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February 26, 2011

Comments

Governments don't throw rocks, people do. ;)

I'll 2nd your comments on government forcing corporations to be more accountable than they otherwise would be. If not via regulation, certainly via tort law (which, oddly enough, is something conservatives often take aim at... though that would appear to be the best protector of individual rights in existance, particularly if you remove regulations).

...

I'm pretty surprised to see you write this Brett:

"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."

Given what I know of your politics. To see that problem (however overstated it might be) and yet to generally be against any external (to the market) remedies...

What's the freaking point?
HSH
everyone is arguing for their side.Democrats are giving arguments to defend New Deal programs and policies that created middle class, while republicans are giving arguments for progressively dismantling the New Deal programs.
If you are interested to know more about whats at the center of it and what is at stake i would recommend http://www.iwallerstein.com/wp-content/uploads/docs/AGFCONMR.PDF>this by Wallerstein

Democrats are giving arguments to defend New Deal programs and policies that created middle class, while republicans are giving arguments for progressively dismantling the New Deal programs.

Sure, or maybe, or not. But what's the freaking point of the specifics in some of the comments? I'm seeing anecdota that can only refute extreme general propositions that no one has made. I don't see it going anywhere.

The problem I have isn't related to my having just crawled out from under a rock with no idea what the political context is.

Left is for increasing power to the people by educating, social safety nets and providing for the poor and disabled.
Right is for giving more power to corporations. Both work trough the government that creates laws and enforces them. Liberaterians are extreme right giving absolute power to corporations trough the ruse of small government (which limits the power of corporations which easily can organize behind closed doors against population) and freedom(which translates into freedom of corporations to be encumbered by any law)

Earlier i asked about examples of people overtaking the government and corporations overtaking the government. There are few examples of people taking government: Russian rev, French rev, American rev, Cuba and Yugoslavia. While numerous examples when corporations took total control: many banana republics, Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and many more.
My point was to ask what the present situation in US is? are we closer to people controlling the government or corporations controlling it, comparing to historical indications?
I lived in all kinds of systems: communist(Yugoslavia), socialist(Germany), capitalist(US) and fascist(Croatia between 1994-2002).
The most basic condition for long term existence of any of them is the way the laws are applied. Is the law applied same to the rich and poor, to weak and strong politically. That determines who control the government and its enforcement arm.
Did the rich bankers get persecuted under the law for fraud in the economic collapse in 2008? Did Bush administration even being investigated for war crimes? Where we are in who controls it?

"But what's the freaking point of the specifics in some of the comments?"
All of the discussion we and public at large is having is defensive from left's point of view, left is trying to defend all policies previously argued over and already established in the system. Republicans are on the offense restarting all the discussions on policies previously won by left before 1970. For example: corporate regulations, civil rights(marriage, abortion, woman equality...) All success works trough the government, hence a discussion of the role of the government.

That's a description, right or wrong, of the very general inpetus for the discussion. It's not the point of what anyone is writing, specifically, on this blog in this thread.

If I wrote something about how helpful the people in the state tax office were to me the other day (or whatever), my point would not be that the left is arguing X and the right is arguing Y about the New Deal. I would be, presumably, trying to support a specific argument of some sort or another, a point, if you will. But I might be doing so to little effect, responding poorly to the arguments other people were making and not furthering the discussion in a significant way.

I forgot to mention of why the application of the law equally is important to long term existence of the system is. It works on the sense of the population about equality and equal opportunity or oppression by the government. Discussion about oppression in Sweden is relevant to the feeling of oppression, feeling to be oppressed by government. But that feeling is extremely subjective, depending on previous conditions, changes in it, what friends and family experience and if there is a hope for change for better.

One has a remedy and the other does not.

While true, this is due not to any inherent difference between public and private institutions, but rather due to the current law as implemented. Which goes back to my point that the issue isn't one of public vs. private, but of evaluating the risks and erecting the appropriate set of checks and balances for each.

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.

This is simply force by another name, and is beside the point.

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.

Nonsense. As I said, this idea you have, that you can opt out of the harms caused by private entities simply by not doing business with them, is a complete and utter fantasy; just another flavor of market worship. Go back and re-read the very examples you just quoted: is breathing polluted air a matter of "consensual dealing"? Do you consent to drinking poisoned groundwater? Is there anything at all consensual about discovering that a corporation buried toxic waste under the site where your kid's school was built?

The fact that no one anywhere is free from human error is the very point here. You have manufactured this artificial and nonexistent distinction between government and the private sector based around the mistaken idea that you can opt out of dealing with the latter in order to avoid its set of risks, when this is by your own admission simply not true.

This isn't re-framing the debate, it's an explanation of how your entire argument rests on a false premise.

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.

You are right about one thing and one thing only here: this is apparently a pointless discussion. Agency in this context has a specific and discrete meaning that is a matter of fact, not opinion--one that you can look up just as easily as anyone else, if you have any interest in understanding it rather than stubbornly asserting that the word means something that it doesn't. I even linked it for you.

"If I wrote something about how helpful the people in the state tax office were to me the other day (or whatever), my point would not be that the left is arguing X and the right is arguing Y about the New Deal."
HSH
There is no need for you to try to make a point in order for someone to take it as if you were trying to in present very emotional divide.
Someone can take it as you are giving the positive argument for government(state tax office) because that is the talk of the day, week, month, year.. on the national media about and with your peers.
Economic crash always causes emotions to flare, pessimism and lost hope if lasts too long (consumer confidence) and politicians that caused the crash try to stay in power by division since they lost the arguments by leading into crash. I have seen it couple of times in my travels.

Are the participants in this discussion arguing anarcho-capitalism versus some sort of socialist totalitarianism, or what?

No, the discussion got started by Julian raising the question of the differences between gov't and corporations. The main difference is that gov't is inherently coercive. It spun out of control from there.

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.

I wasn't addressing the topic at hand, rather responding to a comment from Julian, as noted above. I have stayed away from the main debate because I have nothing to add that wouldn't be redundant.

I'll 2nd your comments on government forcing corporations to be more accountable than they otherwise would be. If not via regulation, certainly via tort law (which, oddly enough, is something conservatives often take aim at... though that would appear to be the best protector of individual rights in existance, particularly if you remove regulations).

Tort law and gov't regulations sometimes overlap, sometimes not. Many remedies lie in contract. It is absolutely true that, but for the rule of law--a feature of some but not all govt's-- coupled with a viable enforcement mechanism, remedies against corporate or individual bad acting would not exist. But, the only reason the remedy exists is because gov't, even the most benign, brings with it the power to coerce, i.e. to enforce a judgment, to enjoin certain conduct. The remedies available for gov't bad acting, however, are much fewer than those for private bad acting. It's called sovereign immunity.

While true, this is due not to any inherent difference between public and private institutions, but rather due to the current law as implemented.

No, it is due to the doctrine of sovereign immunity. See the 11th Amendment.

You have manufactured this artificial and nonexistent distinction between government and the private sector based around the mistaken idea that you can opt out of dealing with the latter in order to avoid its set of risks, when this is by your own admission simply not true.

This is your qualifier, not mine. It is re-framing the debate. I can choose, for the most part, which companies or people I associate/do business with. Not so gov't. Outside of a contract, no private entity can control or coerce me into doing something I don't want to do. Not so gov't. Gov't has the power to coerce its citizens, private entities, absent a contract, do not.

That private entities cause harm that impacts others is a given and is beside the point.

Without human beings government does not exist and can do nothing.

Hence it has agency, i.e. it acts, often with volition, other times by inertia. But, without human agency, gov't is inert, inanimate. As are corporations.

I said

"Without human beings government ... can do nothing."

and you said

"Hence it has agency, i.e. it acts"

But what if I'd said

"Without human beings flip-flips can do nothing?"

Would you also say they have agency? The ability to act independently is part of the definition of agency, and you explicitly agreed that governments, like corporations, cannot act independently of humans and thus do not possess agency.

Julian, perhaps we are talking semantics. A gov't cannot exist without people. Period. So, anytime I refer to gov't doing something, it does so because of the people working for it or directing it executing gov't policy. This is agency.

I wasn't addressing the topic at hand, rather responding to a comment from Julian, as noted above.

The comment of mine you quoted was not directed at you, McKinney. The "you" was the general you, any you. It was really more in response to Brett's comments about government being inherently oppressive to some degree or another, and that we should always be resistant to that oppression, even in Sweden. Which is fine, but not crucial to the argument about how to apply that (presumably uncontroversial) general rule.

The fact that no one anywhere is free from human error is the very point here.

I think the truth of this statement is what keeps me from understanding where some of the comments are going here (lately some of McKinney's, for the most part, but not exclusively).

"I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half."

Jay Gould

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/18/arts/18grim.html?_r=2&pagewanted=print

Given productivity improvements over the intervening century or so, I'd say we can do much more with less.

This is your qualifier, not mine. It is re-framing the debate. I can choose, for the most part, which companies or people I associate/do business with. Not so gov't. Outside of a contract, no private entity can control or coerce me into doing something I don't want to do. Not so gov't. Gov't has the power to coerce its citizens, private entities, absent a contract, do not.

That isn't reframing the debate, that is the debate.

This entire thing started as a discussion of the reasons why conservatives think government solutions are worse than private solutions. Our exchange began with you quoting Julian as saying this: I've never seen a good explanation of why government institutions are inherently less trustworthy or more prone to abuse than corporations.

To which you responded: Well, to start, gov'ts exist for the purpose of exercising power over individuals, an inherently coercive undertaking ... except for consensual relations, no corporation has anything like that kind of power over me.

Think this through logically. When presented with a question of why you think government solutions are "inherently less trustworthy or more prone to abuse than corporations", your response was that this is at least in part because of the "inherently coercive" nature of government authority--the upshot of which is that you cannot choose to opt out of dealing with government, whereas you can choose not to deal with a corporation.

The problem with this argument is that its premise is false: you can't choose to opt out of dealing with the societal and environmental consequences of corporate misconduct, either. You can't avoid being sickened by toxic chemicals dumped in your environment or any of the countless other examples simply by choosing not to do business with Acme Petrol.

You perceive this as reframing the debate because it doesn't fit into the narrow frame of your argument. In comparing the relative merits and risks of private vs. public institutions, you've chosen to examine only one kind of potential harm: the kind that results from the monopoly of force that government enjoys. You compare that to the private sector, note that no such monopoly of force exists in the private sector, and conclude that the private sector is better. This is akin to comparing the risks of living in Hawaii to the risks of living in downtown New York, and declaring New York better because it doesn't have the unavoidable risk of living near active volcanoes. While true, this isn't a fair comparison because it ignores a laundry list of equally serious risks of living in downtown New York that don't exist in Hawaii.

What I am doing is pointing out that there are more risks and potential harms to be weighed than just the non-consensual, coercive authority of government, and that private corporations have their own set of very real and very serious risks for which consent is just as nonexistent.

Hence it has agency, i.e. it acts, often with volition, other times by inertia. But, without human agency, gov't is inert, inanimate. As are corporations.

NO.

Government, as an organizational entity, has no "volition" of any sort. It is not sentient.

That was, incidentally, part of the reason for the rant about gun rights. Guns have no agency of their own. When a human fires a gun, he does not transfer his agency to the bullet. It is a tool, utterly incapable in any way, shape or form of having agency of its own. And when a gun is misused by a person, it does not become the gun's fault. That doesn't mean they aren't dangerous tools and shouldn't be regulated in proportion to their risks--but it does mean they are not inherently good or bad.

Conservatives seem to understand this concept just fine when it applies to firearms. It's absolutely amazing that they seem to lose the ability to make that distinction when it comes to demonizing government, which is no more or less capable of agency or conscious decisions than a gun.

A bit of ketchup. Russell:

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

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.
Yes.
To say nothing of the fact that "very little" is not particularly well defined here.
Yes.
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.

The rest of it: yes.

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

In my experience, I've been done less harm, and have found a more responsive counterparty, when dealing with government as compared to private industry.

I've been straight up screwed by private actors and given the time-honored remedy of "take it or leave it". Quite a number of times, actually.

I haven't had that experience when dealing with public sector actors. On the contrary, I've found public sector folks to be pretty damned helpful.

Imagine that. I must just be a lucky guy.

When I lived in NY, bureaucratic BS seemed more common than here where I am now in MA. But I could usually find a way to get what I needed done.

I know my quaint anecdota flies in the face of "market theory", but it's pretty freaking real to me, whereas market theory is something somebody wrote in a book.

I find your story about your buddy who had to provide tons of docs with no subpoena etc pretty compelling. I've had my sorry @ss at various times in the street, in front of folks in my town, and engaged in debate with folks from the DOJ to try to change stuff like that. Also, on the horn with my House Rep and Senators' offices. Also, I've written checks.

So far no joy, I'll try harder. Maybe you'd like to lend a hand.

But straight up, I will in general take my chances with government before pretty much any private actor larger than my local (and locally owned) hardware store or grocery.

I know, personally, people that have died from the harmful effects of commercial industrial activity. I don't really know anyone who's been inadvertently killed by the government. I know those people exist, but leaving aside actual warfare my sense is that more have been killed by commercial sloppiness or outright bad behavior, intended or unintended.

Chacun son gout.

Didn't see this:

Julian, perhaps we are talking semantics. A gov't cannot exist without people. Period. So, anytime I refer to gov't doing something, it does so because of the people working for it or directing it executing gov't policy. This is agency.

Yes. The agency of the people who are taking those actions and making those decisions. And to a larger extent, the agency of those who establish the laws and processes themselves. Not the agency of the social organization we call "government".

This may seem like semantic nitpicking, but it is a critical distinction. Remember, this discussion of agency arose from this statement by 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.

The problem with this statement is that it is assigning agency--responsibility for choices and actions--to the amorphous concept of "government", as if "government" itself were capable of making these choices. The problem with his assertion is that all of these risks he cites come not from any inherent quality of government, but from the choices made by human beings while holding positions of power and the failure or nonexistence of the necessary checks on their power. They would not have the ability to cause these harms without the power granted to them by government, but the power itself isn't the cause of the harm--the responsibility lies with the human actors who made those decisions.

This is a sound reason for establishing strong checks and balances on the power of government, but it is not any kind of an argument about the inherent merits or appropriate size of government the way Brett is using it.

Just a followup on comments from a ways back on wage/CPI tracking. If public sector wages had tracked the CPI since e.g. 1930 then the average public worker would only be able to buy the same goods a public worker could then. So, probably not a 3 bedroom house, or a car, certainly not two cars, no TV, no air travel, no computers or Internet, no modern appliances - or at least, for any of those they were able to buy, they'd have to give up some of the very basics of life from back then.

We can measure this. We have the CPI deflator since 1930 and we know how much teachers made back then. The average eacher salary was $1420 in 1930, and if it had only increased at the CPI since then it would be $18,200 now.

A link between CPI and wages is to force an ever-decreasing share of total income to go to those workers.

Of course what would happen before that is that nobody would go into teaching, or there would be massive labor unrest.

You can tell that teachers are not overpaid by the fact that there are not hordes of college graduates lined up to become teachers. If it was an easy job with a high salary they would be. Collective bargaining doesn't have a damn thing to do with it.

you can't choose to opt out of dealing with the societal and environmental consequences of corporate misconduct, either.

Catsy, I never said I could opt out of consequences. That is your word, not mine. I said, and this is getting very repetitive, that I can chose who I deal with, who I buy from, whose service I hire, etc. I said that corporations cannot, absent a contract, compel me to do anything I don't want to do. Which is why gov't is more prone to abuse: it has the power to coerce. Now, whether that power is used in a good or a bad way depends on a variety of factors. But, discussing the issue in the abstract, gov't is more prone to widespread mayhem that the private sector--not necessarily our gov't, but gov'ts past and present around the world. "More" is a comparative term, not an exclusive term. Companies do bad things too.

Imagine that. I must just be a lucky guy.

I have had many of the same experiences, plus a number of not so great experiences, for years.

I have personal experience with being intentionally misled by an IRS person hoping I wouldn't file an appeal of an adverse--and wrong--ruling.

I've had multiple bad experiences with law enforcement literally making stuff up to nail someone they thought needed nailing. And I'm a conservative, pro-death penalty (kind of) law and order guy.

I've had more than multiple experiences with dishonest judges.

I've seen regulatory types (OSHA, Pipeline) throw their weight around in ways that should be an embarrassment to anyone who cares about good government.

An afterthought on voluntary association in the private sector: if you have to get from Point A to Point B by air and there is only one service provider, the voluntary aspect of that relationship is only theoretical. And it can be unpleasant and without recourse. So, I correct myself.

I know, personally, people that have died from the harmful effects of commercial industrial activity.

Sure, me too. But people do die everyday as a result of gov't action or, perhaps more often, inaction. Criminals let out on parole or probation who should be behind bars, indifferent CPS personnel not following up on child abuse cases, poorly designed and maintained roads, drunk drivers let loose to drink and drive again. I don't consider private or gov't incompetence to be a significant defining or distinguishing mark, probably because I've made my living off of human error. Human error is ubiquitous.

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.

The problem with this statement is that it is assigning agency--responsibility for choices and actions--to the amorphous concept of "government", as if "government" itself were capable of making these choices.

Ok, as a matter of semantics, yes, you are correct. It isn't gov't per se that engages in genocide, it is the particular gov't as led and staffed by humans willing to perpetrate genocide. But, that is not the counter to Brett's argument, which is true, but incomplete. Yes, bad gov'ts do bad things. The only effective responses to that level of bad gov't are (1) revolution, which may or may not work, or (2) a better gov't opposing the bad gov't, e.g. the US/UK et al vs. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

Rob in CT: I'm pretty surprised to see you write this Brett:

"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."
Given what I know of your politics. To see that problem (however overstated it might be) and yet to generally be against any external (to the market) remedies...

Well, Brett does speak of managing the economy, which sounds like socialist talk to me. Maybe his politics are not what we (or maybe even he) think(s) they are.

Consider this paragraph earlier in that same comment of Brett's:

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?
Brett seems to acknowledge (nay, proclaim) that "productivity" is not attributable to workers, i.e. to sovereign individual human beings who love liberty and hate oppression and so forth. He points out, correctly, that the very same sovereign individual human beings can produce more or less depending on the "capital" they have to work with. "Capital" is not just machinery; it includes "infrastructure", both physical (e.g. highways, sewers) and social (e.g. patent laws, money) that, by Brett's analysis, deserves much of the credit for any sovereign individual human being's "productivity". This is a collectivist notion, is it not?

--TP

McKinneyTX: Outside of a contract, no private entity can control or coerce me into doing something I don't want to do.

I should gather up all the links from Consumerist.com of, for example, lenders foreclosing on people who don't even have mortgages with them, or foreclosing on the house next door to the correct property because of a misprint; and in some cases removing all the property from the home and destroying it, or even tearing the house to the ground.

russell:I don't really know anyone who's been inadvertently killed by the government. I know those people exist, but leaving aside actual warfare my sense is that more have been killed by commercial sloppiness or outright bad behavior, intended or unintended.

Not to get into body counts, but the escalation of the War On Some Drugs, combined with increased police militarization, no knock warrants, and taking the dumbest dummies they can get to graduate from the academy, has led to lots and lots and lots of straight-up executions. See, i.e., this, in which, like a FPS video game, the cops barge into the house and simply lay flat every breathing object they lay eyes on -- in this case, a man with a golf club in his hands, awakened by someone breaking into his home, who never even got a chance to ask "Who's there?"

I know people killed as a result of industrial accidents and malfeasance and well, but instances of the police just stone cold killing people in more-or-less cold blood (see also the man shot in the back while being held down by police on a subway platform in SF) seem to be on the rise, not the wane.

I should gather up all the links from Consumerist.com of, for example, lenders foreclosing on people who don't even have mortgages with them, or foreclosing on the house next door to the correct property because of a misprint; and in some cases removing all the property from the home and destroying it, or even tearing the house to the ground.

Phil, the genesis of these things are contracts. Granted, contracts coupled with gross stupidity, but contracts. And, at least in Texas, I can block enforcement of anything you describe fairly cheaply (10K or less) and get my client's attys fees back from the bad actor.

No private entity can barge into your house, arrest you, ransack your possessions and put you in jail without violating any number of criminal and civil laws. The police, well, that's different.

Which is why gov't is more prone to abuse: it has the power to coerce.

You state this as a fact, as though it is proven, McKinney, when it isn't (because of the "more" part). And whether "abuse" is the relevant metric is unclear, not to mention that large corporations have the power to coerce (and that the main thing stopping them is government).

The power to coerce is certainly something that can be abused, which is why, as Catsy stated several times, we need checks on government power. No one is denying that, I don't think. But I don't see any basis for the more-prone-to-abuse-than-private-corporations assertion, or what specifically we should be doing based on it.

But people do die everyday as a result of gov't action or, perhaps more often, inaction. (emphasis mine)

So you're arguing for more government action then, McKinney? ;)

Which is why gov't is more prone to abuse: it has the power to coerce.

You state this as a fact, as though it is proven, McKinney, when it isn't (because of the "more" part). And whether "abuse" is the relevant metric is unclear, not to mention that large corporations have the power to coerce (and that the main thing stopping them is government).

The coercive aspect of gov't generally is far more prone to abuse than any private enterprise in recent history, e.g. the PRC, Nazi Germany, Cambodia, Imperial Japan, etc.

what specifically we should be doing based on it.

I wasn't calling out a problem in need of a solution, I was responding to a comment by Julian: gov't or corporations, which are more prone to abuse? I chose gov't because of (1) history and (2) the inherent power of gov't to coerce its citizens.

I have had many of the same experiences, plus a number of not so great experiences, for years.

We all have our stories.

My point is that it's absurd to state that folks have no meaningful recourse or remedy when dealing with the public sector, and equally absurd to state that a meaningful recourse is always available when dealing with the private sector.

There's good and bad behavior in both. Neither is more or less prone to malfeasance.

Not to get into body counts, but the escalation of the War On Some Drugs, ...

The war on drugs is a stupid, pointless, money-wasting, steaming crock of crap, and prior to the advent of the War On Terror was the primary vehicle for rolling back individual civil rights in this country.

Now, of course, we have the War On Terror, which gave the DOJ and intelligence communities the juice they needed to get the freaking Patriot Act rammed through.

Not to mention the gaping bottomless money pit known as the Department of Homeland Security. We should just take a couple of 18-wheelers full of $100 bills, light them on fire down by the Capitol Mall, and call it a day.

So, no argument from me on any of that.

People should stop voting for boneheads. Wherever and whenever possible.

Phil, the genesis of these things are contracts.

What part of "foreclosing on people who don't have mortgages with them" was the part that you didn't understand? What part of "removing all the property from the wrong home and destroying it" was I not properly describing? That's an absolute, clear-cut, plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face case of a private actor forcing you to do something you don't want to do.

No private entity can barge into your house, arrest you, ransack your possessions and put you in jail without violating any number of criminal and civil laws.

I'll bet you $50 that, for every case I can find as described above, not a single person has ever gone to jail, and I further bet that fewer than 10% have ever paid a criminal fine of any sort.

I wasn't calling out a problem in need of a solution, I was responding to a comment by Julian: gov't or corporations, which are more prone to abuse?

Nevermind. (Way to go, Julian!)

I think part of the problem, here, is that the police and the banks can just point fingers at each other. Sure, we gave the police the wrong information, but it wasn't us that tossed them out. Sure, we tossed them out, but based on information that the bank gave us.

And, somehow, that's allowed to stand.

Again, and again.

But maybe I've got some misapprehension about how this kind of thing works.

Catsy, I never said I could opt out of consequences. That is your word, not mine.

You have got to be fscking kidding me.

No, you did not use the specific word "consequences" while weighing the consequences of government and corporate abuses. What that has to do with this discussion escapes me. Please don't waste my time by nitpicking at synonyms that don't affect the substance of the argument.

I said, and this is getting very repetitive, that I can chose who I deal with, who I buy from, whose service I hire, etc. I said that corporations cannot, absent a contract, compel me to do anything I don't want to do.

Yes, you can; no, they can't.

Great, we agree on that point, and we've been agreeing on it for two pages now. The problem is that you are cherry-picking one single metric by which you can evaluate the relative potential of gov't and corps for bad outcomes--whether or not the entity in question has the ability to lawfully compel or coerce you to do something--and declaring that because gov't has that power and corps don't, that government is less trustworthy and more prone to abuse.

This is a tautological argument. You've chosen as your sole metric a trait that is inherent to government by its very definition--one of the core attributes that defines government is the monopoly of force! It would be like me declaring that corps are less trustworthy and more prone to abuse because they are driven by profit motives. While there is ample evidence that yes, profit motives create an enormous potential for abuse and environmental harm, this isn't a metric that allows an apples-to-apples comparison, because the government is not driven by the quest for profits. In order to do an apples-to-apples comparison, you have to step back to a higher-level discussion: what are the relative harms, and their severity and probability? What aspects of public and private institutions create the potential for harm, for abuse and misconduct?

Yours would be a valid argument if the question was, "which is more likely to compel you to do something against your will, corps or gov't?" It's not. The question was, "why do you think government institutions are inherently less trustworthy or more prone to abuse than corporations?" To return to my previous analogy, you keep saying that NYC is safer than Hawaii because NYC doesn't have volcanoes, and I keep pointing out that volcanoes aren't the only way to compare the relative safety of these two locations, that for example you have to compare the rates of violent crime, local ordinances, and weather-related hazards as well.

It is a fact that the ability to compel behavior under color of law is not the sole measure by which you can evaluate the relative trustworthiness and potential for abuse of public and private institutions. You keep arguing as if it is, and when I point out that there are many other factors to be weighed, you accuse me of reframing the debate, twisting your words, or changing the subject. What I am doing is refusing to accept the arbitrarily narrow criteria you've decided is the only acceptable way to answer the question, criteria that just happens to result in an answer you like.

But, that is not the counter to Brett's argument, which is true, but incomplete. Yes, bad gov'ts do bad things. The only effective responses to that level of bad gov't are (1) revolution, which may or may not work, or (2) a better gov't opposing the bad gov't, e.g. the US/UK et al vs. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

You almost got there.

Brett isn't making a descriptive argument about government, he's making a prescriptive one: in other words he's not just asserting that X Y and Z are true of government, he is asserting these things as support for an argument about the inherent badness of government.

The failure in this argument is that these are not traits that are inherent to government as an institution, but traits that are specific to individual governments and their policies at that time. Genocide, evil, the ruin of society--these arise not from something inherent in the very structure or nature of government, but from choices made by individuals.

In order to make them an inherent flaw in government, Brett has to assign agency to government as an institution--he has to say, in other words, that government does this or government is capable of that, shifting the blame for these crimes from the humans who perpetrated them onto the institution they employed to do so.

It is blaming the tool rather than the user because you don't like the tool. This same broken logic damns all corporations for the sins of BP and Blackwater. This same broken logic lies behind the argument to outlaw all firearms. It is a bad argument regardless of who is making it or to what end.

My point is that it's absurd to state that folks have no meaningful recourse or remedy when dealing with the public sector, and equally absurd to state that a meaningful recourse is always available when dealing with the private sector.

You have the first part of my contention mostly right--there is seldom a meaningful remedy when dealing with gov't mis/malfeasance. Saying so is not absurd. However, I did not say a meaningful recourse is always available when dealing with the private sector. A shorter version of what I have been trying to get across is that a wrong committed by a private entity is far more likely to have recourse than one committed by gov't. And, when recourse is available on the private side, it is usually intended to compensate, to make the aggrieved party whole.

That's an absolute, clear-cut, plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face case of a private actor forcing you to do something you don't want to do.

Well, not really and not without a contract of some kind. Foreclosure requires, at least foreclosure in Texas, a series of events: default, notice, a waiting period, public sale. A homeowner that gets notice and fails to act is partly at fault. Foreclosure without notice is wrongful and can be set aside, plus damages.

You are describing, I think, either a foreclosure without default, or without documentation or foreclosure on the wrong house. The beginning of any of these is a contract. Or, you have a trespass by the foreclosing entity. In the last example, foreclosure on the wrong house, you have a trespass, plus damages, etc. I never said private entities could not do wrong and few of us consent to being victims.

Private entities perpetrate all manner of civil and criminal wrongs on unwilling victims. No one consents or volunteers for that. Everything you describe is a private entity acting outside the law.

You've chosen as your sole metric a trait that is inherent to government by its very definition--one of the core attributes that defines government is the monopoly of force!

It is precisely the governmental monopoly on the lawful use of force that makes it more prone to abuse than any corporate entity I can think of.

It is a fact that the ability to compel behavior under color of law is not the sole measure by which you can evaluate the relative trustworthiness and potential for abuse of public and private institutions.

I never said it was the sole measure, but it is certainly the leading measure and it leads by a lot. Autocracies rule by force and the threat of force. Their pronouncements are untrustworthy. In western liberal democracies, the use of force is much more subtle and restrained and relatively much more rare, for the most part. The level of trust is higher, but still, do you really believe what your gov't tells you?

You almost got there.

Then I am making progress and am humbled to have done so. :-)

Everything you describe is a private entity acting outside the law.

And what is genocide? I'm sure there are despots who think it's within their rights, but that really has nothing to do with the merits or flaws of government per se.

It is precisely the governmental monopoly on the lawful use of force that makes it more prone to abuse than any corporate entity I can think of.

Now we're getting somewhere. Previously you've rejected any of my attempts to point out that corporations have their own set of factors that create the potential for abuse as "reframing". This is a discussion that we can have.

I never said it was the sole measure, but it is certainly the leading measure and it leads by a lot.

Hardly.

The government has the unique power to compel and coerce under color of law, it is true. This is inherent to its purpose. Without the appropriate checks and balances, it is accountable to no one, and this has the potential for great harm. Fortunately, we do have a number of checks and balances on that power that the government accountable to voters. Not enough, in my opinion, but the accountability is not nonexistent.

Corporations, on the other hand, are driven by the accumulation of ever greater profits, which create a demonstrable and exhaustively-documented motive for corruption and abuse which simply has no equal in the public sector. While abuses driven by financial gain do occur in the government, and corporations do lack the coercive power of government, it is government regulation itself that serves as the sole meainingful check on the power of corporations--beyond that, they are accountable only to their shareholders, whose overwhelming motivation tends to be the very accumulation of profit that drives the worst corporate abuses.

It is really not as straightforward a question as you make it out to be, and in order to give a meaningful answer you have to move beyond the excessive simplicity of "government is dangerous because it alone can make you do stuff" and evaluate the respective drawbacks of public and private solutions from the higher-level perspective of risk mitigation and harm reduction than from the overly specific and simplistic question of who has the most coercive power.

A shorter version of what I have been trying to get across is that a wrong committed by a private entity is far more likely to have recourse than one committed by gov't. And, when recourse is available on the private side, it is usually intended to compensate, to make the aggrieved party whole.

And where does this recourse come from? And doesn't one also need to consider not just in which case recourse is more likely, but also how likely it is that such recourse will be necessary in the first place?

"Corporations, on the other hand, are driven by the accumulation of ever greater profits, which create a demonstrable and exhaustively-documented motive for corruption and abuse which simply has no equal in the public sector"

I disagree, example is Confederate government in Civil War

do you really believe what your gov't corporations tells you?

You don't watch many commercials, do you? I must admit, if that's the case, bully for you.

Catsy, if you would be okay with it, could you please send me an email address I could reach you at to gary underscore farber at yahoo dot com?

I merely wish to pay you a compliment in private, but I'd seriously like to do it.

Thanks, if so, please.

Don't expect an immediate response.

crithical tinkerer:

[...] If you are interested to know more about whats at the center of it and what is at stake [...]
Given that English is your fifth language, you've said -- and that's extremely impressive, by the way; I can barely manage one -- I think you may not be aware that the connotations of your phrasing repeatedly suggest that you, and you alone, are privileged to some special knowledge that you are revealing to us.

Yet you keep doing it about stuff that has been commonly assumed on this blog for many years, and by many commenters on this blog for many decades, and this includes facts, beliefs, opinions, points of view, and a variety of manner of subjects.

I'm sure this is not an effect you desire to imply.

And goodness knows, I'm the last person in the world who should ever suggest to anyone that they might seem to be coming across as condescending: I'm terrible about not seeming so, and I have an endlessly history of either sounding condescending, or worse, actually being so at times.

So I'm hardly saying it's a terrible flaw, and I'm also saying that it's something that I'm sure you don't wish to come across as, and that you're unaware of it, but I hope I might gently suggest that your phrasing does, repeatedly, consistently, come across that way to at least one reader.

Many of us might know what's at stake, be aware of facts you announce, events you present as news, articles you seem to think we've never read, people you seem to think we've never heard of, opinions we in fact have held for decades, and so on.

Many of us do, and if you might make an effort to read some of the past blog, which has been here since 2003, you might better avoid that kind of accidental effect.

Reading older stuff would be an effort, and I'm not at all suggesting that that's required. Not at all. But I do suggest that perhaps you might pause to consider your phrasing a bit more, and whether or not you might leave the reader with an impression that you think you're announcing news to people who are very very very familiar with what you're saying, and have agreed with it for decades, lived their lives on such a basis, and written, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of words about such at topic or fact, for decades, or even just for years.

Just a suggestion.

Thanks for any consideration of it!

While numerous examples when corporations took total control: [...] Nazi Germany, fascist Italy [....]
It's extremely difficult to make a case that corporations, be they Krupp, Siemens, Bayer, IBM, Volkswagen, Hugo Boss, Thyssen & Co, I. G. Farben, United Steel Works of Germany (Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG, the Reich Association of German Industry, and I could keep going through several books worth of names, given that I've read hundreds literally thousands, of books on the topic of the evolution of the Nazi Party, and used to work as an editor on a line of military history books, etc., "took total control" of the Nazi Party.

I would say that, in fact, it's quite impossible, and that you're wildly over-stating to the point of taking a valid point and turning into a nonsensical claim.

You may not want to do that.

You may not want to do that general, and in repeated specifics, as a repeated pattern.

Ditto as regards Mussolini and the Italian Fascist Party. We can dig into the specifics, but I seriously won't bother.

All of the discussion we and public at large is having is defensive from left's point of view, left is trying to defend all policies previously argued over and already established in the system.
You're not talking to "left" or "right."

You're writing to specific people, who are individuals, who have names. If you wish to discuss what they say, please address them by name. If you wish to analyze what specific organizations do, please name them. If you wish to discuss what movements of people do, try to be as specific as possible.

If you wish to speak in vast generalities, don't be surprised when people object, take issue with you, or mock you within the Posting Rules.

These are The Posting Rules of Obsidian Wings.

You can reread them as many times as you like via the link on the top left sidebar of the blog, under the picture of the kitty, where you'll see:

Important Notes
[...]
* ObWi's Banning Policy
[...]
* Posting Rules
They include this:
[...] Lastly, just a reminder that Left and Right have very broad definitions and that people are going to take it personally if you inform them that of course all Xs eat babies, should they themselves be Xs (or Ys trying to keep things cool).
Please keep this in mind. Thanks.

Don't be surprised, by the way, anyone, when a revised set of these Rules possibly appears in the future.

If so, there won't be any significant changes; merely clarification of the various additions there as "UPDATE," repeatedly, which haven't been updated since 2007, and and otherwise will be mere clarification of wording, with possibly some slightly greater explication.

But this is all an "if"; such revisions haven't yet been submitted to the Collective, let alone discussed, so I'm merely mentioned this seems a likely event at some point in the not infinite future. Maybe.

C'mon Gary, if you could hear intonation of my thoughts while writing nobody would think that :-)
I believe that it is the lack of sophisticated, sensitive vocabulary that makes my writing harsh and definitive. And my points are directed mostly to republicans and trying to give them the bottom line, because thats where they started to stray away from logic. Today, there was a discussion on the role of the government which was clearly discussed by Founding Fathers, but they do not get it.

There is no need for you to try to make a point in order for someone to take it as if you were trying to in present very emotional divide.
We like people commenting on ObWi to have points, and make them.

There's no rule about it. But you'll find that people tend to be more interested in comments and commenters who are making a point.

Someone can take it
Someone can do anything. I suggest writing in the first person, about how you take something, or writing in the third person about how some some specific person or set of named groupings, take something, rather than announcing that "someone" can do something, anything.

Because anyone, indeed, can do anything. This is very much not an interesting point. Someone can sit and read such comments forever, and there would be no point to reading such pointless comments.

It's perhaps best if you try to restrain yourself from assertions about what "someone" might do, given that "someone" "can" do anything human beings are capable of doing, and the claim would be both true and completely meaningless.

Examples of what "someone can" do are literally infinite.

Perhaps someone can make a point.

Perhaps most commenters on this blog do try to make points, however silly or badly argued.

This is perhaps a point of English usage that may be obscure coming from someone whose native language is possibly Croatian, but nonetheless, we're communicating in English, so it seems necessary for someone to draw this point.

"Corporations, on the other hand, are driven by the accumulation of ever greater profits, which create a demonstrable and exhaustively-documented motive for corruption and abuse which simply has no equal in the public sector"

I disagree, example is Confederate government in Civil War

It's possibly just me who has absolutely no idea what you mean here. What is the Confederate government an example of? What are you disagreeing with, exactly? Which part of the statements you quote?

McKinneyTexas:

I can choose, for the most part, which companies or people I associate/do business with.
I suggest that this is because you are economically well off.

If you, say, have little education, few opportunities, little income, or not enough to match your subsistence needs, or use mass transit, let alone own your own car, as many people so exist, or are otherwise more poorly economicatlly situated, or simply otherwise limited by circumstances, they may have few or no such opportunities.

This is in fact the case for many tens of millions of Americans. I draw your attention to the fact that many people live lives different than yours, and not by choice.

If, say, you only make $7.25 per hour, can find only part-time work, and on temp jobs, and yet still need to eat, feed your family, ahave money to get to your job, and so on, you may have no alternative to, say, dealing with a check-cashing service you can walk to, because there are no banks in walking distance, and they'll only loan you money at exorbitant rates, you may have no choice but to either deal with them, go to an illegal loan shark, beg money from a family you perhaps don't have or which also has no money, turn to crime, or watch your baby cry for lack of food, and so on.

Tens of millions of people live in poverty, but we can give endless examples of other types of lack of choice, as has been mentioned to you in the case of laws not restraining pollutors, or, say, when there was only Bell Telephone, and you had no choice as to where to go to have a telephone.

It's great that you, yourself, and people like you, have so many options. Not everyone does.

The good people of Wisconsin strike me as strong and smart and, better yet, pro-union.

That said, how in the hell did they elect this Scott Walker a-hole in the first place?

Just read The People of the Abyss by Jack London (his non-fiction book).

Amazing how similar the world is 110 years later, for undocumented workers in the US, but I imagine also for emerging capitalist societies on a vast scale.

A painful read (both because of the topic and the data heavy style), but one that seems on topic for the basic issue of security that the unions exist to promote.

fairly cheaply (10K or less)
Boggle.

Feel free to spare me $5/month, then, or $50/month, if it's such small change to you.

Or more appropriately, toss these folks a K, or $100, if $10,000 is "fairly cheaply" to you.

Homeless people:

[...] As a result of methodological and financial constraints, most studies are limited to counting people who are in shelters or on the streets. While this approach may yield useful information about the number of people who use services such as shelters and soup kitchens, or who are easy to locate on the street, it can result in underestimates of homelessness. Many people who lack a stable, permanent residence have few shelter options because shelters are filled to capacity or are unavailable. A recent study conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that 12 of the 23 cities surveyed had to turn people in need of shelter away due to a lack of capacity. Ten of the cities found an increase in households with children seeking access to shelters and transitional housing while six cities cited increases in the numbers of individuals seeking these resources (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2007).

On an average night in the 23 cities surveyed, 94 percent of people living on the streets were single adults, 4 percent were part of families and 2 percent were unaccompanied minors. Seventy percent of those in emergency shelters were single adults, 29 percent were part of families and 1 percent were unaccompanied minors. Of those in transitional housing, 43 percent were single adults, 56 percent were part of families, and 1 percent were unaccompanied minors. Those who occupied permanent supportive housing were 60 percent single adults, 39.5 percent were part of families, and .5 percent were unaccompanied minors (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2008).

The average length of stay in emergency shelter was 69 days for single men, 51 days for single women, and 70 days for families. For those staying in transitional housing, the average stay for single men was 175 days, 196 days for single women, and 223 days for families. Permanent supportive housing had the longest average stay, with 556 days for single men, 571 days for single women, and 604 days for women (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2008). The homeless population is estimated to be 42 percent African-American, 39 percent white, 13 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Native American and 2 percent Asian, although it varies widely depending on the part of the country. An average of 26 percent of homeless people are considered mentally ill, while 13 percent of homeless individuals were physically disabled (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2008). Nineteen percent of single homeless people are victims of domestic violence while 13 percent are veterans and 2 percent are HIV positive. Nineteen percent of homeless people are employed (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2008).

In addition, a study of homelessness in 50 cities found that in virtually every city, the city's official estimated number of homeless people greatly exceeded the number of emergency shelter and transitional housing spaces (National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, 2004). Moreover, there are few or no shelters in rural areas of the United States, despite significant levels of homelessness (Brown, 2002). The Council for Affordable and Rural Housing estimates that about nine percent of the nation’s homeless are in rural areas (The Council for Affordable and Rural Housing). As a result of these and other factors, many people in homeless situations are forced to live with relatives and friends in crowded, temporary arrangements. People in these situations are experiencing homelessness, but are less likely to be counted. For instance, of the children and youth identified as homeless by the Department of Education in FY2000, only 35% lived in shelters; 34% lived doubled-up with family or friends, and 23% lived in motels and other locations. Yet, these children and youth may not immediately be recognized as homeless and are sometimes denied access to shelter or the protections and services of the McKinney-Vento Act.

There's info on methodology and sources on that page, if you're interested.

I am a little late to this party but the discussion on agency and government versus corporation reminded of a lecture I had heard about 10 years back which I thought made some points that were relevant here. Googling came up with this article that captures the essence of the analysis, it is a bit pedantic but not too bad and the lead author even got a positive response from Richard Feynman which is saying something.

While Catsy made some very good points, I do not think that you can compare an organization to a physical tool in any meaningful way. A group of people has its own dynamic, while it is not an individual it is comprised of people interacting and the one of the key points in the article is that an organization can be structured so that each individual can behave in a very understandable, pragmatic, and dare I say moral fashion but the sum total can be immoral because that is how the organizational structure is devised or, perhaps more correctly, evolves.

The organization can be a corporation or a government but I think the analysis does explain how people can function while involved in inherently immoral endeavors due to the fact that they are insulated from the totality of what the organization is doing and the more complex the organization the more likely the phenomenon is likely to arise.

So the take home lesson for me is that it is vital to step back and take the wider view of things because if you do not then you are more liable to get sucked into a system that could be working against your own interests and even antithetical to your beliefs.

While this ground has been fairly pounded down by now, one thread I see having emerged here is the conception of government we have.

I wonder just why it is that in a nominally advanced country such as ours, we are indeed having this debate, and especially in one that highlights its constitution with "we the people."

I also realize this analogy's been rubbed in the dirt, but it's still a handy one that I will now retire - I don`t see, say, Swedish people ever wondering how their government can be tyrannical, because (and to some, this is pretty thin gruel, I admit) it's taken on face value that they would never allow their country to fall into the extremist thinking that leads to tyranny, or let their public institutions and services be reframed as oppressive organs.

So I have a question for Brett, McKinney, and the others who seem terrified by the "government oppression" they think lurks in such organs and services: when you go to your local DMV to renew your driver's license, are you being oppressed? When you pop your tax return into the mail (or send it off via e-tax), are you being oppressed? If you have to follow, say, a building code for some business expansion you're planning, are you being oppressed?

I cite examples such as these because I find, when you ferret out the bullshit, that this is what corporations and other business owners are really on about. They find the prospect that they are subject to the law like the rest of us to be an act of oppression.

When it comes down to it, governments are only as good as the people in them. There's nothing profound in saying that they can be oppressive. But it says a lot about how we see the role of government if we're worried about things that, in a lot of other countries, are taken at face value, even (gasp! choke!) as common sense, and must wring our hands over. We never seem to countenance that lack of law might just lead to a vacuum that no amount of homespun civility, or rafts of gentlemen's agreements, will suffice to fill.

The irony is that if we were genuinely worried about government oppression, why have we allowed it to take place in our country over our history? If you were a black person in the southeastern part of our country up to the 1960s or so, I think you can genuinely talk about government oppression. If you were a Japanese-American onion farmer in Idaho circa 1942, you could genuinely talk about government oppression. If you were Hispanic and living in Los Angeles in the immediate post-WWII years, you can genuinely talk about government oppression.

We could go even further back - if you had been a mineworker in West Virginia at the turn of the 20th century, you could genuinely talk about government (and corporate, for that matter) oppression.

I could go on and on, and I've droned on for far too long. Nuf sed.

fairly cheaply (10K or less)

Boggle.

Feel free to spare me $5/month, then, or $50/month, if it's such small change to you.

Or more appropriately, toss these folks a K, or $100, if $10,000 is "fairly cheaply" to you.

Gary, you can't imagine what "reasonably" priced legal services go for these days. I didn't mean to imply that 10K isn't a lot of money. It is. Which is why I am a big fan of an established system that lets lay people get through the storm at a cost that, while objectively high, is nothing compared to litigating in uncharted waters. Also, FWIW, I am aware of the need for funding kids with no home or from broken homes and act on this.

So I have a question for Brett, McKinney, and the others who seem terrified by the "government oppression" they think lurks in such organs and services: when you go to your local DMV to renew your driver's license, are you being oppressed? When you pop your tax return into the mail (or send it off via e-tax), are you being oppressed? If you have to follow, say, a building code for some business expansion you're planning, are you being oppressed?

I've never made the blanket statement that all gov't is oppressive. Coercive and oppressive are entirely different terms. Speed limits are coercive, but the support for speed limits is virtually universal. However, the point that coercion can lead to oppression in specific instances is hardly debatable. The oppression doesn't have to be conscious policy. It can simply be inertia/default that is unresponsive to the citizenry's vast and varied needs or desires.

That's a good point McT, and is probably why Brett raised so many hackles with his 212 degrees of oppression suggestion. But right after you make it, you create a seamless cline between coercion and oppression, which I think is problematic. So I think that a more detailed discussion of coercion and oppression would be really helpful. I'll start off with a bit of anecdote.

As I've mentioned, I teach English as a second language. There are a lot of plaints about declining student ability, demographic problems yada yada yada. It's forcing me and my colleagues to review any number of things that we used to do as a matter of course. I can't speak for my colleagues, but I view the fact that my students are in the department of British and American studies, and the fact that their parents are paying a good sum of money for that privilege, along with the relative lack of forethought into what their lives are going to be invites me to use a lot of coercion in getting them to study and learn. A lot. Some of my colleagues are a bit horrified I demand preparation before classes begin (one colleague said it wasn't authorized to give assignments to students while classes were finished), often collect phone numbers and email of students who I feel are high risk for not finishing the course and badgering them early and often. I'm not always comfortable with it, and I would much prefer that I could simply dispense my pearls of wisdom and then evaluate the quality at the end and give out grades. But, given the difficulties we are seeing in education here, to do that is to be ignorant of the root of many of the problems. So I coerce and coerce. Can it lead to oppression? I'm sure it could, and I have to be careful that I'm not simply trying to do some sort of Darwinian selection for the traits I like from a personal standpoint and deselect those that may help the students learn just as much even though I don't like them. I'd like to think that I coerce students into doing things that they will, in the fullness of time, grow to appreciate.

What I don't understand is that if one makes an argument that coercion leads to oppression, so we must treat coercion with some suspicion, how they justify existing as a social being? Everything becomes some from of coercion, from the dirty look at the guy trying to cut into your line of traffic, to asking for someone to submit information in order to 'serve you better'. At certain points, if the information is used in a manner that doesn't help you, but actually hurts you, then, the coercion becomes a problem, but that's not the discussion we've been having, it's been how government contains the seeds of oppression. The price of government is not simply eternal vigilance, it is eternal saying it is too big and trying to make it smaller. That makes not sense to me, given that a large majority of our improvements in our lives have come at the expansion of information technology. But rather than say 'let's examine all these things', some on your 'side' argue that there is no way to separate the baby and the bathwater, so out it all goes.

I'd really appreciate, especially from your perch as a lawyer, where you see a line drawn between coercion and oppression, or perhaps acceptable coercion and unacceptable.

The good people of Wisconsin strike me as strong and smart and, better yet, pro-union.

That said, how in the hell did they elect this Scott Walker a-hole in the first place?

It could be that one or more of the observations in your first sentence is inaccurate. Or that Walker is attempting to do something other than what he promised to do on campaign. Or it could be that people are just thoroughly, predictably inconsistent.

I really don't know one way or the other.

LJ, first, I think your comment has all the makings of a first class post. But, to respond, I think there are shades and degrees of the meaning of coercion, not to mention contexts, that produce vastly different outcomes.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of a law or regulation that isn't coercive to some degree. The same is true for customs and mores we impose on ourselves and others.

I don't have a bright line demarcating coercion and oppression, but there are markers. Consensual coercion and even oppression are perfectly fine with me , and I don't mean in a sexual context.

You started an open thread on sports. I played football in high school (not well). By any objective standards, many of the coaches I played for were openly oppressive, particularly in practice. I signed on for that, even though I didn't like a lot of it.

Military service is oppressive and so is trying lawsuits. Many employer/employee relationships are oppressive to some degree and this is mostly legal oppression, but too often not, e.g. sexual predation and harassment. In principle, the employer/employee relationship is fundamentally consensual, and the remedy for a bad boss is to seek employment elsewhere. The benefit of mandating work place civility and making incivility actionable is far outweighed by regulating and litigating human interaction on the granular level. It's the human condition and not all people are nice.

Subjectivity permeates this discussion.

On the legal side, proscriptive coercion that limits what one person can do to another is on the "good" side of official coercion. Injunctive coercion (my term) in which one person is required to act in favor of another moves the analysis toward 'neutral' or even 'undesirable' although in many cases even injunctive coercion is appropriate, e.g. a parent is legally bound to materially support his/her child, to feed, cloth, attend to and protect the health of the child. It's an obligation one assumes by bringing a child into the world. Paying taxes is injunctive coercion as is jury duty and a military draft. All necessary, at least at times, but still an infringement on complete personal liberty.

Most injunctive prescriptions flow from a privilege or license or undertaking individuals voluntarily assume, which is the source of the specific injunction's legitimacy. Examples include, driving a car on a public highway, traveling to and from another country, starting a business, owning real property, engaging in commerce etc.

Some limited injunctions are imposed on citizens simply because they exist and hold a job: paying taxes, mandatory school attendance through age 16(?), certain vaccinations, etc.

The leading marker separating an injunctive prescription from merely coercive to oppressive is whether the individual is being compelled by law to act for him/herself or for another where the compelled act is unrelated to compliance with existing law. Even this is subjective, but an example would be the individual insurance mandate in HCR. Minimum wage laws are another example, but they are also an example of an injunction we all pretty much agree with. Mandatory education is another example. Again, we all pretty much agree with it. But what we wouldn't agree with would be requiring adults to attend college. Another example would be taking away a recognized right: gun ownership or abortion. Minds differ on both of these, but the agency of gov't enforcing either would be viewed by significant numbers of people as oppressive.

If I've completely missed the point of your request, I apologize for the babble.

Sorry McT, I stopped reading after you said my comment would make a good post ;^)

You said injunctive coercion was your term, is proscriptive coercion your term or something that is recognized? I'm not promising a post, but I'll certainly think about it. Thanks for the kind words

is proscriptive coercion your term or something that is recognized

Mine, I think.

While Catsy made some very good points, I do not think that you can compare an organization to a physical tool in any meaningful way.

You make some good points, and I'll have to delve deeper into that article when I have more time to read. But I would have to disagree that you can't meaningfully compare an organization to a physical tool.

It's true that there are any number of nontrivial differences--starting with the obvious fact that an organization is a social construct while a tool is a physical object. But the key commonality that was relevant to the point I was making is that like a physical tool, a government has no agency of its own--no consciousness or capacity for reasoning that allows it to make its own choices.

The context of that argument was that I was responding to someone who was trying to pin the blame for various historical wrongs on the institution of government--not just ours, but all governments--by asserting that "government" is dangerous because it is inherently capable of these wrongs. I reject this premise entirely because anything government "does" it does solely because of the decisions and actions of human beings, whether or not the outcome was the intended one. Humans can misuse government to perpetrate crimes like that when sufficient checks on their power do not exist or are not employed--however that is due not to any inherent quality of government as a generic institution, but rather due to the deicisons of those who failed to establish or enforce those checks.

To put it another way, government has only the powers and qualities given to it by the people who establish and maintain that government. Asserting that "government"--again, not just any specific form of government, but any government regardless of qualification--is dangerous because it is inherently capable of genocide et al is like asserting that a hammer is dangerous because it is inherently capable of caving in someone's skull. You could say that, of course, but it would be true only in a very colloquial sense--and this is a usage that confuses, rather than clarifies, the source of agency for these actions.

Please don't construe this as me arguing that government cannot be misused, or that we need not guard against such misuse. What I'm doing is pushing back against the broader conservative agenda that seeks to delegitimize government by scaremongering about its "inherent" dangers as if they were an inseparable facet of government per se, and as if private institutions don't have an equally frightening potential for damage to our society and world when corrupted or misused by the people who run them.

the broader conservative agenda that seeks to delegitimize government

So, are you saying that agendas have agency?


:-)

I had no time to find the origin of this cite from comments on another blog posted by a WI resident:


Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE This story keeps getting better. Today, we hear about Charles and David Koch, but there's a third Koch brother - William. William wasn't the first to sue Charles and David for fraud, but his 1999 court action ended the most conclusively and dramatically. Ten years earlier, in 1989, William Koch was involved in a filing on the behalf of Native American Nations against Charles and David, but the interesting civil suit was when William sued his brothers personally for fraud in 1999.
And won.
William had ethical differences with Charles and David back in the '80s over Charles' "sociopathic management style". His message on "60 Minutes II" in November 2000 was to tell the world that Koch Industries was a criminal enterprise.
It was – was my family company. I was out of it," he says. "But that’s what appalled me so much... I did not want my family, my legacy, my father’s legacy to be based upon organized crime". - William Koch, 27 Nov 2000, 60 Minutes II
The fraud was perpetrated by doctoring the oil measurements. If the oil depth on your lands were really 7'3", Koch Industries guagers were told to report it as 7'1", and Koch would pocket the remainder. Koch would perpetrate this fraud largely on Federal and Native American lands, and it added up to hundreds of millions of dollars a year. 50 former Koch gaugers testified against the company, some in video depositions.
Scooter to his Koch pal about Tim Cullen "He is not one of us."

Citing blog comments as evidence of anything is absolutely acceptable. From which you can conclude that 9/11 really was an inside job, that Paul McCartney really has been dead since 1966, and that WMDs actually were in Iraq but were moved to Syria.

Also, Vince Foster was murdered.

Citing blog comments as evidence of anything is absolutely acceptable

wikipedia's pretty naff too, but Bill Koch's entry there has a link to the cbsnews report of some of this, including details of the court case.

50 former Koch gaugers testified against the company. The jury found against Koch industries -- oil theft and deception.

More at

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2000/11/27/60II/main252545.shtml

Foster wasn't murdered? Cite?

Ohio's state senate has its own version of the Wisconsin union-busting bill in committee right now, and Republicans have found a great way to ensure its passage. Don't have the votes? Just remove "no" voters from the committee! Democracy!

Now, you know I can't prove a negative.

Also, Balloon Juice points out that one of the replacement committee members is, plain and simple, a liar, having promised firefighters' union members during the campaign that he supported collective bargaining, then voting for the amendment to end collective bargaining.

But please, more Vince Foster jokes.

crithical tinkerer:

I had a cite on another thread this morning about the theft of oil from American Indians by Koch Industries.

But, this from Wikipedia, shows that ALL of brothers in the Koch Family, regardless of the differences among each other, are prime movers in the American oligarchy's threat to the rest of the American population:

"U.S. Rep. John Salazar introduced a bill in April that would give energy magnate Bill Koch just over 1,840 acres (7.4 km2) of Bureau of Land Management land and a 3-acre (12,000 m2) sliver of Forest Service land in Gunnison County for Koch giving the National Park Service 991 acres (4.01 km2) in Dinosaur National Monument and the Curecanti National Recreation Area.

The trade was initiated more than two years ago by Koch — the world's 316th richest man, according to Forbes, and Salazar's most generous campaign contributor.

A representative of Salazar's said the swap was initiated by Gunnison County officials and that it has garnered support from local officials as well as national politicians and agencies. The National Park Service supports the swap because it will ensure protection of two valuable pieces of land that otherwise could be developed. U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall of Colorado have filed a companion measure in the Senate.

But others, including some staffers at the Bureau of Land Management, worry that Koch will be getting land with much higher value because of its potential for energy development. They also complain that there was very little opportunity for public input and scrutiny of the deal. There were no public hearings specifically devoted to gathering public comment, as there are with most proposed government land swaps."

What would you expect from the toxic spawn of John Birch vermin? It's in their genes.

They use the instrument of government in bipartisan ways to circumvent the duty of government to consult (no public hearings?) all of us about the course of our country.

We are not represented.

They are.

Sometimes, the much-maligned bureaucracy represents the interests of the common American man and woman better than our "elected" representatives.

And when the "elected" representatives actually have a conscious, the oligarchy astro-turfs the ignorant among the common American men and women to find more malleable "representatives" for the oligarchy to puppeteer, and to destroy the inconvenient bureaucracy.

But I have a feeling that the Tea Party tiger the oligarchs have by the tail at the moment, and will use to remove gummint from between the oligarchs and the "people", is going to turn into something more voracious and dangerous than a tiger when the "people" in the Tea Party (joined by teachers in Wisconsin, and Medicare and Medicaid patients death-paneled across the country, and women about to be murdered by the defunding of Planned Parenthood, and Tea Party folks in the Marcellus Shale region whose wells and lakes and rivers are going to be poisoned by the same folks who bankrolled the destruction of government and pensions and healthcare) wake up and find out what they fell for.

Here comes the Balrog.

Long live the Balrog.

May he burn it to the ground.


Balloon Juice points out that

Links to the March archive, which although still small, contains a fair number of articles.

Can you link to the one you're referring to, please?

Nevermind; it's here.

Phil, besides more Vince Foster jokes, I hope we also spend a good additional amount of time discussing whether or not the Republican rep practiced good faith or bad faith, because I always feel more secure with folks who tell me upfront that they are going to screw me, and then god#mned follow through.

Regarding Vince Foster, would it have been good or bad faith on his part to leave a well-shot-up casaba melon at the park ahead of time, as a head's up for his suicide or murder (hey, under FOX, Limbaugh, etc rules, anything can be true, if repeated and believed)?

Would Dan Burton then have taken the real Vince Foster into his backyard and shot him in the head dozens of times to PROVE the malign fate of the aforesaid melon?

The sharron angle of the bullet's trajectory into the melon could prove that second amendment remedies predate the 2010 election campaign, tracing back through the holes in JFK and Martin Luther King and even further back.

One bullet fired by one shooter about 235 years ago traveling through time and through Lincoln, Medger Evers, JFK, MLK, RFK, Vince Foster, untold numbers of melons, (oddly, just winging Reagan, McKinley, Wallace and others) and continuing on into the future to its next victim.

McKinley just died form his wounds, I'm sorry to report.

It wasn't a Vince Foster joke any more than it was a 9/11 joke. But you already knew that.

I'd hope, anyway.

What do Republican politicians and tax cheats have in common that they cooperate so vigourously:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/01/AR2011030104721.html

Via Kevin Drum, and you should pop over and read his commentary as well.

Apparently, we're going to have more 1990's style dog and pony shows on Capitol Hill about the jack-booted thugs at the IRS collecting taxes from cheats.

Probably just when you grow bored of the union thugs who teach algebra to the kiddies in Wisconsin.

I figure if I'm going to be called a thug, that thuggery is in order.


Off-topic, even for me:

Brett mentioned, and I paraphrase, on some thread in recent days that the human race may have trouble finding gainful employment for a good many of us, given technologiocal advances and other forms of outsourcing.

I thought it was an acute and interesting observation.

So, via Sullivan, I find this (below), which in some ways intimates that technology may even "relieve" us being ourselves in our daily interactions with other selves.

When all of the selves fashion a replacement bot for themselves, what will be left for the selves to do?

http://tomorrowmuseum.com/2011/02/24/my-cyber-twin-and-me/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TomorrowMuseum+%28Tomorrow+Museum%29

what will be left for the selves to do?

Go play with . . . never mind.

Otherwise known as shaking hands with the unemployed.

Maybe a good part of the human race is destined to sit around all day and entertain themselves on their Facebook and other media showcases like chimpanzees play with themselves in their cages at the zoo.

Boredom and exhibitionism combined into one stultifying big mess of loss of self.

Walker Percy wrote novels about this.

idle hands are [... fill in the blank]

........ worth only one bird in the bush.

........ the way to increase America's productivity and let more profits fall to the bottom line

........ (are) don't kill people, busy hands with guns kill people

........ have time to take on the enemy with one hand tied behind their back

hey, at least we're holding our own.

It's funny. I was going to bleg for a post on the labor economics of a world that is more and more capital driven and less and less labor driven over time and how to deal with that in a way that doesn't result in something like feudalism, only without the backbreaking labor for the serfs. (I almost typed "surfs.")

One way I can see it going is that there would be a very small (less than 1%) uber-wealthy oligarchy of hyper-capitalists; a somewhat larger (5 or 10%) second tier - a middle class of sorts, something like the upper-most of the middle class we now have - of technologists who design, build, operate and maintain (DBOM) the capital assets; a lower class (25 to 35%) mainly comprising servants (broadly defined, not necessarily "personal") for the previous two classes, looking something like the rest of our current middle class, down to the bottom of what's considered middle class today; and then the other 60% or so mostly unemployed (at least in terms of the "technological" economy - they might form their own) masses who will somehow have to be kept at bay or placated to prevent revolt.

(I'm pretty sure Gary knows of 20 or a hundred sci-fi pieces that ponder this in great detail.)

Otherwise known as shaking hands with the unemployed.

hey, at least we're holding our own

Someone needs to get a grip.

An interesting piece on how we measure the economy wrong and see the next steps to maintaining a competitive economy differenty by Michael Mandel here

'An interesting piece on how we measure the economy wrong and see the next steps to maintaining a competitive economy differenty by Michael Mandel here'

I read through the docs at the link. They contain a lot of data that I suspect can enlighten if one has the ability to absorb and properly analyze and interpret. I tend to accept the premise that we measure using flawed metrics. How could this not be true? We have a government that is very deeply involved in major ways to influence economic activity in all of our major sectors of activities that compose our GDP, not to mention the outright criminal behavior of much of our private financial sector in recent decades. Both made significant contributions to the distortions in the housing market that raised 'market values' well beyond anything that could be viewed as 'wealth', (although it was), and resulted in the 'crash' of 2008. We have healthcare that is good but delivered unevenly at a cost much greater than it should be. We have too many people paying exorbitantly for advanced educations that they cannot put to profitable use. Similar major distortions exist in the marketplace for energy (focus of much of our current attention because of events in the middle east). One does not need to dig very deep to see the ubiquitous hands of government, (federal, state, and local), in all these distortions. And we have the deal-making between the big corporate businesses and government to add to this, and which is, of course, the origin of much of the distortions already mentioned.

No wonder no one has any notion of how to move policy in a way that will create jobs. I have no confidence that the numbers we hear regularly in an attempt to describe our economic situation have any relevance. We might have a new paradigm of work and leisure that replaces our existing notions about employment and unemployment and we might not.

We will likely have a great deal of aberrant political and social behavior as we work our way through this.

There will be ample opportunities for rants as well as reasoned thought.

"There will ample opportunities for rants as well as reasoned thought."

Nah, I think times running out for both.

Mike Huckabee, of the Republican Party, which requires liquidation, before they liquidate me.

"If I run, I walk away from a pretty good income. I don’t want to walk away any sooner than I have to because frankly, I don’t have a lot of reserve built up....One thing I committed to myself, to my wife and God, was that if I do this I’m hopefully going to be in a position that I’m not so completely destitute at the end of it, that I have no idea what to do if I get sick."

Meanwhile, the murderous Republican vermin who showed up in Florida during Bush/Gore 2000 and who blacksuited their way into Joe Miller's fascist f*ck filth Senate race in Alaska are coming out of the ground like alien bugs in Wisconsin.

Digby has it:

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/joe-miller-republicans-remember-him.html

GOB: No wonder no one has any notion of how to move policy in a way that will create jobs.

Knowing "how to move policy" is different from having some "notion" about what the right policy IS.

I don't know how to "move" a practical policy at the national level when Republicans have a majority in the House and a filibuster in the Senate. Doesn't mean I don't have "any notion" of what the federal government could do to "create jobs".

There's a perfectly simple way to "create jobs": hire people. There's a straightforward way to raise the money to hire people with: raise taxes on those persons (natural and corporate) who HAVE lots of money and are NOT hiring people with it.

But no! The GOP would never stand for that. Instead, House Republicans vote unanimously to keep subsidizing oil companies. Oil companies!

Oh, well. The American electorate voted those clowns in. An electorate THAT stupid deserves all the unemployment it's got coming to it.

--TP

Also meanwhile, callow punk Moe lane comes down in favor of armed insurrection In Wisconsin:

http://www.redstate.com/moe_lane/2011/03/02/collective-bargaining-reform-passes-ohio-senate/

'Knowing "how to move policy" is different from having some "notion" about what the right policy IS.

Doesn't mean I don't have "any notion" of what the federal government could do to "create jobs".

There's a perfectly simple way to "create jobs": hire people. There's a straightforward way to raise the money to hire people with: raise taxes on those persons (natural and corporate) who HAVE lots of money and are NOT hiring people with it.

But no! The GOP would never stand for that.'

Tony P.:

The GOP is a small subset of Americans who would never stand for that. That being the confiscation of property from millions of Americans for the sole purpose of the government 'hiring' people and using the confiscated property to pay them.

Why not work to remove the distortions, such as subsidies to oil companies, and see if the sovereign people of this great nation actually have more savvy about jobs than the jerks we send to Washington, who appear to only be interested in their own jobs, which they think of as their careers, trying to manage and control our lives?

"using the confiscated property to pay them."

I don't quite understand how a single cent of tax, demanded by any level of government, is going to be collected henceforth from me by believers in such crap without killing me first.

Those are the ground rules from now on.

One does not need to dig very deep to see the ubiquitous hands of government, (federal, state, and local), in all these distortions.

This was a pretty good rant until you dropped this turd. It was especially jarring after you explicitly called out the criminal behavior of the financial sector (for which government is only responsible to the extent that it failed to regulate and prosecute), as well as our broken health care system which is itself primarily a market failure perpetrated by private sector for-profit health insurance.

It's entirely possible, you know, to accurately identify so many of our current economic problems the way you did without struggling to blame them all on the heavy hand of the government--especially when so many of them have a lot more to do with being molested by the invisible hand of the market.

The GOP is a small subset of Americans who would never stand for that. That being the confiscation of property from millions of Americans for the sole purpose of the government 'hiring' people and using the confiscated property to pay them.

It is impossible to have a reasonable and constructive discussion of economic policy with people who insist on subscribing to indefensible nonsense like this. By this logic, the government also confiscates the property of millions of Americans for the sole purpose of the government waging unpopular wars in the middle east, or for the purpose of giving tax breaks to wealthy Americans, or for the purpose of giving churches a tax-free ride on the backs of taxpayers. Look, we can play that rhetorical game too! Just pick something you don't like that the government pays for with your tax dollars, and you can delegitimize it by calling it "confiscation" of your property for X.

Or, instead, we can deal with taxes as exactly what they are: a legitimate power of the government that is the sole reason you and I actually have a civilization. From there we can argue about what needs to be done, which of those is an effective use of tax dollars, marginal utility, and how to minimize the impact on those least able to shoulder that tax burden. But that discussion is impossible to have with someone who rejects the very legitimacy of taxation itself.

You don't have to like it, but it is a fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans--60% or more, depending on the poll (and there have been many--I can dig up a few links if you want, but these would be merely a sample rather than an exhaustive list)--support the kind of progressive tax policies advocated by the Democratic Party, or even more progressive policies than that.

Why not work to remove the distortions, such as subsidies to oil companies

See, when you make suggestions like this, you're on ground I think many of us can agree on. It's when you try tying them into the whole dogmatic "governement and taxes bad, argle bargle" routine that folks start rolling their eyes and looking for the back button.

'This was a pretty good rant until you dropped this turd. It was especially jarring after you explicitly called out the criminal behavior of the financial sector (for which government is only responsible to the extent that it failed to regulate and prosecute), as well as our broken health care system which is itself primarily a market failure perpetrated by private sector for-profit health insurance.'

Catsy:

I must ask if you view Medicare and Medicaid not to be significant portions of our health care arena and if you do not view state regulation of health insurance offerings significant as well? This, IMO, is very profound government participation in the health care marketplace. There is also much participation by government in controlling hospitals and university medical education (or by occupational trade associations sanctioned by government). Neither did I absolve the private health insurance providers of their negative contributions through their compacts and deals with various state regulators. And the financial sectors misdeeds were also facilitated by government.

Did you comment on the following provided by Tony P.?

'There's a perfectly simple way to "create jobs": hire people. There's a straightforward way to raise the money to hire people with: raise taxes on those persons (natural and corporate) who HAVE lots of money and are NOT hiring people with it'

I am not against the idea of taxation. But I absolutely disagree with his statement and I do believe that the majority of American taxpayers would as well. When the use of taxes gets to this point, I consider it confiscation of private property.

We actually had a pretty good system for allocating resources to parts of the country that had higher unemployment, focusing that money on industries and projects that matched the local work force. We used local experts to champion local needs to ensuree the money would help the most people on a district by district basis and even allocated that money at the expense of broader national priorities.

Instead of investing more in that system we decided to deride and do away with it.

Earmarks.

I must ask if you view Medicare and Medicaid not to be significant portions of our health care arena and if you do not view state regulation of health insurance offerings significant as well?

First of all, I don't really think you can lump Medicare and Medicaid into the same bucket in this context. They are different programs that work and are funded very differently from each other.

But no, I don't consider them to be significant elements of why our health care system is so expensive and broken. That's not to say that they're insignificant; hardly. Nor are they perfect. Just that they're really not the problem here.

At the risk of getting dragged off into a tangent, I think the aggressively for-profit nature of health care and health insurance in the United States is the single biggest problem with it. I think for-profit health insurance as an industry needs to be nearly or completely abolished: the accumulation of profits should have absolutely zero relationship to the delivery of essential health care services; the fact that it does is not only the source of much of the tragedy, waste, and cost in our system, it is morally repugnant on its face. We need a single-payer system where the provision of care remains a choice that is made between doctor and patient, with a review process as needed that is staffed by veteran medical professionals, funded by taxpayers. The minority who don't think it's appropriate that their taxes help ensure that everyone has access to essential health care can fscking get over it and come to terms with the fact that they live in a modern society where it is unacceptable and immoral that millions of people have no health care or go bankrupt just trying to keep themselves or their family alive.

But it's more than just for-profit health insurance, far more than I really want to go into right now. There's the shocking amount of personal debt that medical professions have to accumulate just to get the necessary training and education. This dramatically inflates the kind of salary medical professionals need in order to have a chance of paying their tuition debts in their lifetime while still supporting a family. There's the corruption and moral hazard that comes from the too-cozy relationship between drug companies and health care providers.

State regulations, to whatever extent they even meaningfully effect the national farce that is our health care system as a whole, are a factor mainly in that their existence tends to prevent health insurance industry abuses from being even worse than they are. Again, I'm not saying that they're perfect, just that pointing to them as an example of what's broken is like complaining that the depth of the outfield at Safeco Field is killing the sport of baseball.

It's a lot of things, really.

But at the center of most of them is the fact that health care is a for-profit industry rather than an essential public service. It's wrong and it needs to change.

Reaching way way back to the original topic, looks like Walker will be putting out the fire with gasoline tomorrow.

1,500 layoff notices, for which Walker expects to see $30M in savings on the state budget.

"Look, we can play that rhetorical game too! Just pick something you don't like that the government pays for with your tax dollars, and you can delegitimize it by calling it "confiscation" of your property for X."

Well, why not? Enough people play the game of legitimizing confiscation by calling it "taxation", as though using that word changed it's fundamental nature.

I personally believe we'd think about these matters a lot more clearly, if we didn't maintain parallel vocabularies for the same actions committed by private individuals and governments.

Brett
As much as i can, i can see two other parallel vocabularies, democrat and republican ones. It adds a lot to miscommunication.

Shorter (Revolutionary) Brett: Taxation With Or Without Representation Is Tyranny.

Sheesh.

Gary, you can't imagine what "reasonably" priced legal services go for these days.
Why would I have to imagine, assuming I wasn't perfectly well familiar with what top lawyers earn?
ob: Attorney / Lawyer Hourly Rate by Years Experience Years Experience National Hourly Rate Data

All compensation data shown are gross, national 25th to 75th percentile ranges. Pay can vary greatly by location. To view local data, take the PayScale survey.

Less than 1 year $15.09 - $30.67

1-4 years $20.40 - $64.52
5-9 years $36.26 - $102.23
10-19 years $49.69 - $194.42
20 years or more $93.80 - $252.51

Have I mentioned that I did a lot of work for law firms in the past, too? Probably not.

Also, there's "reading." Also, lots of friends who are lawyers. Also, "the internet."

How Much Can You Expect to Pay?

[...] rates may vary anywhere from $50 an hour to a $1,000 an hour or more. The following data regarding average attorneys' fees is based on information provided in the 2009 Billing Rates and Practices Survey; which was a study conducted by Incisive Legal Intelligence on the billing rates and practices of attorneys in small and mid-sized firms.

In rural areas and small towns, lawyers tend to charge less, and fees in the range of $100 to $200 an hour for an experienced attorney are probably the norm. In major metropolitan areas, the norm is probably closer to $200 to $400 an hour. Lawyers with expertise in specialized areas may charge much more. Here are some national averages to help you get a general idea.

* The national average billing rate is $284 per hour
* Firms with 2 to 8 lawyers have a national average billing rate of $262 per hour
* Firms with 76 to 150 lawyers have a national average billing rate of $295 per hour
* Firms with more than 150 lawyers have a national average billing rate of $333 per hour
* By Region: Northeast ($319 per hour), West ($296 per hour), South ($276 per hour) and Midwest ($264 per hour)

In addition, you can expect to be charged at an hourly rate for paralegals and other support staff. A good paralegal's time, for example, may be billed out at $50 to a $100 an hour or perhaps more. It would not be unusual for a legal secretary's time on things like document production to be billed out at perhaps $25 to $50 an hour.

I haven't mentioned that I spent a few years in the past as a self-trained legal secretary, have I? Or ditto as a semi-demi paralegal?

I did. That was back in the early Eighties. I've always read a lot of law. I'm a fast study.

Good wages.

I also know very well how some lawyers treat the help well, how there are a great many who don't, how associates are exploited, how work is handed off, how -- a lot about the insides of how firms at all sorts of levels work, and I wouldn't need to have any direct experience for this because I can read.

It's quite odd that you'd say I "couldn't imagine" this.

It's not exactly secret information.

But probably you were just using a common expression, so I don't take it personally, be assured.

However:

If there's a lesson to be learned in Naiel Nassar v. University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center it is that a plaintiffs attorney who puts on a "superb" civil rights case can win nearly all of her requested attorney fees -- even when she charges $750 an hour. [...] UT Southwestern also challenged the rates charged by Nassar's attorneys: $750 an hour for Aldous; $400 an hour for Aldous Law Firm associate Brent Walker; $500 an hour for Brian Lauten, a shareholder in Sawicki & Lauten; and $500 an hour for Sawicki & Lauten shareholder Amy Lauten.

Boyle considered the plaintiffs lawyers' affidavits and other evidence that described the relevant experience and customary rates of each of Nassar's attorneys and concluded that their requested rates provide "reasonable compensation and avoids windfall. ... This is not to say that these rates are typical or will be routinely accepted, only that they are supported by the record and are reasonable given the specific facts of this case and the remarkable degree of success obtained."

But Boyle reduced Amy Lauten's hourly rate by 20 percent to $400 an hour because her "evidentiary support is limited to a few unadorned lines in an attorney declaration."

Ultimately, Boyle approved all but $6,375 of Nassar's request for attorney fees. Of the total amount of attorney fees approved, $314,720 went to Sawicki & Lauten and $175,207.50 went to the Aldous Law Firm.

"I was shocked that she approved all but about [$6,375] of our expenses. That's a case that they offered us $40,000 to settle," Aldous says. "They are extraordinarily difficult to win."

The Aldous Law Firm and Sawicki & Lauten took Nassar's case on a 40 percent contingent-fee arrangement, Aldous says.

It's really not obscure at all.
[...] The range of fees charged by lawyers varies widely from one city to the next. Most large law firms in the United States bill between $200 and $1,000 per hour for their lawyers' time, though fees charged by smaller firms are much lower. The rate varies tremendously by location as well as the specific area of law practiced. Typically insurance defense firms have lower hourly rates than non-insurance firms, but are compensated by having steady, regular paying work provided. Locations like Salt Lake City will average $150 per hour for an associate's time on a basic case, but will increase for larger firms.

Many surveys of hourly rates are done. The American Intellectual Property Law Association ("AIPLA") commissions a survey of its members every 2 years and it publishes these in what it calls a "Report of the Economic Survey". The latest one is dated June 2007. Rates are collected for 14 geographic areas and by associate or partner. See www.aipla.org for more information, although the Surveys are not made available online, but must be purchased. Many courts have followed the rates shown by these AIPLA surveys and they are highly-regarded for Intellectual Property litigation.

The State Bar of Oregon and the Colorado State Bar also have published an Economic Survey of rates for various areas of Oregon and Colorado and these are available online.

Perhaps the most widely followed set of rates are what is called the Laffey Matrix that is available from the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia. These have been available since 1982 and are updated each year. The hourly rates are shown by years of experience. For June 1, 2006 to May 31, 2007 the rates are as follows: 20+ years of experience, $425 per hour; 11–19 years, $375; 8–10 years, $305; 4–7 years, $245; 1–3 years, $205; and Paralegals/law clerks $120 [1]. The Laffey Matrix appears to be growing in acceptance by many courts throughout the United States, but the matrix must be adjusted to account for higher or lower costs for legal services in other areas.

Hourly rates are increasing almost every year and some lawyers charge substantially higher than the rates shown by the Laffey Matrix. The first American attorney to regularly charge a four-digit hourly fee ($1000 and higher) was Benjamin Civiletti in late 2005.[3]

With the recession of 2008-2010, corporate clients began driving attorneys increasingly toward alternative fee arrangements, or AFAs. AFAs can include flat fees (per matter), fixed fees (for a "book" of matters), success bonuses, and other options beyond straight hourly billing.[4]

But, you know, anyone who reads a John Grisham novel could talk about this. Or any of a zilion better mystery fiction writers. Or anyone who reads a newspaper, or magazine, or who can work the internet for two minutes.

[...] Which is why I am a big fan of an established system that lets lay people get through the storm at a cost that, while objectively high, is nothing compared to litigating in uncharted waters.
Agreed.
Also, FWIW, I am aware of the need for funding kids with no home or from broken homes and act on this.
I actually didn't think otherwise. It's other kinds of poor people, such as adults, that I'm unclear if you think are worth "funding."

But this is material better addressed in a post, than in comments.

Perhaps next week, or if not, in coming weeks.

Incidentally, McKinney, if you would like to write a guest post on a subject of your choice, write me, though I won't be able to discuss it with you until at least next week, and possibly not much until the following week.

But I'm quite serious; I'm sure you could write an interesting and worth while post, or posts, and we like to vary points of view around here.

I personally believe we'd think about these matters a lot more clearly, if we didn't maintain parallel vocabularies for the same actions committed by private individuals and governments.

We might think about them more clearly, but our thoughts would not reflect reality.

Private individuals and governments are different. As are all private organizations and institutions, as compared to public ones. And we stand in different relations to each of them.

The relationship in which you stand to the actor affects the quality of the action. Some things that are unreasonable to demand of each other in certain contexts are quite reasonable in others.

We can sweat the details, but if we don't agree on the above there's not a lot of point in pursuing the discussion. As far as I can tell.

dr ngo's comment is the Tea Party philosophy in a nutshell.

(Although I believe they are now referred to as the Teacher-bashing Party.)

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