FT200: “Only force can make people live in a world without choice.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 13th, 2013

Fundamental Truth

College Students and Hippies of Yesteryear have a Soft Spot for their Communist Heroes

The hippies in the Sixties saw a brotherhood of man.  They wanted to link arms and sing Kumbaya.  Live in their communes.  Get high.  Have unprotected sex with multiple partners who bathed infrequently.  While being one with nature.  And poop and pee in the great outdoors.  Like the animals.  Only with less grooming.  For they hated the Man.  And didn’t want anything to do with their parent’s generation.  They protested any figure of authority.  Protested the Vietnam War.  And protested against their government.  Speaking truth to power.  And yearned to bring the Marxist-Leninist revolution to America.

The hippies were rabid anti-capitalists.  Which is why they loved communism.  Where there were no possessions.  No religion.  Or greed or hunger.  Just imagine all the people sharing all the world.  Words from John Lennon’s song Imagine).  Former Beatle.  And one of the leaders of the counterrevolution.  Not to be confused with the other Lenin.  Vladimir Ilich Lenin.  Of Soviet Marxism-Leninism fame.  Or, rather, infamy.  One of many icons of the counterrevolution.  Along with Mao Zedong.  Ho Chi Minh.  Fidel Castro.  And, of course, Che Guevara.  Whose bearded and beret-wearing image adorns many a university dorm room wall and student t-shirt to this day.

College students today, just as the hippies of yesteryear, still have a soft spot for their communist heroes.  Thanks to many of these hippies of yesteryear having joined the establishment.  And are now teaching our kids in college the evils of capitalism and the goodness of government.  Despite their one-time fierce opposition to the Man.  Guess things change once you get money.  Like someone in the rock band The Who said when asked if he still hopes to die before he gets old (a line from My Generation-a song about youthful angry rebellion against their parent’s generation).  The reply was that being old wasn’t all that bad when you were rich.  Something the old hippies of the Sixties no doubt discovered.  And best of all they got rich by taking money from the capitalist pigs.  Their students’ rich parents.  Or the taxpayers who worked in that detested capitalist system.

Nations with the Marxist Brotherhood of Man with No Possessions have been the Worst Places to Live

It is ironic that without capitalism these communist-loving parasites could not be parasites.  For if no one was creating economic activity there would be no income to tax.  Or to pay for the one thing growing more expensive than health care.  College tuition.  Interestingly, there is no ‘Obamacare’ for our colleges and universities.  No.  They never label them greedy despite their being the greediest of them all.  But you know who they do label as greedy?  The taxpayers who oppose higher taxes to pay for the ever higher cost of higher education.  They’re the greedy ones.  Not the old hippies of the Sixties.  And their fellow anti-capitalists.

Another interesting thing about these anti-capitalists?  They yearn for one-party rule.  Which is why public education teaches our kids to distrust capitalism and to trust government.  And our colleges and universities teach our kids to be ashamed of their nation’s past.  And the importance of diversity.  Which is code for anything that isn’t American.  For America was founded by rich white slave-owners who stole the land from the Native Americans.  And America’s imperialist aggression is the only source of strife in the world today.  While ignoring the expanding communist revolution that was spreading out from the Soviet Union into the Eastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas.  The one ideology that has killed more people than any other.  Through state oppression, wars and famine.

Yes, this brotherhood of man where there are no possessions have been in fact the worst places to live.  The Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Mao’s Peoples Republic of China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, etc.  These are all nations that had gulags or reeducation camps for political prisoners.  Those people who spoke—or thought—truth to power.  They all had police states where the people lived in fear of their government.  They suffered for the want of the most basic items (soap, toilet paper, etc.).  There was state censorship.  They persecuted anyone practicing any religion.  The people suffered from constant hunger.  And the occasional famine.  They killed anyone trying to escape their communist utopia.  Or sent them off to hard labor and torture.  If they escaped successfully then the state punished any family remaining behind.  To warn others what would happen if they escaped their communist utopia.

The Great Flaw of Socialism is being unable to Determine What is the Greater Good

Why did these communist states have police states and brutally oppress their people?  Because they had to.  When the communists built the Berlin Wall it wasn’t to keep people from West Berlin out of East Berlin.  It was to stop people escaping from East Berlin to West Berlin.  For the East Germans were suffering a terrific brain drain.  Capitalists believe in liberty.  The freedom to do what they want.  And to get paid for their services.  A highly skilled doctor expects a higher salary than a janitor.  And that just isn’t going to happen in a communist state.  You get what the state gives you.  No more.  Creating a heck of a free rider problem.  When your economic system works based on the Marxist premise from each according to ability to each according to need what you get is a lot of people showing little ability and a lot of need.  For the more ability you had the harder they forced you to work.  While the greater your need the more you got.  Such a system encourages people to do the minimum and not be extraordinary.  Which is why Sony, Samsung, Microsoft, Apple, The Beatles, etc., did not come from communist countries.

A communist state has a planned economy.  Instead of a free market economy.  Communist state planners manage the economy from top down.  Telling the raw material industry what materials to extract.  They tell what factories get these raw materials and what they are to build.  Etc.  Whereas in a free market economy the economy is driven bottom up by the consumers.  When consumers start buying a lot of one thing the price for that one thing rises.  Attracting other businesses into the market to meet that rising demand.  Who place orders with their wholesalers.  Who place orders with their manufacturers.  Who place orders with their industrial processors.  Who place orders with their raw material extractors.  Hundreds of thousands of decisions happen as this consumer demand travels up the stages of production in a free market economy.  Giving the people what they want.  And not what a state planner decides to give to the people.

This is why communist (and socialist) states are oppressive dictatorships.  Because state planners decide for the people.  Which must start with the supreme decision maker.  The Joseph Stalin, the Mao Zedong, the Ho Chi Minh, the Kim Jong Un, the Raul Castro, the Hugo Chávez, etc.  And these people don’t take polls or hold elections.  Well, at least elections that are legitimate.  Kim Jong Un continues the state policy of his predecessors.  No economic reform.  Money goes to the military first (especially for his nuclear toys) and whatever is left over may go to the people.  And anyone who disagrees with him or thinks wrong goes to the gulag.  Or is executed.  Like his uncle.  While the people suffer the want of the most basic things.  Like food.  North Korea to this day still suffers the occasional famine because of its economic policies.  But one problem the North Koreans don’t have?  Deciding where to go for lunch.

“Where do you want to eat?  I don’t know, where do you want to eat?”  This can go on until someone forceful makes the decision for the group.  Often making no one happy.  But it will end the endless “where do you want to eat?”  This is the great flaw of socialism.  Being unable to determine what is the greater good.  Because people rarely agree on what’s best for other people.  Just look at the recent budget agreement that made few people happy.  They were unhappy because they disagreed on what was the greater good.  People are different.  One size does not fit all.  You just can’t please all of the people all of the time.  So you have to force your will on the people.  The only mechanism that makes socialism work.  Force.  Because people can rarely agree on where to go to lunch let alone national policy.  And this is why all communist/socialist states end in brutal dictatorships.  Because only force can make people live in a world without choice.

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President Obama’s Policies are Destroying the Economy and Transforming the Country in a Bad Way

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 7th, 2013

Week in Review

Is President Obama the worst president ever?  Perhaps.  Based on what he has done to the economy.  FDR and LBJ caused great damage and destroyed families by putting us on the path President Obama has taken us further down than any other president.  Towards European socialism.  It’s all there in history.  And the economic numbers.  How activist governments destroy everything that made capitalist countries great.  Thrift.  Frugalness.  Working hard to save for your future.  Which created a strong banking system.  Where people deposited their money.  Creating investment capital.  And bankers practiced sound lending practices.  And suffered the consequences of making risky loans.  Unlike today.  Thanks to Keynesian economics.  And a monetary policy that controls and plays with interest rates to create artificial demand that causes great bubbles.  And prolonged recessions.  Ever since governments took control of interest rates and began printing money to finance the growth of their activist governments they have set countries everywhere on the path to financial ruin.  And bankruptcy.  As government spending outgrew the ability of taxes to pay for it.  And then the debt grew so great they struggled to finance it.

But it doesn’t deter the Keynesians from trying the same failed policies of the past.  They continue to intervene into the private sector economy.  And when they cause great economic damage they just report bad economic news as good (see Employment Situation Summary by the Bureau of Labor Statistics posted 9/6/2013).

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 169,000 in August, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 7.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.  Employment rose in retail trade and health care but declined in information.

Sounds good.  Things are good.  The economy added new jobs.  Fans of the Obama administration are trumpeting this as good news.  And proof that the Obama economic policies are working.  But if you take a close look at the jobs data you find that the economy is horrible.  Because of President Obama.  And his awful, job-killing economic policies.  Such as Obamacare.  Greater regulatory policies.  And higher taxes.  President Obama has advanced (or tried to advance in the case of cap and trade) every policy that he could think of that causes great harm to the economy.  Is he doing this on purpose because he hates capitalism?  Or is he just another Keynesian who thinks that government is smarter than the people going about their business in the private sector economy?  Or both?

The unemployment rate (the official U-3 rate that counts about the fewest of the actual unemployed) has fallen from a high of 10% since he’s been president.  But it’s not because he’s creating jobs.  It’s because these people just gave up and left the labor force.  Because there are no jobs.  As the falling labor force participation rate clearly shows.

U-3 Unemployment Rate and Labor Force participation Rate Jan 2009- Aug 2013

Ever since President Obama took office the labor force participation rate has steadily declined.  Showing a steady trend of destroying jobs.  Not creating them.  If you want to know exactly how many jobs his policies have destroyed you can get that from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, too.  By subtracting the number of people NOT in the labor force when he took office in January 2009 (80,507,000) from the number of people NOT in the labor force from the August Jobs report (90,473,000).  And when you subtract 80,507,000 from 90,473,000 you get 9,966,000 jobs that President Obama and his economic policies have destroyed.  Just under 10 million people have left the labor force while President Obama has been president.  And yet they celebrate the creation of 169,000 jobs in August.

The economy is not good.  It’s not improving.  It will only improve when we finally abandon the failed Keynesian policies of the past.  And get the government out of the private sector economy. The way it was when America became the number one economic power in the world.  Before the progressives/liberals transformed the country into what it is today.  A dying European social democracy.  Where governments tried to give the people everything.  Only to bankrupt their countries.  And caused their people to riot when they couldn’t borrow enough money to keep giving the people what they had been giving them.  Which is usually what happens when you take stuff away from people who have gotten used to having that stuff.  Which is why Obamacare is so insidious.  And important to the left.  Once they make Obamacare a ‘third-rail’ program like Social Security and Medicare they know it will never go away.  No matter what economic damage it does.  Or how much it destroys the quality of health care.

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Venezuela may put People before Profits but they have no Toilet Paper

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 18th, 2013

Week in Review

The American left wants to have the economic system they have in Venezuela.  Where they put people before profits.  To prevent evil corporations from getting rich.  While exploiting their workers.  And overcharging their customers.  You see, that kind of thing just doesn’t happen in Venezuela.  Because they put people before profits (see So, Venezuela Has a Toilet-Paper Shortage (Don’t Laugh. Seriously.) by Jordan Weissmann posted 5/16/2013 on The Atlantic).

Venezuela is now suffering from a government-induced toilet paper shortage. The situation has become politically dire enough that the government has promised to import 50 million rolls to calm shoppers.

For those familiar with the Bolivarian Republic’s less-than-sterling economic record of late, this won’t come as a surprise. The country, while relatively wealthy by developing-world standards, has been suffering through a chronic shortfall of everything from groceries to asthma inhalers, resulting in desperate lines of shoppers and a healthy black market trade in kitchen staples like flour.

In the United States about the only toilet paper shortage people are familiar with is when they drop trou in a public restroom without looking to see if there was toilet paper first.  Why do people do this in the United States?  Because we take toilet paper for granted.  And always expect it to be there.  Because we are not socialists.  We’re capitalists.  And being a capitalist means you never have to see an empty shelf when buying toilet paper.

So why do socialists have such a difficult time buying toilet paper?  Because they put people before profits.  Which sounds good but is only code for dictatorship.  Where the dictator lives well.  As there is always enough for the privileged few.  But to sustain this privileged position a dictator has to steal from his people.

In 2003, then President Hugo Chavez slammed currency controls into place to prevent money from fleeing the country while government seized land and corporate assets. Those rules have made it harder to buy imports. Meanwhile, price caps meant to make basic staples affordable to the poor are so low that, for many products, they don’t pay for the cost of production.

Nobody’s going to make toilet paper if they’ll lose money selling it.

Price caps make things cost less than the prevailing market price.  Which encourages people to over consume.  Just as Nixon’s price controls led to gas shortages in the United States.  While at the same time the price caps force suppliers to sell below the prevailing market price.  Which is often below their costs.  So while people are clearing shelves off suppliers are not replenishing those shelves.  Leading to shortages.

To buy imports you have to first exchange your currency for the currency of the country you’re buying from.  For U.S. companies accept the U.S. dollar for its exports.  Not the bolívar fuerte.  Venezuela’s currency controls prevent Venezuelan businesses from exchanging their currency.  Making it impossible for them to buy the imports they need.  So they have to throttle back production.  Making it more difficult to restock those empty shelves.  Forcing the people to go without toilet paper.  While Hugo Chavez died a billionaire.

This is what happens when you put people before profits.  You make it possible for a charismatic dictator to impoverish the people he champions.  Which is impossible under laissez-faire capitalism.  For businesses can buy the imports they need.  And they can sell at a price that covers their costs.  Which keeps the shelves in capitalist countries overflowing with the goods people want to buy.  While wannabe dictators can’t seize land and corporate assets.  But have to work for a living.  Like everyone else.

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Labor Theory of Value and Prices

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 13th, 2013

Economics 101

“Do you know how many men you and that machine are putting out of a job?”

Ditch digging is back-breaking work.  Often under a blistering sun.  Where laborers swing picks into the hard soil.  Breaking the compacted soil and rock into loose chunks.  Then another laborer thrusts his shovel into the loosened soil.  Scoops up a load and transfers it to a large bucket.  When full other laborers topside heave the bucket up from the trench.  And empties it onto a cart.  Then returns the bucket to the bottom of the trench.  Then laborers swing their picks.  And scoop up more soil.

A ditch digger may hate his job.  The immense physical requirements wearing him down.  Working in unbearable heat.  And the monotony.  Just dig, dig, dig.  Pausing to wipe the sweat rolling off his face with his shirt sleeve.  To grab a deep breath.  Or a swig of water.  Then back to the pick.  Or shovel.  Calloused hands gripping a splintered handle.  As his burning muscles drive it back into the earth.  All the while thinking that there must be a better way.

Then the day comes when a truck pulls onto site.  Pulling a trailer.  And on that trailer is the future.  A mechanical excavator.  With a 44″-wide bucket on it that can move more soil with one swipe than a laborer can dig in a day.  A machine that would revolutionize ditch digging.  As one machine and a crew of a few men could do the work of 100 ditch diggers in far less time.  As the machine operator prepares to drive the mechanical excavator off the trailer a grizzled ditch digger walks up to him and says, “Do you know how many men you and that machine are putting out of a job?”

Something is Worth what Someone is Willing to Pay for it Regardless of the Quantity of Labor

The labor theory of value would say this ditch is very valuable.  Before the future arrived on that trailer.  For this theory states that value is proportional to the quantity of labor it takes to make or do something.  The more labor hours required the more valuable it is.  It’s not the market that determines value via the laws of supply and demand.  As happens under capitalism.  No.  It’s labor that determines value.  A theory championed by labor movements.  And Karl Marx.  The father of communism.  The greatest anti-capitalist of them all.  Which reveals the true motive behind the labor theory of value.  To give more political power to labor.  While having nothing to do with economics.

To illustrate this let’s look at ditch digging.  The way it was.  And the way it is.  For this exercise let’s consider a ditch for a 60″ storm drain.  Which requires a deep, long trench.  Let’s say it takes a crew of 100 laborers to hand-dig the trench in 6 weeks.  While a crew of 10 laborers and a machine can do the job in 1 week.  Each laborer has $25 worth of tools.  And the mechanical excavator costs $25,000 to rent for one week.  Now let’s assume two construction companies put a bid together for this work.  One bases their estimate on the way it was.  Men digging by hand.  The other bases their estimate on the way it is.  Using a machine.  The value of this trench is the cost of their estimates.  That is, the value of the trench is the cost to dig it.  Which is the price someone must pay to have this ditch.  We summarize these two estimates in the following table.

Ditch Digging

The bottom line in the table is the value of the dug trench.  Which you will notice has two different values.  Even though both methods result in an identical thing.  A trench the same length, width and depth.  Yet if dug by hand the price is $1.8 million.  But if we dig it with a machine the price is $55,250.  How can this be?  How can two identical things have two different prices?  Well, they can’t.  What we have is two prices.  But only one price someone will pay.  The low price.  Because that’s all the trench is worth.  The price someone is willing to pay.  Regardless of the quantity of labor used to dig it.

The Labor Theory of Value is a Flawed Economic Theory used more to Attack Capitalism

So Karl Marx was wrong.  As are those in the labor movement.  While the capitalists were/are right.  Labor does NOT determine value.  The market does.  Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.  Based on the laws of supply and demand.

For example, a lot of labor hours go into building a caboose.  The last car on a train before FRED (flashing rear-end device).  The steel wheels, the brakes, the enclosure, the wood burning stove for the brakeman to warm up by, etc.  Which gives it great value based on the labor theory of value.  And a high selling price.  But trains today don’t use cabooses.  For they have no brakemen running along the top of moving trains to turn the brake wheels to stop the train.  Thanks to George Westinghouse and his air brake.  So there is very little if any demand for cabooses by today’s railroads.  Making it all but worthless.  Despite the high price tag based on the quantity of labor used to build it.

Again, supply and demand determine prices.  Not the quantity of labor.  And you can see this anywhere you look.  Another good example is housing.  You can build identical houses in two different locations and they can sell for two different prices.  Despite being built with the exact same amount of labor.  That house on the beach in Malibu will have a far higher price than the same house in Detroit.  For when it comes to real estate three things determine the price of a house.  Location, location and location.  Regardless of the quantity of labor used to build it.  Whether 100 workers build it using nothing but hand tools.  Or a crew of 10 using the latest in power tools and equipment.  It will cost more to pay 100 men to build it using nothing but hand tools.  But it won’t sell for any more than the one built by the crew of 10 using the latest in power tools and equipment.  Because the labor theory of value is a flawed economic theory.  Used more to attack capitalism.  To transfer power from the capitalists to the labor movement.  And the unions that represent them.  As well as the government officials that protect the unions in exchange for campaign contributions.

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Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were Good for the World but Bad for Special Interests

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 14th, 2013

Week in Review

People either loved Margaret Thatcher.  Or they hated her.  And it all came down to their political ideology.  If you were pro-capitalism you loved her.  If you preferred socialism you hated her.  And the biggest socialist to hate her (and her friend Ronald Reagan) was the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR).  Not only did the success of her economic policies make the failure of the Soviet economic policies stark by comparison she was outspoken about her hatred of communism.  Even allowed her good friend, Ronald Reagan, base American nuclear cruise missiles on British soil.

Capitalism’s victory over Soviet socialism was so apparent that Mikhail Gorbachev opened dialogue with the Great Margaret Thatcher.  Ultimately bringing about the Soviet’s defeat in the Cold War.  Because socialism as an economic system doesn’t work.  Which is why Britain soared to new heights under the capitalist policies of Margaret Thatcher.  While the Soviet Union collapsed under their socialist policies.  And she entered office when Britain was at its worst (see To blame Margaret Thatcher for today’s problems is to misunderstand history by Allister Heath posted 4/9/2013 on The Telegraph).

[Margaret Thatcher] inherited a basket case of an economy, crippled by obsolete state-owned firms, a legacy of decades of poor policies. Management was insular and demoralised, the workforce used as pawns by militant union leaders who would call strikes at every opportunity, customers treated like dirt and production techniques stuck in the past.

Productivity was appalling, overmanning the norm and the quality of UK-made goods notoriously poor. Britain was sclerotic, anti-entrepreneurial and anti-innovation, often specialising in industries with no long-term future.

Yet it is a little-known fact that manufacturing output actually went up during her time in office, despite the necessary liquidation of so many unviable plants.

This was basically the problem they were having in the Soviet Union.  Everything was state-owned.  Production techniques were stuck in the past.  No one clamored to get their hands on good Soviet products.  Because there were no good Soviet products.  And they had far too many workers in their plants building stuff no one wanted.  While store shelves sat empty and people went without the basic necessities.  Britain was far along the path to outright socialism.  While Soviet Union was nearing the end of that path.  Margaret Thatcher turned the country around before they could end up where the Soviet Union was.  And the sun began to shine once more on the British Empire.  Albeit a smaller one.

Output had grown another 4.9pc by the start of 1997, when the Tories were booted out. Given the bitterness of the 1980s’ recession, caused by the desperate need to wring out extreme levels of inflation from the system by using high interest rates, it shows just how effective her supply-side reforms turned out to be…

…She was right to slash income tax, to repeal capital controls and to shake up the City of London with Big Bang. Most of her reforms to retail banking, including allowing banks and building societies to compete with one another, were spot-on.

There were some bad changes, however, though not the ones usually cited: still-high inflation made the ultra-safe saving banks unviable, especially after the EU forced the UK to introduce retail deposit insurance in 1979; there was a counter-productive move away from individual responsibility in retail financial services; and the UK signed up to the Basel Accords in 1990, a flawed international system to regulate banks that triggered all sorts of dangerous unintended behaviour and ensured financial institutions retained far too little reserves. In all cases, however, these were changes that didn’t really follow her basic philosophy…

Thatcherism was about choice, individual responsibility and independence from the state, not the politicised, artificially pump-primed markets we ended up with by the mid-2000s. She hated bail-outs, government subsidies and nationalisations; and would have looked on in horror at the gradual socialisation of losses and privatisation of profit in the financial services industry in the 15 years running up to the crisis.

Starting with the rescue of the LTCM fund in 1998 in New York, regulators decided that no large financial institution could ever fail. Alan Greenspan saw himself as an economist-king, manipulating interest rates to bolster financial markets and ensure perpetual growth, and triggering a giant bubble that burst twice. This was corporatism, not genuine capitalism.

Under the new order, including Gordon Brown’s late, unlamented Financial Services Authority, banks were disciplined neither by the free market – the authorities were there as a backstop, so there was no chance of going bust – nor by regulators, who allowed risk to build up unchecked. Greed was no longer balanced out by fear; moral hazard had replaced prudence. Thatcher, the grocer’s daughter and keen student of F.A Hayek, would have despaired.

A genuinely Thatcherite government in the 2000s is unlikely to have tolerated the explosion in the money supply – and house price madness – that Brown allowed, not least because Lord Lawson made a similar mistake in the late 1980s when he was Chancellor, triggering an earlier, disastrous house price bubble and bust. The parallels between the two episodes are striking but bizarrely uncommented upon.

So it is silly to blame Thatcher for today’s problems. If only one of her disciples had been in power in the 2000s, we wouldn’t be in anything like the mess we are in today.

Supply-side reforms?  Those were the same kind of reforms that her good friend, Ronald Reagan, favored.  And by using them he undid the Keynesian damage of his predecessors (LBJ, Nixon, Ford and Carter).  Pulling the United States off the path towards socialism.  Long before they got where Britain was before Thatcher.  But like in Britain it didn’t take long to return to the failed policies of the past.  The Keynesians returned in full force.  Playing with interest rates.  Keeping them artificially low to interfere with market forces.  Causing great irrational exuberance.  Those famous words uttered by Alan Greenspan.  An irrational exuberance his Federal Reserve policies enabled. Allowing people to borrow cheap money to invest with abandon.  With no fear of the economic fallout.  Pure Keynesian economics.  This wasn’t capitalism.  For capitalism would have raised those interest rates before they created such great bubbles.  And capitalism would have disciplined those free markets.  By checking greed with fear and having serious consequences for irrational exuberance.  Not government bailouts.

If Thatcher and Reagan were in office in the past decade things would be a lot better now.  And the simple proof of that is that when we moved away from their policies we created the mess we have today.

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2012 Endorsements: Karl Marx

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 29th, 2012

2012 Election

Because Workers just don’t Spontaneously Join Together into a Functioning Business they need Capitalists

Karl Marx is the father of socialism.  And communism.  He was also the author (along with Friedrich Engels) of the Communist Manifesto.  The 19th century book that said, “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution.  The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains.  They have a world to win.  WORKINGMEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!”  Some people heeded his advice.  Vladimir Ilich Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Kim Il-sung, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh and Pol Pot, to name a few.  The greatest mass murderers of all time.  No ideology has killed more than communism.  Not even the socialist Adolf Hitler, leader of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (more commonly known as the Nazi Party) killed more.

According to Marx the history of society has been a class struggle.  Before his time it was the landed aristocracy oppressing the peasants in feudalism.  Then came along capitalism.  Where the new oppressor was the bourgeoisie.  The capitalist.  The employer.  The person that paid others to work.  And kept the profits of their labors.  Basically that means your boss.  Who you may hate while you’re working.  But if business is slow and layoffs are coming you desperately hope it’s someone else and not you.  And should you lose your job you desperately look for someone else who will pay you to work.  Because that’s the only way you know how to feed yourself and buy yourself nice things.  Like a home.  A cup of coffee at Starbucks.  Or a smartphone.  Marx called this oppression.  While most everyone else would call that being happy to have a job.  Because most workers don’t have a clue on how to run a business.  Let alone build one out of nothing.  For workers just don’t spontaneously join together into a functioning business.  They need capitalists.  For without capitalists there would be no jobs for workers.

So who does the bourgeoisie oppress?  The proletarians.  The laborers.  The employees of the bourgeoisie.  The people that actually do the work.  In his day that meant the factory workers.  Who were ruthlessly exploited in sweatshop conditions toiling away at monotonous tasks beneath the dignity of a human being.  The bourgeoisie was turning man into little more than a machine.  That worked until exhausted.  And what did they get for their labors?  Barely enough to survive.  Interestingly, whenever these cruel capitalists turned to actual machines to free these workers from this inhumane labor they cried out against this capitalist greed.  For replacing workers with machines was greedy.  And destroyed jobs.  So on the one hand these jobs oppressed the working class.  But on the other they were the best thing that ever happened to the working class.

Karl Marx summarized his Theory of Communism in One Tenet: The Abolition of Private Property

That’s something else Marx didn’t like.  Change.  The bourgeoisie was always changing things.  Updating their factories.  Installing new machinery.  Forcing the people that did things the old way out of a job.  Much like President Obama blames much of our economic woes on today.  And our high unemployment.  ATMs have put bank tellers out of a job.  Self-serve checkout lanes have put cashiers out of a job.  One man and a trenching machine put hundreds of ditch diggers out of a job.  The electric light put gas lighting workers out of a job.  And gas lighting put kerosene lighting workers out of a job.  And kerosene lighting put whale oil workers out of a job.  And whale oil lighting put candle makers out of a job.  It’s this modernization that Marx doesn’t like.  It disrupts labor.  Making the old worker obsolete.  So unions come in to protect these old jobs.  Allowing people to earn high wages without having advanced skills.  So instead of learning the skills to do the new jobs of the future they can keep doing the jobs of the past.  President Obama talks about bringing back high-paying manufacturing jobs.  Where workers toil away in those monotonous tasks that are beneath the dignity of a human being.  The kind of jobs the parents of college graduates toiled away at to put their kids through college.  So their kids wouldn’t have to do what they did.  Because the new jobs are better than the old jobs.  They’re easier.  Safer.  And offer higher pay.  But the downside is that they take more education and training.  Where some people will be better than others.  Which is unfair to those who aren’t as good.

Of course to help these factory owners pay these old jobs high wages they need to sell their goods at high prices.  Often at higher prices than the market price.  So they have to unlevel the playing field.  Governments pass minimum wage laws.  Union requirements.  And minimize the competition.  Either by restricting other domestic competitors by high entry costs.  Such as licensing fees.  Or by placing tariffs on lower priced foreign imports.  Raising their prices so they don’t cost less than the higher priced domestically produced goods.  Allowing these few factory owners to pay their employees these higher wages.  By forcing the general public to spend more money than they would have without these protections.  And thereby having to make sacrifices in their lives because they have less of their earnings for their own families.  For these reasons Marx called free trade exploitation.  Because free trade made it difficult for unskilled workers to earn high wages.

Marx summarized his theory of communism in one tenet: The abolition of private property.  For it was the bourgeoisie’s accumulation of private property that exploited the working class.  So no one can own anything.  Even laborers.  Because whatever private property the laborers accumulated came from only one place.  From the exploitation of other workers.  And that’s not the only thing Marx wanted to abolish.  He also wanted to abolish the past.  Even though he held on to the jobs of the past.  Marx advocated abolishing tradition, customs, institutions and religion.  Even families.  He wanted to replace education with communist indoctrination.  Much like they did in Nazi Germany.  In the Soviet Union.  In communist China.  North Korea.  Cuba.  Cambodia.  In a socialist/communist society everyone is equally subordinate to the state.  Where there is no private property.  No bourgeoisie.  Just a dictatorship of the proletariat.  A workers’ paradise.  A communist utopia.  Where no one looked anywhere but to the state for all of their needs.

If Karl Marx were Alive Today he would Likely Endorse the Democrat Candidates Barack Obama and Joe Biden

So what would it be like in this communist utopia?  This dictatorship of the proletariat?  There would be a heavy progressive tax.  (The US has a progressive tax rate.  And the Democrats want to raise tax rates higher yet at the high end.)  No right to inheritance.  (Democrats want to raise inheritance taxes.)  Confiscation of the property of emigrants.  (The Democrats want to highly tax/seize money invested outside of the United States that is trying to escape that heavy progressive tax.)  A central bank.  (The Federal Reserve is a central bank.)  Centralization of the means of communication into the hands of the state.  (The three television news networks have a Democrat bias.  Most newspapers have a Democrat bias.  And the two areas that don’t, talk radio and the Internet, the Democrats want to regulate.)  Free public education.  That indoctrinates our children.  (Public education tries to turn our children into Democrat voters.  By teaching the unfairness of capitalism.  America’s sins.  And by scaring our children about global warming.  And that only government can protect us from global warming by regulating private industry more.  Generous tuition subsidies help continue this work at our colleges.)

The Democrats further this class struggle, or rather create one, with their endless class warfare.  The top 1% isn’t paying their fair share of taxes.  The Democrats embraced the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Pitting the 1% against the 99%.  The Democrats employ racism.  Tuning any criticism of President Obama into a racist attack.  The Democrats try to scare women by warning them of the Republican war on women.  Saying ‘women should buy their own birth control’ is code for Republicans hate women and will oppress them if elected.  The Democrats constantly divide us.  Putting one group against another.  Trying to keep the people agitated.  And angry.  So they will welcome more government into their lives.  And the abolition of the capitalists’ private property through that heavy progressive tax.  The empowerment of unions.  Both private and public.  The restriction of our liberties through radical egalitarianism.  By punishing achievement.  So no one can rise to a higher level of success.  Or to a higher level of wealth.  So everyone is equally miserable in their workers’ paradise.

So if Karl Max were alive today who would he support in the 2012 election?  The party that includes a lot of Marxist doctrine in it all ready.  Marx would feel at home in the Democrat Party.  In fact it would be hard not to see a bit of communist revolution in it.  Especially with communist Fidel Castro and socialist Hugo Chávez already endorsing the Democrat Party candidates.  So it isn’t much of a leap to say that if Karl Marx were alive today he would likely endorse the Democrat candidates Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

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The U.S. and Japan assailed Argentina’s Mercantilist Trade Policies at the World Trade Organization

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 26th, 2012

Week in Review

International trade can be a funny thing.  For mercantilist ways of the past are hard to give up.  Especially the misguided belief that a trade deficit is a bad thing.  Some nations are better at some things than other nations.  And have a comparative advantage.  And it would be foolish to try and produce something another nation can produce better.  It would be better for nations to do the things they are best at.  And import the things that others are better at.  Just as David Ricardo proved with his law of comparative advantage.  Still everyone still wants to export more than they import.  Still believing that their mercantilist policies are superior to the capitalistic policies that are characteristic of advanced economies.  While mercantilist policies can rarely advance beyond emerging economies.  Case in point Argentina (see Argentina says to file WTO complaint against U.S by Tom Miles and Hugh Bronstein posted 8/21/2012 on Reuters).

The United States and Japan assailed Argentina’s import rules as protectionist at the World Trade Organization on Tuesday, putting more pressure on the country to revamp policies that many trading partners say violate global norms.

The two complaints mirrored litigation brought by the European Union in May and triggered a swift reaction from Argentina’s center-left government, which vowed to challenge U.S. rules on lemon and beef imports.

Argentina is seen by many fellow Group of 20 nations as a chronic rule-breaker since it staged the world’s biggest sovereign debt default in 2002. It remains locked out of global credit markets and relies on export revenue for hard currency.

They have inflated their currency so much that it is nearly worthless.  They can get little of foreign currency in exchange for it.  So they depend on the foreign currency buying their exports for their money needs.  For they can’t destroy foreign currency with their inflationary policies.  Only the wealth and savings of those in Argentina who don’t have access to these foreign currencies.

In the old days the mercantilist empires brought gold and silver into their countries.  They had their colonies ship raw material back to the mother country.  The mother country manufactured them into a higher valued good.  Then exported it for gold and silver.   Today we don’t use gold and silver anymore.  So Argentina just substituted foreign currency into the formula.  While keeping the rest of it in place.

Argentina began requiring prior state approval for nearly all purchases abroad in February. Imports have since fallen compared with last year’s levels, boosting the prized trade surplus but causing some shortages of goods and parts and sharply reducing capital goods imports.

EU and U.S. officials say Argentina has effectively restricted all imports since the new system came into place…

On Monday, Argentina hit the EU with a separate WTO complaint, alleging discriminatory treatment by Spain against Argentine shipments of biodiesel.

“This measure, like others taken by the European Union and other developed countries for decades, effectively aims to keep our industries from rising along the value chain, limiting the role of developing countries to the provision of raw materials,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement…

Latin America’s No. 3 economy relies heavily on a robust trade surplus, which is used to help fatten central bank foreign reserves tapped to pay government debt. The government has also moved to curb imports to protect local jobs, while imposing capital and currency controls to keep dollars in the country.

“Import growth has halted, which we should have done long before,” Foreign Trade Secretary Beatriz Paglieri was quoted as saying on the presidential website last weekend…

Argentina has also been criticized for a policy of “trade balancing,” which forces an importer to guarantee an equal value of exports. That has spawned offbeat deals whereby a car producer, for example, must ship a large amount of rice out of the country in return for a consignment of vehicle components.

Mercantilist to the core.  Which will forever trap them into being an emerging economy.  For they’ve been doing this for decades.  And they’re still an emerging economy.  Juan Peron rose to power with the same mercantilist arguments.  He was a Justicialist.  Today’s president is a Justicialist.  President Cristina Fernandez.  And little has changed since World War II.  Argentina is still an emerging economy.  Thanks to their mercantilist policies.  If they’d only give capitalism a chance their economy would explode with economic activity.  At least, based on history.  For the most advanced economies today are NOT based on the current Argentine model.  They’re based on the free trade of capitalism.  And David Ricardo’s comparative advantage.

In countries with free trade people enjoy higher standards of living.  Their governments give them this good life by doing as little for them as possible.  Letting the free market shower them with wealth and happiness.  Which brings us back to the funny part about international trade.  The countries that try to do the most for their people by restricting free trade give their people a lower standard of living.  Except, of course, for the few in power.  Or for those connected to power.

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FT120: “Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day; give him a job and he can have an obesity problem.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 1st, 2012

Fundamental Truth

In Warfare Starvation and Famine are the most Potent of Weapons

Starvation and famine has plagued mankind since the dawn of time.  It was the driving force in evolution.  Those who took control of their food supply lived.  Those who didn’t disappeared from the evolutionary path.  Like Neanderthal.  And those who came before him.  Our earliest civilizations massed their populations to farm.  And the masses lived in cities.  Setting down roots and saying goodbye to their hunting and gathering ways.  In the Wei River valley.  In the Indus River valley.  The valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris.  In the Nile River valley.  Where modern life took root.  Produced our first food surpluses.  And gave birth to urban life.  And the middle class.

The rise of the middle class allowed civilization to flourish.  For every person that didn’t have to produce food could do something else.  Build better tools.  Create a better government.  Create art.  In general, think about other things.  Those other things that made humans different.  By giving us a more interesting life.  And more sophisticated ways to express ourselves.

But this growth was a double-edged sword.  For large urban populations that made life more enjoyable was also a great threat to the food supply.  A cool and wet summer could destroy crops.  Poor food storage could spoil the food surplus.  A war could see an enemy purposely destroy your crops and your food surplus.  Causing famine.  Where half or your city population could easily die before the next harvest.  Or more.  Especially if the famine resulted from an act of war.   As an act of genocide.  To clear people off land that others want to use for their own food needs.  Which was Hitler’s plan in Russia.  To take the food from the Ukraine.  Kill the indigenous population.  And replace them with Nazis.  Thus creating more living space for the Third Reich.  Or Lebensraum.    Because in warfare starvation and famine are the most potent of weapons.

History has shown that the most Food-Abundant Countries are the most Capitalistic

England led the way in agricultural advances.  Increasing crop yields such that small tracts of land could support greater populations.  As well as produce such huge food surpluses that they had food to export.  As the British Empire spread across the globe so did their advanced agricultural ways.  During the 19th century starvation and famine were becoming rarer in the technologically advanced West.  The 19th century Irish Potato Famine reduced Ireland’s population by up to 25%.  A tragedy of epic proportions.  But it was an exception to the rule.  For food was growing so abundant in the advanced Western World that rarely did people go hungry.  Or feared famine.  And when mechanization and chemistry hit the farm our crop yields exploded.

During the Twentieth Century the Western World produced so much food that food prices plummeted.  Causing the Great Depression.  There was so much food available that farmers couldn’t sell their food at a high enough price to service the debt that they incurred mechanizing their farms.  But not everyone was producing bumper crops in the Twentieth Century.  Both the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China set records for death by famine.  As they shunned the ways of the West.  And the state took over their agricultural sectors.  States that were so inept at good farming practices and things economic that crop yields plummeted.  North Korea to this day can’t even grow enough food for her own people.  And has recurring famines.  Because they hold on to the communist ways of Stalin and Mao.  While the Russians and the Chinese have long abandoned them. 

History has shown that the most food-abundant countries are the most capitalistic.  Countries whose agricultural sectors use the latest in technology.  And/or have a rich and vibrant economy that can buy all the food they need if they can’t produce their own.  Like Hong Kong.  Basically a rock off the Chinese mainland.  It has little arable land.  Few natural resources.  But what it does have is low taxation and free trade.  And laissez-faire capitalism.  The Chinese lost Hong Kong to the British Empire (who have since given it back).  And the British used laissez-faire capitalism to make Hong Kong the gem it is today.  Where people are free and in want of little.  And in this island nation that can’t grow enough food to feed their population famine is unheard of.  Why?  Because they have the wealth to trade for all the food they desire.  In fact, while Mao gave the people in the People’s Republic of China famine Hong Kong were doing just fine.  Because they were wealthy and could trade for what they needed.  And they had the Royal Navy protecting her.

In America our Food Supplies are so Abundant and so Cheap that Poor People are becoming Obese

Poverty is the biggest killer.  Famine is prevalent in poor countries.  Like Haiti.  North Korea.  And sub-Saharan Africa.  People suffer in these countries unlike they do in the West.  Despite the amount of aid the West pours into them.  And it’s not because Western nations were blessed with natural resources.  Hong Kong doesn’t have anything other than laissez-faire capitalism.  Protected by the Rule of Law and minimal government interference into the private sector economy.  The very things that are missing from Haiti, North Korea and sub-Saharan Africa.  Where corruption rules supreme.  There is little regard for human rights.  Or property rights.  And no one can protect their people from the abuses of government.  Or from warring neighbors.  Like the Royal Navy protected Hong Kong.  And pretty much the rest of the world during the 19th century.  Just like America’s military might made the world safe for capitalism in the Twentieth Century.

Third world nations are not a victim of first world nations.  They are a victim of themselves.  Where corrupt rulers collect Western aid and live well while their people suffer.  Especially the nations that eschew capitalism.  And embrace socialism.  Like the Soviet Union did.  Like the People’s Republic of China did (the current Chinese regime is enjoying economic growth by allowing some capitalism into their still communist country).  And like North Korea still does.  These socialist utopias were a living hell for their people.  Where they live in fear of their government.  And of famine.

Meanwhile in the Western capitalist nations what do they suffer from?  Especially the poor people in America?  Obesity.  In New York they’re passing laws restricting the size of sugary beverages because they are dangerous to your health.  While they pass out free condoms and birth control as sex is far less risky behavior than a delicious carbonated beverage.  Apparently.  Yes, in America our food supplies are so abundant and so cheap that poor people are becoming obese.  Because capitalism has made those food supplies abundant and cheap.  And capitalism gave people jobs where they could afford to buy so much food that they can give themselves an obesity problem.  A problem they just don’t have in Haiti, North Korea or sub-Saharan Africa.  Because they can’t grow enough food.  Or earn enough money to buy enough food.  For they don’t have an environment conducive to creating jobs.  Which is why these nations are still impoverished and/or suffering famine despite all the aid the West gives them.  Food aid will run out.  And then they’ll just be starving once again.  If they have jobs, though, they’ll be able to buy food whenever they’re hungry.  Because it’s like that old saying.  Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day; give him a job and he can have an obesity problem.

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Cuba is Turning to Capitalism to Fix their Socialist Economy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 8th, 2012

Week in Review

Change is coming to Cuba.  A good kind of change.  They’re making a move from communism towards capitalism.  A move no doubt that will sadden a great number of beloved Hollywood actors (see Yes, they’re abierto: Cubans open their doors to small business by Ken Ellingwood posted 4/5/2012 on the Los Angeles Times).

Since President Raul Castro loosened the island’s commerce rules to energize the economy, Cubans all over are pondering how to get in on the wave…

The reform, announced in late 2010, is fast taking root around Havana’s weather-worn downtown and in other cities and towns, prompting Cubans all over to ponder how to get in on the wave…

The sudden wave of entrepreneurship has brought with it shades of cutthroat capitalism.

Garcia said a rival nail shop across the street was undercutting her price for a manicure, $1. But she planned to hold tight…

One vendor said he quit a decent-paying government job last year to strike out on his own, getting a license to sell hardware at the entrance to his home. His “store” is basically a chest heaped with light fixtures, electrical cables, fittings, valves and pieces of rubber hose.

The budding businessman, who declined to give his name, said his earnings of up to $20 a day top his old salary, despite the permit fee and the ups and downs of a merchant’s life…

The reform has boosted the number of small enterprises in Cuba to more than 350,000 since the government of President Raul Castro moved to coax more out of Cuba’s economy and ease the load on the treasury by shaving the bloated public payroll.

Very interesting.  More capitalism is revitalizing weather-worn downtown areas.  And it’s already lowering consumer prices.  And these stores?  Imagine that.  You can’t do that in America.  For you need permits and inspections.  You need the fire marshal to approve of your egress lighting and egress paths.  All of which costs.  Which is why his $20 daily earnings can exceed his government wages.  And perhaps the most interesting of all is the shrinking of the public sector.

My god, can it be?  Is Cuba on a more capitalistic path than America.  Yes, it can be.  First the Berlin Wall falls.  Then the Soviet Union.  Now Cuba.  What will be next?  But more importantly, how will this affect Ed Asner?  The actor who played the beloved character Lou Grant on the Mary Tyler Show?  Whose leftist socialist activism stopped few from still finding a soft spot in their heart for Lou Grant.  Our favorite curmudgeon.  Even though he loves Cuba.  And hates capitalism.  So how will the news of his socialist Cuba going capitalist affect him?  To have Cuba admit that the policies that Asner supported and believed in were wrong?  Will it change his mind?  Probably not.  He’ll probably just say that Raul is betraying his brother Fidel.  And then he’ll try to find a ‘Ted Baxter’ to yell at.

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East German Katarina Witt’s Privileged Life in her Socialist Paradise was not as Good as the Life of the Average Western Capitalist

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 24th, 2012

Week in Review

Katarina Witt was young and beautiful during the Olympics.  Italian great Alberto Tomba was even smitten with her.  But even the suave and debonair Tomba got the cold shoulder from Witt when meeting her during the games.  For they may have both been superstars.  But her star shined brighter.  Few could ski like Tomba.  But no one could skate like Katarina.  She was just beautiful on the ice.  Poetry in motion.  Which is why the Stasi (East German secret police) took such great interest in her.  She could prove the superiority of communism.  And bring home the medals.  For that she lived a privileged life in East Germany.  But even that privileged life couldn’t match what she saw outside of her socialist utopia (see The Stasi watched my every move: Dancing on Ice star Katarina Witt reveals East German secret police spied on her since the age of eight by Katarina Witt posted 3/24/2012 on the Daily Mail).

Of course I became aware of international differences as I grew older. I remember my first trip abroad to compete in Vienna when I was 12.  I looked at one shop window after another, crammed with goods.  Everything was so much more  colourful than shops at home in Karl Marx Stadt (which has now reverted to its original name of Chemnitz). Every Viennese street felt like a candy store, but an expensive one. I must have spent five hours trying to find an outfit I could afford.

In later years, I went on international exhibition tours alongside skaters from other countries. We became friends and, in the evenings, we would all get together in one or other of our hotel rooms and talk – with the Americans, the Russians, the West Germans. The Russians brought the vodka, naturally. The Americans ordered French fries.

Looking back, two decades later, it is as if we were living on a different planet, but we never questioned it  at the time. The constant control,  particularly when it came to travelling abroad, just became a part of my life. ‘We want to  protect you,’ was the message. ‘We want to make sure you’re safe and sound.’

The rhetoric was all rather comforting in its way. I believed we were a country of fairness and good social values. Would I have wanted to live in another country? A free country? The question never occurred to me.

In fact, I probably had even less reason to question than most as I was well treated. Like other leading athletes,  I was given rewards for winning. There were financial bonuses, for example, and  I was allowed to rent an  apartment of my own, even  though I was only 19 and not married!

They let me jump the queue to buy a Russian-made Lada instead of going on the  ten-year waiting list like  everyone else.

This is communism.  Karl Marx’s socialism.  The caring, loving state.  In a country of fairness.  And good social values.  And when one of the privileged got a taste of Western capitalism she saw that life was better in the West.  And what they were protecting her from was that better life in the West.

This is the path the U.S is on.  For Obamacare is all those things.  And will help us become what East Germany was.  Free stuff but no liberty.  A caring government but a life that’s dull and gray.  So much so that people risked their lives to escape it by climbing over the Berlin Wall.  A life that is fair where everyone is equally miserable.  Where the government provides everything but everything is un-colorful and even less plentiful.  Where life is not being in a candy store.  But more like being in grade school.  Where you do as you’re told and someone is always watching you for your own good.  But without the good social values.  For the left gave those up long ago to get the youth vote.

Katarina Witt was one of the most talented people in East Germany.  And beyond.  And the Stasi rewarded her well for that.  So her life wasn’t all that bad compared to other East Germans.  But imagine their life.  Those who didn’t get financial bonuses.  An apartment.  A car without waiting 10 years.  Imagine that life.  Or, better yet, just wait.  For it will soon be upon us here in the U.S.  If we don’t repeal Obamacare.

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