Friday, May 09, 2008

John A. Allison, Ayn Rand, and Higher Education.

Sometimes I wonder about the American understanding of 'charity'. In 2005, John A. Allison IV gave a $1 million donation to the University Of North Carolina-Chapel hill. Since then, he and his company have doled out millions more to 25 colleges and universities. This past January, it was announced that Marshall University in West Virginia would be the next recipient. Allison is the chairman and CEO of BB&T (Winston -Salem, NC), which is one of the largest banks in the United States. Allison's contribution probably won't 'break the bank' (so-to-speak), as his company's assets have been estimated by the NYSE to exceed $100 billion. I have no qualms about the size of the gift. If I saved every penny of my discretionary income for the rest of my natural working life, I would likely not even be able to accumulate a fifth of that amount. Although Allison felt no real sacrifice, it was still a generous sum.

I don't want to discourage authentic philanthropy, but the conditions Allison places on the universities where he makes his offers are (at the very least) problematic. He makes his 'donations' contingent on the fulfillment of a very specific set of compromises. Each university and college has to create an Ayn Rand reading room. Additionally he requires that Rand's Atlas Shrugged be included in the curriculum of at least one course. I guess this isn't a huge surprise, given that Allison has been a major contributor to the Ayn Rand Institute: The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism (A.R.I.). Their stated mission is "...to spearhead a cultural renaissance that will reverse the anti-reason, anti-individualism, anti-freedom, anti-capitalist trends in today's culture."

It really shouldn't be shocking that a banking institution would try to promote the unconstrained embrace of capitalism. But it is dishonest for Allison to suggest that he is doing anything other than facilitating a program of propaganda in our higher educational system. The activities of Allison and the A.R.I are (by definition) extremely self-serving. Randian philosophy is characterized by an unquestioning devotion to one's own self-interests. It is a 'system' of thought inundated with arbitrary dichotomies and overly simplistic black-and-white thinking. It teaches its students to be doctrinaire in their analysis, and insensitive to nuance. In many ways it reflects the inherent values of the present leadership of the United States.

According to the disciple of Ayn Rand, anything that is not characterized by pure "laissez-faire" capitalism is "statist" (the Randian term for 'socialist'). There is no middle ground, and no acknowledgment of degree. The brand of "statist" is always damning, and serves as a shorthand method of ending conversation and/or negotiation with a 'principled' condemnation. It is the philosophy of late adolescence, when an organism strives for an individuation enabled by personal blinders. In this respect it is no better or worse than any other sort of fundamentalist thinking. It is a useful phase to pass through on the way to a fully mature development. But it is a manifestly dangerous attitude in an increasingly interdependent world wherein relationships grow ever more complex.

Obviously I find much in Objectivist thought to be objectionable. Still I would defend Allison's right to extend his offer to whatever educational institution he chooses. There is plenty of bad literature strewn throughout our nations' libraries. The notoriously awful works of Ayn Rand will be in good company among the numerous volumes of muddleheaded philosophy masquerading as 'novels' in our halls of learning. They are redeemed by the possibility of one single interesting idea. Business schools throughout the nation already extol an unfettered celebration of capitalism, and rarely present any alternative economic model. Another copy of Anthem or Atlas Shrugged is altogether superfluous. So what's the problem? What bothers me is the brazen promotion of extreme self-interest behind the facade of charity. It's a devious way to get a tax break.

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27 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fortunately, John seems to be very articulate at defending his philosophy of life and the way it is put to work at BB&T. Pending any evidence that the company is not honestly earning it's money, BB&T's record of growth is impressive and seems to reflect a long record of satisfying many shareholders, employees and customers.

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2007/05/allison_on_stra.html

Hope you bother to listen to the full podcast, since you didn't bother to read all of Atlas Shrugged.

The implication you make seems to be that making large amounts of money and building and maintaining large businesses is an easy thing to do in a free market. This is not the case at all. An honest defender of a free market is doing nothing more than defending the basic right to earn and retain his own wealth which is far from guaranteed.

In fact, I don't think it's an accident that many people who inherit money are statists while many people who earn it are not.

It's a facinating fact that, people who want guaranteed government jobs paid for by money forcably taken from business people are considered somehow better than people who take the risk of transacting with people voluntarily.

7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I doubt you will confess to it but your post indicates that you might not know what a bank's assets are. They are all the real property owned by the bank as well as all it's outstanding loans(I think minus those already in default or assumed to be uncollectable)

This is only one side of the balance sheet-- the bank also has liabilities which are mainly deposits at the bank.

You also act like John owns all the stock in the bank.

9:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to admit to not being interested enough to find out the estimated net worth of BB&T but the bank has a total market cap of 18.62 billion(value of all it's shares). It's highly unlikely that it's selling far below the value of it's net worth.

http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=bbt

John also only owns a small part of the company.

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Diane said...

Merge said "What bothers me is the brazen promotion of extreme self-interest behind the facade of charity. It's a devious way to get a tax break."

It would be nice to believe that all charitable donations are altruistic, and that all donors lack self-interest. Sadly, that is not the case. Whether you agree with the IRS or not, chartible donations for tax breaks are definitely not devious. I suppose you could argue that these donations fall under the "tail wagging the dog" theory, but believe me when I say that no charity will turn away a donation if said donation enables the charity to achieve its goals.

That being said, some organizations huddling under the "charitable" umbrella are not to everyone's taste. And some people give vast quantities of money in order to have a building named for them. I would venture a guess that charitable organizations have had more than a few of their share of donor quirks to abide by in order to get the donation.

8:09 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

anon,

I never suggested that BB&T wasn't "honestly earning its money".

As far as reading "Atlas Shrugged"- I gave it 100 pages and felt like it was a waste of time, and given that time is a finite resource... it didn't make sense to continue the investment.

Where did I imply that "making large amounts of money and building and maintaining large businesses is an easy thing to do in a free market"? I think I've made it quite clear that I believe that "free markets" belong more appropriately to the realm of mythology than in any discussion of the American economy. So your underlying premise is flawed, let alone your assessment of what I believe.

I'd like to see your source date for the following contention:

"In fact, I don't think it's an accident that many people who inherit money are statists while many people who earn it are not."

Is this assertion based on anecdotal evidence from your life, or what?

I can't make heads nor tails out of the following:

"It's a facinating fact that, people who want guaranteed government jobs paid for by money forcably taken from business people are considered somehow better than people who take the risk of transacting with people voluntarily."

Could you express this idea more clearly, please?

3:14 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

diane,

My point is not that BB&T and/or John Allison have done anything illegal, but rather that the educational institutions involved lack integrity for accepting his donations.

I also meant to address the oft-stated claim that colleges and universities are overrun by "liberals". This is not the case (especially in the many business schools dotting the land), and Allison and BB&T's attempts to promote Randian 'philosophy' is an illustrative example of the folly of such a claim.

Further I am calling into question the quality of charitable contributions that carry such conditions.

3:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merge,

Your collectivist ideas are all over this blog and give plenty of evidence of your viewpoint.

Assuming for a moment, that your contention that truely free capitalist socities have never existed which is basically true, we are still left with your absurd contention that John's donation is "extremely self serving".

In making the donation, John is seeking to promote a system of trade in which there is no guarantee he will be the winner. It's like a baseball player seeking to play a fair game under fair objective "three strikes and your out" rules. One might, make a claim that rules of this type "unfairly" favor the best players but I would just call that justice.I suppose that one could say he thinks it's in his self interest to live in a free society under the rule of law.

The sad fact is that at this point BB&T is a large and powerful company well positioned to use it's pull and leverage to get special favors from the government and tilt the field in it's favor but that is not what he seems to be doing.

I think, there is a lot of evidence that the historic base of the old Republican party was small business people, and "self made" entreprenuers.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

anon,

You haven't addressed the questions of my last comment. Please refer to it above for a refresher.

You write...

"Your collectivist ideas are all over this blog and give plenty of evidence of your viewpoint."

Sorry, this statement is drawn way too broadly to convey any meaning. It's as if labeling someone a "collectivist", a "statist", or (for that matter) a libertarian can substitute for a true understanding of someone's position. I find that absolutely ludicrous.

The core tenet of Ayn Rand's objectivism is that the only true morality is "self-serving". It's disingenuous of you to suggest that it could be otherwise, given Allison's adherence to this "philosophy".

Basically neither 'Objectivism' nor Ayn Rand's body of work stands up to any serious academic scrutiny. That's why Allison feels compelled to bribe colleges into giving Rand and her system of thought the attention that he believes it deserves. There would be no need to give a conditional contribution otherwise.

Truly Allison sees academia as the literal "marketplace of ideas". But speak to an authentic scholar and they will tell you otherwise.

Once again... I don't begrudge BB&T for making money in our mixed market. That is its raison d'etre.

Finally... I agree with your assessment of old school Republicans.

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a link to the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans is very educational in showing that wealth is not guaranteed in even semi free economies. The common myth is that "the rich get richer" should result in a list dominated by old fourtunes.

In fact, of the top 25, only a few seem to have gotten a head start by inheritence. David & Charles Koch, inherited Koch industries(oil) but at a much smaller size, and The Mars candy people head an old company. The Walmart, inheritence is recent. Aside, from those names, what one sees is a bunch of generally self made fourtunes. Bill Gates and Mike Bloomberg came from solidly upper middle class backrounds but I think a lot of the others were poor or middle class.

The whole list shows the same trend and really at this point, the Hillman's are one of very few old money fortunes on the list. The Lefrak and Ziff fourtunes for example have been recently inherited from their founders and the jury is out on how the kids do with them.

It's interesting to compare these lists against other countries. Generally, what one sees is free market societies showing a high turnover on the lists and great class mobility. Europe, for example shows a much smaller gap between rich and poor but at the same time, much more static entrenched wealth.

Another interesting thing that comes out is that technology companies which are one of the least regulated areas of the economy seem to be an area with the highest level of innovation and wealth creation.

The whole list refutes the claim that promoting economic freedom is "extremely self serving". Only if wealth was guaranteed, would that be the case.

http://www.forbes.com/lists/2007/54/richlist07_The-400-Richest-Americans_Rank.html

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merge,

I stand by what I said. Your, viewpoint is clear to anyone reading your posts and it can only be described as collectivist.

http://dgrim.blogspot.com/2008/05/failures-of-fourth-estate.html

This post critisizes freedom of the press and free speach.

This one promotes massive government "investments"

http://dgrim.blogspot.com/2008/04/bush-smoke-and-mirrors.html

This post defends Fidel Castro

http://dgrim.blogspot.com/2008/03/simple-history-lesson-fidel-castro.html

This one Hugo Chavez

https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=29864358&postID=2756929311119623675

Multiple posts have endorsed FDR's actions so, I think the best way to describe you and other advocates of a mixed economy is Fascist.

Um, no Rand's ideas are not commonly popular in the state universities which get a lot of their money from-- the state. What might represent an "authentic scholar" by your definition is not likely to match mine.

5:09 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

anon,

In very simple terms... a "philosophical" justification for profit-making is not needed (and is indeed superfluous)in modern day America. It certainly isn't the stuff of academia.

5:18 PM

5:20 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

anon,

Are you seriously trying to claim that Free Market Capitalism is not promoted in economic programs and business schools across America?

Yes, there is some commonality between the way FDR governed and my perspective of quality governance in trying economic times. Only a truly perverse individual would distort this affinity as a call for "fascism". You may have a very specific definition for that term that lies far outside the common understanding of the term... but that doesn't justify its distorting application in this case.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just Nuts!!

The Federal government now consumes over 3.10 Trillion a year and has an official on the books debt level over 9 trillion as well as 40 trillion or more in liabilities it keeps off the books and would have to be stated by private sector accounting standards. Combined state spending at all levels of government is a bigger number. At this point combined taxes consume something close to 50% of household income.

This hardly describes a society in which free market capitalism is the dominant philosophy.You really can't have it both ways-- either we are living in a free market and John is promoting a redundant prevalent philosophy or we are not. We both agree that we are not. Me and John don't like it and would prefer to live in a free society.

One could say that he is funding the "fairness doctrine" by trying to use his own money to at least give his philosophy some exposure.

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would agree that Fascism is most closely associated with extreme nationalism and sometimes but not always racism (Italian Fascism was not originaly racist)but the economic system is basically what you seem to like.

"Fascists opposed what they believe to be laissez-faire or quasi-laissez-faire economic policies dominant in the era prior to the Great Depression.[63] People of many different political stripes blamed laissez-faire capitalism for the Great Depression, and fascists promoted their ideology as a "third way [disambiguation needed]" between capitalism and Marxian socialism.[64] Their policies manifested as a radical extension of government control over the economy without wholesale expropriation of the means of production. Fascist governments nationalized some key industries, managed their currencies and made some massive state investments. They also introduced price controls, wage controls and other types of economic planning measures.[65] Fascist governments instituted state-regulated allocation of resources, especially in the financial and raw materials sectors."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism

Take a look and compare FDR's policies with those of the other Fascist leaders in power at the same time.

6:15 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

anon,

Looking at this blog and determining that I am somehow expressing a "fascist" agenda is indicative of either a radical imposition of subjective perception, or obvious mental illness.

Once again, you are cherry-picking while I am trying to concentrate on the substance of the issue.

Here are some things that characterize the common understanding of "fascism" that I haven't advocated (and in fact have often argued against):

1. nationalism
2. racism
3. autocratic government
4. aggressive repression of political opposition
5. promoting a cult of unity or purity
6. patriotism
7. militarism
8. corporatism
9. a cult of masculinity
10. contempt for the weak
11. state control over social activities
12. state control of cultural life
13. single-party government
14. reliance on internal police force
15. fealty to heritage of identity
16. loyalty to a dictator
17. curtailment of civil rights, due process, etc.
18. cults of personality
19. unquestioned obedience to government
20. expansive and imperial foreign policy


Fascism has historically attracted support primarily from the far right. I am certainly NOT appealing to that sector.

Your use of this term to attempt to "pigeon-hole" me is a transparent rhetorical device. It's intentionally ignorant and obscenely provocative.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is a rhetorical device. I use it to enlighten you as to where your views may be headed. Unlike you, I think that ideas matter and that economic controls in one area are sure to lead to controls in other areas.

Taking your itemized list.

I will start with your two posts which show substantial sympathy for Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. Needless to say, this makes one wonder about your views toward totalitarian governments.

Several of the items on the list are open to debate. Franco's Spain was a Fascist state which did not follow an aggressive foreign policy.
(Although the fact that fascists oppose free trade requires almost all nations to try grab the resources of other nations by force)

Italy, as whole did not have a generally racist regime. Most people feel that was pretty much something that was imposed by Hitler.

Corporatism- Which is basically the organization of state aligned business groups was the basic mechanism of Fascist regimes and it was also characteristic of Roosevelt’s policies. The revolving door between businesses and regulatory agencies we know today is a core aspect of fascist states.

Needless to say you are an advocate of State education-- a core fascist concept.

You also seem to approve of the FCC- an unelected arm of the executive branch which involves itself in free speech and communication.

Roosevelt’s ideas were quickly recognized and applauded by both Hitler and Mussolini.

http://mises.org/story/2312

"Mussolini, who did not allow his work as dictator to interrupt his prolific journalism, wrote a glowing review of Roosevelt's Looking Forward. He found "reminiscent of fascism … the principle that the state no longer leaves the economy to its own devices"; and, in another review, this time of Henry Wallace's New Frontiers, Il Duce found the Secretary of Agriculture's program similar to his own corporativism (pp. 23-24).

Roosevelt never had much use for Hitler, but Mussolini was another matter. "'I don't mind telling you in confidence,' FDR remarked to a White House correspondent, 'that I am keeping in fairly close touch with that admirable Italian gentleman'" (p. 31). Rexford Tugwell, a leading adviser to the president, had difficulty containing his enthusiasm for Mussolini's program to modernize Italy: "It's the cleanest … most efficiently operating piece of social machinery I've ever seen. It makes me envious" (p. 32, quoting Tugwell)."

Perhaps most scary is the Nazi compliments--

"The Nazi press enthusiastically hailed the early New Deal measures: America, like the Reich, had decisively broken with the "uninhibited frenzy of market speculation." The Nazi Party newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, "stressed 'Roosevelt's adoption of National Socialist strains of thought in his economic and social policies,' praising the president's style of leadership as being compatible with Hitler's own dictatorial Führerprinzip" (p. 190)."

The Nazi's imediately recognised the huge transfer of power from the legislative to the executive branch that was the base of the New Deal and gave us the "imperial president" of today.

11:37 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

anon,

I suppose I should thank you for your concern, but I am in no danger of embracing any of the characteristics I've listed.

Regarding my posts on Chavez and Castro, you need not wonder about my views on these leaders- it's all there in the posts themselves. While I think it is appropriate to question the official US government stance on these guys, I've never considered them "heroes". My intention is merely to question the official version.

You wrote...

"The revolving door between businesses and regulatory agencies we know today is a core aspect of fascist states."

Here I have to express my complete alignment with your views. This is a major concern for me as well. And I've consistently spoken out about this in my blog.

I am no advocate of "state education" in the manner that you formulate it. I am for local district control and management. I've never been a big supporter of nationally-determined standards. That doesn't discount the value I place on publicly-supported education. But sure... if you want to continue your tactic of reducing every concept to extreme generalizations- be my guest.

I don't think it makes sense to discount the policies of an individual because a few abhorrent characters once supported them. There are no doubt many Ayn Rand disciples who were loathsome creatures. Yet I don't confine my judgments to 'guilt by association'. On the other hand, there are also plenty of liberty-loving folks who think FDR was a great president. All you need to look at ultimately is what alliance Roosevelt sought to join in WWII. If you want to participate in fraudulent revisionist history, then that is your prerogative.

Contrary to your assertion, our current president is much more influenced by the Wilsonian approach to empire than by FDR.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I don't think it makes sense to discount the policies of an individual because a few abhorrent characters once supported them."

I kind of take that as an admission that FDR's economic policies were similar to those implimented by fascist regimes. Of the government's widely defined as fascist, pretty much they are all abhorrent. Interestingly, I don't think there are quotes of Nazis praising John Locke, Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson, but they did see common ground with FDR.

The reference to the "imperial presidency" is a reference specifically to the huge expansion of executive power which happened under FDR. Under the constitution there are three branches of government and only the legislative one is granted the power to write laws. FDR's presidency saw the development of an alphabet soup agencies that are basically given the power to write rules and change them at will. The total result is an executive branch with close to dictatorial powers. These powers are now in the hands of George Bush.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Franklin_D._Roosevelt

Your comment about local control of education is in line with your anti philisophical nature. Local government controlled schools are still state schools.

6:10 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

non,

Hmmm... seems like you want to ratchet up the provocation.

You wrote:

"Unlike you, I think that ideas matter..."

and

"Your comment about local control of education is in line with your anti philisophical nature."

These comments are reflective of the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that members of the "cult of personality" of Ayn Rand used to stifle any criticism of her muddled thinking. Of course they (like you) learned that from the master herself. They at least got to sit at her feet in person... In your case, you simply learned those tactics from a handful of sub-par novels.

Oversimplification
Cherry-Picking
Doctrinaire
Dogmatic

Not really the tools for a substantive interchange of "ideas". Not at all an orientation that I would expect to find from someone who claims to value "philosophical thinking".

You seem to rely on an arbitrary strategy of insult when you don't have the knowledge to construct a meaningful response.

And then you chime in with a comparison of the presidencies of Roosevelt and Bush. As if these two leaders weren't nearly polar opposites in all respects. I've never read a claim anywhere that Bush built his model of his presidency on that of FDR. Congratulations... you have a wonderfully creative approach to historical analysis. Very original premise! That's right... FDR, Hitler, Mussolini, and Bush- they are like peas in a pod! I doubt you will find much agreement with that proposition outside of your own head.

Maybe you should look toward the Lincoln administration for the expansion of presidential powers- you'll find more supporting evidence in that case.

Anyway, that has nothing to do with this topic. You entered the thread as an apologist for Ayn Rand and Objectivism, yet I still see no substance in your defense of her work, besides some drivel about "free markets" and "fascism". Perhaps the difficulty is that there are no useful "ideas" or "philosophy" there at all? That is... other than the pursuit of self-interest as the only morality.

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really can't think of a better demonstration of a person with no interest in ideas than one who would write a post critical of Rand's philosophy without ever having read one of her books. Her books of essays by the way are very short, quick reads.

Getting back to FDR's policies-- you never really had any answer to my thoughts at all.

The Bush remark is pretty clear. George Bush now controls the levers of presidential power, largely created by FDR and yes in terms of their views of presidential power; they seem to have a lot in common.

Lincoln's expansion of power is questionable but it did come during war, and there's a lot of evidence that Lincoln never intended these powers to extend into peace time or was very happy about them. FDR implemented his policies in peacetime and promoted them as a "New Deal", to last permanently in the future.

The general anti-philosophy guiding politics today is that anything goes. Both parties seem to promote the hoarding and centralization of government power, on the assumption that they or people they agree with will be in charge of it and act shocked when it is turned against them.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

anon,

You wrote...

"I really can't think of a better demonstration of a person with no interest in ideas than one who would write a post critical of Rand's philosophy without ever having read one of her books."

Your argument has been used by numerous disciples of other megalomaniac characters throughout history. For some reason, the vast majority of Hitler's critics feel no need to read "Mein Kamf" in order to criticize his belief system.

Like I said I have only a limited amount of time, and I'm not going to waste it reading inflated and muddled manifestos masked as novels. I'm sorry I don't like your guiding light- but the 100 pages I've read of her work was almost unbearable in its lack of quality and its muddle-headed attempts at philosophy. (That's why he adherents have to bribe colleges and universities to teach it in a course).

Anybody who has frequented this blog knows that I am constantly reading (writing, making art, teaching, being a parent, etc.). Having been exposed to a wide range of thought, I guess I am just more discriminating about how I'll invest my time.

The discussion comparing FDR and Bush is so far afield from the topic of this post that I suggest we discuss it in another forum. How about you write an essay about it, and I'll comment on it on your site. Let me know where and when to find it...

By the way, let's apply your argument to yourself.

How much of Marx's "Das Kapital" have you read?

What Chomsky books have you read in full?

What about Charles Fourier? Friedrich Engels? Max Weber? Emille Durkheim?

What proponents of socialism, statism, collectivism, or fascism have you studied in full by reading their own texts?

You have so many opinions and "ideas" about statism and collectivism... By your standards, you are being a complete hypocrite (and clearly have "no interest in ideas") if you haven't read all of these authors.

10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your intellectual attitude sort of speaks for itself.

I must admit to finding writing pretty hard and I am also busy. Given your commitment to knowledge, I also doubt you would read the essay carefully or bother to study any of the references I might give.

Rand's essay collections are little more than 100 pages each, I think and state her views clearly.

I also recall reading on this blog that you were never very interested in economics or economic history.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

anon,

Well given your constant rhetorical evasions, I guess I can't even expect you to read my last comment very carefully and address the direct questions I asked you.

I would have to say your approach speaks for itself as well.

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read some Marx, some Engles( not much an essay or two) and depressingly, I actually have read Mein Kampf, in which I saw a lot of the same cliche ideas commonly held by many today.

Needless to say, just as important as reading the works of collectivist writers, is seeing and reading about their actual ideas in practice which pretty much covers the entire history of the 20th century.

10:39 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

anon,

Well there you go... You've read "some Marx, and Engels, not much an essay or two" and I've read 100 pages of Rand. So yeah, you've got a very limited exposure to two socialist economists who were dead by the Twentieth Century, yet you feel qualified to make far reaching statements about the totality of "collectivist" thought. Have you read any proponents of socialism from the last 100 years? Are you sure you are qualified to be making your generalizations? Now that we've got back on track- can we get back to the point?

No... wait a sec... huh?!!

You've read Hitler... a recognized expert of economic theory. What the hell were you doing reading "Mein Kamf"?!


Anyway... as much as there are instances of what you call "collectivist" economics during the last 100 years, I have a hard time crediting you as a serious student of economics if you continue to insist lumping the entire twentieth century under that banner. This is another example of a lack of discriminatory capabilities.

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I think you yourself said that capitalist societies have almost never existed. In the 20th century, anything remotely close was very rare. A lot of folks slapped the label on themselves but when one looks under the hood- you don't see capitalism.

Capitalism, by a "Randian definition would be a society in which all human exchange would be voluntary and the state's only role would be to act as an agent of self defence, through the military and police and to run the civil and criminal courts.

There really are too many collectivist states in the 20th century to mention. This rather amusing website called "dictator of the month" gives some highlights.

http://www.dictatorofthemonth.com/English/English_welcome.htm

Needless to say, I would be pretty wrong in comparing Roosevelt's ideas to Fascism if I had never read fascist writers.

http://www.dictatorofthemonth.com/English/English_welcome.htm

11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An institution called the Fraser Institute publishes an index which attempts to measure and rank countries according to their level of economic freedom. I don't think it includes all countries and I am not an expert all their criteria but I think it gives one some idea.
The countries are ranked one to ten - with 10 being the highest level of economic freedom possible.

v personal choice

v voluntary exchange coordinated by markets

v freedom to enter and compete in markets

v protection of persons and their property
from aggression by others.

This is the data for 2007 but I don't think so much has changed since 2000 to make the general point that even marginal levals of economic freedom are pretty rare. Obviously some of this is subjective and hard to measure
Countries with low ranks can all be classed as collectivist economies even though many are often described as "right wing" (Serbia would be a good example)

The list has no accurate measure of "lawlessness", civil war or economic chaos-- basically it can only try to measure official government economic restrictions on economic freedom.

Not surprisingly, Hong Kong is ranked as having the highest level of freedom and Zimbabwae, the lowest followed by Myanmar. North Korea is not even on the list which isn't helpful.

Needless to say it's hard to measure anything or obtain accurate information in societies without freedom.

There is also an attempt to link the data backwards to the 1970's

Sorry this is a PDF http://www.freetheworld.com/2007/1EFW2007ch1.pdf

4:44 PM  

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