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The Black Book Of Capitalism

2017 June 27

There is a famous book, the Black Book of Communism, which claims to total up all the deaths communism responsible for.

Strangely, there is no Black Book of Capitalism.

This is odd, because capitalism has been around longer than communism, has been more powerful, and has controlled more of the world, and the world was hardly a utopia before communism.

Surely one should look at what deaths can be attributed to capitalism?

Can one, for example, total up the deaths of the Opium War? It was a war fought entirely over whether Britain ought to be able to sell opium to the Chinese. The Chinese government didn’t want that, but the Chinese people were happy to buy opium.

It was, in effect, a war for free trade.

What about all the colonial wars, and all the colonial famines and massacres? Oh, this is an old argument, “Is imperialism part of capitalism?”

It was certainly understood that way by many actual imperialists, and it was certainly run that way. Before Britain conquered India, India had more manufacturing capacity than Britain. The British, however, wanted Indians as customers, not competitors, and made sure to shut most of that down.

And there were certainly a lot of famines in India under the British. Is it fair to attribute those to capitalism? If it isn’t, why not? A large number of the deaths in the original Black Book are deaths due to famine.

Europeans conquered other nations to obtain control over resources and markets, and they weren’t shy in saying this was the case. Cotton flooded in from colonial North America, sugar from the Carribean, fur from the northern North America, ruled, in effect, by the Hudson’s Bay Company for centuries just as India was ruled by the East India company.

Oh, they were government granted monopolies, to be sure, but to pretend they weren’t capitalist smacks of “Russia wasn’t actually communism.” Britain was a capitalist country, and either what it did was capitalism or what Russia did wasn’t communism when it didn’t align with what Marx prescribed (in which case none of what Russia or China did was communism, because according to Marx you can’t jump from agrarian to communist).

Imperialism was part of Capitalism, and was seen as such. Even after WWII, when overt imperialism was put aside, the Western powers still felt they had a right to overthrow governments, launch coups, and force specific economic policies on other nations. Those policies often included “don’t subsidize food,” and a lot of people starved because of them.

Let us say you want to write off imperialism as not “true capitalism.” An aberration. I think you’re full of it, but let’s pretend.

Ok, then, what about the Great Depression? Was that not a capitalist failure?

There is no straight-faced argument which says that it wasn’t. Nor am I willing to, with a straight face, pretend that World War II happens without the Great Depression.

So, how many of the deaths from World War II are attributable to capitalism’s failure in the Great Depression?

“Ah,” say those who love capitalism, “but we have learned since then.”

If so, presumably, communism can learn from its failures.

But has capitalism learned? Are great disasters caused by the failures of markets a thing of the past?

We all know they aren’t, because we all know that markets failed to handled climate change, and anyone with sense knows that climate change will cause between hundreds of millions and billions of deaths.

That’s a lot of deaths in the ledger.

As I have noted before, the idea that everyone acting primarily selfishly and greedily leads to general welfare, will go down in history, should we still have historians, as one of the most unbelievably stupid ideas, and ideologies in our history. Even if you believe that “capitalism” gets credit for all the gains of the last 200 years (as opposed to democracy, or industrialization), that will be vastly outweighed by what comes after, and, perhaps, by all the deaths and suffering along the way.

All systems have their flaws. I see a great deal of capitalist triumphalism, still, without a willingness to acknowledge its failures–or even that its successes came at the cost of great human suffering and massive numbers of deaths.

In a certain sense, I think that this misses the point. People with power did what they wanted and the weak suffered. As usual. And the gains were driven mostly by improved technology: which is industrialization, not by specific ideological systems.

Still, when you make markets your main economic decision making engine, you can’t then turn around and say they aren’t responsible for what happens. When your foreign policy is run by economic concerns and by ideological considerations you can’t say that your ideology had no effect.

By any reasonable definition, in my opinion, a Black Book of Capitalism‘s death toll probably far outnumbers those of The Black Book of Communism already. And once the climate change butcher’s bill comes due, it won’t even be close.

The fact is simple: All our decision making methods–governmental and ideological, communist, capitalist, democratic–have produced monstrous outcomes, and at most the best period for large numbers of peoples, the late 20th century, was a temporary phenomenon whose cost will be a vast reduction in welfare in the future. All we did is beggar, and kill, our grandchildren.

We, humans, cannot handle the power of industrialization, of this level of technology. We have proved it. But we had best figure out how. Perhaps the next few generations, who will not be able to ignore the dead and pretend only “the other side” killed them, will finally figure it out.


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88 Responses
  1. Dizzily permalink
    June 27, 2017

    Great read. Just a small correction, Ian, for the third last paragraph:
    “By any reasonable definition, in my opinion, the black book of capitalism probably outweighs the black book of capitalism already. “
    Second use of capitalism needs to be changed to communism.

  2. Celsius 233 permalink
    June 27, 2017

    A nugget from This is Hell;
    All things in common: On the possibilities of life after capitalism.
    https://thisishell.com/interviews/958-massimo-de-angelis
    It’s a 34 minute interview and highly recommended by yours truly.

  3. June 27, 2017

    It is good to have a book now that it is dead. Welcome to neo-Aristocracy – capitalism is so pre-2008.

  4. Donald permalink
    June 27, 2017

    I always though Mike Davis’s book Late Victorian Holocausts was a volume in the black book of capitalism. Then read “King Leopold’s Ghost.” ( can’t remember author). You are already in the several tens of millions of deaths just with India and the Congo.

  5. Donald permalink
    June 27, 2017

    Also, Stalin, though a genocidal monster, probably killed fewer than we are usually told. Leplod might beat him.

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2011/03/10/hitler-vs-stalin-who-killed-more/

  6. Herman permalink
    June 27, 2017

    I think it is psychologically difficult for some people to directly connect capitalism to deaths and suffering. Look at the reactions to statistics about white working class people dying deaths of despair from suicide, drug overdose, alcoholism, etc. I guarantee that if you asked people why this suffering is occurring at least half would say it is entirely down to personal responsibility and bad decisions and that the capitalist systems has nothing to do with it. The illusion of the degree of freedom of choice under capitalism is a major ideological bulwark for the system that communism never had.

    As for the argument that the success of capitalism makes the suffering worth it, the same could be said for communism. From a strictly material perspective (and these discussions almost always tend to be about material factors only) the average Soviet citizen was much better off than the average subject of the Russian Empire and indeed much better off than a person in a developing capitalist country.

    Robert C. Allen has written in his book “Farm to Factory:
    A Reinterpretation of the Soviet Industrial Revolution” about the real success that Stalinism had in improving living standards despite the violence of the regime.

    See: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7611.html

  7. Synoia permalink
    June 28, 2017

    and at most the best period for large numbers of peoples, the late 20th century, was a temporary phenomenon whose cost will be a vast reduction in welfare in the future.

    Sadly, with our return to feudalism, this does appear true.

  8. Some Guy permalink
    June 28, 2017

    I saw a cartoon a little while back, can’t find it online sadly, it was captioned, ‘What if dinosaurs never went extinct’ and the picture was a bunch of dinosaurs hunched over computer screens in a row of cubicles.

    “Perhaps the next few generations, who will not be able to ignore the dead and pretend only “the other side” killed them, will finally figure out how.”

    Perhaps, but more likely we will make great pets.

  9. Willy permalink
    June 28, 2017

    Most of us will make great pets. A few will never give up trying to send the new masters to PragerU.

  10. Tomonthebeach permalink
    June 28, 2017

    Interesting that Ian mentions the Great Depression as a precipitator of deaths worthy of attributing to capitalism. Most grammar school history books mention the sensational phenomenon of financiers leaping out of windows and other suicidal behavior in response to being “wiped out.” It would appear that history is repeating itself in the post Great Recession era as we witness a steep increase in opioid abuse-related deaths – death we refuse to acknowledge as suicides. Only this time it is not financiers killing themselves (they are thriving), it is the working class.

    Under capitalism, if you lose your job, you lose your social status – your very identity. If there is scant hope of regaining that status, such as being an over-50 factory worker whose employer moved to a 3rd world country, this is a profound and irretrievable loss of identity. It is made even more profound when your government treats you as a useless drain on the welfare state. A 2015 article by Thor Norström and Hans Grönqvist in BMJ points out that industrialized countries with the least generous unemployment benefits report the highest levels of suicide. Sure enough, US CDC has shown a steep post-recession rise in US suicides. If one included opioid overdose deaths as suicides, the rise would be markedly steeper yet. Surely not all opioid overdoses are intended. But depressed drug abusers must know that they are flirting with death, and perhaps they no longer care that their reckless behavior will very likely end their lives.

    There is an even more sinister (and hopefully subconscious) tertiary benefit to the Trump administration shifting focus away from opioid death back to the historically ineffective war on drugs. It also reduces the size of segments of the population viewed by many in power to be incapable of contributing to the capitalist state – those unwilling/unable to play by capitalist rules (mostly people of color), and those who no longer have the skills/capacity to play at all (mostly white). They are, or soon will be, either deceased or incarcerated unless scarce funds are redistributed to public health interventions and welfare solutions to intrinsic unemployment.

  11. realitychecker permalink
    June 28, 2017

    The good news is people understand that ‘business as usual’ entails condoning a lot of predictable deaths.

    The bad news is that few can bring themselves to prescribe an appropriate response to that killing.

    Let;s just put those evil people into a safe space./s

  12. Celsius 233 permalink
    June 28, 2017

    realitychecker
    June 28, 2017

    No, I mean yes, I mean, Huh!

  13. EmilianoZ permalink
    June 28, 2017

    Are there any examples of successful long term industrialization without capitalism? The Soviet Union is an example but it didn’t last that long and it was successful mainly in armament production.

  14. June 28, 2017

    Capital, socialism, and industry go hand in hand. To build machine you need capital, to take care of people to run the machine, you need socialism. Over and over again people on one side of this spectrum seem to forget about the other side of the spectrum. Because communism was essentially a different way of managing capitalism for the state’s benefit – the people again were ignored.

    So a better way to put it, is why do people not recognize that capitalism and socialism go hand-in-hand? Why are we about to learn this again the hard way? What is unique is the way that people trap capitalism for their own purpose – malware is effectively some poor people using the machines against themselves. So it’s progress – of a sort.

  15. bob mcmanus permalink
    June 28, 2017

    Are there any examples of successful long term industrialization without capitalism? The Soviet Union is an example but it didn’t last that long and it was successful mainly in armament production.

    Okay, since I am currently reading about the Frankfurt School, they thought ( if I may be so bold) that the USSR was capitalist, “state capitalist,” along with the fascist states and the West. In their amalgam of Marx and Weber through Lukacs (later Freud), they re-examined capitalism through the labor form, IOW, the exploitation of waged hourly labour power to create a surplus directed at capital accumulation and growth (or military expenditure). Thus the fascist, USSR, and welfare capitalists in the West had enough in common to go to war. This is the 1940s, see also the contemporaneous Johnson-Forest Tendency in American Marxism, CLR James, Raya Dunayevskaya, and Grace Lee Boggs.

    And the postwar Japanese had a different capitalism where the much of the surplus was reinvested rather than distributed up or down such that in a way the Japanese created a lot of common goods, which might even include the zaibutsu or keiretsu, the interlocking corporations and banks, and the general societal tendency to horizontal hierarchical groups.

    Let me think atime on the first question. Industrialisation and capitalism are not quite synonyms, you had a stage of “manufactures” and mercantile capitalism, and I hope, am trying to understand the transition we are currently undergoing, in combined and uneven ways.

  16. Jib Halyard permalink
    June 28, 2017

    You’re playing a shell game with definitions here.
    King Leopold’s Congo, the American slave plantation, any Marxist state of the 20th Century, Nazi Germany, etc. — what is it that differentiates these hellscapes from a liberal free market democracy? I think you’ll find a hint in the phrase “liberal free market democracy”, which seems to be a fairly straightforward description of the optimum state of affiairs which obtains once all the other nasy experimentation (including communism) has been got out of the way.

  17. sid_finster permalink
    June 28, 2017

    The problem isn’t capitalism, communism, Islam, organized religion, the state, or anything of the sort.

    The problem is people. A certain fraction of the population are sociopaths. As far as I can tell, it has ever been thus.

    Power is to sociopaths what catnip is to cats. Or cocaine to addicts. Whatever the system, whatever the ideology, sociopaths will do whatever it takes to get their hands on power, to hang onto power, and then grab for more.

    In fact, I would go so far to say that the principal function of government *should be* to keep power out of the hands of sociopaths, whether within or without the government.

  18. Peter permalink
    June 28, 2017

    @Herman

    Allen’s book seems to be a clever new look at the success of Stalinism, maybe too clever. The first thing he wrote that seemed too clever was his view that the collapse of the Russian population growth rate was an economic and socially positive development. When whole populations are banished to Siberia and new industrialization draws people from the countryside statistics may appear to show economic improvement but when people stop fucking and start drinking due to no hope for the future these statistics have little real meaning.

    I’m not certain what point Ian is trying to make with this macabre Whataboutism comparing death tolls. Russia killed mostly Russians and Germans and then armed almost everyone and anyone who could pay and both sides in many conflicts with their profitable little guns.

    If someone finds things to praise about the Soviet economic growth during this era then they are praising State Capitalism directly and indirectly the totalitarian governing system that controlled it.

    I despise the Stalinists for what they did to destroy the ideals of real. Socialism and Communism possibly forever in most peoples minds. Corbyn’s cult of personality following and his Stalinist rhetoric show that there is no new 21st century Socialism being developed. They are drawing in desperately uninformed young people and others that seem to crave a strong dictatorial State to ease their fevered fears about an unknown future. Some Warmers seem to relish the idea of there being billions dying because of GW it would verify the catastrophic altered reality they have invested in.

  19. Willy permalink
    June 28, 2017

    What sid-finster said is exactly what I experienced in my years in the corporate world. There, sociopaths usually won power games for the simple reason they have more weapons. An ability to fearlessly lie, then get away with it, is but one. While your quality guy is busy doing quality things, trying to add value to their “tribe”. born sociopaths (psychopaths) couldn’t care less about quality and have focused all of their talents towards acquiring power.

  20. EmilianoZ permalink
    June 28, 2017

    I agree with sid-finster and Willy. It seems that in any kind of complex organization the scum always rises to the top.

    I also think most of us, without being sociopaths or power hungry, do help them get there, just through simple moderate careerism (necessary to pay the mortgage, support a family, etc.).

  21. Willy permalink
    June 28, 2017

    Here’s a video from an objectivist-style male superiority group, where expertise at spotting destructive females of any kind is considered extremely important. Yet still after all that, a psychopathic female managed to infiltrate the group and marry the founder:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlqoC3SKIxA

    Even experts have difficulty spotting them.

  22. BlizzardOfOz permalink
    June 28, 2017

    It seems misguided to try and compare “communism” and “capitalism”. We have a relatively clear idea of what communism is: an Industrial Revolution era ideology that became an international political movement. When implemented, it has a certain physiognomy (to use Spengler’s word) that we can recognize. What is capitalism? Nominally it’s just an economic system of raising money at interest, but in practice it seems to encompass all of Western Civilization except communism; including things like the old feudalism and landed aristocracy, political liberty (ie, the Rights of Englishmen), Christianity, and the later nation states with their colonial expansion and conquest. There’s no way to say anything meaningful about a term like “capitalism” that encompasses so many things spanning many centuries.

    Such an interesting topic, though – much that could be discussed! I would agree that the USA today shares many of the evils of the old USSR, and for the same reasons. Evola in Ride the Tiger (1961) made a claim along those lines, in terms that I find amenable. The USA today, like the old USSR, denies the spiritual entirely, and attempts to reduce human society to a technical problem of managing utility. Evola would argue that a death toll in itself is not a bad fruit of society (everyone dies after all), but more rather the meaninglessness of death as well as life under a state that formally denies the existence of the transcendental.

  23. EGrise permalink
    June 28, 2017

    The fact is simple. All our decision making methods, government and ideological, Communist, Capitalist, Democratic, have produced monstrous outcomes, and at most the best period for large numbers of peoples, the late 20th century, was a temporary phenomenon whose cost will be a vast reduction in welfare in the future. All we did is beggar, and kill, our grandchildren.

    Yes yes, all well and good but you forget that the same period also created a great deal of shareholder value, and that’s what’s really important, isn’t it?

  24. EmilianoZ permalink
    June 28, 2017

    The link between industrialization and capitalism is interesting. I’ve always wondered if there could be some parallel universe where industrialization happened without capitalism.

    There are 2 important aspects of capitalism in relation to industrialization:

    1) One is the accumulation of capital, which seems necessary to launch big projects. In theory, in capitalist states, this accumulation should be in private hands. The Soviet form of capitalism (see bob mcmanus above) should be excluded by this definition.

    2) The 2nd aspect is the “free markets”. This was not respected in most cases. Friedrich List showed that nascent industries were always protected by high tariffs. However I’ve read in some books by Emmanuel Todd (a Friedrich List fan) that while nascent industries were protected from foreign rivals, there was indeed a free market inside each country. You were protected from foreign competitors but not from your compatriots.

  25. BlizzardOfOz permalink
    June 28, 2017

    Maybe someone could help me. What is the meaningful definition of “capitalism”? Is it strictly post-feudal Europe phenomenon, or did it exist also in ancient Greece or Rome, Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, etc?

  26. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    June 28, 2017

    Evola would argue that a death toll in itself is not a bad fruit of society (everyone dies after all), but more rather the meaninglessness of death as well as life under a state that formally denies the existence of the transcendental.

    Cynic that I am, I rather doubt that Blizzy would agree with Evola on that subject tomorrow, if that should prove to be the day that Mr. Gaiman’s pretty pale girl comes for Blizzy. 😈

  27. jonathan larson permalink
    June 28, 2017

    I don’t want to put too fine a point of these proceedings but the fact remains that BOTH “capitalism” and “communism” were almost perfect manifestations of Leisure Class thinking. Yes I know, both like to conflate “capitalism” with industrialization but this is an analytic flaw that has confused people since at least the 1850s.

    Industrialization is a whole ‘nother animal that was mostly an outgrowth of the humanist wing of the Protestant Reformation. It was a movement that began in England among the dissenting Protestants like the Presbyterian James Watt or the Quaker Waterford, etc. The Industrial Revolution grew out of a fascination for precision manufacture. What happened to industrialization when the moneychangers got ahold of it is a another story completely.

    Industrialization changed the world. Capitalism and Communism changed almost nothing. They were both movements of predators fastening themselves on the backs of the producing classes in a remarkably successful effort to get something for nothing. This sort of behavior has been around since the dawn of recorded history. And BOTH left a lot of bodies in their wake.

  28. Blipvert permalink
    June 28, 2017

    Chomsky made a similar point the The Black Book was first translated into English. In particular, he looks at a study by Nobel Laureate, Amartya Sen’s comparative study of China and India.

    Sen notes that India didn’t experience a famine over the same time period of China and points to China’s totalitarian state as the culprit. In the second half, Sen addresses how the inequity of wealth distribution, particularly in medical care, in India leads to 4 million excess deaths per year in India relative to China.

    http://spectrezine.org/global/chomsky.htm

  29. Willy permalink
    June 28, 2017

    I’d always assumed that industrialization and technology had its roots in warfare, a statist enterprise if there ever was one.

  30. June 28, 2017

    Industry can’t exist without capital – financial and material leverage. It might have -initially- been born out of a Protestant system of reasoning, but if that’s all that it had going for it vs. cottage industry and more traditional mercantile systems of production, it would have been a footnote in the history books.

    Frankly, industry could not have existed without the very capitalist practice of enclosure (and idea which it proudly stole from earlier feudalisms) – that is, forcing people off their land and into a system dominated by money and profit. That is the backbone of the industrial machine: without that labor, you don’t have the resources to create ridiculous things like steam engines or global telecommunications systems, and you definitely don’t have the labor to amass the base material resources to manufacture them, especially when your little island country has already used up all its coal and iron.

    Enclosure is the only reason every agrarian culture I can think of has ever turned to industry to keep itself alive.

  31. BlizzardOfOz permalink
    June 28, 2017

    Well Ivory Bill, I know you find great meaning in the Shitlib Mystery Cult, and leftist permanent revolution, railing against Drumpf and clamoring for free health insurance and such. Some of us, less enlightened than your boomer cohort, in our struggle, look to older doctrines that seem to have been lost from the world. It does seem that many traditions (Vikings, Romans, Christians …) valorized an honorable death over a comfortable life.

  32. Hugh permalink
    June 28, 2017

    the idea that everyone acting primarily selfishly and greedily leads to general welfare, will go down in history, should we still have historians, as one of the most unbelievably stupid ideas, and ideologies in our history

    I could not agree more. It is like taking a bunch of people and building a house but without a plan, without even discussing a plan. And then declaring the product a house, and not just a house, but the best possible house. Assuming that all involved are rational actors does not help matters because it is a blatantly false assumption, we are irrational most of the time and in most of our decisions. Yet even if they were, in the absence of a plan, the carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers, and electricians would still not know when or where to do their work, or even what exactly they were supposed to do. We could, of course, further stipulate, as much of economics does, that these people are rational actors AND they all have the same information. The result is even more absurd and unrealistic. It is like saying that everyone involved isn’t just an electrician but a carpenter, plumber, and bricklayer too. So they will know where everything goes and when it goes there. Problem solved. Except it isn’t. All that’s been done is that a ghost plan has been introduced through the backdoor. You see to build a house, they must all have a concept of houseness to begin with, and since they all have the same knowledge and make decisions the same way, they will build the same house. The kicker here from a logical point of view is the sleight of hand which introduces the concept of houseness because once this is done, given the population of rational actors with perfect information symmetry, one and only one house can result, and will be the best possible house, constrained only by the knowledge and resources of the actors. In other words, houseness, or modern economics, or markets beg the question. They contain in their premises their conclusions. So just a longer way of saying about them, yeah, stupid.

  33. Hugh permalink
    June 28, 2017

    Re the Great Depression, but “we have learned since then”.

    I am reminded of the story the blogger Ecahn, a retired economic forecaster, told of meeting Stiglitz, an economist often lionized by progressives, sometime toward the end of the Great Moderation, that is a year or two before the 2008 meltdown. Some of us had already been discussing our concerns about what we were seeing in the economy for a while. Ecahn took the opportunity of her meeting to express these to Stiglitz, and Stiglitz basically blew her off with something very much like the quote above: nothing to worry about, we have learned so much since then. I don’t think Ecahn ever forgave Stiglitz for that comment nor should she have. But it does show how pervasive that kind of thinking remains.

  34. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    June 28, 2017

    I thought Christians looked forward to a joyous eternal life, not to the silly, testosterone-intoxicated nonsense called an “honorable death”.

  35. BlizzardOfOz permalink
    June 28, 2017

    Ivory Bill – I guess you’re a Protestant. I was raised Protestant, but Christian saints are a big part of Catholics/Orthodox practice. I recall one story of a nun who was killed by the iconoclast Emperor’s soldiers for refusing to destroy an icon of Christ, and so she is honored as a martyr with her own feast day. I take it that our actions in this life have consequences in the world to come. Peter didn’t wage war against Christ like Satan, but his cowardice in valuing his own life was enough to make him cry bitterly.

    I’m not sure a Christian politics would look like, but I doubt free health insurance has much to do with it.

  36. Kenneth Heathly Simpson permalink
    June 28, 2017

    Thanks for this piece Ian,

    I see what you are saying and you are absolutely right. However, throwing are the word “communism” and talking about it as a system that has existed is incorrect. In fact the organization of society, that leads to communism, socialism has never existed. Soviet Russia, when actual functioning soviets, workers and peasant councils, attempted to attempted to run the country could be called a workers (and peasants) state. Civil war and foreign intervention did not defeat the Bolshevik regime but it did deformed the workers state beyond recognition. The shell remained but the essence was slowly destroyed. Stalin was a butcher on an unimaginable. 20 million peasants killed or died in camps. Another 5 million purged and killed for opposing Stalin or being old bolsheviks. Stalin’s pack with Hitler made Germany’s attack in the West possible. None of this had anything to do with communism. It has never existed. Plain and simple.

    Keep on posting.

    k

  37. Charlie permalink
    June 28, 2017

    I think we’re looking at this all wrong. The question would not be how the economic system is structured so much as it’s basis. In capitalism, the societies have as its basis the accumulation of money, whereas in communism, we could say its basis is the accumulation of resources, whether human, natural, or territory.

    And, as noted by the ancients, love of what is the root of all evil? With that evil having a higher death count.

    Well, if we’re going to pick nits, why not pick the root of the nits?

  38. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    June 28, 2017

    I take it that our actions in this life have consequences in the world to come.

    While I think the metathanatic rehabilitation system is rather more civilized than tradition holds it to be, I would still prefer to avoid it.

    Many of the Scriptures would suggest that the Deity would favor social democracy over other systems, which is only one of several reasons I consider that supporting it will serve my enlightened self-interest.

    And yes, I am a Protestant (Methodist, to be more precise), so I am saved by faith.

    Vikings, eh? I’m guessing you listened to this song a lot at an impressionable age.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bg5eF4Ld-Fw

    And if so, I don’t blame you. It’s a great song. :mrgreen:

    Maybe you also took your sword-and-sorcery novels a bit too seriously.

  39. moar liek crapitalism amirite permalink
    June 29, 2017

    I’m not sure a Christian politics would look like, but I doubt free health insurance has much to do with it.

    “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

    Yeah, definitely not.

  40. Some Guy permalink
    June 29, 2017

    “the idea that everyone acting primarily selfishly and greedily leads to general welfare, will go down in history, should we still have historians, as one of the most unbelievably stupid ideas, and ideologies in our history”

    Not that I disagree, but it’s worth unpacking the provenance of this idea a little.

    Historically, the moral division was between pursuit of self-interest and the group interest which was taken to be the same as the public interest.

    Where Adam Smith’s notion of people doing good not through their own intention came in was the realization that within certain contexts (certain types of markets under certain conditions) you could differentiate the group interest from the general public interest.

    Meaning that where normally (historically) the participants in a market selling a given product/service would cooperate / collude with each other in order to avoid unhelpful (to them) competition (putting the group interest ahead of their (short term) personal interest), if the market participants could be persuaded to instead put their personal interest first, betray the interests of their fellow vendors and start competing* with the other sellers (either by cutting prices, or by innovating new products/services/etc.) then society would become better off*.

    This was the revolutionary notion of a limited context where the pursuit of short term self interest aligned with the general interest even though it went against the group interest. Read ‘The Spirit of Capitalism’ by Weber, to see how a better writer than me explains it.

    The problem of course, is that it proved impossible to contain that selfish interest to its appropriate domain. Only in times of great crisis or all out war, in which the unselfishness necessary to win a war or survive a crisis becomes a huge force in society are we able to push back this ever spreading cancer of selfishness.

    Which, despite my cynical earlier comment, brings us back to Ian’s closing point, “Perhaps the next few generations, who will not be able to ignore the dead and pretend only “the other side” killed them, will finally figure out how.”

    Perhaps Ian is right and climate change will prove a sufficient crisis to rouse us from our sleepwalking into a society destroyed by the moral decay of selfishness. Still, I’ll take the under.

  41. realitychecker permalink
    June 29, 2017

    I would just note that the increase in capitalistic corruption, generally, seems to track well with the trend of downplaying the “appropriate” role of punishment for bad actions.

    Hmmm. Could there be a connection?

  42. Peter permalink
    June 29, 2017

    We don’t seem to be developing any Stalinists to punish our Capitalists here and the loony version in the UK doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

    Trump our Capitalist in Chief has had a good week for a change at home and abroad with the SCOTUS okay of his executive decision to secure our borders. Yes it’s limited and will face further scrutiny but they seem to agree that he has the power and authority to pursue this temporary ban., a campaign promise.

    The exposing of the fake news at CNN and the long overdue admission by CNN of wrongdoing is huge news and may signal a break in the witch hunt. Sara Palin is suing the NYT for their fake news story that lied about her responsibility for the Gifford shooting and smeared that lie onto the republican congressmen’s shooting.

    Trump’s warning to Assad about not gassing his people again may have helped to avoid an escalation of hostilities by the US, over there, which is good news.

  43. OneForAll permalink
    June 29, 2017

    “If one included opioid overdose deaths as (US) suicides, the rise would be markedly steeper yet. Surely not all opioid overdoses are intended. But depressed drug abusers must know that they are flirting with death, and perhaps they no longer care that their reckless behavior will very likely end their lives.”

    This is correct. According to the medical community in the US, here’s the definition of a suicide attempt:

    Suicide Attempt Definition:
    A self-injurious act undertaken with at least some intent to die, as a result of the act

    – There does not have to be any injury or harm, just the potential for injury or harm (e.g., gun failing to fire)
    – Any “non-zero” intent to die – does not have to be 100%
    – Intent and behavior must be linked

  44. bruce wilder permalink
    June 29, 2017

    The invisible hand argument is designed to make the visible hand(s) disappear from the narrative and that is foolish and dangerous. Instead of pointing to what we could all observe, in explaining the organization of the economic system, it introduces invisible magic. Adam Smith did point at what anyone could observe — tradesman colluding against the public — but then he claims the visibly colluding tradesmen are magically ineffective in these attempts at collusion. Pointing at and acknowledging the visible burnishes his credibility in the preliminaries, but magic at the climax of the argument charms and mystifies. People have always loved magic; magic is so simple and direct. Magic is persuasive, in the manner of the con-man. But, magic craps all over useful understanding. Magic is the triumph of persuasion over understanding, if you like.

    Later economists elaborated on the magic show. Markets were natural and emergent systems that spontaneously appeared when the more visible and intentional efforts of the state were constrained, creating ideal arenas where virtue triumphs in fair exchange. John Galt be praised. It is all such confused, free-floating nonsense.

    The actual economy is not ideal or magical. It is a boundless mass of difficult problems, imperfectly solved. Not least of which is that few other people are to be trusted, but trust is necessary to cooperation and cooperation is necessary to prosperity. For this trust and cooperation to be efficiently carried out, we need institutions to constrain and regulate our behavior in social cooperation.

    In the imaginary and magical ideal system of markets imagined by economists, people generally know all they need to know: local knowledge is complete while prices are sufficiently informative of conditions in remote domains. Intervention by the state is needed only in the exceptional cases of market failure (there’s a canonical list of market failure types, which may be consulted by the knowledgeable economist so that they can feel smart and that they have all the cases covered.)

    In the actual world, of course, we are all of us dominated by uncertainty and ignorance. In choosing our own behavior, we must observe rules, even in the breach. Institutions must be constructed to form and enforce the rules and to manage the consequences of both their being followed and their being breached.

    Most people are not used to thinking thru the design of institutions to govern social cooperation, to make and enforce the rules. Nobody likes the cop that gives them an expensive traffic ticket. And, if they have opinions about what the rules of the road ought to be, or how they ought to be enforced, those opinions are likely to be unsophisticated, selfish and ill-informed. But, an awful lot depends on forming the right rules and enforcing them and for that some kind of roughly democratic and deliberative politics is necessary.

    The deliberative part is often missed by popular opinion I think, and the need for deliberation has gone missing as the U.S. has descended into the throes of imperial collapse. There are a lot of ways to make deliberation disappear: corruption, lies, centrist consensus, conventional wisdom, fundamentalism, authoritarianism.

    (As a side note, it was part of Adam Smith’s propaganda against the guilds that led him to overlook the positive aspects of tradesmen colluding: the civic boosterism, the efforts to exclude the notoriously unscrupulous from the trade, the diffusion of technical knowledge and so on. A lot of visible hands disappeared in that fairy tale.)

  45. OneForAll permalink
    June 29, 2017

    BlizzardOfOz says: “I’m not sure a Christian politics would look like, but I doubt free health insurance has much to do with it.”

    Really?

    Do you think it’s neither here nor there that Jesus and his disciples NEVER charged for any healings?

    PS – and by the way, people don’t need health insurance, they need health CARE.

  46. realitychecker permalink
    June 29, 2017

    @ bruce wilder

    Another deeply thoughtful comment from you, good sir.

    As I hinted earlier in the thread, and only you picked up on in the paragraph reproduced below, CONSEQUENCES are a key, many would say THE KEY, factor in organizing a society in its various aspects.

    “Most people are not used to thinking thru the design of institutions to govern social cooperation, to make and enforce the rules. Nobody likes the cop that gives them an expensive traffic ticket. And, if they have opinions about what the rules of the road ought to be, or how they ought to be enforced, those opinions are likely to be unsophisticated, selfish and ill-informed. But, an awful lot depends on forming the right rules and enforcing them and for that some kind of roughly democratic and deliberative politics is necessary.”

    That last sentence captures the reality beautifully, IMO.

    Lefties don’t like to think enough about the value of consequences in shaping behavior. I guess it is thought that they are not ‘nice,’ or even that anything harsh is uncivilized. In any event, I have seen the left get further and further away from the idea that punishment works, and I think it is a huge mistake.

    Pain is nature’s greatest educational tool, IMO. Negative reinforcement extinguishes a lot of undesirable behavior. Not all, but a hell of a lot.

    It’s just that nobody wants to be the nasty punisher, I guess.

    We’d rather wait for that magic solution. Deus ex machina. Coming any time now, I’m sure./s

    Very depressing, but it is good to know there are still some thoughtful folks around, so, thank you.

  47. Willy permalink
    June 29, 2017

    I have seen the left get further and further away from the idea that punishment works

    And the freedom loving right, the opposite. What gives?

  48. realitychecker permalink
    June 29, 2017

    Clarify “the opposite”?

  49. Willy permalink
    June 29, 2017

    Speaking generally, the right owns the military, the police, the gun nuts… Most I know despise what should be their close cousins, the libertarians, for being weak on military punishments.

    They don’t politically compromise. Rank and file members of the right are far less likely to honor debate, will resort to invective, and to punish for ‘wrong thinking’.

  50. realitychecker permalink
    June 29, 2017

    We are talking past each other again.

    Maybe just stick with what I actually typed?

  51. Willy permalink
    June 29, 2017

    Lefties don’t like to think enough about the value of consequences in shaping behavior. I guess it is thought that they are not ‘nice,’ or even that anything harsh is uncivilized. In any event, I have seen the left get further and further away from the idea that punishment works, and I think it is a huge mistake.

    My knee jerk response to that paragraph, was that “the left” has increasingly become populated with mostly women, gays, minorities, school teachers, scientists… not exactly a tough-talking crowd. As for the youth amongst them, there is no militant student activism. It’s not 1968 anymore. Is such a crowd more inclined to being compromising than it is demanding?

    I was just curious about where all “the mad as hell not gonna take it anymore” tough talkers have gone.

  52. realitychecker permalink
    June 29, 2017

    Those with the kind of anger and determination to do anything will probably be smart enough not to share that with us here.

  53. realitychecker permalink
    June 29, 2017

    But once again you’ve carried us away from the point, which was that negative consequences, reliably enforced, are essential to getting a population to honor societal boundaries. And we, led by the left, have gotten away from that fundamental truth.

  54. Willy permalink
    June 29, 2017

    negative consequences, reliably enforced, are essential to getting a population to honor societal boundaries.

    Agree.

    And we, led by the left, have gotten away from that fundamental truth.

    “the left” as in misguided liberals like Krugman? The turd way left? I’d need concrete examples.

  55. Ian Welsh permalink*
    June 30, 2017

    It’s not clear to me that enclosure was required for industrialization, actually. A long argument, mind you, but I also don’t find it clear that imperialism was required. I think people mistake what did happen, for what must happen.

    However, enclosures etc… were very attractive to the most powerful people in society, and if they could be done by justifying them as in the common good, necessary for industrialization… well, that’s where ideology comes in.

    This is similiar to neoliberalism; there are much nicer ways to run capitalist societies, but neoliberalism has one big advantage over them: it allows a few people to get very very rich, and a few more people to suck at the teats of those who do.

  56. Ian Welsh permalink*
    June 30, 2017

    Using pain too much has severe negative consequences down the line and is not, actually, universal in all cultures at all times. Some consequences are required, but what you do to people like that they will take as acceptable behaviour to others, in ways you might not like.

    I believe that punishment, as a rule, should be mostly about removal of ability to do harm. In many cases that leads to punishments far harsher than what we use, but without the rape and torture and beatings which are endemic in our system, and which produce monsters, both in those who suffer it, and in those who inflict it. (Most prison guards become rather nasty people, rather quickly, in American prisons.)

    For example, I would have removed all the wealth from the banksters, and made it so they could never be involved in any business with large amounts of money ever again. Oh, of course, they can have enough for, heck, a middle class lifestyle, but that’s it.

  57. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    June 30, 2017

    Lefties don’t like to think enough about the value of consequences in shaping behavior. I guess it is thought that they are not ‘nice,’ or even that anything harsh is uncivilized. In any event, I have seen the left get further and further away from the idea that punishment works, and I think it is a huge mistake.

    Pain is nature’s greatest educational tool, IMO. Negative reinforcement extinguishes a lot of undesirable behavior. Not all, but a hell of a lot.

    It’s just that nobody wants to be the nasty punisher, I guess.

    Appropriately, RC left the “H” out of “IMHO”. No humility in that fellow.

    “Mistrust those in whom the impulse to punish is strong.”–Nietzsche

    Also, “The first guy who suggests violence is always the undercover cop.”–Bitterly learned wisdom of the radicals of the Vietnam War era.

  58. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    June 30, 2017

    I believe that punishment, as a rule, should be mostly about removal of ability to do harm. In many cases that leads to punishments far harsher than what we use, but without the rape and torture and beatings which are endemic in our system, and which produce monsters, both in those who suffer it, and in those who inflict it. (Most prison guards become rather nasty people, rather quickly, in American prisons.)

    (Emphasis mine)

    Exactly. I am more interested in the eternal welfare of my soul than I am in punishing “evildoers”.

    Just because I believe the metathanatic rehabilitation system is more civilized than tradition states does not mean I wish to experience it. 😉

  59. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    June 30, 2017

    Shorter Kenneth Heathly Simpson:

    “No true Scotsman would create gulags.” 😉

  60. Willy permalink
    June 30, 2017

    I wasn’t thinking gulags, places for powerless common folk, but better ways to limit the cleverly scheming sociopaths in power, such as the Mylan people. Coury, Bresch and Manchin were able to work the system to jack Epipens prices well beyond any reason except personal profit, and nobody (to date) has been able to given them “negative consequences, reliably enforced”.

  61. realitychecker permalink
    June 30, 2017

    Lefty lunacy always comes out clearest if the concept of punishment for bad behavior is on the table. (sigh)

    If your dog touches a hot stove one time, he will, guaranteed, never do so again.

    But you guys postulate that if your child touches that same stove, it not only might not stop him from ever touching the stove again, but might actually motivate him to touch it more in the future.

    Extreme example to make the point: You are actually arguing that your dog is more intelligent than your child. That is where your ridiculous arguments take you.

    We used to base criminal law policy explicitly on retribution and rehabilitation, as two of four conceptual legs to that policy.

    We decided retribution was too ‘lizard-brained.’

    We never learned how to rehabilitate.

    So the left fantasizes that it has been smart to reject punishment. And then some go further and assume that any punishments will certainly become too cruel and extreme.

    But notice how we have stopped talking about “consequences” at all.

    Consequences are how we learn. Anybody remember the words, “trial and error”? Well, sometimes those errors are painful or otherwise unpleasant.

    If one was designing a society in all its aspects, not just the criminal justice one, then one would use many, many different and more subtle consequences that could be absorbed by growing children without any psychological damage, as a process of learning boundaries.

    When people automatically conjure up the extremes to reject an argument, you know they know they have the weak position.

    In my HUMBLE opinion. (LMAO at the idea that anybody here takes their opinion to be expressing their humility.)

  62. Willy permalink
    June 30, 2017

    Consequences are how we learn

    With the one notable exception of the psychopath and their dark triad cousins. I was rarely ever bullied as a kid. Now wish I had been. I missed out on some major self-education in the life arts and didn’t handle these people well when I began encountering them in the corporate world.

    Not being able to feel emotional pain as normals do, psychopaths are that kid with congenital analgesia who keeps returning to the stove to place hand on burner to smell that interesting smell. With the dumb ones, it’s only after they’ve lost the function of their hand that they understand. The smarter ones can reason why the interesting smell is not worth the loss of hand function. Successful sociopaths are the one’s who’ve made it past that filter, that filter for them being fear emotions which shapes normals behaviors.

    When Mylan’s leadership remains incorrigible after all the humiliating publicity and public inquiry, when anybody else would have stepped down unable to handle the shame…

  63. nihil obstet permalink
    June 30, 2017

    @Ian: I would have removed all the wealth from the banksters, and made it so they could never be involved in any business with large amounts of money ever again.

    I don’t understand why no legislator or judge has pushed hard for this. One reason that white collar crime is poorly sanctioned is that their fellow white collar workers in the judiciary are squeamish about sending them to prison. And I agree — I have no wish to spend scads of money locking up people who constitute no physical threat to their fellows.

    However, I would go further and tax away/confiscate all income above a full time minimum wage job and confiscate most of their wealth. That would be a learning opportunity for the comfortable as the formerly rich demonstrate that the difficulties of life on minimum wage do not stem from personal incompetence. If it seems too harsh, then raise minimum wage.

  64. realitychecker permalink
    June 30, 2017

    @ Willy

    I hope you recognize that when you keep basing your comments on “psychopaths,” you are again going to the extreme and expecting it to illuminate our understanding of how to manage a population that includes people all over the emotional, psychological, and ethical continuums.

  65. realitychecker permalink
    June 30, 2017

    Anybody ever ask themselves why convicts are not required to work at some societally beneficial tasks for their food?

  66. realitychecker permalink
    June 30, 2017

    Edit: “for their food” should be “for the expenses of their maintenance.”

    IMO, that really takes the sting out of that particular consequence.

    Think about it for moment.

    It’s an indicator of how fucked up our thinking has become around these issues.

  67. Willy permalink
    June 30, 2017

    RC, I would care far less about them if I hadn’t witnessed first hand that they are able to acquire considerable power, to where entire cultures are impacted. What if Genghis Khan or Julius Caesar had not been born?

    I am fully aware of the kook aspect. But there are no other rational reasons why every political system devised by man ultimately winds up a disaster for the common man.

  68. realitychecker permalink
    June 30, 2017

    @ Willy

    We have to account for all the less extreme behavioral manifestations that occur in a large population, as well, and primarily, IMO.

    It’s complicated stuff to restrain the bad actors without stifling the good ones, or even the merely acceptable ones. 🙂

  69. Ché Pasa permalink
    June 30, 2017

    It was about the time that punishment became so highly valued by the ruling class that criminalization of long tolerated behaviors became fashionable, prison populations grew exponentially, and “crime” — except for corruption and white collar crime (except when committed by members of unfavored groups) statistically fell.

    Prior to the adoption of punishment as the preferred method of dealing with (certain classes of) criminals, rehabilitation and education were the principal methods utilized in prisons. Crime rates, were low.

    As usual RC’s thesis is specious.

  70. Peter permalink
    June 30, 2017

    @RC

    I am trying to follow your reasoning about punishment’s use to control bad behavior and applied to adults I can somewhat agree but children are different creatures that require the use of more imagination and patience. A child that continues to burn themselves is sick while normal children will behave just as the dog does and avoid the pain. The difference is that children can learn to safely use fire as a tool or make Molotov cocktails to throw at the pigs.

    I agree that some people’s views on punishment or responsibility are warped but this seems to be more a Liberal relativist belief than a Leftists idea.

    Trump seems to be inflicting some punishment onto the snowflakes and their media recently. They are howling in pain over his visa ban, the three new illegal aliens laws and are having fits about his election integrity team getting access to all voting and registration records. Trump’s threat of punishment also seems to have averted another poison gas attack in Syria .

  71. DMC permalink
    June 30, 2017

    In America, if you’re poor, there’s NOTHING but consequences. We lock up a greater proportion of our population than any other nation on earth(possible exception for Belarus). And the problem is “there’s not enough punishment”? Not for the RICH certainly. What percentage of the USSR’s population went into the gulag? More than in our gulags? And you ignore sociopaths in such discussions at your peril. Many estimate that sociopaths constitute as much as 5% of the population and that they have outsize impacts when they don’t learn to restrain themselves. IMHO we could use a lot more carrots and decidedly fewer sticks. Carrots have the great advantage of relative cheapness and lack of social displacement. “An ounce of prevention….”

  72. Willy permalink
    June 30, 2017

    It’s complicated stuff to restrain the bad actors without stifling the good ones, or even the merely acceptable ones.

    The people at Represent.us have suggested getting rid of all lobby money as a lure for the bad actors, not just Citizens United. Not half bad. Theoretically, the bad actors would go elsewhere and be replaced by actual public servants.

    I’m not sure about their take on the omnibus bill concept, but I’d add that to the kill list. In my own neighborhood a bad actor is trying to avoid lawsuit from the thousands they’re negatively impacting by the tried and true lobbying-then-sneaking an unpopular bill inside a more popular one for an up/down vote. Omnibus bills may have originally been devised to save time, but are now being exploited by bad actors to sneak shitty legislation through.

    If there’s a way they’ll find it. The problem with not doing anything is that sociopathy trickles down into the common culture, to where “everybody’s doing it”. I think it can be reversed. Viking culture once accepted piracy as completely normal. I don’t think today’s Norwegians would offer ‘butchering monks’ as a viable winter olympic sport.

  73. Ian Welsh permalink*
    June 30, 2017

    This is silly. Harm reduction and rehabilitation is what matters. It is a simple fact that the Scandinavians have much lower recidivism rates than the US, and treat their prisoners much much better.

    What matters is consistency of correction, far more than harshness, and that you do not allow brutality. The reason is simple enough, people who are raped, for example, tend to start raping themselves. People made use to violence become violent themselves.

    The stove analogy does not work because of the human element; people get far more upset and take far more psychological damage from deliberately inflicted pain.

    You shrug thinking about that stove, if I, even because you did something bad, grabbed your hand and put it on the element, you would be damaged psychologically, badly.

    Why people who feel they are tough hard thinkers can’t look at this stuff clearly, I’m not sure. I believe deeply in kindness, etc… but anyone who thinks that makes me nice, or that if I were a prosecutor I would be a pushover is quite mistaken. As I’ve noted repeatedly, I would have used RICO to take all the bankers money away, and forced them to use public defenders, then I’d throw them in maximum security prison with the worst of the worst.

    I think Max is terrible, but as long as it exists, I wouldn’t let white collar prisoners who’ve done far more harm than any serial killer get off. If black kids go there, then so would white bankers, were it up to me.

    And if they want to pass a law or give me the resources to make prisons actually safe, and rehabilitive, hey, I’d be good with that.

    The things you can do without inflicting “cruelty” are still more than enough to get the message thru “don’t do that”.

    And as for drug laws, I would apply them evenly. Ideally that means treating blacks like whites, but if I couldn’t do that, the whites would go in prison too, until people get the message (and the message isn’t “don’t do drugs”.)

    (I also supported the death penalty for years, so long as it was done humanely. I stopped not because I have a problem with it in theory, but because in practice it is clear that police and prosecutors put way too many innocent people in jail and you can’t “undo” death.)

  74. wendy davis permalink
    June 30, 2017

    Plenty of inmates are required to work to keep the prisons running, which was at least part of the reason for the recent national prison strikes. In some prisons so little is spent on food that it’s not only unhealthy, but unsafe and inedible, toilets and sinks are non-functioning and filthy. But many prisoners are too busy working at corporate forced labor for profit. But keeping those ‘beds’ filled is profitable, too!

    ‘Shocking Facts About America’s For-Profit Prison Industry’, February 06, 2014, alternet

    “In late 2013, a new report from In the Public Interest (ITPI) revealed that private prison companies are striking deals with states that contain clauses guaranteeing high prison occupancy rates–sometimes 100 percent. This means that states agree to supply prison corporations with a steady flow of residents–whether or not that level of criminal activity exists. Some experts believe this relationship between government and private prison corporations encourages law enforcement agencies to use underhanded tactics–often targeting minority and underserved groups–to fill cells.” [snip]

    As a result, there are now over 2 million people living behind bars in the United States. The worst part is that once captured by the prison industry, inmates are forced to work for pennies an hour, providing cheap labor for some of the most profitable enterprises in the world, including the U.S. Military.”

    Alternet, 2012: ‘21st-Century Slaves: How Corporations Exploit Prison Labor;
    In the eyes of the corporation, inmate labor is a brilliant strategy in the eternal quest to maximize profit.’

    “Prior to the 1970s, private corporations were prohibited from using prison labor as a result of the chain gang and convict leasing scandals. But in 1979, the US Department of Justice admits that congress began a process of deregulation to “restore private sector involvement in prison industries to its former status, provided certain conditions of the labor market were met.” Over the last 30 years, at least 37 states have enacted laws permitting the use of convict labor by private enterprise, with an average pay of $0.93 to $4.73 per day.” [snip]

    “Some of the largest and most powerful corporations have a stake in the expansion of the prison labor market, including but not limited to IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. Between 1980 and 1994 alone, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Since the prison labor force has likely grown since then, it is safe to assume that the profits accrued from the use of prison labor have reached even higher levels.

    http://www.alternet.org/story/151732/21st-century_slaves%3A_how_corporations_exploit_prison_labor

  75. Ché Pasa permalink
    June 30, 2017

    Well, Wendy, when prisons operate as profit centers for corporate interest through use of slave labor or through contracts ensuring near capacity at all times, pecuniary interest overrides public interest. The privately run immigration camps and prisons appear to be even more lucrative to our Overlords. The objective then is to keep them full and to maintain conditions as punishing, harsh and brutal as needs be to ensure docile and compliant inmates.

    Recidivism is a feature not a bug.

    It has very little or nothing to do with punishing for crime.

    More like punishing for being the wrong color, wrong class, or simple bad luck.

  76. Peter permalink
    June 30, 2017

    @WD

    It’s necessary for hyperbole such as, slavery in the prison industries, for some people to warp some of the facts to fit their cause. The fact is that private company prison industries are required by law to pay minimum wage. The states/prisons garnish that wage to pay for things like victim restitution and inmate upkeep that taxpayers would otherwise have to cover. The inmates get what they get but the ones who work inside seem to do somewhat better outside. The nonprofit state work program in California takes 40% of inmate wages to help cover these public costs.

    The inmate strike over bad food and slave wages was pathetic but at least they didn’t follow the example of the illegal aliens detainees in Texas who murdered a guard for their cause.

  77. wendy davis permalink
    June 30, 2017

    @ Ché Pasa: first, thanks for reminding me of the word ‘pecuniary’; i’ve forgotten so many words by now…

    but somehow, i’d left out the long list of military products inmates make for the Pentagon and i’m too lazy to go back and find it again. yes, the ICE prisons (mainly GEO, iirc) were said to have ‘shares rising’ once Trump, but i reckon they were doin’ just fine under obama.

    but yes, once one sees the make-up of the out of control US carceral project is largely non-violent drug users, sellers, dissidents (political prisoners), debtors (yes, class), ‘failures to appear for bench warrants’ (didn’t every family say, in baltimore have 20 bullshit ones on average?). but then factor in the stats that ‘the sentencing project’ folks bring to bear as per disparate sentences for POC for similar crimes, how many have been serving decades’ worth of life sentences, then released due to new dna evidence, recanted ‘eye witness testimony’, etc., and you have quite a ballgame.

    i saw a chart recently from he self-same sentencing project at CP that the author labeled:

    “‘Graph: while Americans are heroically adept at internalizing systematic social repression, the facts of (1) having the largest relative and absolute carceral populations in world history and (2) their social-categorical composition being (a) the poor and near poor and (b) people of color, should give even bourgeois social-illiterates pause. Of note is that this system grew regardless of which political party occupied the White House from the mid-1970s until recently. Source: The Sentencing Project.”

    the author, rob urie, was attempting to ballast his arguments/analyses concerning the term ‘centrism’, so then this:

    As such, and borrowing from Antonio Gramsci, ‘centrism’ is the social realm from which ‘legitimate’ social discourse is intended to proceed. (Enter class relations). It implies a series of moveable rationales that support ruling class interests. The rightward trajectory of the American political center has been put forward as an issue by issue compromise when the direction implies that specific interests are guiding it. And technocrats provide the patina of rationality needed to convert socially destructive policy choices like the Iraq War and neoliberalism into the centrist view. ”

    but as the old parable notes:

    ‘give a man a fish, feed him for a day…
    but *teach* a man how to fight off the gang-bangers who run the prisons
    fuck him over even further as a prison slave…
    and you’ve got him for life.’

    dayum, i need some zzzzleep.

  78. realitychecker permalink
    June 30, 2017

    All I’m going to say is, I’ve got about 45 years of experience and commitment on these issues, and have explored every niche there is, including all those raised above, and I know we could expand rhis endlessly, and I’m too tired and not interested enough to have an unfocused or mios-focused discussion as this has turned out to be so far.

    I will just point out that:

    1. I said the stove example was an extreme one, and I also qualified in several ways what punishement, aka CONSEQUENCES, means to me. But one and all jump to assuming I want to use extreme cruel methods, when the only specific one I referred to was making convicts work for their upkeep like everybody else.

    2. Oh, and I abhor the private prison industry as well.

    3. Reliability and IMMEDIACY of punishment are key factors in using it, as any psychologist knows.

    4. This discussion would require some sublety, but I see it won’t be had here, so I’m out.

  79. Willy permalink
    July 1, 2017

    One good thing about prisoners slaving for corporations, it gives them a realistic taste of what’s waiting for them with those companies when their ‘internship’ is done.

    I once believed in equal punishments for equal crimes. But psychopaths are notoriously incorrigible. Since they don’t respond to punishments, shouldn’t we be experimenting with them to see what works? As for any mistaken innocents, the risks are quickly lessening. The brain scans are getting pretty good.

  80. Peter permalink
    July 1, 2017

    @D

    I saw where you reprinted my comment about our coming Agriculture Planet needed to feed the new billions of hungry people. Don’t despair, it’s needed and organic farming is thriving along with it and will continue to grow so long as there are affluent people to demand it. The US farming shouldn’t change much because most of the conversion has already happened. There will be a large loss of natural diversity elsewhere in the world but people must eat.

    I wonder where you get your information on the condition of our farmlands especially those in the Mid West. There has been a revolution in corn/soy farming in the last twenty years with the introduction of no-till practices. The plant residue is shredded and left on the field to protect the soil and only the seed row is disturbed during planting. The soil becomes rich and friable with healthy microorganisms, it holds water better and dramatically reduces soil erosion. The soil is not disturbed so it doesn’t release as much CO2 and there is no weed tillage so the tractor doesn’t release as much CO2. This system does rely on Roundup ready GM corn seed because the weeds are controlled by spraying. The Roundup doesn’t appear to penetrate into the soil or do any damage and using this method farmers are harvesting 200 bushels/acre from corn on corn plantings. They are expecting more improvements and projecting they can produce 300 bushels/acre in the future.

  81. Willy permalink
    July 1, 2017

    Meanwhile, the people at the center of the Epipen scandal (assume everyone knows the story – extortion, avoidance of taxes, collusion with government, executive pay, basically all that’s wrong with the current state of free capitalism), after all the outcry, with company shares having dropped by half, haven’t changed a bit.

  82. wendy davis permalink
    July 1, 2017

    i was musing last night about not only who’s ‘inside’ but shouldn’t be, but of course ‘who’s NOT inside, but certainly should be.

    recalling that banking regulator william black’s team had jailed hundreds during the S&L debacle, i went hunting to refresh my lame memory. at bill moyer’s place he’d said:

    “William Black:
    Sure. The savings and loan debacle was one-seventieth the size of the current crisis, both in terms of losses and the amount of fraud. In that crisis, the savings and loan regulators made over 30,000 criminal referrals, and this produced over 1,000 felony convictions in cases designated as “major” by the Department of Justice. But even that understates the degree of prioritization, because we, the regulators, worked very closely with the FBI and the Justice Department to create a list of the top 100 — the 100 worst fraud schemes. They involved roughly 300 savings and loans and 600 individuals, and virtually all of those people were prosecuted. We had a 90 percent conviction rate, which is the greatest success against elite white-collar crime (in terms of prosecution) in history.”

    and yet none of the fraudsters went to jail post-2008 meltdown. but i got to wondering if all white collar criminals go to minimum security prisons, in the way ‘all dogs go to heaven’?

    but why didn’t any of them go to jail? in 2012 we discovered why, and it’s a doozy:

    Lanny Breuer, head of the DoJ’s Criminal Prosecution Division, explained it all away in a speech to the NYC Bar Association on September 14.:

    “One of the reasons why deferred prosecution agreements are such a powerful tool is that, in many ways, a DPA has the same punitive, deterrent, and rehabilitative effect as a guilty plea: when a company enters into a DPA with the government, or an NPA for that matter, it almost always must acknowledge wrongdoing, agree to cooperate with the government’s investigation, pay a fine, agree to improve its compliance program, and agree to face prosecution if it fails to satisfy the terms of the agreement. All of these components of DPAs are critical for accountability.”

    lord luv a duck. like santa, lanny ‘sees you when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good…so he Knows you’ll be good’.

    http://alturl.com/uebva

  83. Ché Pasa permalink
    July 3, 2017

    Of course the savings and loan thing affected far fewer people than the financial crash of 2007-9 when tens of millions of Americans were forced into poverty — where most of them still are and where they will remain for most of their shortened lives.

    Isn’t that “punishment?” What did they do to “deserve” it? Most of them, nothing — they were simply caught up in the crash and the absolute necessity to pay off the banks and the financial speculators for their gambling debts. The money had to come from the pockets of the Rabble. There was no other way.

    What little money we had was in a local savings and loan back in the day and like so many others, ours ran into severe financial problems, and they had to close, selling off their assets to some outfit — I forget who — that offered accounts to this S&L’s depositors but without the benefits of a savings and loan. We didn’t lose what we had on deposit, which was nice, but we didn’t go for the account with the new guy (which also eventually closed and their officers were accused of fraud IIRC.) We transferred our banking to a credit union and never looked back.

    Investors lost money and officers went to jail. And the Savings and Loan industry disappeared.

    Not so in the more recent unpleasantness.

    People by the millions lost their homes, their jobs and their savings. Most have never recovered and never will. Almost no one went to jail for fraud and all the other fictions they were perpetrating, and it’s unlikely they ever will. Most of the worst players were bailed out and continue to operate, eager to return to their old ways — which they think will happen sooner under Trump, but they could be wrong.

    The losers were the Rabble. No one in a policy making position ever thought to bail them out.

    Of course not. Thanks Obama! (Yes, I hold him responsible; but he had a whole lot of help, didn’t he?)

  84. wendy davis permalink
    July 3, 2017

    @ Ché Pasa

    yes, bill black had said that the control fraud in the 2008 banking meltdown was 70 times higher than the s&l fraud days. i remember paying close attention to, and writing about not only O’s version of the televised Pecora Commision hearings; his was the 3-day ‘angelides hearings’, which so fuckedly ended in the white house tanking anything that looked like restoring actually meaningful re-regulations…ended in the craptastic ‘dodd-frank’ act. no ‘restore glass-steagall’, no mooting the ‘commodity futures modernization act’, really…nuttin. who cares if herr Trump voids dodd-frank, really?

    it’s just one more step into total inverted totalitarianism, isn’t it?

    but yeppers, it was down to bubba clinton and obama. and bubba’s wife’s choice to head the CFTC, brooksley born…tried to warn the world, and got fired for her trouble.

    thanks for seeing the truth, Ché. and ha, ha, happy independence day…tomorrow.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodity_Futures_Modernization_Act_of_2000

  85. Peter permalink
    July 3, 2017

    @CP

    Oversimplifying makes it easier to finger point and assign guilt but the whole story of the great recession may be even more depressing. Home owners often colluded with the mortgage brokers and some borrowed even more than their house was worth while some lied about their income to cover that inflated house price. Even those people who didn’t collude along with those who did managed to syphon out about 4 trillion dollars in cash from their inflated home equity before the price bubble burst. Many of these people were stuck with the innovative mortgage products they had used to cash in such as the deadly ARM. No one could refinance at the current value of their house so they were stuck and faced foreclosure. Some maybe many of these people walked away form losing their homes with tens of thousands of dollars from equity that they were never required to repay or return.

    Some people lost their homes because of job loss due to the recession which is unfortunate but it happens even in the best of times. The idea that the worst players, the banks and loan companies that originated many of these loans, were bailed out is false,. About 60 notable banks and other financial institutions failed and went bankrupt in ’08 and ’09 because of these mortgages and these were multi million to multi billion dollar businesses. The MOTUs did get the bailout because of being TBTF, I don’t like it either but it is reality.

  86. Ché Pasa permalink
    July 4, 2017

    Oddly, though Our Rulers want us to believe otherwise, it is not Divinely Ordained that the Rabble be punished for the sins of their Masters.

    That’s the way our system has worked of late, but it is a matter of policy — which can be changed — and nothing more.

    The policies imposed and enforced during the financial unraveling put the screws to the working and lower classes to preserve, protect and defend the wealth and power of those at the top.

    It’s not the natural order of things, it is the way it was made to be.

    It could have been changed at any time, it can still be changed, but not by the current Ruling Clique.

  87. wendy davis permalink
    July 4, 2017

    @ Ché Pasa: no, hijacking the wealth and labor of the Rabble classes in not either divinely ordained nor natural law. but as i’ve been reading about the collective framers’ intent while creating the declaration of independence, as well as the constitution, it was thus ‘ordained’. but today is a good day to reflect on all of it, no? especially as to ‘who and what was protected’, ‘who got f’ed over’, etc.
    howard zinn has spent a lot of time examining both.

    i’d thought to bring some links into liar’s loans, especially by wm. k. black, but it really doesn’t matter now, does it?

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