Politics got weird because neoliberalism failed to deliver

[quote=“nickle, post:172, topic:91368”]
so what evidence is there that I’m wrong. You don’t present any. [/quote]
I was merely confirming that you’re open to changing your opinion. Because if you’re not open to that, this is all just a performance.

Given that you’re open to changing your opinion, let’s look at this purported evidence for your position:

Look at your national insurance [in the UK] or social security payments in the US. That’s real wealth being transferred to the state. [/QUOTE]
This is the first statement that you need to re-examine in light of alternative evidence.

Here are three pieces of evidence:

  1. The money Americans pay into social security goes to two things. The first is the cost of running the social security administration. The second is one of two trust funds that are used to issue payments to people who receive social security checks. This is simply how the program works. If you don’t think this is how the program works, you should abandon your current idea.
  2. The payments from social security are heavily weighted to those with the lowest income. It keeps my fellow Americans out of poverty, doing great good for many in their time of most dire need. If you don’t think people actually benefit from social security payments, you need to abandon your current idea.
  3. One current problem facing the SSA is that not taking in enough to cover what it’s giving out, which is evidence in favor of the funds I pay going to people, and not just accumulating in some administrator’s wallet. If you think that social security payments just go to bureaucrats, you need to abandon your current idea.

So you can clearly see that the wealth that is transferred from my paycheck goes toward helping people who need it, not simply to “the state.” I know people who are retired. I am making their lives more livable.

That is of tremendous benefit to me. A bit of economic security is necessary for the respectful treatment of other human beings, especially those who can’t participate fully in our capitalist society due to old age and infirmity. I’d be totally on board with expanding and strengthening the program, so that it can better help more people. I’d even be willing to pay more taxes to see that happen.

What I get out of paying that tax is a world where fewer elderly people freeze to death because they can’t afford heat. I would gladly pay to help keep your grandmother in bus tickets and applesauce and in a heated home until her dying day.

The question naturally arises: why would you not do that for mine?


And according to @aikimo, it’s not clear which position is more typical of right or left wing views. Pff.

Hint: the more selfish and short-sighted option is probably almost certainly not the left-wing one.


It’s hard to argue with that. :slight_smile:

I don’t know if I agree about a “message,” but I do agree that free trade means lost jobs in one place and gained jobs in another.

See, I honestly don’t think that the economists who might strongly disagree with you believe that free markets are any kind of “magical panacea that inevitably would lead to great results for everyone…” This misrepresents the point of view of the opposing side, who, from what I’ve read, would say that free markets lead to mostly good results, with some negative results, as well.

Again, I completely agree. I’m more of a “whateverworks-ist” than anything. I think believing that one solution or the other is “always the best solution” in complex things like economics (or psychology or sociology) is not a good starting point. I doubt that any particular approach towards solving complex social issues is “always the best solution.” I just think we need to keep our minds open to all the possible solutions.

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IMO it’s unacceptable that there’s any argument here at all. Why the fuck are we still wrestling with this arsehole memeplex?

Fifty years of propaganda and deliberate under-education, that’s why.


one thing i’d like to see are workers rights provisions in trade negotiations. ensure that people are paid a fair wage ( for their country ), that they have the right to organize ( into unions ), and that factory conditions are humane.

we seem to offload jobs to places where these things aren’t well regulated. it gives us cheaper prices, and it does seem to give some people a leg up out of poverty – but, the primary reason seems to be about enriching ceos.

we don’t need to be recreating victorian working conditions, or worse – as some argue is the case for chocolate and sugar – slavery. all to make yet still more money for a very few.


I think that’s too simplistic. You don’t.

Can’t we finally, at long last, agree to disagree? :joy:

I think we’re mostly in agreement, so just teasing out this:

The idea of the free market as a magical panacea by and large isn’t an economist position, it’s a politician/policy position, a position of those with the power to set the rules and laws. They hold this position for largely ideological/moral or selfish/greedy interests.

But, Milton Friedman is also one of the main architects of our current economic disaster. What we’re living through now is a direct outgrowth of his ideology. The economic logic underpinning his ideology has been shown by history and experience to be deeply flawed (he was critically mistaken on ideas like money velocity and price stickiness, and history has been kind to Keynesian intervention). Any criticism of the current situation that doesn’t acknowledge and repudiate much of his agenda is woefully stuck with its head up it’s butt.

But, thanks to his popularity, Friedman enjoys many acolytes among the economic elite (including many of the Chicago school), and, worse, he enjoys many fanboys in those aforementioned camps of the ideologues and the criminals.

Starting with the idea that the free market doesn’t do what most people in America think it should do based on their outdated theories and ideologies is an important step to actually recognizing the change that needs to happen to reduce human misery in the world.


I could get into a long list of complicated reasons behind the starkness of my stance, for instance, when do you ever hear anyone talking about the externalities of the global shipping that goes along with globalisation? CO2, diesel, invasive species like the crown of thorns starfish getting spread around, etc, etc, etc.

It’s the folks on the right who are simplistic; holism is a dirty hippy word to them. The entire authoritarian, inconsiderate, ignorant, dishonest edifice is a massive pile of steaming shit that only has any currency because it has suited the powers that be to do their damnedest to propagate a belief system that leaves the poor divided and conquered.

As I say, perhaps you can tease out one or two notions from bullshit mountain that can actually withstand honest inquiry, but it’s a stopped clock.


It was Lenin who viewed himself and the Bolsheviks as being further to the right than some of the opposing forms of communism (although that’s a long way from actually being right wing).


Typically the right is selfish and the left is short-sighted :slight_smile: though.

A conservative, far-sighted take on it is that keeping people out of poverty and occupied with something is the cheapest and most effective way of keeping the poor from stealing or destroying my wealth. Maintaining armed servant classes (aka cops) is far riskier, and potentially more expensive.


I can’t imagine reading Wealth of Nations twice.

I don’t have a huge problem with Smith or what he wrote other than observing that he was just terribly, terribly wrong about people, and what-people-are-like was the subject of his writings. He takes an extremely reductive approach to emotions. Here’s a revealing quote of Smith:

Thus, if virtue doesn’t consist in (1) propriety, it must consist either in (2) prudence or in (3) benevolence. It is hardly possible to imagine any account of the nature of virtue other than these three. I shall try to show later on how all the other accounts that seem different from any of these are basically equivalent to some one or other of them.

Neat categorization of complex subjects followed by a “don’t worry, if anything appears to not fit my model, I’ll tell you how it actually does.” Try to tell an economist that even the most simple laws of economics don’t work in the real world (e.g., demand curves sometimes slope upward) and they’ll say, “ceteris paribus”* which, in this case, is Latin for “no true Scotman.”

I think Smith is interesting, but he should be read in philosophy classes, not in supposedly science classes.


I’m not sure I’d call economics a “science” but then again, you did say “supposedly.”

And Smith was a moral philosopher, but the category of “economist” didn’t exist back then, either.


That’s the most interesting Wikipedia article I think I’ve been linked to in ages. Thanks!

I keep saying I’m going to, and have even downloaded it twice, yet I never seem to get it done…

The idea that trade gives a leg up out of poverty is more of the, “When we do things to make ourselves (us = the very wealthy, not the nation) rich, it’s actually good for everyone.” It’s trickle down economics.

Neoliberals draw this hard line around “coercion”. If someone orders you to make clothes at gun point then you are “coerced” and don’t really have a choice, but if someone says you can make clothes for them and that’s the only way you can see you’ll be able to afford to eat, you are just making a rational economic choice. You are better off because the factory is there.

In reality, there is no hard line. The reason you choose to work at gun point is because you are better off working than being shot. In the classic Alice sells Bob a car* example of why trade makes us richer, the analysis doesn’t change if it’s Alice commands Bob to work in exchange for his life - Bob’s life is worth less to Alice than it is to Bob, society is better off if Bob indeed chooses work over death.

I’d be extremely surprised if setting up a factory in a poorer nation has never benefited that nation. It’s obvious that sometimes setting up a factory in a poorer nation has sometimes hurt that nation. It depends on a huge number of factors. The idea that trade is overall a benefit to poorer nations is an assertion that if we took all those individual cases and added them up we’d get a positive number. I’d like to see those numbers actually added up and see if that’s right - and I’ll reserve the right to ask about more granular details (e.g., what right do we have to profit off the suffering of these people and justify it based on the benefits to those people) even if the numbers come out the way I’m assured they will.

* Alice sells a car to Bob for $2000. Since Alice was willing to sell it for $2000 that means it was worth less than $2000 to her, let’s say it was worth $1500. Since Bob was willing to pay $2000 that means it must have been worth more than $2000 to him, let’s say $2500. In the world before the trade, Alice had $1500 and Bob had $2000. In the world after the trade Alice has $2000 and Bob has $2500 - the world is $1000 richer. I swear on my honour that they literally teach this childish reductionism to grown-ass people in economics courses.


I didn’t get along with my econ teachers, but man, at least they weren’t that bad.


I had that precise example used in my last year of highschool, my first year of university and in a continuing education course through a world-leading university. I thought it was pretty standard as a way of explaining how trade makes us better off. It’s obviously meant to be a simplification to help explain a concept, not a robust argument itself, but the fact that they can’t see that it works just as well for a mugger pointing a gun at you is troubling.


Agree![quote=“Daedalus, post:182, topic:91368”]
But, thanks to his popularity, Friedman enjoys many acolytes among the economic elite (including many of the Chicago school), and, worse, he enjoys many fanboys in those aforementioned camps of the ideologues and the criminals.

Well, Paul Krugman described Friedman as “a great economist and a great man,” despite his disagreements with him. I think Friedman is not unusual among ecnomists in that he got some things right (advocating for basic income and helping to bring about an end to the draft) and some things wrong (Keynesian interventions can be good!).

My feeling is that, based on what I’ve read, the liberalization of markets in the third world has been the main cause of unprecedentedly low levels of extreme poverty. I don’t think that free trade is all we need, obviously, but I think it’s provided more good than ill, which is where you and I (and lots of economists) disagree.

That said, I’m starting my vacation and hope you have happy holidays. If we disagree again next year, I hope I’ll be smarter than I am today!


I don’t think the right is any more predisposed to authoritarianism than the left. I abhor the social history of the right in the U.S., but I believe that there’s plenty of evidence to show that if we let poor people buy and sell what they want, they’ll be less divided and conquered.

And now, I’m off on vacation. Happy Holidays to you, my impassioned, hyperbolic comrade!