Going off the Red End

Mike Meginnis:

If the rich seriously will abandon our society, this society that has helped them so much more than they deserve, then there is a solution: simply pass a law limiting the amount of funds that can be taken out of the country. Refuse capital the right to steal resources gathered and made valuable not by their own hands, but by our community as a whole.

Yes. Though we glorify it repeatably, nothing innate about Capital grants it magical immunity from social control. Our country, benevolent creature that it is, has entrusted the management of it’s capital to a select subset of the overall population, and by doing so allowed them to elevate their importance dramatically. That they should then be able to blackmail the rest of us with what are fundamentally communal resources is the height of abusrdity.

Sadly, I’m afraid that the capital exodus may have already taken place, though not in the form of rich people physically leaving, dollars being traded en mass for yen, or domestic investment ceasing. Rather, legal fictions (“flag of convenience” countries) have been created which shelter individuals and corporations from exactly the sort of taxing/nationalizing that Mike’s talking about.

I don’t have a brilliant plan for the needed social democratic transformation of the US, as the dominant class seems very adept at redistributing pain such that the costs of reform are born by those least equipped. (E.g. increasing the minimum wage equals job loss.) Accepting these arguments means helplessness, but ignoring them doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

The best I got is that leftward economic shifts need to be broad-spectrum (wages, health care, unions, investing, taxes, etc.) and, if possible, international. Maybe the turnaround in union density numbers is a leading indicator of coming progress; maybe the recession creates space for economic reform.

Regardless, Mike’s right to note that the first step is convincing people that it’s legitimate to interfere with capital at all, invisible hand of inviolability be damned. Then maybe we’ll start seeing more politicians run on tax-raising platforms. And not lose. Maybe.

12 comments to Going off the Red End

  • Good points. It’s totally true that capital leaves anyway. I’m not sure of the extent to which this is happening, though — any informative links?

  • the wife

    this is (a small part of) why i love you.

  • Mike,
    Not so much on the informative links…I read things and then quickly suffer from source amnesia — it’s a problem for my attempts to look brilliant. When I find some (I’m fiercely googling), I’ll let you know.

    “the wife”,
    Who are you and why do you keep leaving this comment on my blog? No just kidding, I love you too. You have no idea how capitalist my work is…don’t let me become a tool.

  • jeremy clagett

    “That they should then be able to blackmail the rest of us with what are fundamentally communal resources is the height of abusrdity.”

    WTF? OK, I agree that it’s fundamentally wrong for companies to ship capital (and jobs for that matter) overseas,but since when is money earned a communal resource? We don’t live in a Socialist or communist society. If I start a company and get rich doing so, then it’s MY money. While the community may have helped me reach my ultimate success, why should the dividends be divided among everyone?

    At what point does your logic stop? If Capital is a community resource (as you claim) then shouldn’t the community have a say in the day to day affairs of a company? Your proposed model is unrealistic and downright idiotic.

    I’m sorry, but if you don’t like capitalism, then get out. Move to Norway and pay the government to take care of you. Our country has gotten incredibly far with our system, why should we change it now?

    Yeah our society isn’t equal, and we certainly have classes. But the great thing about the US is that somebody (with enough work ethic and some good ideas) can jump classes. The America I was born in is about making a way for YOURSELF; not letting the government make every decision for you.

    One last point, raising taxes is never the answer. After all, tax revenue has gone up EVERY SINGLE TIME taxes have been lowered. Why do liberals continually act like lower taxes is a bad thing?

  • Oh Jeremy…
    “I’m sorry, but if you don’t like capitalism, then get out. Move to Norway and pay the government to take care of you.”

    Is your argument really ‘love it or leave it’ Part Deux? Does that argument also apply to pro-lifers or even those seeking to lower taxes? What kind of political change is okay, and at what point does one have to go Nordic?

    I think a form of market socialism, wherein companies have to be partially owned by all their employees, but compete against each other to provide goods and services and investment/loans were a public good (rather than privately held and distributed via stock market) would by much better for quality of life.

    If there was a country trying that out, I probably would move there to see if my beliefs held up, but, unfortunately, currently even Norway isn’t what I want (which is distinct from massive welfare state and heavily regulated capitalism), so I’m left with advocating for change here. It’s true that America has a degree of class mobility, which is why efforts to further reduce class divides are fundamentally patriotic. Both government and corporations are dangerous for individual freedom, and we need to find a way to balance the two against each other or we’re screwed.

    Finally: “tax revenue has gone up every single time taxes have been lowered” — seriously? So then is revenue greatest when taxes are zero? Negative? Or, can we just agree with the namesake of the Laffer Curve that the US is probably on the left side of the the curve right now, so increasing taxes will also increase revenue.

  • jeremy clagett

    The key in your statement is that YOU think market socialism is OK. So really what you are talking about is that (in order for the changes you advocate to be introduced) the government would have to step in and tell companies how to operate.

    If companies want employees to own part of the company then great, I’m all for it. But in America such a decision should be left to the company. This choice is certainly one important aspect of FREEDOM!

    I’m sorry, but I (and most Americans) are against government controlling every aspect of our lives. Surely forced legislation to help ween us off oil dependance is one thing, but to force companies to change its ownership structure is idiotic. Like it or not, some heirarchy is necessary.

    Your proposal is liberal facism; it may be for the greater good, but it is still incredibly heavy handed. You even prove my point without realizing it:

    “Both government and corporations are dangerous for individual freedom”

    Why then, are you advocating the government taking more control (i.e. heavy regulated capitalism)? More control means the government must surely increase in size (because we all know it won’t increase in efficiency).

    Unless you mistyped, your argument is completely contradictory.

    I do agree with you that our country needs change, but we need select change. We are the most properous country on the planet, so a complete overhaul of our society seems irrational. Changing certain policies to help deal with a dynamic global society is one thing, but To change our entire societal structure over the issue of Capital moving over seas seems like a gross over-reaction.

  • jeremy clagett

    now, please continue with your neo-socialist blog. I’ll go back to fighting for change that may actually take place.

  • Neo-socialist?! That’s neo-anarcho-syndicalist to you, buddy!

    More seriously, all governments regulate their economy and tell companies how to operate. The US is not some magical law-free zone where corporate persons operate with complete autonomy. There are rules. I want them to be different. But rules that you don’t like do not a fascist state make.

    Maybe you could try warranting some of your claims? For instance, what am I supposed to do with: “to force companies to change its ownership structure is idiotic”?

    Uh…no it’s not. Now you go!

    Anyway, my favorite of your points:
    “If companies want employees to own part of the company then great, I’m all for it. But in America such a decision should be left to the company. This choice is certainly one important aspect of FREEDOM!”

    FREEDOM? I do not think this word means what you think it means. If over time through various laws, the economic structure of the country is changed so as to curtail ones freedom to own large portions of companies but enable many people to own small portions, how is that a net loss of freedom? There is no inalienable right to own a corporation.

    Okay, have fun with your fighting for change!

  • jeremy clagett

    OK, open your ears and eyes and listen…

    Of course all governments tell their people (and therefore companies) how to operate; I’m not saying otherwise. What I’m talking about it the EXTENT the government tells a company how to operate. The loss of freedom I talk about is the government forcing people to give up ownership of THEIR company. Freedom is about the rights of individuals, and taking someone’s company from them against their will is a breachof the freedom we take for granted.

    There may not be a net loss in freedom (as you point out), but by taking a owner’s (or worse yet founder’s) company from them is essentially a loss of freedom for everyone. Why should somebody start a company in the first place if they’re going to be forced to give parts of it up?

    Freedom is not measured by net gains or losses. It’s measured by individual rights. I can’t buy somebody’s freedom to get more. I can’t sell my freedom like it was an air right. Freedom is something inherent to life. Your plan takes freedom from people, plain and simple. If you want employees to owner part of a company, then why don’t we just encourage them to go start their own company? The fundamental thing about freedom is that choices are up to the people.

    Furthermore, why should a worker who has worked at a company for a month (or six months, or six years even) own a portion of company I worked my entire life to create.

    As a personal example: my parents invented their our industry, a previously non-existant niche in the international market. This took over twenty years of endless work and sacrifice. If the government forced them to give parts of the company to their employess, tell me how that’s NOT wrong.

    Explain to me why.

    You proposal may make some sense when dealing with extremely large corporations, but most businesses in our country are small businesses. So, where does your plan stop? You only punish the large corporations? You punish the mom and pop operations? Wait until the small businesses get big enough to punish? Like I said before, your proposal is unrealistic and downright idiotic.

    You’d think a neo-anarchist (or whatever idiology you invented for yourself) would want no government; not the Big Brother operation you talk about. Not sure why it’s so hard for you to understand the difference between big government and small government.

    Everything you say is a contradiction…I thought this blog was supposed to be about architecture. Looks to me more like a soapbox for you to stand on (because I suspect you can’t get anyone to listen to your non-sensical ideas on the streets of LA.)

  • […] jeremy clagett: OK, open your ears and eyes and listen… Of course all… […]

  • So I attempt to “explain to you why” in the post above. As for your other issues…

    If certain proposals make sense when dealing with large businesses, but not small, then it would be a rather easy manner to create legal distinctions between them, as you suggest, and indeed, as already occurs (since many areas differentiate wage and labor laws based on business size). What you call ‘punishment’, could also be called the increased social responsibility that comes with success. Why you proceed to call these common practices idiotic is beyond me.

    Re: my ideology, I don’t really have one, which is why I corrected you with a mishmash of terms. It’s a joke. The reality is that while government may not be necessary in the end-state, in the interim the primary distinction is between good and bad government not big and small. And I’d gladly accept more regulation of large corporations, which are themselves guilty of Big Brother-type behavior.

    Finally, a blog is a soapbox. I don’t have subscribers that I’m somehow betraying with my political commentary. I talk about politics and architecture, sometimes one more than the other. Deal.

  • September 3, 2011 @ 7:07 pmJB, David: You guys rniemd me of the blind men describing the elephant. America is a *place*. It’s a *political system*. Both describe essential truths, coming from different perspectives.In my opinion, it’s just as important to remember: America is a state of mind. A way of thinking about your relationship with other people and the state. You can find out about that way of thinking about things by reading John Locke, the Declaration of Independence, and many other classical liberal tracts of centuries past. Sadly, most people occupying the *place* and *political system* called the United States of America are woefully ignorant of the quintessential state of mind of being a free American.No, the people occupying this place and political system have experienced a radical transformation over the last 100 or so years (perhaps going back even further), a transformation intended to alter the relationship between man and state. And that process, that transformation, seems nearly complete. Interestingly, the political system called the US of A seems to be falling apart in lock-step with that transformation. Isn’t that a truly fascinating coincidence? I think so. I think the political system long ago broke loose from its moorings, and like a giant machine, is thrashing around doing all kinds of damage. Those damages have accumulated, and now, are unlikely to ever be repaired.

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