Monday, October 09, 2006

Redistributing my thoughts on Deep Thought (The inevitable post 'midnight post' revisions have been made)

Deep Thought took me to task recently for my comments on his series on Distributionism, suspecting that I had skimmed his posts and commented on what caught my eye. I did not skim them, but I promised him that I would reread his series and either take myself to task if I had been in error, or better explain my comments on his posts.

Before I get going again, for the record, Deep Thought is on my Blogroll because I look forward to reading his posts, and even on the rare occasions that I disagree with him, such as this, there is still much to be gained from a good disagreement – a focusing and clarifying of your own understanding, that you're hard pressed to get from anywhere else (certainly not from arguing with moonbats!).

I have reviewed Deep Thoughts postings again, and although my evaluation stands, I also reread my posting, and I must confess that I am guilty of not making clear where my criticism of Deep Thought ended, and where that of worse views picked up, leaving the impression that some of my sharper comments were directed at his posts – which they were not intended to be.

My only defense is that my three part posting was originally one posting, and as I turned it on, it took several minutes to post, and seemed hopelessly long for anyone to bother reading. So I did a little quick slicing and dicing, to rearrange the post into three separate posts, and it lost some in the doing.

If brevity is the soul of wit... I must painfully admit that I haven't yet learned the art of being brief.

I did manage to leave in one reference to “As advice, some may see some value in this, but as Economic Policy? However holy the intent, I can’t see any ultimate destination for these good intentions, other than a new Utopian hell on earth” – but even with that in consideration (you know I'm in trouble if that was an example of calmness and courtesy), I didn’t adequately point out that Deep Thought explicitly denounced using Governmental force to bring about any portion of Distributionism. It was a case of my rushing on to the rest of the post, and not comparing what I had in my head, and what I had on the ‘paper’.
For that, I apologize to Deep Thought.

However, my objections to the implications of Distributionism are real, to what I see would soon be sneaking in through the sidelines and back door, if it were made an official economic policy.

Again, the fact that Deep Thought explicitly states his opposition to state redistribution, interference, etc and for objecting to such for the right reasons, to my mind, absolves him of any and all of the darker implications which I think would have to result from Distributionism being implemented. And again, it is mostly towards the implications I see as being inherent in Distributionism, rather than any direct intent of Deep Thought's posting, that most of my comments are directed towards.

Part of the reason I see trouble coming in through the back door, are the tools that Deep Thought see’s as being used as incentives for Distributionism.

- Tax credits & Gov sponsored job training. For a State to have enough largess in their tax base to spare on social engineering (tax breaks) implies Income Tax, which to my mind is one of the big three (Income Tax, Federal Reserve System, Welfare & regulatory systems) physical realities behind all that has fallen in our nation today.

- “Microloans to such organizations could be subsidized by government agencies” is just a cloaked method of socialist redistributionism.

- “I was surprised when Fr. Neuhaus, whom I normally find to have a very informed opinion, dismisses Distributionism as not having anything to which to attach policies or platforms in the political arena. America has; a Small Business Administration that promotes small business; farm co-ops, credit unions, consumer co-ops, and business co-ops like ACE hardware on almost every corner; a history where the Grange movement held strong, if brief, political influence over national politics; a growing concern over the impact of large enterprises like Wal-Mart and Microsoft of the well-being of the average person; and a rather large (and growing) government job training program.” Which I take to mean that having a Small Business Administration, government sponsored jobs training and a growing concern over a growing Wal-Mart, are signs of optimism and hopeful solutions in the making; but I emphatically believe that these are not part of a solution, they are instead part of the problem! Anytime that Government steps out of its role of ensuring that rights are not infringed, upholding law and order, and defending the interests of the Nation, moral and physical disaster is in the making.

I also have my doubts about a wider scope being attributed to an economic policy, than is proper to its function. The Goal of Economics is not happiness, but production; it is philosophy and ethics that point towards happiness. Economics should of course be compatible with, even complimentary to the goals of philosophy - which as Aristotle says, is happiness – but Happiness is not the goal of Economics, producing, distributing and managing wealth, is the goal of Economics. “Their goal is to create a community where the members avoid the excesses of materialism”, but I think that the only defense against materialism is an education which better teaches what is truly valuable in life, and that again is the job of philosophy, not of economics.

Some other points of concern are:
- “Deal as directly as possible with the producer/end user” … is of course a wise policy when it saves time and effort to do so, but there are many middlemen that do give significant savings in time and effort, and so are worthwhile. Super markets are an excellent example of middlemen being valuable services provided to consumers. Most Mom & Pop stores are not. Wal-Mart is a time saver, visiting all the mom & Pop stores you would need to in order to quickly pickup the products that can be found at a single Wal-Mart, would be a massive time waster, and the expense would more than likely be higher.

In fairness, Deep Thought does say that if middlemen are adding value, then use them – my reaction may be more to an overall tone I perceive (especially concerning expanding corporations and Wal-Mart) which makes me rise to imaginary bait, than a direct quote by Deep Thought on this. I see Corporate consolidation as usually being a good thing; the reason it is done is to increase productive efficiency and profits; and if it is done poorly, it too will collapse or be broken up, so that eventually the frozen productivity that had been locked up in inefficiency and waste, can be thawed & released from its parts once again, back into the wider economy.

- “All men have a right to private property, just compensation for their goods and labor, and to enter into business agreements of their own free will” Unfortunately I do not see that this will protect property rights and ensure fairness, but instead only serve as a mandate for those people in power, to demand that their constituency have property, then some property, then some minimum amount of property, then an increased amount of property - and agitate to get government programs established to distribute it. Property Rights are not to be violated, but they aren’t to be awarded either, they flow from the nature of being human, they are not bestowed or granted.

- “, a man who produces goods or commodities must be paid a just amount for those items.” No, he must be paid what someone is willing to spend and which he is willing to accept – nothing more. More means waste, regulations, and agencies and bureaucratic regulatory law.

-Deep Thought makes a reference to “Wage Slavery”, and that is a term that just gets my hackles up. It has its most common origins as a Marxist concept, intended to obscure the fact that the employer/employee relationship is freely kept and for mutual benefit. A so called “living Wage” cannot be the goal of a business. A desirable product at the most appropriate cost is all that can be expected. If the people working at such jobs need more, they must find other sources of income, or put another way, if they are only able to produce ¾ of what they need as income from their job, then they need to seek the remaining ¼ elsewhere and probably should be looking for ways – new skills, education, to make possible a change of their main productive skill.

Deep Thought supports the creation of Guilds, he raises most of the objections I would raise at such organizations, but I don’t see that they are as easily solved and dismissed as he thinks possible. One key concern of mine, is that If the workers of Guilds are allowed to set prices, that means that prices will be artificially high, such as Detroit's automakers were in the 70’s, and then soon some one, such as Japan, will come along and see that costs are indeed too high, and they will take that opportunity to do better work for less cost, and once that happens those workers and Guilds are going to be seen as Fat fast, and then cut off ASAP.

Another concern is that if the Guilds are allowed to set prices for their members, they derive defacto governmental power, making them more equivalent to Unions, and that type of group power being used to make decisions ‘for the good’ of its members – no matter what they might feel is fair and proper, I think must lead to eventual corruption.

And while I’m at it regarding Union’s - whatever their motive, the worker who endorses old style Union thugery & blackmail to boost his wages and benefits for skills that any experienced teen could perform with minimal instruction, gets no sympathy from me at all when he inevitably finds himself laid off. If he spends his dishonestly acquired ‘generous’ time off doing something such as hunting instead of improving his productive range of skills, he gets what he deserves when the auto plant collapses due in large part to his Union thugs demands.

Regarding Usary, Deep Thought allows that
- “A lender may charge reasonable fees for a loan or for exchanging money. A lender may charge a reasonable penalty for a late payment”, but my obvious question is, as determined by who? Of course you should shop around for the lowest rate, assuming you have the time and credit score to make such a possible lower rate seem attainable. But such rates should not be determined by anyone other than the parties involved, otherwise it is wasteful and unfair and unjust to all parties involved.

With Distributionism, Deep Thought notes that some,
- “…argue that interest rates should be extremely low (on the order of 1-2% at most) and, especially for home loans, others argue that no interest is acceptable at all, only fees.” , to which I again have to ask how is anyone, other than the lender, to determine that?! Is some regulator seriously in a position to tell someone who is putting their capital at risk in a loan, that they have determined what its worth for the lender to make the risk? I can just picture it 'We have thoroughly examined all situations you lenders may find yourself in, and feel you are safe and secure at this rate. Lend everything you've got. Now. Doan worry aboud dit'.

Again though, for the most part Deep Thought promotes Distributionism as more of an ethical practice, which if emulated (aside from the concerns above) would be for the most part a positive step, certainly an improvement over the state of our current mixed economy. As an ethical practice willingly subscribed to, its adherents are free to practice it and with my blessing, may it help ease the sharp edges of life lived in freedom.

I would just note that it is difficult to ease those sharp edges without changing their shape and damaging the overall integrity of the structure. Sharp edges may be just as necessary, as are disappointments and occasional punishments, are important parts in learning to improve yourself through the school of hard knocks. A last note along those lines:

- “Laissez-faire Capitalism is an argument that “Selfish, unjust actions lead to altruistic, just results… eventually.” This is typical of conservative views, which I think undermines us in so many ways. Being able to do what you see fit because it is right to be able to – that will produce the most wealth and value in the end, but that is a non-essential side effect, and ignores the fact that it will inevitably bring disappointment and ruin to many people as well. It is that ignored last part, which those demagogues lurking out there, looking for an in, will inevitably use in an attempt to cast the first part as 'an unmet promise', a tool, to put governmental power into their hands to “do good’.

- “…It goes on to point to the continued failings of unfettered Capitalism and the need to always remember the inherent worth of the individual and the need for solidarity.” What failures are they? When? Deep Thoughts own postings illustrate the immense success of capitalism and the unprecedented benefits to all the world resulting from it – the so called failures of capitalism, come from non-capitalist measures mixing in improper features, economic regulation chief among them.

There is, admittedly, a harshness associated with capitalism, a harshness which I am in the process of experiencing a taste of it myself at the moment – our CIO has been sacked, our projects restructured, and I’ve got to learn and become proficient in a new programming language lickety-split, or I’ll be out the door as well.

It is harsh, life is harsh – Black & White is harsh and it is only through the painfully slow process of earning and saving your wealth that we are able to soften the edges a bit and provide some cushion and comfort for ourselves. As I see it, any attempt at artificially creating that cushioning through the power of governments ability to rob Peter to pay for collective Paul, or even worse, to force Peter or Paul to act against what their own judgment tells them they should do - will be doing no one any favors in the end. If we want our Ends to be Just, our means must be Just, anything else is necessarily using the Ends to justify the Means, and that will most certainly be a bitter end for all.

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