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Evidence-Free Assertions at The Economist

[ 131 ] October 15, 2012 |

The Economist decides to hide a tasty anti-union nugget inside an essay theoretically dedicated to some sort of radical centrism.

The priority should be a Rooseveltian attack on monopolies and vested interests, be they state-owned enterprises in China or big banks on Wall Street. The emerging world, in particular, needs to introduce greater transparency in government contracts and effective anti-trust law. It is no coincidence that the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, made his money in Mexican telecoms, an industry where competitive pressures were low and prices were sky-high. In the rich world there is also plenty of opening up to do. Only a fraction of the European Union’s economy is a genuine single market. School reform and introducing choice is crucial: no Wall Street financier has done as much damage to American social mobility as the teachers’ unions have. Getting rid of distortions, such as labour laws in Europe or the remnants of China’s hukou system of household registration, would also make a huge difference.

I love it! Let’s talk about the need to avoid a new Gilded Age (which the article begins with) by crushing teacher unions! I mean, it’s not like we need actual evidence for the claim that teacher unions destroy American social mobility more than Enron or Lehman Brothers or the Koch brothers. The person who wrote this almost certainly has a British accent, clearly that’s enough for me.

Reading this pablum inside a purportedly serious article reminded me of the CATO Institute which provides cover for its ultimate goal of destroying the New Deal state by bringing up social libertarians to talk about ending the war on drugs. Everyone knows that CATO only marginally cares about that and doesn’t have the levers of power on that issue, but it gives it respectability for its real goals. Similarly, The Economist can talk a bipartisan game as a good cover for crushing organized labor.

Comments (131)

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  1. Gary K says:

    Carlos Slim made his money in Mexican telecoms

    Wait, you’re saying it wasn’t his chain of 50s-pop-culture-themed restaurants?

  2. Linnaeus says:

    The Economist has, for a long while, struck me as a British magazine for American readers (particularly those of a neoliberal inclination) who want to feel erudite.

    • spencer says:

      Well, Megan McArdle wrote for them once upon a time.

      That, honestly, should say it all.

    • redrob64 says:

      This may be one of the best descriptions I’ve ever seen of The Economist: “Colonel Blimp with an Oxbridge education.” Though I have to admit to reading it every week for the last 20 years or so.

    • actor212 says:

      I actually enjoyed reading The Econ, but not for its coverage of America. No business magazine stateside was really doing a good job of covering the emerging Asian markets like China and the Asian Tigers in the late 80s and 90s. The Economist was.

      I tended to read their political analyses as a joke, a Tory-driven frotheling of boojwa condescension and disinterested tripe: they wrote the pieces knowing they could basically parrot the WSJ editorial board and since they had a time lag between those and the edition, it would seem fresh and vibrant analysis

      Back then, I mean.

  3. Matt says:

    Some European labor laws do strike me as misguided, but to compare them to internal registration systems from communist states is either stupid or malicious, or both. (That most communist states couldn’t work without significant limits on internal mobility, put in place by internal registration system, is a good bit of evidence about what was wrong with them, but these are really nothing like even the least useful bits of European labor law.)

  4. Gabriel Mares says:

    It’s also worth noting that Carlos Slim was able to make his fortune because neo-Liberal advocates (like the Economist) urged a decentralization and deregulation of telecomms to begin with.

    • Mike G says:

      Mexican telecoms, an industry where competitive pressures were low and prices were sky-high.

      Ironic that The Economist cheerled for the US-trained neoliberal economists running Mexico for the last two decades, who pushed privatization and deregulation under the ruse that it would bring competition and lower prices.

      When you have a corrupt, cronyist, corporatist-dominated power structure, privatization and deregulation results inevitably in looting by the 1% and ripoffs for everyone else, vid. Mexico and Russia.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      That was my immediate thought too. A vivid recollection of all the Economist articles from the mid 90s explaining the benefits for everyone of countries such as Mexico privatising their utilities.

    • Heron says:

      It’s also worth noting that they were one of the major proponents in the 90s of the “A rising tide lifts all boats” school of globalization promoting, and quickly became in the 00s one of the first publications to champion the “Western workers need to lower their standards” school of austerity and wealth accumulation justification. Oh, and they consistently ignore or misrepresent income inequality in the US, as well as grossly misinterpreting US politics on pretty much ever occasion they take up the subject. I mean really; their US political analysis is infuriatingly, laughably off-base, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising as I don’t think I’ve ever met a British person who really “got” US politics, even ones who’ve been living here for years.

      The Economist can be a good source of information, but it has some significant biases that a reader ought to be aware and suspicious of.

  5. David M. Nieporent says:

    In addition to not knowing anything about what the Cato Institute does, Loomis doesn’t even know its name. It’s Cato, not CATO: a person, not an acronym.

  6. Jordan says:

    That line was really jarring. I haven’t yet read anything else from that issue. I didn’t even make it past the first leader this week :(.

    • Pestilence says:

      Dont ever read the leaders, they are anywhere from terrible on down. A lot of the reportage is pretty good, especially outside the american section.

      • Doug says:

        The reporting in the American section was so horrendous that it gradually degraded my ability to believe anything else in the rest of the rest of the magazine. I’m quite done with it now.

        • mpowell says:

          It’s interesting. Obviously, there is almost no way for an American or European to find out what is going on in, say, Argentina without going to extraordinary lengths. But the Economist will always give you their opinion. Unfortunately, when you are an American reading the Economist, you know how inaccurate their reporting is on US affairs, and it does give you an idea just how badly they are probably representing what is going on elsewhere.

          But unlike their neo-liberal whoring, they aren’t doing it intentionally at least.

  7. somethingblue says:

    no Wall Street financier has done as much damage to American social mobility as the teachers’ unions have.

    I would like to nominate this for Lie of the Year. Romney isn’t worthy to lick these people’s shoes.

  8. tt says:

    Fighting against the war on drugs grants you “respectability”? Really?

    Is it possible for someone to disagree with you on some things and agree on others without the latter being mere cover for the former?

    • L2P says:

      It’s possible.

      But with Cato, drug legalization is more of a “that’s interesting” topic, like hypothetical police-free governments. Fun to write about and all, but they’re not going to waste any real effort on it. They’re vaguely ‘in favor’ of it, but if they could get the capital gains tax lowered 1% by imposing a 10 year sentence on marijuana possession, do you have any doubt anyone at Cato would jump on that? Deregulation, lower taxes on the wealthy, or anti-union laws. That stuff gets them moving.

      • tt says:

        What evidence is there for this view? CATO pays people to write about the drug war. It’s a frequent topic on their website (at the moment a book on the drug war is the largest image on their front page.) “Vague” is not a word I would use to describe their opposition. Humans seem to have a bias towards thinking that everyone we disagree with is fundamentally the same, and I think we need to guard against this.

        Beyond that though I just don’t understand what Loomis meant. Isn’t there a contradiction between CATO “doesn’t have the levers of power on [drug legalization]” and “but it gives it respectability for its real goals”? The reason CATO doesn’t have power on the drug war is precisely because the “respectable” people aren’t interested in ending it. Why does CATO need to be respected by people with no power to achieve its goal of ending the New Deal?

        • L2P says:

          I stand corrected.

          Those pot-loving free thinkers at Cato clearly value an end to the drug war just as much as end to business regulations, which they just kind of vaguely hope some day fade away. Why, compared to the hundreds of specific proposals for ending various elements of prohibition they dislike, you barely find anything other than anecdotes of the horrors of the abuses of regulations (with a rare policy paper thrown in.) no, drug freedom is their true love. Freedom for capitalists? Mere window dressing in their endless crusade to let hippies smoke pot.

        • If only Cato kept a record of their activities organized by topic. One could compare how much of their output is about the drug war compared to everything else. Or even how it stacks up with other individual topics Cato covers.

          Oh well. Guess Cato’s drug war coverage will continue to be the ultimate trump card that prevents criticism of their institutional priorities.

          • tt says:

            Complete the argument? From the links it looks like CATO does approximately as much on the drug war as all those other topics. This proves that CATO doesn’t really care about the drug war and just talks about it to gain respectability for its real goals how?

            • Christopher says:

              My favorite part is that a lot of their studies under the headings “the nanny state” and “federal budget” are also about the drug war.

              Really, tt, what more evidence do you need that they don’t actually care about the drug war?

            • zolltan says:

              While I generally agree with tt, I think Loomis/others could mean “respectability” in academic circles rather than in political ones.

            • It feels like I’m being mean by having to spell this out:

              the vast vast majority of Cato’s activities are pro-corporate/capital/etc. and have nothing to do with the drug war

              PBS funding is to federal expenditures as drug war coverage is to Cato.

              On an issue-by-issue basis Cato’s drug war coverage isn’t as extensive as their other areas

              Look at the environmental regulation section. Look at their Web 2.0 Social Security page. Since 2006 there’s been about as much Opinion and Commentary on “The American Founders” (such as “George Washington, Liberal Republican” by David Boaz) as on the Drug War. I don’t know why there’s carping about drug war coverage making up a small part of the “Nanny State” section. There’s a Nanny State section.

              On and on and on.

              What isn’t getting through, here? What could possibly count as evidence for “Cato’s institutional focus and primary goals do not include the drug war” besides comparing their drug war coverage to their other topics and finding it lacking? And how is that comparison anything other than damning?

              This works for other areas of coverage, too. Take a look at their civil rights section under “Law and Civil Liberties” (trying not to trip the spam filter, so I won’t link). To their credit there are a couple-three pro-SSM things in there from the past decade. Alongside stuff like “Is the GOP Deeply Anti-Gay? Hardly” and “Free to Discriminate”. And legal briefs arguing eg that the Voting Rights Act was very nice in its time “but three generations of federal intrusion on state prerogatives have been more than enough to kill Jim Crow.”

              Plus, and really this is just a minor point that needn’t really indicate anyth- WHERE IS THEIR ABORTION ANALYSIS. Pretty important issue, abortion, lots of implications for statism and individual liberty and government intrusion into personal autonomy. And yet I couldn’t find abortion as a research topic, and searching abortion in their archives brings up a lot of blog posts by Doug Bandow, author of Beyond Good Intentions: A Biblical View of Politics. Oh wait there is one study here dripping with the term “pro-abortion” which eyeballs one state’s reporting of its legal abortions provided over a seven-year period to claim that increasing legal restriction to abortions will decrease the number of abortions. Call me crazy but I detect something about this “scholarship” which may perhaps indicate an agenda.

              Let us take leave of this parade of horribles. Is there anything besides the mere existence of drug war analysis at Cato to indicate it is not a fig leaf? What indications are there that it is not? What is on the other side of the scale, to argue against the above?

              One more thing: this is an institution we’re talking about. Individual libertarians may care very deeply about the injustices of the drug war, just as much as they care about job-killing unions, or whatever. Who knows where is fancy bred, or in the heart, or in the head. But we’re talking about institutions. And given the above, and Cato’s benefactors’ stated intention to wage partisan and ideological holy war against people with little or no net worth, it’s pretty clear what’s going on.

              • tt says:

                Federal funding for PBS is on the order of 1 in 10,000 of the federal budget. According to the links you posted, CATO has published around half as many studies on the drug war as medicare/medicaid, the most expensive social program operated by the US government. So, no? This comparison doesn’t work? A book on the drug war is the largest item on their front page right now! What are the chances? It’s just not the case that drug war coverage is some totally marginal thing CATO does.

                Did you read the article “Is the GOP anti-gay? Hardly.” It’s argument is that rank-and-file Republicans don’t share the anti-gay attitudes of right-wing religious organizations and politicians. Not an excuse for the elites in the GOP. Clicking on some of the links, I would say that 80% of the articles on the “civil liberties” and “civil rights” sections agree more with standard “liberal” rather than “conservative” arguments.

                Look. CATO is a libertarian organisation, not a progressive organization. It’s not the least bit surprising that they say a lot of things we disagree with. They oppose discrimination laws because that’s what libertarians do! What I don’t believe is that the propositions CATO appears to agree with us on are somehow not genuinely held beliefs, just things they pretend to believe to attract the tiny (perhaps nonexistant) faction who 1) care about civil liberties issues more than economics 2) don’t already lean libertarian 3) can’t find a civil libertarian home on the left.

                Imagine a world where people at CATO really do genuinely care about the drug war 1/2 or 1/3 or 1/5 as much as they do medicare/medicaid. How would that be different from our world? What more would CATO do?

                • Unless you bring up something new and different, after this I won’t have much to say:

                  First let’s get one thing straight. This is about Cato as an institution. Its researchers could be as consistent in their political views as you could wish, to a sliderule, and it wouldn’t change the fact that as an institution Cato is slanted toward the interests of plutocrats and capital. Their benefactors might have something to do with that, it might just be a complex interlocking set of institutional dynamics than no-one controls, but I think the evidence is pretty clear that that’s the case.

                  There’s no explanation that I can see that justifies doing twice as many studies and more than three times the commentary on *gasp* government-run health-care compared to the for-profit warehousing of individuals at a world-record pace in conditions that approach torture that has gone on for two generations. I could totally Godwin here but I ain’t gonna. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

                  Plus let’s see. The US is the world’s leading fucking jailor because of racist enforcement of a restriction of liberty, and Cato devotes fewer resources to critiquing and fighting that than environmental regulation, and has provided about as much commentary on that as the American Founders. I view this as drastic evidence in my favor.

                  I view the fact that while there is a shitload of research and advocacy at Cato, a small amount goes toward things that aren’t defending corporate/plutocratic interests as drastic evidence in my favor.

                  I think the existence of articles saying “hey, the Republican rank-and-file aren’t huge bigots” from a libertarian advocacy group is drastic evidence in my favor.

                  I think their abortion coverage and their election laws coverage are undeniable pieces of evidence in my favor.

                  BradP, based on what he says later in the thread, would tell you that their coverage of labor issues are drastic evidence in my favor.

                  If they didn’t have a specifically plutocratic/corporate slant to them, none of this would be the case. Whether libertarians are concerned with coercion, or liberty, or whatever, were it consistently applied and not slanted towards the interests of plutocrats and capital, their advocacy would look very different.

                  As to what they get out of it (besides the reasons listed elsewhere in the thread): you. You’ve spent how long and however many words defending the honor of Cato from those who seek to besmirch it. You can’t buy that kind of publicity. That only happens if they aren’t entirely concerned with the interests of capital and plutocrats. Only mostly. So must of their stuff is tilted in that direction, but there’s juuuuuuust enough that’s not to get you to do what you’re doing.

                  That doesn’t mean any of the researchers have any slant. But Cato as an institution fairly clearly does.

                  Even that drug book on the front page has been knocked from its perch. Now an article called “If you love public broadcasting, set it free” is in a more prominent position than their ad for their book.

                • tt says:

                  My goal isn’t to defend CATO (they get nothing materially or politically from me). Rather, my goal is to counter Loomis’ silly Manichaeism. The right is just as diverse as the left and this diversity exists even among organizations with defense of the plutocracy as one of the main goals. Denying these strains within our opponents doesn’t actually help us fight them; to the contrary, it causes us to make strategic mistakes and miss opportunities for exploiting the divisions which really do exist.

                  You didn’t explain what CATO would do differently in a world where they genuinely care 1/5 as much about the drug war as medicare/medicaid. You can argue that they should care about it more given their ideology I guess (I’m not a believer in ideological coherence so this isn’t convincing to me–libertarians determine what libertarianism means, it can’t be proven from self-evident axioms).

                  So of course CATO has a plutocratic stance. Obviously. It’s funded by plutocrats. It’s an organization with a plutocratic stance and at the same time an organization that genuinely opposes and works to end the drug war, and opposes the mainstream right on all sorts of other issues as well. Life is complex.

                • Lyanna says:

                  The nesting for these comments is really weird.

                  That said:

                  You’re missing the point spectacularly. Cato researchers and essayists sincerely believing that the drug war is bad doesn’t exclude the possibility that, for Cato as an institution, the drug war is a figleaf.

                  Which it is. BothSidesDoIt has amply demonstrated it.

                  There’s really no evidence that for Cato The Institution, the drug war is any type of priority, rather than window-dressing meant to make conservatism more appealing to those who aren’t huge fans of imprisoning pot smokers. You haven’t provided such evidence. You’ve merely provided platitudes about how Manichean worldviews are bad and ideological coherence is unnecessary. These do nothing to prove your point.

                • tt says:

                  You’re missing the point spectacularly. Cato researchers and essayists sincerely believing that the drug war is bad doesn’t exclude the possibility that, for Cato as an institution, the drug war is a figleaf.

                  I don’t know what this means. Institutions do not have beliefs or goals. People do.

                  I’ve already addressed the “figleaf” point in nearly every post previous. It still doesn’t many any strategic sense to me and no one has been able to explain it. The only answer I’ve got is that CATO wants to attracts hippies, which really doesn’t help, because 1) hippies do not actually seem to be attracted to CATOs message 2) hippies don’t actually have the power to revert the New Deal! I don’t see how anyone can look at the current political landscape and come to the conclusion that the path to power is bringing hippies to libertarianism.

            • Njorl says:

              You have to click on the “View more…” links to see the disproportionate coverage. For example, there are over 300 opinion pieces on Medicare and Medicaid going back to 2000, while there are only about 100 opinion pieces on the drug war going back to the late 80s.

    • Warren Terra says:

      It’s important to remember the function of all this. Take for example Radley Balko. Radley Balko is great on the Police State, which is what he appears to care about – but the movement to which he attracts support and provides respectability, and which pays him to do so, exists to elect Republicans, who are even more enthusiatic promoters of the police state than the Democrats. To the extent that the Libertarians achieve policy victories, they are to kill the New Deal and the EPA. This is not an accident: the Libertarian movement are funded by authoritarian-friendly would-be autocrats like the Koch brothers. The Koch brothers’ only complaint about excessive police force is that the police are paid by the state, rather than by plutocrats.

      • tt says:

        Can you explain the mechanism behind this strategy a bit more?

        Radley Balko has almost no actual power in our system. The views he advocate are not in the mainstream among either the populace or the elites. His policy positions on the police state do not effectively exert pressure on the police state to cause it to change.

        On the other hand, there are mainstream politicians, people with actual power, who basically hold the economic positions CATO advocates. Its positions are expressed in highly-regarded publications like the subject of this post. Ron Paul is the only primary candidate who wanted to end the war on drugs, all of them committed to not raise taxes even for a 10-fold greater reduction in spending.

        How does CATO gain respectability and support to its relatively mainstream views, shared by a large number of people in power, through its advocacy of unpopular and outsider positions shared by almost no one in power? How does this advance its goals? I just don’t see how this is supposed to work. Glenn Greenwald only has one vote. And not a lot of money.

        • Warren Terra says:

          CATO doesn’t need to attract support to its relatively mainstream views. The people attracted to “its relatively mainstream views” have lots of places they can go to express their support of those ideas. What CATO can do is to con a bunch of hippies into supporting CATO’s corporate masters. They hook you with the marijuana advocacy and by bashing the police state, and they wind up mobilizing you to kill labor unions and enable polluters.

          • Manju says:

            They hook you with the marijuana advocacy and by bashing the police state, and they wind up mobilizing you to kill labor unions and enable polluters.

            Well, what do you expect? We’re stoned.

          • tt says:

            What CATO can do is to con a bunch of hippies into supporting CATO’s corporate masters

            To what end? Hippies have almost no power, and none of them support CATO anyways. It’s not like there’s no ideological home for you if you’re on the left but oppose the drug war–lots of hippies oppose it while remaining hippies. It seems to me that CATO is more effective at breeding dissent on the right than attracting would-be leftists.

            I feel there are a still a few missing steps between “attract hippies by agreeing with them on one subject” and “destroy the New Deal.”

            • Malaclypse says:

              It seems to me that CATO is more effective at breeding dissent on the right than attracting would-be leftists.

              Which is why Cato is backing Gary Johnson over Romney.

              • tt says:

                Pretty much.

                http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/libertarian-gary-johnson-spoiler-alert

                Quote:

                One anti-Johnson argument that shouldn’t get a lot of traction, however, is fear that the LP candidate will be a “spoiler;” that he will siphon off votes from Mitt Romney in a “lesser of two evils” race between the guy who practically invented Obamacare and the guy who passed it. If the major-party race is a battle between a president who’s violated most of his campaign promises on civil liberties and a candidate who’s already promised to do worse, then this election has arrived “pre-spoiled,” through no fault of Gov. Johnson.

            • Lyanna says:

              To what end? Hippies have almost no power, and none of them support CATO anyways. It’s not like there’s no ideological home for you if you’re on the left but oppose the drug war–lots of hippies oppose it while remaining hippies. It seems to me that CATO is more effective at breeding dissent on the right than attracting would-be leftists.

              To what end? Isn’t that hugely obvious? The point of Cato is to attract rich social moderates and liberals to the Republican party.

              They do this by combining social views that amount to live-and-let-live, which are popular with a lot of wealthy people (especially the 25-year-old pot-smoking variety), with an ideology that justifies a tax system designed to favor wealthy people.

              I see no evidence that Cato is enabling any real dissent on the right.

      • Joseph Slater says:

        Nicely said, Warren.

  9. Anderson says:

    Has any union done anything wrong, ever? Bonus points for a non-Teamsters example.

    Loomis is right to criticize complacent union-bashing, but one can bend too far the other way.

  10. Medrawt says:

    In the hope that someone can get me up to speed on the idiocy without needing to guzzle it straight from the gas pump, what exactly is the libertarian problem with unions? I mean, I know the real/cynical answer, but what’s the stated philosophy behind it? If one person negotiating an employment contract is good, why is it bad for fifty people to do the same?

    • Julian says:

      Can someone tell me the philosophical argument for why corporations (agglomerations of capital and people) are great and make the free market awesome, but unions (agglomerations of labor/people) suck and make the free market cry? I have never been able to understand that distinction. It always seemed to me like a union could be a very destructive force . . . theoretically. In practice, unions seem to have had a salutary balancing effect on corporations (until recently). I could see anti-union rhetoric if they were the only entities around to be blamed for all our woes, but they aren’t and never have been.

      • DrDick says:

        Socialism!

        Actually, they hate anything that empowers workers and gives them a greater share of the value of their work, thus diminishing the rents the capitalists an extract from the toil and sweat of others.

      • Bijan Parsia says:

        I’ve wondered this like forever…what’s the difference between a union and a temp agency? Or any other outsourced service corp? (From a libertarian perspective?)

        Then it hit me: The main difference between a corp and an union is the animating, unifying values. A corporation is organized by ownership while a union is organzied by solidarity.

        Property rights libertarianism values ownership as the fundamental expression of human dignity. So corporations exhibit that expression to a higher degree. Contrariwise, such libertarians despise interdependence, collectivity, and voluntary “subordination” and thus solidarity. Thus, unions are inherently illegitimate.

        That’s my current theory, anyway.

        Not that reorganizing unions into corporations owned by their members would change anything…

        • bradp says:

          Property rights libertarianism values ownership as the fundamental expression of human dignity. So corporations exhibit that expression to a higher degree. Contrariwise, such libertarians despise interdependence, collectivity, and voluntary “subordination” and thus solidarity. Thus, unions are inherently illegitimate.

          All do respect, but you are completely wrong. Libertarian theory is rooted in interdependence: free society is possible without government when one man must meet the means of another to pursue his own ends. Trade, because of the interdependence necessary to improve upon a subsistence living, makes society free.

          It is just much easier to brand a union picket line screaming at a scab as coercion than the rents corporations extract. At least thats my opinion on that particular libertarian inconsistency.

          • DrDick says:

            The walrus is getting sore, boy.

          • Bijan Parsia says:

            All do respect, but you are completely wrong.

            It’s possible.

            Libertarian theory is rooted in interdependence: free society is possible without government when one man must meet the means of another to pursue his own ends. Trade, because of the interdependence necessary to improve upon a subsistence living, makes society free.

            But looking less likely :)

            First, I specifically said “property rights libertarianism” specifically to call out forms of libertarians that focus on and fetishize property rights per se. This segues over to Ayn Rand style pretty nicely, in fact.

            Second, obviously not solely owned corporation involve some sort of cooperation and interaction: If no one owns >50% (or you require unanimity to act) then the owners are all interdependent in the sense that they need each other to act, at least within the corporation. (Presumably, if we’re in a stock situation, each can sell their stock and retain independence that way.) Thus, not all forms of interdependence come in for distain, which is why I was also using “solidarity” and “collectivity” which implies something rather different than market transactions, or transactions at all. So, call it whatever name you will, that still seems to be a reasonable explanation for the difference in attitude toward unions vs. labor firms.

            Third, I’m afraid I could neither fully follow your means argument nor recognize it in what libertarian theory I know. Presumably, from most libertarian standpoints, people with cornocopia machines are easily as free as those existing in a scarcity situation. I don’t see how trade is constitutive or even necessary for freedom per se.

            Re: your alternative theory…well…there has to be more to it, right? I mean, some predisposition since, after all, there’s tons of antilabor violence out there (picketer vs. scab is hardly the only alternatives; there’s picketer vs. Pinkerton). Why be preferentially against labor?

        • Bruce Vail says:

          It might be argued that the problem with unions is that they are too much like corporations, not that they are anti-corporate.

          In the real world, American unions regard their collective bargaining agreements as union “property” that generates the income necessary for the union to be “profitable.”

    • By hindering management from making labor decisions they generate inefficiency, which means fewer jobs, higher priced goods, etc.

      The slightly-more-unhinged argument that still gets a lot of play is that the legal regime forcing union negotiation is infringing the right of the employer to make contracts.

    • Dana says:

      I believe the libertarian (read: propertarian) objection to “unions” is that recognizing the rights of laborers to affect the means of production is a direct affront to private property rights, which should always and everywhere be unfettered. In this view, owners/capitalists should have exclusive say over their property.

      • bradp says:

        I believe the libertarian (read: propertarian) objection to “unions” is that recognizing the rights of laborers to affect the means of production is a direct affront to private property rights, which should always and everywhere be unfettered. In this view, owners/capitalists should have exclusive say over their property.

        Libertarians are often ambivalent to unions because of the economic belief that they don’t effect long-term wage increases for workers.

        Libertarians often have antipathy for unions because of the pervasive belief that they use their strength to intimidate and coerce nonmembers.

        Neither of those are winning arguments, but its the way a lot of libertarians see unions.

        For hard propertarians, restrictions on labor freedom and one and the same as restrictions on property, as they root their beliefs in self-ownership.

        • Malaclypse says:

          Libertarians are often ambivalent to unions because of the economic belief that they don’t effect long-term wage increases for workers.

          Libertarians are immune to empirical evidence.

          Libertarians often have antipathy for unions because of the pervasive belief that they use their strength to intimidate and coerce nonmembers.

          Which explains why libertarians hate large corporations with the heat of a thousand suns.

          Neither of those are winning arguments,

          Because they are wrong.

          but its the way a lot of libertarians see unions.

          If your ideology consistently leads you to empirically wrong conclusions, one should perhaps revise the assumptions upon which the ideology is based.

          • bradp says:

            If your ideology consistently leads you to empirically wrong conclusions, one should perhaps revise the assumptions upon which the ideology is based.

            Libertarianism doesn’t lead to that conclusion. Inconsistent and incomplete application does.

            • Malaclypse says:

              Yes, yes, libertarianism cannot fail, it can only be failed. Or No True Scotsman. Or something.

              • bradp says:

                I don’t get it.

                We are talking about libertarian beliefs about unions. I think many libertarians misapply their libertarian beliefs when it comes to unions.

                How does that imply libertarianism fails or doesn’t fail, and how is that a No True Scotsman fallacy?

                • Malaclypse says:

                  how is that a No True Scotsman fallacy?

                  Because we are left with you explaining over and over again why most libertarians get libertarianism wrong. I don’t see how you get No True Scotsman any clearer than this.

                • bradp says:

                  You don’t think that some socialists get socialism wrong?

                  You don’t think that some progressives get progressivism wrong?

                • What percent of libertarians get unions wrong? As you say below, no-one expects libertarians to say this stuff.

                  Can you think of something similar along socialist/progressive lines, an instance where a fairly core principle is not only completely abandoned, but its opposite stance is rabidly endorsed?

                • bradp says:

                  What percent of libertarians get unions wrong? As you say below, no-one expects libertarians to say this stuff.

                  Nominally, I would expect the majority of self-identifying libertarians to say the right thing, but many don’t fully understand the subsidy of history and how imbalanced power relations are in reality.

                  It is murky, though:

                  Breeze through these comments and you will see that libertarian opinions fall all over the spectrum.

                  Can you think of something similar along socialist/progressive lines, an instance where a fairly core principle is not only completely abandoned, but its opposite stance is rabidly endorsed?

                  History is littered with disastrous perversions of socialism.

                  Early 20th century progressives had some notable shortcomings as well on issues such as race and eugenics.

                  And I feel the vast majority of progressives hold government and its agents in far too high regard, in much the same way that libertarians often do with business and industry.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Nominally, I would expect the majority of self-identifying libertarians to say the right thing, but many don’t fully understand the subsidy of history and how imbalanced power relations are in reality.

                  So, again, your position is that most libertarians get libertarianism wrong.

                  History is littered with disastrous perversions of socialism.

                  Pretty much all of which are rooted in the disastrous decision to ban non-Bolshevik parties, a decision that was vigorously, in unsuccessfully, contested at the time. The Bolsheviks enforced No True Scotsman at the barrel of a rather literal gun.

                  Early 20th century progressives had some notable shortcomings as well on issues such as race and eugenics.

                  Yes, and if most modern progressives still took those positions, then this might be vaguely relevant.

            • The Dark Avenger says:

              Like conservatism, it can never fail, only be failed. Is that what you want to tell us?

              • bradp says:

                No. I want to tell you that libertarianism, properly applied, would lead one to strong support of unions.

                There was a time when Rothbard was saying that ownership General Dynamics should either be turned over to “homesteading workers” or nationalized.

                This is one of the founders of modern libertarianism saying things that noone expects libertarians to say:

                http://murrayrothbard.com/confiscation-and-the-homestead-principle/

                • Malaclypse says:

                  No. I want to tell you that libertarianism, properly applied, would lead one to strong support of unions.

                  Yes. You understand True Libertarianism. Hence No True Scotsman.

            • DrDick says:

              The walrus is going on strike, effective immediately. He is also joining with his fellows to form a union and demand fair compensation.

      • Lyanna says:

        This is correct.

        Bradp is citing other empirical objections to unions, but those are sideshows. This propertarian argument is the crux of the libertarian objection to unions.

  11. Gone2Ground says:

    I’m pretty sure ONE WSF could wreck more social mobility in an afternoon’s activity than the worst teacher’s union could over a decade.

    Wow. Just Wow.

    • zolltan says:

      How exactly does one go about wrecking social mobility anyway? This sounds like a question about general societal conditions, where government action/inaction is the main lever.

      If I were a teacher and wanted to wreck social mobility, I would … uhh… find out who the poorest people in my class are and do the worst dob of teaching them stuff on purpose?

      If I were a financier and wanted to wreck social mobility, I would… uhh… invest my super-rich clients’ money super-successfully?

      I don’t get it.

      • Pestilence says:

        If I were a financier and wanted to wreck social mobility, I would… uhh… plow money into buying political support for tax cuts for the rich and cutting entitlements for the middle class and poor.

        Clearly ridiculous, right?

      • spencer says:

        If I were a financier and wanted to wreck social mobility, I would… uhh… invest my super-rich clients’ money super-successfully?

        Well, one thing you could do in some circumstances is make investment decisions for a state employees pension / 401K fund that were high-risk or motivated purely by Good Old Boyism (i.e., helping to temporarily bump up prices on certain securities that would make you and your friends money in the short term, but decimate the capital invested in the medium term).

        That could be one hypothetical way, perhaps.

        (I will admit right now that I don’t understand a lot of the more arcane functioning of financial markets, so I am more or less talking out of my ass to some extent. However, from what I’ve observed from my outsider’s perch, this sort of thing seems pretty feasible. I’m open to correction if this is off base.)

      • Gone2Ground says:

        Well, you could always manipulate the markets for things like oil, wheat, and anything else that “the common people” actually depend on for daily existence. And social mobility.

        Do it long enough and bingo – food riots and economic slump!

        Call Goldman Sachs to find out the details on how to make this work. They’ve got it nailed, to hear Taibbi tell it.

  12. JR in WV says:

    So someone abov e says the Economist writer is probably English?

    So they went to a “Public” school, like Eton?

    So they don’t know anything about schools supported by the general public paying taxes to support their school district? Zero personal experience with teachers working in schools that HAVE to accept every student the right age that needs to go to school, right?

    Why did anyone hire them to write an article about a subject they know nothing about?

    Why would anyone read such an article? Or is the fact that the author knows nothing about his subject not obvious? A secret?

    Sounds like good journalistic ethics to me!

    • Yosemite Semite says:

      Zanny Minton Beddoes is a she, so she didn’t go to a public school, at least in the sense you mean it. She is, and has been based in the U.S. for a number of years.

  13. wengler says:

    Fuck The Economist. Seriously.

    I doubt anyone at that publication has worked an honest day in their life.

  14. Joshua says:

    The US coverage of The Economist is pretty bad.

    I’ve gotten the mag free for 2 years (airplane miles) and I don’t even read it all that much. I catch a laugher in the US section every issue. What would someone from Cape Town or Buenos Aires or Jakarta say about the coverage of their region?

  15. daveNYC says:

    The Economist never met a failure of the free market that couldn’t be solved with more deregulation. Only plus side to them is that they’ll actually do an OK job of covering places like Turkey and the like. Even then you have to filter out the deregulation mantra.

  16. Uncle Kvetch says:

    The US coverage of The Economist is pretty bad.

    I can’t imagine it could be as bad as the coverage of France, where the usual knee-jerk neoliberalism is slathered with a generous layer of good old British frog-bashing.

    Were you aware that there are actually people living on the streets in Paris? Well, it’s true — and it’s all because of big government and bureaucracy! Good thing they don’t have to deal with that kind of thing in London.

    • Joshua says:

      Right, the French coverage has been pretty lame especially since Hollande got elected.

      I don’t know if it is me or the paper, but it seems to have doubled down on neoliberal economic policies since 2008. I remember reading a fair bit from before then about the dangers of derivatives and an overheated housing market, the idiocy of Dubya and Cheney, etc. But since then it reads more like they hired Friedman’s ghost as editor.

  17. Bruce Vail says:

    I had my own flirtation with The Economist a number of years back.

    Thankfully, it passed quickly but I will always remember the journalistic maxim embraced by the mag:

    “First simplify, then exaggerate.”

  18. actor212 says:

    no Wall Street financier has done as much damage to American social mobility as the teachers’ unions have.

    I’m too angry to respond to this in any way but “Fuck you, Economist.”

  19. dilan esper says:

    It is worth noting that teacher strikes, like all strikes, work entirely by making things worse in the short term to make things better in the long term, the same tactic that gets repeatedly condemned here when left wingers use it in the voting booth.

    • daveNYC says:

      Yes, the myriad similarities between three weeks of no public school and eight years of Bush/Cheney.

      • Malaclypse says:

        Look, you are trivializing this. I live near a Verizon service center, and last summer, picketers grabbed all the good parking spots. Good parking spots were taken, and not by me! That’s obviously the moral equivalent of a million dead Iraqis.

    • L2P says:

      There is the notable difference that strikes generally both (a) have a concrete, short-term goal and (b) are a feasible way of meeting that goal.

      Sometimes the strikers opening positions aren’t reached (because strikes are part of negotiations, after all, and you don’t bargain against yourself), and sometimes strikes are stupid (because, well, people are stupid and they don’t realize they have no leverage). But generally, unlike voting for a third party candidate, there’s a cookie waiting at the end of the strike, and the strike’s a pretty good way of getting that cookie.

    • They make things worse for themselves in the short term.

      That’s a little bit different from the upper-middle-class white college student helping to elect an abortion-criminalizing, Social Security-privatizing, Iraq invading president.

  20. eastriver says:

    I have long known (and even accused the Economist editors directly) that they outsource writing to Cato. Probably do it for free, don’t have to pay those pesky journalists!

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