Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Free Market Economics Is A Cancer (Thom Hartmann Rant #4)

The following is an excerpt from the Thom Hartmann Radio Program, 5/28/2015, which I edited for brevity and clarity. Thom discusses the similarities between cancer in living organisms and metaphorical cancer. Specifically the non-biological cancer caused by free market economic policies favored by Conservatives and Libertarians... and how that cancer has spread to our body politic.

Thom: George Johnson wrote a great piece in the science section of the New York Times yesterday. I think it apropo to our political system today, to Donald Trump, and to capitalism.

Yet me start out by explaining how Milton Friedman, Von Mises and all these kind of religious free market fundamentalists believe both economics and politics should be organized. It's an article of faith. Really, a belief system. This is Ayn Rand as well. This is basically the Libertarian worldview.

It goes something like this... In the days or weeks or months that it takes a legislative committee or a bureaucracy to figure out how things should be, either in the government or the economy, millions of individuals have made hundreds of millions of economic decisions by choosing what to buy and what not to buy. And this defines how things should go. Therefore, if every person, instead of supporting something like what the Founders created - a democratic republic - supported "the marketplace" [and the BS of "self regulation"].

Whether it's a marketplace for bluejeans or cars, or whether it is a marketplace for ideas. And whoever buys the most of those "idea", the marketplace has it's own intelligence - it will automatically come up with the best solution.

This is the theology, the religion of these guys. But over and over again we've seen this tried and it always produces bubbles and busts and a very small group of rich people and a very large group of working poor. It always destroys economies. Universally. And it destroys political systems.

There is a biological analogy to this. "Cellular Cheaters Give Rise to Cancer" is the title of the George Johnson article yesterday. He doesn't come right out and say Donald Trump is a cancer within our body politic, but he comes awful close.

He starts out by talking about, how back in 1871, Charles Darwin speculated that all life on earth probably began in a warm pond with chemicals assembling themselves randomly and accidently until they did so in a way that could replicate itself, and thus life came about.

The early life was just interested in replicating itself. The early viruses, for example. They don't consume or excrete, they just reproduce. And then you get more complex life forms, single celled bacteria and amoeba, things like that. But then we get to more complex life forms like you and me.

With hundreds of billions or trillions of cells that have to interact with each other. George Johnson says "as the primordial cells mutated and evolved, ruthlessly competing for nutrients, some stumbled upon a different course. They cooperated instead, sharing resources and responsibilities and so giving rise to multicellular creatures — plants, animals and eventually us. Each of these collectives is held together by a delicate web of biological compromises. By surrendering some of its autonomy, each cell prospers with the whole".

And then he gets to where I'm going with this question - does Donald Trump, sort of like Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, represent the cancer stage of politics? Because the Supreme Court, back in 1976 [with Buckley v. Valeo, which struck down limits on spending in campaigns] and then again in 2010 with Citizens United [which said that the 1st Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation. The principles articulated by the Supreme Court in the case have also been extended to for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations].

These decisions basically turned our political marketplace into a capitalist marketplace by saying basically that billionaires can buy any politician they want and spend a virtually unlimited amount of money to influence the nature of elections, issues, and debates. Are we in a state of a democratic republic corrupted by an economic cancer - the cancer stage of capitalism?

George Johnson says "inevitably, there are cheaters: A cell breaks loose from the interlocking constraints and begins selfishly multiplying and expanding its territory, reverting to the free-for-all of Darwin's pond. And so cancer begins".

Then he explains how cancer shows up in virtually every complex life form - plants, mamals, reptiles... fungi. Then this incredible sentence... this is in a science story i the New York Times... "no wonder cancer has become a metaphor for human excess — overpopulation and consumption, environmental pollution, the concentration of resources among a hyperacquisitive 1 percent".

So here you have a science writer in the New York Times identifying the hyperacquisitive America - The Donald Trumps of America - as cancer. I thought it was astonishing.

When the top 1 percent, or the top 1-thousandth of 1 percent (Donald Trump), don't just influence politics, but become politics, does that mean we've hit the cancer stage of a political process that was created by the Supreme Court with this ideology that free markets are always the best?

I think so, frankly.

[End Thom Hartmann Rant]

Yeah, I think so too. Which is why the best economic system would be a mixed one, IMO. A mix of highly regulated capitalism, strong campaign finance laws, high taxation on obscene wealth and a strong social safety net (more socialism).

This is the only way to create a large Middle Class and eliminate (or greatly reduce) poverty. And isn't that what the great majority of us want? Excepting our oligarchic lords and their lackeys and worshippers, of course.

See Also
[1] Billionaires Kill: Volume 1 (SWTD #216, 11/5/2013).
[2] The wealth-worshipper Willis Hart pontificates "on the concept of orchestrating the U.S. economy from a bureaucratic and economically illiterate perch (the Elizabeth Warrens and Paul Krugmans of the World) and sez "we have a 4,000 year recorded history of this type of nonsense not working, of entire nation states crumbling as the result of it"... yet gives ZERO examples. Yet I can give a number of examples where the economic system he favors (the so-called "free market" rulz) crashed economies... the bush recession being the most recent one. The Great depression being another (Harding/Coolidge dropping the tax rates sparked a real estate and stock market bubble that crashed). But the true believing Willis thinx the roaring 20s were the shiznit. LOL. And a Nobel-prize-winning economist and professor of economics is "economically illiterate"? Of course.

SWTD Tags: Class Warefare, Libertarianism, Thom Hartmann, Wealthy Worship.

DSB #14


  1. For a market to be free it must be reasonably.regulated.

  2. You are wrong... according to another Libertarian (a guy that infrequently comments on your blog). The "Constitutional Insurgent" sez "The market is governed by the laws of supply and demand. Government regulation is artificial influence. Economics 101... you should look into it".

    I guess both of us need to look into Economics 101. Although I would say that you can't have an "artificial influence" on something that is artificial, which "markets" are. You can't have markets without the laws and regulations that say what the rules are. Without rules the market would break down due to people ripping each other off (among other reasons).

    As for what constitutes reasonable... well, I'd guess that you and I would disagree more than agree.

  3. Probably so. I am a capitalist that understands the difference between an unregulated market which more often than not leads to monopolies and wealth concentration and free markets where competion is robust.

    The problem is crony capitalism and corporatism.

    Rules are the detail and the devil lurks in the details.


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