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Posts Tagged ‘socialism’

I love reading Paul Krugman’s NY Times columns and especially the comments that follow because they offer a fascinating glimpse of certain moral principles that are completely alien to my personal philosophy. It is like going into a country where they seem to speak the same language; yet their words mean completely different things than what you are used to.

For instance, in today’s article, PK rages against the practice of high speed trading and certain kinds of financial speculation on the ground that they are socially worthless. But at least he merely suggests higher income taxes to deal with such practices. His commenters go several levels further. They are so — oh so — outraged that some rich people are merely following Capitalism 101 rather than contributing to some “social good” that they want the guys arrested; some go further and demand a popular revolution to fundamentally steer the nation towards social democracy.

Not so long ago, Soviet Russia and countries under its influence measured not just economic activity but everything from art to films according to their social utility in furthering the principles of communism; those that did not pass the test were banned or worse. So the NY Times readers are continuing a worthy tradition.

What can I say? In my universe, freedom — freedom to invest or speculate, to be foolish or smart, to give back to society or be a rich miser — is of far, far greater importance than judging whether the exercise of freedom actually contributes to some social good. So the morality of the NY times commenters with their particular sense of justice and fairness is alien to me. Once upon a time, when faced with such morality, I would rage and scream silently inside at the grotesque sense of entitlement displayed. These days, I am merely amused; it is a bit like going to an alternate universe full of strange creatures.

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I have been meaning to do a lengthy post on Naomi Klein for a long, long time. The lady deserves it. She is charismatic, enormously influential among my liberal friends and intellectually dishonest. She is a brilliant manipulator of words and distorter of facts. She is the arch-proponent and promoter of elitist collectivism. Though a mere journalist, her best-selling books have assured her a vaunted place in the leftist pantheon. Like Keynes and Galbraith, she is frequently and approvingly quoted — but here’s the thing, Keynes and Galbraith were great economists (wrong perhaps, but still great). She is a bit like a modern day Ellsworth Toohey.

Unfortunately, my activities this term (editing a paper, writing another, making a research statement, applying for jobs) are leaving me little time for such posts — so it will have to wait. For now, I recommend Jesse Walker’s excellent Reason article.

And if you are in the mood for something longer, do check out Jonah Norberg’s masterly destruction of Klein’s bestselling book “The Shock Doctrine”.

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I exaggerate not a bit when I describe the prevailing politics of L.A. to be roughly as follows: Wal-Mart and big box stores = evil, and need to be stopped at all costs. Also, we need more cheap supermarkets! Mom and pop stores need to be defended from Big Corporations, unless they sell fried chicken or used tires, or get in the way of a big development project.

 — Matt Welch, writing about his experience of dealing with Los Angeles “stakeholders” during his two-year tenure at the L.A. Times.

I highly recommend the whole article.

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Even the famously socialist French ultimately come to realize that bad policies give bad results.

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The New York Times is not exactly renowned for libertarian views but this particular oped – where the author complains about excessive private philanthropy – is staggeringly regressive even by their standards.

Indeed, the article, after acknowledging that private philanthropy in the US exceeds that of any other country, goes on to state:

Critics of government spending argue that America’s private sector does a better job making socially necessary investments. But it doesn’t. Public spending is allocated democratically among competing demands. Rich benefactors can spend on anything they want, and they tend to spend on projects close to their hearts.

Philanthropic contributions are usually tax-free. They directly reduce the government’s ability to engage in public spending. Perhaps the government should demand a role in charities’ allocation of resources in exchange for the tax deduction. Or maybe the deduction should go altogether. Experts estimate that tax breaks motivate 25 percent to 30 percent of contributions.

In any event, social needs, like those health clinics, are not about charity. They are a necessity. America needs a government that can and will pay for them.

Rajiv Gandhi, the former Indian Prime Minister, once said that for every rupee spent by the government, only fifteen paise reaches the intended recipients. I suspect that the fraction is even lower.

It is precisely because private benefactors care for their projects that the money is likely to reach their destination and be well used.

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An Indian NGO questions the requirement that all political parties adhere to socialism in writing.

Will this case lead to change? I am sceptical. Yet, one can always hope, and I will.

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