Robert Reich: In today’s GOP, Social Darwinism reborn – Baltimore Sun

“Millionaires are the product of natural selection, acting on the whole body of men to pick out those who can meet the requirement of certain work to be done. It is because they are thus selected that wealth aggregates under their hands — both their own and that intrusted to them. They may fairly be regarded as the naturally selected agents of society.”  — William Graham Sumner

via Robert Reich: In today’s GOP, Social Darwinism reborn – Baltimore Sun.

The Tortoise still frets about the notion of social Darwinism.  After all, a Chelonian who takes advantage of his natural camouflage and finds ways to hide from danger which she senses through vibration may well live to be 100. That’s productive and makes for more tortoises. However, the great tortoises are endangered.  More and more, these animals which are fit to survive in their natural habitat are not so fit in man’s habitat. A trip to the sunny meadow, if it involves crossing a highway or street, can mean certain squashing death by automobile tire.

In terms of laissez faire my grandfather did a fine job of founding a company in 1929, a company that survives today into a fifth generation.  Grandfather really never saw the day when the company finally succeeded, but his descendants have.  So I guess Grandfather and his progeny have been economically fit.  The small company has survived by cautious expansion and product development as the need arose to survive obsolescence.  I do not believe the company has ever been cutthroat or greedy and yet it has survived where competitors have gone extinct.  True, technology has dramatically reduced the number employed, but the company goes on — providing college and opportunity for others.

I also believe that like tortoise survival, there’s also a lot of plain old luck involved when no powerful competitor comes along to squash the company dead in the road — that and the fact that the company has always, like a good tortoise, maintained its “hide” and stuck to the basics.  Where it was intended to survive on herbs, it has never developed a taste for meat.

So when I think of free enterprise, capitalism and the American way this is the industry I think of.  I do not believe that my grandfather or his descendants were more fit to live than any other person born of woman. Nor do I think their calling in life was particularly more worthy than teaching, social working, policing, fire fighting or writing poetry — unless, of course, worth is solely a matter of material success.

I know that the name of Robert Reich , means ultra-liberal to many, especially since he comes from UC-Berkeley.  And yet, the link attached needs to be consulted.  In short I might be persuaded that millionaires are the “the naturally selected agents of society,” and as such even the vaunted Job Creators who are selected “for certain work” to be done.”

But why then is the Tortoise still worried that without a decent social safety net in the public interest, good old capitalism will run amuck again as it just did in the last twenty years.  And the lower species will wind up with another bail out — AGAIN.  Tortoise fears the human species will sink into its same old habits and make more tortoise soup from an endangered species, i.e. the middle class taxpayer.  Once more, they might forget the wealth entrusted to them.

I believe that Warren Buffett creates new jobs, because I have seen evidence.  If I could really see more of it, and hear fewer excuses like overmuch regulation and taxes, I might believe again. Maybe I need to visit China to see those jobs. The Tortoise wants value-added capitalism that creates good jobs at home, not just another low-paying service wage. Right now Tortoise knows that she and the millionaires don’t share the same habitat. She wonders if they even value hers.

Steadfast and cautious,

David Milliken

Facebook Twitter Email

Social Darwinism, Alive and Well in Election 2012

The Tortoise in his plodding way set out to understand liberalism and laissez faire. But Tortoise, slow and steady, steadfast and cautious, got very angry when he read that “In nature, survival of the fittest is the rule [at least according to Herbert Spencer, 1802-1903 in The Gospel of Social Darwinism]. Well, this he could accept, but he could not tolerate that “the weak and the effete make way for the strong and the swift.” That was it for Tortoise who knows a lot about survival, the strong and the swift. “Why,” he asked, ”do the strong and the swift have any better claim in the pursuit of happiness than the slow and the steady, the prudent and the deliberate? What’s the big deal about muscles and speed, especially if most of them are on steroids?  Does everyone have to win a frickin’ bowl game to be worth a damn? Why with some luck a tortoise can live 100 years!”

Tortoise, my friends, is furious. Any way this is what Herbert Spencer thought in the late 19th Century and things haven’t changed much. We all know who’s expendable, don’t we, Mr. Job Creator.

R. Strinivasan has written a superb paper on “Liberalism.”  The article or Position Paper–16, appears at Indian Liberals(Group) in Vol.2.  For those who have ever cared about such things as the evolution of liberalism from the 16th Century to the present, this is a readable article and mercifully short. This matters, friends, this matters. Liberalism isn’t socialism. The article clarifies why today’s American Conservatives are really 19th Century Liberals.

But more important, although the American election is not Strinivasan’s subject, his scholarship provides an historical perspective for the 2012 Debate in the U.S. — currently playing out in our mindless, Media circus. If you want to take the extra time in this paper, you can also appreciate the differences in British, French, German and American liberalism. In each nation the philosophy grew out of the unique experiences of these peoples.  From other reading(Edmund Burke), I know that the French Revolution and Robespierre, for example, gave the French a strong desire for a strong state. Watching that revolution from across the English Channel profoundly affected the British way.

Read this paper and you will understand how much demagoguery inundates us this political season. A plague on all thelr houses!

Here’s one last quote from the paper. Read “Liberal” as “Job Creator:”

Apart from this, there was an unfeeling attitude to the problems of the proletariat. The British economists were impressed by laws which they held to be immutable. Malthus was to argue of the impossibility of improving the lot of the poor – they tend to have an excessive birth rate. The subsistence theory of wages argued that the wage tends to be at a level which would allow the labour to exist and perpetuate itself without increase or decrease of their numbers. Any legislation which would augment the wage of the labour will result in a population increase which would offset the gain and poverty would continue. Also, increase in wages would eat into profits, reduce investment into production, increase unemployment and perpetuate misery. Nassau Senior advocated a view that legislation to shorten the hours of labour would militate against the profits; for profits are made only in the last hour of the working day. If one were to shorten the working hours, it would lead to the closing of the factories and mines. He was dubbed as ‘Last Hour Senior’. The Liberals were described as creating a science for wealth rather than a science of wealth.”

Steadfast and cautious,

for The Tortoise

David Milliken

 

Facebook Twitter Email

Democratic and Republican Attitudes

 

Perhaps the reason there’s so little  comity in Congress stems from the basic similarity of Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee share only a need for re-election. The problem is that we really have a Congressional stew of governmentalists, libertarians, social democrats, tories, whigs, independents and know-nothings — strains we’ve had since the Founding.   We probably need a total re-alignment, if it were not for the fact that we need moderate Democrats to counsel the ultra-left.  And there are no moderate Republicans.  Everyone is  trying to make a two-party process work because we can’t have a six party system.  Because we’d never get a majority. pretend we have two. And everyone,  for the American people which is also equally splintered, emains that Democrats  and Republicans dabble in each other’s territory.  (Where are you Nelson Rockefeller when we need you?  We could sure use a little Clintonesque triangulation, you know?) Everyone is compromised despite his or her dogma. No one is purely anything except scared as hell of a second  Great Depression.

There may be value in looking at the seemingly simple to understand or remind ourselves what the two national parties represent.  Ostensibly the GOP represents the forces of free market capitalism, though the Republicans frequently compromise “free market.”  They have no problem profiting from huge government contracts, especially military — nor do Democrats.  Neither camp has a problem with stable, conservative investment havens  in public utilities.  There have been few better uses of public capital than turnpikes and the inter-state highway system.  It was a win-win for everyone except the small towns that died.   Most likely an infrastructure bill will be the next bogeyman for partisan bashing.

In capitalism jobs and workers are  instrumentalities.  Good, solid productive  jobs take time.  This is a real burden for Republican candidates. Jobs develop after land, capital, product/service and market are “firmed up.”  Certainly, Republicans are human beings with families to support; it’s just that slow development doesn’t sell well to voters.  That’s why “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!” sounds odd on Republican lips.  They would more sincerely chant “Profit, Profit, Profit!” because that’s the nature of capitalism.  Jobs will come in time — or not.

Many small enterprises never get to the point of hiring help because profit never materializes; again, a fact.  Enterprises frequently die first.  So, we should never ever forget that net gain and profit must come first in business. Always. It’s a law.   Period.  Being passionate about business makes a business person seem “cold” and “calculating.” Must likely it’s only worry and caution because some entrepreneur has hocked his house. Hence, the Republican Party must thrive in the same culture.  It’s hard to hurry up and build a factory for jobs needed yesterday.  It’s impossible to be honest with the electorate about business realities.  Hard to talk this way in public.

Many Democrats are capitalists, too.  Democrats can make a profit.  So can a Frenchman or a Swede. Democrats are far more inclined to see the economic role of wage and salary earners be they public or private.  Democrats have a weakness for soft jobs, often  grant-based ones that die.  Good teachers are productive, but not in a way that appeals to capitalists. Artists are even more marginal — until they make a bundle on a best seller. Teachers and artists are absolutely essential as are doctors, lawyers, dentists, pharmacists and hardware store owners.  For some capitalists, teachers teach because they cannot “do” anything else.

Salaried folks and wage earners are mere necessities — essentially costs — which fall victim to the economic cycles. Ask any contract engineer.   That’s why on occasion, however not recently, the stock market goes up when unemployment rises.  Up to a point unemployment reduces costs and drives higher profits. In the same way business will employ a machine in preference to a human being. (As latter day Luddite, I am dedicated to never using the self-check out.) Businesses  will also go off shore. It’s a business law.

Perhaps this focus also drives Republican politicians who receive their pay and health insurance from tax revenue.  They play the role assigned, but it must seem a little hypocritical to the more empathetic among them.  In the end, even for them, government is a good employer.  They forget that economics looms far larger than business alone.  The worst of them, the anti-government faction, will never understand that government and education cannot be businesses.  Only a part of education and government can be a business.  It’s a law.  Whatever shall we do?  Admit all this and reason together? Yeah, right.

 

Non-partisanship really should come  easily since the business ethic has triumphed in America — perhaps even in the whole world.  Everyone must be a marketer or die. Global capitalism is alive, just ailing a little.

David Milliken

Facebook Twitter Email