Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The American Government vs The American People

As I've documented previously, American governmental policies differ sharply from the desires of the American people. The American people recognize that their government doesn't serve their interests. That's why 80% of the American people think the country is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves and not the benefit of all people. I think that perception is accurate based on the evidence.

Several interesting questions are polled here. Let's start with our attitude towards Cuba. Should all US citizens be permitted to travel to Cuba? 68% of Americans say yes, 21% say no. What about the embargo, which has been condemned every year at the UN since 1992 by such margins as 173 nations to 3? Americans support trade with Cuba at a rate of 62 to 26%

Americans think the war on drugs is failing by a margin of 76 to 11%. What should we do? Our government focuses most of it's energy on source country control, which studies show is the least cost effective method. Some Americans think that's the single best way to deal with the problem. 13%. 19% suggest treatment and eduction, 27% say legalize some, and 8% say end the war altogether.

What about NAFTA? When NAFTA was passed it was opposed by the public by a margin of 2 to 1 according to the Wall St Journal. In this '08 poll 58% indicate it should be revised or withdrawn compared to 21% that believe it should remain the same.

There's an interesting poll regarding the thoughts of Americans on Iran here. Americans support a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East by a margin of 71 to 21% (incidentally Iranians also favor this by 71 to 18%). The Iranian government supports it. The US blocks it. By a margin of 55 to 38% Americans believe Iran should have the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes just like any other signer of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Our government demands that they stop.

This poll regarding Iran was taken in 2007. At that time 58% of Americans wanted withdrawal of US forces from Iraq within 2 years or less while only 38% said forces should only be reduced as the security situation improves.

How about the roll of the UN? Do Americans look favorably upon the UN becoming more powerful? Yes, by 66 to 32 percent.

The US government stands opposed to the positions that Americans hold by lopsided margins. But then these policies serve the interests of the few powerful interests looking out for themselves and not the public at large.


Darf Ferrara said...

There are no corporate interests that support the Cuba policy. The policy is supported by ex-Cubans living in Miami. They simply have a stronger opinion on this than anyone else, and Florida is a swing state.

Jon said...

If that's true then why would top Cuban dissidents petition Congress to have the travel and trade bans removed?

The reasons are expressly stated in declassified records. You're right that at this point it's not so much corporate interest. The corporate world would be happy to expand into this market. This is one of those rare cases where government action doesn't align with corporate interest. Not that the public is relevant, and that's my main point.

The concern is that Castro represents "successful defiance" of policies that go back to the Monroe Doctrine. Not the Soviet threat. It's the doctrine that the US controls the hemisphere. Chomsky also refers to it as the "Mafia Don" principle. Any mafia don knows that you can't tolerate defiance. The mafia don doesn't need one restaurant owner's protection money, but what he can't permit is the example of one person not paying because others will follow suit.

The Kennedy Administration feared the example of others "taking matters into one's own hands." They are inclined to because "the distribution of land and other forms of national wealth greatly favors the propertied classes and the poor and underprivileged, stimulated by the example of the Cuban revolution, are now demanding opportunities for a decent living." That's Arthur Schlessinger's words, the liberal Kennedy adviser. "Castro's shadow looms large because social and economic conditions throughout Latin America invite opposition to ruling authority and encourage agitation for radical change," which is a great threat of course. Oppressed people casting aside their puppet overlords threatens Kennedy's control.

So Kennedy launched the unsuccessful Pay of Pigs invasion and when that failed he launched a major terrorist war, Operation Mongoose. The former Soviet pretexts have evaporated, but the aims remain unchanged. The war wages on though the public opposes it by lopsided margins.

Paul said...

Jon -

I don't dispute the statistics or much of your post. I do have an issue with the following

"As I've documented previously, American governmental policies differ sharply from the desires of the American people."

This may be true when you ask an individual specific questions on a subject. However, I strongly believe the government we have is the one we deserve and the one we (as a whole/collective) want. It is us (we the people) that elect the representatives. So if X% of people are against policy Y but we continue to elect people who are for policy Y then whose fault is it? If not our own.

Maybe you can attribute it to lack of choice. I think that is valid to some extent.

I understand your frustration (at least I think I do) but I think it is misdirected.

Darf Ferrara said...

So your point is that the government acts like a bunch of mobsters? Then what are we arguing about?

Jon said...

Paul, if people were offered real choices and the chose candidates that opposed their will then I could agree with you. But that's not what happens. The two business parties (Republicans and Democrats) institutionally prevent candidates that oppose the corporate interests from having success. I mean sure, you could vote Green or something, but it's not going anywhere. Look at the top 3 choices for President we had. Hillary, Obama, and McCain. All extremists when it comes to their zealous support for the war (in action if not in word). The American people are far to the left of all of these alternatives.

My point with posts like this is to help people recognize that we have a very undemcratic system. By that I mean that our government is not responsive to the people. So I don't know how the people can be blamed when their are institutional factors that prevent the government from responding to them. That's kind of like blaming Iraqi's for Saddam Hussein. Hussein thwarted the will of the people through violence and the American system uses other means, but the effect is the same.

Darf Ferrara said...

If your point is that democracies tend not to generate the results favored by the majority then I think that most would agree (if the question came to a vote). You seem to claim that only large groups look out for their own interests, while smaller groups look out for universal interests?

There are reasons that democratic systems don't produce results that agree with what polls show to be the favoured position. One very good book that discusses these issues is Gaming the Vote by William Poundstone, and (I haven't read this one) Numbers Rule: The Vexing Mathematics of Democracy, from Plato to the Present.

As a toy example of the way a democratic process can fail to produce a "fair" outcome see this
Think about what you would expect to happen before you read the answer.

Jon said...

What's interesting to me is that your link presumes that persons are like corporations. All they care about is maximizing profit, not right and wrong. In that situation where persons are confused with corporations you do have major crappyness going on.

Real humans don't act that way. Know what I'd do? I'd divide the money evenly amongst the eight if I were the eldest son. Now, some people are evil and will act like a corporation, but not all. So to propose a system which increases corporate power while reducing the power of real persons (not psychopaths as contrasted with corporations) is to propose a system that will probably lead to disaster. Like situations where the externality of nuclear war isn't factored in to the transaction. That's rational from the perspective of a corporation, but unlikely from the perspective of real persons.

It's not that large groups favor their own interests and small groups don't. It's that our system institutionally demands that decisions are made based on profit maximization, not the will of the public. If our government responded to the public we'd have much better government and much better policies. And a reduced risk of nuclear annihilation. That's an externality that a corporation is institutionally prevented from considering. Short term profits must be maximized, and if that means creating conditions where there is a 1% chance of nuclear destruction then this is what you do. Real persons wouldn't agree.

My suggestion is that we take steps to make our government more democratic (meaning more responsive to the will of the people) and less responsive to these private tyrannies we call corporations. They care about one thing. Maximizing profits. If that means dumping oil all over Nigerians destroying not only the people but the fragile environment, then this is what they do. If it means initiating wars that kill a million people then this is what they do. Stock prices will go up temporarily but in the end we'll all suffer (not to mention the present suffering of today's victims.)

Paul said...

Jon -

I don't think the following analogy is proper -

"By that I mean that our government is not responsive to the people. So I don't know how the people can be blamed when their are institutional factors that prevent the government from responding to them. That's kind of like blaming Iraqi's for Saddam Hussein. Hussein thwarted the will of the people through violence and the American system uses other means, but the effect is the same."

The Iraqi population couldn't be blamed because they had not the means to change things. They could have risen up against their leaders but that would be incredibly difficult to do.

Here in the US, (stating the obvious) we elect our leaders. I grant the limited choice argument to some extent but is that not one issue the primaries are intended to resolve?

I live in AZ and from my perspective the local gov't is F-ed up.

The primary election is coming up soon here. Republicans (and I speak hyperbolically) are turning themselves over to show who is the most conservative. I have not the means to truly know this but I think if I were to ask the various republican candidates where they stand on the various issues you've discussed in this post I think overwhelmingly they would be for the policies you think the general American populace is against. This may be true of the Democrats as well but I think (you may disagree) a democrat is more likely to have the opinion closer to the statistics you show.

... Kind of last my train of thought. Stepped away for a bit and forgot where I was going with things...

I don't have the sources for the following - so take the following with a grain of salt if you wish.

My understanding is that various polls have asked the question (loosely) would you pay more for a product if it was American made? AFAIK - these polls show overwhelming support for the idea. Yet when it gets down to it people continue to buy the cheaper foreign made goods? If this is true - why do you think that is?

I am truly sympathetic to your case. Though where we differ is that I think the people are to blame and you think the government is to blame. Would this be a fair assessment of your viewpoint?

I think people are not accepting nor taking their responsibility to be properly informed. This would apply to me as well - though I think -I hope- less so than the typical person.

On a side note - what do you think of the tea party movement? I find their (general) concern about deficits curious. Before Barack came into office Bush Jr was running up record deficits - that as I understand was not fully reported because they treated funding of the wars separately - yet the Tea Party movement as I understand truly began very early into Barack's presidency.

Darf Ferrara said...

It's true that people don't act that way in real life. The reason I pointed it to you was to show that even simple models can generate some complicated behaviors (and also because it's an interesting puzzle). Democracy is not flawed because of corporate interests, it is inherently flawed, and there is nothing that can be done to fix it (Arrow's Theorem). And while you might divide everything equally in the real world people form coalitions attempting rent seeking. Some of these coalitions are corporations that lobby the government to impose costs on their competitors, and some are unions that try to increase their pay at the expense of everyone else.

Finally, if I could produce a poll using a leading question that produced the opposite results it wouldn't make any of the original activities moral. The morality of the policies stands and falls on its own.

Bill said...


Arrow's theorem doesn't show democracy is flawed. Arrow's theorem shows that no system voting system can satisfy a list of desiderata. You have quite a bit of work to do to show Democracy is flawed in the context of this discussion.

I am not sure what your point is. Are you saying that the U.S. government values the common good more than the opinion of captains of industry?

Darf Ferrara said...

My point is that group decisions aren't guaranteed to generate good results, and there are good reasons to believe that any group decision procedure will either produce poor results intrinsicly, or be gamed. On the other hand, a price system combined with property rights does solve optimal allocation, so I prefer that system. If Jon chooses to reject this that's fine, but he should understand what he's rejecting and why.

Bill said...

I don't think anyone is arguing that group decisions always leads to good results. The concern seems to be that if one cedes authority to private governance (i.e. corporations), the effects of negative externalities that affect the greater good are less likely to be taken into account.

I'm really skeptical of you claims that a price system (free trade?) combined with property rights leads to optimal allocation. (You probably need to define what you mean by optimal.) I've been playing around with some Python simulations I wrote, based on an article in the book "Group Theory in the Bedroom" and it really looks like unrestricted free trade can really mess up a population. I think this oversimplified model I'm playing with can help explain why powerful interests are would push for free trade and why places like Haiti are in such dire straights. I can send you a copy if you want. If you can give me a simulation that shows that free trade would work well for a population, I'd be interested in seeing that.

Darf Ferrara said...

Bill, if you rewrite the code in J I'll try to run it.

Seriously though, are you talking about the chapter 3, The Price is Right? The chapter where he says that the economy excludes producers and consumers? This also assumes a value of each object, implying that on each transaction one person loses and the other gains. That isn't the case when voluntary exchanges are made. David Friedman has a book on Price Theory, particularly chapters 17 and 18 deal with allocation issues.

You are claiming that "no one claims that group decisions lead to good results", but Jon seems to be implying that very strongly, even in the face of failures of our democracy to produce results that it should. From there he claims somehow that powerful interests thwart democracy.

My question is, what are the problems that democracy (American democracy in particular) is supposed to solve? and How can we have any confidence that a democratic system won't be gamed for powerful interests. I contend that we have good reasons to believe that democratic institutions will fail to produce good results, while individuals making choices for themselves can produce much better results. Even in the case of commons problems, people can find agreements to improve life for all involved in the decision (this was the results of the most recent Nobel in Economics Lin Ostrum).

Jon said...

Paul, it's true that it's very difficult for Iraqi's to create conditions that permit them real choices in government. But that's exactly the case for Americans as well. That's not an accident. Back around the turn of the century there was recognition that control of the population through violence was simply not as effective, so the powerful class basically openly called for propaganda. Read up on Edward Bernays, the father of public relations. He basically regarded the public as stupid and in need of being led by the "responsible" men. Control of thought was developed.

I have a friend from Romania that talks about how under Ceausescu you knew that you couldn't get out of line or say certain things too loudly your you'd be crushed. So they knew that what they read in the paper was crap. The America it's different. The media is free. You can say whatever you want. But conditions are created where you just don't know information that is harmful to the powerful interests yet you don't know that you don't know. In Romania you knew you were being blinded. In America people don't.

So in America everyone's heard of Watergate. Basically a minor break in done for unknown reasons that caused no damage. Who'd heard of a scandal that broke about the same time called COINTELPRO. I've never met anyone that knew of it without me telling them. COINTELPRO is a decades long program of subversion, violence, and various illegal activities, including assassination of US citizens. Nobody talks about it. The victims are weak, whereas the victims of Watergate are powerful.

It's difficult to overcome the institutional structures that are put in place to keep us ignorant and prevent us from having choices just as it is difficult for Iraqi's to free themselves. So it doesn't make sense to me to blame the people. In theory they could become super smart and overcome things just as Iraqi's in theory could take up arms, but I'm not going to place the blame with them.

What do I think of the tea party? I'm very sympathetic to their grievances. Life is difficult for a lot of Americans. Over the last 30 years wages for the bulk of the population are flat to declining. Working hours are way up. Productivity is way up. The gains to the wealthy remain, but not the gains for the non-wealthy. They wonder why when they are doing everything they are supposed to do (getting an education, following the law, etc) why is life so difficult, while the bankers that contribute to creating the conditions that make them suffer are rewarding.

They want answers and they're getting them from Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. The answers they get are crazy (it's due to illegal immigrants and Social Security), but they are answers. We need to give them better answers and organize them to resist the real source of the problem.

Jon said...

No system is "guaranteed" to produce good results. The question is which system is better.

You want no government. I think we can look around us and see which nations more closely resemble that method. Nigeria has toothless government. It's not your perfect system. No nation is. But the government is fairly toothless. And so Exxon and BP dump oil all over it, skimping on safety measures in order to maximize profits (which is exactly what they ought to do given their institutional structure, which is to maximize short term profits first and all else is secondary). The same has been the case in parts of the amazon where people are so malnourished they have brains that are far less developed than normal humans. Scientists are trying to decide if they should be regarded a separate species.

Haiti elected a President that attempted to give the government some teeth and he was removed violently by the US. The prior toothless government was re-instated (i.e. the government installed is a government with policies you prefer). Sure, it's not perfect non-governmental behavior in that the US government installed them. But it is CLOSER to your ideal than mine. The economy today moves forward with no government regulation, no trade restrictions, free currency flows, corporations that have the freedom to crush union activity through violence. All the stuff you think produces the best results. The actual results speak for themselves.

Meanwhile all of the nations that are regarded as prosperous violate these principles. The US, Japan, England, etc.

Market intervention produces inefficiencies. Friedman is right about the effects of price controls. But market intervention produces gains as well. Take high tech industry in the US. All funded at public expense. All the driving forces of the present economy were developed at public expense. Take computers. In the 50's there was no way to market them privately. So 100% of the funding for their development came at public expense. Commercial aviation, the internet, lasers, electronic components, etc. All publicly developed. Where do you think the developments in nanotechnology are coming from? Do you expect Haiti, Nicaragua, Jamaica, and all these other places where private corporations drive the economy to develop the next foundations for the future economies of the world?

Or will they continue to just sew underwear together, since it's profitable and involves less risk?

Jon said...

It's all well and good to propose ideal scenarios but if you really want to advocate you do have to sketch a path showing how we get from here to there. How do we bring 80% of Hatians away from the brink of starvation if not government intervention? What you advocate right now takes them into further suffering.

Bill said...

Hey Darf,

You misquoted me and that the word you dropped dramatically changes the argument. You quoted me as saying "no one claims that group decisions lead to good results." But what I actually said is “I don't think anyone is arguing that group decisions always leads to good results.” That was in response to you saying. “My point is that group decisions aren't guaranteed to generate good results, and there are good reasons to believe that any group decision procedure will either produce poor results intrinsicly, or be gamed”

I don’t see anything Jon says that imply the points you attribute to him. No one is guaranteeing optimal results. He seems to be contrasting two systems: 1) One where decisions and authority follow a more democratic process vs. 2) A system where those with the most resources control the decision process. He thinks a more democratic process, where those who are affected by the decision have more say will be preferable to a system where decisions made by a few who often don’t bear the costs of their decision but can reap considerable benefits. Both systems can be gamed, but what would you prefer?

It seems to me that you are criticizing democracy for being flawed due to Arrow’s theorem and it seems you are advocating a pricing system that will be reliant on a system of laws enacted under some system of governance that will also be inherently flawed due to Arrow’s theorem. You seem to be worried that democracy can be gamed, so instead advocate a system where it is even easier to game.

There is empirical evidence to suggest that free markets aren’t the panacea you seem to imply. Check out the book “Economics and World History: Myths and Paradoxes” or at least read what you can on If you search you can find the quote:

“It is difficult to find another case where the facts so contradict a dominant theory than the one concerning the negative impact of protectionism; at least as far as nineteenth-century world economic history is concerned. In all cases protectionism led to, or at least was concomitant with, industrialization and economic development. Also, in the four examples of liberalism, three had negative or very negative consequences.”


“There is no doubt that the Third World's compulsory economic liberalism in the nineteenth century is a major element in explaining the delay in its industrialization.”

So without a model, I’m very skeptical that “…, a price system combined with property rights does solve optimal allocation, …”.

Speaking of the model, my model is inspired by the model in “Follow the Money”, but there is no reason to assume that trades do not generate wealth or that the model would exclude producers and consumers. You can redistribute externalities however you want. The model also distributes abilities in a roughly Gaussian distribution. So I can see how ability affects the distribution of wealth as well as the effects of taxes by changing a few lines of code. The model isn’t perfect, but it does seem to track some features of wealth distribution. It is wrong in certain ways but the model is immensely better than no model at all.

So come up with a trade model we can work with. I am curious if the system you advocate trade lead to an optimal distribution of resources. In your model, does resource allocation track ability, or does initial chance dominate allocation and then stabilize.

Darf Ferrara said...

Since you mentioned computers I'm going to use my favorite Babbage (the inventor of the first computer) quote "On two occasions I have been asked, 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question." I occasionally feel the same way reading your posts.

Since you mentioned computers I'm going to use my favorite Babbage (the creator of the first computer) quote "On two occasions I have been asked, 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question." I occasionally feel the same way reading your posts.

I haven't said that I want no government. In general I want choices to be made freely by individuals, not collectively. Where government is necessary I want competitive government. In any case, I would like to know what moral reasoning permits coersion when some group of persons believes that it is ok.

On trade you condemn free trade between nations. Limiting free trade is a policy that was instituted in the United States by the very same democratic system that produced many of the policies that you condemn in your original post, yet somehow you approve. In fact you approve of protectionism in spite of the fact that it serves the interests of the few powerful interests looking out for themselves and not the public at large. You seem inconsistant on this point. In fact, if you look at the industries that desire protection, they are in general older, entrenched industries. Automobiles, Steel companies, and Agriculture are the three that come to mind immediately. Should tarrifs be imposed on these products? Does the answer depend on the most recent poll?

Darf Ferrara said...

You assert that interventionist (in particular subsidiary) policies made protectionist countries rich. This is where Bastiat's maxim - You must look both at "What is Seen and What is Not Seen." - needs to be in mind. Resources allocated toward subsidized industries must be taken from somewhere else. Other industries were denied resources to allow certain corporations the ability to develop the technologies that you mentioned. Counter-factual history is difficult, and I can't guarantee that the diverted resources would have generated something better than the Eniac, neither can you know that it would not have a better outcome. But Babbage was building a computer in the 1820's until the British government cut funding for the project twenty years later. Should they have continued to subsidize the effort? Had they continued for another 130 years perhaps we would have the Silicon Sussex instead of Silicon Valley?

To be fair to democracy, I think that Churchill was right when he said that it was the worst form of government except for all others that have been tried. I prefer it to tyranny. I also think that our particular system could be improved. I think direct election of senators reduced the cost of capture, and increased the power of special interests. Also, the book Gaming the Vote did a pretty good job of convincing me that range voting captures the publics desires better than most other voting system, and I hope that it is adopted in some places to see how well it can work in practice. I simply don't think that proclaiming that the Government doesn't follow the will of the people (implying that it should) advances the goal of better governance, or more importantly more individual freedoms.

Bill - when volentary trade is done the individuals that have traded have both had an increase in personal value - that is why they traded. If you value my pencil at $2.00, and I value my pencil at $1.00 then any amount of money between those two values increases the utility. Friedman's book on Price Theory goes through the theory. He also mentions that Price Theory generally ignores distribution and focuses on allocation, and he gives reasons why. Also, if I misquoted, and misread you I apologize. I don't read closely at the best of times, and I've been interrupted every 37 seconds by a 7 month old crawling around and pulling every wire he can get ahold of.

Jon said...

Maybe I am confused, because I thought you were advocating no government and contrasting that with my view that government (for now) is very necessary and important. You suggest private companies could hire mercenary armies for security and when I pointed out that with no laws they would assassinate competition you said that they could but probably wouldn't because you thought it wouldn't be profitable. I think it would. Isn't this what you were suggesting? If not I won't be totally surprised because it sounds like a bad joke.

What moral reasoning permits coercion? I think coercive power always carries a presumption against it and it always must be justified. So for instance when my daughter starts to walk out into a busy street and I grab her, that's obviously a legitimate use of coercion. The alternative is her destruction.

Consider Kennedy's terrorist wars initiated against Cuba. It almost lead to the destruction of our species. Had our government been responsive to the people, who I imagine would have objected to his terrorist wars, our government might have engaged in different, less risky behavior. Instead Kennedy was more responsive to corporate interests that were unhappy that Castro had nationalized their property in Cuba.

So what that says to me is democratic governance would have worked out better and by coercion would have prevented the evil designs of the corporate world that prompted Kennedy's terrorism (or Bush's terrorism, or Clinton's terrorism, or Obama's terrorism, etc). It may not be the best in the world, but at this stage with the enormous power of these private tyrannies which are content to ignore the externalities that put the public at so much risk these days I think representative government might be a good solution, if only in the interim. If our corporate structure can be dismantled then at that stage the coercive government may no longer be able to justify itself and perhaps it also could be dismantled.

Jon said...

I do not condemn free trade. I point out that the nations that don't manage their trade, controlling how free it is depending on the needs of their population and industry, go down the crapper while the ones that do manage are prosperous. I advocate independence for other nations. Let them manage their own economies as they see is necessary for their own prosperity and let them suffer if they make the wrong decisions. What our corporate government does is just depose such governments violently for profit maximization. Democratic government would alleviate that.

Democratic government did not produce the policies I'm condemning here. Our government is not democratic. That's the whole point here. We need to make it more democratic.

Reagan's protectionism with regards to the auto industry may have benefited Ford, but it also benefited large segments of the general public that didn't want to see the whole industry flushed down the toilet. We learned the efficient Japanese techniques and implemented them ourselves, improving our own skill set and transmitting those skills into other industries. It's been very beneficial for our overall economy. I support the right of the public to have input in such matters and if they believe it is in the best interest of the public at large they should be permitted to implement those policies even if it does make some people rich. If people get rich while the public at large benefits, then what's wrong with that? What I object to is a few people getting rich at the expense of millions of Haitians and denying them the right to implement the same policies we implement when we protect our industries.

With regards to subsidies, my point is nations that subsidize are prosperous and the creations that resulted from those subsidies are the foundations of the present economy and the wealth that it generates. Nations without similar subsidies reside in their hell holes and don't progress or create the next generation of economic foundation products. So I may not now how things would have worked out if things were allocated differently except to say that they are allocated in the manner you suggest in the third world and living there sucks.

Darf Ferrara said...

If you would like to know the mechanisms by which anarcho-capitalism can work you could read Friedman's book at Machinary of Freedom..

You claim that we don't have democracy, but I have no idea what your vision of Democracy is. Please explain what it looks like in enough detail that it can be analyzed. Otherwise it looks like your vision of democracy is a form of governance where only good things are done and unicorns fart rainbows.

Your claim is that Kennedy's terrorist was were due to corporate influence? Do you have any documentation that some corporation pushed for this war, or are you imagining a conspiracy perhaps? Minutes from a meeting between GM and Kennedy?

You claim that Reagan's protectionism with regards to the auto industry benefited large segments of the general public. This is both false and contrary to the final sentence in the paragraph (What I object to is a few people getting rich at the expense of millions of *foreigners* (my substitution)). All costs and benefits have to be accounted for in order to determine overall gains, and it doesn't take a lot to show that tariffs create a net loss. The gains went to privileged insiders while the costs were borne by the public at large and Japanese auto industry. And you claim we absorbed the efficient Japanese techniques? In reality US companies built giant trucks that sustained their profit margins, and when oil prices rose 25 years later 2 out of 3 went bankrupt.

Jon said...

If explaining contradictions means nothing but posting a link to a book at amazon then discussions in forums aren't going to go anywhere. I could read your book and see if that resolves your statements and I could go look into Arrow's Theorem and see if it has any relevance, but I may find that your book is like Arrows Theorem in that it really doesn't address the issues or resolve your problems. Your options in the face of argumentation is to either justify your claims or punt. This is a punt.

So now apparently my vision of democracy involves nothing but good things and unicorns farting rainbows. What in the world have I ever said to suggest such a thing? Didn't I in fact say the exact opposite? How many times do I have to point out that democracy does not guarantee perfection and that the issue here is not what is perfect but what is better? These are some very funny put downs of yours, but what would be more interesting is if they had some sort of contact with what I've actually said or written.

Charges of conspiracy are useful in stifling institutional analysis just as probably argument by books available at amazon for purchase is a means of stifling a discussion in a discussion forum. I've already explained that this is not a claim of conspiracy but a claim that an institutional analysis would predict this kind of behavior. In an era of these enormous concentrations of private power we should expect our corporations to try and take over the government so that it engages in behavior that benefits them financially. When we take that model and then go look at the data we find virtually 100% of our foreign military interventions can be explained with that model. On the model that we are interested in promoting democracy or other benevolent reasons we find basically no correlation. On the model that we engage in foreign military interventions for defensive purposes there is little in history that can justify that model. So prima facie we don't even need to have evidence of meetings in board rooms. This is the behavior we should expect.

Jon said...

So what further evidence do you need? Who's interest does it serve? He's not engaging in a terrorist war for the benefit of the general public. We can see based on polls today that Americans don't support the hostile policies we have with Cuba. On the other hand Castro did nationalize some companies so we can imagine that they would be ticked in that their profits are being harmed. You already have the statements I provided above, concern about "successful defiance" etc. Who is harmed by Cuban "defiance"? Not the general public. Corporate profits are harmed. If he's not doing it in the interest of corporate profits then what possible reason is there? I see no remotely plausible alternative in light of the evidence already discussed.

Your substitutions with regards to Reagan's protectionists policies don't really work because they would suggest that the Japanese suffer like Haitians do. They don't because they have their own protectionist policies that help prevent them from living as Haitians live. So talking of Japanese suffering rings far more hollow than talking of Haitian suffering since Japanese suffering is negligible next to Haitian suffering. And it is the Haitians that are prevented from enacting policies like what Reagan and Japan do. If what you suggest is immensely beneficial to the general population then why is it that the only nations that do it consistently are the most miserable places to live in the world?

You then suggest that since 2 of the big 3 finally went bankrupt this is proof that protectionism doesn't work. Did I suggest that protectionism in the 80's is proof that 20 years later a company won't go bankrupt? And let's note once again the solution of the government imposing neoliberalism throughout the world. The solution is massive government intervention to save the industry. Protectionism and state bailouts for me. Market discipline and tough love for you. Where was the Haitian government when Haitian farmers were losing everything? Nowhere to be found, imposing the very policies you would suggest. And today the country is a shambles.

Paul said...

Jon -

"They want answers and they're getting them from Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. The answers they get are crazy (it's due to illegal immigrants and Social Security), but they are answers. We need to give them better answers and organize them to resist the real source of the problem."

How would you propose we give them better answers? Specifically; how would you get them to listen to you/me/we in the first place.

Jon said...

Probably we just need to organize. Rush's answers are the preferred answers of the power centers. We should expect him and those like him to offer solutions that in fact serve the powerful interests. How to overcome that? Same way all progress has been made. Organize.

My belief is that the opinions of activists reflect the views of the general population, so if you can just harness their energy big changes can happen.

Take Ralph Nader as an example. Basically a friend of his died in a car and he realized that car designs were needlessly unsafe. He proposed seat belts. Ford offered some safety measures and the public loved it, but GM resisted and managed to get Ford to pull back on the safety measures they had enacted despite public demand. They tried to smear Nader, invaded his privacy, threatened him, etc. Well, what do you expect? They are institutionally committed to seeking profit maximization first. All else is secondary.

But he pressed on and won. His car safety measures alone are estimated to have saved the lives of 200K people. He then harnessed the energy generated by the campaign to put some teeth in the government so that they enacted further measures that protected the public from the never ending corporate goal of profit maximization at the expense of human life and all else. Credit disclosure, whistleblower protection, freedom of information. You can thank Nader for all that. If you like to be able to look at what's in your food through labels you can thank Nader. You think corporations want to give you that information? They don't. They resist because they don't care about your safety. Or take the fact that you wear a lead vest when you get an X-ray. That's due to Ralph Nader.

It's not easy. It's work. That's how you get it done though.

Paul said...

Jon -

As usual I agree with the essence of what you say.

Though with the following
"My belief is that the opinions of activists reflect the views of the general population, so if you can just harness their energy big changes can happen"

I assume the activist you are referring to are the TEA party activist. If this is wrong discard the rest of my reply.

Anyway assuming so -
A hypothetical -

If the laws that Ralph Nader helped enact weren't yet laws. Do you think the average tea party activist would be for or against them? These can be described as "big government" policies, can they not? Maybe I am ascribing beliefs they don't hold but I am under the impression that part of the movement is in support of smaller government (which in part -> less regulation)

I understand the frustration about spending vast amounts of money to bail out bankers, the auto industry, etc. But in general I think the policies that might mitigate a repeat of this in the future are policies that these very activists would be against.

In essence what I am saying is that, these activists in particular are pursuing changes that (I think) are counter to what you (and I) would like to see happen.

Disclaimer - this is all opinion on my part. I don't have the polling data or statistic. If you have any information that refutes these beliefs I would appreciate it.

Jon said...

I agree with you Paul that I don't expect tea party activists would agree with the bulk of the American people on most issues. So yeah, by activist I meant like a Ralph Nader type activist.

Not that we wouldn't agree with tea party activists on a lot of issues. We would agree with them that government is serving the powerful and wealthy as opposed to the bulk of the population. We would agree with them that bailouts to bankers, the very institutions that created the financial chaos, were not an appropriate response. We'd sooner take away the mansions of the crooks that profited by causing the crisis then give them billions.

On the other hand tea partyers would oppose single payer health care while the general public supports it. They talk about eliminating social security while the general public would not. They talk about tax cuts for the rich while the public would oppose it. My views are more in line with the public than the tea partyers on those issues, so my activism would not necessarily be what they would agree with.

I think they need to be shown that yes they are right that our government is broken, but the problem is not that "we need to get government off our back" (translation: more power should be ceded to unaccountable private tyrannies called corporations). The problem is that the government is serving corporations, not the public. If it served the public the tea partyers may find that life is getting better.

Corporations like big government, namely big government that serves their interests. But they recognize that government has a weakness. It is susceptible to public pressure, which can limit their own behavior. So it's a fine line they walk. Expand government to serve their interest but demonize government so it doesn't serve public needs at the expense of corporate profit. This is why tea partyers like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh are quick to object to government spending that is helpful for the poor (Social Security, a public health care system), but when it comes to banker bailouts and war Sarah Palin is on board.

Darf Ferrara said...

Sorry about the amazon link. I meant to post a link to the free pdf. Obviously I won't be able address the mechanics of anarchy in detail, so I thought I would let you peruse at you leisure. As to my preferences for governance absent a radical change, they involve increasing personal liberties. That means reducing trade barriers, allowing free immigrations, or reducing elements of our society where choices are restricted.

I think that the reason I don't understand your vision of democracy is that you claim that the US is not a democracy. Of course it is a democratic republic, but you seem to think that if we had candidates that were better somehow, then we would have a democracy. Democracy is a form of government. It means voting by the people. It doesn't necessarily relate to how that government acts. What part of US democracy isn't democratic? Is it because it isn't parliamentary? Is it because there is an institutional party system? Because the US allows corperation? Explaining this would help me understand your terminology, because it isn't self evident.

Claiming conspiracy simply because someone claims that no documentation is necessary to show that Kennedy invaded Cuba due to corporations, and that it's obvious? Ridiculous! Claiming conspiracy simply because someone claims that mind control techniques are being used to control the general population, but he has broken through the cave and now sees the world of pure form? Absurd! Corporations act in concert to thwart the public will? Well, you get the point.

Your recent post seems as contradictory as many of your previous ones. The general will can be discerned by the presidential candidate that garnered less than 3% of the popular vote at his highest level. Does that make any sense?

Paul said...

Darf - can you elaborate a bit on the following

"they involve increasing personal liberties. That means reducing trade barriers, allowing free immigrations, or reducing elements of our society where choices are restricted."

Specifically what types of choices are restricted.

Also how personal freedom and trade barriers are correlated.

Bear in mind that I do not ascribe to corporate person-hood. Take that as you wish.

Thanks -

Darf Ferrara said...

Paul - I view trade through the lens of property rights and individual liberties. If two people choose to trade something that they own then it is no ones business except the two parties making the transactions. You can note that whether or not one of the parties to the transaction is a corporation or a small business doesn't matter, so long as they have legitimate ownership of the item being transacted.

You can see that on this view both tariffs and even sales taxes reduce freedom, as both add a third party to a two party transaction. This might be a cost that has to be borne to keep institutions that enforce property rights (courts, etc) but reducing these cost adds to individual freedoms at the margin.

Bill said...


I think you are misapplying the garbage in, garbage out idea. Keep in mind what the context of my modeling. You made a very strong claim: “a price system combined with property rights does solve optimal allocation”. Now the problem (beside the fact you haven’t defined “optimal) is that as far as I can tell, empirical data seems to be contrary to your claim. That is, historically nations who are forced into free trade seem to be much worse off. Nations who provide some level of protectionism seem to develop much healthier economies. Simplistic models of free trade also contradict your claim. So I ask you to provide a model that would provide some rationale for your claim. Even a bad model would help, but keep in mind you made the claim. Help us see that your claim is not garbage. At this point you really have the burden of proof.

A desirable trait of a hypothesis is that it should make predictions that could be falsified. I don’t see how you’ve made any attempt to do that. It seems very hypocritical of you to admonish Jon to “ … I have no idea what your vision of Democracy is. Please explain what it looks like in enough detail that it can be analyzed.” When you haven’t made any attempt to flesh out your much stronger claims.

So far your justifications have relied on explanations of comparative advantage. I have read about comparative advantage in “Basic Economics” by Sowell and have listened to the teaching company lectures on the topic. The problem is that the illustrations of the gains of trade to not address the distribution of resources in a society. I don’t see how this example provides any theoretical reason to justify your claims. If you want to help us explore your ideas, a Python model might help.

The rest of your post doesn’t seem to be addressing any of the points I made (you may have been addressing Jon), but just to preempt some potential comments. I don’t think that all free trade is bad. I am not claiming Democracy is optimal.

Jon said...

but you seem to think that if we had candidates that were better somehow, then we would have a democracy.

It's not surprising that you find my statements contradictory when time after time you attribute to me positions I don't hold and haven't expressed. Where do you get the above notion? Where do I say democracy is perfection? Where do I say I oppose free trade?

Democracy is a form of government. It means voting by the people.

I think what I mean when I say democracy has been clear. For instance read my original post. Type "democracy definition" in a google search bar and observe. "A political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them." It's not just voting and getting a politician. It's elected those that REPRESENT THEM. Hence the initial post and title of the thread. So my claim is that though we have formal democracy we have a system wherein our government actually doesn't represent the citizens as a whole, but certain small segments of the population that have wealth and priviledge.

Claiming conspiracy simply because someone claims that mind control techniques are being used to control the general population, but he has broken through the cave and now sees the world of pure form? Absurd! Corporations act in concert to thwart the public will? Well, you get the point.

Yeah, that is absurd. What is a conspiracy? Here's the top definition at google. "a secret agreement between two or more people to perform an unlawful act." Is it unlawful to engage in propaganda? Is it secret? It's publicly called for, done openly, not illegal, and represents our expectations based on an institutional analysis of what the media is. What sense does it make to call this a conspiracy? It so has nothing to do with a conspiracy it's virtually the opposite of a conspiracy. But it's useful to label it as such because it discredits my claims without involving any of the work or argumentation usually involved in rebutting something.

Your recent post seems as contradictory as many of your previous ones. The general will can be discerned by the presidential candidate that garnered less than 3% of the popular vote at his highest level. Does that make any sense?

You determine that my statements are contradictory by attributing to me statements I never made. I might as well call you contradictory for saying up is down. Where did I say we discern the general public will by consulting candidates that garner a small amount of the popular vote. Are you being serious or just trying to be difficult or funny. I've got multiple poll results in the main body of the original post. Why would I go and ask a candidate that got a small amount of the presidential vote to tell me what the public will is?

Darf Ferrara said...

Bill - I didn't address the points you made because I was trying to stay somewhat focused on making fun of Jon. The optimal results that I refer to are General equilibrium theory. This also assumes perfect information, for which it is legitimately criticized the theory, but I don't see Jon criticize Walrus very often.

Friedman's Price Theory book is the best (free) place to get a general view of micro-econ, but it's important to understand the concept of dead weight loss and how taxes and tariffs contribute to them. Also keep in mind that allocation and distribution are two different things, and I've already mentioned that micro has less to say about distribution.

Your statement that "Countries that are forced into free trade" seems self contradictory. They are forced to trade. This doesn't seem to be free. It seems more likely to me that countries more technologically advanced and hegemonic (and hence with a built in head start) subjugated countries that did not have technologies and appropriated the matériel goods.

Furthermore to say that protectionism leads to better off countries doesn't make it correct. That would be like saying that countries that invade middle eastern oil countries tend to have higher growth rates. Should all countries invade Iraq? The US toppling South American governments may increase GDP in the next quarter. Should we do that? Should we determine the will of the American people by asking their leader, Ralph Nader?

The point I was trying to make with my original troll post is that the current Cuba policy is not the result of any corporate interest, or even that of any especially powerful interest, rather they are an outgrowth of the American democratic process. It can be better explained by the economics of public choice theory rather than conspiracies about powerful interests controlling the system.

Jon said...

Chomsky answers what I believe is your view of anarchism here that you may enjoy.

Darf Ferrara said...

I can't watch the video for a bit since I'm at work. I'm more interested in whether Chomsky believes that private property exists and whether it should exist.

There are legitimate concerns about revolutionary changes to a system, but I'm more interested in why he believe that adding power to a coercive government can incrementally bring about a system where individuals are free. Perhaps it is the same logic that concludes that we must burn the witches in order to save them.

Paul said...

Darf -

"If two people choose to trade something that they own then it is no ones business except the two parties making the transactions."

Say in your ideal world - we both own houses and we are neighbors. Now say I sell my house to a corporation looking for property to dump nuclear waste. They buy my house from me and decide to use it as a nuclear waste site. That would be ok?

You can note that whether or not one of the parties to the transaction is a corporation or a small business doesn't matter"

I am curious about your use of "small business". Would they have different set of rules? My distinction is that of a small business whose employees consists entirely of family members.

"You can see that on this view both tariffs and even sales taxes reduce freedom, as both add a third party to a two party transaction."

I don't quite see it. I don't say this to be pedantic but you are still "free" to do the transaction. As you briefly allude to the 3rd party is possibly a system (not in all cases) that provides the means for the transaction to take place in the first place. So in a sense it is freedom increasing.

Darf Ferrara said...

Paul - I do assume that there are institutions that protect property rights, so the example that you use is an obvious violation of my property rights. One solution is a Pigou tax, and other solutions may exist that benefit all parties involved (this is due to Coase's theorem). Legal systems can evolve in an attempt to maximize the efficiency of the system. Once again David Friedman has a free book that describes many of the details. By the way I reference Friedman often because he is an interesting and informative writer, and also because they are free. Other sources for much of this information are out there, including Judge Posner's writings.

Think of the freedom this way: Imagine two universes, one where you can trade anything you own or produce but you must pay a 5% to the tax man, the other where you can trade anything that you produce, but you must pay 300% tax. You could argue that it is an abuse of terminology, but I would claim that the first universe is more free than the second. More freedom still would be the ability for individuals to choose an entity that would enforce their property rights.

Jon, what is your view of Chomsky's reply?

Bill said...


According to wikipedia General Equilibrium Theory, ”… seeks to explain the behavior of supply, demand and prices in a whole economy with several or many markets, by seeking to prove that equilibrium prices for goods exist and that all prices are at equilibrium.” That is all well and good, but that doesn’t show that free markets will allocate resources in a way that maximizes a nation’s productivity or maximizes a common good. As far as I can tell, the theory is completely consistent with the idea that free markets may end up misallocating resources for maximum productivity. So far, I haven’t seen any evidence that supports your view. You have pointed to many books and resources, but none that I have examined seem relevant.

If your aim is to persuade us that free markets in conjunction with property rights is best for an ecomony you have to provide arguments, illustrations, and evidence that supports your view. Linking to some other book isn’t going to be persuasive at this stage of the conversation. Answer the questions, “How would free markets and property rights get Haiti and Nigeria out of their economic plights? “Don’t Nigeria and Haiti adhere to the system you advocate now?”

There is no contradiction in the phrase “forced into free trade”. For example, suppose a population would like to impose a tariff on incoming goods in order to give its industry time to develop technologically and its government attempts to implement the tariffs. If that democratic government is deposed (in favor of a government that would not impose the tariffs), that is an example of forced free trade.

Are you seriously asserting the moral equivalence of imposing tariffs with a war of aggression? Tariffs are often imposed with the intent of shoring up an industry that will give hope to the poorest members of a population, and historically have dramatically improved the welfare of a nation. Yes it may cause some temporary dead weight loss in your theoretical framework. If you think that is the moral equivalent of an aggressive act of war, I don’t know what to say to you.

Paul said...

Darf -

Why would one world charge me 5% tariff and the other 300%. Does the world that charges a larger tariff include public education (elementary and college), beautiful public parks, universal health care, etc; whereas the one with lower tariff offers me much less? Not to say that the universe with lower tariff wouldn't have these things but the costs are spread differently. Could the universe with the 300% tariff be more free? I don't know but it might be one I prefer.

Haven't had a chance to read the link you provided. Did a quick glance through various parts.

Semi-sarcastic but referring back to my previous example - why is the nuclear waste site not like the radio station example Friedman provides. He states "the right to prohibit radio waves from passing over my property, on the other hand, is of very little use to me" (note the quote may be off slightly). This seems convenient to arbitrarily make this determination - a bit of special pleading. I'd argue that in this anarcho-capitalist society that the radio waves are important to me and that I want a commission for allowing its transmission to pass over my property.

In the sections I glance over - at first glance there appears to some cases of special pleading. perhaps I am being unfair but it seems that when a complex scenario manifests itself then some hand-waving happens and voila all is well. Specifically I am talking about a group of homeowners whose land sits above a large pool of oil.

I can appreciate the one possible solution he provides but that seems to be counter to the anarcho-capitalist philosophy to me. It seems like a democratic solution to me.

Darf Ferrara said...

Bill, you may as well complain that General Equilibrium doesn't make everyone's teeth white and do everyone's laundry. Growth is not allocation, is not productivity, is not distribution. I said that markets solves an allocation problem. The relevent sentence in the Wikipedia article is

"The First Fundamental Welfare Theorem asserts that market equilibria are Pareto efficient."

This is the claim I made. The article discusses futher problems with the interpretation and application of GET. In fact there are further problems, such as Pareto optimal does not maximize utility (your vision of common good?). This doesn't have anything to do with the original post.

Jon's original post implies that our government doesn't listen to its people (implying that it should). Does anyone want to defend that claim? If the popular will involves wars of aggression is that justified?

Darf Ferrara said...

Paul -

Since I'm imagining the worlds, the one with 300% tariff smells like old eggs, while the 5% tariff provides pedicures to all. Just kidding.

If you imagine that all the tariffs/taxes collected are used for public goods, as opposed to special interests then you still have the deadweight loss (or as Bill might say "a temporary, theoretical dead weight loss") associated with most tax schemes (a head tax avoids dead weight loss) so there is generally still lost utility. More importantly, as Chomsky's research (and many others) shows, government is subject to capture, that is, the taxes and tariff are likely to be appropriated by those with special access.

In response to your example of the nuclear waste, I can only say that the real world is a bit more messy than some of the textbook examples. The law has evolved to handle some of these more complex cases, and we hope that it evolves in such a way as to maximize some ideal of efficiency. 300 years ago property ownership of the electromagnetic spectrum was not an issue that the law dealt with, while it now is. If we have good reason to believe that a democratic process will fairly and efficiently deal with these problems then we should consider a democratic process. Jon hasn't given me any reason to believe this.

Bill said...


As far as I can tell, General Equilibrium Theory doesn’t show that free markets provide growth. Empirical data suggest that some protectionism provides growth in a much more efficient way than your free market system.

So it really looks like you are advocating a system that further concentrates wealth in the hands of the wealthy and retards the economic growth of a nation because we can get a Pareto optimal price point of goods. So I take it your next vacation will be the capitalist utopia of Nigeria. I hear the beaches are wonderful this time of year. (Your system doesn’t seem to be optimizing the right things).

Paul said...

Darf -

Maybe where I am a bit confused is that the form of government (I think - might be misunderstanding things) you are advocating will eventually (and I think quickly) evolve into some type of democratic system. Perhaps a system much like a U.S. system.

On a related aside - would you say I am right or wrong in claiming that any system where the currency is some kind of fiat currency by definition means all transactions that involve this currency are three party transactions? To be clear - in my opinion gold (and the like) is not very different form of currency.
In the sense that gold has no intrinsic value. I concede that is may be a rare commodity and that one cannot just "print" gold. But in the modern age its practical utility is arguably small.

Darf Ferrara said...

Bill - recapping, I said that property rights solve allocation, and you complain that it doesn't prove that it maximizes growth while providing no justification for democratic processes and throwing in a straw man to boot. And why do we need either a theoretical framework, or empirical evidence? You have a python program to show us the way.

Are you claiming that protectionism does provide growth and democratic processes generate good results? (in some sense of good that you are free to define). Is growth of a nation possibly at the expense of other nations and individuals the goal that you set? Or is it a flat distribution of wealth? Does any moral principle come into play when these goals are set? Tell me what is the goal, what is your ethical framework. There may be economic justification for protectionism, totalitarianism, feudalism, but you aren't trying to define a clear goal. Of course not taking a position is an easier position to stake out for an argument, if that is your goal.

Paul - a system of government that evolved into democratic systems can increase freedom. All 50 states have different sets of rules, and people are free to choose the state that they live in. They have to make choices about a basket of goods (laws in this case) but that is more choice rather than less.

With regard to money, I think that a fiat system does involve a third party, but a monetary system of free banking allows individuals the freedom to choose the third party. Commodity based money is another way to avoid third parties, as is barter. Increasing the choices people have in this respect is a good thing.

Jon said...

The goal is improvement in living conditions for all. The goal can be set in terms of relations. So for instance since 1975 real wages for the bottom 80% or so of the population are flat to declining. Contrast to prior to 1975 when wages for all segments were increasing. Our goal is to have a pre-1975 track as contrasted to a post 1975 track.

Our goal would be to reduce child malnutrition. Or pick another social indicator.

What I offer is a strategy to achieve that goal. Democracy. I look at the policies enacted under a regime that basically has more dominance by the sectors that reflect wealth and privileged and contrast that to policies to be expected under democratic regimes and I conclude that democratic regimes would improve outcomes with respect to goals.

Take Haiti. Via institutions where control was in the hands of the privileged few wealthy sectors goals were not achieved. Via a stunning grass roots movement an election occurred that actually reflected the will of the people, and policies were changed to reflect the popular will. Things like protectionism to rebuild the productive base destroyed by the influx of foreign products. Basically allow them to do the very things prosperous countries do to build themselves up. But this democratic movement was destroyed violently. The teeth of the government was removed (in accord with policies I take it you prefer, though brought about by means you would oppose). Pitiful conditions remain.

While democracy was crushed my strategy is to continue to push for democracy. Democracy, once initiated, will start Haiti down a road of progress.

What is your strategy for improving conditions in Haiti? It would seem to me that you think state coercion is unacceptable and the teeth of government should remain removed. Investors and owners should have free reign, as they have for the last 100 years. That to me is advocacy for the status quo. Am I wrong? What is your strategy for improving the appalling conditions in Haiti?

It's the difference between rhetoric and advocacy that Chomsky talks about. You say "There should be no coercion. Everyone should be free." That's fine for an academic seminar. It's on the level of saying we should all live in peace and harmony. But if you really want to see things improve you have to offer a path showing how we get from here to there. I have a solution. It is democratic government. It's not without it's problems and it's probably not our end goal, but it does move us down the road to improving conditions. Internal government documents show that it is greatly feared by the small sectors of wealth and privileged because they know it doesn't maximize short term profits and stock prices. True enough. But that is not my goal. If it's your goal and if you are like a corporation, that is maximizing profits first, ignoring all else, even if it means destroying half the species and watching 80% of the rest live in filth and misery, then I think your strategy makes sense. If your goal is improvement in conditions for all (the wealthy also, see the growth in their real wages pre-1975) then you should consider democracy at least as a stepping stone.