Monday, May 22, 2017

No, THIS is the Fundamental Error of the Left

Here is a piece, about the Left's stupid "net-neutrality" movement. The idea is to regulate the wild and crazy competitive internet business as though it were a monopoly radio business. It begins with the usual accusation about crazy lefties:
Leftism is a bereft ideology.  It is a certain set of ideas and government policies - all of which are horrendous when put into actual practice.  It pretends human nature isn’t human nature. And tries to reshape it - and the humans it imbues - with the fires and on the anvils of government.
But I think this is a misunderstanding of the left's position and world view.

Let us start with net neutrality. The left believes that unless strong and consistent government force is applied against corporations and businesses the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer.

This is encapsulated in the view of a young acquaintance that "capitalism keeps people down."

To say that this "pretends human nature isn't human nature" misses the point. That's because down through the ages the whole point of government was to keep the raiders out and the people down. Every tribe or dukedom occupied some patch of land, and defended it against raiders. The result of this was that the tribe depended on its rulers to protect it from raiders, and that meant that the rulers had to have a free hand. And a firm hand. You couldn't have any rebels in the tribe, because that would prevent the tribe from defending its patch of land from the rest of humanity.

In other words, in the old days the government had to keep the people down.

But now things are different. That's because everything is tradable. In the old days only luxuries and vital metals like tin, that was needed for bronze weapons, were traded. Food was grown and eaten right there on the patch of land. Thomas Sowell has shown that, in those old days, the price of grain would double from just one day's transportation by horse and cart. Right now, as I sit in a friend's house in West Vancouver, there are at least 12 grain ships sitting in the outer harbor waiting to go in and load grain from the giant grain elevators and transport it to the world. I wonder what the grain transporters charge to transport grain half way around the world: 10 percent markup? 20 percent? But you can see the point. You can trade grain across the world because the folks in India and China can afford to buy the grain after transportation half way across the world.

This is what the left doesn't get. You can trade everything, all across the world, and you now need force, not to keep the raiders out of the patch of land, but to keep pirates from attacking ships in transit.

In the old days men were needed to grow food and to defend the patch of land against raiders. Now men are needed to produce goods for sale on the market and to serve the consumers.

This has been an astonishing revolution, and it has only really kicked in during the last two centuries.

So it is not surprising that a reactionary movement erupted in the first years of the Great Enrichment on the belief that this new revolution was just a flash in the pan and that, sooner or later, and probably sooner, we would revert to the old regime of "immiseration." That how the world always used to world, in the Malthusian limit of food that could be grown right here on the patch of land, and any "surplus population" periodically starved in periodic famines.

I am reading right now Andrew Roberts' biography of Lord Salisbury, Salisbury, Victorian Titan. It covers three famines in the mid-19th century that were regarded in British politics as scandals. The first was the Irish famine of the 1840s. The other two were famines in Bengal. In all three the British government was criticized for not doing enough, and Lord Salisbury, then a young politician, felt deeply the obligation to relieve the famines.

But the point is that it was only in the 19th century that there was anything that anyone could do about a famine. First of all you need timely information about an impending famine, and it certainly helps to have a world-wide telegraph system for that. Secondly you need a transportation system that can rush grain from areas of surplus to areas of deficit. I don't know what date to establish as the first day when a government could do this on any scale other than local, but I'd say you need railways and steamships and telegraph before you can do anything significant.

Leftism is certainly bereft. But it is merely applying the age-old remedy for human problems. And that remedy, outside the immediate family or tribe, is force.

In the old days you sought shelter and safety from a tribal leader or local lord, and he dispensed justice and favors as the mood took him. Now you seek shelter and prosperity by finding a way to serve your fellow humans, across the globe, by performing some service that the market shows, by the price system, is valued by other humans.

Simply put: in the old days the ruler ruled. Today, the price system rules.

This is an incredibly advanced notion, that replaces the realities of the ten-thousand years of the agricultural age. It is hardly surprising that most people cannot yet grasp it.

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