red tories, competitive federalism, etc.


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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21 Responses

  1. Avatar North says:

    “I suppose in this regard I’m more of an optimist. I see diminishing resources leading to higher prices, and the self-limiting constraints of those prices forcing innovation or re-imagination of our current systems. ”

    This is so very correct. I saw a poster up one day showing a post apocalyptic world that would come about because one day the consumer will pick up the nozzle at their local gas station and suddenly there will be no gas. The economic illiteracy is hysterical.Report

  2. Avatar Bruce Smith says:

    Blond’s criticism of the Walmart, or similar big-box, business model doesn’t really only on the local monopoly and public goods subsidies argument it also relates to Barge Economics whereby monopolization of capital and globalization ideally seeks to put all manufacturing plant on a barge and tow it around to the country that can deliver the lower costs. This means countries like China that according to a recent US Labor Department report makes extensive use of child and slave labor, has low external costs (ie, high environmental pollution and greenhouse gas contribution to global warming) and deliberately distorts the market (comparative advantage) and breaks trade agreements by deliberately suppressing the value of its currency through government recycling of US dollars back into US government bonds.Report

  3. Avatar Katherine says:

    Wal-Mart is a product of competition and it would disappear as quickly as it has grown if it started to exploit consumers.

    The point is not that Wal-Mart, or most other multinational corporations, exploit their consumers; it’s that they exploit and underpay their employees and are able to greatly affect the actions of government due to their great wealth.

    In addition, one thing people tend to value is independence. When the market is dominated by large, multinational companies, there is less opportunity for economic independence (people running their own business) as opposed to dependence (people working for a large corporation).

    I suppose in this regard I’m more of an optimist. I see diminishing resources leading to higher prices, and the self-limiting constraints of those prices forcing innovation or re-imagination of our current systems.

    You certainly are an optimist. I see it leading to greater use of existing resources, with the resultant decline of preserved natural areas, and eventual rising prices leading to greater wealth concentration in the hands of those who control the resources, and increasing poverty for the rest.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Katherine,E.D. was referring I think to the eco position that one day we’ll wake up and scarce resources like oil will simply be gone. That is just not the case. Diminishing oil will cause the cost of oil to go up long long before it runs out. Oil is used as an energy source primarily because of its’ comparative cheapness. Long before we run out of oil the increasing scarcity will make it no longer of any value as a fuel (too expensive) and it shall be phased out. It’ll be phased out in favor of other fuels, in favor perhaps of less driving, of more compact urbanized communities mayhaps and in favor of mass transit one can hope. We’ve seen concrete signs of these very changes occurring at the peaks of price spikes caused by mere market fluctuations and global politics.

      I don’t like Wal-Mart myself, but then I’m not the demographic they cater to. I have never read an explanation yet, however, of how their exploited workers (or the exploited workers of other large companies) are marched in at gunpoint to be forced to work these jobs. For some reason their employees seem to choose to work there. Nor, for that matter, is Wal-Mart even remotely a monopoly.

      Also, addressing your last post. No seriously it hasn’t? I’m sorry but I’m going to have to protest. Now, certainly there’s much progress to be done yet but are you saying that in South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and even tyrannical old China people were better off starving en masse like they were in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s than they are now laboring in factories and other jobs? I’m sorry but I am not aware of any time in our history when so many human beings were as well off as they are now. Perhaps there’s been backsliding in the middle east or poor poor conflict torn Africa but the Pacific rim countries and Eastern Europe have risen out of grinding poverty and made huge strides in both economy, governance and general well being. Even in the west services and goods are generally cheaper and more available despite stagnant wages.

      Goodness knows that there’s much more to be done. But yes, seriously, the world has gotten better for humanity as a whole. It is perfectly reasonable to decry the problems that markets and liberalism have wrought but to try and ignore the massive advancements that we have made on whole is unfair to those who have worked so hard to achieve so much and savagely unfair to us as a species.Report

      • Avatar Katherine says:

        I was viewing “neoliberalism” as a more narrow term than you are: the economic philosophy of less government, more free trade, privatization, deregulation, and reduction of taxes on the wealthy that took hold during the 1980s-1990s. In much of the developed world median wages and incomes have flatlined; in the third world the effect was much worse, causing declines living standards in Latin America and the post-communist states (in the latter GDP actually declined substantially) and even causing the east Asian countries, which had been doing fairly well, to take a hit.

        If you measure from the nadir of the mid-to-late 1800s when most people worked in sweatshop-style factories and company towns, yes, things have improved, but there were times before the late 1800 when quality of life for a lot of people was better: progress isn’t a straight line.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          That is fair enough Katherine, though I submit that while it jigs and jags up and down the general trend has been upward. Even in Latin America and East Europe. Though I will conceed that Africa may actually have been in general decline. I’m rather neoliberal myself and I would object to strenously to Reganism or cutting taxes on the wealthy being characterized as inherent to neoliberalism.

          Neoliberalism, as far as I have experienced it, mainly runs in line with its’ leftward cousins socially except that unlike the far left neoliberals recognize that there is value in markets, that there is such thing as excessive or counterproductive government (while embracing it’s presence in many more areas than libertarians). We’re hippies too, we just want to make sure the bills get paid.Report

  4. Avatar Katherine says:

    Likewise, capitalization of the poor has occurred under the dread neoliberal regime. Income inequality has increased, but overall standard of living has increased as well, along with a general decrease in cost of goods and services.

    No, it seriously hasn’t. In the Western world, wages haven’t gone up for most of the population but have skyrocketed for the already wealthy; in the developing world (and eastern Europe, and Russia) neoliberal economic changes of the 1980s and 1990s produced a sharp decline in the general economic situation as well as in the standard of living for most of the population. Free trade destroyed the livelihood of farmers (much of America’s illegal immigration problem can, I think, be traced back to NAFTA), forced shrinkage of government raised the costs of necessities such as water and electricity, investment in health and education fell, currency speculation destroyed the economy of whole nations, and even in nations with lucrative natural resources the population lost the ability to benefit from them as they were sold off to multinationals.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      Maybe wages have flattened, and surely there’s a reason for this. But has cost of living generally gone down? How much are groceries now compared to the 1970’s? How much does a computer cost compared to the 1980’s? How much of our paychecks go to necessities?

      Again, it’s not perfect, and certainly I agree that more emphasis should be placed one education and so forth, but the picture is hardly complete when all you focus on is inequality and not overall standards of living.Report

  5. Avatar Bruce Smith says:

    “The overall standard of living has increased” ? 45 million without health insurance, millions unemployed and huge numbers of foreclosures?Report

    • Avatar North says:

      We’re talking about the planet here Bruce. Though I’ll conceed that I was thinking in terms of decades rather than years so it’s possible there’s been a general retreat from the global recession but I don’t think that cyclical fluctuations necessarily would count against my original point.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      How many were without health insurance two decades ago? Five decades ago? A century ago? How many were unemployed or facing foreclosure? How many lived in poverty? That things are not perfect does not mean that things are worse.Report

  6. Avatar Bruce Smith says:

    “Cyclical Fluctuation” is a great euphemism for what recently happened on Wall Street and why! What we should really be interested in are ideas that combine incentive with fairness and both with sustainability. For example, I’ve just read that there is a 7000 square mile dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where nothing can survive. The cause is unregulated use of nitrates. Claiming that the current system delivers well on all three of these objectives I find complacent and there we must agree to differ.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      We’re looking at humanity Bruce. You’re looking at the externalities. The bald simple truth is that humans as a people globally have never enjoyed the quality of life they do in the modern era in terms of starvation, disease and access to more comfortable life styles. (My reference to cyclical fluctuations are an acknowledgement that it bobbles up and down along the upward curve, it is in no way an attempt to excuse the madness of the most recent bust). Now there is no argument that there are not big problems. Neither E.D. nor myself claim that we’ve attained Elysium but one cannot just point in fury at income inequality or ecological damage or parts of the globe still suffering without acknowledging the vast strides we’ve made in lifting people away from lives that were nasty brutal and short and we’re talking world wide here, not just in the US.Report

  7. Avatar Bruce Smith says:

    The complacency I complain about is to perceive that the social and technological systems we have used so far in human survival on this planet should be lauded as a very successful adaption to increased complexity as far as our species is concerned. The “Fairness” to the species we’ve put out of existence, for example, not to mention the human beings killed in wars suggests otherwise. Recent dysfunction statistics for the United States also suggests differently:-

    I don’t buy into the Robert Wright “Nonzero” argument that history has a direction. I just think there is adaption to complexity. Full stop. Our argument is a perception of whether the glass is half full or empty which is getting us nowhere. I prefer to tilt at injustices. Well that’s not entirely true. I prefer to try to resolve problems which I’m sure you do to. That I guess is where the “Incentive” part comes in relationship to “Fairness” and “Sustainability.”Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Fair enough. I merely object to criticisms of markets and liberalism that focus exclusively on their negatives but ignore their benefits. As E.D. says, balance in all things.Report

  8. Avatar Bruce Smith says:

    Perhaps re-reading my last comment I ought to make myself a little clearer. I do not completely subscribe to the notion that an increase in materialism so fervently pursued in the United States is the be-all and end-all of the pursuit of happiness. Sure it has its importance, but usually hidden from thought and discussion is the condition of the human psyche. So what I also subscribe too is the argument made by the Brits, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, in their book “The Spirit Level.” (published in the US December 22nd 2009) :-

    Their argument in a nutshell is that you have to pay attention to both materialism and psyche because inequality has enormous psychosocial effects. Accordingly, in a country with a high level of inequality of income and wealth (because control of wealth is by a few) a large percentage of the population feel “dissed” (disrespected and distressed) and this is not good for their mental well-being by reinforcing stress and low self-esteem which leads on to a whole raft of other problems. It’s no good the wealthy “glibertarians” shouting “get a grip.” It just doesn’t work like that. It works when this elite is encouraged to relax its “grip” on capital!Report

    • Avatar North says:

      It’s an interesting position. Personally I am not libertarian (glib or no) I consider myself more neoliberal but I have a hard time mustering much sympathy that seems based on coddling and encouraging envy in people.Report

  9. Avatar Bruce Smith says:

    It’s nothing to do with coddling, or envy induction, its about the reasonable notion that democracy in human affairs should be introduced to prevent capital unfairly dictating lives.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Okay, well perhaps it’s loosing something in translation then. I’d be curious to hear some examples of capital unfairy dictating lives.Report