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It is almost tautological that people who create value by being particularly successful in markets will be treated as parasites who prey on unwitting customers, exploit unwitting workers and otherwise use mischievous means to get where they are. Indeed, watching any of Michael Moore’s films (which counts as economics in high school economics courses) will reinforce this notion. 

In many cases, the alleged evil actions of people in business have little to do with what they do in the marketplace itself and everything to do with special privileges that they have secured from the very governments folks wish to use to “protect” us. In that sense it is quite a racket that the crony corporatists have going for them. It is convenient for the “intelligentsia” and their mindless followers to shake their heads wildly in support of the idea that the 1% have mysteriously used the global capitalist system to exploit the 99% without having to engage in the harder questions of how eminent domain has been used to steal private property to be given to others; without having to engage in the harder questions of the largest banks being in favor of (and in fact writing) banking “reform” regulations; without having to engage in the harder questions about large agribusinesses who support ag subsidies and food safety testing; without having to engage in the harder questions about how the large tobacco companies win from and support the tobacco settlement; about how big pharma wins from and supports strong FDA regulations; about how Big Box retailers win from and support mandates on wages and benefits, working conditions, environmental regulations, etc.; and on and on and on.

Even as the corporatism is ignored, a see something else practices just as regularly. What is that? It is an affiliation game whereby if some evil thing is done by a member of a particular group, then that would seem to condemn the entire group as being evil. For example, if a Catholic priest has been found to be a child molester, that somehow discredits “all priests.” If a college president covers up a scandal, we need to fire all college presidents. You know the drill, I am sure you’ve been inclined to do it at times to your “opponents” too. But I observe this strategy applied to smear market participants more than in any other arena. Do some firms treat their employees badly? Sure. I once worked for a non-profit foundation where workers were treated like pieces of meat, and where some were even sexually harassed only to have the board of directors sweep that under the rug. Does that mean “non-profits” are evil? I am sure there are some capitalist employers who are mean to their workers, who have cheated their competitors and have otherwise used coercive measures to get where they are.

Does that mean capitalism is evil? Not the slightest. It means some people are evil. Even if you wish to use these instances as “evidence” that capitalism itself is evil, wouldn’t you at least want to have the methodological decency to ask the “as compared to what” question? Given the ugliness of human tendencies, what is the probability that someone engaging in capitalist acts does evil as compared to when someone is engaging in corporatist acts versus government acts versus …? I’ve never seen any critic of markets ask that question.

Even if you find that businesses are doing really crappy things, do those acts justify condemning entire professions? Do those acts justify condemning capitalism? Is there any profession or network of people that does not have a single practitioner who is doing bad things? Have government school teachers not raped children? Have politicians not cheated on their taxes? Have bureaucrats not traded on inside information (indeed they are more likely to be able to do so than you or I)?  Indeed it would be child’s play to condemn any of these professions on the basis of evil people partaking in them.

Is it possible that some professions draw more evil people to them? I can’t say. But unless doing something coercive and evil is a necessary part of being in that profession then there is no legitimate reason to use the bad behavior of some actors as any indication about the usefulness and value of those professions. And to see why, how would you feel if I tried seriously to make an argument that bank robbers who murder the tellers to get their loot took a portion of their loot and donated to an important charity? What if serial rapists were more inclined to donate to charity – including women’s charities – than people engaged in any other activities, and that it turns out that a majority of some charity’s funding comes from serial rapists? Would we run quickly to the loudest loudspeaker and proclaim this as evidence that Rape is Good! You see, look at all of the wonderful things rapists do! In fact, raping may actually promote charitable giving, perhaps because of the pangs of guilt some rapists feel after committing their acts.

Of course such proclamations are not just methodologically weak, but are rather sick and disgusting. I don’t see how doing the opposite is any different. But maybe I am a sick and disgusting person, so you can freely choose to ignore any of the ideas that spill out of my feeble mind.

4 Responses to “What if Rapists Regularly Donate to Charity?”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    >> “Michael Moore’s films (which counts as economics in high school economics courses) will reinforce this notion.”

    The saddest/scariest thing I’ll read today.

  2. Common Sense says:

    “…without having to engage in the harder questions of the largest banks being in favor of (and in fact writing) banking “reform” regulations”

    Classic Baptists and Bootleggers. I cant stress how big of a deal this is.

    True, part of the reason that the banks are writing the “reforms” is because regulators simply do not understand banking. We present our models to regulators and say “dont worry, this is really good stuff.” The regulators ask “are you sure?” and we say “yup, we are sure.” job done.

    But, unfortunately, it gets much, much, much worse as we dig deeper into the relationship between banks and the state.

    As a member of a stress-testing team, I can attest that bail-outs are built into our methodology. Without any hint of shame – this is expectation, part of the business plan, not a last resort. Its hard to fathom how much this actually skews incentives, how much this factors into banks behaviour, and the long-lasting effects this has on global markets – and ultimately individuals lifestyles. Seriously. I can only assume the rest of the banks are doing the same exact thing.

    WC, never stop writing. And never chill out.

    • Harry says:

      You make a great point about the many figurative rapists who use power to satisfy their urges. They are beatified daily.

      The other real rapists get worse press, but as your previous articles might suggest are not treated bravely. Any father of a daughter hates both.

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