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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Karl's Still Going Strong

Here's an interesting tidbit: Karl Marx is the most assigned economist in U.S. college classes:
More than 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the onset of market-economy practices in China, “The Communist Manifesto” still ranks among the three most frequently assigned texts at American universities. 
That’s according to data from Open Syllabus Project, which tracks books and other works assigned to students in more than 1 million syllabi.
That's pretty good staying power!

84 comments:

Clovis e Adri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clovis e Adri said...

Well, we don't read Ptolomy works anymore but he is still widely cited - mainly to contrast with the better theories that followed.

And there is the point of historical importance for the sake of historical knowledge itself (other than the economics per se).

Or do you think many of those university departments really teach it as a valid model today?

erp said...

Marx is still in play after a century plus of failure because the left wants it to work.

Bret said...

Clovis,

Note that I didn't add any judgmental commentary about Marx and his work to my post. I certainly agree that he's an important historical figure and to understand the progression of economic and possibly political/historical thought he probably needs to be included.

It is interesting to me though, that Marx is at the tippy-top of the list.

Howard said...

Bret,

I've thought about the attraction to the ideas of Marx for quite some time. There are some good observations and some things he got seriously wrong. I'm left with the notion that the utopian elements are like honey to flies.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

It does not surprise me his presence in the top list for one simple reason: most other topics are distributed among many authors, hence those authors do not make to the top list, for you can cover the subject with widely different selections.

Harry Eagar said...

I think the students should be made to read Ricardo.

Hey Skipper said...

According to the link in the OP, what is most assigned is "The Communist Manifesto", not "Das Kapital".

TCM was a polemical work, in the way that Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" was.

TCM appears not to be assigned in Economics classes, but rather as political philosophy along with Rousseau, Hobbes, Locke, etc. That's all well and good, but I'm disappointed that "The Road to Serfdom" isn't on the list right alongside TCM, because not only is it far more readable, it gets right everything that TCM got wrong.

(Full disclosure, I have read both TCM and Road.)

[erp:] Marx is still in play after a century plus of failure because the left wants it to work.

Perhaps not. It is an unavoidably cautionary tale to see how self-proclaimed intellectuals elevated a text based on preposterous assumptions that engendered the global catastrophe of collectivism.

Yes, there are still collectivists despite history, but I think most people, including college students, are able to derive the glaringly obvious.

[Clovis:] It does not surprise me his presence in the top list for one simple reason …

Good observation.

erp said...

Skipper, how can you say that when college students think Karl Marx is on the ballot?

Hey Skipper said...

I didn't know that they did, but presuming some poll or another says so, don't discard the possibility that college students might, just might, take some small pleasure in skewing polls.

I know I would.

erp said...

Never thought of that!!!

Harry Eagar said...

I guess Skipper never read my review of 'Road to Serfdom,' where I pointed out how many predictions Hayek made that were howlingly wrong, and already known to be wrong when he published his American edition, where he did not correct them.

I suspect many readers of Hayek do not know much if anything about economic history.

Hey Skipper said...

Harry, as it happened you wrote that review* just a couple months after I read the book.

Which meant I was knowingly slack jawed in amazement at how mangled the book beyond recognition (ignoring a half dozen paras of irrelevant throat clearing).

This para (although they are all pretty much equally divorced from what Hayek wrote) is illustrative:

Hayek proposed that socialism or collectivism -- which he defined very broadly -- could not work, and furthermore required the destruction of individual liberty. One wonders why, other than a sense of personal pique, he picked on socialism in this respect. He was born in Austria in 1899, where there were still real serfs in all but name, and in a world where individual liberty was scarce anywhere, whether governments were collectivist or not.

It would be easy to spend an hour describing how, save for punctuation and spelling the second sentence is catastrophically wrong in the first half, and the rest a perfect non sequitur.

And that's just one para.

* For Pete's sake Harry, are you allergic to links?

Let me help. Go to keyboard preferences, and under Text, and add something like ;hr, and set the replacement string as [a href=" "] [/a] (replace [ and ] with < and >)

Then open a browser tab with, say your review. Ctrl-L, Ctrl-C. Go to comment window. Put curser between the quote marks, Ctrl-V. Then put curser between > and <, then type your text.

So easy, anyone can do it. Even a progressive.

erp said...

Progs depend on lo/no-fos who couldn't follow those instructions if their next government check depended on it.

:-)

Hey Skipper said...

Memo to self: do not post in a hurry.

... slack jawed in amazement at how you mangled ...

Made worse by an ambiguous parenthetical:

(ignoring a half dozen paras of irrelevant throat clearing). Roughly the first half of the review had nothing to do with the book.

It would be easy to spend an hour describing how, save for punctuation and spelling the last sentence is catastrophically wrong in the first half, and the rest a perfect non sequitur.

Harry Eagar said...

I like my sentence, which I had not read for a while. Why do people get twisted up about socialism and liberty? Is socialism notably inimical to liberty, compared to, say, Christianity? Why do those people not condemn Christianity with similar fervor?

Hey Skipper said...

Why do people get twisted up about socialism and liberty? Is socialism notably inimical to liberty, compared to, say, Christianity?

Because, where practiced, socialism always leads to first tyranny, then institutionalized murder.

Christianity, in contrast, led to liberty, a concept first developed in Christendom, if you bothered to read any history.

What, precisely is there to condemn about Christianity, anyway?

erp said...

Harry, christianity and socialism aren't two like things and can't be compared as if they were.

BTW -- still waiting for you to comment on Ms Chavez and her billion + dollar "retirement" to the U.S.

Skipper, there's plenty to criticize about religion in general and christianity in particular as practiced by the various sects, etc. some better, some worse.

Socialism, however, leads to death and destruction without fail -- first time and every time -- time to quote an old commercial.

Hey Skipper said...

erp:

I bolded the word "is" in my previous comment for a couple reasons. First, Harry has problems with tense. Second, it is a doddle to find odious things in Christianity's history. But over the last several hundred years -- at least -- that odiousness has been greatly reduced to the point where even an anti-religious zealot such as Harry would have a real hard time finding anything substantial to whinge about.

Socialism, in contrast, has always been inimical to liberty; it can't be otherwise. That is the thesis of Road to Serfdom, supported by many examples. Keeping in mind that it was written in the early forties, it was remarkably prescient about communism and fascism.

Not that you will get any of that from Harry's review.

erp said...

Skipper, totally agree. On the left, facts are fungible as are definitions of words ...

Gender used as a synonym for sex is one of my current favorite aberrations. The ridiculous, now annual, Medicare update that every physician is required to get patients to complete sets my normally low-normal blood pressure into stroke territory when I edit and make notations all over it.

I cross out GENDER (and let them know I am not a grammatical construct), write in SEX female.

Under RACE, I check OTHER and write in: HUMAN

Under ETHNICITY, I cross them all out and write in N/A

Under WHAT LANGUAGE DO YOU SPEAK AT HOME (a new one this year), I write in NONE OF ANYONE'S DAMN BUSINESS!!!

I could go on, but I feel my left temple throbbing.

BTW- don't bother looking up gender online or in post 60's dictionaries because they've been updated to reflect lefty propaganda.

Hey Skipper said...

erp, your comment reminds me of this.

erp said...

Never thought I'd be nostalgic for those golden days of yore. I now write in HUMAN for race, since American isn't a race*, but I'll revise my ETHNICITY snark and write in AMERICAN, but I'll be damned if I'll answer any other questions not related to medical issues.

You ask in your earlier post, why do the feds want to pit us against each other, recent events have answered that question in spades (Harry, reminder, "in spades" refers to the card game, Bridge, in which spades are the top suit, not to your favorite obsession racism).

*There are only three races, Caucasian, Mongoloid and Negro. Some throw in Pacific Islanders, but I'm not convinced they aren't, like most of the rest of us, a mix and match of the original three.

Hey Skipper said...

Milton Friedman talking about Hayek.

Can't wait for Harry to, in detail, with supporting information, tell us how Friedman and Hayek are wrong.

Harry Eagar said...

'Socialism, in contrast, has always been inimical to liberty'

Really? In Denmark?

Or Austria, home of Hayek?

Let us take the period from Hayek's birth to the year he wrote the preface to the American edition of 'Road' (1899-1955). Austria changed political regimes 5 times over that span: capitalism/feudalism to about 1919, socialism and liberalism to about 1933, clerical/fascism to 1934, plain fascism to 1945, then socialism and liberalism to 1955.

Which of those periods were times of increasing political and economic liberty and which were not?

Howard said...

Harry,

You're obviously in need of some remediation. Allow me to help.

The book was addressed to socialists of all parties. It was a cautionary tale about the dangers of persisting with central planning of the economy. The Fabians were very keen on such at the time the book was written. Many intellectuals thought it was the wave of the future - silly types caught up with fashionable ideas. Try substituting "central planning" for "socialism" and see if that helps. Hopefully, that will improve you're understanding, but I'm not a miracle worker. ;-)

Howard said...

Another helpful point - runaway statism and a large administrative state might not deliver hard tyranny, but a soft tyranny instead. But a tyranny nonetheless. There were a few Frenchmen who figured that out back in the 1800s.

Hey Skipper said...

[Harry:] 'Socialism, in contrast, has always been inimical to liberty'

Really? In Denmark?


Echoing Howard, Denmark is a social welfare state, not socialist.

Perhaps you could explain how your rhetorical question is at all pertinent. Because, from here, you appear unable to distinguish between a bicycle and a dinner table.

Hey Skipper said...

[Howard:] Another helpful point - runaway statism and a large administrative state might not deliver hard tyranny, but a soft tyranny instead. But a tyranny nonetheless.

The ACA is an example of the encroaching administrative state. It forces me to people to pay for things they can't possibly use. Worse, it forces others to subsidize that which they find morally repugnant: making Catholic nuns support abortion probably fits the definition of tyranny.

What Harry misses about socialism -- no surprise, since he can't suss the difference between that and welfare redistribution -- is that it politicizes everything it touches.

Harry Eagar said...

Well, if Denmark isn't socialist, then the USSR wasn't either.

However, Vienna was socialist (and since it was virtually the whole population, so hen was Austria). What did the antisocialists do there?

Let's go trolling for a socialist state. Here, caught one: Cuba. When it comes to tyranny, how does Cuba compare vs. the capitalist states of the region? Guatemala, say.

Bret said...

socialism
[soh-shuh-liz-uh m]

noun
1.
a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

==================================================================

What percent of the means of production and distribution does the government of Denmark own Harry?

What percent of the means of production and distribution did the government of the USSR own Harry?

I think we'd find two percentages are/were very different to the point where the USSR really was socialist by definition and Denmark really is NOT.

Hey Skipper said...

[Harry:] Well, if Denmark isn't socialist, then the USSR wasn't either.

You have said a great many ignorant things, but that really takes the cake.

(Unlike you, I have been to both the USSR and Denmark. The USSR was a socialist hell hole, and Denmark a free market welfare state. The difference could not possibly be more glaring. But then what do I know? I only have first hand information to go on.)

erp said...

... right Skipper and Harry has an "erudite" study by an obscure academic to prove you wrong.

Howard said...

And then there's this:

Exposing the Myth of Nordic Socialism

Leftists always want to point to some so-called utopian society that exists due to government intervention and control but what they call success is usually due to what is mentioned in the above book description: hard work, healthy diets, social cohesion and high levels of trust. Hard work and high levels of trust in our American society is slowly becoming a thing of the past. It's hard for a society to be successful without these traits, but leftists are determined to give it a try.

also - The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia

Hey Skipper said...

Howard:

What progs get wrong is their own preconceptions. Scandinavian countries aren't socialist. They are capitalist with very redistributive social welfare. To be completely fair, many non-progs make the same mistake.

In practice, what that means is they haven't gone out and strangled the golden egg laying goose en route to providing for the less fortunate.

Which is where the crux of the problem lies. It is easy to find people who, through no fault of their own, cannot provide for themselves in the way that others, through no fault of their own*, can. The welfare state exists to alleviate that, which is very hard to argue with. However, it seems that if the welfare state is left to its own devices, it very quickly starts penalizing virtue and rewarding vice (Hence my NYT link above).

Because Scandinavian countries were so homogenous and, unlike southern European countries like Greece and Italy, not inclined to corruption**, they could drag out the inability to distinguish between the truly needy and malingerers for far longer.

Thanks to unaccountable political elites, unexamined assumptions, and Islam "were" isn't "is". Comeuppance is nigh.

Oh, and one other thing, upon which I only have first hand experience to go on. Scandinavian countries are hellish expensive.


* Many caveats attend
** There is a doctoral thesis in there somewhere.

Harry Eagar said...

Sigh. There was more to socialism -- as it was understood when Hayek was in school -- than control of the means of production. The socialist parties (except for a few splinter groups) shed their internationaism in 1914, for example. The USSR was so unlike any known conception of socialism that Stalin had to write a text (the 'Short Course') explaining how what was manifestly not socialism was still socialism.

Skipper is broken up about having to buy health insurance that he thinks he doesn't want, but did he shed a tear for the pacifist taxpayers who had to shell out for his airplane?

Possibly not.

On the order of half the national income of the Scandinavian countries is engrossed by the state, which is about as socialist, in the economic realm, as any modern state has managed. England, under socialist government, never came close to that.

Then we have the USA, which we are being assured is irretrievably socialist already. 'Socialism' seems a protean concept, but if you want to call it 'social welfare,' I'm OK with that. Socialism is like Christianity: few, if any, of its adherents in 2016 would have been accepted as Socialists or Christians by the votaries of 1916.





erp said...

The US is fascist and Obamacare is only the first act. Single payer is the goal and it'll be here very soon insuring that we all get the same healthcare as the VA provides.

Hey Skipper said...

[Harry:] Sigh. There was more to socialism -- as it was understood when Hayek was in school -- than control of the means of production.

Like what?

The heart of socialism was control of the means of production and the elimination of private property. It really shouldn't be that hard to distinguish that from free market economy within a heavily redistributive state.

Doesn't make that redistribution smart, or affordable, which I am sure you didn't learn because you won't read newspapers.

Skipper is broken up about having to buy health insurance that he thinks he doesn't want, but did he shed a tear for the pacifist taxpayers who had to shell out for his airplane?

That's an faintly interesting point, although one I'd have thought completely settled.

What it has to do with the government forcing me to spend my money on something ostensibly for me, as opposed to how the government makes spending decisions on tax revenue, is completely beyond me. Perhaps you didn't think that sentence through?

erp said...

One of the very few legitimate responsibilities of the federal government is to provide for the common defense. Pacifists are free to move to a country that doesn't provide for it and the sooner the better IMO ... and what kind of convoluted reasoning makes U.S. military aircraft, Skipper's plane or are you referring to FedEx aircraft?

Hey Skipper said...

It is worth remembering that Harry insisted things are no worse in Venezuela than they have ever been.

Once again, Socialism is going to do what socialism always does.

Harry Eagar said...

What Harry really said was: 'Demonstrating that a different segment of the society is suffering is not the same as showing that things are worse.'

Now the privileged segments of the Venezuelan society are finding out what the poor had for the past 70 years or more, and they are not liking it. I can understand that they don't but the time to have worried about it was around 1958.

Before Chavez, Venezuela was a capitalist country with a large per capita economy and a huge population of people on the edge of starvation. It takes a particularly callous person to think that things are worse now.

Hey Skipper said...

No, Harry, not a callous person.

Just reality.

erp said...

Harry, are you saying that prior to 1958, there were no poor starving people in Venezuela?

Hey Skipper said...

erp, what I think Harry is saying is that, in part because it is sitting on the world's largest known reserves of oil, but mostly because socialism is so super wonderful, Venezuela is doing so much better than all its neighbors.

Which should be obvious, because of all the food refugees coming to Venezuela from surrounding countries.

I think I have that right, except for a few details.

I'm sure Harry will set me straight.

erp said...

Skipper, I think you're right because as we know, the devil is in the details and some of the details Harry hasn't spoken to as yet (looking for an appropriately obscure scholarly paper, no doubt) is that tons of Venezuelan riches have left the building in the company of Señorita Chavez and other servants of the poor and powerless in her father's government also conspicuously missing.

Eagerly awaiting Harry's explanation.

Clovis e Adri said...

If the opinion of a neighbor is invited, Harry, Venezuela is in its worse shape ever.

What notion of justice is this where, in order for the 'callous rich' to be punished, we should make the life of the poor (and not so poor) a living hell?

erp said...

... and the rich of all varieties including thieves like Chavez's daughter can move to other parts of the globe not experiencing the agonies of no toilet paper and/or food.

Still no comment on the disappearance of Venezuela's wealth.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "What notion of justice is this where, in order for the 'callous rich' to be punished, we should make the life of the poor (and not so poor) a living hell?"

Well, that's actually an interesting question. For example, I often ask people the following to get an idea of their ideological bent.

"If you had a choice between the following two policies, which would you choose:
(a) One that made the rich twice as rich and the poor 10% richer; or
(b) One that made the rich half as rich as the poor 10% poorer?"

I've found that around 1/2 the people I've asked either choose (b) or have no preference (or refuse to choose).

The poor are apparently just pawns to many people and their misery is a minuscule price to pay to bring down the rich and powerful. Envy is one of the strongest human emotions.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

We once discussed your example above here at GG.

Though envy plays a big role when people think about known (and personally close) cases of rich people, I don't think it is the case in your abstract example.

More probably, people are caught in the middle of conflicting 'senses of justice', even more when some of them tend to associate great fortunes with exploitation, unfairness (be it at business practices or else) and so on. So they do not see all those rich people getting richer, and the poor also getting richer, as a probable scenario even if you explicitely state so.

I may be wrong, but that's my observation concerning people who would opt for the (b) option. If you reframe your example in a much more simplified way -- without defining who gets how much more rich, only (a) everyone gets a bit richer, and (b) everyone gets a little poorer -- you will promptly see the difference in results.


A final comment about the envy thing: I notice also not only material envy, but a mix of envy and ego. Sort of like "I am not hurt only because you have so much more than I, but I am hurt it somehow means you are more important or more able than I am". So I guess some people who vote for option (b) are also somehow trying to make everyone "as valuable as a person". As I said, it gets to conflicting 'senses of justice'.

Hey Skipper said...

And a conflicting sense of which is most important, relative, or absolute, poverty.

Bret said...

Clovis,

Okay, perhaps not envy, though to me, your "final comment" still looks like it describes envy to me. I don't think envy has to be about material things.

Still, to me, not immediately and unhesitatingly choosing (a) in order to make the poor better off cannot really be explained by anything admirable and the "sense of justice" that "conflicts" with making the poor better off is, to me, warped at best. Indeed, at best it indicates willingness to use the poor as pawns for other agendas, whether or not you call it "justice."

On the other hand, over the last couple of years, I've begun to wonder whether or not the poor themselves would choose (b). At this point, I'm guessing they would and perhaps in even higher percentages than other groups. Which, to me, shows that the American poor are not desperately poor and have just as warped motivations as the rest of us.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

You overestimate your listeners.

In my experience, clear ang logical questions are anything but to most minds out there. So there again, even though you clearly state (b) as making the poor worse off, I believe a lot of people do not process that. Really, that's my experience.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "You overestimate your listeners."

Anything's possible, but I don't think so.

First, it's not like I just ask that totally out of the blue. There's always relevant context.

Second, it's not like an online survey where they just check the box and that's the end of it. If they answer (b), I ask follow questions (at first, because I was incredulous that anyone would possibly answer (b), then later to see if they did understand the question).

When asked why they'd be willing to add yet more poverty to the poor, I'd get either:

1. It's unacceptable to make the rich that much richer even if it helped the poor; or

2. It's more important to reduce inequality than to help the poor.

I think that both of those responses make it clear that they understood their answer and either answer indicates a clear willingness to sacrifice the poor for other reasons.

Those who had no preference or refused to answer would usually say something like, "those are both terrible choices, I can't say which one is more terrible."

Again, I think that indicates understanding, because if they missed the poor getting poorer part, why not just choose B? And it indicates that a solution that made the poor 10% richer would be part of a "terrible" thing.

So, I forget, what's your answer?

Clovis e Adri said...

Just as a correction to myself, to frame it as people not being logical enough is a bit unfair.

What may happen is that many people, instead of instantly accepting the shear reduction of complexity that such simple questions entail, still try to answer it within the not so simple world existing out there.

Clovis e Adri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

We discussed the same topic more than a year ago, I guess, and I had the chance to try it on a few people too since then.

Contrary to your experience, I got the impression that, for some people choosing (b), it was not really clear that the poor would be better off in option (a). They were usually people who would think the economy more like a zero sum game, where a person would be richer by making others poorer.

Contrary to you, I live in Brazil, a rent seeking society where it is not that difficult to observe cases where their zero sum notion applies. So I guess we are dealing with different samples.



As for your final question, I don't get it. What is my answer to what? (I assume it is not the (a)-(b) question, for you started it because of my comment to Harry - I gave my answer beforehand.)

Bret said...

I see.

In a fixed pie/zero sum scenario both choices are impossible so it would be impossible to pick either choice. Maybe, especially for those who refused to answer. I'm not convinced though.

Hey Skipper said...

[Bret:] I've found that around 1/2 the people I've asked either choose (b) or have no preference (or refuse to choose).

I've read in various places that people, depending upon how the question is put, people have problems correctly analyzing logically identical situations. (Unfortunately, despite being on my third cup of coffee, I can think of neither examples or references.)

Try asking those questions in a different, but logically identical form:

(a) One that made the poor 10% richer and made the rich twice as rich; or

(b) One that made the poor 10% poorer, and made the rich half as rich.

Your original formulation led with rich, which could easily have had the effect of skewing listeners attention to that, instead of poor.

No way to know, of course, unless you ask the reformulated questions of a sufficiently large group of people.

[Clovis:] So they do not see all those rich people getting richer, and the poor also getting richer, as a probable scenario even if you explicitely state so.

Exactly. Bret's questions involve, so some extent, the degree to which people are zero-sum thinkers. Even though it is true that a combination of policies can make everyone better off, that is a somewhat counterintuitive notion, so people might subconsciously discard option (a) is not being credible.

Bret said...

Hey Skipper,

I'm not so wonderfully consistent. I asked it in all combinations. It didn't seem to matter, though I probably have only asked around 40 to 50 people and the only tallies are in my head so not the most reliable results in the world anyway.

I think Clovis's zero sum insight is plausibly correct for some of them.

Harry Eagar said...

'What notion of justice is this where, in order for the 'callous rich' to be punished, we should make the life of the poor (and not so poor) a living hell?'

Who said anything about justice? Not me.

I chose 1958 for a reason, which younger readers will not readily guess. A US vice president visited Caracas about then. Evidence was that all was not well under the capitalist government of that time, and as Venezuela gained relatively and absolutely in wealth, nothing was done about it.

Somehow, though, apologists for oppression did not find it newsworthy that Venezuelans were hungry then. Only when the privileged are inconvenienced does it become an issue for them.

Hey Skipper said...

Am I the only one to whom Harry's comment makes absolutely no sense?

erp said...

Guess who was vice-president in 1958?

Hint: He was only socialist the media detested.

Bret said...

Sure, Harry's comment makes sense. He's saying that once upon a time when Venezuela was more capitalist, people were going hungry and they're no worse off now. It might even be true. My understanding is that Venezuela was pretty miserable during that period.

Of course they discovered oil between then and now so comparison is a little tricky.

Harry Eagar said...

It was a big oil producer much earlier. (People interested in World War II history may recall the alarm concerning German submarines operating near Venezuela.) What changed was the big increase in producer price in the '70s. There was, therefore, a long generation of big oil bucks before any socialists were in control.

So why isn't Skipper excoriating the hunger, homelessness, disease and misery enjoyed by most Venezuelans before Chavez?

Hey Skipper said...

Because, Harry, because all of that is worse now than it was then.

People get randomly arrested for buying "too much" food.

According to Amnesty International,

"Unless all those in power make a drastic U-turn in the way they are handling this dramatic crisis, what is already an extremely serious situation will turn into an unthinkable nightmare," warns the group's America's director Erika Guevara Rosas.

Oh, and Hyperinflation.

But most importantly, excoriating conditions long since past must be the most perfect example ever of a complete waste of time.

Hey Skipper said...

But wait, there's more!

People are abandoning their pets to starve.

Wow, socialism sure is wonderful, Harry.

Clovis e Adri said...

Harry,

Back to the opinion of a neighbour: Venezuela, like Brazil and many other countries in Latin America, had people in hunger up to a bit more than a decade ago.

In the 90's you could easily spot magazines full of pictures of Northeastern Brazilians in Africa-like famine conditions.

What gave an end to such hunger was a mix of (i) directed social policies and (ii) greater stability brought by better monetary and fiscal policy, greater efficiency of the local economies and, why not, a good hand from the commodity boom.

It all happened more or less at the same time in the continent, but Venezuela happened to be locked in Chavez hands for much of the period, giving a much greater emphasis to (i) ('social' policies), but without the anchor of a sound economic policy (actually, its contrary - excessive dependence on only one commodity and a disreagrd for fiscal and monetary policy).

The regular Venezuelan "poor" would attribute his life getting better to Chavez 'revolution', instead of placing the phenomenon in a larger context.

Meanwhile, they gradually destroyed the operational capacity of the little they had of industrial production. I had friends in Sao Paulo, back then, who worked in companies that had factories in Venezuela. They would visit and come back with horror stories - which, mind you, needed to be absurd enough to impact anyone used to our typical Brazilian problems. At some point they were forced to close the factories because it was virtually impossible (and getting worse year after year) to manage the personal. They could not fire anyone, no matter how incompetent, and the strikes were more constant and frequent than the working periods.

There is much to condemn in Latin American elites. The callousness is the least of their problems: they rig the game to ensure the State will be always at their service, at the expense of the population they prey on. Yet, to kill the patient in order to weed out the tumor is not wise, though that's what happened in Venezuela. They will need to start anew from scratch.

erp said...

There is much to condemn in all left wing elites. Here in the Western Hemisphere as well as around the world (see EU leadership), they all rig the game to serve themselves. While we had a large middle class, it was manageable. Now that the public payroll has overtaken the private payroll by a considerable amount and the middle class is dwindling down to a "precious few," there's little hope of an economic upswing.

Waaaaaaaaaay off topic. Last night one of the very few TV shows I watch, Project Runway, a reality based fashion design show, started its new season. When one of the finalists, a Venezuelan, learned he was chosen to compete on the show, his comment was, paraphrasing "In America anything is possible!"

Harry Eagar said...

erp, I know you live in fantasyland but public employment is much smaller than private employment and since Obama took office, the ratio has favored private employment even more.

Clovis, I am not defending the current government of Venezuela, I am merely pointing out a fact -- that you appear to accept even if people like Skipper will not -- that the older governments of Venezuela were a disaster for the poor. Why were rightwingers not outraged then? I know why.

Hey Skipper said...

Harry, do not put words in my mouth.

erp said...

Harry, why aren't you outraged by Chavez' daughter and others in Venezuela's leftwing government stealing money from the poor and living la vida loca here in the U.S.?

Oh, your statement about unemployment is preposterous. Perhaps your not taking into account all public employees, including state and local, public health and medical facilities, public education employees from pre-school to graduate school from administrators to janitors, municipal workers, crony capitalist companies and banks operating with tax payer funds, etc.

Manufacturing has all but disappeared in the U.S. Just this week Ford announced the move of a whole division to Mexico, Wells Fargo laid off 8,000 people ...

Macy's and Sears are closing most of their stores, fast food emporia are looking to robots because they can't afford to pay unskilled people $15/hr plus benefits.

Harry Eagar said...

'Manufacturing has all but disappeared in the U.S.'

Don't tell Warren Bufftet:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/11/business/dealbook/berkshire-hathaway-to-buy-precision-castparts-for-37-2-billion.html?_r=0

erp said...

Tell it to the rust belt.

Hey Skipper said...

erp, Harry as a point. There still is manufacturing in the US. BMW's largest plant -- and most productive -- is in Greenville-Spartan. BMW is investing another $1.25B in plant expansion there. Mercedes and VW also have large plants in the South.

Perhaps the question should be why BMW, Mercedes, and others, are putting plants in the Southeast, rather than in regions that have had so much existing experience in automotive manufacturing.

erp said...

... I said manufacturing has all but disappeared, not completely disappeared and the reason foreign auto makers are relocating in the south is no U-N-I-O-N-S.

Interestingly, our little bit of heaven on the east coast of Florida is under heavy threat from Hurricane Matthew and we left home yesterday morning to find a safe place to wait it out. We drove through rural Florida and are now bunkered down in Harry country, southern Georgia -- all the motels on the way through Florida to Tallahassee were already full with people from as far away as Miami.

On the way, it was a pleasure to see America at work and I mean that literally. Small well kept towns with manufacturing plants, logging, farming, nice schools, parks -- just everyday life as it was before the compassionates took over.

Cue Harry to remind us of the horrors of his childhood. Ironic that all the places in the control of the progs where their policies have been implemented for decades are hell holes and these small towns with gun shops prominent are bastions of peace and prosperity.

Harry Eagar said...

You mean like Beaverton, Oregon?

https://www.bing.com/news/search?q=Maui+Man+Shoots+Children&qpvt=maui+man+shoots+children&FORM=EWRE

Interestingly enough, the Chinese just opened an auto glass plant in union-free Ohio.

erp, you should drive a bit farther -- up US Highway 41 toward Savannah. Then get back to us about the small towns, the nice parks, the logging. Especially the logging.

erp said...

Worse than Chicago? Detroit? ..,..

Harry Eagar said...

Worse. Far worse

erp said...

That is impossible.

Hey Skipper said...

erp, perhaps Harry has never been to Detroit.

[Harry:] You mean like Beaverton, Oregon?

https://www.bing.com/news/search?q=Maui+Man+Shoots+Children&qpvt=maui+man+shoots+children&FORM=EWRE


Huh? Wot?

erp said...

Every place where lefty collective policies have been attempted, even those with the best of intentions like the kibbutz and other communes where there was no charismatic leader have devolved and disbanded some like Jonestown with tragic results. Take overs by lefties of cities and countries have without fail, pace Harry, the a viking countries don't apply, have ended badly for all except the ruling elites who've absconded with the treasury. Same thing is true in the US. Formerly great cities are in ruins and Harry is offering up a Savannah suburb as an example of, no doubt, poverty and whippings of the darkies.

Enough already. It's obvious too anyone who isn't drinkng Koolaid Kocktails that lefty elites are deliberately looting and impovershing financially, emotionally, spritually and every other way those whose support they need to stay in power.

Harry Eagar said...

Ive been to Detroit, Chicago and southeast Georgia. It's erp who forms opinions based on nothing.

I've also been to the part of Florida where erp lives and I failed to notice any manufacturing aside from citrus processors. There is a lot of manufacturing in Florida. Before my retirement I dealt with some of them, but they were all in suburbs of the big cities.

Hey Skipper said...

Harry, I lived near Detroit. It is a hellhole, and a perfect example of the advantages of single party government: corruption and incompetence beyond imagining.

I well remember New York heading that same direction. Then something happened. Hmmm. Darn. Wish I could remember what it was.

erp said...

Harry, if you re-read my comment, you'll learn that I said the route we took to get out of Matthew's way was through an area of small towns in rural north central Florida and southwest Georgia. If you know where I live along the Atlantic coast, you know it's mainly retirees and tourism related activities with very little manufacturing, not even citrus growers.

erp said...

Skipper, unfortunately, my home town is in retro mode with the current mayor and his looney tune administration -- not quite as bad as pre-Giuliani, but getting there.