Fish gotta swim and George Will gotta lie

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Part of the mindset of ideologues of the right is their absolute disdain for government regulation of private corporations. They want none of it.

An example of this was on display in a recent Washington Post column by George Will, who is also a regular on ABC's "This Week" and a dean of the conservative movement.

Quoting the right-wing Hudson Institute's Charles DeMuth, Will writes that regulations are pursued to the point where they are "costly beyond any plausible measure of their benefits."

He goes on to say, again quoting DeMuth, that regulatory power easily becomes "arbitrary and capricious." It turns democratic governance over to the "Administrative State" - a state obviously not to Will's liking now that Barack Obama sits in the White House and Obama appointees run government agencies which regulate corporate practices much too much for Will's liking.

Indeed, government regulators are out of control in Will's view. "Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly and regulators, too, have a metabolic urge to do what they were created to do," he says scornfully.

I find this rant against governmental regulatory power bizarre, though not surprising. Will, not to mention his right-wing counterparts, has a lot of - I'll be polite - nerve to complain about regulatory overreach.

After all, the regulatory structure that grew out of the New Deal and the Great Society has been systematically dismantled over the past three decades, thanks to the ascendancy of the right wing and the rise of neoliberalism. The problem at this juncture is not too many regulations, as Will suggests, but too few.

But even a torn and tattered regulatory state is too much for Will to stomach; he won't be happy until every last regulation that limits corporate profit-seeking behavior is eliminated.

So what if a regulatory-free environment results in miners dying in unsafe mines. Or oceans, lakes and rivers turning into polluted sinks. Or carbon building up in the atmosphere to the point where humanity's future is threatened. Or businesses discriminating against people of color, women, the disabled, and gays and lesbians. Or dangerous additives entering the food chain. Or financial markets and the broader economy going belly up, and in turn throwing tens of millions out of their jobs and homes.

Apparently, none of this is on Will's radar screen.

How do we explain this seeming indifference to the human and ecological costs of unregulated capitalism?

Will and his counterparts on the right have been captured by "market fundamentalism" - a belief that capitalist markets when free and competitive provide optimal solutions to both economic and social problems. In their view, capitalism, if not burdened by regulations, generates jobs for a growing workforce, lifts up living standards of working people, and operates at full or near-full productive capacity.

But this is a fairy tale, peddled as an unassailable scientific truth.

First of all, capitalist markets are neither free nor competitive, but rather are dominated by a few giant corporations in nearly every line of production. There are many small producers, but they don't control the capitalist economy and decision-making process. It is the mammoth transnational corporations who structure the markets and politics to their own class advantage - often at the expense of small producers along with the working class.

Second, an unregulated capitalism (or a regulated one for that matter) by no stretch of the imagination provides jobs for all or nearly all. The situation at this moment and in the foreseeable future is just the opposite. Much the same could be said about incomes of working people, that is, unregulated capitalism brings, not a tide lifting all boats, but instead wage stagnation or decline, and massive and growing income inequality between the 99 percent and the 1 percent.

Third, notwithstanding all the prattle of right-wing pundits about the "magic of the market," capitalism in its deregulated and regulated forms - as John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx argued - has no inherent tendency toward full employment and full utilization of society's productive resources. In fact, stagnation is a more likely prognosis for contemporary capitalism than buoyant and steady growth.

It is hard to believe that Will doesn't know all this. The economic depression of recent years that has no end in sight should be enough to cast doubt on the efficacy of free, competitive, and unregulated markets. But he reveals that his views are shaped more by the needs of an exploiting class and the corrupting influence of access to power and privilege than by the painful lessons of reality.

In the short run that may serve Will and the class that he represents well. In the longer run it will be their Waterloo.

Photo: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

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  • Three years ago, my oldest friend died as the result of exposure to asbestos whilst working as a roofer.

    His employers accepted liability in his case and in the cases of a number of other employees.

    It would be interesting to know how advocates of deregulation justify their position in light of cases like that.

    I mention this not as a horror story, but to highlight a current campaign.

    Here in the UK we have Action Mesthelioma Day (AMD), the equivalent of America`s Mesothelioma Awareness Day.

    This year it falls on 6 July and the theme will be a call for a global ban on asbestos.

    I don`t suppose a global ban is going to happen anytime soon, but I hope progressive groups around the world will take up the call.

    Posted by Nick, 06/23/2012 7:22am (2 years ago)

  • "There are many small producers, but they don't control the capitalist economy and decision-making process."

    Amen, Sam!

    For nine years I worked in the injection molding industry, an industry rife with examples of that comment. The company I worked for sold peripheral equipment for the injection molding operation.

    I installed and serviced that equipment.

    Giant corporations like GM, Ford, Chrysler, GE, Siemens, etc use many plastic parts in their product lines. Some of these parts are made "in house" and others are contracted out to the many small producers you mention.

    I worked in both.

    In every case where the production of a part or parts a small shop had contracted to produce for a major corporation I would hear the owner complain about how the terms of the contract reduced him to a defacto employee of the corporation.

    The mold for making the part was owned by the corporation; the source of the raw material, plastic pellets, was defined; the entire production plans for the production of the parts was defined by the corporation regardless of how the owner normally ran his shop: the number of shifts the owner would run per day producing the parts until the contract was completed; the number of and experience of the employees who were to be assigned to the job; and finally, the corporation could end the contract at its own discretion with near inconsequential cost.

    The situation for small shops today is not unlike the hundreds of small tool and die shops that serviced the auto industry generations ago.

    They also, in their time, starved or prospered and lived or died at the whims or wishes of the giant corporations.

    Posted by Bill Appelhans, 06/22/2012 6:16pm (2 years ago)

  • Sam's article is very much on the money. The irony of has happened on the political right, though, over the last three decades, is that Will sometimes sounds like a centrist, compared to the radio and TV demagogues and politicians like Santorum
    I would add a few points to Sam's fine arti)cle. The Clinton administration failed to reverse the deregulation of the Reagan years and when it came to banking, eventually signed off on its expansion in the Gramm-Leach bill(1998)
    which repealed the New Deal legislaton separating investment and commercial banking, leading directly ten years later to the mortgage money stock market crisis. So far, the Obama administration, while doing more than Clinton and trying to do even more, has not reversed these trends.
    What we have though is deregulation with insurance either direct through the FDIC or indirect through public bailouts. This system was once called "socialism for the rich" by an analyst during WWII. Actually, a better term would be "communism for the rich" since Communism, in Marx's classic definition, is each according to his ability to each according to his need," meaning people are free to act in any way they wish without state coercion and yet they have full economic security. Marx saw a Communist society as one where the state would "whither away" and people would on the basis of equality , freedom and security, control their lives. Under the capitalism that we have seen in recent decades, the corporations and the rich are free to do what they want regardless of the social consequences and the state, rather than"whithering away" is there to bail them out with public funds, however much it costs.
    Norman Markowitz

    Posted by norman markowitz, 06/22/2012 11:14am (2 years ago)

  • Will's accusations against regulation could actually be turned around to describe the consequences of what Naomi Klien calls disaster capitalism. In this book, with her phrasing being the title, Klien particularly shows how "Chicago economics" of the Milton Friedman school relies on, and relishes, natural and economic disasters in order to swoop in like vultures and take advantange of a country's condition to impose, through the World Bank and IMF "austerity" measures, more like economic geneocide. From Chile, 1973, to Russia, 1993, capitalism of any type, especially unfettered, doesn't really work. Well, unless you're a wealthy elite with a big financial buffer. It's a shame the Friedmans of this world continue to exist.

    Posted by revolution123, 06/21/2012 5:43pm (2 years ago)

  • Yes, Will has become a knee-jerk neocon, who has never met a regulation he has liked, unless it prevents ordinary people from pursuing their vindication in the courts or administrative agencies.

    It would be interesting to know if his Down Syndrome son is being supported by him or is receiving SSI. God forbid anyone be supported by the government entitlement!

    Posted by Raymond P. Bilodeau, 06/21/2012 2:27pm (2 years ago)

  • Capitalism has surely demonstrated the need for regulation. In those areas with little or no regulation we wait for the disaster to happen.

    Capitalism needs to be regulated to the point that it becomes innocuous and is unable to rape the planet and the population dependent on the planet.

    Posted by Ronald Humphrey, 06/21/2012 1:52pm (2 years ago)

  • Sam's measured and reasonable discourse is remenicent of his appearance on I believe it was Hannity's program. It somewhat reminds me of an animal activist christian of Roman times, explaining kindly the motivations of the lions about to devour him as he kneels in the coloseum. George Will's motivation is the same as what Rush Limbaugh accused the young lady who testified about birth control in front of congress is, he is a whore, like Mr Limbaugh himself, along with the minority of conservatives who actually are on the payroll of corporate america. The majority of them, who agree with their own, their children's and their countrymen's exploitation, poisoning, and outright enslavement by the fascist corporate state without compensation are either cowards or fools, or both. Criminals steal, and conservative pundits explain why, and tell us it is a good thing. And then are generously cut in on the booty.

    Posted by greg wood, 06/21/2012 10:23am (2 years ago)

  • I totally agree with you about the bold face lying that is being promoted around the country. I believe a lot of folks are so afraid of the permanent economic decline of this nation, so they are holding on to the idea that the
    Rich and Powerful know what to do to save the situation. Of course this is crazy and way out in right field. Still too many of us- from the working class- are not clear on where our class interests lie. We had better wake up and smell the coffee before there is None!!!

    Posted by mama cassie, 06/21/2012 1:12am (2 years ago)

  • Only one comment: as far as climate is concerned it's already too late. George Will faces the same fate as the rest of us, and it may not be possible to reverse this course. See http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=risks-of-global-warming-rising

    Posted by Ted Pearson, 06/20/2012 1:52pm (2 years ago)

  • Clear and concise evaluation of the future of Capitalism. An economic system that has out lived its usefulness but will go to its grave kicking and screaming by the likes of George Will and those in the 1% !
    And wreak hardships on the working class in the USA.

    nice job Sam!

    Posted by Gabriel Falsetta, 06/20/2012 12:40pm (2 years ago)

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