TCS Daily


Whole Foods Has Guts

By Barry A. Liebling - August 31, 2009 12:00 AM

There is nothing unusual about Chief Executives Officers of large companies expressing their political opinions in The Wall Street Journal. But recently John Mackey, a founder of Whole Foods Market, made a big splash with his column "The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare." Mr. Mackey said he has a problem with socialism, that our country does not need "a government takeover of our health-care system," and that he favors "moving in the opposite direction - toward less government control and more individual empowerment." He proposed eight reforms which could have come from the free marketer's playbook and pointed out that, while health care is a need, it is not a right.

On cue, left-leaning savants reacted with shock and outrage. How could the leader of a retailer favored by affluent activists for "social justice" and collectivism come out against the communitarian ideal of government-directed health care? And they expressed their displeasure by calling for a boycott of Whole Foods.

Of course, it makes sense that Mr. Mackey's support for self-responsibility and attack on statist meddling would be a stunning insult to "progressive" customers. Look at his track record. For a long time Whole Foods has kowtowed to radical collectivist causes. The company boasts that it sells items certified by Trans Fair USA and Rainforest Alliance as being"Fair Trade" - that is, foods that "politically aware" consumers are willing to pay more for because they are made by Third World workers controlled by leftist organizations.

Does The Wall Street Journal article mean that Mr. Mackey and Whole Foods Market management have seen the light? Are they finished with left wing activism? Will they consistently support the politics of individualism and free markets? Don't bet on it. While that would be a wonderful outcome, it is probably too much to expect. Still, Mr. Mackey's article is sure to have at least three positive effects.

First, it will inspire other business professionals and ordinary citizens to take a stand against ObamaCare - and the philosophy it represents. For too long the left has had a monopoly on "business ethics." Executives who push the communitarian vision, or who are intimidated by progressive pundits, allow "social justice" activists to set the agenda and do all the talking. Those who do not agree are often cowed into silence. Business leaders who are turned off by leftist politics are likely to remain uninvolved and avoid getting into controversies. The Mackey article is a visible, concrete example that it is possible to be courageous, to stand up for principle, and to survive the disfavor of statist partisans. If Mr. Mackey can publicly defy those who want a government take over, so can you. There is something satisfying about putting leftist commentators on notice that they no longer control the discussion.

Second, the fact that the article has generated so much attention will induce some ObamaCare supporters, who have not thought their position through, to think again. Mr. Mackey might have a point; perhaps the government approach is flawed. Maybe the socialized medicine model that consistently works poorly all over the world will likewise be a disaster here. If so, a privately owned and managed health care system is the way to go. People who read the article and reconsider will probably favor the free market. The Wall Street Journal column is not likely to have the opposite effect and coax people into the ObamaCare camp.

Third, and most significant, Mr. Mackey's article comes out on the right side of a fundamental issue. The ObamaCare controversy is not a trivial political disagreement - like Gulliver deciding whether it is better to break an egg at the large end or the small end. It is about the proper role of government - which is to protect individual rights, not to direct people's lives. If you understand the principle you know what government should do in the health care arena - prevent the use of force and fraud. Even if no one is persuaded - even if most people are against you - taking a stand for justice is correct. Mr. Mackey's column shows that Whole Foods has guts.


Barry A. Liebling, PhD is the president of Liebling Associates Corporation in New York a management consulting firm specializing in marketing, marketing research, and organizational analysis. His monthly column appears at AlertMindPublishing.com.

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95 Comments

The world is upside down
The CEO of GE is cozying up to a fascist administration while the CEO of a company catering to socialists is promoting free markets.

Makes you wonder...
We might theorize that Whole Foods has simply been catering to the economics of stupidity -- if limousine liberals are willing to shell out big bucks for Fair Trade and organic products regardless of their relative quality, there will always be someone willing to cash in on their sense of moral superiority.

That doesn't mean that Mackey actually believes in the value of those products -- just that people are willing to buy them at inflated prices. We may now be seeing Mackey's true colors. After all, it's hard to believe the man could successfully run a business the size of Whole Foods if he were burdened by an understanding of economics equivalent to, say, the President's.

Is Mackey a 'crunchy con' man?
:)

"The economics of stupidity"; What an apt expression! Thanks for introducing it
I hope there is no copyright on that expression for non-commercial use !!!

Misinformation about Fair Trade

Barry Liebling manages to encapsulate an enormous amount of misinformation about Fair Trade in one short comment. He says:


"For a long time Whole Foods has kowtowed to radical collectivist causes. The company boasts that it sells items certified by Trans Fair USA and Rainforest Alliance as being 'Fair Trade' -- that is, foods that 'politically aware' consumers are willing to pay more for because they are made by Third World workers controlled by leftist organizations."


It's hard to know where to start, but let's go:


(1) Rainforest Alliance does not certify Fair Trade products.


(2) TransFair USA (note spelling) is the sole US certifier of Fair Trade products.


(3) Fair Trade certified products do not necessarily cost more than their traditional corporate-capitalist equivalents. In fact, they often cost less due to cutting out unproductive middlemen. (The Fair Trade certified coffee that we get, for example, costs about the same as the traditional equivalent, sometimes a little more, and sometimes a little less.)


(4) Producers do not need to be located in the third world to get Fair Trade certification.


(5) Fair Trade workers are not "controlled by leftist organizations". This assertion is not just baseless but bizarre. It is particularly strange considering how much control corporations typically exert over their employees.


TransFair USA certifies that producers are organized democratically as cooperatives rather than corporations, that they produce their products in an environmentally sound manner, that they receive a fair price, and that a certain amount of their proceeds go back into community development and other humanitarian projects. This certification is done on the market without government involvement.


Liebling apparently believes that this somehow contradicts the "politics of individualism and free markets". But it seems to me that Liebling must be using these phrases as Newspeak for a state-corporate oligopoly that bears little resemblance to a truly free market.


The Fair Trade certification by TransFair USA, on the other hand, utilizes the market to allow consumers to make purchasing decisions that are in consonance with their values, including freedom, equality, and environmental responsibility. There's nothing there for libertarians not to like.

No Subject
Nothing for libertarians not to like? I disagree.

You wrote: "Fair Trade certified products do not necessarily cost more than their traditional corporate-capitalist equivalents."

How do you define the term "traditional corporate-capitalist", and how does your definition distinguish between the Mom & Pop 7-11 franchisee and the franchiser? And isn't the Progressives' (AKA Socialists) ultimate goal to fundamentally remake capitalism by altering the laws and property rights that establish it to the advantage of the collective and disadvantage of the individual?

I see a lot of things there for libertarians not to like.

If the price is not based on the market, how is it determined?
Angus beef producers in the USA have created a brand to fetch a premium price over what the leading auction houses may provide.

This issue in many turd world countries is that the government controls the market. Venezuela as a coffee shortage as the state sets the price. A state can also grant monopolies to their cronies allowing them to be the only buyer. Either way the trade is not fair and the reason is state control of private property, socialism.

Most Americans trust markets Not the state
When the state begins to crowd out the markets and private sector enough Americans notice to provide an immune reaction against the invader. Looks like the public school systems and the blue media have a lot more work to do before they try another takeover.

You can use it...
... for a small fee ;o)

The definition of Freedom
"Liebling apparently believes that this somehow contradicts the "politics of individualism and free markets". But it seems to me that Liebling must be using these phrases as Newspeak for a state-corporate oligopoly that bears little resemblance to a truly free market."

Exactly. The position being taken is that Fair Trade constitutes an unwelcome and unfair source of competition with "free trade".. which is, of course, the best of all possible forms of trade. That is, tightly controlled contracts between governments, by which they voluntarily agree to be hampered by giving up their rights to control trade conducted by the major corporations. This trade is so free from government interference it's constrained by legal agreements hundreds of pages long.

When we combine this with generous subsidies those same governments grant to their corporate controllers an unlevel playing field is produced, whereby artificially cheap first world products can be dumped in the third world, destroying local markets by selling below the cost of a guy with a hoe. Worldwide, formerly self sufficient farmers are being forced off the land as profits swell.

The definition of 'free' in this case depends on who's speaking. We are each one of us free to lobby our governments for preferential treatment, whether we are a captain of industry or a pauper.

But you are the big government guy.
This is what happens with government of all types.

"We are each one of us free to lobby our governments for preferential treatment, whether we are a captain of industry or a pauper."

No government should have the authority to provide preferential treatment.

We agree, rb
I agree with your rant. This is exactly what happens when politicians and corporations collude to control markets and legislatures. Note, however, that it takes two to Tango and neither party can be trusted at the dance.

Progressives have a cure for this, but it only works on one of the cancers, leaving us to die from the other one. Who's got the holistic cure, i.e. self-governance and liberty immune to greed, deceit, fraud and theft?

With limited government, greed, deceit, fraud and theft is kept small.
The free market handles fraud by not trading with person again and telling everyone else about it.
Arms can help keep from being robbed.
When the state sanctions theft and fraud, the individual can't fight back.

Actually, no
With your limited, black and white view of the world, that's just the only pigeonhole you can put me in. Actually I'm the 'sensible policy' guy. The 'situational thinking' guy.

"No government should have the authority to provide preferential treatment."

That abuse is inherent in having a government that provides treatment of any kind. What we need to do is to elect better representatives. Ones that don't represent the richest constituencies first.

Your agreement is richly appreciated
..however I don't understand this: "Progressives have a cure for this, but it only works on one of the cancers, leaving us to die from the other one. Who's got the holistic cure, i.e. self-governance and liberty immune to greed, deceit, fraud and theft?"

The potential for abuse is inherent whenever you create a body that concentrates power. And in my view, we the people of the various United States have decided to create just such a body.. in the same spirit that our ancestors, out on the nation's frontier, created vigilante committees composed of citizens, to defend against cattle rustlers, card sharps and con men until the arm of the Law grew long enough to reach out to Cody, Wyoming.. or wherever.

We need a nation of just laws and certain enforcement. And we don't have that now. My approach would not be to just disband government and tell each citizen they now had to defend themselves as best they could. I would lobby for the abolition of all lobbies.

And for the education of all citizens. We wouldn't be in the pickle we're in now if we weren't so damned ignorant and apathetic.

"I would lobby for the abolition of all lobbies."
How about lobbying for the abolition of all laws (and the constitutionally questionable, at best, authority to make those laws) that invite lobbying?

As long as Congress continues to confer upon itself the right to regulate American lives and activities, there will be lobbyists pressing for regulations on "the other guy". As long as Congress continues to tax and redistribute wealth, there will be lobbyists trying to convince lawmakers that their employers represent "the public" and are the worthy recipients of public largesse.

The abolition of lobbying will simply drive it (further) underground, not eliminate it -- just as banning guns leaves guns in the hands of criminals.

You want to eliminate lobbying? Attack the root cause, not the symptom.

In other words...
'"No government should have the authority to provide preferential treatment."

'That abuse is inherent in having a government that provides treatment of any kind. What we need to do is to elect better representatives. Ones that don't represent the richest constituencies first.'

In other words, Roy, rather than fix the system that allows for preferential treatment, we should simply convince a majority of voters to elect politicians who will bestow that treatment on the people you believe are deserving of it.

#1: good luck with that.
#2: the "richest constituencies" are footing the overwhelming majority of the costs of government. So long as those costs include preferential treatment for some, those who are paying for it should expect preferential treatment.
#3: "If parasitism, favoritism, corruption, and greed for the unearned did not exist, a mixed economy would bring them into existence.
"Since there is no rational justification for the sacrifice of some men to others, there is no objective criterion by which such a sacrifice can be guided in practice. All “public interest” legislation (and any distribution of money taken by force from some men for the unearned benefit of others) comes down ultimately to the grant of an undefined, undefinable, non-objective, arbitrary power to some government officials.
"The worst aspect of it is not that such a power can be used dishonestly, but that it cannot be used honestly."
- Ayn Rand, "The Pull Peddlers"

Back to: "If we can only find a perfect dictator, the world would be wonderful."
Power corrupts and the only way limit corruption is to limit the power.

There was this thing called a Constitution...
which all elected officials swear to support and defend. Such Constitution limited the power of the government.
I guess not many are upholding their oath of office.

A modest proposal
ak, Your comment is a little meatier than the pablum I normally get here. Hopefully I can do it justice with a puddle of my generic brown sauce.

Yes, the point is well taken that abuses do exist. And that some artful methods of governance should be developed that put an end to them.

And also that the price of liberty [from such corruptions] is eternal vigilance. Because as soon as we find some way to curb something like, say, campaign financing, ways are found to do end runs around them. Including victory dances in the end zone.

Your observation is noted, that as the rich provide most of the funding from government, it's only naturally (some might even say just) that they enrich themselves from it, at the common expense.

It's a practise hallowed by tradition. I'm not a Biblical scholar, but I've heard it said that the old saw about the rich getting richer does originate in that hoary tome. Certainly Mammon has ruled since the days of Babylon.

So what is there left for someone outside the club of the privileged to believe in? My contribution to this dialog, which perhaps you missed (you didn't comment on it) was for us to have a two tiered system of collections and disbursements.

Those people who contributed to social programs, in the form of payroll taxes, would not be asked to also contribute to corporate welfare. That would include most of the things, like our wholly spurious need for national defense, now paid for through income taxes. They would only fund those social programs that come back to them in the form of benefits.

And those people who despise social programs would not be asked to pay for them. They would only pay into programs of benefit to the moneyed classes, like ag price supports or 'foreign aid'. And, of course, such national defense as is needed to defend their own accumulation of dollars.

One could opt for the form of government he supported, and decide which of the taxes he wanted to contribute to: the side supporting social programs or the one supporting insider contracts. It would only seem a fair way to resolve the dispute.

Roy's modesty
I like the idea of you giving a modest proposal because if anybody has a lot to be modest about it's you dear.

Just above when you stated that 'fair trade' was competiton to 'free' trade, which you then illustrated as government-government-business back room deals, you illustrated a lotof the problems with such definitions.

We might propose calling actual free trade, not the two examples above, as 'actual free trade'. But that's got to be wrong. Actual free trade should just be called 'free trade', and government collusion, or subsidies, and all that should be also be called what it really is; why corruption, subsidisation, etc.

Then you said you were just a 'sensible policy' guy rather than a big government guy. Yet it was you who seemed just love the bailouts some months ago. And it's you who with your very modest knowledge of economics claims that the Keynsian policies which brought the economic problems, had a good record, and should be continued and expanded.

Perhaps even more modesty from you would be welcome and you could confine your comments to something that you know about. Perhaps you're good at little-league coaching or something like that.

appreciated, but you pose a falsity
You are positing a false dichotomy when you say that the government is really bad but, " to just disband government and tell each citizen they now had to defend themselves as best they could".

The choice isn't, and has never been to accept tyranny or you'll just be left on your own.

Before governments usurped people's rights, there were many people who didn't have to depend on their own little 90 weakling selves. Some people like those really wimply little bank managers and clerks and tellers, didn't just walk down the street at the mercy of thugs, but rather thought it would be a good idea to hire the Brinks van to do it for them; the ones with those hulky armed guys protecting it.

Others terrible little pathetic creatures like old grannies, hired the Pinkerton Service to help them in certain ways.

People in wheel-chairs, got the Pony Express to deliver their letters because they couldn't ride a horse themselves.

Other defensless little old aunties figured out, and all by themselves, how to get themselves some insurance in case they got TB, in order to pay for the sanitorium.

Maybe it was your father who told you so Roy, but not everybody needs a big brother totalitarian government to arrange their lives for them, or even to defend them.

I wonder what you will tell that 29 year old in antioch CA lately, who was held as a sex slave by that perveted registered sex offender. Remember she was kidnapped at 11 years old, and bore two children to the perp. 911 calls alterted those 'best in blue' to rescue the kids to no avail. Those were the guess you say we can depend on to defend us. Like most government workers and cops, they were too lazy to even check out the reports of kids being held in tents in the back garden. Apparently the cops were too busy flirting with the waitresses at the local donut shop.

And you want to force me to pay for that kind of defense roy; no thank you.

Mackey is right on
Mackey's article is fantastic, right on and productive. Its not completely accurate and I disagree with some points, but its a thoughtful and constructive expression. How refreshing! This Liebling article is partisan, delusional and pure ideological slop. Hey, not unlike the vast majority of comments in here. Imagine that.

If we had a Whole Foods around here I would shop there in support of Mackey. I'd probably shop there anyway, I'm one those wacky capitalists that is willing to pay a little more for higher quality food. Oh wait, doesn't that make me an enemy of capitalists? You guys need to let me know, I'm not sure which way your wind is blowing today.

You conservatives are such idiots, it is both amusing and disappointing. And hardly believable, frankly. I would swear your whole schtick is just a parody, if you EVER stepped out of character. But that would instantly ruin the facade you've created for yourself. Catch-22. Suckers. You did it to yourself.

Words and their meanings
It would be so nice, if we could make words mean whatever we wanted them to mean. But words are intended to convey comunication, so we are stuck with what words already mean.

'Free Trade' has come to mean a complex method by which large corporations can achieve control over entire nations (even the United States) and smaller competitors everywhere on the globe. It strengthens its web through FTAs.. free trade agreements. And it is our principal means of neoliberal colonization, by large capital, of the whole of humanity.

'Fair Trade' has also come with a very specific meaning attached. That refers to trade that abides by a pledge to respect the rights of the land, the labor force and the communities that are impacted by such trade. The meanings of these two terms are all but mutually exclusive.

Here's another one. We have seen much debate over the meaning of the term 'inflation'. The miscommunication arises because in Economics 101 we learn that it refers to nothing more than any increase in the money supply-- regardless of effect. While out in the street it refers to an entirely different phenomenon: prices rising faster than wages.

There is obviously a looser sense, in which the cost of anything can inflate: houses, stocks and other investments, diamonds, oil wells... relative to the dollars in which those prices are denominated.

So when we use these loaded words, we should always try to be very specific as to how we intend them. Now on to a couple of housekeeping matters.

1) "Then you said you were just a 'sensible policy' guy rather than a big government guy. Yet it was you who seemed just love the bailouts some months ago."

No, I hated that decision to throw borrowed money into a bottomless pit. It only had the effect of strengthening the stranglehold the banks have on everyone else's fortunes.

But I went along with it, for the reason that if there had been no bailouts the global economy would by now have been in tatters. We'd have had the Big One, a major depression, instead of the moderately deep but hopefully short-lived recession we're now in the midst of.

2) "And it's you who with your very modest knowledge of economics claims that the Keynsian policies which brought the economic problems, had a good record, and should be continued and expanded."

Cause and effect are all a muddle in your mind, aren't they? Keynesian policies began to be reversed back in 1981, when they were replaced by the Trickle Down Theory and modern voodoo economics, under the Ronald Reagan team. Keynes has been operationally WAY out of fashion for over a generation.

The problems we began to encounter back in 2007 derive much more from the philosophy of Dr Milton Friedman, and are a logical consequence of the strategy of concentrating money at the top, where it becomes investment capital, instead of at the bottom, where it becomes consumer demand.

You really should broaden your reading list. Or at least consider the timeline involved.

Ain't it the truth
"How about lobbying for the abolition of all laws (and the constitutionally questionable, at best, authority to make those laws) that invite lobbying?

If there were no laws regulating behavior there would be no need for lobbyists. The bandits would already have won, and would practise their game freely on the rest of us.

It would be like the town where the bad guys had run the sheriff off. He may have been a drunk, and maybe he couldn't shoot straight.. but would we really be better off without him?

Reckless bravado
Such brave words! Real he-men banded together and fought the bad guys themselves. They didn't rely on the Nanny State to do it for them.

Don't you realize all you're saying is that in the absence of a functioning government, people invent one? And that the best form is one where they retain the right to constitute it themselves, instead of assigning the task to representatives in some distant and unresponsive capital?

But the fact is we already have a government. One that's far from ideal. And there are basically only three ways we can respond to it.

1) Revolution. This is the approach championed by the Communist Party, to be clandestine, conspiratorial and revolutionary. And THAT is precisely the reason that party became extinct in America. People like that are very unpopular with the public.

2) Nonviolent change from within. That's the approach I like, even though our results so far are far from satisfactory.

3) Just live with it. That's the approach taken by 99 percent of the public.

Free trade means free trade.
However you 'liberals' have stolen the word to mean the exact opposite of what it meant 200 years ago so like all good propagandists you do change the meanings of words as you need.

That is the danger of relativism, no standards.

Recall what the people of Northfield, MN thought of bank robbers?

Absolutely right missypooh
"The choice isn't, and has never been to accept tyranny or you'll just be left on your own."

Check the Conservative manual, you will see the falsity you point out clearly outlined as the proper framing to be used with every topic. Roy didn't posit this false dicotomy, its MO for modern conservative dogma. "With us or against us". Roy was responding to it.

You've misinterpreted me, I fear.
"Your observation is noted, that as the rich provide most of the funding from government, it's only naturally (some might even say just) that they enrich themselves from it, at the common expense."

My statement was: 'the "richest constituencies" are footing the overwhelming majority of the costs of government. So long as those costs include preferential treatment for some, those who are paying for it should expect preferential treatment.'

Perhaps I didn't stress the importance of the clause, "So long as those costs include preferential treatment for some...". My observation is not that it is natural or just for the rich to enrich themselves from government funding at the common expense -- quite the opposite. It is neither natural nor just for anyone to enrich themselves at the government trough -- and to suggest that there is such a thing as a "common expense" is itself an absurdity.

And speaking of absurdities... I don't think I can even begin to address your "plan". I'll say only this: there is nothing just about wealth redistribution by law, whether in the form of "social programs" or "corporate welfare". I can't imagine where you got the idea that foreign aid is of any particular benefit to the moneyed classes, and ag price supports are of benefit only to those whose products are supported (and there's an argument to be made that even they are not benefited to any great degree). In any event, you clearly have problems with some of these programs, but you don't appear capable of either recognizing the root of the problem with them (taking earned wealth from some by force of law and distributing it to others who did not earn it, in a mockery of justice) or of simply recommending that we bring an end to that policy.

You don't fix a bad policy by playing around with how best to fund it.

Finally, you may find national defense a "spurious need", but you write that with the experience of having lived your life in a country with the most powerful military in the world -- that is, in a country which no one has dared to attack in any concerted way. Do you really believe that ridding ourselves of our military would not result in a immediate attacks from a variety of countries wishing to confiscate our wealth? Or, do you simply assume that by the time the military could be dismantled, the Democrats will have so destroyed the economy that there will be nothing left to seize?

Laws 'regulating' behaviour.
Instead of laws regulating behavior why not laws that punish violations of the property rights of others?

Who pays for government?
Your first paragraph only obscures what I thought I heard you say. I thought you said it was only to be expected that the people who pay in more money toward the funding of government would expect greater favors in return. And I agreed with that. The other half of that same coin is that those same people, who donate more money to influence the representatives who claim to represent all of us, do both expect and get preferential legislation from their lackeys in Congress.

A good example is our own newly elected Senator Kay Hagen, a Democrat elected to replace what the voters of NC though was the undue corporate influence applied during Elizabeth Dole's tenure.

Now we are in no election cycle. Yet every night we see multiple commercials telling us to support Hagen's opposition to any possible health reform (brought to us by PhRMA) and to any possible energy plan (brought to us by the NAM). When we elected her she betrayed no hint that she was in the pay of such people.. both of whom spend large sums to shield their constituents from both taxation and regulation.

Now you reiterate your statement, which was that: 'the "richest constituencies" are footing the overwhelming majority of the costs of government. So long as those costs include preferential treatment for some, those who are paying for it should expect preferential treatment.'

So, yes. They pay more, or so they say, and they expect more.

But the perception that these deserving rich pay more and thus should have more say obscures a key point of fact. And that is that they only pay a majority of INCOME tax. It is the work force who pays the majority of the payroll tax. And the payroll tax has been jiggered to generate surpluses, in the same way the general budget has been jiggered to generate deficits.

As I'm sure you know, any excess over Social Security and Medicare payouts must by law be lent by those programs to the General Fund, ostensibly for safe keeping. But actually to help pay for unfunded federal programs other than social supports. And here's the current tab, which you should find informative:

Total federal deficit, as of several days ago: $11,730 billion.

Breakdown: $7,386 billion in public debt (Treasury notes held by individuals and central banks) and $4,344 billion in "intragovernmental loans".. that is, borrowings out of SS and Medicare contributions.

So when you ask who it is who funds the government, be aware that it is not solely the high and mighty. A significant sum gets funded by the little guy.

Here's a corollary I'm sure you will not have thought of: who is it who funds Medicare and Social Security? By these numbers you can see that it is precisely those people who rely on it for benefits in times of need. NOT the long suffering rich. Those programs are and always have been self supporting and THEN some. To the tune of $4.344 trillion.

You should thank us. After we set aside money to pay for our old age or infirmity we that contribute a handsome share toward your purchase of weapons and war materiel, and farm and energy price supports.

Robin Hood in reverse
1) "I can't imagine where you got the idea that foreign aid is of any particular benefit to the moneyed classes.."

It is of benefit to corporations that work the foreign aid game. Think about it for a moment. They get you all worked up over OUR money being given away to THOSE bums. But the bums never see a cent, beyond a few bribes for personal service to the dictators we prop up for the purpose. Nearly all that money never leaves the country.

We give a dictator a billion dollars to buy planes with, so he can repress his own people. (Don't shed a tear, they are all 'terrorists'). Do we just write him a check and say Okay, dear, go out and buy some planes now?

No we don't. We set the money aside and maybe ship him a bunch of planes the Air Force no longer needs. Then transferring that money into the Air Force account is just a ledger entry. One that masks the true size of the military budget by moving cash from one column to the next.

Or just as often we buy the planes from a manufacturer out on the West Coast, new. The money gets paid directly to the vendor, but charged against the fortunes of some poorly governed country on the other side of the globe. The hapless population of that country know one day they will have to pay the bill.. and so they actually do become terrorists, out to destroy the system they see (quite accurately) as enslaving them.

Capitalism is nothing if not wondrously inventive.

2) "..and ag price supports are of benefit only to those whose products are supported (and there's an argument to be made that even they are not benefited to any great degree)."

I'll leave this one for you to research. The farm lobby is a mighty one, and is composed of the combined pressures emanating from individuals who benefit directly. Meaning THEY GET THE MONEY. You won't find many mom and pop chicken farmers out there on the receiving end of these programs. In fact the mom and pops have been swallowed up. They now work directly for Tyson's and the other majors.

3. "In any event, you clearly have problems with some of these programs, but you don't appear capable of either recognizing the root of the problem with them (taking earned wealth from some by force of law and distributing it to others who did not earn it, in a mockery of justice) or of simply recommending that we bring an end to that policy."

Good observation. But I don't seek to overthrow the established order-- that's a fool's errand. My comments are merely a rhetorical gesture, to suggest that our nation would be better off should the public ever educate itself and put an end to such self-defeating wealth-redistributing policies by demanding better service.

But such practises are hardly likely to ever end, so long as the people who write our laws and policies are in the pay of those who profit from them in their present form.

I merely point them out here to counter your underlying thought, that the main thing we have to fear is hordes of angry poor people clamoring for the government to take money from the rich and give it to them. That's not how Washington works.

Instead, highly paid lobbyists, many of them former congressional insiders, clamor very gently for favors involving transfers of insane sums from the public coffers. In return for which they give a few paltry favors, the greatest of which is campaign funds, but which include pleasures as simple as luxury golf weekends.

And the sums awarded them, as I hope I have shown you in my last post, come largely not from the pockets of other rich guys, but from ordinary workers. And in fact from those people's rainy day funds.. that is, their old age retirement fund and health insurance policies.

Your thoughts on how we might free ourselves from these chains (without, of course, advocating anything violent) would be welcomed.

Roy's "people invented government"
That has got to be the lamest yet. You said there were only two choices, I give other choices people actually had, and then you respond with saying they were inventing government!

That would be like saying that since the govenment didn't provide escort sercices, Elliot Spitzer just invented a part of government that he deemed an essestial service!

If a granny chooses Briks Security over Pinkerton Roy dear, that is NOT inventing government.

We mostly agree again
I agree with you that (1) government at all levels and in most localities has concentrated too much power in the hands of too many crooks, and (2) we need just laws together with the certain enforcement thereof. Where we part company, I would surmise from our past exchanges, is whether the common law of property and contracts together with the Bill of Rights and the sentiments expressed in the Declaration of Independence concerning the same are just.

Now, if you and your band of vigilantes were of the misapprehension that justice requires my property to be in your hands, then we'd have a dispute on our hands. This dispute is conceptually the same whether it occurs over tax policy, wealth redistribution through social services or a cattle pasture on the frontier. Practically, however, we take up the pen (or its modern equivalent, the keyboard) instead of firearms in our conflicts over tax policy.

Regarding education, shall we educate the citizens pursuant to an ideologically adulterated curriculum designed by Marx, Mao, Alinsky and Cone, or shall we simply teach them how economies, banks, corporations, insurance policies, professional responsibilities and ethics, and their government work (or fail when they don't work)? I guarantee you that the latter curriculum will convert a lot of moderates and liberals to conservatism, and that's not something you'd like to see, I'll wager.

Just trying to be helpful
Alright, let's go through it again. The thing that would make you happy would be if "we" (actually a very tiny subset of the American people) were to abolish the government and set up little self help groups, like neighboring farmhouses meanced by fierce Indian tribes, out on the plains.

And my first thought was that that was the way every government on earth got started. It had its origin in vigilantism.

Then my second thought was that if you want to go ahead with your plans for secession, about the only way you'd be successful would be to go the route of armed violence. And I don't think that's going to work out favorably. That's what's being attempted right now, in places like Afghanistan. And they're finding that the Empire holds on tenaciously to what it sees as its power and its legitimacy.

That leaves either (b) working toward peaceful change from within the system, or (c) quiescence and acceptance of one's fate. As I outlined in my post.

But I'm sure you will come up with other choices. So, penny for your thoughts. What are they? What other ways do you have in mind to just tell the USG to go off and shove it?

All this agreement sounds very suspect
So what do you think it is, the full moon? I mean the reason behind our being in such cozy concord?

Allow me to suggest that at the level of lofty abstraction we are no doubt in full agreement. Good is very good, and probably should prevail. Whereas evil.. well, something should be done about it.

But when it gets down to specifics, I think we must be defining our terms differently. So allow me to pick a couple of nits, to wit:

1) Just Laws. We both like laws that protect personal property from theft. But so often they have been artfully framed to serve the needs of a more subtle form of theft. As said by Woodie Guthrie in the Dust Bowl days, some men rob you with a gun.. others use a fountain pen.

So I suggest we are certainly in basic disagreement over the nature of those laws that are to bind us fairly. One side says the winners should keep their winnings and have the long arm of the law protecting them from harm. The other says ill gotten gains should be put back in the common pot, so a fresh round of activities can commence.

Further, the advocate of the second part would suggest a precedent in Hebrew law, where every fiftieth year all debt should be abolished and all slaves freed.. on the grounds that a permanent state of enforced servitude is unnatural, and deleterious to the soul of both the slave and the master.

And as well, on the grounds that the inherent winner in such a game (of ensnaring the opposite player into debt or penury) is usually the one with the better grasp of the arts of chicanery. In other words, as the bad guy normally wins this game, the results should not be permanent.

He should have ample time to jump and cavort around the table, shouting out his whoopees and offering himself high fives.. and then throw the chips back onto the baize, so they can be distributed for the next hand. In other words, a gentleman's game.

So the advocate of that course would no doubt write a very different body of law than would the party of the first part.

2) Contracts. This party is a big fan of enforceable contracts, and in fact has spent the majority of his career in writing them and pursuing performance under their terms. He likes to follow the words of his father, who would often say that any game's a fair one, so long as both sides play by the same rules.

However he can't help but notice in modern life, more and more, the important contracts are either being signed only by one party, in a take it or leave it gesture, or by parties neither of which represent the people being acted upon.

I would offer as evidence those contracts between the federal government and the drunken Indian, supple as glove leather in the hands of his barkeeps, who signs away the rights of an entire nation of people by writing at the bottom of the most egregious of thefts, "So agreed. X.. Chief of all the Kickapoos".

Or, those Free Trade Agreements signed by trade delegates of the various countries whose deliberations are shielded from the publics of their nations, and who were all appointed in conditions so murky that hardly anyone even knows their names.. but whose acceptance of terms that cripple entire areas of commerce (and whose language is so opaque to interpretation that none but their authors can properly read them) is binding upon all, with utterly no recourse.

Such contracts cry out, in the opinion of this bystander, to be broken. By force and violence, if necessary.

So I suspect that again, we in less than full agreement. When fair to you does not equal fair to me, and reasoned discourse doesn't resolve the matter to the satisfaction of all, I reach for my saber.

And so, summing up: "Now, if you and your band of vigilantes were of the misapprehension that justice requires my property to be in your hands, then we'd have a dispute on our hands."

Right. You've gotten used to owning something, referring to it in your mind as being your own. However its provenance is under dispute, and a reasonable argument has been proferred as to its one-time theft. And despite both sides having had ample time to convince the other of the rectitude of their argument, profound disagreement persists.

That's when it's time to emulate Mr Aaron Burr and that Hamilton fellow. And by struggle, resolve the debate.

A duel? Bring it on, Skräling.
And while we're speaking of the provenance of our ancestors, mine includes a people who drove all the nations of men from Thrace to the Indus before them with organized, ruthless and deadly violence, as well as a people with enough audacity to settle Normandy, conquer England, raid Paris up the Seine 5 times, settle Iceland and Greenland, and later North America. Your folk don't stand a chance against my kind because I'm only par for the course of my kind. Put differently, history is no accident.

As for the rest, "take it or leave it" includes leaving it, no so? Hence, if a bank offers you a mortgage you can't refuse that later blows up in your face, then your inability to refuse said mortgage must be attributable to faults in your character and not the contract. Or?

Where in this contract are you and the bank not playing by the same rules, i.e. the positive law of the contract and dispositive laws governing the same? Because the bank has the money you want so desperately that your faculties of self-command and reason are overcome by desire? Bullocks. The distinction between desire and need is beyond obfuscation, or as economists say, there's no such thing as vertical demand.

You talk a good game, rb, which is why I keep coming back for more (which is to say, you turn a fine phrase). But when I look deeper into your playbook, your glam stops making sense. What gives.

So we agree on another thing
You can speak with the voice of reason three times. And if you determine that you have made your case clear but you're still met with resistance, it's very likely that another thousand years of talking will produce no better result.

Or, as has often been said, it's remarkable how hard it is for some people to understand something.. when their livelihood depends on their not understanding it.

A case in point would be your blithe rejoinder, that if you don't like the only deal being offered you, you should take no deal at all. Of course, if that deal is for a place to hang your hat your other option is to sleep in the car. Perhaps in the long term lot down at the airport.

Faced with a perceived absolute need to live indoors, under some sort of roof, many people will enter into a gamble they feel far from certain they can win.. trusting to their gods to smile on them when the going gets slippery. That's human nature. Or, according to your suggestion they could always shoot themselves, leaving a note to wife and family to the effect they're sorry.

Or, they could rob a bank. And even in the worst event, get put up for twenty in the greybars hotel. Life's full of choices. Not all of them desirable.

So then.. to the death, Viking sea-dog! Thy ancestors yodel tipsy toodle.. and direct artsy movies about life and death!

A mortgage is the only soltuion to a roof over one's head?
I noticed many people rent 'roofs' for short term contracts that most should be able to agree to. The gamble here is on the part of the owner to collect the agreed to rent and whether the state will protect his property rights and evict if the contract is not fulfilled.

Renting or buying
In most jurisdictions legal evictions based on nonpayment of rent are as forthcoming as repossessions based on foreclosures. So your point is moot.

Also in my area I find rents being asked are very competitive with mortgage payments. So there is little to choose from between renting and so-called 'owning'. Or that third option, rent-to-own.

And the downside is also similar. If you fall behind, you lose your place to live. And also imperil your credit rating. So what I've said applies to renting very much as it does to buying.

In most cases it is easier (and cheaper) to rent.
Violation of any contract triggers agreed to provision for remedy.
And there is an advantage to rent. After a lease is over, one can move out and not worry about selling.

There are always more choices
If we're talking about housing, there are lots of choices, for example squat, hire, rent and purchase. Only the last choice requires the involvement of a bank. The vast majority of the people who lost their homes in the credit crunch overextended themselves unnecessarily, motivated by greed to embrace imprudence. Now they're learning a hard lesson that most Americans once knew (a long quote from an article in the WSJ follows):

"The genius of America in the early nineteenth century, Tocqueville thought, was that it pursued "productive industry" without a descent into lethal materialism. Behind America's balancing act, the pioneering French social thinker noted, lay a common set of civic virtues that celebrated not merely hard work but also thrift, integrity, self-reliance, and modesty—virtues that grew out of the pervasiveness of religion, which Tocqueville called "the first of [America's] political institutions, . . . imparting morality" to American democracy and free markets. Some 75 years later, sociologist Max Weber dubbed the qualities that Tocqueville observed the "Protestant ethic" and considered them the cornerstone of successful capitalism. Like Tocqueville, Weber saw that ethic most fully realized in America, where it pervaded the society. Preached by luminaries like Benjamin Franklin, taught in public schools, embodied in popular novels, repeated in self-improvement books, and transmitted to immigrants, that ethic undergirded and promoted America's economic success.

What would Tocqueville or Weber think of America today? In place of thrift, they would find a nation of debtors, staggering beneath loans obtained under false pretenses. In place of a steady, patient accumulation of wealth, they would find bankers and financiers with such a short-term perspective that they never pause to consider the consequences or risks of selling securities they don't understand. In place of a country where all a man asks of government is "not to be disturbed in his toil," as Tocqueville put it, they would find a nation of rent-seekers demanding government subsidies to purchase homes, start new ventures, or bail out old ones. They would find what Tocqueville described as the "fatal circle" of materialism—the cycle of acquisition and gratification that drives people back to ever more frenetic acquisition and that ultimately undermines prosperous democracies.

And they would understand why. After flourishing for three centuries in America, the Protestant ethic began to disintegrate, with key elements slowly disappearing from modern American society, vanishing from schools, from business, from popular culture, and leaving us with an economic system unmoored from the restraints of civic virtue. Not even Adam Smith—who was a moral philosopher, after all—imagined capitalism operating in such an ethical vacuum. Bailout plans, new regulatory schemes, and monetary policy moves won't be enough to spur a robust, long-term revival of American economic opportunity without some renewal of what was once understood as the work ethic—not just hard work but also a set of accompanying virtues, whose crucial role in the development and sustaining of free markets too few now recall."

I like the way the author describes present day Americans, and I heartily agree. Such a people deserve to owned by their government, to whom they progressively sell themselves one bailout after the next.

helpful roy
I didn't suggest succession, but it is one of the other alternatives. A lot of the US's problems would go away if there were several countries instead of one. Great idea.

The problem with that is that goverments would rather go down in ruin that let any part of their coutry succeed. Governments run the country by force, and governments will keep them by force, in most cases.

Anyway your message gets off topic again, just like Zyn always says you do. I was pointing out specific instances that countered your false dichotomy in an earlier message.

Back "on topic"
"Anyway your message gets off topic again, just like Zyn always says you do. I was pointing out specific instances that countered your false dichotomy in an earlier message."

Okay, so.. uh, what was the topic again? Something about a false dichotomy?

I looked back at your earlier post and it looked like what you were advocating was that disaffected red blooded Americans like yourself should hire private militias to do their dirty work. Is that what you were saying here?

.."You are positing a false dichotomy when you say that the government is really bad but, " to just disband government and tell each citizen they now had to defend themselves as best they could".

"The choice isn't, and has never been to accept tyranny or you'll just be left on your own.

"Before governments usurped people's rights, there were many people who didn't have to depend on their own little 90 weakling selves. Some people like those really wimply little bank managers and clerks and tellers, didn't just walk down the street at the mercy of thugs, but rather thought it would be a good idea to hire the Brinks van to do it for them; the ones with those hulky armed guys protecting it.

"Others terrible little pathetic creatures like old grannies, hired the Pinkerton Service to help them in certain ways.

"People in wheel-chairs, got the Pony Express to deliver their letters because they couldn't ride a horse themselves."

Ways to put a roof over your head
Thank you for your very helpful range of options open to the homeless.

They can squat, possibly in some burnt out shell, or any vacant property they can break into.. until the owner finds out.

They can camp in the rest rooms of state parks and other public facilities.

They can barter for a place to stay. Maybe they can pick up empty cans and redeem them. Or, they can offer sex in return for a place to crash.

They can "hire" a home. I'm afraid you'll have to explain this one to me.

They can offer their services as a house sitter, for people on vacation. Of course they'll have to move every month or so.

In extremis, I suppose they could kick a door in, murder the inhabitants and live there until someone in the neighborhood noticed and snitched on them.

And one useful ploy enjoying current popularity is to break into foreclosed and padlocked homes and change the locks. Once in possession, the onus is on the bank or other owner to hire someone to get them out again.

Thanks for all these nifty options. But if the choice is whether to buy or to rent, in this part of the country the costs aren't that far apart.

Roy could open his house to the homeless...
and encourage his fellow liberals to do the same.

True leaders don't practice "do as I say, not as I do".

But that is what true liberals seem to do as evidenced by John Kerry, when provided the option of paying higher state income taxes, does not. Also, how many liberals donate to the US Treasury instead of their favorite charity?

Roy's topic misses again.
Yes, you said either accept a nanny state, or they must be left on their own; and I gave a short list of alternatives that showed up your false dichotomy.

So for somebody to have FEDEX, or anybody else deliver their mail is hardly hiring a private militia to do dirty work.

For a bank to hire a Brink's security van service, is not hiring a private militia do do dirty work.

To hire Pinkerton's detective to search for a lost child is hardly dirty work.

So this refutes your normal stance that it's big government or abosolute chaos, massive destruction, and hell on earth because people wouldn't know how to do anything on their own.

If the public did not cooperate with the state....
the state would fail quite rapidly.

Observe some city neighborhoods that do not trust the police. The police are ineffective is such areas in spite of their authority.

Back to the actual subject
When I said the alternatives were to either build a government and support it or live in anarchy, I wasn't talking about side issues like who delivers the mail. I was talking about who provides national security. And who polices the marketplace, to keep the crooks out.

You can't have laws without law enforcement. Nor can you have laws with no government.

If you want to know who's been dragging the conversation into irrelevant side issues, I think it's been you. Please comment on how we remain a nation of laws, if there is no constituted body to make laws. Or to enforce them.

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