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Author Topic: And So it Begins (part 2)
D.W.
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How do you balance these theories/goals in a world where foreign trade plays a large part of government economies?

How do you keep things "fair" domestically and stay competitive globally where monopolistic power houses with government leniency/backing are your heaviest hitters abroad. In theory, even if they are "causing harm" domestically they is a trade off of bringing in foreign dollars if they are an exporter.

Would a "perfect" or "fair" system funnel all foreign trade through the government? Them as a middle man? It seems to me there is a conflict where the most palatable revenue stream for a government is by squeezing foreigners for income and doing so efficiently. Not sure they achieve this, but having powerful corporations bringing money into the system sounds good. Even if it's consolidated they can suggest, if not believe, it will make its way into broader circulation.

[ April 13, 2015, 01:43 PM: Message edited by: D.W. ]

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KidTokyo
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quote:
How do you keep things "fair" domestically and stay competitive globally where monopolistic power houses with government leniency/backing are your heaviest hitters abroad.
Depends who's deciding what is "fair." In the scenario closest to yours -- the easiest answer would be import tariffs. That, for instance, was how Mexico protected itself from subsidized US aggro. That all ended with Nafta, which increased poverty in Mexico, causing the subsequent wave of illegal immigration to the US.
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Not sure they achieve this, but having powerful corporations bringing money into the system sounds good.
Why? What do you need foreign currency to make?

What you're asking here seems to be based on the basic assumptions that Adam Smith wrote the Wealth of Nations to skewer.

We don't want to be bringing in foreign money. We definitely don't want to be squeezing anyone for money. Money is a completely arbitrary resource.

The goal of trade is resources and goods. Trade that brings in resources and goods we need in exchange for resources and goods that we produce in excess is good trade. Neither side should be squeezed for anything- rather both sides should walk away feeling that hey traded something of lower value to them for something of higher value. If you're squeezing a supplier, you're hurting yourself down the road, because you're limiting their ability to develop and grow their industry that's supplying you.

Money and exchange rates provide a language for communicating relative prices and valuations, but once again, if you're putting priority on accumulating money, you're not only robbing it of the utility it has in being able to communicate value, you're actually suppressing the creation of things of real value in favor of running up ever more meaningless account balances.

If we're bringing piles of cash home by conning people out of their life savings, were doing both us and then a disservice. Them because they lack the finances now to be productive, and us because if they can't be productive, then the stacks of cash we took from them are useless.

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D.W.
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You are right that I was totally ignoring that the end result shouldn't be currency but rather resources.

I see foreign trade through the lens of a more "civilized" means of warfare too often. It feeds a primitive need to "win" and be the superior "force" in the world but with a bit less blood. Why conquer territory and deal with insurgents when you can "defeat" a land, claim (some of) their treasure and ignore the problems of actually ruling? That or you could go with the drug dealer / junkie dynamic where they are helpless and NEED what you are selling them.

Are there good examples of long running partners feeling each are getting the better end of the deal? On a national scale I mean. Maybe this is more of an twisted mindset for me because we really are well off as a nation when it comes to resources.

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Pyrtolin
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"Better" is a tricky word. If you mean "both sides feel like they got a good deal" then there's a lot of trade that meets that description. If you mean that both sides feel like they pulled one over on the other party, then I'm sure there are examples of that as well, but it's problematic, because it sets up a very unhealthy relationship for future transactions on the simple basis that thinking you've put something over on someone degrades your respect for them and undermines the future basis for reasonable and honest transactions.
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D.W.
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I have a hyper cynical view of foreign policy and foreign trade. I appreciate hearing (what I consider) a more idealized description of how it could / should be. [Smile]
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Pyrtolin
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Adam Smith pointed out that Scotland could totally grow grapes and make wine if it really anted to make the effort to do so. And it could use all sorts of trade countermeasures to block the import of French wine. But then he asked why would it make sense to do that? What value was there is investing domestic resources in propping up a, most likely lousy, wine industry, when Scotland could produce many other things better than France, and trade for good wine instead, and thus both would be richer for it.

The fundamentals of what trade is- a broader form of the kind of specialization that makes all of modern life as productive as it is, are good. The problem comes when people lose track of the compounding benefits that come from mutual benefit and try to play to win- most often to accumulate power (even if it's the implicit power taht comes from having the most wealth) at the expense of anything else. Because there are many destructive actions taht have a much better ROI in terms of relative power that become practical when you're only looking out for your own benefit than are reasonable when you're focused on meeting your needs by appealing to the desires of others (which is where "self-interest" is supposed to come into the game. The market fails if people are only looking to serve their own interests- it succeeds when people realize that they'll do the best in the long run by appealing to the self interest of the other players in the market- a very important distinction that modern myths about the "invisible hand" and "free markets" deliberately mislead people about for the benefit of those that want to justify acting in ways that increase their wealth and power at the expense of everyone else.)

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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by KidTokyo:
I'm saying the same thing. And so, if we agree that there must be some laws, shouldn't the libertarian favor the option where govt remains the smallest, and interferes the least? Larger companies are vastly more expensive to regulate than smaller ones. Small companies more easily end up paying for their own wrongdoing, requiring less government regulation.

My point about libertarians was chiefly a response to this comment of Tom's:

quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
A totally libertarian position would eliminate the limited liability concept at the heart of incorporation. Which is why most so-called libertarians are not in fact all that libertarian.

What I was trying to say is that no libertarian with a sense of reality would really endorse total re-regulation with no proviso, and that it's not fair to suggest that a libertarian who accepts certain legal fictions is 'not in fact all that libertarian.' It's all a matter of context. I like to think of libertarianism as being a direction, rather than a fixed position. This means that someone of that mindset would always try to increase liberty, reduce or prevent big government, and to try to get away from the idea of government as an end in itself. In a situation as we have now with countless laws and legal fictions, it's perfectly consistent for someone to be a libertarian and to not necessarily say he wants to abolish government and financial law altogether. A piecemeal or even moderate approach can still be taken with a strong philosophical belief in liberty (and even states rights).

That being said, even if larger companies are harder to regulate than smaller ones, the libertarian position would be that government should properly have no business incentivizing one or the other for reasons of utility. I think Tom was implying that being 'for big business' means also tacitly being specifically for all current corporate law, but I don't think that follows. One can be for smaller government, for big business, and yet still have gripes about various financial laws as well. I'm sure there are many hypocrites out there, but I don't think failure to be an extremist qualifies someone as a hypocrite.

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KidTokyo
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Fenring,

I know you were responding to Tom, but removing limited liability would be de-regulation, not re-regulation. Corporations are created by law and regulation. They are(or at least were) recognized as being quasi-governmental entities.

The reason we discuss this at all is that we need to ask whether a Paul-style "deregulation" would actually reduce government involvement. During the Reagan era and onwards, "de-regulation" had the opposite effect, because most of what we call de-regulation is not that at all, its simply adding new features to what govt created entities can do. It's like saying you've deregulated the police by giving them flying cars. The freedom to fly does not mean you've de-regulated vertical movement.

[ April 13, 2015, 03:38 PM: Message edited by: KidTokyo ]

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I think Tom was implying that being 'for big business' means also tacitly being specifically for all current corporate law, but I don't think that follows.
No. I meant that the concept of a corporation as a legal entity is fundamentally at odds with the idea of personal liberty as a supreme value.
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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
I think Tom was implying that being 'for big business' means also tacitly being specifically for all current corporate law, but I don't think that follows.
No. I meant that the concept of a corporation as a legal entity is fundamentally at odds with the idea of personal liberty as a supreme value.
Can't someone be for 'big business' and not for 'big corporate business'? I'm not sure I've heard prominent libertarians mention that they specifically endorse corporations as they're currently conceived. I agree with what you just said, but I don't see how that paints libertarians as being inconsistent in their positions. If they are for business, and at present business law involves the existence of corporations, then I suppose we can infer that they are transitively 'for' corporations. But isn't it sort of throwing the baby out with the bathwater to suggest that if a libertarian really was against corporate law in order to be consistent he's have to be against business altogether?
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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by KidTokyo:
Fenring,

I know you were responding to Tom, but removing limited liability would be de-regulation, not re-regulation. Corporations are created by law and regulation. They are(or at least were) recognized as being quasi-governmental entities.

The reason we discuss this at all is that we need to ask whether a Paul-style "deregulation" would actually reduce government involvement. During the Reagan era and onwards, "de-regulation" had the opposite effect, because most of what we call de-regulation is not that at all, its simply adding new features to what govt created entities can do. It's like saying you've deregulated the police by giving them flying cars. The freedom to fly does not mean you've de-regulated vertical movement.

As I mentioned, I think someone can be a libertarian and not need to go 'whole hog' to prove it. Going in the direction of de-regulation (for better or worse) is a libertarian position, but I don't see how it follows that a libertarian must also declare that corporations will cease to exist in order to remain true to his values. After all, someone like Rand Paul knows that there are certain obstacles to overcome before refinements are possible such as removing limited liability (we pretend for a moment that this will ever happen). Since the system has been built up like a tower it would stand to reason to disassemble it in reverse order rather than to undermine the foundation right away and risk a collapse. Ending the Fed and effecting banking reform seems to be one of his major dragons to kill right now, and indeed I think corporate law will never be discussed prior to the financial sector having already been restructured.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
But isn't it sort of throwing the baby out with the bathwater to suggest that if a libertarian really was against corporate law in order to be consistent he's have to be against business altogether?
And yet far more important but less foundational concepts, like public education and environmental protections, are often put on the chopping block based on those same "principles." Why is it more dangerous to rethink corporate law than to eliminate public schooling?
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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
But isn't it sort of throwing the baby out with the bathwater to suggest that if a libertarian really was against corporate law in order to be consistent he's have to be against business altogether?
And yet far more important but less foundational concepts, like public education and environmental protections, are often put on the chopping block based on those same "principles." Why is it more dangerous to rethink corporate law than to eliminate public schooling?
I don't think it's more dangerous in the long term, but in the short term business law as we know it presumes upon the existence of corporate status. Businesses that previously became corporations have been operating ever since under a sort of contract with society that they will operate based on a certain code. If you take away the foundation upon which those businesses have been built they can't merely shift their focus or strategy to compensate; the entire business model becomes undermined with the stroke of a pen. You effectively dissolve a whole host of business by fiat and this is very much not aligned with a libertarian principle. We can guess as to what would be the most effective way to wean the economic system off of corporate status to ease the transition, but as a single move I don't see this happening. Certainly every corporate entity would be against it.

Contrast this with school charters or funding, and we can see that if you eliminate schooling of a certain kind the market will compensate one way or another, even if things are painful in the short term. But there are no logistics to work out as to how to ease people off of public school; no major system operates with public school as its backbone that would then collapse with its removal. What would happen 10 years down the line? That's a question. But it could be done without too much legal complication as contrasted with rewriting the nature of what the business world is.

This is just logistics, though. If you're asking whether I personally think that freedom is harmed more by oligarchy than by forcing public school upon people then my answer is yes, which I expect is your belief too. But this isn't the same as wondering why someone can be for the change that seems minor and won't discuss the major change. The answer to that involves both the relative difficulty of achieving those changes, and even the fact that certain changes must be done with timeliness and not all at once or too suddenly. Plus there's the fact that removing something offered, like public school, isn't an infringement of anyone's rights (no one has a right to have public education), whereas arguably eliminating the existence of limited liability would infringe on legal contracts of various kinds and in addition would make all sort of binding agreement automatically illegal and even harmful. Would you have all business agreements in every sector made null and void as soon as the law was passed?

I'm all for wishing for various aspects of corporate law to just vanish, but it's another thing to say that any libertarian who doesn't include this particular wish in his platform is false to his beliefs.

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KidTokyo
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Libertarianism is and can be a very big tent, but I do think one prerequisite should be not advocating policies that will actually tend to greater oligarchy.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
Contrast this with school charters or funding, and we can see that if you eliminate schooling of a certain kind the market will compensate one way or another...
I don't think we can "see" that at all. In fact, I think it's far more likely that businesses will continue to operate without incorporation than the market will compensate for the absence of public schooling.
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Fenring
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Who is 'advocating for' limited liability? It's already a fact, no one needs to advocate for it. Not advocating for its annulment isn't the same as advocating for it. If some people are on a teetering bridge, I can both be against constructing bridges improperly while at the same time not recommend removing the crappy bridge while the people are still on it. Move them to safety first, then we can talk. Keeping the bridge around for a time isn't equivalent to 'advocating for bad bridges.'
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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
Contrast this with school charters or funding, and we can see that if you eliminate schooling of a certain kind the market will compensate one way or another...
I don't think we can "see" that at all. In fact, I think it's far more likely that businesses will continue to operate without incorporation than the market will compensate for the absence of public schooling.
I don't know exactly what would happen if either were to come to be. I'm just saying that altering the business agreements upon which an economic system rests by fiat is not clearly a liberty-based solution, even if it could be functionally effective. Once a system is in place you have the dilemma of invalidating contracts (a type of interference) versus allowing things to proceed (sustaining the current form of interference). Philosophically it seems correct to say that a little pain now to straighten things out is acceptable, but if that 'little pain' involves effectively violating property law then you've got a rock and a hard place. I would personally side with 'pain now to fix things' but I wouldn't fault a libertarian who preferred to leave certain matters for later in favor of tackling other issues.

There's no philosophical quandry about removing public schools in terms of liberty, however, even though functionally the result could be good or bad (even if you're sure it's bad that doesn't speak to the principle of righting a wrong for long-term benefit). Not that I am for this, but for someone who believes in it I don't see how fighting for this during a campaign and not for the other issue makes you inconsistent. It just means one must pick one's battles.

That said I'll repeat that I'm sure many libertarian are inconsistent, but I don't think it's just because they don't advocate for abolition of corporate law. There are such grievous lacks of ethical standards in the approach of most politicians that I don't know that the particular issue of libertarians explicitly addressing every possible issue of liberty is germane to assessing who is full of it.

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Greg Davidson
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Do libertarians only see liberty in a negative context, that is, freedom from requirements? Are there any positive duties or responsibilities that fit within the big tent of libertarianism?
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
. Plus there's the fact that removing something offered, like public school, isn't an infringement of anyone's rights (no one has a right to have public education)
This is flat out wrong- our current public education system is a direct expression of an asserted right of everyone to an education. You can't pretend to protect a right to liberty unless you ensure that everyone meets a minimum baseline educational standard to actually be able to act freely and independently within society. We even went so far as to make it mandatory up to a certain point to prevent private interests from coercing children into working and effectively denying them both the right to an education in the short term, and thus the rights to liberty and self-determination in the long term.

Again we touch on the fundamental disconnect in the positions of many libertarians- particularly those politicians who claim the title. They pay lip service to freedom, but then propose policies that focus on rolling back protections against private coercion in the name of liberty; the only liberty they actually support in practice is the freedom of the rich and powerful to exploit the poor and weak.

The only defense against the natural tendency toward plutocracy is a publicly controlled government large and powerful enough to actively counteract it. PErsonal liberty is not a natural state- it's a construct of civilization and people have to use public power to create and maintain it. When you stop fighting to use public power to expand it, you effectively cede control to the natural tendency of private power to eradicate it.

That's the where the notion of eternal vigilance comes into play- you cannot ensure personal liberty without a publicly oriented government large and powerful enough to create and maintain it, but such power is also attractive to private interests that would abuse it, so the only way for it to remain focused on its proper target is for all people to remain as engaged as possible to preserve power for the people instead of becoming disconnected and thus allowing private oligarchs to have a large enough voice to take over and run the system for their personal benefit.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
Contrast this with school charters or funding, and we can see that if you eliminate schooling of a certain kind the market will compensate one way or another...
I don't think we can "see" that at all. In fact, I think it's far more likely that businesses will continue to operate without incorporation than the market will compensate for the absence of public schooling.
More to the point- charters are not an alternative to public schooling- they a mechanism for private, for profit, corporations to syphon money out of the public school system while they undermine it sufficiently to argue that they should be paid more to continue to undermine it and helpfully roll back the protections from exploitation that it offers.
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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
You can't pretend to protect a right to liberty unless you ensure that everyone meets a minimum baseline educational standard to actually be able to act freely and independently within society. We even went so far as to make it mandatory up to a certain point to prevent private interests from coercing children into working and effectively denying them both the right to an education in the short term, and thus the rights to liberty and self-determination in the long term.

You're preaching to the choir. I was just stating a position, but not my position. I think the libertarian definition of "freedom" would actually lead to a lack of freedom if carried out, just as I think resorting to completely "free markets" would result in completely unfree markets inevitably. I am a full supporter of putting rigorous systems in place, and within that framework pursuing freedom. I don't see a lack of framework as being 'freedom' in any meaningful sense, even though it does create a sort of freedom from restrictions. Greg, does this answer your question? I am actually for way more systematization than there is now.

I agree that freedom not only must be constructed and constantly won, but that a people need to be of a certain mental and 'spiritual' (geist) state to accept and to demand it. For a century or more the American people have been trained away from this mental state and now they don't even object when freedoms are removed and handed over to plutocrats. Some people like it! So yes, priming the people for democracy is essential for it to work, and the people have the prime the system as well; it can go in a positive or a negative feedback loop depending on how the system is verging. Right now it's a negative feedback loop. When given the choice between a libertarian position and my own, I'd choose my own. But when given the choice between a libertarian position and a statist authoritarian position, I'd choose a libertarian.

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KidTokyo
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quote:
I'm just saying that altering the business agreements upon which an economic system rests by fiat is not clearly a liberty-based solution, even if it could be functionally effective. Once a system is in place you have the dilemma of invalidating contracts (a type of interference) versus allowing things to proceed (sustaining the current form of interference).
This objection would hold equally true not only for any other libertarian policies if applied, but for virtually any kind of social reform.

In fact, I don't advocate for eliminating limited liability of shareholders -- my solution would not invalidate any contract related to stock sales. Instead, I would focus of M&A (which are always reviewed by the DoJ whether approved or not) and fiduciary laws, expanding duties to included stakeholders as well as shareholders. This would change the valuation calculus of buying and trading stock, but I don't think it would negate any contracts altogether. Shareholders often have to deal with changes to a company's charter or bylaws anyway, which will be reflected in the value of the stock.

It's really helpful to consider this not more or less govt interference, rather a change in the kind of interference, allowing for less interference in the future. One big reason Japan is able to achieve Sweden-level social stability with almost no welfare state is that they have implemented a more horizontal, more democratic corporate structure. It is also worth noting that much of this horizontalism was imposed by the US after ww2, which knew full well that the effect of breaking (for instance) one Mitsubishi into 20 Mitsubishis would be to enable greater and more egalitarian economic growth -- so it's not as though the US is unaware of how this works. The people running the show just don't want it to happen here.

[ April 14, 2015, 03:08 PM: Message edited by: KidTokyo ]

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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by KidTokyo:
The people running the show just don't want it to happen here.

That much is clear. I tend to agree with you that M&A is one of the major problems in the current system, but I think this issue is greatly exacerbated by corporate personhood, and I would abolish the latter first before turning my attention to M&A itself. I also think that basic banking reform would be much higher on my list of plausible first priorities to tackle before trying to go after basics of business function that have centuries of precedent behind them.

My comments about libertarians were not to place myself in solidarity with their particular positions, but rather to suggest that the direction of libertarianism is in the correct spirit, even if many libertarians have (in my opinion) wrong ideas about how to go about achieving greater liberty. But I would rather support someone who believes in the spirit of liberty and has misguided mechanical understanding than someone who is more technically savvy and is a plutocrat.

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KidTokyo
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quote:
I think this issue is greatly exacerbated by corporate personhood, and I would abolish the latter first before turning my attention to M&A itself
That is a far more drastic measure than any of the other possibilities we've discussed here. It's not as though someone passed a single law or court ruling declaring corporations persons -- its the cumulative effect of 150 years of case law discussing the effect of entity status in conjunction with civil rights law. You would need a Constitutional Amendment to undo all that. And you wouldn't want it gone completely, since personhood is what makes it possible for a corporation to be sued and be liable as a corporation, and not just a collection of individuals. If you undo "personhood", then do have de facto undone limited liability and a whole slew of other things as well.

If you are rather talking about more recent specific rulings involving the first amendment rights of corporations, then yes, we should get at that, but I would argue the comparatively moderate remedy of structural & governance reform will take the teeth out of Citizen's United.

quote:
My comments about libertarians were not to place myself in solidarity with their particular positions, but rather to suggest that the direction of libertarianism is in the correct spirit, even if many libertarians have (in my opinion) wrong ideas about how to go about achieving greater liberty. But I would rather support someone who believes in the spirit of liberty and has misguided mechanical understanding than someone who is more technically savvy and is a plutocrat.
I agree with this to some extent and its why I voted for Johnson in 2012 despite some particular points I think he had totally wrong (that and the Green party candidate was impossible to take seriously). But Johnson was not a serious contender, and I was putting "information into the system" as it were to support his ideas.

No amount of "spirit" is going protect us if Rand Paul ends up doing what Reagan did, which ended up producing the opposite effect -- though I grant you that Paul's foreign policy and his position on the drug war is a planet apart from what Reagan ran on, thankfully.

Whoever is president, these changes ultimately have to be demanded from below, compelling whomever is in office to follow.

[ April 14, 2015, 06:31 PM: Message edited by: KidTokyo ]

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Rafi
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quote:
Originally posted by Fenring:
Just remember that a President doesn't 'make legislation', although he can push the Congress towards certain goals he has.

This is a very outdated view. The president does have the authority to legislate now.
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Greg Davidson
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Rafi,

Please define what you mean when you say that the President "does have the authority to legislate now". And if you are referring to Executive Actions taken by the Obama Administration, could you please identify the degree to which they exceed actions taken by any previous Presidents?

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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by Greg Davidson:
Rafi,

Please define what you mean when you say that the President "does have the authority to legislate now". And if you are referring to Executive Actions taken by the Obama Administration, could you please identify the degree to which they exceed actions taken by any previous Presidents?

I sympathize with Rafi's attitude to an extent, but it seems to me that the most noticeable change in the use of executive power lately is in the habit of committing to 'strikes' against other countries without calling them acts of war. This use of executive power does seem to skirt into the Congress's territory of declaring hostilities against other nations. It kind of reminds me of how retailers don't have to follow the laws regarding giving benefits because all of their employees are 'part time', thus avoiding the laws in question.

But if anything Rand Paul is the last person who would abuse this particular type of executive power since he is against foreign interventionism. I don't see any possible way he could use 'executive privilege' to make changes to fiscal or monetary policy, to social programs, or anything else people are worried about. That stuff would absolutely have to go through the Congress. This is more or less why I place his foreign policy as being more relevant than his social views, since the former will directly affect his use of the military, while the latter is, in a sense, just his opinion but will have no direct effect just on his say-so.

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