Sunday, June 23, 2013

How evil prospers.

Disclaimer:  I didn't read the actual book, only the review by Mr. Sethness here:   

According to Javier Sethness,  Garry Leech (appropriate name) claims "...the devastating structural violence experienced by societies subjected to the rule of capital... is, instead of being an aberration or distortion of market imperatives, central and inherent to the division of society along class lines and the enthronement of private property.".   So is there any evidence that either undistorted market incentives or "enthroned" property rights are responsible for genocidal violence as he claims?  Based On Mr. Sethness's review, absolutely not.  In fact every instance of genocide, violence that might be called genocide or bad results in general can be traced back to the distortions of market imperatives and destruction of property rights.  Leech's case is like an jury, seeing film of a black man tied up to a tree and beaten while his wife and children are killed by the Klan convicting the victim. While indicting "capitalism" for the crimes Leech does would be laudable if he made clear that he doesn't mean free market capitalism but "State capitalism" or "crony capitalism" he doesn't mention these once, and simply claims that all these crimes do not result from a "distortion of market incentives".

Firstly let's examine what Leech calls "structural violence".  His definition is basically "If you could have given people stuff and you didn't, so they died, that's violence.".  So if you work hard for 50 years, risking your capital year after year, to provide for your children, that's "structural violence" because you didn't feed it to starving Africans. Leech does note that killing someone on the basis of their class wasn't included in the UN definition of "genocide" but skips over why that might be.  Hmmm... who was at the UN at the time, with the power to change the definition who might not want class-based violence defined as genocide?  Man, it's a real mystery.  

"Leech nonetheless does mention that the 1998 Rome Statute defines the crime of extermination in part as "the intentional infliction of . . . deprivation of access to food and medicine calculated to bring about the destruction of part of a population," so in this sense has the weight of international law behind him."  No he doesn't.  There is a difference between intentionally depriving someone of something and not paying for it.  I'm not intentionally depriving you of sex with $1000/night prostitutes, I'm just not paying (for you).

Leech then argues that intentionality doesn't matter, despite the term "calculated to bring about" being part of the definition he uses.  He claims "the proferred defense of wilful blindness" isn't satisfactory, without any apparent evidence that the blindness was wilful.  The results supposedly speak for themselves, so let's get straight to the examples.  

"In Mexico, the passing of NAFTA in 1994 has led to the dispossession of campesinos (peasants) on a grand scale, as the country's stipulated importation of heavily subsidized maize and other crops from the United States"
So exhibit one for genocide being a result of capitalism and not a distortion of market incentives" includes the words "heavily subsidized" (not to mention the word "NAFTA" which wasn't exactly free market either).  In other words it's not evidence of anything to do with "undistorted market imperatives" but the opposite. This did not happen "in accordance with neoclassical theories of 'comparative advantage' " but in accordance with the mercantilist theories that the neoclassical economists disproved.  This is a pattern with Leech as you will see.  He is a professional ignoramus, paid to ignore certain facts and still explain others in a way that shields evil. 

"and [NAFTA} has also driven the horrifying feminicides of maquiladora workers in the Mexican border regions"
Note that the "horrifying feminicides" are worth mentioning, despite being about 10 times less than the "horrifying androcides" if that's a word.  Leech can't help giving false impressions even on things that don't impact his case.
"and it has also driven ...migration en masse to the United States (and attendant mass death in the Sonoran desert),"
And why would migrating to the USA cause mass death in the Sonoran desert?  The roads from Mexico to big US cities are excellent and have more than enough places to eat and drink.  Why go the desert route on foot?  Because of ANOTHER distortion to market imperatives, US immigration policy.  It's hard to find a more blatant example of DISTORTION of market imperatives causing death.  
Oh wait it's not that would be the drug war, which he ALSO uses as example of the evils of capitalism.  Yet the drug war is an attempt to stop capitalists doing capitalism.  It is funded justified and promoted by anti-capitalist methods, people and organisations.  

"Leech sees similar processes in Colombia, which hosts the second-largest number of internally displaced persons in the world (4 million), with many of these people having been removed from their lands due to military and paramilitary operations undertaken to make way for megaprojects directed by foreign corporations."

So are these "similar process" the results of "market incentives"?  Of course not, the military didn't remove these people from their lands by paying for them but by using the monopoly of violence, using funds extracted by another monopoly of violence and justification based in the drug war.  The drug war is as previously noted, not an expression of market incentives, but political ones.

"Alarmingly, in India, Leech reports that more than 216,000 farmers committed suicide between 1997 and 2009,"

Given that rural India has a population of 833,087,662 and Australia has 21.78 million people the fact that it had 216,000 suicides in 12 years compared to 2132 in ONE YEAR in australia isn't that alarming.  Over 38 times the population over 12 years has 101 times the suicides.  That's equivalent to a rate 22% of Australia's.  So either his stats are REALLY incomplete or Indian farmers aren't doing so bad. In any case since when has the pushing of GMOs by the US government, which heavily promoted them and gave Monsanto monopoly privileges, been a case of a market without distortion?  And why would people adopt a technology that causes them to go broke?  Doesn't sound too capitalist to me.

"[subsaharan Africa] is this world region that has been "most severely impacted" by capital's genocidal imperatives, claims Leech, and it is difficult to argue with this claim: "
Well no, it's not at all difficult to argue with this claim.  In fact it's almost impossible not to.  Subsaharan African has only 1 country that qualifies as "mostly free" on the Index of Economic Freedom and 4 that are "moderately free".  Even this level of improvement is a vast increase from past levels where much of the continent was either communist or heavily economically interventionist fascist societies.  You cannot claim that anything that happened there was the result of undistorted market imperatives or property being "enthroned".  If African dictators enthroned property rights, they got the chair second hand from the Charles the First collection.  Leech ignores the ACTUAL violence of the state to implicate the "structural" violence of people who don't give free stuff to people in an area with a history of having free stuff stolen by evil people.

Leech even comments on the waste caused by US demands that aid is bought from and transported by US countries, but fails to note that this is THE EXACT OPPOSITE of what market imperatives would demand.

"Because Africans in general do not possess the requisite income to "demand" food commodities within international capitalism, they themselves do not constitute a "viable market" and so are rendered invisible - nonpersons, or "unpeople." "

And why do they not possess that income?  Because the place was run by believers in government intervention in the market for decades, hell centuries in some places.  If the problem were merely that Africans didn't have money why wouldn't someone have found something they were good at producing in return for it?  Africans aren't idiots, Africa doesn't lack natural resources or even fertile and well-watered land.  So explaining Africa poverty deaths by lack of money alone is startlingly stupid.  Africa had and has more than enough to trade for the essentials of life, but unfortunately people like Leech were in charge so the trades never happened.  In any case infants don't possess the income to pay for things either but they generally eat in the West.  So why can't the Africans?  Simple, because Westerners care about their own children but not about Africans.  That is not the result of capitalism, it's the result of us not having befriended many people from another continent.

"In these terms, Leech also discusses the toxic role of the capitalist pharmaceutical industry, which famously and "logically" invests an overwhelming percentage of its research and development funds in highly profitable schemes for lifestyle drugs directed at first-world consumers - at their most absurd, treatments for baldness, erectile dysfunction, and so on - instead of in essential medicines that could relieve the horrendous disease burden borne by the peoples of the global South."  

Here he might have a point, market incentives are for Rogaine not relief.  But why is this?  Because the capitalist part of the world generates the productivity that makes the research into and production of medicine possible, Africa doesn't.  That is because it's governments have distorted the market nine ways from Sunday since at least the start of the colonial era.  Even given this if people in the West cared more about Eritrea than erections it wouldn't be a problem.  But that is hardly the result of capitalism.   

"Leech starkly illustrates these tensions by noting that, were the eight largest US pharmaceutical companies to have gained an average profit of $6.8 billion instead of $7.7 billion in 2008, with the difference going to purchase anti-retrovirals for the 3.8 million HIV+ Africans who go without any treatment at all, a considerable percentage of the estimated 1.3 million annual deaths observed on the continent resulting from HIV/AIDS could be prevented."
And why did they have those profits?  Because of government interference in the market?  In any case the comparison is meaningless.  Just because a firm could have given money and didn't doesn't make them guilty of someone dying for lack of that money.  By that standard Leech himself is guilty of murder for not living one room apartment miles from town and eating more than pot noodle.  In any case the reason that the poor in Africa couldn't afford retrovirals is because of the patent system that gives monopolies to the developers.  While Big Pharma is guilty of this, undistorted market aren't.  Arguably given the massive costs imposed by government in developing any drug they are necessary to actually create said drug.  Adding hundreds of millions of dollars and years of time to the cost of a drug then blaming the companies that actually develop it because they won't cut the prices enough is blatant hypocrisy.  If governments wanted they could have simply bought the rights to produce any retroviral drug in Africa for Africans.  The deal would have been easy.  Instead they blamed the companies for not doing what they didn't do.  I hate Big Pharma, but blaming them alone is simply letting some of the most guilty off the hook.  
With regard to Somalia Leech blames over 200,000 deaths on capitalism due to climate change, which allegedly created the worst drought in 70 years.  But people don't die in such number because one crop failed.  Somalia had 30 years of a complete lack of the "rule of capital" and "the enthronement of property" and still hasn't recovered.  That's why one crop failure results in so many deaths.  The damage of the Barre regime was being repaired in it's anarchist/free market period, but it got re-impoverished by the armed intervention of the US government which reimposed rule by government.  This is not was not due to "market imperatives" obviously but political ones. 

Leech apparently talks about the "rule of capital" but from the sounds of it, never defines it.  Almost everything he talks about is a result of the violation of property rights, which is essential to capital accumulation.  Just as surely everything he includes harms some capital owners, not least in Africa.  So why is capital being harmed by the "rule of capital"? Because it's not the rule of capital, it's the rule of force.  The fact that some capitalists ally with those who wield force doesn't mean that capital in general rules.  Capital in general arguably loses from the imposition of state power, and certainly it loses from things like the drug war, which robs it of both workers and customers.  That some capitalists gain is no more significant than the fact that some workers gain by the monopoly privileges of their employers, which raises their wages by increasing the financial gain of employing them.  The fact that monopolist firms are often union firms is not a coincidence.  But Leech doesn't talk about the rule of labour.  

Like Gramsci and like me Leech "faults the hegemonic cultural processes that obtain within core-imperial societies - formal education, the media, work arrangements, etc. - for normalizing the prevailing state of affairs".  Unlike me he's part of that normalisation, where the brutal role of force is disguised.  

"For Leech, resistance to the rule of capital is far more evident in the global South, where Western imperial military ventures have long been employed to pacify and control the course of history,"

So again we see that Leech is aware that this oppression isn't being accomplished by market incentives, but by lethal ones.  Yet somehow he doesn't put it together.  This is pure evil, looking at black and seeing white.  When a man can see one thing and testify to another, not just in a book or on a witness stand, but in his own heart, we see how atrocities are committed by those who believe absurdities.

"and the progress taken in [Venezuela ] toward the implementation of popular control of government, not to mention Chávez's famous internationalism."
That "popular control" would include jailing people for tweeting about how unstable the banking system is.  To claim that Chavez was in favor of "popular control" of government is absurd, he's a violently abusive, anti-judical fascist who had no intention of allowing facts, let alone the people, to interfere with his power.  His "famous internationalism" merely means that he spends other people's money on people outside his regime to look good to stupid people in foreign countries.  Smart people notice that a regime that routinely diminishes the rights of pretty much everyone while the murder rate skyrockets and judges and other people independent of him are progressively disempowered is not to be trusted.

"A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror - that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us have been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves."
And what was that terror?  It was the terror of the landed class who deliberately prevented the peasantry from accessing economic goods and opportunities that the landed class did not create.   It was the weakening of this class by those who actually created wealth that resulted in the end of this terror. Feudalism and statism not capitalism, that had that blood on it's hands.  Of course the "Terror which we have all been so diligentely taught to shiver at" was nothing to the other Terror, the Genocide in the Vendee.  But since Leech cares only about excusing actual genocide by painting it as no different from capitalism he doesn't mention this.  

Leech claims that he supports "socialism marked by participatory decision-making and social control of the means of production;" but clearly since he supports both Chavez and Castro the participatory bit can fall by the wayside.  "Leech makes some rather problematic assertions in this final chapter on socialism." claims Sethness.  I'd say excusing a dictator and pushing a system that has murdered hundreds of millions is a little bit more than "problematic".  It is more than questionable "to hold, as Leech does, that such ends will be served by the seizure of state power and the development of Marxist political parties,".  It is fucking Orwellian double think of a genocidal scale.  It is pure evil.  This man wants to repeat the Russian revolution, but make it "participatory" if he can.  And if he can't, well it would still be better than the crimes he pretends are the fault of the undistorted market.  His motive is simple, he wants to excuse the crimes of people like him, who have attacked the market for centuries and for centuries have helped oppress and kill millions by doing so.  This is the heart of pure evil, murder for the sake of pretending one is not a murderer.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Statism, still a cult. A response to Michael Lind.

Your article "Libertarianism, still a cult" marked the triumph of libertarian thought.  When our enemies make arguments like these it means we have won the logical field.  There are no arguments left against us.
When your main argument is "nobody's done it yet, so it must be bad" you don't get to criticise anyone else's logic, nor call anyone else paid shills. If you really believed that that nobody else having done it means it can't be done you would not be writing for a "progressive" mag. Progressivism by definition adopts programs that haven't been done before. That's why they advocated things like minimum wage laws, which were novel at the time. Should those have been rejected because if they had been workable some other country would have adopted them? Ok, they weren't workable but how about abolition of slavery? At one time nobody had abolished slavery (as far as anyone knew then). Should noble goal have been rejected for that reason?
In any case you yourself admit you don't have any logical reason to believe libertarianism wouldn't work. Otherwise why would it be "The one question" we can't answer? If you had reason why any particular libertarian policy wouldn't work, either individually or in combination with all the others then make it. The fact that libertarians haven't convinced either dictators or the voting public tells us nothing about whether our policies would work.
"But if the libertarian ideal is a stateless society, then libertarianism is merely a different name for utopian anarchism and deserves to be similarly ignored."
Ok, firstly if you knew anything about libertarianism you'd know that there are "minarchist" and "anarcho-capitalists" both of whom call themselves libertarian. If you don't know that much then how do you know anarcho-capitalism is utopian or should be ignored? You don't but then since your entire article was based on a philosophy best described as "Reactionary Stupid" that doesn't surprise me. There have been societies that were functionally "anarcho-capitalist" and they seemed to have worked rather well. While I don't expect you to just believe this, the fact that you don't know about the argument suggests you are being paid to ignore facts, not illuminate them.