Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Where Emphasis Is Placed

Some right wing ideologues may be consistent. Workers and the poor should be subject to market forces. What about the rich? Should they also be subjected to the ravages of the market? Sure, says the right wing ideologue. They need market discipline too. OK. But then why don't I hear right wingers say that?

Let's take a recent union related dispute. Apparently Boeing was thinking about building another plant in Washington, but as a condition they wanted the union to agree to not strike for 10 years. The union wouldn't agree, so Boeing decided to move the plant to South Carolina. According to the National Labor Relations Board this is a violation of the Wagner Act. They say you can't make a move like that in an effort to bust a union.

Right wing ideologue Megan McArdle thinks this is crazy. It can't possibly be against the law to move to a location that has better business conditions. Why shouldn't we have freedom? And by the way, right to work laws are great.

I can see the merit to Megan's claim, but here's a question. Government intervention has created the corporate entity. This limited liability entity creates conditions where the employer has tremendous bargaining power against an individual laborer due to the employer's enormous concentration of wealth. I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me (read opening paragraphs of the Wagner Act here) that to combat that imbalance the government has likewise intervened to bias employer/employee relations in a way that makes it easier for laborers to bargain for wages as a group. That way the employer can't play one employee against another in a race to the bottom to see who will sacrifice the most for the ownership class. So maybe there is some restriction of movement for a company like Boeing for that reason. Megan doesn't approve of government intervention that makes it easier for employees to bargain as a group. Does she disapprove of the government intervention that permits the owners to have a disproportionately strong hand in wage negotiations?

Because it seems odd to deprive the poor of intervention that allows them a stronger hand while retaining intervention that provides wealth with a stronger hand. Megan might tell us that she disapproves of government sanctioning and protection of the corporate entity. Good. But we almost never see that from her do we. What we see is a constant stream of union bashing. The effect is to produce legislation that removes government intervention that strengthens the hand of unions (like right to work laws) and nobody is even talking about legislation that would end the corporate entity. The effect serves the interests of wealth and ownership.

Or let's take Mark Perry at Carpe Diem. Union pay is a cancer on the big three. See, the big three are not competitive because they pay way too much for labor, unlike the non-union Japanese automakers. Megan agrees. High union labor costs make Detroit uncompetitive. OK.

But what about CEO pay. As Ha-Joon Chang shows in "23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism" American CEO's have inflated salaries as compared to CEO's in the rest of the world, and there's no reason to think they provide better performance. In fact the indications are that their performance is quite a bit worse. I don't think Mark Perry has ever commented on that. But if you ask him he'll say sure, let the market punish companies that over pay for their CEO's. But why doesn't he criticize over payed executives as well as over payed laborers? It's odd that he only notices overpayment when it applies to the poor. He doesn't notice it when it applies to the rich.

What about government spending? Medicare and Social Security are out of control, say the right wing ideologues. Fair enough. What about war? Talk about waste, it's not doing anything. We're spending hundreds of billions and at the end of the day this probably makes us less safe. There are some pretty good studies that show this. And that's leaving aside the tremendous damage it does to the victims of our wars. At least Medicare provides services to people that need them. War on terrorism (particularly Islamic terrorism) insulates you from a threat that is less than the threat posed by your own bathtub. You could drown in your tub after all. Why are we doing this?

Oh sure, that's bad too says the right wing ideologue. We should cut that as well. Why don't I see posts at Carpe Diem explaining how our comically expensive and pointless war machine/surveillance state contributes to our deficits?

Immigration is another one. One of the most important factors determining your salary if you are American is the fact that our government limits immigration. A huge market intervention that keeps right wingers rich. Some will concede the point and say yeah, we should have open borders. They don't really like this market intervention. Fine. Do they start blog posts criticizing this market intervention? No. They whisper it in a comment stream where it won't be read.

The right is all for free markets. They say it loudly. As it applies to the poor. When it applies to the rich they'll still say it. But quietly.


HispanicPundit said...

Maybe it has to do with the fact that your premises are dubious, to say the least?

Premises like this:

This limited liability entity creates conditions where the employer has tremendous bargaining power against an individual laborer due to the employer's enormous concentration of wealth.

....are highly questionable, if not outright wrong.

Let me give you a suggestion: When the only economist you can find to support your point is a heterodox economist, maybe, just maybe, you have veered so far off the economic land that you're probably - wrong.

Lastly, this post again reaffirms my belief that you have read little of SERIOUS right-wingers (and lets not kid ourselves - you dont read McArdle or Perry much, cuz what you say just isn't true).
If you had read serious right-wingers, you would know that Milton Friedman, David Friedman, virtually ALL libertarians, Mises, etc ALL do exactly as you say above: argue against corporate rent seeking, despise war, LOVE immigration, etc.

But alas, they dont even cross your mind when you make broad characterizations. Instead you are focused on the populists right wingers like Limbaugh and others. Sigh.

Anyway, I think I have answered each one of your points here at one point or another. So just trying to give you a big picture response here.

Jon said...

So your claim is that in fact prominent right wingers emphasize corporate rights and war as the source of our economic problems, not unions and social spending. Do I have you right?

Jon said...

Do you regard David Friedman as a right wing ideologue? I don't. Sometimes when I speak generally you just take me too broadly. I think EVERYONE associated with the right has this defect. Probe a bit and ask questions first. Make sure you know what I mean. If you have me correctly and you're outraged, think I'm ignorant, pathetic, whatever, then go ahead and rant. Understand first, rant later.

HispanicPundit said...

Would you say Milton Friedman is a right winger? What about mainstream libertarians? David Koch?

They hate war. Friedman called corporations the BIGGEST threat to capitalism. Because of him the draft was abolished. Argues for open borders - without welfare. etc.

HispanicPundit said...

Oh and, I'm curious Jon - how would you label David Friedman?

Jon said...

I notice you didn't answer either of my questions.

David Friedman is a right winger, but I don't see him as an ideologue. His blog strikes me more as really an effort to share ideas and less an effort to push an agenda.

You however are an ideologue. Not knocking it. I am too. But I have people like you in mind. Yeah, you say you don't like war. The reason I commented recently on your pro-Iraq war post is because I was looking for any blog post from you that started by talking about how much harm war does to our economic situation. Couldn't find anything. But the criticism of unions, social spending, etc was constant.

Limbaugh is certainly an ideologue, but he's not consistent. He openly supports war and the corporatocracy. But I think addressing him is a good thing. He's very influential. He's speaking to a lot of very angry people. People that in my view have a right to be angry. Longer working hours for less pay. Can't afford to send their kids to college. Got nothing in their retirement accounts. They're ticked and they want answers, which they get from Limbaugh. The answers are crazy. It's illegal immigrants, unions, the government's efforts to protect our environment. Maybe Muslims. There's a place for addressing these claims. I'm not addressing him here, but I have no problem with people addressing him and I think they should. I think the populists matter. I think addressing the more influential people matter.

I'm just not sure you understand the point of my post here. You say the Koch's hate war. Do you not see that I'm not denying that? Do you not see that this post is about emphasis while conceding that they oppose war and corporate rights? Where is emphasis from Koch?

I'm kind of back to the question I already asked, which you didn't answer. So your claim is that in fact prominent right wingers emphasize corporate rights and war as the source of our economic problems, not unions and social spending. Do I have you right? Go to Carpe Diem and let's see how many anti-union rants or anti social spending rants we go through before we finally get to a post that talks about how war contributes to deficits. This post is not claiming that Mark Perry denies that war contributes to deficits. It's about emphasis. Do you see that?

HispanicPundit said...

Let me spell this out in a little more detail. I made a three part response to your post:

1. Some of your paradigms are just economically ignorant. I highlighted one in particular. Another one is your claim of "corporate rights as the source of our economic problems".

Do I see right-wingers emphasizing this? No. But that's because it's wrong. In fact, I challenge you to find ANY mainstream economist who believes this. Go ahead. Try. Paul Krugman would suffice. But you can't cuz it's wrong. Of course the fact that you believe this tells us more about the foundation behind your economic reasoning than anything else.

2. Of your valid criticisms, your characterization is wrong. Milton Friedman hated war. Was even against the Iraq war AND Afghanistan war. Milton Friedman also heavily criticized corporations. Said they are the greatest threat to capitalism. Same with most intellectual right wingers.

Or take immigration. In fact, it's the right-wingers who tend to be heavily in favor of it. Most go extreme towards open borders. It's kind of an irony: if you talk to right-wing and left-wing populists, its the right-winger who is mostly against immigration and the left-winger mostly in favor. But if you talk to right-wing and left-wing academic economists, it's the opposite: people like Milton Friedman will be FAR MORE in favor of immigration than people like Paul Krugman.

3. What you have in mind when characterizing the right are not the intellectual giants of the right (in fact, you have very little exposure to that group), but the pundits, the populists, the Rush Limbaughs and the Bob Dutko's of the right.

So my response falls in one of these three categories.

Jon said...

As far as I can tell you've misunderstood the point of this post, failed to even comprehend my attempts to clarify, and now that I've tried to explain again you still can't understand.

I'm not even sure you understand what you are writing. First you say "Nobody thinks corporations are the problem. Go ahead, see if you can find someone that does. Maybe Paul Krugman." First, I'm not talking about leftists. Do you understand that? Then you say "Milton Friedman says corporations are the biggest threat to capitalism." Do you not realize that you just did the work for me and found the economist? Do you not read your own posts?

Then you say "Milton Friedman hated war, so your characterization is wrong." My characterization is that a lot of right wing ideologues oppose war. So how does this show my characterization to be wrong? The title of this thread contains the word "emphasis". My repeated questions to you involve emphasis and you refuse to answer them. Then you say this.

Who I have in mind is the kind of people I cited in this thread. Also you. Not Rush Limbaugh because he's not opposed to the corporatacracy or war. Nor Dutko. I just explained this in my last comment. I'm not addressing him here and these are the reasons. Here comes HP. "You have Limbaugh and Dutko in mind." Are you not reading anything I put down? Are you just kind of picking off words that I write and formulating something in your mind and replying to that? How can I be thinking of Limbaugh when he's a war cheerleader?

Is this how you read all those economists you read? Is this the kind of reading comprehension needed to understand all the non-inutuitive things that you say are too complicated for people like the world's top public intellectual, but understandable for you?