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February 26, 2011

Comments

Ok, first of all, jury nulification isn't "breaking the rules", which is why judges, no matter how much they'd like to, don't get to jail or otherwise punish jurors who nulify. It's simply an aspect of the rules which judges hate to acknowledge, because it implies that THEY might occasionally do things that need to be countered. Jury nulification is why juries exist. All the classic cases that are pointed to as justifications for jury trials, they were cases of nulification. William Penn? Guilty as hell.

Second, sure, I distinguish between cases where violating the rules is justified, and cases where it isn't. Trying to undo the outcome of an election, shutting down the government because your party doesn't run it? Doesn't qualify. Well, not as anything but being sore losers...

Oh, and Phil? "Bush tax cuts"? How infantile...

It seems that libertarianism, at least in the anglo-saxon political debate, is often confused with or rather reduced to minarchism, leaving us with a false dichotomoy.

Brett, after I've taken Phil (gently, I hope) to task, "How infantile" is probably not the best way to get this discussion back on point.

Just pointing out that "Obamacare" is no more childish than "Bush tax cuts".

Just pointing out that "Obamacare" is no more childish than "Bush tax cuts".

False equivalence-- "Obamacare" is the sort of childish coining invented by frustrated right wings because they thought it sounded cute, like Rush chanting "feminazis" and the like. Of course it goes to a greater social/moral/culture problem within the right regarding namecalling and a general culture of immaturity and childishness, borne of frustration.

But that's neither here nor there. The greater point is that there are certain personal, moral, and spiritual consequences to police who are being asked to participate in some kind of violent crackdown on the protesters at the behest of Gov. Walker. Wanting to avoid those consequences is probably the best move for most of those individual police officers, as the consequences of following unjust orders could dog them for the rest of their lives (or even eternity, if you believe in that kind of thing).

Unfortunately, Gov. Walker is in a position where the public simply doesn't recognize him or his ideas as legitimate. The consent of the governed doesn't just happen once; it is ongoing. You can't betray your own stakeholders, as Gov. Walker has done, because ultimately he depends on public sector workers of all kinds to implement his agenda-- by lying to them, betraying them, and threatening violence against them, he has forced them into a corner just when he depends on them.

False equivalence-

Possibly, but the "sounded cute" is purely projective.

Let's just go with that the Bush tax cuts were Bush's idea, and the Obama healthcare plan was Obama's, shall we?

Unless someone wants to dispute either of those.

"But that's neither here nor there. The greater point is that there are certain personal, moral, and spiritual consequences to police who are being asked to participate in some kind of violent crackdown on the protesters at the behest of Gov. Walker."

There is not a shred of evidence that the police are being asked to participate in ANY kind of violent crackdown on anyone.

Quite the contrary.

They haven't arrested anyone as far as I have been able to find. Despite the expectations of the protestors as noted in my earlier comment.

Look, government is an incredibly dangerous institution. It's capable of genocide, of ruining a society, of horrific evils. It's capable of horribly messing things up even out of benign motives.

IMVHO, you are mistaking government for the general human condition.

Are you under the impression that these things do not happen in contexts where either the scope or size of government is extremely limited?

russell, I think the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century have shown quite clearly that such things are more likely to happen on a large scale when governments have more or less unlimited power and control every aspect of society. So yes, limiting the scope and size of government is generally a good thing. The question is of course how far we want to go with this and how to counterbalance the ever increasing power of non-state actors like the financial sector and multinational corporations.

I think that core of Obamacare was Mitt Romney's idea.

Trying to undo the outcome of an election, shutting down the government because your party doesn't run it?

Yes, that's why the Democrats left the state - simply because the Republicans won. It's not like there's a very specific and troublesome issue at hand, just the general idea that the Republicans have a majority in the state legislature and there's a Republican governor. That's all.

And with all their rule-breaking, I guess they'll be subject to arrest or some sort of penalty when they come back to Wisconson right?

Trying to undo the outcome of an election, shutting down the government because your party doesn't run it?

Sometimes this is the moral thing to do. You deny this under ALL circumstances? I truly doubt that.

When tea party types speak glibly about 2nd amendment remedies and watering Liberty's tree with somebody's blood, I don't get all that excited about the imputed violence and "disrespect" for government. I get excited because they are absolutely on the wrong side of real liberty, equality, and fraternity.

Look, government is an incredibly dangerous institution. It's capable of genocide, of ruining a society, of horrific evils. It's capable of horribly messing things up even out of benign motives.

All of this is forgiven if said government is democratically elected, right?

That you cannot tell the difference reveals everything that's wrong in your head and your soul.
Phil, perhaps you could turn it down a notch on Brett, please?

I don't have time to mediate between you guys, but I actually think you're both saying things that have legitimate points, and I'll say that Brett is right about government being a dangerous institution, that CT is right that it can do great good, that while politics and government are not the same thing, they overlap inextricably, that Gaddafi is as worth shooting as anyone is, if we believe in shooting people, which I basically don't save in self defense (I'm not going down the road of discussing where the line is, here and now, thanks), that Brett takes, in my view -- and forgive me, please, Brett, for using some rather inappropriate psychological terms here, which I mean more metaphorically than literally -- a somewhat austic "rules lawyer" approach to the Constitution, which is the whole basis of Strict Constructionism, which is more or less the idea that because, maybe, the folks in the late 1700s had one idea, that we're limited to as literal interpretation as possible -- and my own reading of history is that this wasn't, for the most part, what they had in mind, which was a flexible document, but this is the whole difference of political philosophy and judicial philosophy between taking a liberal view of the document and its history, and a constructionist one -- and that, in short, you're all making, actually, some quite reasonable points, if you listen to the other person's view more carefully and charitably, and look for the possible agreements, rather than the ways to disagree, something to which we're all prone, and which I certainly do, because it's easiest, as I was just saying to Marty, so, in the end, gentlemen, a bit more conversation, please, and a bit less accusation, and a lot fewer claims to be able to look into the hearts and souls of others, please?

Thanks. Think Of What Hilzoy Would Say. :-)

I would still like to know how Brett in particular feels about the Sanctity of Contracts in relation to The Rule of Law.

He's big on The Rule of Law when it comes to protests, but I get no sense that he sees any problem with The Government of a state reneging on contracts that unions made with The Government of that state in the past. It's as if "we're broke" and "elections have consequences" are perfectly adequate arguments against the Sanctity of Contracts -- the one pillar of The Rule of Law which I would have thought No True Libertarian would ever deny.

When a freshly-elected government asserts that it is not bound by the contracts made under its predecessor government "because we're broke", that's not adherence to The Rule of Law in my book. Maybe not in Brett's either, but I wish he'd take a clear stand on that particular point.

--TP

I would still like to know how Brett in particular feels about the Sanctity of Contracts in relation to The Rule of Law.

TP: I think this is a very good question. I thought Walker was not planning on reneging on contracts. That's why he was upset when the Dems tried to lame duck in new contracts only to be betrayed by the Senate President (aside: lj, sheds some new light on the Republican "vote issue" no?). Those contracts would have gone until June. I guess right now most state workers are out of contract? I don't know about locals.

In scanning SB11, it looks to me like the new provisions go into effect as soon as the previous CBA is out:

[various changes and new provisions]of the statutes first apply to employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement under subchapter V of chapter 111 of the statutes that contains provisions inconsistent with those sections on the day on which the agreement expires or is terminated, extended, modified, or renewed, whichever occurs first.

So I don't think there is an issue of violating the Sanctity of Contracts here.

General comment:

I though Walker did a good job of defending his position on Meet the Press, especially the charge that collective bargaining won't affect the budget and countering the argument that the "unions" had offered to meet the pay cuts. He pointed out that the "unions" did not include those in municipalities and that the local unions have in fact been trying to rush through contracts that do not include those pay cuts.

And, Gary, are you supportive of an occupation of the U.S. Capitol? I mean, shoot, those TSA employess can't bargain for wages or benefits. Only awards and shift bids, for heaven's sake. Serious human rights violations going on there.

Ok, first of all, jury nulification isn't "breaking the rules", which is why judges, no matter how much they'd like to, don't get to jail or otherwise punish jurors who nulify. It's simply an aspect of the rules which judges hate to acknowledge, because it implies that THEY might occasionally do things that need to be countered.
Brett, you're begging the question. Jury nullification. Your personal ideas, and those of people who agree with you, do not trump actual descriptivism, just as mine do not, no matter that this often makes us cranky when the world does not agree with our own beliefs.

Back in reality, the facts are that the legal record is mixed, and this is an unsettled question.

Anyone who asserts otherwise is asserting their personal preference for what the law should say, in their view, over what the law does actually say, which is that, in practice, it all depends on which judge you're in front of, in which jurisdiction.

Notice I haven't stated my own opinion. It's irrelevant to the question of what happens in a courtroom, and what the current state of law is in regard to jury nullification in the United States.

This is a general tic of yours: the law isn't what judges say, it's what you say. The law isn't what the Supreme Court says, it's what you say. The law isn't what Congress says, it's what you say. The law isn't what the President says, it's what you say.

And all the people who agree with you are right, and that proves it.

Of course it goes to a greater social/moral/culture problem within the right regarding namecalling and a general culture of immaturity and childishness, borne of frustration.
I'm sorry, but the idea that any grouping of people is magically free of namecalling is simply ridiculous. This thread, and all political blogs refute the notion.

Namecalling is simply a human trait.

An unhelpful one, but common among any grouping of people. Ridicule is common. Asserting that other people are The Other is common. Dehumanizing people by making them The Other is common.

Every "side" does these things.

No "side" is immune.

"Sides" are made up of individuals. "Sides" are not homogenous. Q.E.Fragging.D.

Russell to Brett:

Look, government is an incredibly dangerous institution. It's capable of genocide, of ruining a society, of horrific evils. It's capable of horribly messing things up even out of benign motives.

IMVHO, you are mistaking government for the general human condition.

I'm going to agree with Brett on this. I don't see anything wrong with his statement. It's true of the most evil governments.

That we have vastly more benign governments is also true. There's no contradiction between these views. Simply put, governments vary widely.

Mao's government was not Sweden's is not [Godwin]'s was not the Tsar's is not America of 1800 is not America of 2011 is not Zimbabwe's is not the Roman Republic's was not the Roman Empire's, and onwards upwards backwards and forward.

Government has force of law. That is indeed powerful, and powerful or not as the people allow it to be, or the government uses its power to help force the people to allow it to be.

These are neutral facts, in my view, and irrelevant to the goodness or badness of any particular form of government or iteration of government.

Brett used the word "capable." I don't see how that's deniable.

When Brett is on a tear about how the government must be oppressive, he's wrong. When he says it can be, he's right.

Just my two cents. Thanks!

;-)

I think that core of Obamacare was Mitt Romney's idea.
I'd say that's a quite fair statement. Mass. Gov. Romney's health care plan says everyone pays.

Flashback with me to 7/4/2005:

You have to buy car insurance if you own a car. You have to buy home insurance to get a mortgage. Why don't you have to buy health insurance?

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney re-ignited that debate last month when he announced a plan to expand health coverage to all the state's residents, with a caveat that those who don't buy coverage could face a penalty.

"We can't have as a nation 40 million people — or, in my state, half a million — saying, 'I don't have insurance, and if I get sick, I want someone else to pay,' " says Romney, a Republican who says he might run for president in 2008.

It's the question behind all health care debates: Who should pay?

Romney's plan says everyone should: The state would work harder to enroll all residents eligible for Medicaid; employers, most of whom already offer insurance, would be encouraged to continue doing so voluntarily; and individuals who don't have insurance would have to sign on to one of two new insurance pools, one of which would be subsidized for lower-income residents.

Failing to sign up could lead to a loss of a personal tax exemption or garnishment of wages.

This seems familiar, doesn't it?

novakant:

[...] So yes, limiting the scope and size of government is generally a good thing. The question is of course how far we want to go with this and how to counterbalance the ever increasing power of non-state actors like the financial sector and multinational corporations.
I agree entirely.

And, Gary, are you supportive of an occupation of the U.S. Capitol?
Depends.
Think Of What Hilzoy Would Say. :-)

You could think of my intervention between Phil and Brett, here, as a mostly failed attempt to minimize what I imagine to be hilzoy's disappointment in our net behavior.

WWHS is something I try to keep in mind. But not being hilzoy, and almost completely lacking her flair for the diplomatic, I fail horribly.

"This seems familiar, doesn't it?"

Yes, it does, and it should tell you why the idea of Romeny as a Republican candidate for President probably enthuses more Democrats than Republicans. It's got less to do with Mormonism than stuff like ... Romnycare.

None the less, there is a critical difference: At the state level, this is bad policy. At the federal level, it's bad policy, AND unconstitutional. States can do things, constitutionally, that the federal government can't. That's basic to our system of "federalism", for all that federal officeholders are desperate to undo this basic feature of our form of government.

"When Brett is on a tear about how the government must be oppressive, he's wrong. When he says it can be, he's right."

Government can be oppressive on the level of Pol Pot, or worse. Government must be oppressive on the level of, at least, Sweden, or maybe slightly less. Failing to acknowledge the degree to which, yes, Sweden, is oppressive, enables higher degrees of oppression. It delays the pushback which is really the only thing keeping government from reaching higher levels of oppression. And, yes, even Sweden would be worse, if there weren't a substantial number of Swedes who regard their government as oppressive, and push back against it.

"This is a general tic of yours: the law isn't what judges say, it's what you say. The law isn't what the Supreme Court says, it's what you say. The law isn't what Congress says, it's what you say. The law isn't what the President says, it's what you say."

Rather, the law is what it is, and judges, Justices, Congress, the President, are all as capable of being wrong as I. They're as capable of exhibiting bad faith as I. When they say the Constitution means one thing, and my lying eyes and basic grammar say it means another, they will roll over me like a Sherman tank over a bug, but they'll roll over a bug observing that they're full of it.

But, in a country where the public legitimatcy of the government, as much as many liberals are annoyed by it, rests on that Constitution, it's a serious problem when a lot of people can read the Constitution, and see that the government isn't obeying it. And complaining that we ought to desist from reading it, and leave that to government employees, don't really do much to help the problem.

Hey bc,
(aside: lj, sheds some new light on the Republican "vote issue" no?

Sorry, real life has been kicking my butt and taking my name, so I'm not sure what you are referencing here. The lame duck thing, I think I understand, but the "betrayed by the Senate President", I'm not sure. So if you could toss some of your thoughts and/or some links, that would be helpful, but I'm in transit, so I'm not sure if I will be able to respond, so if you'd rather not, no worries.

I have written a post about a thought I had that was prompted from the open thread (nothing to do with Wisconsin), and I'm trying the scheduled post thing, so it may look like I am here, but I'm really not.

States can do things, constitutionally, that the federal government can't.

So, then, given an instance in which there's a law on the books under which the federal government attempts to do something which is not a delegated power and is reserved to the states -- let's, for the sake of argument, call it the Defense of Marriage Act -- what is the obligation of the US Department of Justice in regards to that law when it is challenged in US district and circuit courts?

I'm laying very, very good odds that you're about to give a different answer than you did a week ago.

At the state level, this is bad policy. At the federal level, it's bad policy, AND unconstitutional.

This is what we call "proof by vigorous assertion." I'd throw in something about it being "socialism", too.

Government must be oppressive on the level of, at least, Sweden, or maybe slightly less. Failing to acknowledge the degree to which, yes, Sweden, is oppressive, enables higher degrees of oppression. It delays the pushback which is really the only thing keeping government from reaching higher levels of oppression.

So it's a good thing that they're pushing back against government oppression of workers in Wisconsin? And it's a good thing that the police have decided not to oppress the protestors?

I think you need to be a bit more specific about what you think constitutes oppression, Brett, if you think that government is inherently oppressive to some degree. Is it about taxation, at the very least? Do you weigh the takings and restrictions by government against the good it provides and the evils of anarchy it prevents?

lj:

Hey bc,
(aside: lj, sheds some new light on the Republican "vote issue" no?

Basics here. . Apparently the lame duck session was only the second in Wisconsin history and the first in 36 years. The Dems had to get an independent who caucuses with them out of jail (reportedly his 4th DUI). Nice, huh? The special session was approved on December 14th, went in on the 16th after some reportedly secretive negotiations between the outgoing governor and the unions. The contracts were in fact released just the Friday before. Note that 30 public employees were roaming the halls trying to get the contracts passed.

Also note Walker's reference to abolishing public employee unions the month prior(November?). No secret that he was going to do do something that affected public unions.

So the context is this: Outgoing Dems try to ram through contracts affecting 2009-2011 in a lame duck session virtually unheard of in Wisconsin. They wait until everyone is about to go on vacation, only get the contracts out days before approving the lame duck session, and are only thwarted in their plan by a Senate President who has a conscience.

THEN the rest happens.

Ur, Brett, sorry to beat up on you here, though it truly isn't my intention - but exactly how is Sweden a "repressive" government? It seems that the thread of this logic dictates that any government anywhere is repressive, at least incipiently so; and that it seeks to be unless either yahoos with guns, or lackey governors who lick moneyed boots, are deployed to stop it.

This is ludicrous. The notion that a state governor is going to rescue his/her citizens from government only makes sense if you convince yourself that somehow, state government constitutes somehow lesser or even no government, or that the overreach of such a governor isn't really overreach - which too-numerous examples in our history betray.

Sweden has hardly a perfect government, but its citizens actually believe in a concept of good governance which I don't see being expressed, when satisfaction is less than met, by concealed weapons, musings on when the leader of their country is going to be assassinated, or betrayal of public pledges by elected officials.

By contrast, we somehow have convinced ourselves that the corrosion of moneyed interests isn't in itself a form of oppression, or that corporate diktats on government don't amount to a greater threat against freedom because they're unaccountable.

There's a reason why our concept of government isn't such a hot model in most advanced countries. It's because it's incomprehensible. An elected official liberating people from government? This is just idiotic, because he is the government. He wields governmental power, however localized; he is acting not from a mandate of most of his state's citizens, but from the whims of moneyed interests that have no respect for rank-and-file voters, and appear to come from outside the state; and his defiance of the protesters comes across as only a toned-down, slightly more honey-voiced version of Gaddafi (or however you spell his frigging name) on his rampart.

So please. If someone like Scott Walker is your government dragon slayer, you're setting the bar pathetically low.

I don't see anything wrong with his statement. It's true of the most evil governments.

It's true of the most evil human institutions of every kind. It's even true of lots of human institutions that fall short of the "most evil" mark.

The Catholic Church has, at times, been responsible for the wholesale extermination of thousands upon thousands of people who simply chose to believe something other than Catholic dogma. Clearly, any religious organization has the potential to do the same, and we must therefore require all religious bodies to observe a purely congregational polity.

The various East India companies subjugated vast regions and populations of Asia to bondage, in order to enrich their shareholders. Likewise, the public stock corporations that sponsored and implemented the slave trade and plantation economies of South America, the Caribbean, and the south-east United States. In the latter example, we're talking about tens of millions of people, treated as property and systematically worked to death. Clearly, any publicly traded corporation has the potential to do exactly the same. We must require corporations to be limited in size and scope, and to never do business outside of the country or state in which they are incorporated, so that they can be effectively brought under public control.

I think you see where I'm going with this.

Brett is not just making the obvious and unarguable observation that government is *capable* of acting badly, he is arguing from that obvious point to state this:

I'm in favor of having government do very little.

Which, to me, is a pretty freaking huge leap. To say nothing of the fact that "very little" is not particularly well defined here.

Brett sees Sweden as a tyrranical regime, and insists that our failure to recognize it as such enables the encroachment of greater oppression, presumably both there and here.

So, long story short, I find Brett's position to be overwrought.

Yes, government is capable of great evil. It shares that trait with every single human institution that has ever existed. And, like those institutions, it comes by that trait honestly, by virtue of being composed of humans.

Really the bottom line here is whose side are you on? Bc and Brett seem to be hellbent o n rationalizing policies which have the effect of harming their fellow citizens, people who work, pay taxes, support their families, do all the stuff conservatives are supposed to care about. And why? So far as I can see the justification is 2. ideological or 2. attempts to make the Democratic party out as the villian.


Ideologies are like fundamentalist religion: they provide all the easy answers for people who want to feel intellectally superior without having to actually think. I also have an increasingly short fuse with people who try to impose their ideology on others to the detriment of others from the smug safety of not having to experience the consequences of the application of the ideology themselves. The Koch brothers will never have to suffer themselves for having foisted their Social Darwinism on the rest of us.

Republican rhetoric about limiting government power if mostly just a platitude. The little bit of actual meaning behind the platitude government concerns responsibility; they don't see the government as being responsible to or for anyone but them.

This is evident from the sorts of policies Republican politicians promote: "limiting big government" by supporting polluters, subsidizing the exploitation of federal lands by special interests, and so on. The Republicans of Missouri "limited big goverment" by eviscerating an anit-puppymill initiatve on behalf of puppy millers, one of whom is a Republican state legislator. The calim that Republican are for limiting big government goes back to the days when Republicans were exploiting racims by framing Civil Rights legislation as big government.

One of the intersting aspects of the Republican assualt on uinons is that is shows the limits of divde and conquer as a political technique. Back when unmions were being integrated Repubicans were right there, canvassing for the racist union vote by presennting themselves as the opponents of the big government that was forcing the uinons to integrate. It worked. For a number of years a hunk of union votes started going to the Repubican party. OF course the goal here was to electe Repubicdans,not to pursue any policies that mighht actually be beneficial to the union members or people of the same economic class. It ws exploitatin, jus tlike the pretense of being "pro-family" was a ploy to get votes by demonizing gays, not set of policies that would actually benefit families in any way.

But now that the Republicans have run the federal deficit up enough to move to the next step--bust the unions,turn Social Securty inot a wellfare program and defund it, defund medicaid, "reform" Medicare, defund everything else except the military and red state special interests--the Republican party has to start attacking their own base: the union voters who voted R but are no longer racist and are used to integrated unions, the older people who voted R, the religous people who vogted R but are in either a union or on SS, Medicare or Medicaid, the people who voted R but have relatives or friends in a union or on one of the big three programs...

So the divide and conquer is being reframed as the Repubicans defending the taxpares against...all of us other tax payers, I guess.

It's really time for this divde and conquer crap to stop working.

Brett sees Sweden as a tyrranical regime

I don't think that's justifiable. All Brett is saying, as I see it, is that the government of Sweden is too oppressive for his tastes, in some respects. Just to refresh y'all's collective memories:

Government must be oppressive on the level of, at least, Sweden, or maybe slightly less. Failing to acknowledge the degree to which, yes, Sweden, is oppressive, enables higher degrees of oppression. It delays the pushback which is really the only thing keeping government from reaching higher levels of oppression. And, yes, even Sweden would be worse, if there weren't a substantial number of Swedes who regard their government as oppressive, and push back against it.

Saying a government is too oppressive, in some respects, for your taste is not the same as saying that government should be considered oppressive in some major way. What he's saying is even Sweden can be oppressive.

Probably not in any alarming way, would be my guess.

That's how I read it, anyway. I certainly could be wrong about that, and await Brett's response.

I'm guessing that Brett has something like this relative ranking in mind. Or possibly this.

I don't know enough about Sweden to suspect what might be objectionable.

All Brett is saying, as I see it, is that the government of Sweden is too oppressive for his tastes, in some respects.

My apologies. For "tyrannical" in my comment, please substitute "oppressive".

Brett sees Sweden as an oppressive government, not least because Brett sees *all* government as oppressive. Inherently so.

If it's government, it's oppressive. Ipso facto. That is the Brett Bellmore position.

The floor is open for Brett to correct me if I am wrong on that point.

I'm guessing that Brett has something like this relative ranking in mind. Or possibly this.

I have no idea what specific things Brett has in mind.

Speaking for myself only, I would say that a Heritage Foundation or Fraser Institute ranking of the economic freedom of various nations is an extremely narrow lens for measuring "oppression".

It's not my understanding that the primary purpose of government is to support capitalist enterprise. Nor is it my understanding that a government's support for capitalist enterprise is the most useful or meaningful measure of how oppressive or non-oppressive it is.

Other folks' MMV, obviously.

Look, I'll put a point on this.

Our - the United States of America's - understanding of what the purpose of government is sounds like this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

That is the purpose, the reason for being, of government. As we understand and practice it.

For some people, the "pursuit of happiness" includes being able to bargain collectively for the compensation they will receive for their labor.

There's nothing in the freaking Constitution that excludes that. Nothing that speaks for it, or against it. Nothing.

Walker wants to take that privilege away. Folks who value it object, and are assembling, peaceably, to express their objection.

Brett objects because they are not confining their assembly to only those places and times allowed by "the rules".

That is known as an act of non-violent civil disobedience, and it also has an extremely long and valuable heritage in our political and social tradition.

Walker wants to remove the privilege of collective bargaining. Folks who hold that privilege don't want to give it up, and are expressing their objection. Because it's part of their particular path to pursuing their own personal happiness.

That is what is going on here. Nothing more and nothing less.

Current situation :
about fifty protestors overnighted in Statehouse

All but a handful complied with requests to move to a particular area.

The handful apparently refuses to leave the floor of the rotunda

No more protestors will be allowed into the Statehouse until the holdouts comply with requests to move.

(local reporting by local television station NBC15, Madison

Bc and Brett seem to be hellbent o n rationalizing policies which have the effect of harming their fellow citizens, . . .

Wow. "Hellbent?" No, I have repeatedly said that while I see a role for unions in the private sector, I do not in the public. IMHO, public unions harm fellow citizens, although not the member employees. I think you need to look at the citizenry as a whole. We have a difference of opinion on who is getting harmed.

That is what is going on here. Nothing more and nothing less.

Well, that's not all that's going on here. There's more than a simple protest. If that's all it was, I wouldn't have a bit of a problem. No, protest all you want. Even stay in the rotunda into the wee hours. No problem here.

Bringing students in? Teachers lying about sick notes? Fleeing the state to avoid the results of an election? Different story.

Bringing students in? Teachers lying about sick notes? Fleeing the state to avoid the results of an election? Different story.

Yeah, the kids should stay home unless they themselves want to join in the action. The teachers shouldn't be bringing the kids in just to load the place up with warm bodies. My guess is that some of kids are legitimately into it, some are having a fun day of no school, and some are a mix of both.

Yeah, people shouldn't lie and make up excuses to not go to work in order to force a work stoppage. They should just say "I'm on strike and I'm not coming in".

Yeah, the spectacle of Democratic legislators leaving the state to deny a quorum is kinda weird.

Here is my point of view on this whole thing:

If public workers in WI want to protest losing the privilege of collective bargaining, they have every right to do so. Including the right to do so by peaceably assembling. Even if they do so in ways that break the law, because sometimes that's the right thing to do.

If squirrely stuff like "they brought the high school kids in" and "they lied about why they were staying home" incline you toward a negative view of the substance of their case, so be it, I guess. Chalk it up to an own goal on their part. They've lost one heart and mind. It's no better or worse than any of the other ten million examples of dodgy political theater that happen every day.

I'm not too worried about the demonstrations, either. Nor am I worried about the state declining to enter labor contracts with the union, if that's an accurate summary of things. Lots of people work without a contract. Lots and lots and LOTS of people. I don't expect people to agree with me on this, but collective bargaining isn't exactly de rigeur for salaried employees.

If the state is declining collective bargaining, and not doing something considerably more far-reaching (such as making it illegal to organize), I'm ok with that.

The sick notes are just petty. Laughable, even. Like russell, I'm not highly bothered by them.

Political Theory, circa Brett: Freedom in a condition of government will inexorably lessen under the increasing weight of oppression, much like a frog in a slowly heated pot of water is boiled without even realizing its danger, and those who push back against this must first observe at least halfway boiledness (by necessity in a land far, far away) before the realization of the danger they face is recognized.

I'm going to agree with Brett on this. I don't see anything wrong with his statement. It's true of the most evil governments.

No. It's only true if you play along with the semantic sleight of hand necessary to make it true.

The problem is one of agency. "Government" is an organization composed of individuals, and what government "does" results from the decisions of those individuals. Government doesn't commit genocide or cause society to collapse, human beings make bad decisions or commit crimes that cause those things to happen while holding positions of power in government.

In other words, government is a tool, not an entity capable of agency. Brett is assigning human agency to government because it allows him to shift the burden of responsibility from the individuals in government who commit these wrongs onto the tool they use to do so, which in turn fits his preferred narrative of scaremongering about the dangers of government.

This doesn't mean the use of government should be unfettered by checks and balances, or that such power should be employed carelessly. Like corporations, motor vehicles and firearms, the misuse of government can result in great tragedy. But this isn't an argument against government or even an argument about the appropriate size or amount of government--it's simply a recognition that human beings are flawed and that all tools can be misused, and that the regulatory structure we erect around those tools should be directly proportionate to their potential for misuse.

much like a frog in a slowly heated pot of water is boiled without even realizing its danger

Not that this diminishes your point, but this metaphor isn't actually one that holds IRL.

Interesting tidbit from the Wikipedia entry:

In 1869, while doing experiments searching for the location of the soul, German physiologist Friedrich Goltz demonstrated that a frog that has had its brain removed will remain in slowly heated water, but his intact frogs attempted to escape the water.

Which...I'm not going there. No way.

If the state is declining collective bargaining, and not doing something considerably more far-reaching (such as making it illegal to organize), I'm ok with that.

"Declining" is a curious choice of words here.

What Walker has proposed is changing the existing law so that workers MAY NOT engage in collective bargaining for any aspect of their compensation other than base salary. Further, any increase in their base salary MAY NOT exceed the rise in the CPI.

So, I'm not sure "decline" is the right word for the case at hand.

Yes, many people work without access to collective bargaining. WI public employees do have such access, and have had for decades. The state is not "declining" to engage in bargaining with them going forward, it is either denying or severely limiting access to bargaining.

The two sides will have it out, in the various ways that folks have these things out. I have no idea where it will land.

"Lots and lots and LOTS of people."

If you submerge live frogs or lobsters in white wine and slowly bring them to boil, they relax into being dinner.

Well said Catsy. I've never seen a good explanation of why government institutions are inherently less trustworthy or more prone to abuse than corporations. Governments are, after all, just organizations of humans. I think the scope and number of bad things that have been done by governments is a consequence of how much governments do, and not necessarily indicative of being worse than corporations. The libertarian counterargument, as far as I understand it, seems to be that government is special bad and that if we just let humans get together in large groups of PRIVATE entities, everything would be dandy. I don't see what historical or experimental evidence there is for that.

Slarti @ 4:31:

Clueless frogs: Point taken.

An interesting corollary to the Brett theorem of government viz oppression is that at the extreme, the most oppressive government will, of necessity, maximize oppression, i.e., snuff out first the citizenry and then itself out so as to ????achieve some kind of synthesis? So we have:

1. Government
2. Inexorable oppression
3. Universal death, destruction
4. ????
5. No government = paradise.

Moral: What? Me worry?

Just pointing out that "Obamacare" is no more childish than "Bush tax cuts".

You can point out whatever you want; that doesn't make it a true statement.

The phrase "Bush tax cuts" is purely descriptive. It is the term by which the tax cuts in question are actually referred to by both supporters and detractors, including the Bush administration itself. It is the title of the Wikipedia article that describes them. It is the name by which Bush supporters were more than happy to refer to them when they were popular. If you look at a timeline of Google search results and drill down into it by year, it is overwhelmingly clear that over the last ten years "Bush tax cuts" has been the standard shorthand description--again, tellingly, among both supporters and detractors--for Bush's tax cut policies passed in 2001 and 2003.

Contrast this with an examination of "Obamacare", which is almost exclusively used as a pejorative term by the law's opponents.

Your false equivalency is utterly without basis in fact, and I think you know it.

I've never seen a good explanation of why government institutions are inherently less trustworthy or more prone to abuse than corporations.

Well, to start, gov'ts exist for the purpose of exercising power over individuals, an inherently coercive undertaking. That's why we have 'limited' gov't, and a constitution that enumerates and limits national power. Ours is a relatively benign form of coercion. Still, it functions by proscribing and mandating behaviors, all backed by police power and the power to fine and imprison. So far as I know, except for consensual relations, no corporation has anything like that kind of power over me.

Well, to start, gov'ts exist for the purpose of exercising power over individuals, an inherently coercive undertaking.

Which is much like saying that corporations exist for the purpose of enriching their owners at society's expense. Which is a true statement, but a loaded one that elides a number of relevant and nontrivial details to the point where it loses value as anything other than bulshytt.

To whatever extent it is true that the purpose of government is "inherently coercive", this has nothing at all to say about whether public institutions are less trustworthy or more prone to abuse than private institutions. Rather it bears on the scope of the damage that misuse of government can cause. This aspect of conservative anti-government dogma is without value because it conflates two completely different factors in risk management: probability and severity.

It is one thing to say: misuse of government can have severe consequences, and therefore requires a rigorous system of checks and balances in order to mitigate the risk of those consequences. This is a statement that is well-grounded in fact, and one with which I doubt either conservatives or liberals would take issue.

It is entirely different to say: government is more likely to be misused than private institutions, and therefore we must use government as little as possible and prefer private solutions. This seems to be the dominant conservative attitude towards government, and I would take issue with how defensible it is (or isn't, as the case may be).

So far as I know, except for consensual relations, no corporation has anything like that kind of power over me.

This is a failure of imagination with which the residents of the Gulf Coast might take issue.

The fact that most corporations have no direct "coercive" authority over you does not mean that they are incapable of causing harm to you and the environment in which you live in any of a thousand different ways when left to their own devices.

I agree with you re: the power government has, especially about the monopoly on violence that it has.

However, though you (correctly) point out that no corporation has anything like that power over you, you don't say what you think it is that is preventing corporations from seizing that power over you. Are they just benevolently inclined?

I would say that what prevents such a takeover is government.

Any time I want to post, I should just wait five minutes and watch Catsy say it better.

When the majority of Wisconsinites voted for a Republican Governor, didn't they know that he would move against labor unions? Why do people vote for Republicans and then act surprised when they do what comes natural to them (support the rich at the expense of the middle class)?

Good luck to the protesters, but not sure that they are going to win this battle. Republicans are going to do whatever the hell they want now that they have the majority.

This is a failure of imagination with which the residents of the Gulf Coast might take issue.

Not really. Stupidity is not a conscious exercise of power. Surely, any company like BP can do something really stupid and cause a lot of harm. I make my living off of private acts of stupidity.

Gov't, even our gov't, can be consciously oppressive. I have a client who, at this moment, is on the receiving end of very onerous regulatory bullying. Details are confidential, but when they get into the public domain, I am likely to bring it up here in some detail.

what you think it is that is preventing corporations from seizing that power over you

Julian, the notion that a group of corporations is going to take over is one that, outside of Hollywood, is the worst kind of fantasy. They can barely run their own operations. Yes, they can screw things up, but screwing up is the polar opposite of seizing control of a mostly armed population of 300 million people.

McKinney: I make my living off of private acts of stupidity.

Ah, but HOW do you do that? Absent "government", you'd have to earn an honest living :)

--TP

"It is one thing to say: misuse of government can have severe consequences, and therefore requires a rigorous system of checks and balances in order to mitigate the risk of those consequences."

Like to big to fail corporations, too big to manage government is immune to checks and balances. Despite the areas that conservatives like to point to, the best example of this today is in the defense budget.

It is simply too big to audit. Let me be very clear, it is not unauditable simply because of size. It is not organized well and is not transparent enough, even in the areas where it can be, to allow for a proper regular audit.

So we chip away at the edges, announce cuts that everyone takes credit for, and the House budget still increases defense spending.

This gets replicated all across government in smaller chunks, a billion here, a billion there, each with it's own vocal constituency until the answer is to beg for inflation to cover our sins once again.

And those are just the abuses of the budget, not to start on the abuses of the DOJ by every President in my lifetime to achieve his political goals, and the Congresses abuses of the power of Advise and Consent to try and block that.

The difference in each of them has only been in in scope, not kind.

So, I completely agree with the accuracy of this statement and submit that size is one of those things that we should have a valid set of checks and balances on.

The discussion that takes the teeth out of the far right rhetoric is the one where we all agree that it is in fact a reasonable goal to limit the size of government, and then have the discussion as to what reasonable size small is.

It is a pleasure for me to agree with McKinneyTexas -- having a monopoly on the {legitimate; authorized; legal} (take your pick) use of force is practically the definition of government.

My favorite discussion of the hazards of privatization of this function is Brad DeLong's No Libertarians in the Seventeenth-Century Highlands. I also love it because it links to the origin of "and a pony."

The punch line:

Joseph de Maistre: What my good friend Davey Hume is saying, although he is too polite to put it this way, is that behind everything good, peaceful, and prosperous in human society is the shadow of the Public Executioner.

Julian: I get that way about people like russell all the time. After today I'll probably return to my regularly scheduled program of lurking for the next few months.

One thing that I'd like to add, though: it is really striking to take the conservative arguments about government and imagine them as applied to, say, guns.

Like government, guns are tools. They are physical tools rather than an institution employed as a tool in a metaphorical sense, but like government they have no agency of their own: any effects that occur from their use occur as a result of choices made by the person using them. And it is interesting that McK chose to describe government's function as inherently coercive: guns are among the most inherently coercive of all tools. Their purpose is to cause injury or death, or to compel compliance under threat of such.

Yet to most conservatives, guns are a symbol of freedom, their ownership a nearly unfettered right secured by the vague and archaic 2nd Amendment. The slightest move towards any kind of restraints on or regulation of gun ownership is met with hysteria and fearmongering from the right-wing gun lobbies. Gun violence is regrettable, but a matter of individual responsibility and enforcement of existing laws rather than something about which the government might reasonably concern itself with limiting.

There are places where the analogy rather obviously breaks down, but it is sufficiently apt to point out that the logic and risk management reasoning employed by conservatives in support of firearms are diametrically opposed to the logic and reasoning used to undermine the legitimacy and scaremonger about the dangers of government.

It's almost as if some of them start with a foregone conclusion and work backwards to the justification. And by "almost as if", I mean "an awful lot like".

Well, to start, gov'ts exist for the purpose of exercising power over individuals, an inherently coercive undertaking.

I don't accept this framing. The purpose of government is to assist in, expedite or even cause the orderly operation of certain aspects of society that it is impractical for individuals or private entities to do on their own. The exercise of power is a tool we grant it to accomplish that purpose.

I have a client who, at this moment, is on the receiving end of very onerous regulatory bullying.

Obviously we can't take on this topic without knowing details that you clearly aren't at liberty to divulge, but one man's "onerous regulatory bullying" is another man's "sensible regulation." I'm sure ALL regulation is onerous to the person or firm who simply doesn't want to follow it.

Julian, the notion that a group of corporations is going to take over is one that, outside of Hollywood, is the worst kind of fantasy.

Uhhhhhh . . . do you know why banana republics are called "banana republics?"

Ral, it is a pleasure to be in agreement with you.

Catsy, gov't is not an inanimate object to be used wisely or not. And the issue I originally addressed was the difference between power held by gov't and that held by corporations.

Gov't has agency, as you term it. It acts of its own volition and, for the most part, it is inherently coercive. It would also be true that, for the most part, the majority if not the vast majority of US citizens consent in general to gov't coercion. We want bad people arrested, tried and, if guilty, imprisoned.

And where did this rant on gun ownership come from?

TP--yep, I need gov't coercion just like everyone else, up to a point.

I would be happy to utterly defund every bit of police power, including the entire military, now possessed by governments at every level in the United States.

If only to observe the full flowering of coercive private, corporate power.

Joe Arpaio - there's one example of a coercive f*ck I want defunded and then I want to catch him alone -- defunded, disarmed of his gummint ordnance, and without his filthy government there to protect him from me.

By the way, the country rankings regarding relative freedom mentioned above leave out a few things.

Try taking a dump in a Singapore public toilet and not flushing and see what happens to you. Or take a leak in any elevator. The freedom-loving Singapore constabulary will be watching via spy cams and they will lock the doors of that elevator and take you away.*

And it's gotta be coercion from somewhere or other that keeps the streets and outdoor parking lot food courts in Singapore clean enough to eat off of.

And there ought to be someone coercing me to never again end a sentence with "off of", but since the long arm of the government will not and I'm outta time, too bad.

*And I do mean "you" ("you" being the folks who have a little problem with run-of-the mill gummint coercion, and who might piss on an elevator just to thwart a little gummint coercion), not me. I've been coerced all my life to not foul the public toilets, elevators, and streets.

So call me a boiled frog.

You're a boiled frog.

;)

Beat me to it, jimminies :)

mmmmm.... boiled frogs.

I'll bite, Phil; because they offer a timeless and yet affordable design sensibility.

"Julian, the notion that a group of corporations is going to take over is one that, outside of Hollywood, is the worst kind of fantasy. They can barely run their own operations. Yes, they can screw things up, but screwing up is the polar opposite of seizing control of a mostly armed population of 300 million people."

I will learn my lesson and wait to see if this gets more effectively rebutted by someone else before I give it a shot, but I would ask that you seriously reconsider your assertion, since though it certainly applies to some corporations, it plainly does not apply to all of them.

but I would ask that you seriously reconsider your assertion

Keeping in mind my assertion refers to corporations today, in the US--not Russia and not Central America 80 years ago--I'd be interested to know where we part company.

BTW, good one on the timeless yet affordable design sensibility.

Actually, I can think of one private corporation, or maybe a handful, that can exert ENORMOUS control over your life without your voluntary consent: Fair Isaac Corp., Experian, Transunion and Equifax.

One thing to keep in mind about the perhaps reasonable-sounding part of the demand: "any increase in their base salary MAY NOT exceed the rise in the CPI"

Bear in mind that this means a public workforce that will be progressively more underpaid with every passing year.

Why? Because if wages only track the CPI, they never earn enough to buy anything they couldn't buy today, even though the amount of stuff being produced in the economy (per capita) continues to increase.

In other words, and this consequence may come as a surprise only to those who have been asleep in a ditch for the past 30 years, it is a recipe for wage repression of ordinary workers and the continuing diversion of all productivity gains towards management and owners.

Workers would be perfectly justified in refusing to implement any and all productivity increases given that the rewards from those increases never reach them - they just get to lose their jobs.

Why do people vote for Republicans and then act surprised when they do what comes natural to them (support the rich at the expense of the middle class)?

Cassie, you may have noticed that Republicans, like Democrats, offer politicians with a range of views. Perhaps not a huge range, from your perspective, but a range nevertheless. So when deciding whom to vote for, a reasonable idea is to see what the politician in question says he intends to do. He may do something else, but then you have a legitimate greivance.

In the case in Wisconsin, the new governor said he would demand certain consessions from the public unions. All of which they agreed to. At which point he added more demands -- which occassioned the current dust up. Now regardless of whether someone agrees with his latest postion (and I actually incline that way), it is difficult to argue that he has played fair with the voters.

Not really. Stupidity is not a conscious exercise of power. Surely, any company like BP can do something really stupid and cause a lot of harm.

But that's precisely the problem with your argument. You're attempting to create an artificial distinction between the potential harms of governments and the potential harms of corporations by focusing on the risks of coercive use of force and authority on the part of the former, and the risks of market manipulation, environmental damage and other non-coercive harms on the part of the latter.

Those distinctions aren't imaginary, but for the purposes of the discussion we're having they are utterly without relevance. In the end, harm caused by government coercion and harm caused by corporate misconduct are both harms, and the non-coercive nature of corporate misconduct is likely to be a distinction lost on those with toxic chemicals in their drinking water.

Point being: whether the harm caused by governments and corporations is coercive or not has nothing--nothing at all, not even a little bit--to do with the question of whether public or private institutions are more or less likely to be corrupt, misused, or otherwise cause harm. It is relevant to the structure of the checks and balances necessary to mitigate the risks, and to a certain extent on the scope of those risks, but it is not relevant to the probability of their occurrence.

Catsy, gov't is not an inanimate object to be used wisely or not.

Are you seriously asserting that a government is a living, breathing, animate organism--literally, not metaphorically--that is capable of making its own conscious decisions?

Think about it.

Gov't has agency, as you term it. It acts of its own volition and, for the most part, it is inherently coercive.

No, it emphatically and factually does not. And if you think it does, you truly do not understand the concept of agency as it applies here, and it is critical that you do in order for us to have a meaningful conversation about it.

Every single activity of government occurs because of the actions of a human agent. Humans created the government as an institution. Humans wrote the laws that define the details of the government's activities. Humans execute those laws. Humans hold positions of influence within the institution and make the day-to-day decisions about how that institution will, in a broad sense, "act". Even the functions of government that occur without a direct human trigger, or which occur in accordance with pre-defined laws and regulations, are that way precisely because one or more humans made the decision that they should function that way.

Government is, in every respect, exactly what humans make it to be. It is neither inherently good nor evil--it is a tool employed by humans in order to organize society.

And where did this rant on gun ownership come from?

It is, as I described, an analogy between the way conservatives evaluate the probability and scope of the risks of gun ownership and the way they evaluate the same about government.

Actually, I can think of one private corporation, or maybe a handful, that can exert ENORMOUS control over your life without your voluntary consent: Fair Isaac Corp., Experian, Transunion and Equifax.

Well, this gets down to whether inaccurate credit report "controls" what you do or limits who will lend you money. I'd go with the latter. Also, having done a case or two in the area, the creditor that posts inaccurate information can be sued. I haven't looked at remedies available against reporting agencies. All of that said, I agree that credit reporting agencies can do a lot of harm. I am unaware of any agency setting out to destroy someone. My guess is that people who, through identity theft, mistaken identity or just crappy luck, fall into credit reporting hell have a very difficult time extracting themselves. If there isn't a solid remedy, there should be.

• There are 7.7 million fewer payroll jobs now than before the recession started in December 2007.
• Almost 14 million Americans are unemployed.
• Of those unemployed, 6.2 million have been unemployed for six months or more.
• Another 8.4 million are working part time for economic reasons,
• About 4 million more have left the labor force since the start of the recession (we can see this in the dramatic drop in the labor force participation rate),
• of those who have left the labor force, about 1 million are available for work, but are discouraged and have given up.

Most of the unemployed are coerced into unemployment. Yeah, I know, market coercion is such a dream.

The odd thing is, the unemployed are coerced through various gummint carrots and sticks to seek work (true, starvation and lack of health care are NOT coerced upon the unemployed by gummint, but you've got to admit, such coercion is in the very air we breathe; oh, natural coercion is A O.K.), but employers are not coerced to hire them, or pay them all a decent wage if they do hire them.

May we at least have a little equality in the coercion area?

Jacob,

You have stated this several times in several threads. But it really is not the case. What it really says is that the average wage should not exceed the average price increase. Within that wage there will always be people who get promoted, get higher raises because they perform better, work more efficiently etc.

There is no market theory that says that wage inflation won't eventually be reflected in the price of goods sold. So if wages overall keep up with consumer costs that is a good economic model.

Productivity gains tend to drive prices down, as long as the converse is not true, that wages go down if the cpi falls, then adding productivity is still a good thing for the worker.

Or hadn't you noticed how many more people have flat screen tv's these days than five years ago? and cell phones? and pc's? etc.

whether the harm caused by governments and corporations is coercive or not has nothing--nothing at all, not even a little bit--to do with the question of whether public or private institutions are more or less likely to be corrupt, misused, or otherwise cause harm.

So you are saying that the power to coerce is equal to the power to screw up, and thus both gov't and a private entity are equally prone to cause harm? I'll pass on that one. I can choose not to deal with pretty much any private entity. That choice as to gov't does not exist.

Catsy, we just see this differently. If gov't has no agency--I don't agree with this--then the same is true for corporations, which is a statement I would never make either. Both are human enterprises, one has police power, the other does not. These are material differences, at least in the eyes of most people. And, as I pointed out upthread, we consent to most of gov'ts police powers. In many cases, we demand them.

TP--yep, I need gov't coercion just like everyone else, up to a point.

Not "just like everyone else", though. A friend of mine earns his living doing things for people like plowing their driveways, cleaning their gutters, fixing their lawnmowers. It's not a great living, but he could still earn it if the courts shut down or legislatures stopped making laws.

Incidentally, that guy is a thoroughgoing libertarian. He'd shrink government small enough to flush down the toilet, let alone drown in the bathtub. You might like his philosophy in the abstract; you might find it a threat to your livelihood in practice.

--TP

Yes, they can screw things up, but screwing up is the polar opposite of seizing control of a mostly armed population of 300 million people.

I don't know that anyone asserted that a corporation (or corporations - all or some) might take control over the entire population, which the government doesn't even have right now. (But, if that's what you do think the government has, I guess you have more faith in the government's abilities than most libertarians and conservatives, who seem to think government can't do much at all very well.)

But on the scale of individuals, whose freedom I assume we all value, corporations are quite capable of killing people, even on purpose. That's coercive, I think.

Pinkertons, anyone?

MCKT:

"If there isn't a solid remedy, there should be."

Agreed. I'll take up crocheting while we await the private remedies.

I'll concede, too, that this just isn't a private problem and that convincing the Social Security Administration who you are after your identity has been stolen is a fresh hell, too.

Brett, however, might view the word "should" in your formulation as a little backdoor, passive-voiced Swedish slippery slope into some sort of Khaddafy (one difference between the U.S. Government and the current Libyan government is that the former won't drag me out of my house and hack me to death for misspelling the Colonel's name) government-induced, freedom-sucking maelstrom.

Well, this gets down to whether inaccurate credit report "controls" what you do or limits who will lend you money. I'd go with the latter.

These days they can also control, in part, whether you get a job. Running credit checks is a pretty standard part of pre-employment HR duties now. And potential employees with poor credit histories as reported by the three major bureaus are higher risks for employee theft, so it's said. Can't have that!

Well, this gets down to whether inaccurate credit report "controls" what you do or limits who will lend you money. I'd go with the latter.

It also controls whether you can rent an apartment and obviously whether you can buy a house. So sure, except for controlling whether you can acquire shelter or a job, they have no control over you.

It's positively hilarious watching you guys freak over my referring to Sweden's level of oppression. It's just as though I referred to the temperature of ice, and got confronted with a screaming fit about how I was mad to think ice was "hot". Anything below 273K just blows your minds, doesn't it?

The scale of oppression doesn't go to zero at whatever level of oppression *you* happen to be comfortable with, folks. Yes, the government of Sweden "oppresses" people. Not as much as the government of North Korea, or even, in some ways, the government of the US. But it does oppress.

CCDG writes: You (T.P.) have stated this several times in several threads. But it really is not the case

T.P. is exactly precisely correct. Classical economic theory posits exactly what Tony says. If wage increases were limited by the price level and did not take into account productivity increases, then you effectively have cut wages. Rising productivity means a rising standard of living. To get that higher standard of living, wages must rise faster than inflation for workers to maintain their share of the wealth (output) derived from that productivity growth.

When this doesn't happen what you usually see is the rich and powerful capturing the added wealth. That's what we have witnessed in the US since the 70's. Wages have stagnated, barely keeping up with inflation, and wealth has been transferred to the rich.

In classical theory this is a market failure....or boiled frog syndrome.

Anything below 273K just blows your minds, doesn't it?

I always thought it was just a joke about the engineer arguing that a person with one foot in a bucket of ice water and another in one that was boiling is perfectly comfortable, but Brett proves me wrong.

This is kind of a potential cavalcade of cascading coercion:

http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2011/02/man_booked_with_masturbating_a.html

I do think there should be a law that a guy should use a different hand to hold his bullhorn than the one he uses to ..... but he should be able to choose which hand does which.

Brett: Yes, North Korea would shoot the bullhorn ejaculator on the spot. And, in Sweden, they would probably make him do a little community service and then release him so he pursue a career in the porn industry, depending on the relative size of his bullhorn.

Thanks for the relative ratings.

Actually bobbyp, it was Jacob and you are right, and not really. Productivity tends to reduce prices, squeeze margins, and reduce profits.

The tracking of wages and prices in equilibrium is a fine economic model, of course barring a whole bunch of other macroeconomic factors that aren't in our equation with those three.

So you are saying that the power to coerce is equal to the power to screw up, and thus both gov't and a private entity are equally prone to cause harm?

No.

I am saying that it is essential to understand that that whether a harm originates from coercive power or some manner of manfeasance is a completely different question than the severity of that harm or the probability that it might occur.

To put things in perspective: if someone takes my property, the harm is that I have lost that property. Whether it is the result of the police seizing that property during a drug raid on the wrong house, or the result of the bank fraudulently foreclosing on my home, either way I have wrongfully been deprived of my property.

The checks and balances needed to prevent this harm are, of course, completely different between the two scenarios. Their respective probabilities are hard to gauge, but the specific statistics aren't important here. The core point is that both government and private institutions are capable of inflicting the same wrongful harm--the government through excess in the service of public safety, the corporation through corruption in the pursuit of profits--and from the perspective of evaluating and mitigating risk, it really makes no difference at all whether the source of the harm was coercion or malfeasance. This is a philosophical distinction, not one that has any relevance to evaluating risk.

I can choose not to deal with pretty much any private entity. That choice as to gov't does not exist.

This is absurd. You cannot choose not to breathe air that a private entity has polluted. You cannot choose not to be poisoned by chemicals in your water that you didn't know were there. The residents of the Gulf didn't get to choose whether or not their fishing industry was devastated, and you don't get to choose whether or not to crash if an airline skimps on maintenance.

This impression you seem to have--that you can opt out of the harms caused by private entities in a way you cannot with government--is a fantasy.

Catsy, we just see this differently. If gov't has no agency--I don't agree with this--then the same is true for corporations, which is a statement I would never make either.

This isn't a matter of an opinion to which you're entitled. If you assert that government--or corporations--have agency, you are using the word in an objectively incorrect way.

Never have an illiterate non-unionized roofer teach spelling, even to his own home-schooled little reptiles.

It's "Democratic" Party, not "Democrat" Party.

By the way, once you've fired the union thugs and the immigrant cash (legal and illegal) labor, you can kiss my a*s and then roof my buildings.

Yes. Deep stuff there, Brett.

The continuum of oppression is...

wider than the light spectrum.
as inexorable as entropy
as mysterious as Schrodinger's cat
and magically measurable only by those able to see Sweden from their front porch.

I was wondering what happens when government is taken over by people, and what happens when it is taken over by corporations?
Is there examples in history when people took over the government?

Actually bobbyp, it was Jacob and you are right, and not really. Productivity tends to reduce prices, squeeze margins, and reduce profits.

Well, actually, CCDG, you are dead wrong on the theory and the facts. Productivity increases wealth and returns to economic factors of production are supposed to be commensurate with their marginal productivity.

But hey, this is the theory conservative say they worship, but then maybe not.

I have some questions about "productivity".

How do we define "productivity"? Is it widgets produced per hour per worker? Or is it "value" produced per hour per worker?

Picture a 100-person company that makes 1000 widgets/hour, selling them for $10 apiece. The 100 workers include a receptionist, an IT guy, some assemblers, a few design engineers, a couple of accountants, a marketing lady, and a CEO. Whose "productivity" can we express as either 10 widgets/hour or as $100/hour?

Picture the same factory increasing output to 1100 widgets/hour. That's a 10% increase in productivity, right? Well, suppose that instead the factory keeps producing 1000 widgets/hour, but it gets $11 apiece for them. Is THAT a 10% increase in productivity?

Note that I'm not talking about "inflation". In this example, the GENERAL price level in the economy doesn't change; only the price these particular widgets fetch has increased.

Note too that it cannot possibly be true to say that the price of the widgets is irrelevant in figuring "productivity". To say it is irrelevant would be to say that if the price dropped to ZERO, the factory would still be "productive".

So what's the deal here? What IS "productivity" and how do we attribute it (or increases in it) to particular individuals?

--TP

TP, the second example is not a productivity increase, it is price inflation by definition,you can't really just redefine it.

Is there examples in history when people took over the government?

You mean, like the French Revolution, and the Russian Revolution?

But there are probably some better examples; ones that don't involve pogroms and guillotines. The American Revolution isn't precisely that, but it might qualify.

I'm just dithering until someone with a working knowledge of history comes along and rescues me.

"How do we define "productivity"? Is it widgets produced per hour per worker? Or is it "value" produced per hour per worker?"

That "per worker" is where you go wrong, right at the start. That's because a factory does not produce widgets by virtue of having a bunch of workers standing around in an empty field. They need capital, equipment, to produce widgets. If you take the exact same workers, place them in a factory with improved equipment, and production doubles, why the heck would you attribute that increased production to the workers, rather than the equipment?

The fact is that, in most fields, the contribution of labor to production is dropping. No, not greater worker productivity, greater capital productivity. Nothing in principle prevents this trend from going to completion, from arriving at "lights out" factories running full speed without anybody in them.

And are you going to marvel at the "productivity" of a janitor sweeping the floors in an automated factory?

That's the greatest economic challenge ahead of us, how to manage an economy where a growing percentage of the population are incapable of contributing anything to the economy that's actually needed.

Refraining from tossing bombs isn't a very good contribution, we need to find something better. Ideally, we need to find a way to start improving people, not just equipment. Because the day will come when even the brightest of us have nothing to contribute, otherwise.

Ideally, we need to find a way to start improving people, not just equipment.

Certainly this is not such a bad thing, but why is capital productivity so bad? And why do you assign all productivity increases that come with acquisition of better "tooling" to the capital itself?

I know from personal experience that supplying a worker with a better, more capable computer has some limited amount of productivity increase. When the worker harnesses that increased processing power to do more work, even more results.

From my POV, better machines are better, but there's limits to what better machines all by themselves can do. But if I have better machines, I can make them do things that had not previously been feasible. I can get answers with more confidence. I can run hours of flight data back through my algorithms and accomplish a kind of on-the-fly improvement.

New equipment is a good thing. Figuring out how to use the new equipment to best advantage is even better.

"How do we define "productivity"? Is it widgets produced per hour per worker? Or is it "value" produced per hour per worker?"
What matters is how is calculated. Considering what Slarti and Brett said about it i take it that productivity is calculated per company as a unit. Total output (measured in sales to include service industry) over total employees. this number is easy to manipulate. By firing some dispensable analysis employees, you can increase productivity (which happened in latest crisis, or freeze wages. That is a way to increase productivity in short run.
By getting a better computer and improving handling of its processing power you actually increase a demand for more analysis in order to give you the edge over the competition for sales purposes. But competition also has the same capability so there is no increase in productivity.
What was happening over the years is in the long run of increasing productivity.
To manipulate productivity numbers, you can outsource some part of production to small businesses that do not provide health and pension benefits. This will increase productivity trough smaller cost of production and decrease wages +benefits on the other side. Difference in wages is split between owners of companies, while at the same time there are overlapping costs in both companies. Outsourcing to small businesses lowers the living standard while providing more jobs(because of overlapping). Outsourcing to small businesses solely for purposes of savings for shareholders is destroying the living standards and economy of the nation as a whole since lower wages=worse consumers.
There are kind of small businesses that can not work as big company, but this is about outsourcing to small business that has been so glorified as job creators last few decades, but i never heard from anyone about how destructive they can be.

So far as I know, except for consensual relations, no corporation has anything like that kind of power over me.

What Catsy said, I have nothing to add.

Stupidity is not a conscious exercise of power.

Venality, on the other hand, most certainly is. Or perhaps you are thinking that all bad behavior is unconscious.

So you are saying that the power to coerce is equal to the power to screw up, and thus both gov't and a private entity are equally prone to cause harm?

Again, "screw up" doesn't begin to cover the issue with either the government or private organizations.

You also fail to address the issues of transparency and accountability. You also fail to address the question of who government works for, and who corporations work for.

I can choose not to deal with pretty much any private entity. That choice as to gov't does not exist.

There are large number of private entities you will be very hard pressed to avoid dealing with if you participate in any meaningful way in the economy or society at large.

If you want to be a hermit, not so, but then you can pretty much avoid interacting with government as well.

There are folks that live that way, I know some. I'm thinking you are not among them.

Also, having done a case or two in the area, the creditor that posts inaccurate information can be sued.

OK, a piece of cake, then. No worries.

It's positively hilarious watching you guys freak over my referring to Sweden's level of oppression.

For "freak", please read "roll our eyes".

What it really says is that the average wage should not exceed the average price increase.

From the text of the bill:

In addition, unless a referendum authorizes a greater increase, any general employee who is part of a collective bargaining unit is limited to bargaining over a percentage of total base wages increase that is no greater than the percentage change in the consumer price index.

So, if I read this correctly, it's not a zero-sum average increase, it's per employee. Nobody gets a raise greater than the percent increase in the CPI.

There is no market theory that says that wage inflation won't eventually be reflected in the price of goods sold.

Why the bloody f**k should anyone in this country or the world put any credence in what "market theory" says? Even Alan freaking Greenspan doesn't believe that stuff anymore.

People should accept the loss of collective bargaining rights because "market theory" says it will turn out OK for them in the end?

No thank you.

Two very good points from the dexter side:

Like to big to fail corporations, too big to manage government is immune to checks and balances.

A very apt observation, one which I am going to take away and ponder for a while. Well said.

The fact is that, in most fields, the contribution of labor to production is dropping. No, not greater worker productivity, greater capital productivity.

This point is a significant part of why the middle class is going away in this country. Going away, and maybe not coming back.

A guy I used to with used to say, "People should think, and machines should work". Which is, IMO, an excellent concept.

The only problems are (a) some ways in which machines are used make not only certain kinds of work, but certain kinds of thinking, superfluous, and (b) the wealth created by the increased productivity flows almost exclusively to whoever owns the machine.

If we don't solve that, 10% unemployment and a 15% poverty rate are going to look like the good old days.

Get ready for the new normal, y'all.

if someone takes my property, the harm is that I have lost that property. Whether it is the result of the police seizing that property during a drug raid on the wrong house, or the result of the bank fraudulently foreclosing on my home, either way I have wrongfully been deprived of my property.

One has a remedy and the other does not.

The core point is that both government and private institutions are capable of inflicting the same wrongful harm--the government through excess in the service of public safety, the corporation through corruption in the pursuit of profits--and from the perspective of evaluating and mitigating risk, it really makes no difference at all whether the source of the harm was coercion or malfeasance.

There are many ways that gov't can cause harm apart from excessive force. Regulated industries can be, and to my personal knowledge, are subject to capricious and pointless bullying by idealogues. More on that later, when the dust settles and what I know in confidence can be discussed.

This is absurd. You cannot choose not to breathe air that a private entity has polluted. You cannot choose not to be poisoned by chemicals in your water that you didn't know were there. The residents of the Gulf didn't get to choose whether or not their fishing industry was devastated, and you don't get to choose whether or not to crash if an airline skimps on maintenance.

This impression you seem to have--that you can opt out of the harms caused by private entities in a way you cannot with government--is a fantasy.

No, this is you re-framing the debate. No one anywhere is free from human error, regardless of its source. What distinguishes a private entity from gov't is that the former is largely, almost entirely, a matter of consensual dealing, the latter, not so much.

This isn't a matter of an opinion to which you're entitled. If you assert that government--or corporations--have agency, you are using the word in an objectively incorrect way.

This is a pointless discussion. By my definition and view of agency, I can say either we disagree or you are completely, objectively wrong. I go with the former because you see the issue differently. Believe what you want.

Venality, on the other hand, most certainly is. Or perhaps you are thinking that all bad behavior is unconscious.

Venality is not unique to private endeavors.

You also fail to address the issues of transparency and accountability. You also fail to address the question of who government works for, and who corporations work for.

Transparency in gov't? Really? Private institutions are just that, private. Accountability? What is your remedy when gov't crosses the line? You are far more likely to have a remedy if wronged by a private entity. No guarantee of success, but far more likely to have a remedy.

The next time you run into a bureaucratic wall, remind them who they work for.

There are large number of private entities you will be very hard pressed to avoid dealing with if you participate in any meaningful way in the economy or society at large.

If you want to be a hermit, not so, but then you can pretty much avoid interacting with government as well.

There are folks that live that way, I know some. I'm thinking you are not among them.

Of course I interact with private and public agencies. On the private side, it's usually by contract or the product I purchase has a warranty. On the gov't side, I think our state court system in the greater Houston area is pretty good on the civil side. In outlying counties, some are good, others openly political and corrupt.

Another example of recent gov't overreach. A client of mine is a large, non-profit ambulance service. A police officer, using a grand jury subpoena, demanded records with no redactions on 700 patients treated and transported by my client. No probable cause, no privacy concerns, just turn over the records at your expense instanter. The reaction when we raised the above issues was to threaten with contempt of court etc. We'll win this eventually, at a cost of 15K or so, maybe more. Recourse? None. Oh, and to be clear, my client is in no way the grand jury's target. They are looking into a murder that occurred at one of the addresses serviced by my client. That record was produced immediately in response to the subpoena.

McKinney, your comment would be more relevant if someone were advocating unrestrained government - you know, the kind that can take collective-bargaining rights away from workers.

I'm not even sure what the issue is anymore. Are the participants in this discussion arguing anarcho-capitalism versus some sort of socialist totalitarianism, or what?

What's the freaking point?

"Regulated industries can be, and to my personal knowledge, are subject to capricious and pointless bullying by idealogues."

"You are far more likely to have a remedy if wronged by a private entity."

The reason industries are regulated and subject to capricious bullying is that we have a government which constrains them. The reason you are more likely to have a remedy (that's an assertion I don't have the data to dispute now, but I'll argue it as given) from a private entity is because of enforcement by government.

What you see as the relatively swell state of things w/r/t corporations is due (solely, in my opinion) to government restriction of corporations.

Brett's theory that government oppression is worse than corporate oppression ignores the possibility (likelihood, certainty, whatever) that if we reduce government power, corporate power will grow to replace it and will be even less accountable to us.

Criticism of how bad government is must answer the question of whether corporations would become worse than government is if government were reduced. I can't think of a simpler way to put my objection.

"This is a pointless discussion. By my definition and view of agency, I can say either we disagree or you are completely, objectively wrong."

Then you should share you definition and view of agency, because based on the consensus definition, you are wrong. Baased on your definition, if someone throws a rock at your window, the rock had agency. Government is an abstract concept. It is an organization of human beings. Without human beings government does not exist and can do nothing. If all humans vanished, the Capitol would not be a government, it would be a pile of rock. If that pile of rock collapsed and killed a mouse, it would not be "government" killing the mouse.

I'll add to my WTF that I think just about everyone can agree with the general principle that Brett expressed earlier - that we should be vigilant against government oppression, even when things are generally good in that regard. But the issue usually isn't one of general principle, rather one of application.

If you think the removal of collective-bargaining rights from public workers in Wisconsin is a form of oppression, you're going to come down on the side of the workers. If you think the workers are getting more than they deserve in compensation at the expense of the tax payers and see that as a form of oppression, you're going to come down on the side of the governor. In either case, you are not in favor of oppression, so there's really no point in arguing that "oppression is bad." IMO.

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