Sunday, May 23, 2010

Another Clumsy Attack On Income Redistribution Policies

This time it was in today's Washington Post Outlook section, although, well, it was a column by the president of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur G. Brooks, "The New Culture War." This is supposed to be between "statism" and the "free enterprise system," the now-favored term by libertarians over "capitalism" as the latter is not popular among young people, but the former is. Brooks cited a poll showing that 70% of Americans approve of "the free enterprise system" and only 30% believe we would be better off "without free markets at the core of our sysytem."

OK, fine, this is believable. But then Brooks somehow decides that this 70% also believes that "free enterprise brings happiness; redistribution does not," and "that it is 30% coalition, not the 70% majority, that is fundamentally materialistic." Brooks gives no ground for any program at all in any form, whether food stamps, or social security, or medicare, or progressive income taxation, or whatever. They are all bad and not supported by the free-enterprise-loving majority. I guess this would include all those tea partiers who were opposed to Obama's "socialistic" health care reform because it might damage their free market medicare.


Anonymous said...

Once again, these propertarians are NOT libertarians!

The term "libertarian" was first used by anti-capitalists, by anarchists, in 1858. It was only stolen by the American right 100 years later:

150 years of libertarian

Anyone familiar with the history of the term libertarian would soon discover that capitalism is not popular with its adherents!

The propertarians may wish to appropriate the word "libertarian" to describe their authoritarian ideology, but there is no reason why the left should aim them in this!

An Anarchist FAQ

Shag from Brookline said...

Propertarians probably did not contest CJ Taney's Dred Scott decision. Post-13th-14th-15th Amendments, perhaps today's libertarians reluctantly accept that humans of any race are not property, which brings us to Dr. A. Rand Paul. Ross Douthat's OpEd in today's (5/24/10) NYTimes addresses Paul and libertarians in general.

By the way, each time I come to this Blog, I chuckle at its description "Annals of the Economically Incorrect" the initials of which are the same as those of the American Enterprise Institute to which "Annals" might apply with the elimination of one "n." said...

For what it is worth, Brooks never uses the term "libertarian" and has never claimed to be one to the best of my knowledge. So, I may have been overboard in applying the term in this case, although there are certainly some current libertarians (not all) who oppose any sort of government involvement in income redistribution at all.

I would note that the matter of worrying about marketing and the use of the terms "capitalism" versus "free market enterprise system," or variations thereon, has appeared recently on Coordination Problem, the successor to the Austrian Economists. I should probably go get the link to it. Most of the posters there claim to be libertarians. said...

For those curious to chow down on the Austrians fulminating over the word, "capitalism," see One of the worries of some there (including Steve Horwitz, the original poster) is that "capitalism" has come to be identified with "corporatism" in the minds of vulnerable youth.

TheTrucker said...

The problem in "capitalism" is the incorrect assertion that money is "capital". There is also the aggregation of natural resources under the umbrella of "capital" as is necessary to the support of the neoclassical production function and the stupidity of "trickle down" econ. Regarding "capital" as it is defined in classical economics and then recognizing gold as a commodity serving as a store of value seems to clarify the issue. If capital is truly machinery and knowledge, then "capitalism" (private ownership of capital) has much fewer flaws. Anyone can CREATE capital through labor given fair and just access to nature and to a system of credit.

The problem arises when political power enforces un-natural rules upon the control of land and money. In a republican form of government the trick is to constantly defraud the populous using neoclassical garbage and lots of magical "calculus". Most voters never enter a university and only a few of these become familiar with calculus. To many of _US_ calculus is like one of those rattles in the hands of a witch doctor. Last fall I said to myself that I would, over the winter, turn my outside activities into time to learn either calculus or Spanish. I did neither. I played a lot of poker tournaments instead. Just call me Mr. Worthless.

But I have seen an increase in the amount of articles and such combating neoclassical stupidity. "We The People" need more of this to be sure.

As for my own efforts I have been pointing out the fact that _ALL_ insurance systems are (according to right wing definitions) socialist institutions. Car insurance, home, insurance, barn insurance, no matter. In each system the people pay premiums and when disaster strikes the premium paying community picks up the tab. FICA "taxes" are insurance premiums and all who pay will get their money back plus a lot more. Trying to build a "model" to illustrate this is a lost cause. The voters will not understand such stuff anyway.

BadTux said...

Iain - words change meaning over the years. You ranting about how propertarians are not libertarians is like me ranting that hackers are excellent computer programmers rather than criminal intruders into computer systems... the word has been hijacked by both the media and by the people to whom the word now applies, and has taken on that new meaning. It is amusing to listen to Richard Stallman rant that it should be called "GNU-Linux" rather than "Linux", but useless.

Regarding the word "capitalism", I am amused by the fact that the right-wing propertarians did their best to change the meaning of the word "capitalism" to mean "corporatism" in order to hide their agenda, and now that the general public has figured out that when the right wing uses the word "capitalism" they really mean "corporatism", their response is to look for yet *another* term to hijack in order to further their corporatist agenda. "Free enterprise" is not the same thing as "capitalism" is not the same thing as "corporatism" (though capitalism certainly implies the existence of corporations -- the whole point is to mobilize capital such that current investment to create future production can be paid for via the income produced by that future production, rather than requiring current income sufficient to make the investment, and corporations are one of the more obvious mechanisms to do this). You can have free enterprise without having money or indeed any token of exchange -- a barter economy where the denizens of a village meet in the village square every Saturday to barter their goods is free enterprise, without any of that "capitalism" stuff involved.

So anyhow, this isn't a new attempt on corporatists' part. Hiding their agenda by subverting some other term with a positive reputation is a long-time behavior on their part. Still, it's good that people are noticing and pointing out exactly what they're doing here...

Linda R. said...

It's getting to the "point" where the "/' key on the keypad will be the first to get "worn down."

Hard to have a discussion, whether "one on one" or "national," when there's no agreement on terms and definitions.

r l love said...

Libertarians remind me of Christians with respect to shifting blame. If a 'heretic' (me) accuses a Christian of 'anything', it always seems that the accused is able to pass-off that specific accusation, regardless of what that is, on some other denomination of Christians. With Libertarians this is sometimes accomplished by their claiming that there is a significant difference between a 'libertarian' and 'Libertarian'. And now it turns-out that one of those groups, or maybe both groups, stole one or maybe both of these appellations (little 'l'/ big 'L') in the first place, back when their use of some other term had been tarnished by their association thereof.

When this group first formed I suppose they had not yet had a need for a public relations scheme. Back then they simply took what they wanted and a reputation for being ruthless and bloodthirsty was beneficial, when the oppressed saw them approaching the bounty was offered freely in exchange for mercy so things had a way of just working-out... without any need to worry about 'isms'. But of course robbing, raping, and pillaging has become increasingly complicated since ancient times and so name-changes have had to keep-up with the times.