Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Eternal Sunshine of the Glibertarian Mind: an Open Letter to Freshwater Economists

Much of US political history was a kind of de facto libertarianism. Modern libertarians often deny it, and rightly point out that it was not "true" libertarianism (what political system is ever perfectly applied?) but it was very libertarian. It kind of had to be. It was a big country. Travel took a long time. It was impossible to enforce strong federal laws, so they tended to be weak. It led to robber barons, monopolies, weak regulations, corruption, and lack of adequate oversight by people who didn't want to spit in the soup they would be drinking out of.

Sound familiar?

What we know about these past days of no workplace safety rules, no overtime, no minimum wage, no OSHA, no anti-trust, and no child-labor laws is that those days sucked. The vast majority of humans suffered mightily, despite the fact that they worked hard, found ways to increase their own productivity, and in many cases took years off their lives for the enrichment of their bosses. For their trouble they were treated like shit. There was no market punishment for treating workers poorly, only rewards. They stole people's labor and productivity, and no one could do anything to stop them.

Sound familiar?

Government is how we protect ourselves from corporations run wild--cost-shifting negative externalities onto tax payers, polluting and rigging the markets, and daring me to sue in a court they bought. Gutting, laws (using politicians they bought), or passing laughingly weak ones, is now the logical extension of the power of money being called equal to speech, and corporations being called persons. I want no part of that. My ancestors fought in the coal wars, and I'll be damned if I'm going to sit by while I listen to someone who would glibly take us back to the days when people would get so pissed they'd take up arms and literally wage war to stand up for their rights and what they believed in.

"Left wing" market riggers, too,
here behind Mr. Ayn Greenspan
Sound familiar?

You can put a water fountain in the middle of your Freshwater Economics pond and flash pretty lights on it all day, but the greatest quote about this subject is Alan "Ayn Rand Loved Her Some Medicare and Social Security" Greenspan, who famously said:
"Today’s competitive markets, whether we seek to recognise it or not, are driven by an international version of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” that is unredeemably opaque. With notably rare exceptions (2008, for example), the global “invisible hand” has created relatively stable exchange rates, interest rates, prices, and wage rates."
Things are better than they were back in the day of the Battle of Blair Mountain. This is largely because our well-regulated markets have been more efficient than those of the past. I fully support efforts to make our markets more fair and free for everyone. Just check out Dean Baker's free Ebook The End of Loser Liberalism for some examples of the kind of thinking I admire.

Knowing all this history, basic economics, and simple logic, you'd have to be gargantuanly Glib to even say out loud that the markets would behave better if we let them be more free. We just had yet another giant supply-side experiment. It's what they've been conducting on us lab rats since Ronny and the Tricke-down-o-nauts set the charts ablaze some 33 years ago with their number one hit We'll Be Taking Your Productivity Now.

Washington Post
And once again, it has led to income inequality way more severe than Americans think it is, much less where they think it should be. Once again it has led to bubbles, booms and busts, persistently high unemployment, and a lack of investment in public infrastructure that is literally costing us hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of thousands lives every year.

I wonder what Libertarians would do if terrorists were killing as many Americans every year as our deteriorating infrastructure is?

The latest "notably rare exception," the Little Bush Depression, was worse than the last four recessions combined. The loss of public sector workers is unprecedented in a modern recovery, making the misery even worse. A great many people lost their homes, their health, their lives, their cars, their children, all through no fault of their own. All because the right leaning policies put in place since Reagan--unfettered markets coupled with open incentives toward certain favored industries--have done nothing but rig the markets to help redistribute income and wealth upward.

You Freshwater "economists" can put together extremely well debunked, life-destroying policies and call them custard pie all you want, but you're really just deluding yourself. It's a good thing you don't care about the politics of your politics, because you'd be sorely disappointed at your prospects. And it's not because we're all a bunch of dumb ass statists sucking off the giant teat. It's because progressives want to protect a free and fair market economy by setting the ground rules that let management and labor get down to business* instead of bitching and ripping each other off every chance they get.

*If that sounds familiar, see Costco v Walmart, for example.

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