Category Archives: Law

You Will Not Find Me On Facebook

I have no Facebook account.

I will never have a Facebook account.

For years I’ve inveighed against what I sincerely believe to be the blatant immorality of Facebook’s business practices, which, true to capitalism’s two primary goals, seem to be:


Make as much money as you can, any way you can.

Grow as big as you can, any way you can.

Custom, tradition, ethics, law, morality, authority of government, common decency, the health of local or of global environment, or any other considerations are, as far as possible, to be disregarded or neutralized as restraints on the monomaniacal pursuit of maximum profit and of maximum growth for growth’s sake.


Facebook thrives on attention.

In general, the larger the audience the more effective the advertisement, which justifies charging high advertising fees.

So…how to generate a large audience?

So simple…let anybody post damn near anything, especially negative things, because negativity has been proven to draw larger attention than positivity.

This practice damages political processes, social cohesion, and the psychological health of large swaths of the human community.

These consequences are, I believe, acceptable to Facebook so long as it profits.

I sincerely believe Facebook to be a poisonous presence on planet Earth.

There are others who have concerns about Facebook’s impact on our quality of life.

Please see below.


First, a link to a recent Vox article.

https://www.vox.com/recode/22677911/facebook-scandal-research-teen-mental-health

Next, an article recently published by politico.

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/09/21/facebook-paid-billions-extra-to-the-ftc-to-spare-zuckerberg-in-data-suit-shareholders-allege-513456

Finally, a document published in 2019 by MIT Technology Review, and republished recently by Pocket.


Click to access oct-2019-facebook-troll-farms-report.pdf

 

Capitalism (8th)

A prominent economist, (Milton Friedman, I believe), once declared that the whole “social duty” of a corporation is to make as much money as possible for the owners.

Here’s a different viewpoint: “Corporate social responsibility is measured in terms of business improving conditions for their employees, shareholders, communities, and environment.”

“But moral responsibility goes further, reflecting the need for corporations to address fundamental ethical issues such as inclusion, dignity, and equality.” —Klaus Schwab

Which do you prefer?

Concerning Integrity

Commonly, integrity refers to someone’s honesty—to the fact that his or her word can be trusted.

Integrity can also signify that a person’s values and life style form an integrated, harmonious whole.

No conflicts.

No inconsistencies / conflicts among beliefs, work, diet, politics, relationships, use of money / free time, goals selected and pursued, any part of life.

For most of us, this is a tall order, requiring persistent self-examination, self-correction.


Regarding the above…

“Patience obtains all things..”—Ancient Egyptian wisdom

“There is no defeat so long as there is effort.”—Eastern wisdom, specific source forgotten.

“Excellence is not a gift given, but a skill perfected.  The key is self-discipline.”—Motivational poster seen in a variety store.

“Do you have yourself in your own power? Than truly you are more powerful than the one who conquers a city.”—Source unknown

A common definition of courage—aggressive self-assertion.

An uncommon definition of courage—absolute self-control.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”—Mahatma Gandhi

Thoughts on Abortion (2nd)

Is some of the uproar over abortion, birth control, etc. an attempt to regain lost power and influence?

These days religious freedom, that is, freedom to practice one’s own religion, does not give one the right to tell others what to do.

T’was not ever thus.

In past time, conservative religious groups held considerable power over the population as a whole, as well as over their adherents.

Consider these examples of power lost:

   ◊   Control of family life by banning abortion and birth control.  In disagreement, many people, and not just the irreligious, quietly, (or not so quietly), ignore the bans.

   ◊   Control of family life by banning or penalizing divorce.  In disagreement, people for the most part pay no heed to this.  They divorce at will for reasons such as infidelity, infertility, or infelicity, among others.

   ◊    Control of society through imposition of their views on human sexuality, which were encoded in secular law, which punished perceived moral infractions, and/or sexual activities that religious dogma found to be sinful, such as homosexuality.

   ◊   Let’s talk about influence on culture in general.  For long years conservative religious groups had sufficient influence to dictate what literature, movies, stage plays, and elements of fashion and even of speech were morally acceptable.

Exercise of these powers was defended with reference to perfect (?) infallible (?) sources of divine guidance: sacred books, sacred persons, etc.

On the other hand, exercise of these powers can be described as coercion of conscience—and as an example of spiritual pride—the notion that The Almighty, however understood, speaks exclusively to one’s group.

Exercise of these powers seems to be based on an assumption that freedom to make personal moral decisions, (and to live with the positive/negative consequences thereof), exists only to the extent that such decisions align with certain groups’ notions of right and wrong.

Is this real freedom of conscience? ¹

Some conservative groups seem to pay lip service to freedom of conscience, while denying it in policy and practice.

Is this hypocrisy? ¹

Does great moral urgency ² ever justify coercion of conscience—that is, compelling people to live their lives in obedience to someone else’s moral standards?

I sincerely believe that practice of one’s particular religion does not give one the right to tell others how to behave, still less to use any means, overt, covert, direct or oblique to compel specific behavior.


¹ These questions are not sly propaganda designed to lead readers to a specific conclusion. Make up your own mind.

² As found in the “pro-life” position, for example.

Thoughts on Abortion (1st)

Being against abortion means you’re pro-life ?

Consider the following:

I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion that that makes you pro-life.

I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed.

And why would I think that you don’t?

Because you don’t want any tax money to go there.

That’s not pro-life.

That’s pro-birth.

We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is. ” ¹


The crux of Chittister’s ¹ point is that there’s a difference between advocating for birth and advocating for that child’s entire life.

If antiabortion proponents are truly ‘pro-life’, then those same legislators would not argue for defunding programs like those that provide school lunches or health care.

Many people who oppose abortion also oppose access to contraceptives (!)

Antiabortion congressmen have consistently also advocated for defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides women with birth control options.” ²


¹ Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B., a Benedictine Sister of Erie, Pennsylvania, is an international lecturer, and award winning author of over 50 books.  Her multiple degrees include a doctorate.

² Quotations in this post appeared in:  https://www.popsugar.com/news/Catholic-Nun-Quote-Abortion-43096831 Author: Eleanor Sheehan—first published 02/01/17, republished 05/17/19

Capitalism (7th)

If, while drafting last week’s post—Capitalism (6th), I had been seeking evidence that free-market capitalism must in some ways be reined in I could hardly have done better than this:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/18/toxic-chemicals-health-humanity-erin-brokovich

See below for a closely related topic:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/25/us-military-toxic-chemicals-us-states

Capitalism (6th)

More on Corporations

I keep waiting for the day when a corporate president expresses shame for a corporate transgression against the public or the environment.  The statement would go something like this:

‘ On behalf of my company,its management, and its shareholders, I wish to express our grief concerning injuries suffered by people living downstream from our factory, along the Green River.  We are ashamed to admit that, over the years, our poisonous wastes have found  their way into the river, putting the community in peril.  We will do anything to relieve the suffering we have caused.  We are also concerned that safe storage for such potent chemicals now seems impossible, and so henceforth we will only use our facilities for safer forms of manufacturing.  Under no circumstances will we give thought to abandoning the community or its workers. ‘  

No such statement has ever been made, nor ever will be made by a publicly held corporation in America, for several reasons.

No corporate manager could ever place community welfare above corporate interest.  An individual executive might personally wish to do so, but to make this sort of admission would subject the company, and the individual, to legal action by local, state, and federal authorities, as well as to damage suits by victims.

It could also open management to lawsuits from its own shareholders.

U. S. corporation law holds that management of publicly held companies must act primarily in the economic interests of shareholders.  If not, management can be sued by shareholders and firings would surely occur.  So managers are legally obliged to ignore community welfare (e.g., worker health and satisfaction, and environmental concerns) if those needs interfere with profitability.  And corporate managers must also deny that corporate acts have negative impact of any kind, if that impact might translate into costly damage suits that hinder profits.

Though corporations may enjoy many ‘human’ rights, they have not been required to abide by human responsibilities.

The most basic rule of corporate operation it that it must produce income, and (except for that special category of non-profit corporations) must show a profit over time.

Among publicly held companies there is another basic rule:  It must expand and grow, since growth is the standard by which the stock market judges a company.

All other values are secondary: the welfare of the community, the happiness of workers, the health of the planet, and even the general prosperity.


The above quotations, while unflattering, aren’t meant to be condemnatory of free-market capitalism.

My stance in this series of posts (Capitalism 1st – 6th) is that we can do capitalism better by determinedly eliminating its more glaring flaws, one of which is discussed above.

It seems reasonable to require that private profit be pursued within a matrix of government policy, law and regulation designed to stabilize or improve the quality of life for all persons, as well as preserving local and planetary environment.

All quotations from: Mander, Jerry—In The Absence Of the Sacred ISBN 0-87156-509-9

Disclosures:  I have neither formal training in law nor a financial interest in any book cited anywhere on my blog.

 

Weather and Politics (2nd)

 The recent extreme weather event that brought Texas’ electric power grid to within minutes or seconds of collapse, is now, as life crawls back toward normal, predictably attended by efforts to avoid blame.

The head of the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) resigned in disgrace, as powerful state politicians heaped condemnation on her head.  One might suppose that forcing her resignation accomplished something worthwhile.

I think not.

Her salary of $201,000/year is arguably a waste of taxpayers’ money in view of the calamity so recently visited upon them.

But she can’t be held solely responsible.

The politicians who dominate the state government are dead set against government regulation of the claimed-to-be-infallible free market.

In particular, they disapprove federal regulation, and have taken steps to insulate Texas’ power grid therefrom.

It’s worth noting the power industry in Texas has contributed generously to the governor’s campaign war chest, so generously, in fact, that it’s reported he has received more money than any governor in the the history of the country.  (This information, being much in the news of late, is easy to find.)

Spending money to winterize the power grid results in less profit for the power industry. 

Naturally, if they can lawfully avoid spending money to winterize, they’ll happily do it—remember the profit motive.

 The state government, being opposed to regulation as above noted, and wanting to keep major financial backers happy as possible, didn’t mandate, but only recommended winterization of the power grid.

Power companies can lawfully disregard mere recommendations.

Thus did politicians play a part in setting the stage for the recent calamity which visited  acute suffering on millions and caused at least twenty deaths.

In a effort to sweep their role under the carpet, (there isn’t a carpet big enough!), it seems politicians have decided to blame the state PUC commissioner, as though she alone was the author of this calamity.

Well, the only rule in politics is that there are no rules.  Stay in power any way you can.

Politicians know they won’t fool everyone.

I believe their goal, as usual, is to fool enough people well enough and long enough to win another election.

What are we going to do about it?

The Constitution (2nd)

More on The Second Amendment

A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

I’ve given the Second Amendment considerable thought and my conclusion is that there is no possible single, unambiguous understanding thereof.

That having been said, there persist popular misconceptions that should be debunked.

For example, people believe the Supreme Court has always held that the people have a right to carry firearms.  Period.  End of story.

Based on my admittedly limited research I say, “Not so.”

For decades the right to keep and bear arms was understood to be for purposes of service in a state militia.

In 2008 the Supreme Court added that a private citizen could keep and bear arms for self defense—but only handguns kept and used in the home.¹

Not any arms, anywhere, any time, for completely self-selected purposes.

In the same decision the Court declared that keeping and bearing a dangerous and unusual weapon was not automatically protected by the Second Amendment.

Also, in the same decision, the Court found that mentally ill persons and felons could be denied the right to keep and bear arms, also that this right could be limited/denied in/around schools and government buildings.

So, no—We the people don’t and never did have an unqualified constitutional right to keep and bear any arms anywhere, anytime, for any purpose.


Disclosure: I have no formal training in law.

¹ District of Columbia vs. Heller

The Constitution (1st)

Thoughts On The Second Amendment

A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Most Americans think The Constitution is a precisely chiseled series of black-and-white-isms.

It’s certainly nothing of the kind.

It has been described as a set of “glorious generalities.”

The second amendment seems to me to be a masterpiece of inconclusiveness.

A Militia is a trained, equipped, organized group of some citizens, like our national guard, which state governments can activate to deal with emergencies.

The people might refer either to all citizens or possibly, the language of the second amendment lacking precision, to smaller groups thereof.

A militia without arms wouldn’t be very effective in suppressing riot or insurrection.

Therefore a militia must be armed.

But the people as a whole—do they all have a right to keep and bear arms ?

Everybody ?

Every fool, felon, unprincipled liar and lunatic in the entire body public ?

The second amendment, I really believe, says nothing conclusive about Joe Citizen’s individual right to own firearms for his own purposes, only that a well-regulated ¹ militia has a right to keep and bear arms for the security of the state,—state to my mind referring to any individual state in the union, and this right may not be infringed. ²

But what about the people—those two words—how do they fit in ?

The best I can do just now is to note that a militia is drawn from the ranks of the people.  So perhaps militia and the people are used as synonyms ?

That militias are so described in The Constitution makes it impossible for, say, the federal government legally to disarm states for nefarious purposes of its own.

States seem to have ³ a constitutionally protected right to raise and arm militias.

More later.


Disclosure statement:  I have no formal training in law.

¹ Well-regulated, to my mind, means well-trained, well-equipped, well-disciplined, well-commanded, and under authority of state government, as distinguished from a self-appointed posse of shotgun toting vigilantes bent on righting perceived wrongs in feloniously violent ways.

² Infringed =  restricted, limited, curbed or checked.  

³ It’s not expressly stated.  But I think it’s strongly implied.

Our National Heroes

History – A Fable Agreed Upon By The Winners

On Columbus Day we celebrate a sort of Star Trek “boldly going where no one has gone before.”

Columbus discovered America!  He was a hero! 

Well, maybe not.

To begin, he wasn’t the first European to reach America.  Vikings beat him by a few centuries. 

And when he arrived he didn’t play nicely with the locals, the Arawak Indians, a tribe inhabiting the Bahama Islands.

The following quotations provide a grim summary of Columbus’ shortcomings in the hero department:

“The cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide.” ¹

“Endless testimonies. . .prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives. . . . But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy; small wonder then, if they tried to kill one of us now and then. . . . The admiral, (Columbus), it is true was blind as those who came after him, and he was so anxious to please the King that he committed irreparable crimes against the Indians. . . . ” ²

“What Columbus did to the Arawaks of the Bahamas, Cortés did to the Aztecs of Mexico, Pizarro to the Incas of Peru, and the English settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts to the Powhatans and the Pequots.” ³

Unlike some critics of prominent historical figures, I don’t advocate condemning them because, judged by our present day standards, they fall far short.

To judge past conduct exclusively by present standards is laughably irrational.

Historical figures should be judged first according to the standards of their time, and only afterwards by the standards of ours.

Columbus was no hero, but neither was he a total failure as a human being.

To sail westward into the vast Atlantic ocean with no reliable charts, in three little ships, (the largest barely one hundred feet long), with only the vaguest idea of where he would end up required superb seamanship and immense courage.

Re-evaluating our national story / heroes more realistically can’t hurt us.

Accurate knowledge of our past is part of a good foundation of national mental health.


¹ Christopher Columbus, Mariner, 1954,  by Samuel Eliot Morrison

² History of the Indies, by Bartolomé de las Casas, (a contemporaneous record)

³ A People’s History of the United States, 2003, by Howard Zinn

 

Capitalism (5th)

A Good Faith Mistake Or Deliberate Legal Corruption?

Corporations used to have privileges, not rights.

In 1886 the Supreme Court seemed to decide a case, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, in a way that gave corporations the same rights as persons.

Corporations are not real persons, born of a biological process.

They’re artificial legal constructions.

So, why did the Court reason as it did?

It didn’t.

J. Bancroft Davis, lawyer, diplomat, former president of a railroad, was in service to the Supreme Court as a court reporter while the above cited case was before the court.

One of his duties was to write what are called headnotes for Supreme Court cases. 

Headnotes summarize key points used by the court in rendering its decision, and are the court reporter’s personal interpretation of the case not official opinions of the court.

Lawyers use headnotes as a sort of “Spark Notes” to quickly review arguments and court judgements.

Before the above cited case, according to the Bill of Rights + the Fourteenth Amendment to The Constitution, corporations, among other entities, had privileges. 

Persons had rights.

The distinction is important.

Davis wrote a falsified summary in his headnotes:  “The defendant Corporations are persons within the the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to The Constitution of the United States, which forbids a state to deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

This legal creativity raised corporations from the ranks of the merely privileged to the ranks of real flesh-and-blood persons having actual rights.

Corporate rights were not even at issue in the trial!

Davis’ “creativity” perverted the intention of the Fourteenth Amendment.

This went unnoticed.  His fantasy headnotes were cited in later cases, thus acquiring the status of precedent law.

So corporations exist in society with the rights of real persons, but without the moral constraints that typically govern their conduct.


Disclosure:  I’m not a lawyer.  I have no political or financial interest in posting this article.  The foregoing is my opinion based on research.

 

Throwing out the baby with the bathwater…

…aka “defunding the police”

Let’s talk turkey about eliminating professional police and replacing them with citizen safety committees.

Let’s imagine these amateurs dealing effectively with the mafias of Italy, Sicily, Russia, and Vietnam, also international terrorists, drug cartels…

and a constantly varying mixture and frequency of burglary, arson, rape, murder, kidnapping, counterfeiting, robbery, prostitution, missing persons, bar fights, drunken driving, vandalism, disorderly conduct, malicious mischief, cruelty to animals, identity theft, traffic jams, hate crimes, rowdy demonstrations, maybe a riot… any or all of this,

plus directing traffic, escorting funeral processions, dealing with trespass complaints, investigating collisions, shooing away loiterers…

all the while enforcing weapons laws, and maybe serving a search or arrest warrant on the sort of psychopathic felon who’d rather kill a cop than get laid.

Can you imagine untrained, uncoordinated, inexperienced amateurs dealing effectively with any part of such a mixture?

I can’t.

When I assign that task to my imagination, it just laughs.

Hysterically.

Let’s eliminate police misconduct, not the police.

Politics (4th)

Vote Suppression—A Tactic Throughout History,

In ancient Rome the patricians, (aka rich political class), wanted their own way and, among other tactics, sought to get it by ensuring that voting occurred in summer months when many lower class people were out of town, (thus away from polling places), earning money as seasonal agricultural labor.

A different tactic was espoused by Joseph Stalin.  He didn’t care who voted or how they voted, so long as he controlled the count.

A lesson of history is that politics of any kind are subject to ceaseless efforts at vote suppression/neutralization for the advantage of this or that group.

Recurrences are so numerous, so persistent, as to be almost boring.

Once again, in our time, people turn to a favorite page in a time-honored playbook of political skullduggery, once again running a belovéd play in happy anticipation of political advantages to be enjoyed by their group.

Be not upset at this.  These people may, for a time, seem to be very powerful and difficult to stop.

Over time, (sometimes a lot of time), their misconduct always generates their defeat.

Why?

Because “reciprocity” is the universal moral law.

It can be expressed another way:  “Put out what you want to take back.”  Another way  of saying the same thing:  “It is impossible to serve someone something without serving oneself the exact same thing.”  And the best known way, in our society:  “Whatsoever you sow, that surely will you reap.”

It is commonly believed that this law operates as a final judgement in the next world.

Whether or not that’s true, it operates in the here and now.

The consequence is inherent in the deed.

Ultimately, regardless of caste or class, nobody gets away with anything.  As stated in street language—”There’s no free lunch.”

So if your cause aligns harmoniously with the inflexible moral law of reciprocity, be in no doubt: there is no defeat so long as there is sustained moral effort.

Obviously, then, it’s better to lose a few rounds in a political contest that will inevitably be won, than to win a few rounds in a political contest that will inevitably be lost.

So let’s calmly, determinedly, shift into low gear, and recommit ourselves to the unending labor and vigilance that alone guarantee that “government of, by, and for (all) the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Capitalism (4th)

As a general principle of American law, people own their personal facts the same way they own their personal shirtsno one may make unauthorized use of either.

Enter surveillance capitalism—making money by selling our personal facts to advertisers, thus destroying our privacy.

One definition of privacy—the ability to control who knows what about us.

This must always be a qualified, not an absolute, right.

Public welfare sometimes demands intrusions, which, in my opinion, should always be strictly regulated by search warrant.

Another definition of privacy—self-selected aloneness—is essential for psychological health, and for cultivating a spiritual life.

Even regarding marriage an Arab poet once wrote, “…let there be a little apartness in your togetherness…”

Off by ourselves we can rest, refresh, become aware of inner guidance helping to solve our problems.

At such times, “heaven speaks.”

Heaven, (however you understand that term), never intended us to live lives devoid of privacy, locked into a technological fishbowl, constantly spied upon by plutocrat capitalists greedy to accumulate ever more money by selling our every discoverable personal fact to interested parties.

Add to this the government’s snooping and it’s plain we need to rethink our understanding of fourth amendment protection from “unreasonable search and seizure.”

It’s would seem that, to many in business and government, our precious the Bill of Rights has become rather inconvenient.

Regarding business, the profit motive does not justify literally anything.

Regarding government, The Constitution is not to be sidelined.

 

“I am a non-participant in social media. I’m not much attracted to anything that involves the willing forfeiture of privacy and the foregrounding of insignificance.”

—Billy Collins

“Facebook says ‘Privacy is theft’ because they’re selling your lack of privacy to the advertisers who might show up one day.”

—Jaron Lanier

“Saying you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is like saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

—Jean-Michel Jarre

“Once you’ve lost your privacy you realize you’ve lost an extremely valuable thing.”

—Billy Graham

Capitalism (2nd)

Federal law requires that corporation officers function in the financial interests of the owners, (shareholders).

A prominent economist, (Milton Friedman, I believe), once declared that the whole “social duty” of a corporation is to make as much money as possible for the owners.

It would seem that this combination of law and “social duty” has produced a pattern of conduct, a portion of which may be described thus:

•  The corporation will pollute the environment whenever doing so is deemed to be cheaper than installing and maintaining pollution controls.  Is there ever a time when dumping pollutants into the environment is more expensive than installing and maintaining pollution controls?  Perhaps—if the offending corporation is caught at it and is penalized by the government or loses in a court of law.

•  Weak or nonexistent labor unions enable corporations to offer fewer benefits and to pay lower wages.  Therefore “union busting” is to be accomplished by any means possible.

•  Government regulation inconsistent with maximizing a corporation’s profits is to be defeated by lobbying, also by contributions to reelection campaigns, in exchange for favorable legislation.  The same benefit may also be obtained by means of carefully concealed bribery.

•  Human beings are to be replaced by machinery whenever possible, because machinery will do a job much more cheaply than a human being, (no pay, no benefits, no paid breaks.)

•  Conclusions of scientific research militating against a corporation doing anything at all to maximize profits are to be discredited by means of covert, well-funded disinformation campaigns, also by reminding purchased politicians who paid the bills for their last reelection campaigns—continue to vote the “right” way and $$$ will continue to flow into your next reelection campaign treasure chest.

•  In relentless pursuit of maximum profits, corporations have all too often abandoned any shred of loyalty to the government / society that gave them birth, (gave them their charters), outsourcing jobs to any country providing cheaper labor, even including the “parent” nation’s most implacable political enemy.

This has the treble effect of strengthening the enemy’s economy, while depriving the “parent” nation of a certain amount of tax revenue, as well as depriving its citizens of jobs.

“Profit motive”, touted as justification (!) for all such conduct,  does not justify literally anything.

To be clear, I don’t advocate abandoning “free market” capitalism.

I do advocate carefully considered changes to eliminate its more glaring flaws.

Taxes (1st)

Property taxes pay for public school systems.

Nobody argues that.

However, a coworker observed that “by enacting property taxes, the government essentially eliminated private property, because one never comes to the point of full ownership of ones property.

There’s always another payment due.

One basically ‘rents’ from the government.  Failure to pay results in eviction. 

Property taxation thus enabled the government to ‘land-grab’ the whole country.”

This argument holds water logically.  And we all know politicians can be pretty tricky.

But I’m wary of jumping to conclusions.

Your comments in support or rebuttal, are welcome.

Capitalism (1st)

Can We Do It Better?

Free-market capitalism operates differently from the way it is described by economists / politicians.

Given the significance of capitalism in our lives, “We the people” might profit from discussion of this difference, which I propose to offer in sequentially numbered installments.

Your comments, of course, are welcome.

Free-Market Capitalism—a phrase with strong popular appeal, is to my mind a description of a wish-dream.

It doesn’t exist.

Our belief that it exists interferes with our ability to do capitalism better.

Consider—in a truly unregulated market…

There would be no zoning laws.  There would be no licensing requirements for doctors, nurses, lawyers, electricians, plumbers, veterinarians, cosmetologists, bar tenders, waiters/waitresses, insurance salespersons, psychologists, real estate agents, and others.

There would be no building codes.

There would be no schedule of  controlled substances.

Selling and buying slaves would be legal.

Anyone could sell or buy any type of firearm.  Hygienic laws for food factories and restaurants wouldn’t exist.

There would be no maximum permissible interest rate.  Corporation officers would not be legally required to function in the financial interests of stockholders.

Regulation is assumed to be a negative influence on the (assumed-to-be-flawless) operation of the unregulated market.  People must be totally “free too choose” if, when, what, where, and how to sell or buy.  The free-market form of capitalism seems based on an assumption that no corrective whatsoever will ever be necessary to check the negative manifestations of human nature. ¹

Lets play “What if…”

“What if…” the government decided to get real on the subject of—lets call it the “Sexual Services Industry”, SSI for short, concluding that the world’s oldest profession, being ever with us, practical regard for public health and safety required the following:

Within a given municipality, all SSI workers would operate within a single precisely defined red-light district, the sole legally permissible area of operation, with substantial penalties for setting up shop off the reservation.  All would be required to purchase a license to practice, which could be suspended or revoked for cause, such as flunking periodic mandatory testing for sexually transmitted diseases, (STD’s).  In addition, all SSI workers would pay income tax, the proceeds of which, together with licensing fees, would help to finance the licensing, medical testing, treatment, and policing of SSI workers and their clientele.

What benefits might accrue to society through the above-described regulation of this hypothetical industry and its market?  For openers, no poxy doxy could operate until he/she tested clean. Granted that mandatory periodic testing is not a perfect system, it would unarguably guarantee some reduction in STD infections.

Confining all SSI workers to a single red-light district would make it easier for morally conservative folks, parents and their kids, school busloads of students on field trips, etc. to avoid contact.

SSI workers, operating legally, openly, in the red light district, therefore not fearing the cops, might be more likely to report people who commit crimes against them.  Criminals, realizing that SSI workers were no longer soft targets, might tend to lay off.  So, all other things being equal, the SSI workers could enjoy safer lives, and the city might enjoy some reduction in the crime rate.

In the above “what-if” discussion I have illustrated ways in which government regulation can serve useful purposes.  Before that, I noted types of regulation, which together with the inherent benefits, would be lacking in a truly unregulated, free-market practice of capitalism.

There is actually no market which is not regulated in some way.  We’ve lived with the regulations and the free-market hype for so long that we’ve become blind to both.

Capitalism is no myth.  Free-market?  That’s a myth.


¹ Some professional economists need to revisit rock-bottom basics—if it were really true under any circumstances that all checks on the negative side of human nature were unnecessary, then God needn’t have given Moses the ten commandments.

Once again—unnecessary?  Ask any lawyer, cop, detective, psychiatrist, priest, minister, rabbi, mullah, youth counselor, or parent for that matter.

Do you prefer a shortcut?  Ask crime victims.

Fundamentalism

Not just Christians…

Fundamentalists, whether Christian, Hindu, Moslem, Jewish, or Buddhist, are conservative, in some cases even reactionary.  Why? ¹

Glad you asked.

Fundamentalists are certain beyond any possibility of debate that their preferred sacred book(s), inerrantly portrays God’s, (or the gods’) will, which is to be followed to the letter.

Because they’re so sure they’re absolutely right, its simple logic that they regard any differing positions as absolutely wrong.

Therefore, though it may not be legally justifiable, the more militant² fundamentalists feel morally justified in imposing God’s, (the gods’)  will on everyone else.   After all, God’s, (the gods’) will, perfectly expressed in (each group’s preferred) scripture, must not be defied.

Social change is strongly resisted if it doesn’t square with ancient patterns of social organization reflected in their scripture(s).  What was condemned, say, 3000 years ago in scripture is to be condemned forever, because (each group’s preferred) scripture is a once-and-done-for-all-time perfect reflection of God’s (the god’s) eternal will—hence the social conservatism or outright reactionary tendency.


¹ Fundamentalism crosses religious lines. Therefore discussion in the round is tricky because the subject is inherently complex.  This post, a first effort, may change to reflect  evolving understanding.

² Some fundamentalists are content to “stand on (their preferred) scriptural truth and love the sinner.”  Unlike the more militant strains, they live law-abiding lives.  They don’t riot, shoot people, bomb crowded pizza parlors, or otherwise shred public peace, dignity, or safety.  Neither do they conspire to do away with democratic traditions or institutions, the better to impose rigid theocracy on everyone.  Theirs is the lawful activism of the ballot box.  In short, their intolerance is tolerable.