Friday, August 03, 2007

Freedomnomics Chapter 5 & Parting Thoughts

Voting Rights and Wrongs

On page 159 Lott says that free markets and political freedoms usually go hand in hand, making a monarchy generally incapable of having free markets, which would surely come as a great surprise to all the people who lived for a hundred thousand years under autocratic chiefs, governors, kings and emperors and yet could engage in whatever sort of commerce they chose so long as they paid their taxes. In fact, they had more options that we do, since now we have the FDA, OSHA, EPA and every other “A” in the United States (who are wholly owned subsidiaries of giant agribusinesses and transnational corporations and) who make it their goal to prevent people from engaging in whatever business they choose, “for our own good.”

Lott then says …Regimes that don’t trust their people enough to allow democratic elections usually like to keep close control over their subject’s economic activities and their access to information. Well, that definitely includes our government and our elites - so how exactly are we a true free market economy again?

And on page 160, Lott begins his argument that it is Women’s suffrage that has made government and government programs grow, apparently in every election since 1968. Well, ok, but that overlooks a rather huge and obvious other aspect – that women have had the vote since long before 1968 and yet government didn’t turn into a nanny state until recently. And in fact, the voting trends of women from 1968 onward probably have a lot more to do with the fact that these women are 1) baby boomers, and 2) were raised in the idealistic 60s.

The Baby Boomers clearly have goals and agendas that are NOT in the best interests of the economy and the younger voting generations. They have lived a spoiled life of relative luxury and were raised with a sense of entitlement, in addition to their hippy-esque ideas, and will vote themselves generous retirement and healthcare benefits entirely unknown in the history of mankind, and they are voting themselves these privileges on the backs of their less numerous children and grandchildren. The Baby Boomers, thanks to birth control, had far fewer children than their parents and grandparents, and even at that still managed to murder approximately 1/3 of my generation (gen-x) in abortion mills. I understand that something like ½ of the babies conceived by my own generation has likewise been exterminated in the name of temporary convenience – at the expense of long term economic stability. There are simply not enough of us to support the Baby Boomers in “the manner in which they would like to be accustomed.”

Our burdens will grow and grow as long as the Baby Boomers are still alive and voting, because it isn’t going to cross their selfish minds that they don’t really have a right to bankrupt their children and grandchildren so that they can enjoy some fantasy land of “retirement” that was ALSO invented by themselves out of the thin blue air. Even so, when Social Security was first enacted, there were 19 active working adults per retiree. Now there are 3, soon to be 2. That means the Baby Boomers expect us to give up half our income so they can gallivant around golf courses and cruise ships all across the world. And in case you didn’t know, class, Social Security benefits are paid to anyone and everyone who paid or had a spouse pay into the system. That means Mrs. Rockefeller and Mrs. JP Morgan get Social Security checks. And if you think that the Boomers are going to allow their benefits to be means tested, then it is you who is living in fantasy land. They far outnumber us and they couldn’t care less about whether or not the economy can actually afford the historically outrageous benefits that they “deserve.”

Also in the 70s, we see another trend that has greatly expanded the tax burden on us, and that is the generally loathed “corporate welfare” and economically unsound “agriculture supports.” Since these “constituencies” should theoretically have far less “voters” than ordinary people who don’t want to part with their money, it’s clear that the growth of corporate influence has had a huge impact on tax expenditures since 1968 – we can see that easily from the previous chapters, I don’t even have to cover that ground here.

On page 167 Lott describes some things that he thinks prevents people from coming to the polls. One of these statements is that “many would-be voters had lost interest in the political issues while the poll tax prevented them from voting.” Again, OK, that that was almost 30 years ago. How is that relevant today? I think in the last 30 years that a sufficient number of younger generations have become eligible to vote that this cannot be a viable explanation in this day and age.

Lott also notices that introducing secret ballots actually caused a lower voter turnout that had previously been tabulated. So clearly, since candidates and their parties, or their employers or their unions could no longer offer them incentives (since they could no longer prove how they had voted in the election) they were no longer interested in voting. I would think that Lott would not have a problem with this, since these are hardly the type of people you would want to be voting in the first place. It’s not a democratic election if people are not willing to research the issues and vote in an informed and intelligent manner – it’s just a popularity contest at that point, with whichever candidate or issue that has the best sound-bytes winning. If that is true democracy then de Toqueville was right - democracy cannot last.

And the fact that these people had to be bribed to even vote and that generally less than half of all eligible citizens vote at all (in some elections turnout is only 10-12%) shows that our “democracy” is indeed a failure. We STILL have rule by wealthy and landed gentry, it’s just filtered through a farce we call “general elections” that are not general and do not result in majority rule.

And as Lott also notes, “turnout” figures turn out to be greatly inflated even, on account of the huge percentages of votes by dead people, illegal aliens, convicted felons, and absentee ballots. It’s clear that, yes, elections can be bought and paid for. In fact, I was astonished when I went to election worker training this past spring and found that the rules in our state now allow an unsigned credit card without a photo to be used as a “valid” identification. I asked, specifically, what was keeping multiple illegals from registering using that name in every district and precinct and simply passing the card around to each other all day in order to vote illegally? The instructor just shrugged and said, “I didn’t make the law.” Well, somebody did – somebody some constituency voted for, apparently. I can only guess how much money had to change hands before a legislator thought that was a “good” idea. And I can only guess who paid it.

To get back on track, what that means is that even less actual, real, eligible people vote than the official percentages show – which is already a pathetically low number. So I hope you aren’t really suffering from the delusion that we live in a democracy, class. The moneyed elite have so entrenched themselves that even if the majority of the public did wake up and vote in their own best interests instead of corporate best interests, the results of the votes would just be struck down by the courts – it’s called “judicial fiat” and that is the real final word in this country. If you can’t bamboozle the voters, just buy yourself a judge. Works every time.

I notice on page 173 and onward Lott complains that voters are largely mistaken in their belief that the new electronic voting machines can be rigged. “Polls show a high percentage of Americans believe that systematic disenfranchisement is occurring.” Again, class, the market has spoken. And it’s always right, class. The collective consciousness of the Market knows the Truth. That's a basic tenant of Free Market Economics.

And I can tell you from personal experience, the electronic voting machines in my metropolitan area are “set” and “reset” and “maintained” using laptop computers – all of which can be online with WIFI at any and all times of the day during the election. There is nothing stopping someone who has inside information and inside opportunity from tampering with the outcome. As long as the number of votes tallied in the machine matches the number of signatures on the sheet, they can manipulate the final tally all they want. And unless you went back and asked every signee how they voted in every race, you would never be able to prove otherwise.

And poll workers only see the number of votes at their individual polling stations. There is no way they can assert that the total votes for each candidate or issue was not altered or fudged when their result was combined together will all the other results from all the other polling places. We have to just TRUST the election commission to make sure everything is accurate.

Yeah, right.

Lott is correct about one thing, on page 176, when he questions just how well elderly people deal with electronic voting machines. I got to see this up close and personally at the last election when I was assigned to take the place of someone who was normally assigned to a polling place located in a large assisted living facility. We were supposed to fill out a form every time someone receives “help” from a polling place worker and there are only a few reasons allowed for justifying that help – and being old isn’t one of them. The forms were abandoned early on in the day except for the truly handicapped (such as the blind) who met the criteria – but the help continued on, because the elderly people either just stood there for extremely long lengths of time trying to figure it out themselves, backing up the line, or they just flat out said they wanted someone to do it for them and that they had the right to insist someone do so. Now, you just try telling some WWII vet that he doesn’t have the right to be helped or to have someone else operate the machine for him. Want to see an old man turn purple and have a stroke on the spot? We, all of us working at that poll that day, in an unspoken unanimous agreement, afterward just did whatever the elderly person told us to do – help them or vote for them or whatever they asked, regardless of what the forms said was and was not acceptable reasons for “help.” Since we didn’t want to lie on the forms, we just didn’t fill them out at all. The elderly people got to vote, and everybody was happy.

Now, since I was the Republican “judge” it was my job to help all Republican elderly people, and my Democrat counterpart helped her voters likewise. Did she follow their instructions if they told her to vote for someone who was a Republican (because, you know, even in so-called “non-partisan” races we all know that the candidates are members of political parties)? I hope so, but I don’t know for sure. And I would think our experience is typical of elderly people – they need or want help and most states only allow “help” for people with specific physical or mental disabilities. And if they brought their son or daughter or friend to the poll to “help” them – which they are allowed to do – how do we know that the family member is really voting the way the elderly person tells them to? We don’t.

Lott, on page 177, has an excessive amount of faith in “accuracy checks” on electronic voting machines, never realizing, apparently, that the program running the voting machine could have been flawed or programmed in such as way as to allow manipulation from the get-go. Does he really think that the companies that make those machines are above taking bribes? And could either party or some corporation admit to paying such a bribe if the election didn’t turn out as promised? Of course not. The voting machine company can always say, just like politicians do, that the “other” states/districts/precincts “outvoted” them.

And when there are irregularities, as on page 178, we sometimes see a perverse sort of “reverse discrimination” among the judges – Lott found that they just “presumed” a black person wouldn’t vote Republican and invalidated their votes. After all, we “know” that African Americans benefit from their patronizing Democratic party leaders, who, in reality, have a vested interest in keeping them downtrodden and dependent upon handouts. What African American person in their right mind would vote Republican?!?

On the issue of Felon voting rights, here we just have another example of “other people’s money” determining the vote – in this case, since Felons have such a hard time finding good jobs when they get out of prison, voting Democratic is just a way for them to legally take your hard-earned money and give it to themselves in the form of aid and benefits. Democrats therefore champion these Felon’s voting rights because – hey, they’re a captive audience. It’s not like their “felon” status is going to vanish – the vast majority of them will always be stuck in the system one way or another.

On page 187 Lott found that the Market was right in its assertion that media coverage is biased toward Liberal/Democratic positions. Lott is also correct on page 188 in his suspicion that both the “totalitarian” government (and various UN organizations) use public schools to subvert the political, philosophical, and religious values of the family. What he doesn’t admit is that our own government is one of these “totalitarian” governments. In fact, as he does later point out, that was the original INTENTION of American public schools – to subvert catholic kids. Now, they subvert all philosophies that are not in agreement with the “new world order” agenda of the moneyed elites and transnational corporations who are unaccountable to anyone but themselves and want things to stay that way.

And I just loved it on page 189 when Lott said “In totalitarian countries, the hiring and firing of educators is often based explicitly on political grounds.” Has he been to Harvard lately? “Today, this kind of state indoctrination is commonly found in radical Muslim states.” That is probably the understatement of the century. And in case he hasn’t noticed, Saudi Arabia is funding hundreds of Wahabiist mosques right here in America.

And finally on page 192 we get to teachers, which, in reality, means “the teacher’s union.” Lott blames government for the subversion of American children to corporate and government interests, but I think the Democratic party has a lot more to do with this than the government itself. The government doesn’t specify textbooks and teaching materials, they just insist on a minimum academic content and some social engineering goals. Did you ever notice that the teacher’s union backs a lot of positions, including abortion on demand, which do not seem to have a darn thing with education? Why is that, class? Because it is wholly owned and operated by the Democratic party, not by government in general. It is the idea that the moneyed elites, who have been “naturally selected” for leadership, should rule and everyone else should follow – Lott mistakes this for a general government insistence on having kids taught to look to the government for answers to everything. But the Democratic party doesn’t want kids to look to government, which is sometimes Republican, or to the majority rule, which prefers to decide how to spend their own money themselves. No, it is the Liberal/Democratic agenda that has a vested interest in preventing anyone from solving their own problems.

It is they who have the most incentive to subvert both education and the democratic process, “for our own good.”

Lott's Parting Thoughts

"In a free market, those who only see the incentives of professionals and corporations to rip off their consumers are only considering one type of incentive."

That's rather like saying that the kid with a quarter in his pocket is going to have the same influence among his peers as the kids with $100.00 - guess who's going to be able to win friends and influence people? Not the kid with just a quarter.

No, Lott, it IS all about money and power. And while "consumers and producers tend to find solutions themselves when their own money is at stake," it is more true that the least expensive solution is rarely, if ever, the ethical solution or the solution that has most long-term viability. Corporations have to show a profit this quarter, next quarter, and every other quarter - and each one has to be more than the last.

The earth is a closed system, class. Unlimited perpetual growth is IMPOSSIBLE. We have to decide what is truly in our best interests - full living wage employment and less corporate profit, or more corporate profit and less quality of life, less environmental safety, and more and more dependence on oil and long-range transporation of goods from far away places.

Think about it, class. Lott's globalist world is built on a premise that self-sufficiency is BAD. That people are just commodities. That whomever has the most toys wins. That the "now" is always more important than the future. Is that correct?

Of course it's not.

Finally, Lott concludes:

"Markets not only increase our wealth, they also increase our freedom. And so long as people have the freedom to act on their own incentives, the US economy will continue to embody the best, most creative, and - I would dare say - the most honest aspects of our society."

That's an awfully big IF, class, and I would say the truth value of this if-then statement is false. We don't have the freedom to act on our own incentives. They have purposefully made self-sufficiency impossible. They have destroyed family farms and locally family owned businesses. Our wealth is not increased, it is eroded away to almost nothing. The American dream, as a lot of subprime and alt-A mortgage holders are finding out the hard way, is dead - eaten alive by greed and usury, by greed and indifference, by greed and the entitlement mentality of a few that justifies in their minds their exploitation of the many.

I prefer a more futuristic view: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. The many need living wage employment, the right to medical care, the right to basic necessities of life, fair and impartial government, and the ability to have their children educated in a manner consistent with their political, social, philosophical, and religious beliefs.

We have none of these, class - nor can we ever under the type of "free market" economics championed by Lott and his ilk. As long as profit rules the world, the needs of real living people will always be a secondary consideration at best.

And this is just, plain, WRONG. Shame on Lott for suggesting otherwise.


John Lott said...

"Think about it, class. Lott's globalist world is built on a premise that self-sufficiency is BAD. That people are just commodities. That whomever has the most toys wins. That the "now" is always more important than the future. Is that correct?"

Self-sufficiency is "bad" in the sense that what you are advocating would make us much poorer. Take an extension of your claim. Should the state or city that you live in be self-sufficient? How about the neighborhood? Or should you yourself be self-sufficient? Obviously that would be ridiculous, right? Why? Because it would be incredibly wasteful for you to even try to do a good job being self-sufficient. Should you paint your house and mow your yard or should you work and hire someone to do those things? Similarly it would be true, though to a lesser extent, if your state tried to do that.

The claim that I view people as mere "commodities" is simply silly. Increased wealth means increased life expectancy, better diets, better medical care. I could ask you why you care so much about preserving someone's inefficient job at the expense of all the customers and people's income and life expectancies?

John Lott said...

By the way, thanks for reading the book.

Ahavah bat Sarah said...

Dear John,

I'm afraid we're going to have to part company at this point.

I'm afraid, also, that a great many communities are going to find out the hard way when gasoline is $8, $10, or $12 a gallon that yes, they do need to be reasonably self-sufficient.

You act as if prior to globalization, Americans lived horrible short diseased lives. This is simply untrue. They grew most of their food locally, were fully employed in local family owned and run businesses and farms, and lived a very, very good life both by historical and international measures.

As a matter of fact, I do paint my house and mow my yard - as do most people. Your service economy is simply everyone taking in each other's laundry. Are you blind? People can't and aren't making a living wage in your fairy-land of trading around chores. People can't and aren't making a living from their wally-world jobs. People can't and aren't making a living flipping burgers and wiping off tables and mopping floors. When we restore our own local economy with local production of local food and local goods, then there will be sufficient money in people's pockets to pay for services - which are luxuries, John, and have been throughout history. Only the rich can afford to have other people do their chores for them. Out here in real life land, you aren't going to make enough money working at Target or Trader Joe's to pay people to do your chores.

It is not silly to claim people are just commodities in your world, John, because that's exactly what they are. They are disposable and whomever will work for the LEAST amount of money wins - regardless of whether or not that wage is realistic in terms of living expenses. Tell all the people who used to have factory jobs how much better off they are working at a hardware store for near minimum wage with no benefits or health care. They're not better off, only the CEO with his billion-dollar stock options is better off.

What is the purpose of employment, John? It's to provide for your family and to have money for spending above and beyond basic necessities. In your world, the purpose for working is to enrich the CEO and hopefully not starve to death before they foreclose on your house that you were only 5 years away from paying off before people in Bangladesh agreed to work for a fraction of your wage and your factory shipped out and left your community in ruins. But hey, according to you, there's nothing wrong with that. Let them eat cake, right John?

Full living wage employment is NOT inefficient - it's the ONLY realistic way of keeping this or any economy from imploding because of debt and poverty. Your definition of "efficient" sacrifices people on the altar of a CEO's golden parachute, and it's frankly sick to think this way.

You are so indoctrinated with immoral and unethical "free market" everyone-is-a-commodity reasoning that you are too uncaring and numb to even see that it's wrong.

And what a joke - pretending that underemploying people and minimum wage incomes increases people's lifespans and quality of life. Are you insane? How many people in this country now have no health care at all? Are you blind? The US no longer has the healthiest, tallest, longest lived children in the world - in fact, it is widely acknowledged that today's children will have LOWER life expectancies due to being fed garbage instead of food by transnational corporations and due to lack of health care.

You should be ASHAMED of yourself for telling people that being able to buy cheap plastic junk is more important than having living wage employment. My 13 year old is apparently more able to discern the results of the destruction of the American manufacturing base than you are. Your "education" is lacking, John. You're a calculator, John, not a person. You've lost your humanity in a quest for cheap plastic junk.

And I'm sorry I read your book - it was a waste of money.