Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Free Your Market and the Asses Will Follow

Back in the day so long ago it wasn't considered old-fashioned to say "back in the day," I was quite a student (both grammar school and high school valedictorian, if you must know). Even then there was one type of test that tended to give me fits--the true/false exam. Now I realize that just means I developed a sense of nuance early in life, and realized how often either/or thinking isn't thinking at all. Indeed, many such questions fail to ask the right question in the first place, such as the classic "have you stopped beating your wife--yes or no?" It's not just over-simplification or bullying; it's often a way to avoid the matter we should most discuss. Just think about the "if you don't support President Bush then you don't support the troops" folks as a recent blatant example that hopes to make it impossible for you to even question the endless, unwinnable quagmire we're in*.

Just recently we have two more examples of either/or insanity, one Santa Barbara local, one global. Over at Sara de la Guerra's place people have got into a huge tizzy about Paseo Chapala and downtown development. In the longish comment thread we get to twice hear from someone billing himself "Hiram Johnson," and who ends his first post with, "Let the market decide what kind of growth and where. Anything but letting the market decide is socialism! Either you're a free marketeer or your [sic] a socialist stooge."

Now, how someone posting as Hiram Johnson--who as a republican senator voted for FDR's New Deal (until he tried to pack the Supreme Court)--can then dump on any government intervention is puzzling, to say the least. His language, of course, is telling--you can be a marketeer, which sounds fun and fuzzy and close to Mouseketeer (who wouldn't want to be Annette Funicello? let's ignore the more recent crop, though, ok, Britney?) while everyone else gets to be a stooge.

It's particularly striking he sets up an unbending dichotomy between two things that economists argue can't really exist in their pure states anyway. Is theoretical socialism what happened in the USSR or China? Does the U.S. have a truly free market economy? So if we're already playing games with continuums, how are we supposed to line up on one side or the other?

Of course when it comes to lining up one one side or another, you can't beat the centuries of experience the Catholic Church brings to the table. From Reuters we learn:

The Vatican on Wednesday condemned the film The Golden Compass, which some have called anti-Christian, saying it promotes a cold and hopeless world without God.

Perhaps it's just me, but any film starring Eva Green (she's hot enough I can link to a SFW photo and you'll still get the point) makes a good argument there has to be a higher power, but I can see why the Vatican might not agree (she's not a young boy). Snark aside, it drives me nuts when the Church thinks it should tell all its people not to see something. Is the Catholic Church that weak that one viewing of a film will tear it down? So much for faith like a rock.

Reuters goes on to say:

The U.S.-based Catholic League [ed. note--you knew William A. Donohue would be hot on this one, didn't you?], a conservative group, has urged Christians not to see the movie, saying that its objective was "to bash Christianity and promote atheism" to children.

Must be some film if it can turn children into atheists in two hours (it took years of Catholic school to make me one). But for the "either you don't ever see this film OR you're a good Catholic" group, that's exactly how it works. The article also claims:

Still, some Catholic groups in the United States have called for a boycott, fearing even a diluted version of the book might draw people to read the bestselling trilogy.

Horrors! People might read!

Why is thought so frightening to these folks? Don't they want their ideas tested, faith challenged and made strong? If I remember my Bible even Christ had his moments of doubt in Gethsemane, and if the son of God himself can question, lords know us sinners deserve a bit of slack.

Perhaps we need to cut the church some slack, though. The article says, "The Vatican newspaper called the movie 'the most anti-Christmas film possible,'" which shows they just don't get out enough. This very December 25 Pope Ratzky-Watzky and his Kollege of Kardinals could hit the local Rome megaplex to see Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem being sold with the tagline "This Christmas there will be no peace on Earth." If that's not enough for them, there's two Black Christmas films to chose from on DVD, with the 2006 version offering burnt body, inbreeding, disfigurement, eye-gouging, blood-splatter, and more (it's quite a list of plot--haha--keywords at IMDB). Of course that sort of sounds like a good day at the Crusades, so the Catholic Church might not have any problems with it.

*The escalation might have helped us do better militarily, but Iraq is no closer to being a stable political entity, so don't tell me we're winning. OK?

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Blogger Marty said...

On the other hand, the Vatican's statement that it's "'the most anti-Christmas film possible,'" + either/or thinking = Porn makes a better stocking stuffer.

11:22 PM  
Blogger Rickey Henderson said...

Black Christmas sounds awesome. You think IMDB ever used a "statutory rape" tag in conjunction with "wreath" before that flick came out?

5:22 AM  
Blogger Trekking Left said...

The "free markets will fix everything" argument really bothers me. I'm all for capitalism, but unfettered free markets leads to companies like Worldcom and Enron (and, um, Cox Cable). Plus, if the right truly believed in free markets, they wouldn't engage in "corporate welfare" by giving no-bid contracts to Halliburtan, Blackwater, and Titan. In New Orleans, for example, there was no free market competition for the rebuilding efforts. If there was, Bush's cronies would have lost hands down.

To your point, a successful free market system certainly has shades of gray.

10:29 AM  
Anonymous hiram johnson said...

Hey, I'm not for unfettered capitalism.

I tamed California's Iron Octopus, afterall!

Simple effective rules, and no simpler than necessary was always my way. When the rules become complicated the Enrons and Worldcoms and Keriks and Blackwaters and on and on grow like fungus in the cracks.

The corporate welfare is disgusting!

The world is split into two types of people, those who reduce others to two-dimensional caricatures, and those who don't, and I'm on neither side of that one. It is George that made an oversimplified reduction of Hiram Johnson.

You want a green environment here? The anxiety class ain't gonna make it happen. They don't want to make it happen, they wanna wank and piss and moan that nobody is making it happen, but not really do it.

The worriers did not make this town happen. Why they think their opinions are important in `preserving it' is their own vainglory. The best way to honor Santa Barbara is to make it way better!

8:38 AM  
Blogger George said...

Hiram, thanks for stopping by. You might want to read your own writing, though, before you say I painted you as reductive. Again I will quote from your comment at BlogaBarbara: "Anything but letting the market decide is socialism! Either you're a free marketeer or your [sic] a socialist stooge."

8:46 AM  
Anonymous hiram johnson said...

Thanks George, oh, at any one moment you can only be in one state of mind, that is quantum mechanics. One great aspect about the hereafter is that gave me time to learn about stuff I was too busy to attend to while alive.

At any moment you are one or the other, a free marketeer or a socialist. Let the free marketer make the decision however!

And we've learned that simple clear rules are better for a free market. Like: you need to get Underwriters' Lab to evaluate your product. The market decided to let UL to that. Unsafe products aren't good for anybody.

Planning by diktat influenced by unimaginative milksops, now that is socialism.

3:32 PM  
Blogger ahab said...

Oh, boy. Excessive regulation caused the Enron fraud? And "[t]he world is split into two types of people," but you're neither type? And let me guess, you can conjure up ponies out of thin air?

Too bad we didn't have even the "Underwriters' Lab" evaluating mortgage lending practices in the Bush years. It could have saved the coming "socialist" taxpayer bailout of your wonderful "free marketers."

5:09 PM  
Anonymous hiram johnson said...

Not excessive regulation, but ineffective regulation. Just throwing regulations at the problem doesn't solve anything.

You need simple clear rules with strict punishment. The lawyers of Enron (like the lawyers of the Southern Pacific) will find every crack and grow mushrooms in it.

This mortgage meltdown is indeed another example. Had we stuck to the simple rule of the local bank officer who makes the loan risking her or his job over a default we'd be in much better shape. But the loan industry started to call loans `products' and the mushroom farmers went wild.

As to left and right: it was the democrats who supported the SP railroad in California, and don't forget, slavery. Ebb and flow happens in both parties, but I still believe: not every Democrat is a horsethief, but every horsethief is a Democrat.

You can substitute `plutocrat monopolist' and `Republican' in that phrase too.

The difference is just one of scale, not one of ethics.

But that is where us Bull Moosers have always come in. Be optimistic! Keep it simple, but no simpler than necessary!

Be a can-do optimist and don't let the effete corps of impudent snobs defeat good old can-do elbow grease! Don't let the plutocrats defeat us either!

9:48 AM  
Blogger ahab said...

Had we stuck to the simple rule of the local bank officer who makes the loan risking her or his job over a default we'd be in much better shape.

You mean like Republicans defeated Bush in '04 over allowing 9/11 and then lying us into Iraq? "Grownup" GOP accountability -- what could be simpler than that?

Only this, apparently: everything bad -- past, present and future -- is "liberal" and Democratic.

4:50 PM  
Blogger regina said...

At the risk of bringing down the intelligence quotient around here, I'm still stuck on this part:

"...I was quite a student (both grammar school and high school valedictorian, if you must know)..."

There are valedictorians in grammar school? [shrug] I'd love to hear that speech.

3:10 PM  

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