Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Jonah Goldberg in "The Evils of Big Peanut" brings up an issue that I've been meaning to talk about:
I'm all in favor of throwing the book at anyone and everyone remotely responsible for feeding dangerously unsafe food to kids and other consumers. I'm also perfectly willing to admit than I think the government has a role in assuring food safety (the Constitution does say we need a government to "promote the general Welfare" and food safety seems like it fits that bill). But, I am getting a little sick of this chorus about how the Peanut Corporation of America's malfeasance proves that Bush was evil, regulations are great and we need so many more of them.

From what I understand so far, the CEO of PCA is a criminal who deliberately sought to circumvent the rules in order to sell tainted peanut butter. His company is bankrupt and going out of business and he may see jail time.

I wish he'd been caught sooner, but that hardly sounds like he's getting away scot-free.

If we need more food inspectors, great, let's have more food inspectors. I can think of tens of thousands of government workers I'd fire in order to create plenty of space on the payroll for more FDA cops. But what system do these people think they can create that will protect against individual bad actors like this, always and everywhere? Heavy state intervention hasn't prevented Chinese companies from poisoning people (and they punish bad managers with a bullet to the back of the head). France still puts a little antifreeze in its wine from time to time.(emphasis, mine)

This reminds me of a video I (and others) recently posted of Milton Friedman speaking on the Phil Donahue Show about Capitalism and Greed:

The relevant exchange in that remarkable video goes as follows:
DONAHUE: When you see around the globe the maldistribution of wealth; the desperate plight of millions of people in underdeveloped countries; when you see so few "haves" and so many "have-nots"; when you seee the greed and the concentration of power....did you ever have a moment of doubt about capitalism and whether greed is a good idea to run on?

FREIDMAN: Well, first of all, tell me is there some society you know that doesn't run on greed? You think Russia doesn't run on greed? You think China doesn't run on greed? What is greed? Of course, none of us are greedy--it's the other fellow who's greedy! (Laughter from audience). The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus. Einstein didn't construct his theory under orders from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn't revolutionize the automobile industry that way.

The only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you're talking about, the only cases in recorded history, are where the've have had capitalism and free trade. The record of history is absolutely crystal clear that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities unleashed by a free enterprise system. If you want to know where the masses are worst off, its exactly from the kinds of societies that depart from that.

Human greed--as well as all the other evil that humans can potentially do to each other--is a part of human nature that is not going to go away no matter how much you wish and hope and pray; no matter how enthusiastically you enforce "anti-greed" legislation or come up with new and improved ways to force human being to be "better." Greed will always be an element--indeed, a driving element--of all social, economic and political systems. As one disgruntled communist once put it: Capitalism pits man against man; under socialism, it is the opposite.

To echo Milton Friedman, "What system do you know of for which this is not true?"

I wrote the following, which is relevant:
Capitalism allows the basic nature of man to creatively express itself by mastering the physical world. The instinctual energy Freud spoke of is directed away from the destructive pursuit of power over other people and sublimated toward acts of creation, which further both the individual's life and all of civilization.

The Marxist intellectuals' big mistake was in not recognizing the difference between repression and suppression. And in not understanding the way psychological defense mechanisms work (particularly the healthy or 'mature' defense mechanisms such as sublimation, anticipation, humor, altruism and supression) .

They correctly noticed that the instinctual energy of the proletariat was being harnessed both for the individual's good as well as the society under capitalism; and yet were unable to appreciate the fact that unless you accept the reality of human nature and give it the freedom to transform all its most negative aspects into something positive for the individual and the culture/society (which is what the mature defenses do so creatively), then you end up crushing all human initiative, creativity, and productivity.

Societies can either encourage the development of these healthy, mature psychological defenses with which to cope with reality; or they can encourage the development and expression of the worse aspects of human nature--i.e., those which result in violence, racism, criminality and all the other pathologies. Either way, social, political and economic systems can only encourage certain human traits that result in civilized behavior; or, they can encourage those that are barbaric and antisocial. Human nature is the same, though, no matter what type of society or political system it finds itself in.

Simply put, totalitarian systems--whether from the left or the right (and that includes Marxism in any of its incarnations, whether religious or secular)-- actively promote the most negative, primitive, and immature aspects of human nature. In fact, they give a societal/institutional blessing to such behavior; and thrive on the resulting projection, paranoia, distortion, and denial of reality.

On some level, the ghoulish opportunists that Goldberg writes about know this to be true. But in their utopian fantasies, they like to pretend that they can make people better.

In the movie Serenity, Captain Mal Reynolds has witnessed the horrific nightmare that came about from the lovely utopian dreams of his universe's 'do-gooders' and decides it is time to take a moral stand against such naked evil: "Sure as I know anything, I know this - they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten? They'll swing back to the belief that they can make people... better. And I do not hold to that. So no more runnin'. I aim to misbehave."

"Making people...better", i.e., eliminating fundamental aspects of human nature, is every tyrant's wet dream, because it offers unlimited potential to exert power over others.

Wretchard, writing about Vaclav Klaus' spirited defense of freedom in the face of 'Europism', 'global warmin alarmism' and the ghoulish opportunism of that would use worldwide economic crisis to forward a failed ideology, has this to say:
To listen to Klaus is therefore to simultaneously hear echoes of the past and intimations of the future. For as Klaus notes in his recent speech about ‘Europeism’ which is excerpted after the “Read More”, some of the ideas which his generation fought so hard to defeat behind the Iron Curtain have found new and darker homes in the intellectual centers of Western Civilization; and now stride forward in their mutant forms into the public space. But while Klaus’ speech is ostensibly addressed to Europeans, it is really pitched at a wider audience. In the United States — and even the repressed and fundamentalist societies of the Middle East — an expanded state control over the individual is being increasingly pitched as the face of the future. Klaus’ speech argues that it is no such novelty but an ancient and corrupted thing; that underneath the smooth production values, the cunning sound-bites and outwardly youthful appearances, the deceptive packaging of hope and change, this progressivism is nothing but freedom’s old enemy — and man’s.

Freedom's old enemy is once again on the rise---and it is time for all those who love liberty to misbehave.

(click on the image for a first-person account of traditional American 'misbehaving')

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