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what… These are people who pay no income tax.”
The implied model here is that modern democracy is a system that enables mass confiscation of wealth by some from others. And who can doubt it? In older monarchical systems, only a tiny elite was privileged to steal from everyone else, and if they stole too much, people would get angry and overthrow them.
Democracy solved the problem by granting everyone the privilege once reserved to elites. Now we can all steal from each other, and even from ourselves. This way, it is no longer clear who the enemy is. We don’t know whom to blame when things get bad. There is no one to overthrow but ourselves.
And things are indeed getting bad. As income falls, the household budget is ever more squeezed, we are living ever longer, and as the boomers retire, government benefits are soaring on autopilot.
Indeed, the 47% figure might be low. Other estimates put it closer to half. And it is rising. A smaller percentage of household income comes from wages than ever before. Food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, disability benefits, Social Security…Tthis stuff adds up and amounts to dependency.
He also helpfully noted that 47% do not pay income taxes. That doesn’t mean that they don’t pay tax. They are actually heavily taxed at the payroll level — a tax that pays into the very benefits that have made them dependent, a tax that has been more heavily raised under Republicans than Democrats. Everyone is taxed for every dollar earned and on the sale of nearly everything. But of course, neither party wants to talk about those taxes.
Also presumed in Romney’s talk: People vote their economic interest. Again, experience bears this out. If household economics don’t stack up, nothing else works. Politicians have limited time and money and need to get the biggest bang for their buck.
No, this is not writing off half the country, as the partisan pundits are saying. It is the mapping out of an electoral strategy based on the “median voter theorem.” This is the idea that elections are won not by the partisans or extremes on either side, but by the people in the middle. This is the business of politics. It is about finding and appealing to the interests of the median voter.
Shocking? If so, you have never bumped into a campaign consultant at a cocktail party. This is how they all talk and think. Indeed, this is how politics has worked for, oh, 200 or so years, and ever more so since the expansion of the franchise.
In the video, Romney goes on to say that his job is to appeal to the independent 5% who will turn the election in his direction. Notice that this outlook also “writes off” all the people that he already knows will vote for him. He is also giving himself a license to put their interests on the shelf as well, at least in rhetoric.
For this reason, anyone who dedicates himself or herself to getting Romney elected, as a means of protecting personal wealth from confiscation, will be sorely disappointed. Republicans as much as Democrats find ways to take what is yours.
And by the way, Obama thinks the same way. Obama will never convince voters who are already dedicated to Romney, and every single Obama adviser knows this. This is a fight for the remaining 5%. And what’s more, politics is business in another form. It is about giving and getting. Political parties represent interests, not ideas.
But oh, how precious is American political culture! We must not hear these things. We must never be permitted to hear what is true. Instead we have a Victorian sensibility about our civic religion. We sing the national anthem, say the pledge and reflect on 19th-century mythologies about our revered Founders, because, after all, we have the greatest system of government ever conceived, one so wonderful that it should be exported and imposed all over the world.
Or so we tell our youngsters. As adults, we should know the truth. Politics is a means of wealth redistribution. Electoral strategy is a race to the bottom. After all, it is emphatically not the case that Romney’s chosen constituents are free of dependency. Note that he is ramping up his imperial warmonger talk in recent days.
Every day, there is a new enemy that he accuses Obama of not slaying. And it’s not only about the military. It is about our trading partners. He has blasted the Obama administration for being soft on China.
What’s this about? It’s about reassuring his supportive pressure groups that he supports their interests. He will protect the American corporate class against foreign enemies who attempt to bypass the corporate oligarchs by selling cheap stuff to you and me. No, he won’t let that happen. And it is about reassuring the military-industrial complex that its subsidies will continue.
In fact, Romney represents a different class of dependents. Large banks. Financial institutions on the dole. Monied elites who live off cheap credit and infinite liquidity courtesy of the central bank.
Either way, the rest of us get looted. The election is about who controls that margin of loot that remains after the autopilot spending administered by the permanent class of bureaucrats is finished doling out its entitlements left and right.
In a way, I feel sorry for the bourgeoisie gathered in that small room to hear Romney’s talk. He wanted their money — a payment in exchange for his promise to protect their wealth from the grasping hoards. But he still wanted their money. Whether he will actually do this is another matter. And why should they have to pay at all?
There once was this idea called freedom. You keep what you earn. You don’t live off others. You mind your own business. Society works out its own problems without politicians, police, bureaucrats, and power elites running their lives.
Is what both Romney and Obama are doing a corruption of the idea of the political party? Ludwig von Mises, whose book Liberalism (a Laissez Faire Club selection) explains everything you need to know about democracy, says that this is precisely why political parties were founded. “All modern political parties and all modern party ideologies originated as a reaction on the part of special group interests fighting for a privileged status against liberalism.”
The best statement on this topic was framed by Frederic Bastiat: “The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else.” In his book, The Law, Bastiat explains that the purpose of law is precisely to prevent the mutual looting that goes by the name democracy. But once property rights are no longer secure, political elites can plunder with impunity.
That’s why no truly independent minded person can depend on any political machine to protect his or her interests. To keep our liberty and property from their clutches is our job.
- The Truth Behind the Romney “Gaffe” (lfb.org)
- Editorial: Romney’s “47 percent” comment was no gaffe (denverpost.com)
- What Romney’s Big Gaffe Gets Right (thedailybeast.com)
- The Truth Behind the Romney “Gaffe” (businessinsider.com)
- Republican Contempt For The Working Class (themoderatevoice.com)
- Romney’s ‘gaffe’ a plus for him (americanthinker.com)
- Romney’s gaffes highlight faults in US system (telegraph.co.uk)
- Romney’s Remarks Reveal A Fatal Flaw Of Today’s Republican Party (businessinsider.com)
- Not a Gaffe, But the Real Romney (truthdig.com)
- More Mitt Romney Gaffe Goodness! (patheos.com)
Digital technology is reinventing our whole world, in service of you and me. It’s free enterprise on steroids. It’s bypassing the gatekeepers and empowering each of us to invent our own civilization for ourselves, according to our own specifications.
The promise of the future is nothing short of spectacular — provided that those who lack the imagination to see the potential here don’t get their way. Sadly but predictably, some of the biggest barriers to a bright future are capitalists themselves who fear the future.
A good example is the current hysteria over 3-dimensional printing. This technology has moved with incredible speed from the realm of science fiction to the real world, seemingly in a matter of months. You can get such printers today for as low as $400. These printers allow objects to be transported digitally, and literally printed into existence right before your very eyes.
It’s like a miracle! It could change everything we think we know about the transport of physical objects. Rather than sending crates and boats around the world, in the future we will only send lightweight digits. The potential for bypassing monopolies and entrenched interests is spectacular
But here is what Andrew Myers reported in Wired Magazine last week:
Last winter, Thomas Valenty bought a MakerBot — an inexpensive 3-D printer that lets you quickly create plastic objects. His brother had some Imperial Guards from the tabletop game Warhammer, so Valenty decided to design a couple of his own Warhammer-style figurines: a two-legged war mecha and a tank.
He tweaked the designs for a week until he was happy. “I put a lot of work into them,” he says. Then he posted the files for free downloading on Thingiverse, a site that lets you share instructions for printing 3-D objects. Soon other fans were outputting their own copies.
Until the lawyers showed up.
Games Workshop, the UK-based firm that makes Warhammer, noticed Valenty’s work and sent Thingiverse a takedown notice, citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Thingiverse removed the files, and Valenty suddenly became an unwilling combatant in the next digital war: the fight over copying physical objects.
There we have it. The American Chamber of Commerce — the supposed defender of free enterprise — is in a meltdown panic, determined to either crush 3-D printing in its crib or, at least, to make sure it doesn’t grow past its toddler period.
In the 1940s, Joseph Schumpeter said that the capitalists would ultimately destroy capitalism by insisting that their existing profitability models perpetuate themselves in the face of change. He said that the capitalist class would eventually lose its taste for innovation and insist on government rules that brought it to an end, in the interest of protecting business elites.
An example: when music and books starting going digital, there was a outcry. How will authors and musicians survive this onslaught?
The truth is that there was no onslaught. It was a windfall for consumers that turned into the greatest boon for music and literature ever. Today we see how this is working, and not only working but there are more authors and musicians making money today than ever before. My best example: the Laissez Faire Club.
The methods could never have been anticipated in advance. Some give away their content and sell their performances. Some have found interesting new methods of distributing content behind pay walls that are affordable and convenient. Authors are starting to self publish through fantastic numbers of venues.
I’ve been touring museums lately, and I’ve begun to realize something important about the long process of technological improvement. Through our long history of improvement, every upgrade and every shift from old to new inspired panic. The biggest panic typically comes from the producers themselves who resent the way the market process destabilizes their business model.
It was said that the radio would end live performance. No one would learn music anymore. Everything would be performed one time, and recorded for all time, and that would be the end.
Of course that didn’t happen. Then there was another panic when records came out, on the belief that this would destroy radio. Then tapes were next and everyone predicted doom for recorded music since music could be so easily duplicated (“Home Taping is Killing Music”). It was the same with digital music: surely this would be the death of all music!
And think back to the mass ownership of books in the 19th century. Many people predicted that these would destroy new authors because people would just buy books by old authors that were cheap and affordable. New authors would starve and no one would write anymore.
There is a pattern here. Every new technology that becomes profitable causes people to scream about the plight of existing producers. Then it turns out over time that the sector itself thrives as never before but in ways that no one really expected.
The great secret of the market economy is that it embodies a long-run tendency to dissipate profits under existing production and distribution methods. This is how competition works. This is how competition not only inspires improvement but makes it unavoidable. And this is one reason that so many capitalists hate capitalism.
The process goes like this. The new thing comes along and it earns high profits. Then the copycats come along and do the same thing cheaper and better, robbing the first producer of the monopoly status. Profits eventually fall to zero and then something even better has to come along to attract new business, earn new profits, elicit new copycats, and the whole thing starts all over again.
I’ve never understood why leftists complain about profits going to capitalists. In a vibrant market economy, profits are the temporary exception to the rule. They accrue only to the most innovative and efficient firms, the ones that serve the consumer best, and the gains are never permanent. As soon as the company loses its edge, entrepreneurial profit vanishes.
Under free market competition, writes Ludwig von Mises, the trajectory of existing production and distribution models is always to reduce profits to zero. For those who want to hang on to profits, there can be no rest. New and improved must be an everyday experience. There must be a ceaseless striving to serve consumers in ways that are ever more excellent.
This is why business is always running to government for protection. Kill this crazy new technology! Stop these imports! Raise the costs on the competition! Give us a patent so that we can clobber the other guys! Impose antitrust law! Protect me with a copyright! Regulate the newcomers out of existence! Give us a bailout!
Aside from this, there is a public fear of the new. Otherwise, people would not find the self-interested protests of the existing establishment to be persuasive.
Here is a striking fact about the human mind: we have great difficulty imagining solutions that have yet to present themselves. It doesn’t matter how often the market resolves seemingly intractable problems, we still can’t become accustomed to this reality. Our minds think in terms of existing conditions, and then we predict all kinds of doom. We too often fail to consistently expect the unexpected.
This poses a serious problem for the market economy, which is all about the ability of the system to inspire discovery of new ideas and new solutions to prevailing the problems. The problems posed by change are obvious enough; but the solutions are “crowd sourced” and emerge from places, people, and institutions that cannot be seen in advance.
Capitalism is not for wimps who don’t want to improve. If you want guaranteed profits for the few rather than prosperity and abundance for the many, socialism and fascism really are better systems.
The push to stop market progress won’t work in the end, of course. Technology eventually mows down its forces of resistance. The mercantilists can only delay but never finally suppress the human longing for a better life.
- 3D printing’s forthcoming legal morass (wired.co.uk)
- 3-D Printing and copyright (adafruit.com)
- Clever the 3D printing is! Yoda helps explain the latest technology innovation (purestrange.wordpress.com)
- Laissez Faire Books: Making the boutique bookstore successful in the 21stcentury (addressingcausesandeffects.wordpress.com)
- The Bilderberg Group: Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself (econprofessor.wordpress.com)
- “Are you a capitalist?” – social entrepreneurs respond (blogs.ft.com)
- End This Nonsense Now! (lewrockwell.com)
- John Rawls’s Critique of Capitalism (economistsview.typepad.com)
- Contradiction (practicaltheorist.wordpress.com)