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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7870/a-marketplace-to-loathe/

A Marketplace to Loathe

March 4, 2008 by

Imagine my surprise yesterday when I flicked on a kitchen radio with the hope of catching some Mozart to accompany my doing the dishes, only to hear a fey British voice saying the following:

I have one plea. Could you please do what is necessary to restore our faith in the corporations of business, a faith that has been so damaged in recent years? The tall towers that house our corporations are the new palaces of our day, the places where real power resides, but those towers are full of paradoxes. Made of glass, you can’t see inside. They’re pillars of our democracy, but they are run as totalitarian states. Their names are reduced to a set of initials. Their leaders are unknown to those outside. They are accountable, for the most part, to other institutions that sit in similarly anonymous towers. To the average person, they are foreign entities shrouded in mystery. It is no wonder that we look at them with suspicion, touched with envy.

And it goes on like that.  (Read he whole thing here.)  Wow, I thought.  Who is this guy, and how did he get into my radio? Then it hit me.  My radio wasn’t broken.  Nor was it possessed.  It was simply tuned in to the Birmingham public radio station that broadcasts that Marxist business show, Marketplace, a font of state-supported, anti-market propaganda, like the kind that would compare the private sector based on voluntary interaction to a totalitarian state.

Thanks to its commie-of-the-day’s message, I was reminded of Joe Sobran’s point that even the largest corporation has no power over the individual unless the individual grants it, so that the consumer can thumb his nose at General Motors and GM can do nothing but try harder to please him in the future if it wants his business.  But woe be to the citizen who tries to do the same to a government entity–he will eventually be hauled into court to answer for lack of tribute. (My point is empirical.  Any fey British radio commentators reading this who disagree should try it and see what happens.)

To be sure, such socialist soliloquies would be less objectionable if they didn’t depend on conscripted capital to get broadcast.  In that case, Marketplace would have to survive in an actual marketplace, and its economic biases would more likely reflect some evolution in economic thought beyond what was faddish in the 19th century.

Any state-funded media is inconsistent with a free society.  And Marketplace proves it every day.

{ 38 comments }

TLWP Sam March 5, 2008 at 12:38 am

“. . . even the largest corporation has no power over the individual unless the individual grants it . . .”

As far as I know there’s no such thing as monopoly as long as there are competitors and the consumers aren’t forbidden by one competitor to choose another provider. I find it strange that Libertarians would yawn at a worker who complains how terrible his job is and how the boss doesn’t like him. Somehow I could foresee this conservation:

“Oh goodness sake! If you hate your job so much then quit and go find another!”

“But I can’t ‘just find another job’! There aren’t that many jobs I can do and I”ll end up with a similar crummy job with another jerk of a boss. ”

“Well stop yer yakking! Either take the risks associated with finding a decent job with a decent boss or put up with your current job and quit complaining.”

So GM can’t force people overall? No but GM can make rules and standards that people have to abide by if they want to associate with GM.

Perhaps another interesting thought is why some people find ‘changing jobs’ a life-threatening experience? Why do others change jobs like fashionable clothes such that ‘finding another job’ is ‘business as usual’. Similarly, other people have multiple citizenships and shop around for nations to start up their new businesses. The old ‘love our country or leave it’ has no meaning to them since they had no intention of submitting to just one nation. The fact that China is obviously the mover and shaker of the 21st century where the U.S.A. is looking as sturdy as Britian a century ago means a great many people are voting with their feet and the modern global era throws a spanner in the works for the ‘federal government is a watertight monopoly’.

Kevin Carson March 5, 2008 at 1:03 am

GM and other corporations can (and DO!) also act in collusion with the state, to erect market barriers and limit the range of competition.

So in fact what you should be saying is not that the largest corporation “has no power,” but that the largest corporation “WOULD have no power in a free market.”

And since this isn’t a free market, but rather (as Rothbard said) a corporate state that subsidizes the accumulation of capital and the operating expenses of big business, the radio commentator was entirely correct about the power exercised in those corporate towers.

You should figure out what your actual purpose is: defending free market principles as such, or just defending the profits and power of big business under the guise of “free market” principles.

TokyoTom March 5, 2008 at 1:14 am

Christopher, while I agree that it is preferable that the government provide NO financing for “public radio”, in fact government support (largely via the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) for the American Public Media Group (which produces Marketplace) is only about 6 to 7 % annually. http://americanpublicmediagroup.publicradio.org/audits/apmg_audit_2007.pdf. I daresay that they could and should do without it.

But claims of inappropriate government sponsorship for public radio aside, of course there IS a market for radio broadcasts – consumers can just turn the dial! So what are YOU doing listening to public radio, and complaining to US about what you willingly subject yourself to? How about taking responsibility for your own choices?

And then of course there is the matter of what it is that that “fey” (whatever point are you implying here?) “commie-of-the-day” Charles Handy, a founder of the London Business School and a visiting prof. at the private Claremont Graduate University’s Drucker School of Business, has to say. Is his message really that anti-market, commie or socialist?

Austrians certainly have significant concerns about the power of corporations and their growing entanglement with the state.

When Handy decries “bloated executive pay, of backdated stock options and mountainous severance payments” is he not both correct and simply transmitting the thoughts of investors and workers throughout the US about the lack of effective shareholder control over a self-concerned management class – phenomena that Austrians would say are the consequence of the ongoing dance between elites, coroporations and the state?

And while we might think that Handy ihasn’t quite analyzed the issues and dynamics correctly, shouldn’t we understand his perspective – and share his concern – when he says that “these things only reinforce the feeling that the corporations, and those that run them, are more concerned for themselves than for those they are there to serve. … If capitalism does not obviously serve society, the people will vent their anger. Governments will then be forced to put hoops and hurdles around the organizations of business, crippling and frustrating them. That does no one any good.”?

Doesn’t this describe some of what we see with Sarbanes-Oxley, for example – which does benefit bureaucrats, accountants and helps public companies by raising barriers to entry? Isn’t it also what we see when we talk about “sustainability”, pork barrel, the defense establishment and rent-seeking generally?

It’s a puzzle that you don’t show any sympathy to poor Mr. Handy’s concerns, or any interest in making him an ally in the battle against the state (and statist companies).

TT

Dan March 5, 2008 at 2:15 am

Kevin,

When are you going to get past this same, tired argument? Must the authors qualify every statement? Is this a scholarly journal or a blog article?

Yes, Kevin, we don’t live in a free market.
Yes, Kevin, many (if not all) corporations do lobby for and accept handouts.

Oh wait, whats that? Its a Wal-Mart article you haven’t chastised for its lack of “this isn’t a free-market” qualifications. Go chase it Fido! Bye.

Jeremy March 5, 2008 at 2:30 am

When are you going to get past this same, tired argument?

It’s not a tired argument to decry state run media? Or corporation fears?

chris March 5, 2008 at 4:03 am

Kevin is surely right that corporations do threaten liberty to the extent that they are associated with the government. Sure, I can thumb my nose at Archer-Daniels-Midland, or Bechtel, but they would be different entities today if they weren’t so dependent on government contracts and spending. What’s more, it’s easy to argue that the lobbying efforts of the former has significantly driven up the price of foodstuffs today.

But condemning state corporatism wasn’t my point. I was responding to a commentator who, in a blanket fashion, compared corporate America to a totalitarian state, and how commentary like this has become the norm on Marketplace. Sorry if this wasn’t obvious.

Artisan March 5, 2008 at 4:25 am

Amusing, because my German father in law keeps telling me with his finger pointed at the sky : One day, big corporations will have their own armies and wage their own wars!

… and I keep mumbling well it scares me less than State police!

And even though, I admit that here in Germany, some of the finest programs on TV are found on the Statist channels: Phoenix (parliament discussions in full length) and Arte (social documentaries). Still I wouldn’t cry if they were gone… they implie too much of a market distortion.

Miklos Hollender March 5, 2008 at 5:28 am

I think the real reason of such sentiments is that a lot of people confuse agreements with rights.

Basically if we had access to something for a long time, psychologically we start to feel that it’s our right to have access to it. For example if you rent your home for 15 years and then the owner decides not to renew your contract you will feel bad about it. You emotionally grew attached to the place, from an emotional, psychological point of view it feels as if it was yours, and you will feel something that was yours was taken away from you. It’s not rational, but that’s how our emotions work. There aren’t really many ways to fix it – you can try to subdue your feelings with your rational thoughts or perhaps to not allow yourself to be too attached to something that’s not yours. Maybe to even not allow yourself to be too attached to something that’s yours either, as a disaster can destroy that too.

We often feel it’s unfair when a wonderful person dies, even though there isn’t such a right to live forever, but we feel the laws of nature should respect that that person was a nice one, they should be more “fair”. This isn’t economics, this is religion. That’s the very reason religion was invented, that one can find consolation (Christianity ) or learn not be too attached (Buddhism).

Similarly, because we have been always supplied in our life with burgers, radios and cars, we might similarly feel it is our right to be supplied with them, because we grew attached to them.

And when something is perceived as a right, of course we want the provision of it to be transparent etc. – isn’t that what we expect from the judicial system for example?

So the core problem is mistaking something for a right which isn’t a right, which is just a long series of agreements that we grew accustomed to.

Economics can point out why it is wrong but cannot fix it on the mass level – I think only that kind of thinking can fix it that helps cope with attachment and loss i.e. religion.

Miklos Hollender March 5, 2008 at 5:52 am

The most typical anti-Microsoft agreement is that in a business environment you must use Windows+Office because your partners send you a lot of Word and Excel attachments. And asking them to save in RTF or Excel95 which other programs can parse is sort of sounds… cheap and unprofessional.

In other words, buying Microsoft products mean buying prestige. There is no such a thing as a right to prestige. If we want to be regarded as cool, professional, etc. we have to respect the preferences of others and take that into account in our choices. Once again, because we are used to having prestige, we might feel prestige is a right, and paying for prestige is like a tax. But it isn’t.

Miklos Hollender March 5, 2008 at 5:58 am

“No but GM can make rules and standards that people have to abide by if they want to associate with GM.”

Everybody, even the poorest beggar can do that. And indeed, everybody does it.

Of course the costs, including opportunity costs incurred by deciding not to comply are different BECAUSE the value of association is so much higher.

Joseph Huang March 5, 2008 at 6:17 am

microsoft is dependent on copyright law, which would not exist in a free market system.

Keith March 5, 2008 at 6:44 am

Quote from TokyoTom: “Christopher, while I agree that it is preferable that the government provide NO financing for “public radio”, in fact government support (largely via the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) for the American Public Media Group (which produces Marketplace) is only about 6 to 7 % annually.”

And the rapist said “I’ll only stick it in 7%”. Some things are either right or wrong, and the size of the wrong is of little relevance.

Jim B March 5, 2008 at 8:52 am

Mikos – kudos to your first comment – we are accustomed to ‘having’ certain things in our life – we assume them to be rights or privelegdes…when they are gone/taken/lost or no longer available we cry out to someone (usually the state) for help. I don’t think this is attached to one group of society or level of incomes – it’s across the board; some are just heard louder than others as some losses are ‘bigger’.

I think I was reading a book by Wendell Berry he said “our nation does not do pain well”. I think he means we’re a bunch of spoiled brats.

I think he’s right.

JB

Yiwu March 5, 2008 at 9:21 am

microsoft is dependent on copyright law, which would not exist in a free market system.

Good..post

TLWP Sam March 5, 2008 at 9:29 am

So Americans (aw heck and most Western countries too!) are rich spoiled brats who thinks the world should revolved around them and are sooner or later going to get a rude awakening? Another reminder that easy wealth is as dangerous as no wealth? Is it possible that if spoiled brat Western nations have a low birthrate (because rich spoiled brats don’t outgrow their behaviour let alone be responsible parents (assuming they’d want the competition)?) but have a high immigration rate of people who are poor but have a hardworking ethic and are responsible people who make good parents and also understand how the world really works then these nation are going to be just fine (The rich spoilt brat genes will dissipate from the general population)?

TLWP Sam March 5, 2008 at 9:32 am

Actually would some not necessarily codemn big businesses? If they pay lotsa taxes why can’t they try to get their money’s worth and get services in exchange for their payments?

Inquisitor March 5, 2008 at 9:43 am

I agree with Mr Carson.

Sam, I think that is precisely how many corporations reason.

Person March 5, 2008 at 10:01 am

Kevin_Carson is using rhetoric that I believe shoud be classified as misdirection.

Yes, when GM exploits power the GOVERNMENT grants it, I can’t tell it to go away. How this counts as a refutation of the claim in the post, I don’t know. What’s especially damaging for Kevin_Carson’s misdirection is the fact that the radio commentator, in the quote, was complaining about how those evil corporations “operate without oversight”.

Er, yeah, except that when it comes to that evil GM/government combo that Kevin_Carson has graciously decided to remind us of, that relationship has oversight because elected politicians approve it. So the commentator’s speech wasn’t even ambiguous about the government’s involvement — he was specifically referring to the non-governmental aspect of those corporations.

And then of course, I could critique Kevin_Carson’s argument that:

1. Big business is okay in a free market.
2. We’re not in a free market.
3. Therefore, all existing businesses must be profiting through the violation of others’ rights.

I know I’m on a very thin ice with this blog, but I must admit, it’s rather depressing to see that people actually formulate the kinds of howlers Kevin_Carson makes.

fundamentalist March 5, 2008 at 10:12 am

TLWP Sam: “I find it strange that Libertarians would yawn at a worker who complains how terrible his job is and how the boss doesn’t like him.”

How do we know that the worker has a legit complaint? He could be a terrible employee whom the boss is trying to improve. All we know is that the worker is unhappy with his job. He may have legit reasons, or he may not. Who should make the decision as to who is correct? But let’s assume the employee has legit grievances and he has a lousy job. The next question is “compared to what?” Should we compare his job to similar jobs in third world countries, to similar jobs at similar companies, to some abstract ideal? Socialists choose the abstract ideal and then insist that the government enforce that ideal upon the employer. A free marketplace would permit the employer and employee to negotiate and arrive at mutually agreed changes. If they can’t agree, then they don’t have to associate with each other in an employment contract.

The fact that your worker admits that good jobs are hard to find shows that he recognizes that his current job is a good job and better than available alternative jobs. His real complaint is that the marketplace isn’t offering him his ideal job with his existing qualifications. What he really demands is that he get paid what he thinks he is worth at a job doing only what he enjoys doing. But does he have the right to expect that?

TLWP Sam: “No but GM can make rules and standards that people have to abide by if they want to associate with GM.”

I would like to buy a new Corvette for $10,000. I think I deserve it. Why should Corvettes exist just for rich people? But no one is guaranteed that they’ll get everything they want in life just because they want it and think they deserve it. In the same way, no one is guaranteed their ideal job and no one is required to give it to them. Everyone must trade their skills for jobs offered by employers and come to a mutually agreed upon arrangement. The marketplace forces us to grow up and quit thinking like children who demand everything but give nothing in exchange. If I want to “associate” with GM, that is, work for GM, I must have the education, skills and experience that match the jobs GM offers. If I don’t, I must go to school, work, or otherwise obtain the required educations, skills and experience.

What’s the alternative? Having some state bureaucrat force GM to give jobs to unqualified people.

TT: “When Handy decries “bloated executive pay, of backdated stock options and mountainous severance payments” is he not both correct and simply transmitting the thoughts of investors and workers throughout the US about the lack of effective shareholder control over a self-concerned management class – phenomena that Austrians would say are the consequence of the ongoing dance between elites, corporations and the state?”

It’s true that he is channeling the thoughts of a lot of people, but those thoughts are informed by socialist indoctrination. It’s not true that he is correct. Shareholders gave up control of day-to-day operations when they accepted limited liability, so the concern over “lack of effective shareholder control” is a red herring. Shareholders are exercising their legitimate control, which is very limited due to their limited liability. Who has legitimate control over day-to-day operations? Management. Shareholders look to the board members they have elected to hire managers to run the business in the place of the shareholders. Shareholders have surrendered control over day-to-day operations to management through their elected board. So shareholders should have no say in management compensation. That’s the job they have delegated to the board. So who has the right to determine if executive pay is “bloated”, or if backdated stock options is wrong, or that severance payments are too large? Shareholders have delegated that job to the board. If the board thinks those things are OK, who has the right to tell them they’re wrong? I suppose you think some bitter bureaucrat consumed with envy over the pay of executives is better suited than the board members elected by the shareholders?

Any shareholder who wants to control executive pay should sell his shares in corporations and invest in partnerships where he can exercise that control.

TT: “… when he says that “these things only reinforce the feeling that the corporations, and those that run them, are more concerned for themselves than for those they are there to serve. …”

You and Handy seem to assume that the public resents corporations solely for their actions. But most of that resentment comes from socialist propaganda learned in school and the media. But whom are corporations supposed to serve? Aren’t they created to serve the shareholders? Who determines if the management is serving the shareholders? The board. What rights to shareholders have if they disagree with management and the board? They can elect new board members, or sell their shares.

TT: “…If capitalism does not obviously serve society, …”

What a confused way of thinking! Capitalism is a way of organizing society. Socialism is another. Capitalism doesn’t serve society; it is society. Some people within society may not like the capitalist way of organizing society and prefer the socialist organization.

TT “…the people will vent their anger. Governments will then be forced to put hoops and hurdles around the organizations of business, crippling and frustrating them. That does no one any good.”?

People can be angry for legit reasons, or because they have swallowed socialist propaganda and are angry for illegit reasons. We must first determine is people’s grievances are legit or not. Some legit reasons exist for being angry at corporations, especially when they bribe government officials to give them an unfair advantage in the marketplace. But why aren’t those same people angry at government for the same reasons? Because they’re socialists who don’t believe that bureaucrats ever make a mistake, even when they’re bribed.

TT: “Doesn’t this describe some of what we see with Sarbanes-Oxley, for example – which does benefit bureaucrats, accountants and helps public companies by raising barriers to entry?”

Laws have existed for centuries to handle fraud and theft perpetrated by executives at corporations. No more laws were needed. SOX was the typical socialist bureaucrat’s response to problems, which in essence is have government bureaucrats micro-manage businesses. The handful of corporations targeted by SOX was a minute number of the tens of thousands of corporations who maintain honest books. But typical of bitter socialist bureaucrats, they had to collectively punish the tens of thousands of honest corporations along with the dirty dozen.

Even worse, it’s not clear to those who followed cases like Enron that management had done anything wrong. Armies of lawyers and accountants had looks at things Enron did and determined they were legal before the Feds decided the same things were illegal. DA’s convinced juries that Enron’s actions were illegal only by over-simplifying the issues and ignoring a lot of contradictory evidence. Were shareholders well-served by the jury members who knew very little about Enron’s business? Shareholders didn’t get any of their lost money back, but the juries, and later Congress, saddled every business in America with enormously greater accounting and legal costs. Essentially, Congress has determined that it, along with an army of bitter bureaucrats, can look after shareholder interests better than can shareholders and the shareholder-elected board. Government regulation only adds to the costs of doing business, which reduces profits and hurts shareholders while reducing wages at the same time.

TT: “Isn’t it also what we see when we talk about “sustainability”, pork barrel, the defense establishment and rent-seeking generally?”

No, it isn’t. We’ve discussed corporate collusion with government many times on this site. All Austrians find it repulsive, but we have a different solution: limit government, not the free market. If bitter bureaucrats had no power over the economy, no corporate executive would consider bribing them. It’s that simple.

Brent March 5, 2008 at 12:05 pm

“Kevin,

When are you going to get past this same, tired argument? Must the authors qualify every statement? Is this a scholarly journal or a blog article?

Yes, Kevin, we don’t live in a free market.
Yes, Kevin, many (if not all) corporations do lobby for and accept handouts.”

Thanks, Dan. Person’s post is also accurate.

Someone needs to tell Kevin that promoting the utterly false “ideals of communism” is not okay just because we don’t live in a totally free market. The lack of a truly free market is lamentable and this website and blog do more than their fair share promoting such an ideal. Besides, criticizing marxist propaganda for its lies is part of defending the free market.

Brad Spangler March 5, 2008 at 1:13 pm

You folks act like Carson merely points out some obscure bit of trivia, of mere academic and parenthetical concern at best, when he’s actually pointing out where you have some serious blinders on.

None here will defend corporatism as an ideology — yet why do they insist on defending the RESULTS of corporatism? Defending fake “property rights” in stolen property is hardly pro-market. I’m reminded of Mises famous line: “You’re all a bunch of socialists!”

Kevin Carson March 5, 2008 at 2:06 pm

What Brad says. When someone says “Tom is my aunt,” and his defenders say “we can’t expect him to anticipate every little quibble by adding the stipulation ‘except for his testicles,’” I think it’s fair to say they have blinders on.

I don’t think my reaction is any more simplistic or knee-jerk than the kind of repeated, by-the-numbers polemic I keep responding to. When someone hears a commentator critiquing corporate power, and their reflexive response is to deny that it exists because it couldn’t exist in a “free market,” while dismissing the factual issue of whether this really IS a free market as a minor quibble, that strikes me as strong evidence that they have a visceral sympathy with big business interests rather than free market principles as such.

To dismiss someone as a “Marxist” for asserting the existence of corporate power, and then to deny the existence of corporate power on the basis of “free market” principles, with absolutely no regard to whether this is a free market, is an injustice. You have essentially blackened this commentator’s name, while treating all the messy factual details that bear directly on whether their argument really is true or false as not even worth considering. That’s a bit like a prosecutor saying someone would be worthy of the death penalty if they were guilty, but not considering it worth his while to even bother examing the evidence to find out whether the person is in fact guilty.

You are abstracting and assuming away the central point at issue in order to write a by-the-numbers polemic without any facts getting in the way.

In discussions of corporate power, one of the central issues of public debate in our time, the question of state involvement in the economy is not a “minor quibble.” It is the single most salient point involved in assessing the claims. To write a formulaic piece that glosses over that question as a non-issue, and asserts a talking point without any regard to the facts, is a disservice to everyone.

BTW, I might just as easily argue that Chris was guilty of the same kind of “quibbling,” in his critique of that radio commentary, that several of you accuse me of. Did the commentator explicitly *say* that the power exercised in those corporate suites was acquired through competition in a free market? Yet you’re assuming that’s what he meant just because he didn’t add an explicit disclaimer to the effect that “all the corporate power I complain of results from the corporate-state nexus, and the fact that those big businesses are in cahoots with the state.”

In fact we do live in a society where corporations exert significant power, in league with the state. Chris made a blanket denial that they do, and dismissed someone as a “Marxist” for saying otherwise. This is not a minor quibble; it’s an ethical issue.

David Spellman March 5, 2008 at 3:26 pm

“. . . even the largest corporation has no power over the individual unless the individual grants it . . .”

Didn’t you mean to say “unless the government grants it?”

fundamentalist March 5, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Chris: “I was responding to a commentator who, in a blanket fashion, compared corporate America to a totalitarian state, and how commentary like this has become the norm on Marketplace. Sorry if this wasn’t obvious.”

I think most of us got your intention just fine. Carson et.al. want to ride their hobby horses and to do so they have to pretend that you don’t know what you’re talking about. For the uninitiated, Carson is an anarcho-socialist. For socialists, the idea of a corporation is evil on its face, regardless of how individual corporations act, but they won’t be honest and tell you that. The NPR commentator that Chris responded to clearly holds a similar opinion about corporations: they are evil by definition, so even the good they might do is tainted and has evil outcomes. Socialists, such as those on NPR’s Marketplace, pretend that the whole corporate system is rotten because they have found a few have bad ones. They suggest that the bad ones are just the tip of the iceberg. In reality, they hate the concept of corporations. To socialists, Wal-Mart is not evil because it does evil things; it’s evil because it’s a corporation.

The rest of us judge corporations as good or bad by what they do. The concept of a corporation is neither good nor bad; it just is. Corporations are bad when they bribe bitter bureaucrats to pass laws giving them advantages in the marketplace, such as corn-grower Archer Daniels Midland bribing congressmen to require the Federal government subsidize ethanol production. But the vast majority of corporations are good, law-abiding citizens.

Person March 5, 2008 at 4:38 pm

Kevin_Carson: When someone hears a commentator critiquing corporate power, and their reflexive response is to deny that it exists because it couldn’t exist in a “free market,” while dismissing the factual issue of whether this really IS a free market as a minor quibble, that strikes me as strong evidence that they have a visceral sympathy with big business interests rather than free market principles as such.

Okay, and what’s Kevin_Carson’s alternative? Oh, right: to hunt for any evidence of state involvement whatsoever, and, upon finding it, declaring anyone touched by it, via any number of degrees of separation, to be obviously in the wrong, but only if it’s someone he already doesn’t like, and without any attempt to gage the severity of the deviation from the free market by considering the full change in plans people would make.

That’s not better — it’s several times worse.

In discussions of corporate power, one of the central issues of public debate in our time, the question of state involvement in the economy is not a “minor quibble.”

No, but deciding a state intervention’s severity based on how much you like the alleged beneficiary (using static assumptions of course) is definitely a “major laziness”.

Did the commentator explicitly *say* that the power exercised in those corporate suites was acquired through competition in a free market?

You’re not listening. The commentator’s biggest complaint was the LACK OF OVERSIGHT. (emphasis because you ignored this the last time) He was criticizing corporations to the extent that they are *not* involved with government! It could not have been clearer from the context. “But he didn’t explicitly say it” = “But I can’t conclusively prove that statism is bad, so I have to accept it”

To review:

Rational thought process:

“Hey, the government intervened in GM’s favor. Let me see how much this benefited GM.”

Kevin_Carson thought process:

“Hey, the government intervened in GM’s favor. Now, before I find out what this intervention was, let me think: do I like GM? Oh right, I don’t. So obviously, GM owes its entire existence that intervention … er, whatever the hell it was.”

David M March 5, 2008 at 5:18 pm

Wow! And Person once told Kevin thai he is funny when he’s mad! This take the cake…

Person, can you give examples that are grounded in reality to support the post you just made that claims to identify Kevin’s thought process?

I’ll bet that you can’t even come up with one bit of evidence that supports your previous post, which thus means that it was nothing more an unreasoned response to a person whose ideas you neither like nor understand nor are willing to attempt to judge the validity thereof without the cloudy vision of preconcieved prejudice.

On the other hand, if you can produce the evidence, I will gladly retract my prior sentence, with sincere apologies.

Person March 5, 2008 at 5:45 pm

I just did, David_M: I showed how the argument made by the commentator implied that it was GM’s non-government-related aspects that he objected to (note the complaint about “oversight”); Kevin_Carson’s response was to ignore this and cite how the commentator did not EXPLICITLY call out the free market activity of GM as objectionable, with that name, something no commentator would ever do. This is what is called a “motivated belief”. Instead of asking whether the evidence supports or rejects a given hypothesis, he asks whether it FORCES him to reject the hypothesis he has a personal attachment to.

As other examples, see any blog post at mutualist.blogspot.com on so-called “vulgar libertarianism”, and note that his entire response will be to say that “we’re not really in a free market” without any attempt to quantify the impact of the hated interventions or see whether they affect the *specific argument* he is critiquing.

TLWP Sam March 5, 2008 at 7:56 pm

“Laws have existed for centuries to handle fraud and theft perpetrated by executives at corporations”

Such as? If we’re referring to Enron-style events whereby people lost at lot of money on shoddy businesses then where’s the theft? Did any Enron director rob a bank, a convenience store or some guy on the street? Similarly, fraud traditionally hasn’t been a comprehensive law probably due to the notion of the buyer who ‘buys bird seed hoping to grow his own birds’. Or if the buyer used some common sense and actually did some serious research (as one would expect if one was going to hand over large sums of money) and found out the books don’t add up for a business that should be doing legitimate business then they would see through the lies? I heard some people DID do (retrospective?) research on Enron and found that the numbers didn’t add up. If so then had Enron NOT committed fraud because burnt investors obviously did little research and wanted to get rich quick instead? I believe traditional anti-fraud laws didn’t cover events when the loser didn’t do any serious research.

Francisco Torres March 5, 2008 at 9:20 pm

TLWP,
So GM can’t force people overall? No but GM can make rules and standards that people have to abide by if they want to associate with GM.

The same way my mom has rules and standards on how I am supposed to behave at her home, that I have to abide by if I ever want to associate with her.

Alex Peak March 5, 2008 at 9:45 pm

In the name of “anti-capitalism,” Mr. Carson is here defending truly free-market capitalism.

In the name of defending “capitalism,” certain detractors of his thus defend corporate socialism.

I am in full agreement with Mr. Carson when he points out that “what [Mr. Westley] should be saying is not that the largest corporation ‘has no power,’ but that the largest corporation ‘WOULD have no power in a free market.’”

Mr. Dan asks of Mr. Carson, “When are you going to get past this same, tired argument? Must the authors qualify every statement? Is this a scholarly journal or a blog article?”

Obviously, Mr. Dan, this is not a scholarly journal. But does that mean that no one reads this? Certainly not. And as long as we’re writing these things for people to read, and hopefully to convert the so-called “leftists” to stand in defence of free markets, do you not think it would behoove us to point out that the system they take issue with is not actually the free market at all?

Just as you do not tell a conservative “Dude, smoking pot is cool” in an effort to convince them that re-legalisation is a solutuin, likewise you do not tell a “liberal” that our current business establishment is what we want. We want a system based on Justice, and as long as the government is handing out spoils to prefered companies, Justice we have not.

We’re accused so often by the so-called “left” that we’re just weaving apologia for “private tyrannies,” it would be silly for us not to point out that our opposition to subsidies, tariffs, excise taxes, regulations on competing firms, corporate bail-outs, &c. would create a far more just system, a level playing field on which businesses would be forced to compete with one another, thus benefitting workers and consumers alike.

In answer to your question, “Must the authors qualify every statement?” I say it would be foolhardy not to point out the full nature of our position.

And, as you can see Mr. Dan, even Mr. Westley agrees that Mr. Carson is “surely right that corporations do threaten liberty to the extent that they are associated with the government.” As even Mr. Westley agrees, it thus is not unreasonable to say that a small footnote or parenthetical mentioning that we’re not in a free market, or that those corporations who violate the non-aggression axiom are criminals in-as-much as individuals who violate the non-aggression axiom are also criminals.

In short, Mr. Carson’s suggestion is one that makes Mr. Westley’s arguments stronger, and therefore it is not unreasonable for Mr. Carson to make such a suggestion (especially considering that Mr. Westley and all libertarians agree with the content of Mr. Carson’s suggestion). If anything, such inclusion constitutes good marketing for our ideas.

To Mr. Brent I ask, how was Mr. Carson “promoting the…ideals of communism”? Although Mr. Carson calls himself an “anti-capitalist,” he was promoting the finest capitalism has to offer (in the Randian, not the Marxist, sense of the word “capitalism”), i.e. a free-market.

Mr./Ms. fundamentalist writes, “For the uninitiated, Carson is an anarcho-socialist.”

As far as I could ascertain from what limited writings of his I’ve read, he’s an anarcho-”capitalist” who likes to call himself a mutualist. He claims to support the labour theory of value, but in fact supports a subjective theory of value that takes into account subjective predeterminations on the future value of labour in a marketplace.

Of course, I can’t say I’ve read a tremendous amount of his work, and I’m sure he himself may take strong issue with my saying what I’ve said, but this is what currently seems to me to be the case. I’ve seen him cite Rothbard, but have not seen him cite Marx, for example.

I reserve the right to retract any statement concerning Mr. Carson that I’ve made here.

Sincerely yours,
Alex Peak

Alex Peak March 5, 2008 at 9:54 pm

Sorry for the typoes. “Solution” rather than “solutuin,” for example. I also used poor grammar; I said “them” when I should have said “him or her.”

Wow, my ninth paragraph has such attrocious grammar.

I really should re-read these things before hitting ‘submit.’

Yours,
Alex

P.M.Lawrence March 5, 2008 at 11:43 pm

Kevin Carson wrote “…that strikes me as strong evidence that they have a visceral sympathy with big business interests rather than free market principles as such”. Actually, the evidence is also consistent with the power of denial, which seems to me to be a far more common case.

By the way, Kevin Carson doesn’t call himself an anti-capitalist tout simple, but a free market anti-capitalist – he is presenting this apparent contradiction to highlight the deficiencies of definition of today’s “evil thing with a holy name” (as objectors to the League of Nations characterised that). If you allow the Orwellian control of language to impose on you, you cannot wrap your mind around the idea that what is actually going on by the name of private enterprise is not the holy thing but an evil thing, so to speak – a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

fundamentalist March 6, 2008 at 8:11 am

I wrote: “Laws have existed for centuries to handle fraud and theft perpetrated by executives at corporations”

TWLP Sam: “Such as? If we’re referring to Enron-style events whereby people lost at lot of money on shoddy businesses then where’s the theft? Did any Enron director rob a bank, a convenience store or some guy on the street?”

Such as laws against publishing and distributing false financial information. If Enron had published financial information that was false, management should go to jail for fraud. On the other hand, if they were merely guilty of poor decision-making, they should go free. It appears to me that there might have been both involved in the Enron case. Management was publicly declaring the financial soundness of the company right up to its collapse. But there should be no laws to protect investors from their own laziness or poor investment decisions.

TokyoTom March 6, 2008 at 8:15 am

Keith:

“And the rapist said “I’ll only stick it in 7%”. Some things are either right or wrong, and the size of the wrong is of little relevance.”

Come on; both your analogy and conclusion are evidence of a craving to live in a black and white world, when we’re all swimming in a world of gray (except those of us with Kodachrome).

But if I play along, why don’t you tell me that the “private” broadcasters are just as bad – after all, they bought their license for the government, submit to any manner of intrusive government regulations, and bend over backwards to curry favor with government officials?

Shades of gray is what we’re talking about.

TokyoTom March 6, 2008 at 8:38 am

fundamentalist: I appreciate your effort to respond, even as I don’t fully agree with you (and wished you’d properly attribute Handy’s words to him, not me).

But the contrast between your thoughtful response and Chris Westley’s post illustrates one of my chief points – even as what guys like Handy have to say may be way off is important ways, the fact that he is concerned about (but misunderstands) something that also concerns us is AN OPPORTUNITY to engage, discuss and perhaps edify and persuade.

The approach you take is a productive one. Chris’s sturm and drang might feel good, but that’s kinda it, isn’t it?

TT

newson March 6, 2008 at 9:43 am

kevin carson has made the obvious point that corporations try to exert political pressure to shape their environment (along with unions, ngo’s and every other imaginable interest group). i’m sympathetic to some of carson’s analyses, but always find myself wondering what he prescribes for the ailment.

charles handy’s ridiculous assertion that corporations are the “pillars of our democracy”, shows he’s totally sucked into the double or triple bottom-line, where shareholders join non-subscribing third parties in deciding where to spend the former’s money. handy on corporations:
“Profit is secondary to their real purpose, which is to make a difference in the world.”

many consultants/academics like handy have carved out lucrative careers in championing this line of thought, if we are serious about examining conflicts of interest.

interestingly, handy doesn’t mention that without the various asset bubbles created via fiat money and fractional reserve banking (and the volatility that flows therefrom), there would be far less derivative growth, and executive pay would be more closely related to real productivity than asset prices.

people who downplay the internal democracy of corporations should have a good look at the influence that calpers or other institutional shareholders exert over management.

Keith March 6, 2008 at 10:11 am

Quote from TokyoTom: “But if I play along, why don’t you tell me that the “private” broadcasters are just as bad – after all, they bought their license for the government, submit to any manner of intrusive government regulations, and bend over backwards to curry favor with government officials?”

The only reason the broadcaster buys the licence, conforms to the regulations, and curries favor with officials is because they have the power to threaten, coerce and take the liberty of anybody that doesn’t comply. Are the blackmailed guilty and the extortionist innocent?

And please to start talking about the people voting for this, or social contracts, or some other lame democratic rationalization.

TokyoTom March 7, 2008 at 3:08 am

Keith: “Are the blackmailed guilty and the extortionist innocent?”

There you go again with your black and white glasses. Is it always so easy to separate the “blackmailed” from the “extortionists”? We live in a state, for Pete’s sake. Even real crime victims enhance the power of the state by seeking recourse from it.

Those of us who, unlike you, see through a glass dimly, are forced to parse through things. And so even though I made it clear I am not in favor of state funding of broacasters, it is worth noting, when foaming about anti-maket propaganda by broacasters that “depend on conscripted capital” and apparently cannot “survive in an actual marketplace”, that not only educated consumers like Chris choose to listen to them, but that their level of government support is actually quite low.

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