Thursday, August 17, 2006

What is it, libertarian grasshopper?

Spotty! Spotty! Come quick! I have something important to show you!

What is it, libertarian grasshopper?

It’s a speech by the Chairman of Whole Foods. He used to be a hippie like you – you were a hippie weren’t you? – but now he’s a libertarian! The speech is his testimony about his conversion. And man, I agree, WHAT HE SAID!

Okay libertarian grasshopper, Spot will give it a read.

[Much later . . .]

Spotty, wake up! Did you read the testimony?

Oh, sorry libertarian grasshopper. Spotty must have dozed off. Yes, he read it, or as much of it as he could before overwhelming ennui set in.

Well, what did you think?

Sometimes, libertarian grasshopper, when liberals become really wealthy, it affects their ability to think. That certainly seems to be the case with John Mackey, the convert of whom you speak. For everyone, boys and girls, Spot will say that libertarian grasshopper and Spot are talking about a speech by the founder and chairman of Whole Foods to an audience at a thing called FreedomFest. The speech was titled WinningtheBattleforFreedomandProsperity. Really. The people at FreedomFest apparently cannot afford spaces between their words.

It is perhaps unnecessary for Spot to mention that Mackay was, well, preaching to the choir. Here are the four things that Mackay say absolutely critical for improving society:

  • Creating educational choice.
  • Privatizing social security.
  • De-regulating health care.
  • Enacting meaningful tort reform.

Libertarian grasshopper, Spot thought you said this guy was an outside the box thinker? Well, he does have one idea. He thinks that the “freedom movement” needs to reposition itself and re-brand itself!

Of course he does. This is a guy who sells lettuce for three bucks a head! You would expect him to recommend a marketing solution. Wouldn’t you? More lipstick! It still looks like a pig! Sad, really. The chairman says that Ayn Rand and Gordon Gekko had the right ideas, but it was such a mistake to talk about the “virtue of selfishness” and greed. They would have been so much better off just to talk about self interest, according to the chairman. It’s a much nicer-sounding term. Here’s the core of the chairman’s philosophy:

Business, working through free markets, is possibly the greatest force for good on the planet today. [italics are Spot’s]

Well, the chairman does hedge his bets! According to the chairman, business is “burdened” with the “brand” of maximizing profits. Well, actually, that is what corporations do. In fact, if they don’t do that, they get sued by disgruntled shareholders. Businesses are not – for the most part – immoral. They are just amoral. In fact, people in a group will do things that wouldn’t dream of doing individually. That’s why business needs a little, er, guidance. This guidance takes many forms, and only one of them is business regulation. It’s the stick beside all those carrots!

Spot isn’t going to bother to debate the chairman’s four points, other than to say the chairman seems awfully worried about a batch of bad bananas! (See point four above.) There are a few other points of the chairman’s gas baggery that deserve mention, however.

The freedom movement needs to support economic globalization. Globalization is the most caring and compassionate strategy we can implement to help the developing world lift itself out of poverty.

There was a time when Spot actually believed this to be true. “Globalization” as actually practiced, however, is mostly the race to the bottom that many predicted when the NAFTA was adopted. Income disparities have actually increased in a lot of places, including the United States, where aggressive opening of markets has taken place. Ecuador and Argentina are examples. Venezuela was also an example, until its citizens elected Hugo Chávez as president. Ol’ Hugo is kind of a wild card in the oil markets business, which is why holy men like Pat Robertson want to kill him.

Do you remember what happened to Mexico after its entry into the NAFTA, boys and girls? The peso collapsed, parts of its agricultural economy, especially corn, collapsed, and thousands ended up moving to border cities where they could work for maquiladoras for pennies. Some of them, of course, decided to move a little farther north. There were some Mexican winners in the NAFTA of course, but they were vastly outnumbered by the losers. It has not helped Mexico “lift itself out of poverty.”

If you look at a major trade agreement, WTO, NAFTA or otherwise, you can see how thoroughly they are written for the benefit of the multi-nationals. The big winner in corn under the NAFTA was not the Mexican farmers or the US farmers, but rather Cargill and ADM.

The chairman also says this:

What other reforms are needed? The following reforms are old news to people in the freedom movement: school choice, through vouchers and tax credits, along with privatizing public schools and selling off their assets to the private sector.

Jesus, he sounds like Captain Fishsticks here. You know, the communists in the old Soviet Union sold off a lot of state assets to private firms – usually just cronies – and they would up with a giant kleptocracy that has been of zero benefit to the average Russian. Paul Bremer and Co. and their neo-con henchmen at the Heritage Foundation tried it in Iraq, too, with predictably disastrous results. One of the things they didn’t manage to sell off was the oil industry, because the US oil barons said, What are you crazy? Of course, unemployment is way down since Bremer showed up! Not really.

The chairman preaches love, caring and compassion, but his prescriptions produce the exact opposite. Libertarians are either very naïve or very cynical. Either they believe the crap they peddle, or they think others will.

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