Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and the Soviet Union

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 18th, 2014

History 101

Marx called for a Dictatorship of the Proletariat where the Workers controlled the Means of Production

Karl Marx did not like capitalism.  Or middle class people that used money to make money.  The bourgeoisie.  Who exploit the working man.  The proletariat.  The bourgeoisie used their capital to exploit the labor of the working man (i.e., taking a risk and investing in land, factories, machinery, labor, etc.) to make money.  While the working man slaved away at slave wages creating all the great things we have in the world.  Of course, the proletariat could not do any of this unless others took risks and invested in land, factories, machinery, labor, etc.

This was just not fair to Karl Marx.  Because the industrial bourgeoisie had all the power.  And their exploitation of the proletariat was nothing more than a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.  So Marx created a socio-economic philosophy to address this dictatorship.  Marxism.  And called for a social transformation.  For working men everywhere to unite.  And break the chains that bound them in the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.  Calling for a dictatorship of the proletariat.  For the workers to control the means of production.  In a new system that replaced capitalism.  Socialism.  Until they could usher in the true ideal.  Communism.

In capitalism the bourgeoisie get rich creating neat things people discover and want to buy.  In communism there would be no bourgeoisie using the means of production to make a buck.  Instead, wise and selfless people would determine what was best for the people.  Instead of free markets allocating scarce resources economic planners would.  And they’d do it better.  Because they are selfless.  Creating large surpluses that would go not into some rich capitalist’s bank account.  But they would fairly distribute this surplus among the working class.  So society as a whole would be better off.  Sounds great.  But if the market didn’t make the decisions of what to produce who did?  As it turned out for Marxism that was a very difficult question to answer.

Leon Trotsky was a Like-Minded Marxist and the number two Communist behind Lenin

The Russian people were growing tired of World War I.  And Tsar Nicholas.  In fact they had it with the Russian Empire.  Even before World War I.  Although serfdom was abolished in 1861 the lives of peasants didn’t improve much.  There was still famine.  And the serfs had to pay a lot to their former landlords for their freedom.  So there was revolutionary fervor in the air.  And a few peasant uprisings.  As well as a few revolutionaries.  Such as Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.  Who was a Marxist.  His anti-Tsarist political activity got him arrested and exiled a few times.  In fact, during World War I he was living in exile in Switzerland.  Hoping that the Germans would weaken Tsarist Russia enough to kick off a socialist revolution in Russia.

When revolution did break out Lenin was anxious to return to Russia.  But being in Switzerland posed a problem.  It was surrounded by warring countries.  Lucky for him, though, the Germans were anxious to close the eastern front of the war.  And a little revolution in Russia could do just that.  So they transported Lenin through Germany and helped him return to Russia.  They travelled north.  Took a ferry to Sweden.  Then by train to Petrograd.  Formally Saint Petersburg (Peter the Great’s new capital on the Baltic Sea).  Which was later renamed Leningrad.  And then later renamed Saint Petersburg.  Where he would lead the Bolshevik Party.  And the world-wide socialist revolution against capitalism.

Leon Trotsky was a like-minded Marxist.  And an anti-militarist.  He had a falling out with Lenin but eventually reunited.  With Trotsky becoming the number two communist behind Lenin.  Trotsky addressed a problem with Marxism for Russia.  Socialism was to be the final step AFTER capitalism.  Once there was a strong industrial proletariat.  Russia didn’t have that.  For it was one of the least advanced countries in the world.  An agrarian nation barely out of the Middle Ages.  So Russia had to industrialize WHILE the proletariat took over the means of production.  Which brought up a big problem.  How could a backward nation industrialize while having a revolution?  How could they do this without other advanced capitalistic countries coming to the aid of the bourgeoisie?  Which Trotsky answered with his Permanent Revolution.  For the Russian socialist revolution to be successful there had to be socialist revolutions in other countries, too.  Thinking more in terms of a worldwide revolution of industrialized states.  And not just in Russia.  Something another Marxist disagreed with.  Joseph Stalin

Communist States have Guards on their Borders to prevent People from Escaping their Socialist Utopia

During these revolutionary times workers’ councils were appearing throughout the country.  Soviets.  Which helped stir up the revolutionary fervor.  In 1917 the imperial government fell.  The Bolsheviks killed the Tsar and his family.  And Russia fell into civil war.  Which the Bolsheviks won in 1922.  And formed the Soviet Union.  Or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).  That stretched from Eastern Europe to the Pacific Ocean.  Under the rule of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.  Until he died in 1924.  Then Joseph Stalin took over after a brutal power struggle.  Even exiled Leon Trotsky.  And established totalitarian rule.  Stalin created a planned economy.  Rapid industrialization.  And collectivization.  As well as famines, forced labor, deportation and great purges of his political enemies.  To strengthen his one-party rule.  To protect the socialist revolution from a return of capitalism.

The Russian Revolution was the only successful socialist revolution in Europe.  The dictatorship of the proletariat did not happen as Lenin and Trotsky had envisioned.  So Stalin abandoned the idea of Permanent Revolution.  And adopted Socialism in One Country instead.  To strengthen the Soviet Union.  And not support a world-wide socialist revolution against capitalism.  In direct opposition of Trotsky.  To aid in the USSR’s industrialization Stalin made a pact with the devil.  Adolf Hitler.  And entered an economic agreement that would allow Hitler to build and test his war machine on Soviet soil that he would use in World War II.  Then came the Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  And the secret protocol.  Where Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union agreed to conquer and divvy up the countries located between them.

Trotsky did not like what the Soviet Union became under Stalin.  An oppressive dictatorship of Joseph Stalin.  Not the dictatorship of the proletariat envisioned by Karl Marx.  And he didn’t like that pact with a militarist Nazi Germany.  He predicted that Stalin’s USSR would not last.  Either suffering a political revolution like Tsar Nicholas suffered.  Or it would collapse into a capitalist state.  Stalin disagreed.  And killed him and his family.  Getting rid of the last of the old Bolsheviks.  Leaving him to rule uncontested until his death in 1953.  Exporting communism wherever he could.  Where it killed more people than any other ideology.  Until the great and brutal socialism experiment collapsed in 1991.  For Trotsky was right.  It could not survive when a better life was just across a border.  Which is why all of the communist states have guards on their borders.  To keep their people from escaping their socialist utopia.

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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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Communism, Karl Marx, Marxism, Surplus Labor and the Labor theory of Value

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 20th, 2013

History 101

(Originally published December 13, 2011)

Some would call Putting Profits before People Heaven if they had Lived in the Caring Hell of Communism

No ideology killed more people than communism.  In total numbers.  Such as Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union.  Or Mao Tse-tung in the People’s Republic of China.  Or as a percentage of population.  Where Pol Pot’s Cambodian genocide holds this honor alone.  These communist leaders killed their people directly for political purposes.  Or starved them to death because of agrarian reforms that produced famines.  All in the name of freeing their people from the horrors of capitalism.

Heaven and hell.  That’s how a defector who escaped communism and made it to capitalism would describe what it’s like to live under each system.  Capitalism would be heaven.  And communism would be hell.  The problem with communism was that it didn’t work.  Economically.  People lived in want of the basic staples of life.  And often went hungry.  When they didn’t starve to death by yet another famine.  And if they complained or spoke out against the system they risked torture.  Or they simply just disappeared.  Banished to a work camp.  A reeducation camp.  Or killed.  So it’s no surprise that people trapped in these countries tried to escape.  Which is why communist states were oppressive police states.  To prevent people from escaping their horrible lives.

And yet to this day some people still hold up communism as the ideal socioeconomic system.  The one that cares about the people.  The one that puts people before profits.  Unlike capitalism.  Which puts profits before people.  Of course some would call putting profits before people heaven.  Especially if they had lived in the caring hell of communism.

Communism as an Economic System is an Utter and Abject Failure

Those who champion communism don’t blame the ideology.  They say it’s the people.  The few who use the ideology for personal gain.  And by few they mean basically everyone.  But if everyone is doing it it’s not the people.  It’s the ideology.  And it goes back to its utter and abject failure as an economic system.

Communism goes back to Karl Marx.  The guy that coauthored the Communist Manifesto in 1848.  And from which we get the terms Marxism.  And Marxist.  To describe varying forms of communism.  And communists.  He’s the guy who said that capitalism exploited the working man.  Those with money (capital) who owned factories, the industrial bourgeoisie, charged more for their goods than they paid their workers to make those goods.  Because Marx believed the value of any good was the labor that made it (the labor theory of value), this excess value (profit) was a labor surplus.  And belonged to the worker.  So he encouraged class conflict.  For the proletariat (the working class) to rise up and take over the means of production from those who owned it.  These middle class capitalists.  The industrial bourgeoisie.  And establish a dictatorship of the proletariat.  So the bourgeois capitalist pig-dogs couldn’t exploit the proletariat any more.  And everyone would then live happily ever after.

But no one ever did.  Like in capitalism.  Where happiness abounds.  Because, in capitalism, the market determines prices.  Not some bureaucrat counting up labor inputs through the manufacturing process.  From the mining of resources.  To the final assembly.  Which can make things very expensive.  And, worse, unwanted by the people.  Because when the market sets the price and assigns value, the market tells people what to make.  Normally when something is a hot seller it tells manufacturers to make more of it.  To cash in on those high prices.  So they do.  And people tend to buy this surge in products.  But when the market isn’t setting the price and assigning value, the market can’t tell people what to make.  So a bureaucrat must.  Which is what happens in communism.  Bureaucrats decide everything.  From what to make.  To the allocation of resources.  To the selling price.  And the things they decide to make are rarely what the people want.  Explaining why stores in communist countries were full of stuff no one wanted to buy.  And why people had to stand hours in line to get the things they did.  Or paid more on the black market.  Which is why communism as an economic system is an utter and abject failure.  And why people wanted to escape it.  Their only obstacle being that brutal and oppressive police state.  Which was necessary because if everyone left that wanted to the communist leaders wouldn’t have anyone to provide for them.

There are no Such Things as Market Failures under Capitalism

Communism was one of the worst man-made tragedies to ever befall man.  Karl Marx was wrong.  And his asinine theories killed tens of millions of people.  People enjoy life and prosper under capitalism.  Under communism they set records for genocide.  Why?  Because the communist economic model is an utter and abject failure.

The struggle between communism and capitalism was an economic one.  And pitted the market against bureaucrats who thought they were smarter than the market.  But it turned out they weren’t.  Not by a long shot.  And despite this history people are constantly talking about market failures and the evils of capitalism.  Much like Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and Pol Pot.  But for them it was never about the economics.  It was about the power.  Much like it is today.  Because there are no such things as market failures under capitalism.  It’s the bureaucrats who fail.  Not the markets.  At least, based on all recorded history.

Markets fail only when they aren’t free.  They fail when bureaucrats insert themselves into the economic process.  Via regulatory policy.  Or high taxes.  When they try to shape market forces to a political end.  And when they do it is capitalism no more.  It’s crony capitalism.  Or worse.

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2012 Endorsements: Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 1st, 2012

2012 Election

Workers Enthusiastically Supported the Nazi Party because it had the Word ‘Workers’ in It

Adolf Hitler joined the German Workers’ Party (DAP) in 1919.  The party platform included nationalist, anti-capitalist and anti-Marxist policy positions.  As well as being anti-Semitic.  A socialist party where everyone was equal.  Unless you were a Jew.  Something Hitler could wrap his arms around.  As he would blame the Jews for Germany’s loss in World War I.  A war in which Hitler served as a messenger.  Even got awarded for bravery.  And he would later blame the bad German economy on the Jews as well.  Having a scapegoat is very important if you want dictatorial powers.  For you have to attack someone as you really can’t run on a platform of wanting dictatorial power so you can oppress your people.  The DAP became the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP).  And Hitler designed the party banner.  Creating the swastika.  And the Nazi Party.

Now there isn’t a whole lot of difference between socialism and Marxism.  They are both about sharing the wealth and both are anti-capitalist.  The real reason Hitler hated Marxism is that they were a strong contender for power in Germany.  Power that Hitler wanted for his National Socialists.  And for him.  Which he consolidated by scapegoating, lying and using his personal charisma.  Another important quality for one aspiring to be a dictator.  To create a cult of personality.  Hero worship.  You have to be able to charm the masses so they don’t look that close at your policies.  Or your record.  Germans voted Hitler into office.  He didn’t seize power.  They fell in love with him.  But they had no idea what they were voting for.  World War.  Genocide.  He just moved them so much that they were willing to trust him fully.  Even when some began to learn about what was happening at the death camps or what the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads) were doing on the Eastern Front they told themselves that the Führer was doing what he had to do to protect the German people.  Or, at the least, they blamed these atrocities on excesses of the SS and not their beloved Fuehrer.  Or simply chose not to believe these reports.

The Nazis created an employment boom coming off of the Great Depression.  With massive public works projects.  And an aggressive rearmament program to prepare for World War II.   The war economy made industry hum.  Paid for with funds confiscated from enemies of the state.  And through massive monetary expansion.  That is, they printed a lot of money.  Causing a lot of price inflation which raised the cost of living for the working German.  Businesses were buried in red tape.  The Nazi state controlled everything.  Including the private sector.  Complying with Nazi regulations took up about half of all communications for those in business.  As one task could require up to 40 forms.  Probably in triplicate.  The Nazis shut down small businesses and small corporations.  Wanting to deal only with big industry.  So they could better control the businesses.  And the workers.  Business people once warmly supported Hitler during the ascent of his power only to discover later that Hitler was ruining German industry.  Making them to regret their previous support.  As did the workers.  Who enthusiastically supported a party that had the word ‘workers’ in it.  Only to see higher prices.  Lower wages.  Longer hours.  No collective bargaining.  No right to strike.  High income taxes.  Compulsory contributions for sickness, unemployment and disability insurance.  Union dues (for a union that represented the state, not the worker).  As time passed they even lost the ability to quit their job.  Or change jobs.  Being forever chained to the job the state chose for them.  Which worked well to maximize industrial output.  And to prepare for war.

After 9/11 George W. Bush kept America Safe from another al Qaeda Attack while he was in Office

America’s problem with radical Islam probably dates back to the Iranian Hostage Crisis (1979).  Then came the United States Embassy Bombing (1983) in Beirut.  And then the Beirut Barracks Bombing (1983) that killed 241 Americans.  Who were there in a peace-keeping mission during the Lebanese Civil War.  To be neutral referees between the warring Muslim and Christian sides.  Where the Muslims felt that although the Americans claimed neutrality in the conflict they leaned Christian.  Hence the bombing of the Barracks.  There was no real American retaliation for the attack.  As they weren’t certain who was responsible.  With other threats to American forces President Reagan eventually abandoned the mission and pulled out US forces.  One person took great interest in this American response to terror.  Osama bin Laden.  Who learned the following lesson.  When Americans suffer casualties they quit.

Islamist attacks (and plans for attacks) against American targets increased during the Nineties.  Perhaps the most shocking being the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing.  An attempt to topple the Twin Towers that failed.  Then came the New York City Landmark Bomb Plot (1993).  The Khobar Towers Bombing (1996).  The United States Embassy Bombings (1998).  The Millennium Attack Plots (2000).  The USS Cole Bombing (2000).  Then 9/11.  An attempt to topple the Twin Towers that succeeded.  Until 9/11 we treated all of these events as criminal offences.  Not acts of war.  We talked about bringing these people to justice.  In a court of law.  Despite bin Laden having declared war against the United States back in 1996.  Well, after 9/11 George W. Bush declared war against Osama bin Laden.  And his terrorist organization.  Al Qaeda.

Bush attacked bin Laden’s safe haven in Afghanistan.  Chasing him underground.  Bush invaded Iraq.  In part to pressure Saudi Arabia to crack down on the Wahhabi in their kingdom financing al Qaeda as the Saudis feared Iran filling any power void in Iraq.  Which made American success in Iraq important to the Saudis.  (The Wahhabi hated the Saudi Royal family as much as they hated America.  While the Saudis had to tread lightly around the Wahhabi lest they provoke a civil war in the kingdom).  It worked.  Bush captured Islamist terrorists and sent them to a detention center at the US Naval facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Interrogating them for intelligence.  As enemy combatants.  Not as people with American Constitutional protections.  Which helped to thwart future terrorist plots.  Causing the Islamist world to hate George W. Bush with a passion.  But he kept America safe from another al Qaeda attack while he was in office.

If Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden were Alive Today they would likely Endorse Barack Obama and Joe Biden

Things changed under President Obama.  Who also hated George W. Bush.  Blaming him for the Muslim hatred against America.  So he tried to offer a softer, friendly face to the Muslim world.  He stopped using the term ‘War on Terror’.  He wanted to try some 9/11 terrorists in the civilian court system in New York City.  Instead of by military tribunal.  He said the US would no longer torture people.  And promised to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.  When a radical Muslim in the US Army killed fellow soldiers on an Army base because of America’s ‘crimes against Islam’ the president called that workplace violence.  Not terrorism.  A lot of these things the Islamists liked.  But President Obama also killed indiscriminately with unmanned drones.  Anyone killed that wasn’t on the kill-list was deemed an enemy combatant.  So collateral damage of innocents was greatly reduced.  By simply calling everyone killed an enemy combatant.  And by killing all terrorist and terrorist-adjacent people there were no prisoners to house.  But there was also no intelligence to gather.  Which had its drawbacks.

Years of interrogations and intelligence gathering eventually located Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.  When advised President Obama gave the ‘go’ order to kill him.  So in one day the president killed bin Laden.  Defeated al Qaeda.  And ended the War on Terror.  Something the president likes to say over and over again.  A never ending spiking of the football.  This relentless bragging and the unmanned drone attacks inflamed the Islamist world.  Providing a great recruiting tool for al Qaeda.  Possibly being the impetus for the attacks on the American embassy in Benghazi.  Which was left poorly protected.  Even after the American ambassador requested additional protection.  Especially around the anniversary of 9/11.  But someone in the Obama administration denied the request because President Obama had killed Osama bin Laden.  And defeated al Qaeda.  And having to beef up security in Benghazi would have gone against that narrative.  So they didn’t.

So if Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden were alive today who would they endorse in the 2012 election?  Well, Hitler would have liked the Democrat attacks on rich people.  Seeing that as good scapegoating.  He would be impressed by the cult of personality around President Obama.  Though it wasn’t as good as his.  He would like the attack on capitalists and the massive government interference into the private sector.  And the high income taxes and regulations.  As well as those public works projects.  Those roads and bridges.  No doubt Hitler would have liked a lot of what he saw in the Obama administration.  Though, perhaps, he would be confused as the ultimate purpose of this massive power grab.  And Osama bin Laden?  Well, he hated George W. Bush.  President Obama may have killed him but it was all that War on Terror stuff that brought the Americans to him in Pakistan.  He would prefer the Obama light touch over the Bush hammer.  And he’d probably prefer his people getting killed by drones instead of being captured and pumped for information.  Like the guy that gave up a name that eventually led the SEALs to his hiding place.  And he would just love the opportunity to speak in a US court.  Something that just wouldn’t have happened under Bush.  Finally he would have liked the naïveté and arrogance of President Obama.  Which would have given him a target-rich environment.  Like Benghazi.  If Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden were alive today they would likely endorse the Democrat candidates Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

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Communism, Karl Marx, Marxism, Surplus Labor and the Labor theory of Value

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 13th, 2011

History 101

Some would call Putting Profits before People Heaven if they had Lived in the Caring Hell of Communism

No ideology killed more people than communism.  In total numbers.  Such as Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union.  Or Mao Tse-tung in the People’s Republic of China.  Or as a percentage of population.  Where Pol Pot’s Cambodian genocide holds this honor alone.  These communist leaders killed their people directly for political purposes.  Or starved them to death because of agrarian reforms that produced famines.  All in the name of freeing their people from the horrors of capitalism.

Heaven and hell.  That’s how a defector who escaped communism and made it to capitalism would describe what it’s like to live under each system.  Capitalism would be heaven.  And communism would be hell.  The problem with communism was that it didn’t work.  Economically.  People lived in want of the basic staples of life.  And often went hungry.  When they didn’t starve to death by yet another famine.  And if they complained or spoke out against the system they risked torture.  Or they simply just disappeared.  Banished to a work camp.  A reeducation camp.  Or killed.  So it’s no surprise that people trapped in these countries tried to escape.  Which is why communist states were oppressive police states.  To prevent people from escaping their horrible lives.

And yet to this day some people still hold up communism as the ideal socioeconomic system.  The one that cares about the people.  The one that puts people before profits.  Unlike capitalism.  Which puts profits before people.  Of course some would call putting profits before people heaven.  Especially if they had lived in the caring hell of communism.

Communism as an Economic System is an Utter and Abject Failure

Those who champion communism don’t blame the ideology.  They say it’s the people.  The few who use the ideology for personal gain.  And by few they mean basically everyone.  But if everyone is doing it it’s not the people.  It’s the ideology.  And it goes back to its utter and abject failure as an economic system.

Communism goes back to Karl Marx.  The guy that coauthored the Communist Manifesto in 1848.  And from which we get the terms Marxism.  And Marxist.  To describe varying forms of communism.  And communists.  He’s the guy who said that capitalism exploited the working man.  Those with money (capital) who owned factories, the industrial bourgeoisie, charged more for their goods than they paid their workers to make those goods.  Because Marx believed the value of any good was the labor that made it (the labor theory of value), this excess value (profit) was a labor surplus.  And belonged to the worker.  So he encouraged class conflict.  For the proletariat (the working class) to rise up and take over the means of production from those who owned it.  These middle class capitalists.  The industrial bourgeoisie.  And establish a dictatorship of the proletariat.  So the bourgeois capitalist pig-dogs couldn’t exploit the proletariat any more.  And everyone would then live happily ever after.

But no one ever did.  Like in capitalism.  Where happiness abounds.  Because, in capitalism, the market determines prices.  Not some bureaucrat counting up labor inputs through the manufacturing process.  From the mining of resources.  To the final assembly.  Which can make things very expensive.  And, worse, unwanted by the people.  Because when the market sets the price and assigns value, the market tells people what to make.  Normally when something is a hot seller it tells manufacturers to make more of it.  To cash in on those high prices.  So they do.  And people tend to buy this surge in products.  But when the market isn’t setting the price and assigning value, the market can’t tell people what to make.  So a bureaucrat must.  Which is what happens in communism.  Bureaucrats decide everything.  From what to make.  To the allocation of resources.  To the selling price.  And the things they decide to make are rarely what the people want.  Explaining why stores in communist countries were full of stuff no one wanted to buy.  And why people had to stand hours in line to get the things they did.  Or paid more on the black market.  Which is why communism as an economic system is an utter and abject failure.  And why people wanted to escape it.  Their only obstacle being that brutal and oppressive police state.  Which was necessary because if everyone left that wanted to the communist leaders wouldn’t have anyone to provide for them.

There are no Such Things as Market Failures under Capitalism

Communism was one of the worst man-made tragedies to ever befall man.  Karl Marx was wrong.  And his asinine theories killed tens of millions of people.  People enjoy life and prosper under capitalism.  Under communism they set records for genocide.  Why?  Because the communist economic model is an utter and abject failure.

The struggle between communism and capitalism was an economic one.  And pitted the market against bureaucrats who thought they were smarter than the market.  But it turned out they weren’t.  Not by a long shot.  And despite this history people are constantly talking about market failures and the evils of capitalism.  Much like Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and Pol Pot.  But for them it was never about the economics.  It was about the power.  Much like it is today.  Because there are no such things as market failures under capitalism.  It’s the bureaucrats who fail.  Not the markets.  At least, based on all recorded history.

Markets fail only when they aren’t free.  They fail when bureaucrats insert themselves into the economic process.  Via regulatory policy.  Or high taxes.  When they try to shape market forces to a political end.  And when they do it is capitalism no more.  It’s crony capitalism.  Or worse.

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Capitalism vs. Communism, Socialism, Occupy Wall Street and President Obama

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 14th, 2011

The Corporation was Created to Raise Capital and Manage Risk so they can Build the Stuff we Want

No wonder the Occupy Wall Street people have their heads filled with nonsense.  Here’s an Ivy League publication that doesn’t even understand what a stakeholder in a corporation is.  They have a stake, i.e., a share.  They own stock.  They’ve risked their capital.  And if you don’t risk capital, then you’re just not a stakeholder (see Occupy Wall Street: What Businesses Need to Know by Hari Bapuji and Suhaib Riaz posted 10/14/2011 on the Harvard Business Review).

The demonstrators are asserting that they are stakeholders in American business, and they’re correct — they are stakeholders, as consumers, as employees, and as citizens affected by the financial system in general.

No they’re not.  Unless they bought stock in these corporations.  Which I doubt, because people typically don’t protest against companies they invest in.  Unless they’re idiots.

The corporation was created to raise large amounts of capital.  And manage risk.  By selling stocks to shareholders.  So they can raise the money to build the stuff we want.  Things that hopefully would make a profit one day.  A profit that the shareholders would share in.  As they are the ones taking the BIGGEST risk.  The corporate officers of these corporations have a fiduciary responsibility with the shareholders.  To make a profit.  It’s their company.  They paid for it.  And these shareholders owe nothing to that mob on Wall Street.  Unless any of them own stock.

You’d think those writing for a business school would understand basic business 101.

Businesses should look at whether existing models of compensation are contributing to this inequality. They need to find ways to reward performance without increasing pay disparities. Developing new models of compensation and governance is not easy and can only be possible through a long-term and sincere engagement with a wide set of stakeholders, such as regulators, academics, and representatives of workers.

They want to do away with merit.  And introduce something more akin to communism.  Where everyone is equal.  No matter the value of their work.  People have tried this.  In North KoreaCuba.  And the former Soviet Union.  Note the word ‘former’ in that last one.  There’s a reason why it’s former.  No one wanted to do the harder jobs if they didn’t get paid any more for the additional brain power or risk.  And those stuck carrying the weight of their comrades?  They just didn’t bust their ass in the process.  And that’s why the Soviet Union is a ‘former’ union.

But this is what the Occupy Wall Street people want.  Force people to do those harder jobs.  But pay these wealth creators no more than them.  Even if they only work at a Starbucks.  Or collect government assistance.

The Egalitarian Polices of the Great Society Destroyed the Economy in the Seventies

So an Ivy League publication doesn’t understand business.  But you know who does?  Al Jazeera.  Their conclusions are all wrong but at least they get a lot of stuff right along the way (see The instability of inequality by Nouriel Roubini posted 10/14/2011 on Al Jazeera).

While these protests have no unified theme, they express in different ways the serious concerns of the world’s working and middle classes about their prospects in the face of the growing concentration of power among economic, financial, and political elites. The causes of their concern are clear enough: high unemployment and underemployment in advanced and emerging economies; inadequate skills and education for young people and workers to compete in a globalised world; resentment against corruption, including legalised forms like lobbying; and a sharp rise in income and wealth inequality in advanced and fast-growing emerging-market economies.

Of course, the malaise that so many people feel cannot be reduced to one factor. For example, the rise in inequality has many causes: the addition of 2.3 billion Chinese and Indians to the global labour force, which is reducing the jobs and wages of unskilled blue-collar and off-shorable white-collar workers in advanced economies; skill-biased technological change; winner-take-all effects; early emergence of income and wealth disparities in rapidly growing, previously low-income economies; and less progressive taxation.

American industry is uncompetitive.  That appears to be the problem.  That’s why there are fewer jobs.  So people who earn income via their labor are being priced out of the market by their generous pay and benefit packages.  But people who earn their income via capital always have a place to invest capital.  Capital is capital.  It is always competitive.  That’s why more wealth is accumulating to the rich.  Because they haven’t killed their golden goose.  Like unions have killed unskilled American manufacturing.

This doesn’t explain those kids on Wall Street, though.  The ones with college degrees.  Their problem is their degrees.  Many of them are worthless.  Probably a lot of English majors out there.  Or have degrees in sociology.  Anthropology.  Philosophy.  Women studies.  Etc.  But there just aren’t a lot of stores out there selling this stuff.

The increase in private- and public-sector leverage and the related asset and credit bubbles are partly the result of inequality. Mediocre income growth for everyone but the rich in the last few decades opened a gap between incomes and spending aspirations. In Anglo-Saxon countries, the response was to democratise credit – via financial liberalisation – thereby fuelling a rise in private debt as households borrowed to make up the difference. In Europe, the gap was filled by public services – free education, health care, etc. – that were not fully financed by taxes, fuelling public deficits and debt. In both cases, debt levels eventually became unsustainable.

Too much debt is never a good thing.  But those bubbles weren’t the result of inequality.  They were the result of trying to make everyone equal.  Extending credit to the credit unworthyPutting people into houses who had no business owning a house.  That was the fault of irresponsible government policy.  Not inequality.  Just like the free education, health care, etc.  We didn’t have these problems when those things weren’t free.  And when only people who could qualify for a mortgage were getting mortgages.

The problem is not new. Karl Marx oversold socialism, but he was right in claiming that globalisation, unfettered financial capitalism, and redistribution of income and wealth from labour to capital could lead capitalism to self-destruct. As he argued, unregulated capitalism can lead to regular bouts of over-capacity, under-consumption, and the recurrence of destructive financial crises, fuelled by credit bubbles and asset-price booms and busts.

Karl Marx was wrong.  At least, he hasn’t been proven right yet.  And many have tried.  The Soviets.  The Chinese.  The North Koreans.  The Cubans.  Marxism has been an abject failure.  And those busts were made worse by monetary policy trying to eliminate them.  If credit wasn’t so cheap and mortgage standards weren’t so low there would have been no housing bubble.  It was government policy that encouraged people to accumulate debt.  Not inequality.  Government is just bad at running things.  Which is why Marxism has been an abject failure.

Thus, the rise of the social-welfare state was a response (often of market-oriented liberal democracies) to the threat of popular revolutions, socialism, and communism as the frequency and severity of economic and financial crises increased. Three decades of relative social and economic stability then ensued, from the late 1940’s until the mid-1970’s, a period when inequality fell sharply and median incomes grew rapidly.

Some of the lessons about the need for prudential regulation of the financial system were lost in the Reagan-Thatcher era, when the appetite for massive deregulation was created in part by the flaws in Europe’s social-welfare model. Those flaws were reflected in yawning fiscal deficits, regulatory overkill, and a lack of economic dynamism that led to sclerotic growth then and the eurozone’s sovereign-debt crisis now.

Government spending exploded during the Sixties.  They printed so much money in the Seventies to pay for the obligations of the Sixties that Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold.  So he could print more money.  Giving us record high interest rates.  And record high inflation.  Weak GDP.  And high unemployment.  This was all because of the egalitarian polices of the Great Society.  They destroyed the economy in the Seventies.  Reagan and Thatcher brought back prosperity.  By stopping the insanity.  They cut taxes.  Cut regulation.  And the economy took off.  It’s the reversal of the Reagan-Thatcher policies that are returning the economy to the malaise of the Seventies.  Both in the UK.  And the USA.

In the Soviet Union all of the Good Stuff came from the Decadent, Capitalist West via the Black Market

But this socialist/communist claptrap is what they’re teaching in American universities.  These protestors don’t understand the role of capital in the modern economy.  The entrepreneurial spirit.  Risk management.  They don’t understand anything other than that they weren’t born into privilege.  And this just pisses them off (see OWS’ Program? Distract From Dems’ Failures by Charles Krauthammer posted 10/14/2011 on Investors.com).

To the villainy-of-the-rich theme emanating from Washington, a child is born: Occupy Wall Street. Starbucks-sipping, Levi’s-clad, iPhone-clutching protesters denounce corporate America even as they weep for Steve Jobs, corporate titan, billionaire eight times over.

These indignant indolents saddled with their $50,000 student loans and English degrees have decided that their lack of gainful employment is rooted in the malice of the millionaires on whose homes they are now marching — to the applause of Democrats suffering acute Tea Party envy and now salivating at the energy these big-government anarchists will presumably give their cause.

Except that the real Tea Party actually had a program — less government, less regulation, less taxation, less debt.

What’s the Occupy Wall Street program? Eat the rich. Then? Haven’t gotten that far. No postprandial plans.

It’s ironic that that they hate corporate America but love to indulge in their products.

During the Cold War.  When there was full employment behind the Iron Curtain.  In the tractor factories.  People stood in line all day to buy soap and toilet paper at reasonable prices.  But they bought Levi’s on the black market.  And anything else they wanted that wasn’t dreary and drab.  Or scratchy and caustic.  Whatever the price.  Why?  Because all of the good stuff came from the decadent, capitalist West.

These protestors need to read a little history of what it was like when there was true egalitarianism.  It sucked.  That’s why Soviets defected to the U.S.  And Americans didn’t defect to the U.S.S.R.  Because capitalism was better.  People lived better under capitalism than they did under communism.

The President of the United States should not use the Risk of Civil War as a Reelection Strategy

As Krauthammer says in his column, this Occupy Wall Street movement has political motives.  Obama is following in the shoes of Jimmy Carter.  The economy is in the toilet.  His policies have all failed.  And he has no chance of reelection based on his record.  So he is using the class warfare card.  Which is irresponsible.  And dangerous.

Obama is opening a Pandora’s box. Popular resentment, easily stoked, is less easily controlled, especially when the basest of instincts are granted legitimacy by the nation’s leader.

Mobs are easy to create.  But they take on a life of their own.  Are dangerous.  And unpredictable.  The president of the United States should not use the risk of civil war as a reelection strategy.  Because it’s not exactly constitutional.  Or in keeping with the oath of office he swore.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #71: “For socialism to be successful no one can be allowed to escape it.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 21st, 2011

One Country Socialism

There’s a debate in the communist community.  About the socialist revolution.  Can it happen in just one country?  Or does it need to be a permanent international revolution?  Lenin said you couldn’t have socialism in only one country.  Stalin agreed.  Until he changed his mind.  Then he was content to have socialism in only one country.  As long as he ruled that one country.  Which he ultimately did in the Soviet Union

But what exactly is the socialist revolution?  What is it revolting against?  Capitalism.  And Lenin saw capitalism export its oppression of the working class into less developed countries.  Capitalist imperialism.  Where advanced capitalist countries exploited the resources and workers of their capitalist colonies.  The capitalists got rich; the workers did not.  And that’s the way it always works.  So it has to stop.  But this is easier said than done.  For this is the ‘danger’ of capital.  It can go anywhere.  That’s why Lenin believed in permanent revolution.  To halt international capital flows.  Which was absolutely necessary for the triumph of socialism over capitalism.  Because if you halt capital inflows in one country, that capital will just seek out another.  And as long as you allow capital to seek out these ’emerging markets’ it will.  Just like that Whac-A-Mole game.  Where you hit the mole down in one location only to see it pop up in another.  And so it is with capitalism.

But there is another problem with ‘one country’ socialism.  If you ignore these international flows of capital things happen.  Sometimes nice things.  A lot of these ‘exploited’ nations got wealthier.  The standard of living improved for some.  And for those who it didn’t they could see what it did for others.  And it looked good.  The ‘have nots’ just saw how much more there was to have.  And they wanted to have it, too.  Interesting fact.  As bad as the working conditions were in some of these ‘exploited’ countries, some of the best jobs were in the imperial economy.  Working in sweatshops for dollars a day sure beat working in the fields for subsistence.  The imperialists helped modernize these poorer countries.  Even made them into better countries.  As much as people liked to hate the British Empire, look at the countries they ‘exploited’ today.  The United States.  Canada.  India.  South Africa.  Australia.  New Zealand.  These aren’t third-world countries.  They’re actually pretty nice places to live.  And immigration patterns prove this.

The Free Rider Problem

This is one of the biggest problems of ‘one country’ socialism.  Because if you compare a socialist country with a capitalist country, the capitalist one always looks better.  Again, based on the direction of immigration.  That’s why it’s hard to maintain a socialist revolution in one country while a neighboring capitalist country is richer and enjoys a higher standard of living.  Because people can simply leave the socialist country and move to the capitalist country.  Let’s look at a simple analogy.  Let’s say you get to study abroad.  You have a choice of two universities.  The Murmansk State Technical University north of the Arctic Circle in Russia.  And the International University of Monaco on the French Rivera.  Which are you going to choose?  Nothing against the Murmansk State Technical University, but I’m betting you choose the warm one by the beach.  Because the weather is nicer.  There’s lots of stuff to do in that nice weather.  And there are a lot of beautiful young people who enjoy sunning themselves with little on in that nice weather.  Because if it’s our choice, we’re going to choose what’s best.  And though Murmansk Tech may be very good, fun in the sun is always better.  So when students choose between the two, Murmansk just isn’t going to win that contest.

In theory socialism is a utopia.  Everyone lives together in one big, happy family.  Everyone works hard.  For the family.  There’s no I, me or mine.  Everything is we, us and ours.  Your labors aren’t yours.  They belong to everyone.  Whether you work a lot.  Or a little.  And the product of all that labor belongs to everyone, too.  Whether you work a lot.  Or a little.  And this is where the utopia breaks down.  Where reality starts setting in.  Because of the free rider problem.  You could be busting your ass for the family while a bunch of worthless wastes of space aren’t.  And yet everyone shares equally in the proceeds of all your labor.  Ergo you work less.  As does everyone else.  Eventually until everyone is doing the bare minimum to get buy.  Or to avoid punishment.

Over time the socialist utopia is not much of a utopia anymore.  If it was ever one.  It’s more of a gray, bleak life.  Where you’re hungry more times than not.  And are always in need of something.  Wanting for the things we take for granted in our capitalist lives.  Toilet paper.  Soap.  A pair of blue jeans.  Things we just go to a store when we need them.  And we do.  We don’t wait for hours in a line at a store with empty shelves in hopes of getting something we need.  Now imagine this store across the street from a store in a rich Capitalist city of plenty.  Which way do you think the people would go?  From the rich city of plenty to the bleak city of empty shelves?  Or the other way around.  Turns out, it was the other way around.

Unhappy in East Berlin

If you’re old like me you know what city I’m talking about.  Berlin.  Which was divided between East Berlin and West Berlin after World War II.  Why?  Because the allies had agreed to occupy the German capital.  Which happened to be deep inside East Germany.  Where the Soviet Red Army still had a presence.  Keeping it in the Soviet sphere.  And in that sphere there was nothing but socialism.  Soviet style.  Stalinism.  The East European countries in the Soviet sphere were for all intents and purposes a part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).  So whether they liked it or not they now lived in that socialist utopia.  All except a lucky few, that is.

Soviet socialism sucked.  Those in it wanted out of it.  And those in East Berlin could do that by simply walking across the street.  As could anyone that made it to East Germany and into East Berlin.  Caused a bit of a problem.  The best and the brightest in and around East Berlin were walking to their freedom by walking across the street to West Berlin.  Because life was so much better in West Berlin than in East Berlin.  And if you made it to West Berlin you could even leave East Germany.  Go anywhere in Europe.  The UK.  The USA.  Anywhere.

The Soviets learned how it was not possible to have socialism on one side of a street and capitalism on the other.  Because side by side it was clear.  Capitalism was better.  And the people said so with their feet.  Until the Soviets put a stop to it.  You see, for socialism to work, especially in an area where there’s a better life nearby, you just can’t allow people to escape your socialist utopia.  Which is what the Soviets did.  Eventually building a wall between East and West Berlin.  And a kill-zone on the eastern side of that wall.  To dissuade anyone from climbing over that wall.  By killing them before they got there.

The Key to Socialism is Universal Misery

Countries that embrace a more extreme brand of socialism (Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism, etc.) typically share a common theme.  They have very secure borders.  Not to keep people out.  But to keep people in.  Because their people want to escape to a better life.  And the government in that socialist utopia wants to prevent them from getting to that better life.  And does.  Often with extreme force.  Such as the kill-zone in the former East Berlin.

On the other side of the border, though, there is no such police state.  You can come and go as you please.  That is, anywhere but into an extreme socialist state.  Not that anyone would want to.  Because few people choose to live where they go wanting for food and the basic necessities of life.  Or in a police state where your neighbors sometime disappear after talking a little too much about that better life on the other side of the border.

Socialism can work.  It can be that utopia.  As long as people have no choice.  Everyone is equally miserable.  And a better life doesn’t exist anywhere.  It’s hard to lose your freedom.  Many who do try to get it back.  But it’s a different story if you never had it in the first place.  And if it’s the same on the other side of that border.  Because you’ll then be content in your misery.  Blissfully ignorant of anything better.  Obedient.  And that’s how socialism can work.  If there’s universal misery.  And the people are subservient.

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LESSONS LEARNED #68: ” Beware the demagogue, the champion of the poor, for he has dictatorial aspirations.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 2nd, 2011

Robespierre used the Sans-culottes

A telltale sign of royalty is a really nice pair of pants.  With a perfect, sharp crease.  But that’s today.  Back in the old days, it was a handsome pair of silk knee-breeches.  The wealthy in pre-revolutionary France all wore them.  I say ‘pre-revolutionary’ because it was not the thing to wear during the revolution.  In fact, a group of people who could not afford these fancy breeches took pride in their plain pants.  The poor working class in the cities.  Artisans and small shopkeepers.  The little guys.  Struggling to make a living.

These people did not wear the ‘culottes’ (French for ‘silk knee-breeches’) of the upper classes.  So they went ‘sans’ them (French for ‘without’).  Hence they were the Sans-culottes.  They were the people without silk knee-britches.  And the mob behind the French Revolution

They were Leftist radicals.  Anti-capitalists.  And the far-Left radical Jacques Roux used them for muscle.  Turned them against the bourgeouis (the middle class).  Caused a whole lot of unrest.  Some food riots.  And a massacre or two.  Roux was becoming too powerful so Maximilien Robespierre, a Jacobin, had him arrested.  Then he used the Sans-culottes to consolidate his power.  With the opportune assassination of Jean-Paul Marat (a Jacobin leader), Robespierre became the leader of the Jacobins and of the Revolution.  For awhile.  With the help of the Sans-culottes, he unleashed the Reign of Terror.  Marat’s assassin was a Girondin.  The Girondins were the political rivals of the Jacobins.  So Robespierre put Marat’s assassination to good use and cleaned house.  And by ‘clean house’ I mean killed as many of his political opposition as possible.  It was the time to kill.  If you didn’t like someone all you had to say was that he or she was a counter revolutionary.  And they got a date with the guillotine.  In all some 16,000 (or more) lost their heads during the Reign of Terror.  Including Robespierre himself.  Live by the guillotine.  Die by the guillotine.  And soon thereafter the Sans-culottes became less of a force as the government pulled back from the extreme Leftist radicalism of the Terror to a more conservative one.

Communist Leaders exploited the Proletariat

Marxism arose as a criticism of capitalism.  Which exploits the working class (according to Marxism).  The proletariat.  Who own nothing but their labor.  And are forced to sell it for day-wages to those who own the means of production.  The industrial bourgeoisie.  The proletariat wants to maximize their pay.  The bourgeoisie wants to maximize their profits.  Of course, one can only gain if the other loses.  Ergo, this is a class struggle.  Between the working majority.  And the capital owning minority.  Which is wrong according to Marxism.  And can only end in a proletarian revolution.  After which everyone will live a life of plenty in a classless, stateless, property-less society.  Because everyone will feel the love and work real hard to produce a lot.  Even though they won’t make an extra dime for all their extra work.  It will be a social utopia where society takes from those according to ability and gives to those according to need.  And they’ll sing workers’ songs as they eat and drink and scratch their fat bellies at the end of the work day.

As a social utopia, it’s a pretty nice one.  Especially to the working class who have worked some pretty hard lives.  So they are quick to show a lot of need.  And little ability.  Because those with the most ability have to work the hardest.  Whereas those with the greatest need get more stuff.  Even if they don’t work.  At all.  According to theory, at least.  The working class may be uneducated laborers, but they understood this.  Especially when a leader came along to lead a proletarian revolution.  I get more for working less?  I’m with you, brother.  There have been quite a few such revolutions.  Though there are some degrees of differences, we can call most of these communist revolutions.  Because communist leaders based their philosophy on some form of Marxism.

Many countries had communist revolutions.  Russia was the first.  It became the Soviet Union.  Then China.  It became the People’s Republic of ChinaNorth Korea.  And Cuba.  To name a few.  And how did the proletariat make out in those countries?  Well, suffice it to say it wasn’t quite the utopia they were expecting.  By fighting for the people, Joseph Stalin became one of the greatest mass murderers of all time.  Beating out Adolf Hitler by scores.  There was no utopia in the Soviet Union.  Unless you liked fear and oppression.  And going hungry and lacking the necessities of life.  Ditto in China.  Only their proletariat wasn’t urban workers.  They were rural farmers and peasants.  Forced into collectivized farms.  Where food production plummeted.  Resulting in one of the 20th century’s most horrific famines.  Between famine, fear and oppression, Mao Tse-tung gave Joseph Stalin a run for his money as the greatest mass murderer of all time.  Not sure who won as records are a little sketchy.  But they probably hold first and second place.  Don’t know much about North Korea because it’s such a closed society.  But they suffer some of the greatest famines of modern time.  And spend most of their nights in the dark as they have little energy (seen from space you can tell North Korea from South Korea by the lights).  And the Cubans have more than once tried to escape their social utopia by crossing the Atlantic Ocean in rickety boats and rafts to reach America. 

Life got worse for the working class in general under communism.  But it got pretty good if you were in the communist party.  It was that ‘from those according to ability to those according to need’ thing.  It didn’t work in practice.  Because it turns out people want to benefit from their labors.  Which is the basis of the proletarian revolution in the first place.  And making them work harder for less just wasn’t going to cut it.  Especially when life was better under capitalism.  For it was better when the capitalist bourgeoisie did the exploiting than the communist party.  And it wasn’t just because of the famine, fear and oppression that came with the communists.  Because the capitalists paid you according to the quality of your labor.  Not by the quantity of your need.  So the harder you worked, the more they paid you.  And that’s the kind of thing that’ll get people to work harder.  Incentive.

Peron exploited the Descamisados

Tim Rice is one of the greatest lyricists in musical theater.  Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s greatest works were those he did with Rice.  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream CoatJesus Christ Superstar.  And Evita.  The story of Eva Perón.  Wife of Juan Perón.  And their rise to power in Argentina.  With the help of their descamisados.  The poor, shirtless workers.  Who loved Eva Perón.  As she loved them.

The musical Evita has a Che Guevara-like narrator named Che who tells the story.  And participates.  He sees the Peróns for who they are.  Sees how they exploit the descamisados for personal gain.  And bankrupts the nation.  Rice does a great job of turning this story into some great songs.  This story of a workers’ revolution is accessible.  And entertaining.  Here are some of the lyrics.  Starting with the workers’ demands.

Nationalization of the industries that the foreigners control
Participation in the profits that we make
Shorter hours
Higher wages
Votes for women
Larger dole
More public spending
A bigger slice of every cake

The hallmarks of any workers’ revolution.  Which of course the leader of the workers’ revolution promises in exchange for their vote.  Even though he would prefer not to have to deal with that pretense.

It’s annoying that we have to fight elections for our cause
The inconvenience–having to get a majority
If normal methods of persuasion fail to win us applause
There are other ways of establishing authority

Then the secret police echo these thoughts.

We have ways of making you vote for us,
or at least of making you abstain

Perón wins the election.  And gives his first speech on the balcony of the Casa Rosada.

Argentinos! Argentinos! We are all shirtless now!
Fighting against our common enemies–
Poverty, social injustice, foreign domination of our industries!
Reaching for our common goals–
Our independence, our dignity, our pride!
Let the world know that our great nation is awakening
and that its heart beats in the humble bodies of Juan Peron
and his wife, the first lady of Argentina,
Eva Duarte de Peron!

Yes, he is just one of them.  Shirtless.  And poor.  Though he says this from the ‘pink’ house.  Which is more palace than house.  Che is in the crowd.  And is not amused.

As a mere observer of this tasteless phenomenon, one has to admire the stage management
There again–perhaps I’m more than a mere observer –
listen to my enthusiasm, gentleman! Peron! Peron! Peron!
Look, if I take off my shirt, will you-

At which point the security police beat him and take him away.  For they don’t like dissenters.  Typical revolutionary stuff.  But in a story told so well.  Thanks to the great lyrics of Rice.  And the music of Webber.  And after Perón gets his power, how does Argentina do?  Does Perón deliver that Promised utopia?  Che explains in a brief but passionate monolog.

What’s new Buenos Aires? Your nation, which a few years ago had the second largest gold reserves in the world, is bankrupt! A country which grew up and grew rich on beef is rationing it! La Prensa, one of the few newspapers which dares to oppose Peronism, has been silenced, and so have all other reasonable voices! I’ll tell you what’s new Buenos Aires!

It’s a story as old as time.  The revolutionary leaders get richer.  The workers get poorer.

(The original Broadway cast recording includes Patti LuPone as Eva and Mandy Patinkin as Che.  Who’ve set the bar for these roles.  You can’t get better.  So buy this recording.  You won’t regret it.)

Famine, Fear and Oppression never take a Holiday

Sans-culottes, proletariats, descamisados or some other poor class of people a revolutionary leader champions, it always ends the same.  The leaders of the revolution always seem to do better.  And the poor class continues to suffer.  Often worse off than they were before.  Some leaders come and go.  But the suffering of the masses usually lingers.  For famine, fear and oppression never take a holiday.  But liberty does.  Sadly.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #65: “The only thing the market is inefficient at is funneling money to anti-business politicians.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 10th, 2011

The Natural Order and a good Last Name

There are two types of people in America.  Those who work.  And elitists who want others to work for them.  It’s been this way since the dawn of civilization.  One group asserted their power over the masses.  The masses then worked.  The ruling elite didn’t.  They just gave the work orders.  The masses dutifully followed their orders and grew the food.  The ruling elite took in the bounty and ate until they were full.  And then some.  While famine thinned out the masses.  It was the natural order once upon a time.  And those who held dominion over the land liked it.

Land, then, was key.  The aristocracy owned the land.  Hence we called them the landed aristocracy.  They owned the land, the food and the wealth.  And the people.  In European and Russian feudalism there were serfs.  In the antebellum American South there were slaves.  The landed aristocracy may buy and sell land and move.  But the serfs/slaves stayed on the land.  Forever.  As their parents did.  As their children would.  It was the natural order.

Your name was very important in the landed aristocracy.  For land was hereditary.  As was wealth.  As was political power.  And it stayed this way for a long time.  While everyone who worked farmed.  But over time, something happened.  People got smarter.  They were able to grow food surpluses.  And they took these surpluses to markets.  Which became cities.  Where we saw the rise of artisans.  Skilled people who made tools and crafts that further improved our lives.  Allowed people to leave the farms.  And create a middle class.  Greatest thing that ever happened for the masses.  It allowed a way out from the back-breaking toil of working the land.  Even if you didn’t have a ‘good’ last name.

Representative Government changes the Natural Order

Of course, not everyone was keen about this.  Because it disrupted the natural order of things.  And threatened the old power structures.  Some adjusted.  Some shared the power.  Like in England.  Where there was a representative government.  There was a bicameral house.  The Parliament.  Representing all people.  The rich in the House of Lords.  And the common people in the House of Commons.  And, of course, the king.  Who represented the king.  And the state.  Now, kings like to wage war.  Conquer.  And add to empire.  But it takes soldiers and sailors to fight.  And money to pay for armies and navies.  Which the king didn’t have.  The rich people had the money.  The landed aristocracy.  The Lords.  So the king just couldn’t wage war unless Parliament consented.  Pretty nice thing this check on power.  This representative government.  It made for happy subjects.

It wasn’t like this in France. While the English were checking the king’s power, the French monarchy was absolute.  It  could do whatever it wanted.  And did.  Spent a lot of money.  Ran up great debts.  Fought a lot of wars.  Including the Seven Years’ War that lost much of French North America to Great Britain.  And helped the Americans in their War of Independence.  Helping them to gain their independence from the British monarchy.  Which proved to be a deadly game for the French monarchy.  For the French people grew fond of representative government themselves.  And they thought if the Americans can overthrow king-rule maybe they could, too.  So they gave it a try.  The French Revolution was a bit bloodier than the American Revolution, but it got the job done.  France, too, had a representative government.  Until Napoleon declared himself emperor, of course.  And then he did a lot of kingly things.  Waged war.  Conquered.  Built empire.  And added to the debt.

Great Britain gave up on minority rule.  France tried to hang on to it, lost it then Napoleon got it back.  The reason minority rule failed in these countries is because a minority ruling power needs money.  And it was easier to get money in an agrarian economy.  When all the wealth was concentrated in the few who owned the land.  The rise of a middle class changed all of that.  Artisans and merchants made a lot of money.  Some even without ‘good’ last names.  The people who didn’t have to kiss any royal ass to get or maintain their wealth.  It was a whole new game out there.  Minority rulers needed to find another way to amass money and power.  And they found it.  In the ‘lie’.

Lies from Marxism to Socialism

A ruling power lying wasn’t anything new.  But some of the lies were.  Marxism, for example, was a new brilliant lie.  It made those the ruling elite wanted to oppress ask to be oppressed.  In the name of egalitarianism.  Rise up you miserable oppressed factory workers.  Attack the industrial bourgeoisie (i.e., the middle class).  You have nothing to lose but your chains.  Karl Marx may have believed the claptrap he wrote.  But those who used it could care less about the underlying philosophy.  They just liked the power it gave them.  So those who aspired to rise to power and rule over the majority led worker revolutions.  And after they won, the workers went back to suffering just as they had before.  Only they had less.  Because the communist commissars knew jack squat about the means of production.  But that was okay.  For it just helped to enslave the masses more.  Well, that.  And the brutal police state that discouraged any inappropriate behavior.  Or thought.

It was a good run for the communist powers that be.  While the masses suffered they lived a very comfortable life.  Just like the landed aristocracy of old.  Unfortunately for them, their ruling policies sent their economies into nosedives.  And they suffered recurring famines.  Marxism was a failure.  The ruling elite knew it.  And most of the people knew it, too.  Often, those who could escape from their communist utopias did.  Because they were anything but utopian.  So those aspiring to ascend to the ruling elite needed a new lie.  And they found it in communism-light.  Socialism.  Which appealed to the people they wanted to oppress for the same reasons Marxism did.  It would stick it to the rich in an egalitarian utopia.

But there was little difference between Marxism and socialism.  Both systems tried to manage the economy.  And both did a horrible job.  Why?  Because state planning is not about improving the lives of those they rule over.  It’s about maintaining power.  An economy left alone will always outperform a managed economy.  Everyone knows this.  But if they leave the economy alone, how can the ruling elite amass power and wealth?  It can’t.  Ergo, the lie continues.  Not to improve the lives of the masses.  But to improve the lives of the ruling elite.  The minority power.  Who only ascends to power by a good lie.

Wealth Redistribution Killed the Golden Goose

The free market does have one inefficiency.  It does not enrich those who do not partake in it.  The ruling elite aspire to be in a minority rule for a couple of reasons.  First of all, when you’re stealing from and oppressing the people, the fewer people in the ruling elite the wealthier each member gets.  Which is what they want.  Wealth.  And being in the ruling elite gives them access to wealth.  Because they are so completely untalented that they could never make any wealth in the free market.  So they use the lie to acquire their wealth.  To live the good life.  Like the landed aristocracy of old.

So they become the champion of the working man and woman.  And promise to deliver that egalitarian society via wealth redistribution.  They promise to tax the rich.  And give to those who will vote for them.  It has proven to be a very effective system.  And in its heyday they were reaping in the money.  Even found a way to funnel tax money directly to them via public sector union dues.  But they just got too greedy.  Pulled too many people into the new aristocracy.  And too many people out of the work force who paid the taxes that paid for their comfortable lives of plenty.

The taxes and policies of the ruling elite have grown so anti-business that it’s reduced economic activity.  And tax generation.  So not only have they bloated the public sector with nonworking people and reduced the taxpaying workforce, they killed the golden goose as well.  And no lie may change the mess they created.  They may have no choice but to unfetter the free market.  And get real jobs.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #59: “When the Right partners with business the Left calls it crony capitalism. When they partner with business the Left calls that smart government.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 29th, 2011

The Right likes Capitalism, the Left likes Marxism

Crony capitalism isn’t capitalism.  At best it’s mercantilism.  At worse it’s autocracy.  But the critics of capitalism haven’t the foggiest clue of what capitalism is.  They think it just exploits the working class.  Like Karl Marx said.  Of course, Karl Marx was wrong.  His philosophy has never worked.  Whereas capitalism, true capitalism, has.  Try to point to a successful Marxist country today.  You can’t do it.  Because when you take from those according to ability and give to those according to need you have everyone trying to show as little ability and as great need as possible.  Put yourself in that position.  Do you want to show some genius and work 12-hour days and see all of your earnings go to people sitting at home collecting state benefits?  Or would you rather not work those 12-hour days, relax at home and collect those state benefits?  If these are your choices, you don’t have to answer.  Because everyone is going to choose to stay at home and collect benefits.  Because no one volunteers to be a slave.

In such a world try to imagine how many cellular towers people would install when no one wants to work.  Not many.  Which means no cell phones, no text messaging, no internet on your mobile device and no sitting in your favorite coffee shop Internet hotspot.  For no one will spend the excruciating time, money and effort to create something while he or she is paid less than those with greater need who do nothing.  In other words, there is no incentive to work hard.  So no one will work hard.  Just like you won’t work hard by working overtime hours for free.  And why won’t you?  Because when you work you sell your time to an employer.  It’s your time.  If no one is paying you for it, you’d rather do something fun.  We all would.  Because it’s our unalienable right to pursue happiness.  Like Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence.  And pursue it we do.  Because when it comes to our happiness, we’re all Jeffersonians.  Even Alexander Hamilton.  Even though they often saw things differently.

And one of those things was capitalism.  Jefferson didn’t like bankers.  Especially when they were in tight with the government.  Hamilton, on the other hand, liked the bankers.  Because he knew the difference between money and capital.  Assume everyone has a few bucks in their pockets.  What is that going to buy these individuals?  Not much.  Certainly no cellular towers.  But when you pool that money together you get capital.  And capital can buy cellular towers and the other conveniences of modern society.  And this is capitalism.  There’s a little more to it but the point is capitalism provides incentive.  And incentive stimulates innovation.  People take risks, work hard and create great things.  Marxism, on the other hand, provides no incentive for anyone to innovate.  There are no risk takers and people work the bare minimum they can get away with.  And there is nothing great in a Marxist society except misery, hunger and fear.  North Korea and Cuba are about the last of the Marxist societies remaining.  The Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Mao’s People’s Republic of China are relics of the Cold War.  Now on the ash heap of history.  And all of these countries have/had sealed borders.  People could not leave.  If they tried they often died.  Many still risked it.  Because life was horrible under Marxism.

Jefferson the anti-Capitalist turns to Capitalism

Now whenever you gather money in great big piles you invite corruption.  Especially in government.  Which is what Jefferson feared.  You need money to do things.  And if government had access to great pools of it, they could do a lot of things.  Build armies.  Build navies.  Fight wars.  Grow the size of government.  Increase the size of the federal payroll.  Buy favors.  Sell patronage.  So more and more people became part of a growing, bloated federal government.  Who then had a vested interest in seeing it continue to grow to protect and increase the power and money they had.  All the great cities in the old world (London, Paris, Madrid, etc.) were corrupt.  The bankers were in bed with the politicians.  And the people suffered.  In his beloved France, Jefferson saw firsthand this insidious combination of money and power impoverish and starve the masses.  He saw revolutionary fervor grow in the Jacobin clubs.  And witnessed the outbreak of the French Revolution.  To check the power of the absolute monarchy and instill republican ideals.  And he liked what he saw.

With the backdrop of history, two men (and their followers) pulled America in two directions.  The Hamiltonians wanted to model America after the British Empire.  Rich and powerful.  Jefferson envisioned a nation of citizen farmers.  Simple farmers toiling the land.  Free from the corruption of the banks and the merchants.  With limited government.  Working with a modest federal budget.  Without any debt.  Of course, this all went out the window with the Louisiana Purchase.  When he needed a big whopping pile of money.  And a little extraconstitutional authority as well.  Sort of like a European monarch.  Which he took.  And thanks to a little thing called capitalism, the British and Dutch put together some creative financing for the French and the Americans.  They paid cash to France in exchange for the American bonds they just underwrote.  Some would say it was a bit hypocritical considering his attacks against Hamilton, but the U.S. profited very well from that purchase.  The point being is that even an ardent anti-capitalist like Jefferson had to turn to capitalism to close this deal.  Because there was no other way a young and poor nation could ever come up with that kind of money without borrowing it.

But all politicians aren’t like Thomas Jefferson.  In fact, shortly after the Founding Father generation, government began to grow.  There were political favors.  Pandering.  And corruption.  As the quality of the politician declined more unscrupulous people were attracted to government.  A growing nation needed to grow.  It needed to build things.   Armies.  Navies.  Forts.  Government buildings.  Post offices.  Canals.  Railroads.  As the nation grew it collected more taxes.  It soon had a lot of money to buy these things.  And issuing contracts for these things could be a very lucrative endeavor.  For the unscrupulous politician.  Who would only contract with those who made it worth his while.  The unscrupulous businessman.

Buying and Selling Favors for Personal Gain

This is crony capitalism.  The joining of business and government in backroom deals.  This isn’t laissez-faire capitalism.  This is the buying and selling of favors for personal gain.  And this is what many people think capitalism is.  Especially those critics on the Left.  Who think in zero-sum terms.  The only way some people can have more money is if other people have less.  Some people are lucky.  Some just aren’t.  Ability and ambition have nothing to do with it.  It’s all based on who you know.  And when money and power is concentrated in too few hands, it shuts out others from the market place.  And that’s just not nice.  Good people will be unable to make other and more important things.  So unless someone smart steps in and coordinates this economic activity, that activity will be inefficient.  It will build the wrong things.  And the wealth will accumulate in the wrong hands.

These politicians want to partner with business to make the right things.  By the right people.  The things they want to see built.  And not the things they don’t like.  A good example of this today is the electric car.  And the internal combustion engine.  They love one.  And despise the other.  They put in policies to increase the cost of gasoline-powered cars.  And the cost of gasoline.  And provide subsidies to electric car companies to help them build cars no one wants to buy.  And subsidies to consumers to reduce the price on electric cars.  So they’ll buy something they don’t want.

Currently, there is no market for the electric car.  People are buying it now for one of two reasons.  Because of the subsidies.  Or the smugness.  Yet companies are building these cars.  Why?  Well, they’re not doing it to lose money.  They’re making money.  Somehow.  But it isn’t in the market place.  And if it isn’t the market place, it can mean only one thing.  They are getting some sweet federal subsidies to build these cars no one wants.  And this just isn’t capitalism.  It’s another example of crony capitalism.

The Left hates Shareholders, not Corporations

The Left attacks the Right for being the party of the big corporations.  They’re nothing but a bunch of crooks.  The corporations.  And the Republicans.  Republicans pander to the corporations.  They want to deregulate their industries.  While consumer safety suffers.  As does the environment.  And they want to cut their taxes.  Paid for by tax hikes on the poor and working class.  To those on the Left the business corporation is evil incarnate.  Unless they want to partner with them.  And build things together.  Then they’re okay.

The Left hates corporations.  Yet it’s always the left that favors corporatism.  The partnering of business and government.  Like in Mussolini’s fascist Italy.  Or outright nationalization of the corporation.  A complete takeover by the government. Like in Hugo Chavez‘s Venezuela.  It apparently isn’t the corporations per se they hate.  It’s the shareholders.  They have no problem with these corporations making obscene profits.  As long as the politicians can share in these profits.

So there you have it.  The difference between crony capitalism and smart government.  It all depends on the amount of money flowing into the government’s coffers.  If the shareholders keep the full return on their investment then the business and Republicans are practicing crony capitalism.  If the shareholders share their return on their investment with the Democrats, then that’s smart government partnering with business.

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