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Author Topic: Politics of Hillary Clinton's official campaign launch speech
NobleHunter
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quote:
But once you've got physical force in place, you are outside of contract and competition. It's no mere esoteric point -- large corporations have historically relied heavily on military conquest, which is most effectively perpetrated by highly organized and established governments.
I think it's useful to point out that the corporations we successfully did conquer significant terrority (e.g. the Dutch and British East India Companies) had to be bailed out regularly and were eventually subsumed by their parent governments.
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KidTokyo
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quote:
I think it's useful to point out that the corporations we successfully did conquer significant terrority (e.g. the Dutch and British East India Companies) had to be bailed out regularly and were eventually subsumed by their parent governments.
Yup. And those are perfect examples of their governmental roles as corporations -- i.e., as tools for imperialism.
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Fenring
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Damn, my response has vanished! I'll have to retype it from memory later on *grumble*
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KidTokyo
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A redaction demon on the loose...

I often type in notepad first and then paste to avoid this problem. [Wink]

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Fenring
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Ok, here's my attempt to recollect what I wrote before [DOH]

Kid,

I think we're talking at cross purposes when using the word "government". Our main object is government colluding with corporations, but when I speak of how things would be without this being the case we are getting into a tangle. Levels of government involvement with the market can include:

No government: Pure free market, or else syndicalist guild system or something else. Either decentralized or no planning. At no point have I ever been referring to this.

Limited government: Laws exist, backed up by force, to prevent crimes such as fraud and theft, and to enforce contract law. The rules are enforced but that is all.

Involved government: Government takes an active hand in economic planning and monetary policy, and enacts laws to patch holes in the free market as well as to redistribute wealth where needed; this includes taxation to finance government projects such as wars.

Mixed government: Where the government has active ties to various companies and picks winners and losers as a matter of course. Government becomes inextricably dependent on these companies, which in turn are reliant on government. The divide between private and public is blurred and therefore the government becomes a semi-private entity.

When I mentioned that without government companies would just find some other way to become massive, you seemed to imply that without laws enforcing contracts and such corporations couldn't reliably take the risk. But there's no need to assume that a departure from mixed government must move directly to no government. Limited or involved government would still have all the laws necessary to enforce contracts and punish crime, but without the gravy train to attract suitors. Left to their own devices, and with government law to back up contracts, companies would be quite capable of using wealth to leverage wealth, and also to form alliances with other companies to dominate a market. We might suggest the government could interfere with this to break up bad results, in which case we are now into MMO territory where we're designing our ecosystem to spec.

In a funny way MMO economies are probably more instructive in user behavior than a study of real history could ever be, since history is riddled with obfuscation of real facts and details, whereas MMO populations can be monitored in faster than real time with accuracy. Once we are interested in talking about government defining how an economy should look or function we're talking about game design. Although a real world economy isn't designed in totality in one shot but rather comes together in stages, the idea of design is still there. Even if the starting point is an existing economy, one can still envision a specific end-point and verge towards that. The problem is that the design tweaks tend to come from private interested parties who wish the game terrain to suit them. But the fact that the design isn't centralized doesn't mean it isn't happening. And I do think that certain groups that tend to make tweaks do have a specific end-point in mind, and I don't like where it's heading. It would be a good idea, I think, for some of us to have a clear vision of an alternative end-point on hand for when the time is right.

Game design (if you'll forgive my repeated use of this term) should be functional and elegant, and probably shouldn't be complex. The easier the system is to understand the harder it would be for anyone to corrupt it without the change being noticed. You asked why I think it would be easy to have a system that could be centralized or not, or promoting corporations or not. The answer is that designing this is fairly easy. The hard part isn't conceptualizing a landscape where incentives led in one direction or another; the hard part is convincing anyone to go along with it. If there was miraculous consensus we could have an entirely new economic system overnight. Big companies favor centralization because it is easy to control and will give them things. But this can only be true if there is actually a mechanism in place for them to influence government. If there was no such mechanism then their desires would see no effect in government operation, and however government and its laws were set up the landscape would simply shape itself accordingly.

Right now the game players are given the ability to change the rules, and the more success they have the more they can change the rules to their favor. This is called, in game terms, a 'snowball mechanic', and it is more or less universally true that any game with a snowball mechanic is badly designed. Better designed games have a mechanic where the player that is ahead encounters disadvantages and the player in last place gets benefits. This 'elastic' mechanic makes for a close game and maximally benefits the play experience for everyone except sore losers.

We both agree that mixed government at present has a snowball mechanic for big corporations. But what I'm saying is that capitalism has a built-in snowball mechanic anyhow which will still be there even without mixed government.

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KidTokyo
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Fenring,

Thank you -- this makes it much easier for me to highlight the exact nature of my disagreement with you.

My argument, put simply, boils down to this:

1. Your distinction between "mixed" and "involved" government is pure fiction. I challenge you to provide one example of an involved government that is not also doing the things you attribute to mixed government.

2. Theory has to submit to historical and functional reality, not the other way around. What you can "design" is certainly important in creating a lens for interpreting reality -- but the point is to interpret reality. Reality must be studied for what actually happens.

3.
quote:
If there was miraculous consensus we could have an entirely new economic system overnight. Big companies favor centralization because it is easy to control and will give them things. But this can only be true if there is actually a mechanism in place for them to influence government.
If there is a mechanism for them to exist, there is a mechanism for them to influence government. The question is then is there also a mechanism for everyone else to influence government -- i.e., democracy, so that there is proper balance. EDITED TO ADD: Probably I'm not making the point clearly enough -- corporations do not exist without a government to create them. They are literally extensions of state power. This is true of all corporations, everywhere, at all points in history, and there is no theoretical reason or means for "incorporating" a business entity except for the fact that doing so gives it special legal privileges which are enforced by the state. If this seems odd, consider that the same statement with regards to intellectual property, such as a patent or a copyright, would not even be controversial, and yet the same principle is involved.

quote:
But what I'm saying is that capitalism has a built-in snowball mechanic anyhow which will still be there even without mixed government.
Capitalism requires a state. "Free-market" is a separate concept from "capitalism." The terms did not become synonymous until fairly recently in history, and in fact were viewed by many as being contradictory in the 19th century. You cannot speak of capitalism without the presence of a very well-established system of government which chooses favorites, etc. The thing has never existed, nor could it.

[ June 19, 2015, 01:07 PM: Message edited by: KidTokyo ]

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Fenring
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Kid,

I was not suggesting those categories to connote actual types of government we've seen; these are just possible ways in which the government can interact with the economy. Some people, libertarians, for instance, push towards involved or limited government. It's not something we've seen, necessarily, but rather something they want to see, which is quite clear as a defined goal.

The fact that corporations cannot exist without government is tautological, but I didn't suggest that corporations would thrive even without government, I said businesses would. Without limited liability it's possible private institutions would offer 'default insurance' or else banks might begin to offer lines of credit specifically for businesses that had special terms in case of bankruptcy so as not to also bankrupt the stockholders. Who knows what would happen in the private market without government making the rules, there are lots of possibilities. I'm not saying I desire this scenario; in fact I believe it would be as bad or worse than things are now in terms of oligarchy and monopoly.

Also I wasn't conflating capitalism with 'free market.' Again, I have at no point in this discussion ever been referring to a pure free market or syndicalist system; when I speak of "capitalism" (as opposed to mixed government) I'm referring to the evolution of the feudal system which we might now call the "production/employment" system, where income is derived from either production/sales or employment. This is a shorthand way of saying "get other people to agree to give you money any way you can." I would accept as a synonym for capitalism "go after the dollars" or else "every man for himself." I'm sure some people would argue with me on these definitions, but this is how I see it. Capitalism, as I've defined it, can exist with or without government, and as a term is orthogonal to concepts like 'free market' or 'mixed government.' The only proviso in mixed government is that a source of income can include the government taking money from others and giving it to you, but this exception isn't part of the market system as such, and instead exists lateral to it as an alternative.

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KidTokyo
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Fenring,

You are making certain statements which suggest to me you're not really grasping how things work. And my argument is that what you propose as "Involved government" is not even possible theoretically. To be fair, I think you are engaging in certain fallacies that at this point are so widely held that re-aligning general assumptions back to reality is a huge uphill battle.

For instance, when you state:

quote:
Without limited liability it's possible private institutions would offer 'default insurance' or else banks might begin to offer lines of credit specifically for businesses that had special terms in case of bankruptcy so as not to also bankrupt the stockholders.
...you are assuming that "default insurance" can be made available by purely private institutions and that "stockholders" somehow exist in a world without strictly policed financial markets. They don't. They cannot. It's like you're trying to discuss the biology of flowers in a world without dirt.

quote:
I would accept as a synonym for capitalism "go after the dollars" or else "every man for himself."
The root word in "capitalism" is "capital." Capitalism is therefore not just about trade, or commerce, or competition however ruthless, but investment. Thus, a "capitalist" historically was a career investor. The word "capitalist" predates the first use of the word "capitalism" by about 70 years -- a fact which I think speaks volumes.

[ June 19, 2015, 03:28 PM: Message edited by: KidTokyo ]

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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by KidTokyo:

You are making certain statements which suggest to me you're not really grasping how things work.

I can't really help you with that as a general statement; obviously I don't agree.

quote:
And my argument is that what you propose as "Involved government" is not even possible theoretically.
Really? It's not possible to levy taxes for certain things on a federal level without it automatically being full mixed government with private corporate deals and politics being owned by private companies? Wow. Please explain why a government can't collect taxes for projects (bridge building, national parks, disaster relief) while at the same time disallowing private companies to finance politicians or to lobby for legislation? Why can't a government fulfill certain tasks and not exclude others from its mandate? We all know at present there is no limit to what government believes it may do, but we are speaking theoretically. A government could even set up a public central bank and use it to guide economic growth and the money supply without it becoming a secret or corrupt tool for private gain. Note that I didn't say government would have no relationship whatever with the private sector, what I said was that the private sector would have no influence in government other than what normal citizens have.

quote:
quote:
Without limited liability it's possible private institutions would offer 'default insurance' or else banks might begin to offer lines of credit specifically for businesses that had special terms in case of bankruptcy so as not to also bankrupt the stockholders.
...you are assuming that "default insurance" can be made available by purely private institutions and that "stockholders" somehow exist in a world without strictly policed financial markets. They don't. They cannot. It's like you're trying to discuss the biology of flowers in a world without dirt.
Why do you need government to have stock holders? All stock means is you are opening up ownership of a company to many investors. It may sound all fancy but stock is just a way to speak about the ownership of a company being complex. It's also a way to organize redistribution of ownership of business from its current owners to other owners, effectively letting others buy in to raise capital. Why the heck would you need government to do this? The fact that government at present does regulate the stock market has nothing to do with government being needed to make one possible. It's not.

quote:
quote:
I would accept as a synonym for capitalism "go after the dollars" or else "every man for himself."
The root word in "capitalism" is "capital." Capitalism is therefore not just about trade, or commerce, or competition however ruthless, but investment. Thus, a "capitalist" historically was a career investor. The word "capitalist" predates the first use of the word "capitalism" by about 70 years -- a fact which I think speaks volumes.
I fear we're getting a little bogged down in tangential issues, but in short I wasn't going after the etymology or even a complete operational definition, but simply one that describes how money is obtained by a person, which from a user standpoint is all that matters: "how do I get money?" This is a more important feature of capitalism, I think, than the finer details on precisely how investment is done or how capital can be leveraged.

The long and short of it we must not be distracted by all the things the government currently does, as compared to what people would just do by themselves without government taking it over. Anything the government made up by itself, such as corporate status and so forth, obviously would not exist without government. But various things the government regulates, such as the stock market, banking system and so forth would exist with or without central government, albeit they would function with a different sort of checks on them. Although we might suggest it would be like the 'wild west', we could also foresee market forces bringing certain stabilizing standards in line to streamline market activity. I have no doubt a 'wild west' market could function 'efficiently', I just think the long-term results it would produce would be very harmful to both human lives and to long-term stability. I think you may overestimate the necessity of government for many human activities. What the government does do is to redefine the game so that the terrain and the outcomes look different.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I think you may overestimate the necessity of government for many human activities.
It depends whether you believe private organizations are entitled to use force. If not, any transaction enforced by the threat of force requires the existence of government.
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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
I think you may overestimate the necessity of government for many human activities.
It depends whether you believe private organizations are entitled to use force. If not, any transaction enforced by the threat of force requires the existence of government.
Either that, or a dedicated policing force dedicated exclusively to enforcing contract law. Either way as I mentioned to Kid, I've never been discussing what would happen without government of any kind, I was discussing what could foreseeably exist without a government that actively picks winners and losers in the economy. All of my examples have had as their premise a government that at the minimum enforces criminal law and contract law.
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KidTokyo
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quote:
Really? It's not possible to levy taxes for certain things on a federal level without it automatically being full mixed government with private corporate deals and politics being owned by private companies? Wow. Please explain why a government can't collect taxes for projects (bridge building, national parks, disaster relief) while at the same time disallowing private companies to finance politicians or to lobby for legislation? Why can't a government fulfill certain tasks and not exclude others from its mandate?
Those things are theoretically possible and have in fact (nearly) happened, but thus far you are restating your definition of "involved" in much more limited terms. You originally defined "involved" as active planning, guidance, welfare and warfare (in essence). Taking interstate commerce does not necessarily lead to any of those things.

quote:
A government could even set up a public central bank and use it to guide economic growth and the money supply without it becoming a secret or corrupt tool for private gain. Note that I didn't say government would have no relationship whatever with the private sector, what I said was that the private sector would have no influence in government other than what normal citizens have.
No, with that last qualification it is a fairy tale. I don't even see it as theoretically possible. One may imagine such a thing, but that is different from theoretical possibility. The steps necessary to prevent almost instant corruption -- i.e., complete transparency and democratic oversight -- would render centralization moot. That being said, such a system could be considerably less corrupt than our current one, and that is an improvement worth striving for.

quote:
Why do you need government to have stock holders? All stock means is you are opening up ownership of a company to many investors. It may sound all fancy but stock is just a way to speak about the ownership of a company being complex. It's also a way to organize redistribution of ownership of business from its current owners to other owners, effectively letting others buy in to raise capital. Why the heck would you need government to do this? The fact that government at present does regulate the stock market has nothing to do with government being needed to make one possible. It's not.
No, you are wrong. And this is very easily explained. You need to prevent fraud. You need to guarantee that stocks have their purported value. This requires rather elaborate regulation and oversight. It's been tried before with less regulation (never with none) but that resulted in much greater transactional inefficiency and waste, and hence less profit.

You could of course hire private regulators, and have competing regimes -- but for the biggest players that would involve too much competition, which they do not want, and the lack of standardization is again quite costly. Smaller businesses might actually prefer this, but larger ones would not. But either way, you need a powerful regulatory apparatus.

Sometimes I think these government services are so pervasive that many people have ceased to be aware that they are even present.

If there was no regulation of the stock market there would be no point in having one at all. How would you verify that your stock had any value at all? How would your enforce your ownership rights? Without showing up at company HQ with firearms and/or Pinkertons, I mean. You are at a distance, holding a piece of paper, and nowadays not even than.

quote:
But various things the government regulates, such as the stock market, banking system and so forth would exist with or without central government, albeit they would function with a different sort of checks on them. Although we might suggest it would be like the 'wild west', we could also foresee market forces bringing certain stabilizing standards in line to streamline market activity. I have no doubt a 'wild west' market could function 'efficiently', I just think the long-term results it would produce would be very harmful to both human lives and to long-term stability. I think you may overestimate the necessity of government for many human activities. What the government does do is to redefine the game so that the terrain and the outcomes look different.
There are a very wide range of activities, including highly organized and far-reaching ones, that can be done with minimal or even no top-down government, but investment banking and trade in stock is absolutely not one of them. I know that in your mind it is obviously possible, but it you begin to walk yourself mentally through the steps of buying and trading stock, you will see that it is not even theoretically possible. The stock market is built on transactional efficiency and accuracy of information. With no regulation, you turn the world's largest particle accelerator into a radioactive shapeless lump that no one would go near. It would literally cease to exist, without very powerful enforcement mechanisms, because everything about it is fundamentally unnatural. It is quite literally like running software without an operating system.

A "wild west" market does not/did not function efficiently for the people with the most money and that is why it went away. If you want to keep the wild-west, less regulated version "efficient" than you must by any means possible prevent the centralization of finance into large banks and other corporate institutions.

quote:
All of my examples have had as their premise a government that at the minimum enforces criminal law and contract law.
Who decides what is and is not a crime?

Who decides what is and is not a valid contract?

Those are the crucial questions. Someone always decides, at the expense of someone else. If you centralize wealth, then these decisions will very quickly be decided by a small number of people.

[ June 20, 2015, 12:20 AM: Message edited by: KidTokyo ]

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Fenring
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Kid,

I'll let this juncture be a case in point about my original claim that we agree on the symptoms but not necessarily on the mechanisms that bring them about. We're in agreement that government at present is responsible for many problems, and even that this has to do with how government is structured and how it relates to the private sector. In terms of planning utopias we will probably differ on mechanical details.

Our side discussion can't really go further because both of our claims are unverifiable in the strong sense, and too complex to discuss adequately in a conversational context. But I see where you're coming from. Since you believe the tedium the average worker can expect lies at the feet of government it would actually make it especially disingenuous for a politician to tell young people they can expect to have a fulfilling job of their choice when they grow up. From my perspective I think a lot of it is structural both in terms of how what I call 'capitalism' works and also (although I didn't discuss this here) due to technology and free trade agreements. Since trade agreements are a government thing I'm happy to chalk this point up with your view.

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