Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Morality of Capitalism

In a recent facebook discussion with my cousin, she presented me with the following quote from "The Omnivore’s Dilemma": "A tension has always existed between the capitalist imperative to maximize efficiency at any cost and the moral imperatives of culture, which historically have served as a counterweight to the moral blindness of capitalism - the tendency over time for the economic impulse to erode the moral underpinnings of society." I would challenge that premise as a whole. To say that "a tension has always existed between the capitalist imperative to maximize efficiency at any cost and the moral imperatives of culture, which historically have served as a counterweight to the moral blindness of capitalism - the tendency over time for the economic impulse to erode the moral underpinnings of society" is at once to imply that capitalism is fundamentally immoral (when it is at worst amoral) and that without capitalism we would have a more moral society. I'll address the first issue of the morality of capitalism. I posit that capitalism is at worst amoral. Capitalism doesn't care if you're an atheist, a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Liberal, a Conservative or any other label people use to identify themselves with a moral or ideological framework. Capitalism's only concern is that you can provide a good or a service in exchange for someone else's goods or services through mutual consent. If there is any moral underpinning to capitalism it is that it is immoral to use physical force, threat of force, or any other form of coercion to obtain the goods and services of others. Capitalism may be morally blind, but it is also justly blind. The second issue: Would we have a more moral society without capitalism? This is a more philosophical question and one that is harder to answer because it is more subjective to what each person uses to define morality. Under capitalism it is easier to fall prey to the sins of greed and envy. The wealthy and the prosperous may become obsessed with obtaining more wealth and without some framework of morality to reign in their baser instincts they may succumb to over indulgence in the vices their wealth allows them to obtain. The Poor in turn fall prey to the sin of Envy in coveting that which their neighbor owns for themselves and could lead to a destructive cycle of wanting, hopelessness, and low self-image. Without a similarly strong moral framework providing the poor with a sense of self worth and hope they may never find the motivation to maximize the gifts they have which be turned into something of value to be traded with their fellow man for something else of personal value for indeed they may have no sense of value other than the glitter of another man's idols. But what morality is there to be found in other systems of economics or government. None that I have seen, but I have certainly seen many that are a lot more unjust. But in context of our debate, your it seemed to me that her prime disagreement with capitalism is that capitalism encourages wasteful and poisonous consumption of natural resources in the pursuit of wealth for a select few at the expense of many and that the only effective counterweight to this unbridled greed is government legislation or regulation in terms of what one can produce, how they can produce it, and how much they profit from its production before they must be forced into giving their "excess" wealth to others. But here I see no more morality or justice than anywhere else, especially in our government. Are capitalists greedy and unconcerned with the little people far removed from their glass towers? Yes, but what makes our federal government any less greedy or detached? Let’s take some examples from our recent economic crisis. The Obama Administration wishes to vilify "greedy corporate bankers" for causing the current economic collapse by trading in securities for risky home loan investments. We agree that home prices were being inflated because there was a larger demand for homes than there was for the number of homes that were available. Why was this? I believe it was because of "Fair Housing Laws" enacted under the Clinton Administration and the federally subsidized lending companies Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. Under fair housing laws, regular banks were encouraged to make risky loans to people with a higher probability of defaulting on their loans. Similarly Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac were created to make home loans to similarly risky people but the loans are guaranteed by the Federal Government. Fannie and Freddie operate as private businesses but their capital comes from tax dollars and their board of directors is made by political appointment. So now we have a housing market full of over inflated assets because you've artificially increased the number of buyers beyond what the market would have naturally supported. Banks, realizing they could not shoulder the weight of the risky loans themselves bundled all of their home loans up into securities and sold them to larger investment banks. The large investment banks saw it as an investment because as more houses were sold at inflated prices they were able to make larger profits that they assumed would cover their losses even if a certain number of people defaulted on their home loans. In short this was an artificially inflated bubble created by the government and as the economy naturally slowed more people defaulted on their mortgages than the system could support and the whole system came crashing down because the houses were now less worth than the amount of the loans they were purchased for. And what was the federal government's response? Chastise the bankers for making risky loans to begin with even though they were coerced into doing so and bailout the banks that were "too big to fail" with borrowed money from other countries and increasing our national debt.
But it refuses to reign in Fannie and Freddie. Not only does the government continue to permit Fannie and Freddie to make risky loans, but it encourages them to with the use of your tax dollars. Last year Barack Obama signed into law a provision that says no matter how much money Fannie and Freddie lose, the government will cover their losses with federal tax dollars. People want to scream about the bonuses that AIG and others paid out after accepting federal bailout funds? Where was the similar indignation as federal appointees too millions in compensation as the heads of Fannie and Freddie? Those are your dollars and my dollars. The fruit of our labor, lives, and experience. The government owns no assets of its own. It produces nothing of value that anyone is willing to trade for voluntarily. All it can do is coerce and manipulate. That is why our Constitution was designed to reign in government, not people. But it is not perfect. The authority of the Constitution is only as good as our collective belief in it and the willingness of our elected representatives to follow it faithfully. For too long we have accepted the infallibility of our representatives and their actions because we believe in the infallibility of our Constitution. To me, the truly greedy are those who take from others and not only try to tip the playing field to their advantage, but also right the rules and referee game to ensure the outcome they desire. That's true greed.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sex, Lies, and Red Tape

Just a couple of things from the news this morning that got my attention. The first is Jenny Sanford's statement regarding her husband's infidelity. Most of you know that I was born without a heart so I was incredibly surprised to be moved by it. She seems like a truly lovely woman and I'm touched by her ability to handle this with dignity, grace, and understanding. Her remarkable ability to forgive her husband and simultaneously draw a firm line about what part of his behaviour she's willing to put up with is inspiring to me. This is a stark contrast to the bitterness and vindictiveness that marks most public (and private) break-ups. Truly Mark Stanford will deserve the public flogging he'll recieve in the next few weeks until he's driven from the news cycle. His true punishment will be to watch the destruction of every good thing he's done crumble around him as the foundations of his credibility are washed away in the flood nor should he recive the dignified demise of falling on his sword but instead take the public pilloring he's due. But at the end of it, I hope that Jenny is still there. Does she deserve better than him? Does he deserve a woman as good as her? Absolutely not. But that is beauty of grace and forgivness. You always get far better than you deserve. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_sc_governor_wife_s_statement

Secondly is Obamacare. His infomercial on ABC last night is simply horrifying to me. It sounds like America is Obama's Buger King. He's going to have it his way. A couple of really distressing things from last night are Obama's non-answer to a woman who asked if the elderly will still have the ability to pursue risky proceedures to extend their life if they so choose and Obama's presumtion that it's the insurance providers who need to be "kept honest."To elaborate, one question the President recieved a woman stood up and said that her 90 y/o grandmother had recieved a pacemaker and lived to be 103. Under his plan, would she still have that option. The President offered a long winded response that ultimately said those kinds of decisions would be made by a panel of "experts." This is anathma to me. I don't want my healthcare to be decided by any panel expert or otherwise. I may want that panel to tell me what their recommendations are and maybe what some prudent options are, but ultimately I want the best care I can pay for and based on my determination of what I want my quality of life to be. That determination should not rest with some politically appointed panel making decisons based on spreadsheets or flowcharts of data trying to predict what my quality of life will be or weather I'm too risky or too expensive to even bother with. The other think that really irked me was when Diane Sawyer turned to Ron Williams, CEO of Aetna, and questioned him about Obama's assertion that it's the insurance companies that need to be kept honest. That the man actually responded with a polite response is a miracle in my eyes. It's a fallacious assumption by the President that insurance companies are the problem and it's disingenuous to lay whatever failings there may be in the health care system at their feet. And then to say the only way to make the game fair is to give the referee the ball (sorry, I know everyone else is using it. I can't think of a better analogy) is simply mind blowing to me. Why Mr. Williams didn't turn it right back around on the President and ask him who's going to keep the Federal Government honest I'll never know. The really sad thing is, we're going to get this "public-option" (nice way to play with words and direct the focus away from the real definition of state sponsored health care) weather we want it or not. Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security were just the camel getting his nose in the tent. This "public option" is the whole hump.



Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Our Holy Father Obama and the Church of the Misconception

It is troubling the levels of sycophantic insanity to which the enthusiastic supporters of President Obama will sink. This week on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris “Tingly Legs” Matthews, Newsweek editor Evan Thomas likened Mr. Obama to God.

“Well, we were the good guys in 1984, it felt that way. It hasn't felt that way in recent years. So Obama's had, really, a different task We're seen too often as the bad guys. And he, he has a very different job from ... Reagan was all about America, and you talked about it. Obama is - we are above that now. We're not just parochial, we're not just chauvinistic, we're not just provincial. We stand for something, I mean in a way Obama's standing above the country, above above the world, he's sort of God.”

This is the same Evan Thomas who was so awe-struck by the “creepy cult of personality” surrounding then President-elect Obama after his acceptance speech in Denver on the Charlie Rose Show. He is not just comparing Obama to some abstract concept of an omniscient deity, perhaps one of many in a kaleidoscopic pantheon that includes Zeus, Odin, Vishnu, and Jeff the God of Biscuits. He is likening him to the Big G. The one Rush Limbaugh evokes with a deep and reverent “Gawd-uh.” Charlie Rose and guests marveled in amazement at how Obama “watches us watching him.” What is most disturbing about this unholy obsession from those who usually scorn such reverent adulation in others is not the inability of the Obama faithful to view him objectively, but rather that Barack Obama’s most zealous disciple is himself.

Camille Paglia observes in her article on Salon.com this month that Obama “projected himself as a floating spectator of other people's beliefs” and wonders how he can deliver a major statement on religion and remain so detached from it. However, she does not make the connection that the President see himself as detached from everything including the consequences of his own policies. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act should have been manna from heaven as America wandered in the wilderness in the wake of the devastating plagues wrought by George W Bush. Despite the promise of a stimulus package of porcine proportions, the economy refuses to be converted. Unemployment has risen to 9.4%, the highest rate in 27 years. In May the economy shed an additional 345, 000 jobs and 2.7 million in 2009. For his next miracle, President Obama will transform these losses into gains by creating 600,000 jobs in the next 100 days. Obama’s powers are not just limited to creating jobs from ether. He can also turn the hearts of our enemies and convince them to beat their nukes into plowshares. He need only to complete an act of contrition of biblical proportions by bowing and scraping his way across Europe and the Middle East in recent months, begging forgiveness for the sins of American exceptionalism and success and consecrate it with sacrifice Israeli national security. An American official in Israel offered this in eulogy. “We are going to change the world. Please don’t interfere.” He did everything but sweat blood. How do our enemies’ respond? North Korea threatens to wage merciless nuclear war and the Taliban killed 9 and wounded 60 in a truck bomb attack against a luxury hotel in Peshawar, Pakistan.

President Obama is a man who sees America as a place of failure, inequality, cruelty, and intolerance. The only true emotional fervor that the President seems to espouse is for his own political ideology, which I suspect, is his true religion. To him, America is a land of social "sins" in need of repentance and salvation. He is the Messiah above it all, equally common man and wholly devoid of the ignorance that condemns us. He is the one sent to absolve us of our sins and will usher in a New America made in his image. Pray this doesn’t happen.




Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How Government Limits Free Choice


A friend asked me today how President Obama would seek to limit a person's free choice and we didn't have much time to get into it. Well Friend, if you see this, this is how. By seeking seeking to tax or increase taxes on items that consumers willfully purchase will change consumers' spending habits. By creating "vice" taxes the government is essentially dictating to you what is good for you and what isn't regardless of your ability to assess risk and reward for yourself. The government further usurps individual responsibility and choice in a national health care system by limiting the services one can receive. The same goes for taxing private Health Savings Accounts. HSA's were conceived to give the individual more discretion in the services you wish to receive by letting the individual stockpile money in a secure location for the expressed purpose of receiving the care the individual desires. By taxing an individual's HSA to raise revenue for a
national health care system the government limits the individual's choice by depriving him of rightfully earned resources to spend as he chooses. The revenue raised is then distributed to others under the national health plan with limited services for the user to choose from. I'll gladly and respectfully field questions from those who disagree with my assessment.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Waterboard Me to Support Our Troops

I've just created a new group on facebook. It's cleverly titled Waterboard Me to Support Our Troops. It began after learning of Keith Olbermann's challenge to Sean Hannity. For every second that Hannity is waterboarded, Olbermann will pay $1,000 to charities that support our troops who have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. It doesn't appear that Hannity has accepted the offer, but even if he doesn't I will. I believe this is a great opportunity to raise money for our troops and should this cause grow large enough I will pledge every red cent raised to the specifically named charities. I haven't picked the charities yet, but a few good ones would be the Wounded Warrior Program and David Feherty hosts IED events for soldiers who have lost limbs to IED's.


Obviously neither of these organizations has to support waterboarding or even have a stance on it, but I would give them the money just the same, condition free.

Here's a copy of my letter to Mr. Olbermann
Mr. Olbermann,
I have read the terms in your challenge to Mr. Hannity regarding waterboarding. I am offering a counter proposal to have myself waterboarded. In full disclosure, I am a former U.S. Marine and I have been SERE training, but I was not and never have been waterboarded.. In addition to you paying $1,000 dollars to charities that directly support U.S. troops that have been wounded or killed in Iraq or Afghanistan and their families I will get sponsors to match your funds. Same conditions apply, an independent observer, it can be live or taped, and I have to confess something like Obama is not a socialist (which I believe he is and his policies reflect). Same conditions apply to the doubling of the funds, I have to admit that I was afraid for my life or that waterboarding is torture. As a counter proposal, if at the end I do not admit to waterboarding being torture or feel afraid for my life, you agree to go through SERE school and the money still goes to vetted charities.
I make this offer in all seriousness. I am arguing to let waterboarding continue and once and for all define what torture is. Being hung from ropes and tied into positions that work against the natural motions of the body in such a way that causes long term physical disability is torture. The use of blowtorches, hot metal, electrical current, and sharp implements to cause prolonged agony and permanent disfiguration of a person is torture. The use of violent machines to do the same is torture. The conditions that children trapped in abusive homes live with daily is torture. Simulated drowning is designed to cause emotional distress to a person as is the whole apparatus of detainment. The detainee is meant to be uncomfortable and disoriented and made to feel that their captors are in complete control. I'm not arguing that it is a pleasant or positive experience in any way. But I personally don't care about the emotional well-being of a person who has sworn his life to kill me. And if that person has information that if extracted will save U.S. lives I am all in favor of letting him think he's going to drown. In a controlled condition and under professional supervision the detainee's life is not actually at risk. Waterboarding effective in gathering useful intelligence that prevents another 9-11 type attack or any attack on U.S. citizens for that matter. Let's let the public decide what waterboarding is and if it is worth it. I look forward to hearing from you and your team.
Adam Guevara

**Other than serving proudly for 5 years with the United States Marine Corps I am not affilitated with the USMC. The views expressed here are mine and have not been reviewd or authorized by the USMC.**

And here's the link to the Olbermann Challenge

Anyone coming across this blog, feel free to voice your support. I want to turn this into a huge movement and raise money for our troops. It won't take everybody getting waterboarded, just people pledging their support.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ghosts in the Underground

"No one here can make a sound. We're just ghosts in this town. We are standing in the trenches of the new underground. All the walls are comin' down, we're still hanging around. We are diggin' in the trenches of the new underground...".

I Couldn't Care Less

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Ghosts in the Underground. I will be honest with you, I have no illusions that my view is anything new or more profound than the views of anyone else. I don't expect that my little blog will set the world on fire or start a revolution of thinking. In fact I don't expect that I'll say anything here that you haven't heard before (and probably in a better package to boot). What I do intend to do is provide a resource and a spark for debate and inspire critical thinking. My hope is to keep things timely, relevant, and accurate.

Starting a blog is a very sketchy proposition. They're cheesy, they're fad-ish, and they're everywhere. I originally started out posting links to my facebook page and providing my own commentary. I quickly discovered that the format was very limited and rarely allowed me to add the level of comment that I wished and didn't really have to option to tie several stories in together.

So now here I am sporting a blog, hoping to separate myself from the chaff. I'm only going to post one link for today. I don't want to over-reach. This link is to the Institute for American Liberty and a speech in particular titled "The Americans Who Risked Everything."

The Institute for American Liberty is non-profit organization and I share their goal of promoting the principles and ideals of the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United States. I'll be expounding on all of these in later posts and relate them to current events. Until then, please read this speech. I hope you too will reflect on the sacrifice of these 56 men and their families made that each and everyone of us and millions more around the world have directly benefited from. They believed so deeply that the rights of the individual as equal to that of any other person and supreme to any government that they willingly, defiantly, and courageously put risked their lives, families, and homes to certain destruction. How many of us today would be willing to risk that much today to preserve the liberties they secured for us?

I know I would.