Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Some Conservative Recommendations

Fran Porretto has some recommendations for conservative argumentation posted over at Eternity Road. Mostly, they concern the function of a market and the idea of rationing. I agree for the most part, and I thought I'd post a few of my own thoughts. Most of these would fall under a single heading, an overarching concern that seems to be the Achille's heel of modern conservatives and libertarians:
Stop defending the status quo!
You'd think that as much as conservatives and libertarians complain about their rights being trampled and the decay of society, they'd recognize that the present state of affairs is neither conservative nor libertarian. If it is not conservative, and it is not libertarian, why are they defending it?! In particular, the following topics are of particular concern. If conservatives wish to produce converts among people of good-will, they really ought to:
  • stop defending corporations and their actions
  • stop defending the "profits" of the financial sector, i.e. Goldman Sachs
  • stop defending obscene actions and salaries of corporate officers
  • stop defending the present trade arrangements (i.e. "free trade," globalization, and outsourcing)
  • stop defending the Federal Reserve, central banking, and "the US Dollar," i.e. fiat paper currencies
  • stop defending the present state of the markets
  • and for goodness sakes, stop defending the present healthcare system!
By defending such abominations, conservatives grate the consciences of people rightly concerned that abuse is going on, which it most certainly is. Absolutely none of these is the result of free-markets and limited government. Corporations are legal fiction, created solely to promulgate collectivism in property ownership and limited liability (and, therefore, legal responsibility!) These legal protections really do favor corporations over "mom-and-pop" outfits, among many other unfair advantages that are quite obvious to average plainfolk with more common sense than conservatives would like to give them credit for. The "profits" of the financial sector, especially the loathsome Goldman Sachs, are largely the result of insider dealings and government intervention on their behalf, particularly with respect to monetary inflation and government protection. The salaries of corporate officers really are totally unwaranted; they are not being set by a free market, as the market is not even remotely free. Massive monetary manipulations by the FED work to their favor compared to us average folk, not to mention the fact that they sit atop legally created entities that would be completely uncompetitive in a free and open market. Likewise, it should not surprise those of us with an appreciation of Adam Smith's invisible hand that their actions are often in flagrant opposition to what most would consider ethical behavior in the interest of shareholders and customers precisely due to their insulation from accountability! Officers of legally privileged, collectivist institutions have behaved similarly throughout history; why should corporate officers be any different? Because they are "capitalists?" Hardly! "Protectionism" is no virtue; however, globalization and outsourcing are a fraud. Presently, they are coming unwound because the institutions that have kept them going are coming unglued. It should not surprise anyone with an understanding of economics that peasant Asians are not naturally competitive with modern Western laborers equipped with the best manufacturing technologies available. China's "competitiveness" derives primarily from currency manipulations and an ever growing mountain of debt with its trading partners. It was unnatural, and is now in the process of collapsing. But the one-way highway of goods with the Orient was almost entirely a product of coercive government meddling and never should have occurred in the first place. As frequent readers here will know, the lion's share of that meddling begins and ends with the central banks of the world, especially our dear old Federal Reserve. The FED and its cronies are largely responsible for the disaster we are now facing. Conservatives would do well to eschew any kind word for this monetary monstrosity, and should actively work to properly lay the blame for our predicament at its doorstep and have it dismembered. The wisdom of a gold-coin currency would be a natural appeal to plain people who are acutely aware that "a dollar ain't what it used to be." Conservative should embrace honesty in money, not its opposite. Finally, stop defending the outcomes of markets that are not free in the first place! Especially with respect to such sensitive topics as healthcare! The present market in healthcare is not free. It is not even remotely so. The last time I went into a grocery store, the cashiers did not attempt to charge different prices to different people. They did not let some folks go without paying. They did not bill a third party for what I took home. Yet somehow I'm to believe that these two markets are even remotely similar? People without health insurance know how unfair the system is. They've received the runaround by the receptionists, the harassment of collectors, and the outrageous, inflated bills in the mail that didn't get the benefit of negotiation by a well-heeled and well-connected insurance company. This is not the product of a competitive market with transparent pricing. This is the product of a semi-socialist nightmare. DAMMIT REPUBLICANS, STOP DEFENDING THIS MONSTROSITY! Stop defending the status quo! Attack it rightfully as the product of statism! Not only will you have a cleaner conscience, you might actually have a chance at accomplishing something noble in the process. And who knows? You may even win an election...


  1. The reasons conservatives so often defend the status quo are that:
    -- Their conservative predispositions trump their devotion to freedom; or:
    -- They fear to piss off some sub-constituency that might labor to get them dis-elected.

    Just now, we're seeing some of that over Medicare. Medicare is only 45 years old, but by some persons' lights, that means it's "established" and "here to stay" -- an emotionally conservative argument -- even if it's terribly flawed and bankrupt. But beyond that, quite a bit of the hostility toward ObamaCare arises from senior citizens who fear to lose their Medicare benefits. Those persons are angry and energized as no other issue, except for Social Security benefits, could get them. A conservative who tries to harness that fury to defeat ObamaCare (and incidentally reinforce his electoral prospects) is both being untrue to small-government principles and failing to think long-term.

    The problem of entitlement / special-interest coupling is one of the toughest on the political landscape for those of us with an attachment to limited-government ideals. I hope someone really, really clever is working on it.

  2. I suppose I'm not being very practical, but it frustrates me greatly to see libertarians/conservatives passionately defending what is patently at odds with what they profess to believe. I think it goes further than simple defense of what is "established," though that is certainly a big part of it. I think there is very much a complete lack of understanding and disinterest, not to mention outright disinformation as you commented on today, particularly with respect to economics.

    Our division of labor has far outstripped the ability of our established norms and legal/moral customs to protect us in situations we do not directly understand due to constraints imposed by specialization or lack of interest. The end of hard currencies in favor of fiat money systems is the perfect example. How many conservatives really understand this problem? How many actually care? Almost zero!

    The wisdom previous generations took for granted, we can barely grasp at. Our precious codes and legal structures are eroded and perverted, and now conservatives find themselves defending a grotesque caricature of the America they actually had in mind at one time. They now defend the ideological territory of the enemy for him, and appear in many cases to be completely unaware of it. For the leftists/statists, it's a near perfect implementation of the cuckoo's strategy, and it appears that it will continue to work unless something drastic changes.

    Like perhaps systemic collapse. At any rate, I'm not nearly so concerned with the problem of entitlement/special-interest coupling as I am that libertarians/conservatives appear to be completely unaware of the nature of what they defend and ignorant of any ability to detect when something is wrong. For example: the inability to recognize utterly non-market activities in a system like healthcare when they appear. There really isn't much hope in disentangling entitlement demographics from their public trough (anyway, I'm not that clever, and I'm not sure that "clever" is even the issue or the solution), but at the least we can try to straigten out those who really do have an appreciation for limited government and a desire to do the right thing.

    Sadly, I must admit that even I fall into this same category a great deal of the time. I do my best with my little corner of the subject of economics, but a much greater portion is still far beyond my ability to comprehend. In most respects, I'm just as ignorant as the next knucklehead libertarian.

    We have lost something very precious over this last century, haven't we?