Archive for the 'Glibertarianism' Category

06
Aug
12

Six Reasons You Blew It On The Chick-Fil-A Argument

Mitt Romney saying corporations are people

(Above: Mitt Romney assures us that corporations are people. Not pictured: Millions of liberals agreeing.)

The 1st Ward community that stopped Chick-Fil-A from opening its 1,600th restaurant was 100% right to do so, had the legitimate power to do so, and in no way cost anybody their freedom of speech nor of religion.

Because a business is not a person.

Chicken CEO / bigot Dan Cathy is not Chick-Fil-A. Chick-Fil-A is a legal construct distinct from any person.

I expect libertarians and mainstream national politicians to get this wrong, funded as they are by corporate boardrooms who directly benefit from this now-classic ruse.

But watching so many liberals knee-jerk against the Alderman this week on the basis of “free speech” and “government overstep” has taught me a few things, none of them good news for the average liberal’s state of civic literacy.

I have learned:

  • That a whole lot of people have never seen up close what it looks like when a business asks for permission to open.
  • That it’s news to a whole lot of people that it is no longer 1830 and commercial entities have to ask permission to open in a densely populated area, and that it’s a very good thing that they do.
  • That lots of people apparently believe any community should allow any legal business to open in their backyard because being legal is the only standard that exists, everywhere.  Even though a perfectly legal business can legally kill and sicken its neighbors for decades.
  • That Chick-Fil-A is already in business in Chicago, yet somehow I keep reading over and over about how Chicago banned it.
  • That the right of the 50,000 residents in the 1st Ward to petition their duly elected representative to shape their area’s economic life is called oppression, while opening a 1,600th restaurant over the wishes of the locals is called liberty.
  • Most disturbingly, I’ve learned that lots of people can mistake the sacred and monumental protections a CEO has for the things that he says and believes with some kind of weird magic protection for the things the CEO’s business does, such as occupy land, use access, obtain tax breaks, use city services…and of course, discriminate, exclude, and fund hate groups.

People who I respect have actually fallen hard for this nonsense, countering me by pointing out I wouldn’t support a community blocking of a permit if a business pronounced pro-gay tendencies. To which I reply something I once thought was obvious: If a proposed business had announced it preferred to hire gay people, and had been in court repeatedly because it puts its employees and franchisees through tests to make sure they were gay enough, and had funded psychos who deprogram sexual preference — which is the only set of conditions that matches what Chick-Fil-A does — you’d better believe I would tell my Alderman that such a place and its practices was not welcome in my neighborhood. and that the Alderman would lose my support next election if he didn’t reflect my view.  The central issue is corporate practice, not a CEO’s idiotic, discriminatory views nor LGBT equality per se.

Truly, this is a post-Citizens United world when we can get it this wrong. We laugh at Mitt Romney when he stands on a 18″ hay bale and sneers “corporations are people”, but when we mistake chicken bigots (protected) for their corporations (not protected, and subject to our standards), we have no right to laugh at Romney — we’re loudly agreeing with him.

02
Jan
12

Jack Abramoff: Shut Down The Free Market For Political Results

I bought Lawrence Lessig’s most recent title Republic Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress And How To Stop It more for the “how to stop it” part and less for the extra illustrations of business interests corrupting the lawmaking process.  To be already familiar with that area of corporate management known as “government affairs” and its mission to trade cash for influence on Capitol Hill by way of K Street lobbying firms is to be desperately thirsty for thoughts about relief, for plausible solutions rather than more problem review.

(I haven’t gotten to Lessig’s prescription yet.  I’m still plowing through David Graeber’s hugely important anthropological takedown of mythological economics Debt: The First 5,000 Years as well as Robert Elias’ The Empire Strikes Out: How Baseball Sold U.S. Foreign Policy and Promoted The American Way Abroad.)

What I didn’t expect to encounter in the interim was this 90 captivating video minutes of Lessig sitting with infamous former DC lobbyist Jack Abramoff. ‘Casino Jack”, a reformed professional destroyer of democracy once so oily and egregious as to have served 3 1/2 years in prison for political corruption, issues a mea culpa I wasn’t expecting, loudly and clearly blowing the whistle on the lobbying industry, its methods, ethos and apologists.

While one might reasonably expect the appearance to be a plug for Abramoff’s new book, the discussion with Lessig is nothing short of amazing and enlightening.  As a first-hand account of how the hidden, excruciatingly free market for political results specifically destroys representative democracy, this is rare, must-see, must-share stuff – particularly for anybody laboring under the delusion that we’re in trouble because markets aren’t free enough.

Monied lobbying is a market that withers democracy and fecalizes every area of the political spectrum.  The cash-shoveling traditions of Abramoff’s old K Street stomping grounds are why record-low congressional approval rates today reign on the center, right and what passes for a left.  As with all markets, this one’s beneficiaries and owners are few, while the rest of us, left uninvited on the outside, tend to pay lots of its costs.  As profoundly inequitable as this is, it nonetheless comes complete with intellectual blessing; corporate influencers and their hired libertarian think tanks from Cato to Hoover to Mises expressly oppose campaign and lobbying reform.  They forbid limiting the “freedom” of boardroom checkbooks to make a mockery of checks-and-balances government.  Voters get the government that corrupters pay for, and Abramoff, speaking as a former buyer of legislation, reminds everybody that not only does this market exist, it is profoundly free by any definition.

Like Wendell Potter did to the private health insurance industry, or John Perkins did to the neoliberal go-go bankers spreading third world poverty, with his new book, Abramoff just might take his place in the pantheon of Great Whistleblowers Of Late Capitalism.

(Now, to find the time to read the damn thing.)

14
Oct
11

Less Is More: The Orwellian Derangement Of Libertarian Economics

LOL

Of all of the huff-puffing attempts by political groups to catch up to and co-opt Occupy Wall Street, none are so awkward and laughable as that of the economic libertarians. At least when establishment Democratic supporters MoveOn or SEIU et al. fire up their mailing lists to say “us too!” weeks after the major cities have been occupied, they can truthfully claim to have been in some way part of the general struggle against the core problem of big business’s capture of our democracy.

But when the libertarian Cato Institute does the same thing, it’s comical, tantamount to an arsonist showing up to his own handiwork wearing a homemade fireman’s hat holding a dixie cup full of water.

Look at this Venn diagram published by Cato this week .  It’s nothing short of a masterpiece of self-satire.

In it, we are told that the Tea Party and OWS are appreciably similar things.  Yes, the Tea Party, that designed, funded, guided expression of the will of big business, astroturfed by corporate uber-lobbyist Dick Armey.  Cato expects us to believe that the Tea Party movement (characterized by civics illiteracy, mau-mau images, guns and anger at taxation) and OWS, (characterized by civil disobedience, class consciousness, smart phones and anger at corrupted institutions) share a core premise.

The premise?  It’s written in the Venn overlap region in the center: that “large corporations lobby for the government to have more power”.

Wait.  What?  More power?  In what world is that true, and what color is the sky there?

Because in this world, what big business does is the precise opposite.

1) The fact is, big business feverishly lobbies for government to impose deregulation.  That’s deregulation, meaning removing government power to regulate big business and markets.  Big business wants government to have zero say in financial markets, and gets what it wants want at a frightening clip.  For example, in 1999 when Glass-Steagall was repealed.  GS had, since the 1930s, imposed market safety regulation, but its removal greenlit the multitrillion monster market in mortgage-backed securities that caused the meltdown of 2008.

The leader of the effort to wipe out GS was Republican Senator Phil Gramm of Texas.  And who waved the pom-pons for this disaster while Phil took the ball across the goal line?

A chorus of anti-regulation libertarian think tanks, of course.  Such as Cato’s ideological twin the Mercatus Center.  Enjoy browsing the work of Senator Phil Gramm’s wife Wendy, Mercatus’s senior scholar.  Take in the deregulation-paean video “The Cost Of Workplace Regulations”. Keep a tissue handy as Mrs. Gramm shows us the pain of oil companies in her article “EPA Speeds Ahead With Ill-Conceived Vehicle And Gasoline Standards”.

Yes, people such as this not only carry water for big business and lead the charge to beat back regulation and taxes, they produce Venn diagrams claiming big business wants the government to have more power.

Less is more.  Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

2) The next of Cato’s Orwellian perversions: big business lobbies against campaign finance reform.  Campaign financing as it stands is the mechanism of normalized corruption of electoral politics and representative government.  It is the implementation of the free market for political results – the only free market libertarians are uncomfortable acknowledging.  Without its corruption of our representative democracy, big business has to face paying its taxes, reducing its pollution, economically developing instead of savaging the United States.  As such, campaign finance reform is the last thing big business wants touched. Which is why Cato and libertarians are 110% against campaign finance reform.

3) Big business lobbies to obtain tax cuts and loopholes that reduce their obligation to fund the society they inhabit.  To be fair, in this area, libertarian economics does not provide the majority of cover to big business, conservative think tanks such as Heritage do. But this is only because Cato never found a tax it found necessary.  The power of the government to tax is anathema to Cato – and it’s no coincidence that the plummeting effective corporate tax rates in the US (in the case of General Electric in 2010, 0%) is an idea that Cato, to say the least, endorses.  That is to say, again, less power for the government and more for big business.

So we’re supposed to believe, as we take to the streets to take back our democracy from big business, that Cato and the Tea Party are our pals?

Hey chief, there’s something funny about that firefighter over there.  He smells like gasoline and there’s matches falling out of his pockets.

21
Sep
11

Elizabeth Warren: Patiently Explaining Civics And Capitalism To Free-Market Fundamentalist Morons Since 1999

Elizabeth Warren for Senate. Because the “free market” was always a fantasy.




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