An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology
Saturday, July 28, 2012
He gave this TED talk about epidemiology in which he describes quickly and in a very entertaining fashion the problem of pharmaceutical industry and government withholding information from doctors. This is the TED talks at its best.
Link to the talk on the TED site.
Saturday, July 07, 2012
But the new crazy looks the same as the old. As this faction continues to drag the political discourse and policy further to the right, I find it worth analyzing what sort of political and economic philosophy we're banging up against. The case for today: Joe Walsh. I know it's old news to most that he blew up at an "informal" meeting with his constituents last year and that the video has long since gone viral. But given the fact that most Ron Paul supporters share the beliefs which led to this outburst we can look forward to more of the same, even if the Tea Party's sun does set this November.
The scene: November 6, 2011, Uno Bar and Grill in Illinois, "Cup of Joe" meeting with constituents. One of the attendees asked Rep. Joe Walsh a question concerning Bank lobbyists. Before the person even finished asking the question, he blew up:
[…] Thats not the problem! [Lobbyists] The problem is you’ve got to be consistent. And I don't want government meddling in the marketplace. Yeah, they move from Goldman Sachs to the White House, I understand all of that. But you gotta’ be consistent. And it’s not the private marketplace that created this mess. What created mess was your government, which has demanded for years that everybody be in a home. And we’ve made it easy as possible for people to be in homes. [...] Don’t blame banks, and don’t blame the marketplace for the mess we’re in right now! I am tired of hearing that crap! This pisses me off! Too many people don’t listen. […]
Let's parse this out bit by bit. "you’ve got to be consistent" refers to government "interference" in the free market. That the "private marketplace" will run perfectly well if you just leave it alone fits into every libertarian utopian claim ever. But it's the next sentence when this gets interesting: "Yeah, they move from Goldman Sachs to the White House, I understand all of that." English translation: wealthy people game the government by becoming part of the government. And we can not and will not do anything about that. The inherent paradox of "the free market will work if you throw off all controls" comes from the impossibility of keeping rich people out of the government either as officials or through influence. If you do not regulate the economy, there will exist no government activity to influence, voila! Free markets! (In this view of the 19th century, company towns and child labor either did not really happen or - for reasons never made clear - won't happen again if we remove all regulations). The real meaty part here comes from the fact that in Walsh's philosophy the wealthy gaming the government is a distasteful but unavoidable reality (" … I understand all of that") but for the rest of us, well, let's continue.
"… it’s not the private marketplace that created this mess." An article of faith. Only good can come from the private marketplace. Disagree with this and you're a commie.
"What created mess was your government, which has demanded for years that everybody be in a home. And we’ve made it easy as possible for people to be in homes."
As opposed to where, Mr. Walsh?
|Tent city in Sacramento, CA 2009|
As his rant turns to tantrum, we get this gem: "Don’t blame banks, and don’t blame the marketplace for the mess we’re in right now! I am tired of hearing that crap! This pisses me off! Too many people don’t listen."
He thinks people don't listen to the the wise and sage libertarians. If only the rest of us would only listen, then, then we could have the libertarian utopia. Free markets and banks don't create problems - people who want the government to do something for them instead of doing it themselves - they created the problem. I find so many assumptions of facts no in evidence I hardly know where to begin. Jobs exists (even when they obviously do not) so if you do not have one it's your fault. If a job sucks, then go get yourself another job (structural unemployment does not exist in this alternate reality). If you can't then you are not working hard enough or you are not capable enough so the nasty boss is your just punishment for your personal failure. Because the unrestricted free market can not fail to provide for all hard-working capable people, then all instances of anyone's needs not met in this utopia has to result from personal failure. Since it can not ever be the private marketplace's fault, it has to be yours. If you can not afford housing - you screwed up! So go live in a tent.
As with the Communists during the 20th century, we're met with a righteous demand to sign on to a social and economic experiment of another's choosing, an "infallible" system immune to criticism owing to its obvious perfection. And when someone does criticize it, its adherents react with inchoate rage. I see a kind of beautiful symmetry in the way each extreme reflects the other.
There has to be a better way to respond to Goldman Sachs taking over the Obama Treasury Department than electing a load of tea partiers to Congress, but voters across the country did exactly that.