Saturday, May 14, 2011

Why bother with research, we know we're right.

Chrystian Freeland write a book review for the New York Times, apparently without knowing the facts behind the statements she makes. The book in question is Roger Martin's Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes and What Capitalism Can Learn From the N.F.L.

From the sound of things, and I have not read the book, it sounds as if they are writing about modern, politically-manipulated markets and not markets free of political rigging. Certainly the term "Fixing the Game" implies as much. But don't assume they don't want the rules of the game being "fixed," that is precisely what is being sought. As the review notes:

Mr. Martin’s unifying metaphor — and here I do see a reach for the best-seller list — is a comparison with the National Football League. The league’s commissioners, he argues, are constantly tweaking the rules of the game to ensure the right collective outcome. When a brilliant coach or player devises a technique to strengthen defense, for instance, the commissioners alter the rules to offset that advantage. Capitalism’s rule makers, Mr. Martin believes, must be likewise perpetually alert to these sorts of business innovations — the kind of thing lionized in the traditional business advice best seller — and change the rules of the game to neutralize their impact.

Do you get that? Every time a new innovation comes along government should change the rules of the game to "neutralize" it. This is demanding constant, unending political manipulation of markets by the politically connected. This is precisely how Big Corporations used politics to screw over working people and taxpayers. This is how they transfer wealth from people who have less, to people who have more. This is the dream of the big corporations, the ability to make money through political connections and NOT in a competitive marketplace where you can't trust consumers to buy your product. Better to force them to buy your product, or force them to subsidize you in one of hundreds of ways that politicians invent to hide the real redistribution of wealth and rights.

Wealth and rights have constantly been redistributed in America—just not in the direction that most people believe. There is precious little redistribution of wealth from the wealthy and powerful to the poor and powerless. The bulk of redistribution is the other way around. And the Republicans want to keep it that way—but so does Obama and the Democrats. All of them are in cozy relationships with the powerful, wealthy classes who are the true beneficiaries of government redistribution. Fixing the game is precisely how they manage this slight-of-hand.

Freeland claims that Martin's approach is quite radical, when in reality it is the continuation of the policy for well over a century. But she also writes: "The central insight of his book is that rules of capitalism aren't about God-given rights à la Hayek, Ayn Rand or the Tea Party." Back that up for a second!

First, both Hayek and Rand were atheists, neither believed rights came from a god. The Tea Party, is an amalgam of all sorts of people, most with confused, contradictory premises about politics. They want smaller government except when they don't. They have government programs except when they love them. They want less regulations except when they want more. They are fundamentally, unprincipled, unthinking conservatives who are mad about things in general but don't really want change, other than being in control of the things they don't like.

Most the Tea Party types would be god-addicts who thinks invoking a deity answers every serious question in life. Rights are not that simplistic.

But certainly neither Hayek nor Rand believed in god-given rights. This is part of the unthinking, uninformed, stereotyping the Left uses all the time.

I will accept that Left-wing stereotypes tend, for the most part, to not be as vicious and cruel as those on the Right. Though they do become unhinged emotionally and mentally when discussing Rand and will lie through their eye-teeth about her. I have watched them completely invent stories, or rip comments so out of context as to reverse their original meanings.

Now, Freeland is "global editor at large" for Reuters, a major news wire service. You would think that someone in a position like that would have learned a thing or two about not attributing views to people who don't hold those views. She might have even been told to do a bit of research before making claims. In this case she did neither. She appears to have been looking for some way to attach Hayek and Rand to the Tea Party crowd. Sure, the TP movement have latched onto books by Hayek and Rand but I would bet you that most have never read them. And those who did probably didn't understand half of what they said.

For Hayek they latched onto his book The Road to Serfdom, which doesn't really lay out Hayek's views on the nature of a free society. But then reading The Constitution of Liberty would be beyond most of them. They couldn't get past the first chapter. And while Atlas Shrugged is easier to read it is prone to misinterpretation by people who impose on it what they want to find.

And it isn't only the Left that invents meanings for the book that are not there. I remember one occasion when poor Ayn was being questioned by some loony-Bircher type who insisted the novel was the master plan of the secretive Illuminati conspiracy to take over the world. Ayn truly had no idea what the woman was talking about. Others have taking that view and added in that she was the mistress of a Rothschild in a Jewish plot to take over the world. All of it nonsense, but people love nonsense. On a discussion board for Atlas Shrugged, the movie, I read conservatives who insisted that Ayn was not an atheist, or tried to claim that atheism had nothing to do with her philosophy.

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