Author Archives: mayorseidel

The Economist Wants Socialist Taxes

In the fourth explainer this week, the Economist continues its steady transformation into a socialist magazine. Today, taxes:

MARKETS are supposed to generate a magical state, where nobody could do better without somebody else doing worse. Awkwardly, they often fail. The reason is that those directly involved in a transaction are not the only ones affected by it. A drive into the centre of town, for example, creates congestion for everyone else; a company dumping waste into a river poisons the downstream drinking water; carbon emissions warm everyone’s planet. Economists have a special name for these extra costs: they are “externalities”. Unfettered market prices do not take them into account.

The much-lauded market dumps hidden costs on the people. Nothing new to socialists. So, the Economist, after Arthur Pigou, proposes taxes:

Pigouvian taxes are now central to well-meaning governments’ toolkits. A tax placed on plastic bags in Ireland in 2002 cut their use by more than 90%. Three years after the British government introduced a charge on driving in central London in 2003, congestion had fallen by a quarter. Carbon taxes are currently applied in Finland, Denmark, Chile and Mexico. By using prices as signals, a tax should encourage people and companies to lower their carbon emissions more efficiently than a regulator could by diktat.

The Economist does hedge here, new as it is to socialism. That they see Pigouvian taxes as a superior alternative to regulation, while most socialists would consider both depending on circumstances. But the only thing keeping the Economist from renaming itself the Tax Collector is that they see externality taxes as a technocratic lever for a rational state bureaucracy to pull. They fail to imagine, as socialists do, that such policies have their most potential as a tool the people can wield to build a more just and fair society – after, and not before, they who would be free themselves have struck the blow.

The idea of externalities is elegant in theory. But responding to them involves the real world, which is harder.

The Economist hurls a chair onto the barricade, sweating in the shadow of their young nation’s tricolor waving above the morning fog. The hereditary tyrant’s regulars advance on them through the narrow streets of the capital. The Economist hands their last letter to an urchin, promising a silver coin if the boy delivers their last words to their pregnant widow. “I pray this letter finds you, my love,” it reads. “In this springtime of peoples born in the blood of our sacrifice, the community of nations will rise.”

The regulars loose thunder and advance with bayonets fixed. Struck by a musket ball, the Economist staggers off the barricade, their blood running in rivers between the filthy cobblestones. In their last moments, the Economist mouths the final words of their testament. “The ancient tyrants will fall,” the Economist gasps, as agony gives way to oblivion, “and the triumphant Republic will levy user fees whose marginal effect on individual behavior will trend towards Pareto optimum in the aggregate.”

-Emil

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The Economist Defends Socialist Economic Planning

In today’s explainer, The Economist embraces more socialism. This one is pretty straightforward. It’s Jean-Baptiste Say’s theory that supply creates demand:

Say and his intellectual allies pointed out that people would not go to all the trouble of producing a good or service, unless they intended to obtain something of equal value in return. So each addition to supply is accompanied by an intended addition to demand. Moreover, the act of production creates an additional item of value for which other things can be exchanged. In this way, production creates a fresh “outlet” for existing products (and 17 times as much production creates 17 times as many outlets).

In Milwaukee, the (original) sewer socialists built or brought under public control utilities, parks, housing, and the sanitation system. Rather than crowding out private business, Milwaukee thrived. During the New Deal, an active government managed demand in the public interest – and built a staggering array of public projects Americans still use today. They stop just short of the realization that this is true of many social organizations, not simply national governments, but municipalities, cooperatives, labor unions, and land trusts:

…over the long run Say’s law is largely true. And by increasing the supply of money to meet any excess demand for it, modern central banks can try to make it true in the short run too.

The only thing keeping the Economist from renaming itself the Social Economics Administration is their failure to imagine – as socialists do – demand management being carried out by anyone other than technocratic central bankers who serve the interests of private capital.

The Economist looks directly into the reptile eyes of senseless human misery, which stare back, pitiless, as the beast bears its yellow fangs. The Economist does not flinch, secure in the knowledge of the great truth that can slay the ancient foe: that no human being must go hungry in a land of plenty. Slow but resolute, the  Economist draws a sword on whose blade are carved the words  – the central bank ought to hold the interbank interest rate steady even after concluding the latest round of quantitative easing – just before it is devoured whole by the unsated maw.

-Emil

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The Economist Embraces Socialist Humanism

In the second in a series of explainers in which the Economist (almost) embraces socialism, the newspaper turns to the great humanist question of the soul of man under socialism. They begin by describing Gary Becker’s theory of human capital:

Companies talk of investing in factories, governments in infrastructure, and people in houses. But there is a softer, less tangible focus of investment that, in many cases, is more important: knowledge and skills. Companies try to cultivate these in their workforces, governments in their populations, and people in themselves.

The means of production are not simply the roads and rails, the farms and cities, the offices and shops. The means of production are embedded within the mind and muscle of the workers themselves – without which, not a single wheel can turn.

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The Economist Explains Why Socialism Works

In a surprise twist, the Economist is now a socialist magazine. In the first of a series of explainers this week, the Economist asks, and explains: why do firms exist? They outline a simple typology of two different kinds of economic transactions – spot transactions and contracts:

Most transactions take place in spot markets. They are well suited to simple, low-value transactions, such as buying a newspaper or taking a taxi. And they are governed by market forces, as lots of buyers bargain over the price of similar goods. Things become trickier for goods or services that are not standardised. Parties to a transaction are then required to make commitments to each other that are costly to reverse.

Those commitments, formalized as long-term contracts, cannot be regulated by free markets and require economic planning organizations to oversee.

In a 2010 treatment of the same topic, Schumpeter (perhaps considering a name change to Polyani or Kautsky) began with a simple question:

“Why do firms exist? Why isn’t everything done by the market?”

The Economist …. welcome to the #Resistance.

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The Future that Liberals Want is Socialism

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This is a glimpse of the future liberals want – but it’s going to take socialism to get there.

It’s not every day that the fascists accidentally make a strong case for your values. It’s not every day, either, that they – also quite by accident – pierce one of the most insidious of our American lies.

We tell ourselves a lie in the USA. Not the only lie, not the biggest lie, not even the most interesting lie – but it’s a lie we tell ourselves over and over again. We tell the lie so much that we think we’re the only ones who don’t believe it. We whisper to one another that, yes, you and I don’t believe the lie. But everyone else does, they’ll never believe us, they’ll think we’re crazy, better keep telling the lie.

The lie is this: that freedom can’t be shared. That freedom is selfish, alone, individualist.

Yesterday, the cave-dwelling reactionary hive mind, let’s call him Hentai Pepe (don’t google it). He said the lie in such a blatantly obvious way that the sheer force of our contempt pierced the bubble, and the lie collapsed before us. Hentai Pepe didn’t know what he was doing – he actually does believe the lie – but he took a break from photoshopping cartoon ponies doing the Hitlergrüß and posted an image that destroyed it.

The image was a photograph of two culturally distinctive women sitting next to each other on a subway train. Hentai Pepe’s keys clacked to life, agitating the ant colony that lives in his sticky keyboard. “This is the future,” he sputtered – flecks of mustard and mechanically separated meats spraying through the air to feed the unwitting symbiotes below – “that liberals want.”

Predictably, it became a hilarious meme. The future liberals want will be chaos. Red and green Power Rangers sitting next to each other. Harambe lying down with Cecil the Lion. Dogs and cats sharing a litter box. Pandemonium. Anarchy. Who will defend the West from people with different cultural identities sitting next to each other? “Nobody!” yelled everyone else, all at once. “There is nothing wrong with this at all!”

The meme makers were piercing a great American lie. One of the people depicted in the photo is a drag queen named Gilda Wabbit, who summarized why she thought the image struck such a chord. It’s simple – the photograph depicts freedom:

 

I’d like to see a future where it isn’t a big deal for a woman in full modesty garb to sit next to a drag queen in NYC. It’s become a bit of a sensation, but her and I were just existing. The freedom to simply be yourself in a sea of people who aren’t like you is a freedom we all deserve.

This doesn’t fit the lie. These two women are sitting next to one another on public transportation in a big city. If they were free (says the lie) they would be far away from one another, living in their own individual houses, driving their own individual cars, spending time with their own individual possessions. They would surround themselves with other individuals who were just like them, and conform. This, says the lie, is freedom. But the collective, subsidized, public transportation system these women share lets them be themselves in a sea of people, separated by eighteen inches.

This has been framed as a “liberal” cause, since Hentai Pepe used the word “liberal” just before emptying week-old bong water into his pet tarantula’s water dish. It’s true that liberals aspire to support this kind of freedom. But liberals still think they’re the only ones who don’t believe the voice in the back of their head that whispers the lie. “Freedom can’t be shared,” it lies, “the people sharing it wouldn’t be free.” They don’t quite believe this, but they think they’re alone. “Freedom can’t join a union,” it lies, “the bosses wouldn’t be free.” This lie makes some sense to them. Aren’t unions for old white guys in factories? Sensing doubt, the voice whispers again: “Freedom can’t educate poor children,” it lies, “the rich children wouldn’t be free.” Yes, they think, public schools aren’t very good. The voice whispers once more: “Freedom can’t have government healthcare,” it lies, “the patients wouldn’t be free.” And again: “freedom can’t pay higher taxes,” it lies, “the taxpayers wouldn’t be free.” This isn’t true, think the liberals. They know it’s a lie. But there are so many lies. How could there be so many lies if people don’t believe them? Isn’t it just easier just to go along and pretend?

Here is the great truth of socialism – democratic socialism, not the tyrannies of the twentieth century that called themselves socialist – socialism is the belief in freedom in a complex society. In a complex society, some people must at some times tell some others what to do. This is unavoidable – the only question is whether or not they reflect and reinforce oppressive social relationships. If they do, the only way to be a “rugged individualist” is to be the boss, the cop, or the crime lord. Conservatives and reactionaries embrace this, and side with bosses over workers and cops over communities, while liberals split the difference.

Real freedom takes socialism. To free our minds from backwardness, we need education. To free our bodies from illness, we need healthcare. To free ourselves from financial insecurity we need income. Conservatives and reactionaries want to send the rich children to the good schools and the poor children to the bad schools, and they call it “freedom.” Liberals listened to the lie and focused on getting a few poor children into the rich schools. Conservatives and reactionaries want to give the best healthcare to rich people and let insurance companies profit off the mediocre coverage they give working people, and they call it “freedom.” Liberals listened to the lie and focused on getting a few more working people into the mediocre coverage. Conservatives and reactionaries want bosses to make big profits and save money by paying their workers less, and they call it “freedom.” Liberals listened to the lie and focused on tax credits. Liberals want real freedom, but they’ve listened to the lies too much.The future liberals want is a future that will take socialists to build.

Socialists are liberals who stopped believing the lies. Socialists want all children to have a good, public education, so that they can all be free. Socialists want all people to have good, public healthcare, so that they can all be free. Socialists want all people to have good, public transportation, so that they can all be free. Sewer socialists are the nerds on the team who are interested in how best to run the trains, but for most people, here’s the story of the future socialists want: everyone, no matter their class, race, gender, or creed is free to sit down between a niqabi and a drag queen, and be themselves in a sea of people.

-Emil

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