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Split Topic: How free is the US economy?

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Obama is the most explicit Marxist / Nihilist President we have ever had, and with a better culture, he could have been impeached before he did any real damage.

Yet... I can still buy things at the store and my tax rate is still pretty low (~30% overall?) and the stock market opens every day and the forex market is still open and most of our means of production are still in private hands and basically nothing significant has changed in anybody's daily life in the last three years.

This sort of retarded hyperbole accomplishes the opposite of what we want...

Edited by brian0918

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I mostly agree with this.

On the other hand, Obamacare will happen and I believe it will have significant negative effects on health care in this country; it's designed to break the private insurance market and get people to "realize" they need single payer. It's a sort of "delayed blast" bomb that has already been set to go off.

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On the other hand, Obamacare will happen and I believe it will have significant negative effects on health care in this country; it's designed to break the private insurance market and get people to "realize" they need single payer. It's a sort of "delayed blast" bomb that has already been set to go off.

If the SCOTUS tosses out the whole thing, and there is good reason to hope that will happen, the whole Obama administration will be looked back on as fairly harmless. The decision is due in June, and if it’s thumbs down, Obama’s going to have lots of egg on his face going into campaign season. So, have hope, cheer up!

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You know, it is one thing to call me a kook because I posted an hyped up article on Obama's birth certificate; and it yet another thing for me an other Objectivists to be called a kook for pointing out that Obama et al follow and preach Marxist political philosophy and want to impose Marxism on the rest of us. What do you have to do, be thrown into a gulag before you learn to think in terms of principles and to take ideas seriously? It has been pointed out time and time again that the political philosophy of the Left comes straight out of the Communist Manifesto -- but that's OK, because it is only abstract ideas and have nothing to do with the daily lives of Americans. Obama is aiming towards a government controlled economy and Pelosi is aiming to curtail political speech -- but that's OK because the trains run on time. Get real!

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you really believe that?

You really don't? Can you name one major industry in the USA that has been nationalized? If so I must have been in the can while that happened, because I missed it.

Folks, over-blowing our problems is just as false as any sort of falsehood, and falsehoods are the enemy of truth, and it's only the truth and reason which will lead our country to freedom.

Imagining that we are somehow Soviet Russia or that Obama is some sort of Communist that will soon nationalize everything is just lame. There are plenty of things to be concerned about right now in our country without making up a bunch of problems that don't exist.

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You really don't? Can you name one major industry in the USA that has been nationalized? If so I must have been in the can while that happened, because I missed it.

The fact that the means of production are in private hands does not mean they are in private control, i.e. that individuals are able to make economic decisions free of government coercion. The difference between socialism and fascism is simply one of explicitness.

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Yes, our privately-owned corporations are in varying degrees or regulation, some heavy, some almost not at all. That's a far, far cry from government-controlled and/or owned. Get real. I find people throwing their hands up and saying, "we're under socialist dictatorship now" defeatist. Success in this battle will come from laser-focused correction not blurry-eyed despair.

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Can you name one major industry in the USA that has been nationalized? If so I must have been in the can while that happened, because I missed it.

What would qualify as “nationalized”, in your view? Obamacare, the auto bailout…look up what happened to BB&T during the bailout of the banks. If it needs to look exactly like October 1917 to satisfy you, then indeed, the free market is still looking peachy as ever.

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Yes, our privately-owned corporations are in varying degrees or regulation, some heavy, some almost not at all. That's a far, far cry from government-controlled and/or owned.

I've started and run businesses and promise you it is not a "far cry" from being government owned and controlled. I can follow my own beliefs and philosophy less then 50% of the time without running afoul of regulation. This is to say nothing of the amount of my production I am able to actually keep nor does it compare in anyway to the kinds of regulations larger companies than mine, in almost all industries are subjected to or the amount of taxes that are paid through the double whammy of a 50% tax on profits with a 38% capital gains tax on the remainder. The government controls and owns far more of the economy than most communist rulers could ever have hoped for, not least of which is banking and oil which are secondary ways of taxing and controlling what is allowed to exist.

I agree with you about not being too defeatist but you shouldn't kid yourself about how far gone it is or how difficult the challenge we face is either. They've been very successful at hiding the governments involvement from the 99% of people who are employees. With automatic withholding and a relative lack of regulation on private individuals it is not very apparent how completely controlled we are but we very much are.

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[...]

The government controls and owns far more of the economy than most communist rulers could ever have hoped for, not least of which is banking and oil which are secondary ways of taxing and controlling what is allowed to exist.

[...]

That's just insane.

Maybe I'm taking everybody too literally? Maybe it's like we're in totalitarian dictatorship, but by that you mean "much worse than it really ought to be"?

Personally I like to use my terms exactly. When I think of the term socialism, I think of actual government ownership of the means of production, not a system so annoying and inconvenient that it seems that way sometimes.

If you call what we have now socialism, what do you call what Hungary or Venezuela or Cuba has? Ultra-ultra-ultra-super-duper Socialism?

What we have, defined correctly, is a mixed economy, or a welfare state if you like. We can argue about where it may go in the future if we don't stop it (and if, for instance, we all decide to live in a fantasy land where terms no longer have meaning), but the reality of the here and now is that this is not totalitarianism, and insofar as things like the iPad and the Tesla car and Facebook are allowed to come into being, there's no way we can call this "socialism".

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First, I never said totalitarian dictatorship. What they do is way more sloppy. Less efficient.(I'm assuming here you mean north korea or something like that) Compare collected tax rates between the US and China or anywhere else in the world. We are near the top in collections with more successful regulatory bureaucracies because we have the money for enforcement.

The fact that things come into existence is neither here nor there. China produces a lot of the worlds goods. Doesn't make them not communist or not a controlled economy.

My guess is that you're holding a more dichotomous view than I or maybe others. Free vs Dictatorship or something like that. Successful statism relies heavily on the fascist approach of allowing freedom to the extent that it serves the political needs of those writing or buying the laws. It's more blurry and gray but no less infringing. This is all pretty far of topic so I'll just end now and say that it is far, far more than inconvenience that businesses deal with. An inconvenience is pulling a permit or spending three days on tax forms. I'm talking about arbitrary rules that can put you out of business over night through no fault of your own. These problems are real and pervasive.

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What we have, ... ... , is a mixed economy, or a welfare state if you like. We can argue about where it may go in the future if we don't stop it ... ...
A mixed-economy spans a continuum from mostly free-market in most areas to so many controls across so many industries that it is close to socialism. So, I suppose the first question is: in which direction have we been moving recently? Wouldn't you agree that post-"great recession" (and probably through Bush's term too) the U.S. has been moving closer to Europe, along the free-statist axis?

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A mixed-economy spans a continuum from mostly free-market in most areas to so many controls across so many industries that it is close to socialism. So, I suppose the first question is: in which direction have we been moving recently? Wouldn't you agree that post-"great recession" (and probably through Bush's term too) the U.S. has been moving closer to Europe, along the free-statist axis?

Not in any huge way, no. Recall that the response to this Depression, unlike the last one, had a relatively lukewarm response from the stimulus perspective. It was much smaller than the leftists wanted, and it basically didn't work--making the whole idea of stimulus look very bad and making people very adverse to trying it ever again. Contrast this, for instance, with the absolutely massive changes across our entire society that FDR imposed (SS and Medicare aka 50% of the Federal budget, and 95% of the part we actually don't want ). The response in Europe to the latter-day downturns there has been austerity, not massive government stimulus and expansion.

So no, based on the responses to the crises, I'd say the response shows a pretty significant shift toward smaller governments if for no other reason than the "default" response has not been implemented.

To be sure, I'm not in any way trying to say everything is fine, but rather trying to be a bit more accurate about where and what the enemy is... Fighting the last Depression's war will only lead to defeat...

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I think part of the problem with this thread so far is that posters are relating how the US is NOW, and not projecting what it will be like if the ideas from the Left and the far Right are taken seriously and implemented. Depending on what you are doing in your life and whether or not you run a company, life isn't all that bad here. I mean, I am not harassed by the police and have never been in trouble with the law and I'm 54 years old -- and I write against the government policies quite often. However, when you have Nancy Pelosi wanting to curtail political freedom of speech for those she is most against (corporations she wants to rule over) and when you have Obama spreading lies that capitalism doesn't work (due to him throttling it with regulations) and wanting total control of the country via Presidential mandates, then one has to take pause and use the skills that Ayn Rand taught you and morally evaluate the ideas coming out of politician's mouths (on both sides). The only thing keeping us free is the checks and balances embedded in the Constitution and that it is at least taken half-way seriously by some American's.

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Not in any huge way, no. Recall that the response to this Depression, unlike the last one, had a relatively lukewarm response from the stimulus perspective. It was much smaller than the leftists wanted, and it basically didn't work--making the whole idea of stimulus look very bad and making people very adverse to trying it ever again. Contrast this, for instance, with the absolutely massive changes across our entire society that FDR imposed (SS and Medicare aka 50% of the Federal budget, and 95% of the part we actually don't want ). The response in Europe to the latter-day downturns there has been austerity, not massive government stimulus and expansion.

So no, based on the responses to the crises, I'd say the response shows a pretty significant shift toward smaller governments if for no other reason than the "default" response has not been implemented.

To be sure, I'm not in any way trying to say everything is fine, but rather trying to be a bit more accurate about where and what the enemy is... Fighting the last Depression's war will only lead to defeat...

Were you under the impression that this depression is over?

Edited by utabintarbo

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Were you under the impression that this depression is over?

Me? No...

I think I said above, the $700b stimulus didn't work in that we're not out of what seems to continue to be a broad-based contraction. Insofar as it didn't work, that makes the idea of "stimulus" look bad. Again, compare this to the way FDR ended up looking (and yes, I know, it was about WWII and lowering our standard of living to near-slave status, but the perception at the time was that FDR and his stimulus put everybody back to work and saved the day).

And meanwhile, the European response (remember those socialists over there across the pond?) as been austerity for the countries that have held it together (a notable exception is Hungary, but that is plain-old crisis-driven dictatorship as the "socialist" message there is not being used to much effect there).

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Recall that the response to this Depression, unlike the last one, had a relatively lukewarm response from the stimulus perspective.

I would say that is because this depression hasn't actually started. We have only had a minor recession. Even in Europe where they appear to be implementing austerity, they are only hitting the tip of the iceberg. Global default on both sovereign debt and even unfunded liabilities is a necessary outcome, and it is only after the public observes that as an inevitability that we will see what the true response is like.

Observe that when polled, most people want the government out of their lives, until they are asked about specific government benefits that they happen to receive (either directly or indirectly). The negative reaction to stimulus is nice to see, but it is coming from people who are already receiving some form of unsustainable government benefit, and without which will necessarily see their living standards significantly decrease. It's one thing to complain about government when your life is comfortable, and another thing to voice those same complaints when your elderly parents are now your dependents, or you can't put food on the table and can't afford medical care. It is only then that we will see what the actual public response will look like.

Edited by brian0918

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Successful statism relies heavily on the fascist approach of allowing freedom to the extent that it serves the political needs of those writing or buying the laws

This.

But I would ammend it to the illusion of freedom.

Yes, many people might be allowed to start businesses depending on if the government allows them.

The government allows us to keep some of our paychecks- to varying degrees.

The government allows us to some extent to make decisions about how our children will be raised (although less and less every day)

The government allows us to some extent to decide where we will live (well- there's that new thing where the IRS can based merely on an accusation- no trial no proof) suspend your right to travel).

The government hasn't yet started openly slaughtering its citizens without trial (although the President now has that power)

As a business owner I make no decision that isn't in part already decided by a regulation. From the build out and decor of my place, to what equipment I use, to what hours I am allowed to operate, to what I may sell- and in my industry at what price, how I may advertise, who I may hire, what hours they can work, how much I can pay them, when they take breaks. Who I buy from is regulated and how much I may buy and what I may do with what I buy and the packing that I sell it in is determined by the government. What my restroom looks like is decided by regulations, how many I have. The sizes of the tables in my business are dictated by regulation, width, depth and height. Chairs too. And how many I may have and how large they must be. And where they are placed. The height of my ceiling. The placement of signage and what signage is allowed. Everything about my parkiing lot is regulated, despite it being private property. Government inspectors on several different levels have the authority to come in at anytime against my will to conduct searches.

I could go on, but I am out of time.

This is not freedom.

That the government is maintaining an illusion of some self determination is the scariest thing of all. Because the illusion allows the corruption to grow until it is too late.

even the wording on the paperwork one must do to start a business feeds into this.

You are endlessly reminded that these regulations and searches that seem to go against every freedom we are guaranteed are actually your choice. YOU are choosing to have all this happen because creating a livelihood for yourself is a privelege. It says it right on the forms- that being allowed to conduct business is a privelege. Some of my licenses say it too.

This is not freedom. This is not even a reasonable facsimile.

Edited for typos

Edited by SapereAude

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Not in any huge way, no. Recall that the response to this Depression, unlike the last one, had a relatively lukewarm response from the stimulus perspective. It was much smaller than the leftists wanted, and it basically didn't work--making the whole idea of stimulus look very bad and making people very adverse to trying it ever again....

I think I said above, the $700b stimulus didn't work in that we're not out of what seems to continue to be a broad-based contraction. Insofar as it didn't work, that makes the idea of "stimulus" look bad.

$700 billion is simply the amount of money that went out on the fiscal side. Let's not forget about the $7.7 trillion that the Fed lent out free to irresponsible banks Also keep in mind that number is only going to go up, what with Bernanke's plans to keep interest rates at zero until at least late 2014. Not to mention the fact that we're one more Euro-debt-crisis scare away from QE3. People attempting to evaluate the level of government involvement following this crisis ignore the monetary authorities at their own peril.

I agree with you that explicit socialism has not and will not come to America. Its credibility in the Western world is shot since the Soviet Union collapsed. However, the new incarnation of that old chestnut is government micromanagement of every aspect of the economy through infinite regulation, and it's hard to argue that this one is less dangerous, only less overt.

Edited by Dante

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We clearly have all sorts of statism across all sorts of spheres of life: education (K-12, College), finance and health-care (including FDA), food. Almost every area is covered.

However, from a historical point of view, Nixon's presidency, or Carter's, or JFK's, or Lyndon Johnson's was not great. Environmental laws were less pervasive, but unions used to be widespread. Nixon killed the last pretense of a link between the dollar and gold, and Vietnam was raging. Carter addressed rising prices with buttons that said "WIN" (Whip Inflation Now). JFK and Johnson wanted to push the welfare state: the "Great Society". And, if one goes back to Roosevelt, the controls imposed by the NRA make today seem like Atlantis.

"It's been worse" is not very comforting! Yet, the truth is that the U.S. has seen a lot of stupidity and lots of bad times, and has made it through it all. If the SCOTUS throws out Obamacare in its entirety, then Obama would have done little structural damage.

I do agree with Dante's concern about government debt and monetary madness. As a percentage of GDP, we have not seen these debt levels under Nixon, Carter, Johnson, etc. The only precedent in this century was WW-II. My biggest concern is not that these things will destroy the economy in the near future. I think they won't; so, my biggest concern is that the next few presidential terms will see governments pushing the envelope for a decade or more, with voters not doing anything serious to address the issues.

Edited by softwareNerd

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With respect, I wonder if that argument (Nixon and Carter sucked too) is valid?

One thing that makes it all so much worse now is the unprecedented (I hate to use that) in the history of the world capacity that governments have to control people. There was a time when it was plausible for a person to simply get lost. Nearly impossible now and becoming more impossible with each pasing day.

So my point is not so much that our government desires to control any more or any less than it use to- but rather that they pretty much have the ability now to do what they want, when they want and I don't think that a few armed patriots are going to be able to turn the clock back.

Look for example at bill (the full name is frightening in its Orwellian nature) MAP21

http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2012/04/23/a-black-box-in-your-car/

It not only mandates a govt accessible black box in each car made as of 2015 but also pave sthe way for the potential for the govt to fully control when you can start your vehicle.

Here's one about TSA checkpoints spreading to highways, buses and more (and from a liberal paper, lest anyone protest overuse of conservative or Teaparty sources)

http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/06/tsa-swarms-8000-bus-stations-public-transit-systems-yearly

So, is the government more inclined to tyranny than ever in history?

Debatable, certainly.

But what we do know for a fact is that more than ever the government has the ability to act on the worst inpulses those in it are inclined to.

I believe that proven capability is more to be feared than intentions.

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With respect, I wonder if that argument (Nixon and Carter sucked too) is valid?

One thing that makes it all so much worse now is the unprecedented (I hate to use that) in the history of the world capacity that governments have to control people. There was a time when it was plausible for a person to simply get lost. Nearly impossible now and becoming more impossible with each pasing day.

Something else which makes now worse is that all of those things are cumulative. We have all of FDR's communist garbage, and all of johnson's, and bush's and obama's. We didn't get rid of osha and replace it with homeland security or ditch medicaid to make room for mandated insurance purchases. we get all of them and they build on their past failures and become more intrusive than anyone who had to deal with them in 1937 or whatever.

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Yes, many people might be allowed to start businesses depending on if the government allows them.

A friend of mine is a self employed web designer and leftist guy, very much in favor of regulation. After a long and heated discussion I asked him to imagine a world where it was decided that regulating the programming of computers was in the public's best interest. So now imagine that I(who can barely spell Drupal) am politically connected enough to acquire the position of director in chief for the division of safe programming. After some difficulty with comparing different software systems I decide that C is a very useful, multifunctional language and that from now on all programs must be written in C so that we can decrease our approval turn around times for new programs that are going to be allowed to be sold to the public. So after you manage to write a program in C as best as you are able, you send it in. 6-10 weeks later, my organization sends you a letter of rejection. You file an appeal and 6 weeks later you get a hearing where it is decided that you can be allowed to sell the program if you alter about 40% of the code that is outside of regulatory standards and resubmit for final approval.

Of course, he had no answer, but that is exactly the world you live in if you try to start a business in any established industry from groceries to construction, let alone the well known, heavily regulated industries like insurance, banking, healthcare or education.

I'm not trying to make the argument that we live in a country where masked government agents break into your home in the middle of the night and shoot you. That only happens to really bad folks, like the one's who try to sell unpasteurized milk. I'm suggesting that if you die from some debilitating disease because the drug or treatment you need is tied up in the FDA for 18 years, then it doesn't really matter that you aren't being starved to death in the Ukraine. Or if you get plowed with an $80,000 OSHA fine because an employee did something stupid that you have no control over, then it doesn't really matter that you are "free" to start a construction business.

The beauty of this system is that the damage done, the amount stolen and mal-invested, the lives ruined by poor, standardized educational practices, all of it is almost completely obfuscated by this pretense of freedom and the difficulty(near impossibility, actually) of measuring opportunity cost and the fact that a pretty small subset of people are baring the majority of this burden in such a way that the vast majority never see it. Basically the freedom is there just so long as you don't try to do much of anything. If you make $400 in an ebay selling business you're probably fine. Even if you don't bother filling out a tax form. Change that to $400,000 in revenue and see how many people you need to talk to for permissions or what happens when you "make a mistake."

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