Saturday, September 15, 2007

"Privatized Tyranny"

On his last day of work, Alberto Gonzales, with a straight face, said the following:

"Over the past two and a half years, I have seen tyranny, dishonesty, corruption and depravity of types I never thought possible ... I've seen things I didn't know man was capable of."

And that was just Dick Cheney he was talking about. You should have heard what he said about Bush! Sorry ... I kid. Gonzales did say those words and they hold a lot of truth. But, just not in the way that he intended.


Speaking of tyranny and depravity, check out the great short film, Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein and Alfonso Cuaron (of Children of Men fame). It does a good job of showing how some leaders use the period of collective shock after disasters to ramrod through those policies that they could not get passed in peaceful times. It compares that to shock treatment and to torture and the effect those methods have on the subject.

"Only a crisis, real or perceived, produces real change." -- Milton Friedman


Mr. Friedman was an advocate of using those times to push through free market policies that wouldn't stand a chance of passing during peaceful times. Guess who liked Miltie and his concepts of "privatized tyranny"? Yep - Nixon, Reagan, Bush. Milton Friedman -- the guy who once commented that "there is no poverty in America".

"The free market is socialism for the rich - [free] markets for the poor and state protection for the rich." -- Noam Chomsky

25 comments:

Kvatch said...

Over the past two and a half years, I have seen tyranny, dishonesty, corruption and depravity of types I never thought possible

This is such a, "physician heal thyself," moment!

shrimplate said...

Gonzales, like his old boss, is completely blind to himself. These people have absolutely no insight, no reflection, no self-awareness.

There's no conscience there inside them to reflact upon.

shrimplate said...

"reflect."

Okay, who drank all the coffee before I could get a second cup?!

Laura said...

Wow, that's a disturbing movie. I wish it could be made longer and more detailed. I don't understand the people who think the free market is better than government. Both are institutions run by the people in power, therefore both are subject to corruption. The Free Market people often talk of the market as some entity outside human social interaction. But it's not. It's a concept created by a specific group of people to benefit themselves and exploit everyone else to thier own profit.

Scott said...

Utter. Stupidity.

Where to start? Uh, anything the government buys is not in ANY sense of the word "privatized" regardless of who they buy it from. To call the war in Iraq the most "privatized" war in history is stupidity along the lines of calling the invasion of Iraq liberation.

And while I am not much of a fan of Friedman, claiming that people being allowed to educate their own children some how "makes the lives of millions more precarious" is blatantly retarded.

Seems to me the only ones trying to use shock treatment to push across their half baked ideas is the maker of this little film.

Ooooo the CIA shocks people SO TEH FREE MARKETS ARE EVOL!!!!!!!!!!!!1111111111

Shockingly stupid.

dbackdad said...

Scott said, "To call the war in Iraq the most "privatized" war in history is stupidity" -- You're serious, right? Wow.

Privatization is not just asset transfers. It's also outsourcing (National Council for Public-Private Partnerships)

So, Halliburton and the mercenary thugs in Blackwater USA are just friendly little government agencies?

Free markets aren't evil. But people that elevate them to anything other than the "theoretical, idealized markets" that they are may be. I guess I'm just "stupid" for wanting roads and labor and environmental protections.

Scott said...

Well I’d never refer to any government agency as “friendly”, but yes. Obviously when the government buys something this is not private trade. Private industry is driven by decentralized consumer decisions, not a few people in Washington using extorted money to pay for their own little central planned fantasies. Just in the way State and local governments hiring independent contractors to build roads is not “privatized”. By your own assertion here you would be opposed to the privatization of roads, and yet I’ve never seen you, or even Saint Chomsky, make a claim telling the evils of using private contractors to build them. The reason being the State is the one calling the shots still, the private contractor is under their control because they are the consumer.

Private = decisions by consumers (the people)
Public = decisions by the State (the rulers)

War, by definition, can NEVER be privatized.

Scott said...

Maybe I should amend that by saying wars of aggression are never private. Revolutions can be decentralized in nature, though many times so-called revolutions are nothing more than military coups.

CyberKitten said...

scott said: War, by definition, can NEVER be privatized.

Surely you can have Corporations fighting each other for profit & market share? If there are no States involved you have a 'Private War' do you not?

Scott said...

You mean competition?

I'm not sure under what leap of logic Pepsi trying to out sell Coca-Cola could be comparable to corporate mass murder by the State.

CyberKitten said...

scott asked: You mean competition?

No. I mean armed conflict. It's pretty easy to imagine.

Laura said...

See here's where you lose me, the dichotomy between the state and the free market. IN THEORY the free market is driven by individuals. In reality, it is very much driven by those powerful enough to effect it (i.e. those with enough money to matter to the companies). If this weren't the case, we wouldn't have miles and miles of landscape in the inner city Chicago that have NO grocery stores. There's money to be made there, sure, but not enough for it to matter to the company. So fuck em, they're poor.

No different than our broken government if you ask me. Neither system is truly democratic, neither system is truly just, neither system cares about the people who most need its help. They both need fixing. One is not inherently evil and the other inherently the greatest solution on the planet.

Laura said...

I wanted to add this earlier and couldn't find it.

"Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country." - FDR

Scott said...

No. I mean armed conflict. It's pretty easy to imagine.

Well that doesn't really seem to be comparable to the discusion at hand, but of course the State is the only thing that gives legitimacy to violence and I don't really see any situation where such acts violence would be acceptable to consumers on any level.

IN THEORY the free market is driven by individuals. In reality, it is very much driven by those powerful enough to effect it (i.e. those with enough money to matter to the companies). If this weren't the case, we wouldn't have miles and miles of landscape in the inner city Chicago that have NO grocery stores. There's money to be made there, sure, but not enough for it to matter to the company. So fuck em, they're poor.

But then Chicago is no where near a free market scenario and the wage, price, and quality regulations imposed by local, state and federal governments makes is quite difficult, I'm sure, to do business in low income areas. So where you say there is money to be made, there very well may be, but the question is; are all of those profits eliminated by useless regulation.

Laura said...

I see... so those pesky quality regulations imposed by the state are the problem... So it'd be OK by you to eliminate quality standards in foods and just sell those poor bastards rotten meat and vegetables if that would be a profitable option for the company and shareholders?

There are some things that should not be subject to simple bottom line profits, food quality is one of them. Education and healthcare are others.

In both of our systems - a market influenced by government powers that be and a government influenced by market powers that be - the powerless, poor, and voiceless are always the ones to suffer.

Scott said...

There are some things that should not be subject to simple bottom line profits, food quality is one of them. Education and healthcare are others.

Well that's certainly a fine notion and all, but saying that changes economic law and science no more than saying a child should never die from being hit my a car changes the laws of physics. Fact is, it'd be great if everything in under developed areas was as high quality as it is in developed areas, but passing laws does not create wealth and never will. And most of the laws and regulations we pass actually hamper development rather than aid it.

Besides, most of those so-called quality standards are put in place to protect established businesses rather than protect consumers.

Laura said...

Somehow I don't think the businesses see it that way. Worker safety regulations? Those are expensive for businesses, not protecting them. Limits on the parts per million of rat feces allowed in our food? Expensive for businesses to maintain. Regulations banning the use of lead paint in children's toys?

SOME of the standards are put in place to protect the establishment yes, but mostly because those are the compromised, watered-down versions that corporate lobbyists insist upon rather than the stronger regulations that consumers actually want. If we got rid of the corporate lobby and corporate influence on our government officials, I'll bet you better enviornmental, worker, and consumer safety protections would be enacted in a second.

dbackdad said...

"... but passing laws does not create wealth and never will" - Yeah, but abolishing them sure does. At least for the chosen few (savings and loan scandal, Enron and the California electricity crisis). Deregulation in this country doesn't result in better lives for the common man. It results in more money in the pockets of rich comporations. Trickle-down my ass.

Arguing with you about economics is like wrestling with a textbook by Von Mises. You know free market economics back and forth and arguing with you on the minutiae is pointless. But that's not the point. A true "free market" is an intellectual abstraction and is not in the slightest bit useful in a real world where corporations will not look out for the health of their workers and the environment unless it improves their bottom line.

And the true measure of a successful and happy society is not only "wealth". We have to be about more than that.

Laura said...

Four words I never want to hear in the same sentence again:

Trickle
Down
My
Ass

And I agree... The "free market" is a social institution created by people looking to make money at the expense of others - that's what capitalism is. It is therefore never going to be free from greed and will never exist to benefit the greater good. Social systems that take care of the poor and downtrodden (something that I think Jesus would have been a big fan of no matter what the current Religious Right leaders say) is expensive, and it doesn't mesh well with privitization, corporatization, and profit margins.

You can go back and forth all you want about how the free market is Sooooooo much better than government and still miss the finer point:

Neither our current governmental system NOR the free market in their purest forms is the answer to our social and economic ills.

dbackdad said...

"... trickle-down my ass" -- lol. Reminds me of the time I had some really bad Chinese food. Anyhoo. I digress. A rather unfortunate turn of phrase. Sorry about that.

CyberKitten said...

Maybe Scott can give us a non-theoretical example of where de-regulation actually improved the lives of the people rather than just the bank accounts of the rich & shameless.....

Scott said...

Worker safety regulations? Those are expensive for businesses, not protecting them. Limits on the parts per million of rat feces allowed in our food? Expensive for businesses to maintain. Regulations banning the use of lead paint in children's toys?

Yeah, see that was my point really. All these laws make it more expensive to do business, untill only the rich and big companies can afford to be capitalists. With all our good intentions we've created the environment that made all the big corporations we hate. So we regulate more and the amount of people who can afford to do business gets even smaller.

That was all I was trying to say. Well that and the fact that the person who made this movie is an idiot for claiming the Iraq war had anything to do with free market capitalism.

Maybe Scott can give us a non-theoretical example of where de-regulation actually improved the lives of the people rather than just the bank accounts of the rich & shameless.....

Well the Corn Laws are a pretty famous case. Though maybe more recently the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 is generally considered a pretty solid success story. Though I'm sure you cold find some hard lined anti-capitalists who would tell you different. History is after all open to interpretation.

dbackdad said...

"... until only the rich and big companies can afford to be capitalists" -- This is probably something we agree on. Our current system provides far too many protections for the "corporation", actually treating it as a person. I think if owners and shareholders were personally responsible for what their companies did, we'd see less problems. I've heard Robert Reich talking about this very point.

Laura said...

Wait... so the answer is to deregulate everything and let everyone run their businesses as they see fit even if it means worker injuries and dangerous products?

Isn't that what they have in China right now??

Sorry, I'm not bitin' on that worm.

CyberKitten said...

scott said: Well the Corn Laws are a pretty famous case.

IIRC the Repeal of the Corn Laws (from the English side) caused massive unemployment in the countryside forcing a sizable number of people off the land in order not to starve. This led to a massive influx into the cities which resulted in chronic over-crowding, poverty and squalor...

Though I guess someone made money out of it....