Thursday, September 30, 2010
Gordon Gekko on Greed: Is it really good?
Oliver Stone has made of sequel of sorts to his 1987 movie Wall Street. In the original the central character, Gordon Gekko, famously says, “Greed … is good.” He seems to have meant that wealth-creation and innovation are founded on “greed,” something that, understood in a certain way, many readers of The Freeman might agree with. But it’s important to realize that he was only partly right.
First, greed or, better, self interest, certainly does in a sense drive material progress and so on, but only if and to the extent that social institutions, the “rules of the game,” are truly consistent with the free market – that is, private property, free exchange, and the rule of law.
But not everything that looks like a free market is a free market. If the economic system departs from the rules of the free market, self-interest tends not to promote the general welfare at all. For instance, private property is violated every time special interests use government to seek a bailout or protection against competition...
Those who tend to use the phrase “unfettered self-interest” or “unbridled capitalism” seem to have in mind a situation in which there is no locus of restraint whatever, either within the agent or outside the agent. Of course, the complete absence of restraint in this sense would result in the Hobbesian “war of everyone against everyone,” precisely the picture of modern finance that Oliver Stone paints in his movies.
In this rather naïve view the agent is free to pursue her self-interest wherever she finds it, even when it means acting opportunistically and dishonestly – so long as she observes or appears to observe the external rules and regulations. Thus the hotshot Wall Street operator takes advantage of any opportunity she chances on, even if it violates the norms of honesty and conventions of fair play, since these don’t really exist in her internal moral world. They believe that “greed is good” even when the rules of the game violate the rule of law, for example, by spreading the cost of risky investments among taxpayers (e.g., Fannie Mae) and concentrating the benefits on a few big players (e.g., Goldman Sachs)....
But the mature view recognizes that honesty, fair play, and trust are all important elements of the free market. Without these, private property, free exchange, and the rule of law may still be observed under the watchful eye of external authorities, but they would not flourish, and neither would material prosperity and wealth-creation take place on the scale and consistency that we’ve seen since the rebirth of the liberal idea in modern times.
Moreover, this view recognizes that when profits and losses, the good and the bad, redound to those responsible for making the decisions that produce them, market participants tend to grow more responsible and make better decisions. That is what the free market does: It makes us more responsible by making us more responsible. As a result, just those kinds of internal restraints against opportunism that grease the wheels of the market process emerge over time: the norms of trust and the conventions of reciprocity and fair play.
Who are the entrepreneurs?
Without an understanding of the American entrepreneur, there is widespread ignorance of our distinctiveness as a nation, our ingenuity, our liberty, our basic decency, or our prosperity.
By way of example, one of the most commonly-held misperceptions is that entrepreneurs are motivated by greed. That is a myth. Most entrepreneurs are motivated by a passion to solve seemingly intractable human problems, or meet deeply felt human needs. Some of our multinational corporations were started by people who believed that the average person should have soap, shoes, a roof over their heads, affordable food, fruit in the middle of the winter, the ability to communicate with far away loved ones, and more recently computers and other access to information.
Those passions are what drive the entrepreneur, and carry him or her through the risks, setbacks, and outright failures along the way. Entrepreneurs tinker with ideas, and they take the risks associated with pursuing those ideas. If they fail, they lose. If they succeed, we all win – with new or better products and services. And yes, the entrepreneur has the potential for phenomenal financial success. But that success is directly tied not only to the efficacy of the entrepreneur’s solution, but also to the ability to grow the enterprise around that solution -- it is growth that creates the jobs and investment opportunities that enable others to profit from the entrepreneur’s success.
Some weeks ago, I saw this reflected in an episode of The History Channel’s series, “America: The Story of Us.” Entitled “Boom,” this episode traced (among other things) the Hamill brothers’ novel use of a rotary drill in oil derricks, Henry Ford’s inspiration to mass-produce cars that were reliable and affordable for the average American, and William Mulholland’s system of aqueducts and dams that provided water for a newly burgeoning Los Angeles. This is the story of America: ingenuity, engineering, and entrepreneurship in the face of seemingly intractable problems.
A double double standard for blacks
Blacks get all-forgiving treatment but conservative blacks get especially hateful treatment
Walter E. Williams
Christine O'Donnell, U.S. Senate candidate from Delaware, has faced considerable criticism and news media attention about her youthful association with witchcraft. Have we seen similar news media attention given to other politicians who have made bizarre remarks that border on gross stupidity -- possibly lunacy?
During a congressional Armed Services hearing in March, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., expressed concern that stationing 8,000 Marines and their equipment on Guam, our Pacific territory, could cause the island "to become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize." Such a remark is grossly stupid but the liberal press didn't give it anywhere near the amount of attention and derision that they gave Christine O'Donnell.
On the campaign trail in March 2008, then-presidential candidate Obama told his Beaverton, Ore., audience, "Over the last 15 months, we've traveled to every corner of the United States. I've now been in 57 states? I think one left to go." Whether Obama misspoke or not, that's a grossly stupid remark, but white liberals among the intellectual elite and the liberal news media all but ignored it. Of course, when former Vice President Dan Quayle misspelled "potatoe," they pounced upon it and had a field day.
So what might explain the liberals giving Hank Johnson and Obama a pass whilst playing up the perceived shortcomings of Christine O'Donnell and Dan Quayle? The answer might be as simple as just looking at the colors involved. O'Donnell and Quayle are white and Johnson and Obama are black. That means the white liberal vision comes into play where to openly oppose, criticize and ridicule blacks is racist... The white liberal vision holds one set of standards to which white people are obliged and another that's lower for blacks. I don't believe that white liberals are racists in the sense that Klansmen and neo-Nazis are; however, their paternalistic and demeaning attitudes toward blacks are far more debilitating.
There needs to be a bit of elaboration of the statement that to openly oppose, criticize and ridicule a black is racist. If the black in question is a conservative, possibly Republican, then any sort of criticism and treatment is acceptable. This was seen in the criticism and ridicule of Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell. Garry Trudeau's "Doonesbury" cartoon featured President Bush referring to Secretary Rice as "brown sugar." Pat Oliphant showed her as a parrot with big lips and Ted Rall's cartoon had Miss Rice proclaiming herself Bush's "House nigga." Don Wright's cartoon depicted Justice Thomas as Justice Scalia's lawn jockey. These cartoons were carried in major newspapers nationwide. Ask yourself what would happen to a nationally syndicated cartoonist, and the newspaper that carried it, depicting President Obama as a wide-eyed, fat-lipped monkey.
Racial double standards are nothing new. It has been the currency on jobs and college campuses where there is an acceptance of behavior by blacks that would be condemned if done by whites. Often misguided white liberal professors, in the name of making up for injustices of the past, give black students grades they didn't earn. Being 74 years old, I have frequently told people that I'm glad that I received just about all of my education before it became fashionable for white people to like black people. That means I was obliged to live up to higher standards.
More blacks need to be bold and challenge the demeaning attitudes of white liberals. During the early years of the Reagan administration, I had a number of press conferences in response to a book or article that I had written. At several of them, I invited the reporters to treat me like a white person -- just ask hard questions.
What Is a Narcissist To Do?
With news of President Obama's plan to swarm the heartland this week to re-energize his base, one wonders whether he's finally heard the message that mainstream America is repulsed by his agenda. Is his direct appeal to "the young and minority voters" an admission that he's beyond electoral redemption with the rest?
Well, a new George Washington University Battleground poll indicates that only 38 percent of Americans believe he deserves to be re-elected. His personal approval rating is higher -- mystifyingly -- but that is doubtlessly small comfort to Democratic congressmen, whose political fortunes are on the line in just five weeks.
Unfortunately for Democrats, the midterm elections will be nationalized like never before (including 1994), and the primary issue at play in these so-called "local" elections will be the president's agenda, just as it was with the U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts. The Republicans were smart to introduce their "pledge" notwithstanding its flaws, but even without it, the congressional elections would have been nationalized.
The Washington Post reports that Obama is focusing his efforts on his "surge" voters -- "the roughly 15 million Americans who voted for the first time in 2008" -- because the polls are "showing independent voters swinging toward Republicans in Wisconsin and the nation's other battlegrounds."
But even Obama's 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe, acknowledges that though many of these voters still strongly approve of the president, "a lot of them aren't showing enough predilection to vote."
Then again, what else can Obama do? He has lost credibility with mainstream Americans, and his record is an unmitigated disaster. He has no persuasive excuses for his policy failures, as the blaming Bush strategy lost its luster months ago. Not that he isn't going to continue trying to persuade adults to ignore their lying eyes, but for now, at least, he's out to recapture the magic with those voters he excited into participatory politics.
But how will he sell them this time? Plouffe says Obama intends to remind students of all the hard work they put into his 2008 campaign and warn them that if they don't stay engaged, all their hard work together could be jeopardized.
But hard work to what end? Has he ever bothered defining what he is trying to accomplish, beyond the platitudinous "hope and change"? Hope and change from what, to what?
Of course, we adults know darn well what he's trying to accomplish: the transformational change of the greatest nation in the history of mankind. That is, uprooting America's founding ideals and replacing them with his Utopian vision, which even he does not understand.
But when he approaches his fellow idealists this time, he will be on different footing. He can no longer credibly portray himself as an outsider looking to change the status quo. He is largely responsible for the status quo, which, by the way, is anything but static. The "quo" is dynamic and is heading straight into the gutter, with our federal government 1 1/2 steps through the bankruptcy door, nationalized medicine merely a heartbeat away, our national security going south and a chief executive and commander in chief determined to continue on the same perilous path.
What specifics will he tell young people and minorities to motivate them to stay engaged? Reportedly, he will "tout his administration's record on issues important to young people." Does that mean he will tell the young that if they continue to support his agenda by electing his shameless enablers in Congress, they can expect America to stay in a severe recession for another decade because "it took us 10 years to get into this mess"? He might as well say, "Stay the course and be guaranteed you won't have a job when you graduate, but at least you'll be thwarting those evil Republicans."
Will he tell minorities he has personally enhanced race relations in this nation, when he has clearly fanned the flames of racial tension? That he has improved their plight, when he has, for example, single-handedly reversed welfare reform, which had measurably reduced, among other things, black child poverty and illegitimacy?
Don't forget that a major part of his appeal to the young and minorities was his promise of a new era, a new type of politics, a different atmosphere in America. But he has given us the most partisan and divisive administration in recent memory. How can going back to the well with yet more empty rhetoric help him when he has completed a two-year record directly contradicting his promises?
Say what you will, but Obama has no other play in his playbook than to make these elections about himself and his agenda, when that is the exact opposite of what his party needs. But what is a lonely narcissist to do?
Big Labor, Not Tea Party, Is Workers' Worst Enemy: "SEIU Local 1199's Upstate Pension Fund has plunged from 115 percent funded in 1999 to 75 percent funded, and its Greater New York Pension Fund was funded at only 58 percent of its future obligations as of 2007, according to Hudson Institute analyst Diana Furchtgott-Roth. The union fat cats blame Wall Street. But while the pensions of SEIU workers nationwide are in "endangered status," the pensions of SEIU top brass have been protected and remain fully funded."
Study: Car accidents rose after states banned texting: "Laws banning texting while driving actually may prompt a slight increase in road crashes, research suggests. The findings, to be unveiled today at a national meeting of traffic-safety professionals, come amid a heightened national debate over distracted driving. ‘Texting bans haven’t reduced crashes at all,’ says Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, whose research arm studied the effectiveness of the laws. Thirty states and the District of Columbia ban texting while driving. Arizona does not have a ban, though Phoenix does. The assertion that those efforts are futile will be a major issue at this week’s annual meeting of the Governors Highway Safety Association.” [Maybe texting made people drive more slowly]
Canadian court strikes down prostitution laws: "An Ontario court tossed out key provisions of Canada’s anti-prostitution laws on Tuesday, saying they did more harm than good, following a constitutional challenge by three sex-trade workers. Prostitution is not itself illegal in Canada, but nearly every activity associated with it is, such as communicating for the purposes of prostitution, living off its avails or operating a common bawdy house.”
Using government to weed out competitors: "In states throughout the country, beverage distributors are stepping into the political ring and in every case the opponent is the same: competition. Since prohibition, distributors have had the U.S. government in their corner, forcing beverage producers to go through them in order to get their products onto shelves. It almost makes sense then that distributors’ response to the threat of new competitors entering the market is not to offer better services, but to lobby the government to try and keep them out.”
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 12:51 AM