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Tragedy of the ocean commons: stocks of giant Atlantic bluefin tuna look ready to crash, like the once rich cod fishery

November 28th, 2008 No comments

Despite an 80% drop in populations of east Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna since  the mid-1970s, and continued massive overfishing above agreed quotas, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), under pressure from fishermen in the European Community,  on November 25 approved tightened 2009 fishing quotas that nevertheless exceed the recommendations of ICCAT’s own scientists by 50%.  Quotas were cut from 28,500 tonnes in 2008 to 22,000 tonnes, and the ICCAT also approved other measures designed to bring illegal fishing under control, but it is unclear whether these measures will be sufficient – particularly as illegal fishing in the past has been at multiples of quota levels.  ICCAT scientists had recommended that the quota be cut to 15,000 tonnes.

The EC praised the results, in the face of opposition by the US, Canada and Norway, which had supported the quota recommended by scientists.  Environmental groups of course were disappointed and called for tuna boycotts and suggested that all the member nations to the CITES convention (on trade in endangered species) should consider listing bluefin tuna as an endangered species – which would bring all commercial exploitation to a halt.

I looks like the pressure is on – both on the valuable bluefin tuna resource and on the relevant national governments, fishermen and consumers to better manage it.  The west Atlantic stocks of bluefin have apparently already collapsed, due to mismanagement by the US government.

As I noted on the New York Times’ Dot Earth blog:

Andy, this is an ongoing shame, the roots of which are not human greed but, as indicated by your reference to a “tragedy of the commons”, a lack of any ownership of the resource by those fishing it. The result is wasteful investment by fisherman in a race to catch fish before others do, no incentive for fishermen to invest in managing stocks sustainably, pressure by fisherman on governments for higher quotas, catches that exceed quotas, and government subsidies to keep unprofitable fishermen from losing their livelihoods. If we managed our agriculture the same way, we’d have a race to harvest, but nobody planting. More here: http://mises.org…

The answer clearly lies in finding ways to link the interests of the fishermen more closely to the resource that they rely on; while this is difficult in the case of international fisheries, there have been a number of success stories for fisheries that are managed by various countries. Transferable fishing quotas (and an ability to keep track of catches) have been the key: http://www.ifqsforfisheries.org/.

Given all of the different governments involved it may be difficult to expect agreement tighter and more meaningfully enforced quotas, but a key possibility lies with Japan, which buys most of the bluefin tuna. As the chief purchaser (of course there are a variety of private purchasers involved), Japan is in a position to insist on purchasing only tuna caught by boats that properly record their catches and to unilaterally limit its own purchases to a sustainable level. Since the Japanese do not want to see the tuna fishery collapse, they have finally begun to support tightening quotas and finding other ways to improve management of the tuna stocks: http://www.seafoodsource.com/NST-3-50140600/ICCAT-Discusses-Sharp-Tuna-Quota-Cuts.aspx

Consumer boycotts and pressure on Mediterranean governments to end subsidies to fishermen (a problem George Monbiot has noted [see the Mises link above]) are other leverage points.

Is a semi-privatization of the fishery, by allowing fishermen to transfer the quotas they receive (including purchase by interested consumer and environmental groups), possible?  Can Japanese consumers (and other sushi eaters) in particular bring pressure to bear?

More on the science of the bluefin tuna stocks here and here (the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics).

Fun with Kevin Gutzman, or, Does Citizens United apply to state limitations on what “speech” their corporations can engage in?

November 6th, 2014 No comments

Historian and Constitutional scholar Kevin Guzman posted a comment on his Facebook wall on the Citizens United decision that I took a disliking to.

Here is his September 6, 2014 post and my responses (to him and his other commenters):

There’s a popular meme that “Corporations aren’t people.” The aim is to repeal the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United that Congress cannot under the Speech and Press Clauses of the First Amendment limit political advertising so stringently as it had been under the McCain-Feingold Act. The point of the meme is that only people are entitled to constitutional protections, and so Congress can do whatever it wants to corporations. Let’s follow the implications of the claim that “Corporations aren’t people.”

So you’re going to deny corporations constitutional rights. Does that mean the government will be able to search corporations’ property without warrants? Take their property without trial? Try them without counsel? Censor their publications? Punish them under ex post facto laws? House soldiers in their property during peacetime? Force them to pay to support churches?

At least as early as Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819), the Supreme Court recognized that corporations do indeed have rights of individuals. To say that they didn’t would mean empowering government in new and dangerous ways. Besides, we all know that shareholders–corporations–are people. They’re not hamsters. They’re not sandwiches. They’re not automobiles. They’re people.

 

September 7 at 1:24am

Tokyo Tom Kevin, this is an interesting an important topic, which hasn’t been set up very well. 

First, I think you missed the gist of the Dartmouth case, which essentially said that NH couldn’t alter Dartmouth’s charter (which had been granted by the English Crown), because the corporate charter was a form of private contract that was protected from “impairment” by states under the Constitution. The case was brought by the Trustees of Dartmouth, and didn’t particularly “recognize that corporations do indeed have rights of individuals.” States responded by reserving greater powers when they create corporations.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dartmouth_College_v._Woodward
http://www.oyez.org/cases/1792-1850/1818/1818_0
http://www.americanbar.org/…/students_in…/dartmouth.html

 

September 7 at 1:32am

Tokyo Tom Hopefully, we’re all clear on the fact that corporations are created by governments, were traditionally considered as forms of contracts and property rights, and have special powers, rights and characteristics provided by state legislatures that render them quite different from real, live human beings?

Unfortunately, many on the Left and Right are confused about the origin, history and nature of corporations. As I said to some progressives:

“Sadly, it seems that most if not all of the progressives here want to deny what cannot be denied: that corporations exist only because they are made by acts of legislative power of Governments. They also want to deny that the special characteristics that Govt give to “corporations” are the very attributes that lead to harms to others/social ills that continually fuel more regulation of corporations by governments.

“It’s hard to discern why they have these views–perhaps, because they are so ingrained in seeing Govt as their sole savior in fighting against corporate Frankensteins–but they are clearly incorrect, as a legal and historical matter.
Be that as it may, as a matter of understanding and attacking the roots of our problems, it behooves progressives to investigate and understand how government and corporations shape the incentives and influence the behavior of the people who find themselves within them.

“Not only do corporations exist only because of Govt, but it is clear that the reasons why corporations play such negative roles in society and have corrupted Govt are their state-granted characteristics that would NOT exist in a “free market”. Sole proprietorships, partnerships, associations and co-operatives do NOT have#LimitedLiability, unlimited lives, unlimited purposes, and the businesses do not have legal entity status different from the owners.

http://tokyotom.freecapitalists.org/…/corporations…

 

September 7 at 1:47am

Tokyo Tom Corporations have continued to find the Federal government and Supreme Court their friend in escaping control by the states that created them; see this pre-Citizens United post about the perversion of the anti-discrimination (due process/equal protection) provisions of the 14th Amendment (that used “persons” to protect freed slaves and unnaturalized Chinese) to require various states to treat corporations made in other states the same as their own corporations:

http://tokyotom.freecapitalists.org/…/corpspeak…/

 

September 7 at 1:51am

Tokyo Tom Karl Pope’s thoughts after Citizens United are largely spot on, and explain the drive that Sen. Colburn is now sponsoring to convene a Constitutional Convention to consider amendments:

http://tokyotom.freecapitalists.org/…/carl-pope-sierra…/

 

  • Kevin Gutzman It’s impossible to remove money from politics. If you deny individuals the right to buy political ads, you’ve effectively elevated owners of media corporations to the status of Elite Class, as only they will be able to say what they want. On the other hand, the Tenth Amendment reserves power to regulate elections to the states; if they want to ban donations from out-of-state interests or individuals, they should be allowed to do so. Score another negative result for the Incorporation Doctrine.
  • Kevin Gutzman I think that all federal campaign regulation is unconstitutional, as nothing in the Constitution empowers Congress to regulate anything other than the “time, place, and manner” of elections. At the federal level, there’s no reason not to have a sunshine law requiring disclosure of all donations.
  • Tokyo Tom Good point, Savana — states can and should be able to condition any corporate license on things that the corporation cannot do in its own name, such as lobbying. 
    Such a conditioning of the grant of corporate charter would be Consitutional, and would NOT deprive any individual of his own rights to lobby (or to combine with other employees to do so).If we want to get crony capitalism and the runaway regulatory state under control, we should simply stop granting #LtdLiability to corporate shareholders, and restore shareholder responsibility to monitor risk management by executives and managers.

    http://tokyotom.freecapitalists.org/…/immodest…/

    Tokyo Tom Kevin, I didn’t realize that “deny[ing] individuals the right to buy political ads” was the premise here, but denying the “right” of state-made entities to buy political ads, make contributions etc.
    • Tokyo Tom From my own Constitutional analysis, corporations, as artificial things, don’t “speak” at all (just as a printing press doesn’t speak either); people speak. Unfortunately, corporations (including media corporations) HAVE become ways for people to mask WHO is speaking. I think it perfectly acceptable under state corporation law and under the 1st Ad to constrain certain types of corporate “speech”.

    • Kevin Gutzman Big money wins? Big money often loses. Google “Michael Huffington” or “Clayton Williams” and see what you find. Let people know who is doing the contributing.
      Note: I agree with Savana that foreign contributions should be illegal. In theory, they already are, although Bill Clinton took advantage of them, (in)famously.
    • Kevin Gutzman The idea that I should be forced to contribute to Hillary2016! thrills me about as much as being forced to help fund the Westboro Baptist Church.
      Tokyo Tom SCOTUS has the First Amendment wrong -this was intended to bind tie Feds, at a time when corporations were profoundly despised and considered property of their shareholders, with rights only grudgingly granted by states.
      Property doesn’t “speak,” even as every single shareholder and employee retains full personal speech rights.
      Kevin Gutzman “Groups of people are not people.” — ISIS
      Tokyo Tom Mark, without corporations, are people UNABLE to associate to conduct business together?
      Corporations are creations of governments. People are not. Nor are voluntary associations of people, as businesses/partnerships, co-ops, unions or churches.
      Tokyo Tom ISIS? “of course a few less than enlightened people are not seeing the distinction between an inactive band of musicians and a band of terrorists involved in current world affairs.”
    Kevin Gutzman Right, they’re sheep.
    Special sheep with all the constitutional rights of individuals that they are capable of exercising–as I enumerated in my original post. The only one they don’t have is, “coincidentally,” the one the Democratic Party doesn’t want them to have.
    From Dred Scott to present, that’s the way Democratic Party “constitutionalism” works.
    Tokyo Tom “Of course corporations have the same rights as people. A corporation is not a tangible thing. It is an abstract term describing a group of organized individuals/people.”Balderdash on a stick, that we are reminded of in the cases of BP and Fukushima. Show me any individuals without a government-made liability shield who could do the damage that corporations (and governments do). Where are the mass torts? The Superfund sites?

    Individuals, business partnerships and coops can all be kept in check (to a significantly greater degree) by others in the communities in which they live.

    http://tokyotom.freecapitalists.org/…/quot-biggest…/

    Kevin Gutzman Tokyo Tom, I got off at “Senator Joe Barton.”
    Tokyo Tom State-made corporations are the health of the massive regulatory state, which is likewise the health of the crony corporations. It’s a rachet, and racket.
    Are you a Bootlegger, or a Baptist?
    Tokyo Tom Let’s look more at BP as a “person”:|

    • Jim Hightower:
      “And now, its rap sheet grows almost daily. In fact, the Center for Public Integrity has revealed that the oil giant’s current catastrophic mess should come as no surprise, for it has a long and sorry record of causing calamities. In the last three years, the center says, an astonishing “97 percent of all flagrant violations found in the refining industry by government safety inspectors” came at BP facilities. These included 760 violations rated as “egregious” and “willful.” In contrast, the oil company with the second-worst record had only eight such citations.
      While its CEO, Tony Hayward, claims that its gulf blowout was simply a tragic accident that no one could’ve foreseen, internal corporate documents reveal that BP itself had been struggling for nearly a year with its inability to get this well under control. Also, it had been willfully violating its own safety policies and had flat out lied to regulators about its ability to cope with what’s delicately called a major “petroleum release” in the Gulf of Mexico.

      “What the hell did we do to deserve this?” Hayward asked shortly after his faulty well exploded. Excuse us, Tony, but you’re not the victim here — and this disaster is not the work of fate. Rather, the deadly gusher in the gulf is a direct product of BP’s reckless pursuit of profits. You waltzed around environmental protections, deliberately avoided installing relatively cheap safety equipment, and cavalierly lied about the likelihood of disaster and your ability to cope with it.

      “It wasn’t our accident,” the CEO later declared, as oil was spreading. Wow, Tony, in one four-word sentence, you told two lies. First, BP owns the well, and it is your mess. Second, the mess was not an “accident,” but the inevitable result of hubris and greed flowing straight from BP’s executive suite.
      “The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean,” Hayward told the media, trying to sidestep the fact that BP’s mess was fast becoming America’s worst oil calamity. Indeed, Tony coolly explained that the amount of oil spewing from the well “is tiny in relation to the total water volume.” This flabbergasting comment came only two weeks before it was revealed that the amount of gushing oil was 19 times more than BP had been claiming.
      Eleven oil workers are dead, thousands of Gulf Coast people have had their livelihoods devastated and unfathomable damage is being done to the gulf ecology. Imagine how the authorities would be treating the offender if BP were a person. It would’ve been put behind bars long ago — if not on death row.
      [link above, past the Joe Barton part]

      And here’s a couple of fun video clips riffing on the nature of the unaccountability of corporate/BP execs (not to mention the absentee shareholders, “protected by limited liability” who are themselves “victims”):

      http://tokyotom.freecapitalists.org/…/satire-oil-spill…/
      http://tokyotom.freecapitalists.org/…/time-light-humor…/

      Tokyo Tom Corporations are “Special sheep with all the constitutional rights of individuals that they are capable of exercising,” Kevin?
      Hah. Try limited liability for one.
      http://archive.freecapitalists.org/…/speech-and…

      Tokyo Tom Corporations are the Health of the State. Is this why you and other good “conservatives” cheer them on, Kevin?
      http://tokyotom.freecapitalists.org/?s=health+of+state
      Tokyo Tom Timothy, can I recommend you look at well-known Republican shareholder activist Robert Monks, and “drone corporations”?
      The most abusive crony corporations tend to be a low-performing bunch of listed firms, with no significant shareholder blocs:
      http://tokyotom.freecapitalists.org/?s=drone+corporation

      Tokyo Tom Stacey, yes, my problem is with “corporatism” and how government-made corporations are the hand-maiden of both the snowballing state, crony capitalism, and confused people across the spectrum bewailing or defending “capitalism!” and “free markets”. is the natural result of governments creating Btw,
      1. BP is half Amoco, and ofc operates in the US through subsidiaries. Did you miss this in my quote? In the period just before 2010, “an astonishing “97 percent of all flagrant violations found in the refining industry by government safety inspectors” came at BP facilities. These included 760 violations rated as “egregious” and “willful.” In contrast, the oil company with the second-worst record had only eight such citations.”

      2. They “are sorry individuals, should they not have rights?”

      Which “they” are you talking about, and for what purposes? If you are talking about “speech”,” then in the case of BP, who is it who is speaking, and for whom? Who speaks for workers killed? Shareholders? Management? Who are the principals, and who are the agents?

      Every individual in BP/connected to BP retains personal rights to speak, and can form voluntary groups to do so if they wish–the doctrine Kevin is pushing is a socialist/collectivist one that DENIES individual accountability and and MASKS self-interest, thus forcing those who interact with or are affected by BP into a position where, since individual accountability is near-impossible, to seek government assistance in getting at least some collective responsibility, but little private redress — very little of whatever the government ends up collecting from BP will actually trickle down, and individuals will remain beholden to the government and to BP for risk management going forward, rather than having direct rights.

      See my above clips on BP cats and the Clarke and Dawe spoof for light takes on unaccountability and who speaks for whom.

      Kevin Gutzman Tom, you have got to be kidding. The reason Obama wants to muzzle corporations is so that he can take more of our money and give it to his constituents, invite more Guatemalans to come here and become his constituents, etc. He sees them as an obstacle, and so he wants to undo American legal precedent dating all the way back to the days when a ratifier of the Constitution was chief justice of the Supreme Court. And you say that I am the one who is pushing statism. Since the Revolution of 1937, there has never been a time when the Democratic Party stood for originalism in constitutional interpretation; they always argue for new, unknown doctrines that advance redistribution, secularization, etc. This new idea that corporations don’t have the rights of individuals is more of the same.
      Tokyo Tom The purpose of the First Amendment was to protect we the people from acts of the Federal government, NOT to protect state-created corporations from the governments and people who make them.The Federal government, this time through the Supreme Court, continues to play the role of helping elites, through state-created corporations, to destroy free markets and local representative government.

      I’m sorry to see so many deluded “conservative” cheerleaders for this.

      Tokyo Tom The answer to the following question is “NO”: [Does it make any sense to treat corporations as “persons”, given the differences in incentive structures?]
      http://tokyotom.freecapitalists.org/…/sense-treat…/
      • Kevin Gutzman Give me a break. The new argument that government can regulate corporate purchases of political advertizing is entirely about protecting incumbents from criticism. McCain said so, explicitly.
        Kevin Gutzman If you think advertizing against Obama is “destroying free markets,” we speak different languages.
      • Tokyo Tom Whip conflation now, Kevin. Try addressing my actual arguments.
      • Kevin Gutzman Show me where the Constitution gives Congress power to regulate purchases of political ads by corporations. You can’t, because it doesn’t. The argument that it does is based on the “reading” of the Commerce Clause invented by Klansman Black and his fellow FDR political hacks in the 1930s. It’s completely contrary to the 10th Amendment.
      • Tokyo Tom I’m not a fan of the Feds regulating anything, Kevin. But the states that make corporations sure as hell have a right to limit what they can do in exchange for very special privileges granted.
      • Tokyo Tom But I already addressed the First Ad several times upthread. Corporations are THINGS, not people. Things don’t “speak”, at least for Constitutional purposes.
      • Tokyo Tom My argument doesn’t refer to the absurd Commerce clause jurisprudence at all.
      • Tokyo Tom “The new argument that government can regulate corporate purchases of political advertizing is entirely about protecting incumbents from criticism.”
        I am sure that this IS the case now, but the argument against allowing corporations to speak (why does NYT get special treatment?) is 100+ years old — pretty sure I copied in a Teddy Roosevelt quote upthread.But you’re a HISTORIAN; you know this already.

        • Stacey York Morris States that “make” corporations? Huh?
        • Tokyo Tom Stacey, yes. Surely you’re aware of “corporation laws”, and checked out the Dartmouth case (rare exception of a one-off corporation made by King George). Corporations are creatures of governments — there are NO “free market” corporations.
        • Tokyo Tom The American Taliban is alive and well in “conservatives” who reflexively defend as “free markets” the corporatism that has always fuelled the “Progressive” movement.
          We have our own Sunni and Shia, battling over who gets to control the State:http://tokyotom.freecapitalists.org/…/state…/
          http://tokyotom.freecapitalists.org/…/dysfunction…/

          Stacey York Morris States don’t create corporations. They tax them but thats not creation. I’m a teeny corporation and trust me, the state did nothing. States don’t have the right to silence them one bit. They do court them but that’s because they bring jobs for their state and lots of tax money. States like Maryland and California blackmail and harass them to death. Charge them for infrastructure and tax them at the federal rate which is highest in world, so they may find a state that is more friendly, but that’s not “creating” them. King George wasn’t a capitalist.
          Tokyo Tom Stacey, unfortunately you’re sounding more like a liberal all the time, with the wrinkle that they deny that governments make corporations because it’s their view that the evil aspects of corporations are due to “capitalism” and “greed”, while with you it’s a desire to defend “free markets” from “greedy” and “grasping” GOVERNMENTS (did you NOT read the Sheldon Richman piece that you posted above)?Undeniably, corporations are made by governments; the fact that governments have, via a race to the bottom have “democratized” the process doesn’t change its nature. Rather, it simply masks the deep roots of corporatism and the reasons for the regulatory state.

          I explained this upthread already, with excerpts from this blog post:

          http://tokyotom.freecapitalists.org/…/corporations…/

          • Brett Sylvester ^ Funny how advocates of free markets can perfectly predict the property norms that would arise in the absence of a sate…
          • Tokyo Tom Brett, if you’re talking to me, I fail to see how you’re addressing anything I’ve said.
            Propertyrights continuously evolve in all societies, as technology, demand, mores and institutions change.So?

          • Tokyo Tom Jeff, focus. We’re only talking about the corporate form – which is undeniably a creature of governments and not free markets. Our Founding Fathers all knew this, and detested the Crown’s corporations/monopolies - does the original Tea Party not ring a bell?
            But you raise an important issue - the deep entanglement of government with business that flows from government creation of corporate forms is what underlies people bashing “business” and “capitalism” when they mean corporatism, as well as why they think governments have rights to micromanage business.
            • Kevin Gutzman I reference specific provisions of the Constitution, and Tom invokes proto-fascist Theodore Roosevelt. Non sequitur.
            • Kevin Gutzman I agree that states have a right to regulate corporate behavior. I oppose the Incorporation Doctrine.
              Kevin Gutzman Since a corporation’s holdings are the pooled property of its shareholders, yes, it has fiduciary responsibility for the property to which they have a natural right. That’s why in Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819), Chief Justice Marshall spoke of the shareholders’ rights in considering the College’s claims.
              • Kevin Gutzman Some corporate crimes lead to incarceration of officers, some don’t.
                The reasons there’s a move to deny that corporations have rights are two: 1) that some politicians don’t like being criticized, and so want to ban corporations from contributing to campaigns against them (as McCain said in explaining the McCain-Feingold Law); and 2) that there’s a general tendency for the Federal Government to deny all rights as they come to mind, and Citizens United brought this particular set to mind.
              • Tokyo Tom “I reference specific provisions of the Constitution, and Tom invokes proto-fascist Theodore Roosevelt. Non sequitur.”Hah. The historian can’t recall or research the history of his own thread.

                Kevin, you said “The new argument that government can regulate corporate purchases of political advertizing [sic] is entirely about protecting incumbents from criticism”; I didn’t disagree as to Dem motives now, but simply said “the argument against allowing corporations to speak (why does NYT get special treatment?) is 100+ years old” and referred to your proto-fascist Teddy Roosevelt.

              • Tokyo Tom “I agree that states have a right to regulate corporate behavior. I oppose the Incorporation Doctrine.”Glad we agree on the first point; on the second, with the exception of Citizens United (on the First Amendment), much of the history of extending Constitutional rights to corporate “persons” has been of “Incorporation” — viz., making the Bill of Rights applicable to state and local governments through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Corporations now have fourth amendment safeguards against unreasonable regulatory searches; fifth amendment double jeopardy and liberty rights; and sixth and seventh amendment entitlements to trial by jury.

                You oppose these extensions to state-made corporations, presumably, Kevin?

                Then you also OPPOSE the Supreme Court’s SUMMARY extension of its new First Amendment doctrine to the STATES via the 14th Ad “Incorporation” doctrine, in the 2012 Montana case, American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock?

                If you are, then I commend you — other than your failure to point it out to people on this thread.

                http://thehill.com/…/234515-supreme-court-reaffirms…

              • Tokyo Tom Brett: “You’re claiming that society would necessarily not be ordered in a certain wayin the absence of a state, when there’s no reason that it couldn’t be.”No, I’m not; I’m just saying that corporations are made by governments and have rights granted by governments, and observing that these are rights that you and I don’t have — owners of unincorporated businesses don’t have limited liability to persons who they may injure, we die, etc.

                As Marshall said in Dartmouth: “A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law. Being the mere creature of law, it possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it either expressly or as incidental to its very existence.”

              • Tokyo Tom “in Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819), Chief Justice Marshall spoke of the shareholders’ rights in considering the College’s claims.”

                You speak with great authority of matters that Marshall doesn’t address in his opinion. His chief point is to determine that the grant of Dartmouth’s charter was a CONTRACT among the Crown, the founders (donors) and Trustees — not a trust with fiduciary obligations:
                “This is plainly a contract to which the donors, the Trustees, and the Crown (to whose rights and obligations New Hampshire succeeds) were the original parties. It is a contract made on a valuable consideration. It is a contract for the security and disposition of property. It is a contract on the faith of which real and personal estate has been conveyed to the corporation. It is, then, a contract within the letter of the Constitution, and within its spirit also ….”
                http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/17/518…

              • Tokyo Tom “The 14th Amendment applies to Americans.”
                Due Process and Equal Protection apply to “persons” (there were plenty of non-naturalized Chinese, and the Amendment also had to clarify state and federal citizenship), which is how railroad and other corporations have been able to escape the states and capture the feds.
              • Tokyo Tom “The reasons there’s a move to deny that corporations have rights are two:”And then there are those who want to breathe real meaning back into “federalism” and states rights, and to end the conflation of corporation=business and crony capitalism=capitalism. 

                The key to regaining control over our lives from Big Brother and Big Corporations isn’t the Federal government, but by reining in corporations/revising corporation laws state-by-state.

              • Tokyo Tom HEY THREAD FOLLOWERS —

                Kevin indicated above that, because he opposes the 14th Amendment “Incorporation Doctrine,” he “agree[s] that states have a right to regulate corporate behavior.”
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Most of what passes for “economics” is dogma of the “We Will Help You!” religion of the State

June 20th, 2014 No comments

[Copied from a Facebook post, that was itself bumped up from a Facebook comment on a thread on the role of religion in society]

In response to an observation/inquiry from Marie:

What most people think is “economics” and many of those involved in it as a professional or as a policy wonk certainly IS “full of religious and quasi-religious formulations. Is there anything that is fact based about economics?” Most of the “fact-based” stuff REFERS to facts, but is in fact not well-grounded at the micro level on an understanding how people actually behave.

Fortunately, there IS a growing focus on studying HOW people perceive, think and act, both individually and embedded within our groups, mores, and institutions. Behavioral economists and others are looking at human behavior and those in the “New Institutional Economics” school (represented by 2009 Nobel Prizewinners Elinor ‪#‎Ostrom and Oliver E. Williamson; this includes “Public Choice and “Austrian” economists) are studying and publishing on entrepreneurship, social capital, moral hazard, regulatory capture, crony capitalism, fiat currencies, individual and group plan formation, markets, “bounded rationality,” the “information problem,” “principal-agent problems,” etc. THIS is REAL economics, as a human science examining how we interact.

The “Workshop on the Ostroms, the Commons and Polycentric Self-Governance” is a page that I have been putting together in celebration of Lin Ostrom’s life and to explore the insights that she and her many and growing collaborators have: https://www.facebook.com/WorkshoponOstromsCommonsandSelfGovernance?ref_type=bookmark

In addition, The Collaborative Center Community/#CCC, where Marie raised her question, is a group intended for “anyone who is dissatisfied with the state of society, and is willing to build trans-partisan coalitions to fight (1) for stronger, more vital communities and (2) against corruption and crony capitalism. Divided, we are falling/failing, while those who control the increasingly concentrated and coercive levers of power continue both to thrive and to insulate themselves from the problems that they generate and perpetuate. For corrective action, we must act TOGETHER. This group is for people who are willing to reach across partisan aisles to connect with others who are also troubled by corporatism and loss of personal influence in the communities in which we live.”

I hope those of you who have troubled yourself to read even this far will also check out #CCC, which I hope will help redirect people from unproductive and hostile partisanship: https://www.facebook.com/groups/265938633573148/

I note that the Vision Statement of the #Ostrom Award provides a good start in exploring the empirically based economics of Elinor Ostrom and her collaborators:

General
The presidential address to the American Political Science Association in 1997
Understanding Institutional Diversity
“Governing the Commons”
The Nobel lecture
The PNAS article on panaceas
Managing the Commons: Payment for Environmental Services.
Articles on the SES framework

For Practitioners
“Resources, Rights, and Cooperation: A Sourcebook on Property rights and collective action for sustainable development”. CAPRI, 2010.
Managing the Commons: Conservation of Biodiversity.
Managing the Commons: Markets, Commodity Chains and Certification.
Managing the Commons: Indigenous Rights, Economic Development and Identity.
Managing the Commons: Payment for Environmental Services.

https://www.facebook.com/WorkshoponOstromsCommonsandSelfGovernance/posts/810586608976028
https://www.facebook.com/tokyotomsr/posts/10201288994825683

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The state-worshipping Left (and Right) are the real “American Taliban”

June 16th, 2014 No comments

[reworked from a comment at the #WBOS Facebook group]

There is all kinds of fevered worrying out there that religious Dave Brat (who upset House Majority Whip Eric Cantor in VA 7 primary) poses a threat to the mission of Govt to save the poor and oppressed, and that Calvinism is really a doctrine to serve plutocrats.

The irony is that the politically dominant group in the country IS the essentially religious group of New England reformers (Calvinists) who took over the Federal Govt, crushed the South, producing a standing army that then crushed the Indians and ever since has been the threat that Washington and other Founders warned of, and wages endless virtuous wars on immigrants/alcohol/drugs/poverty/disease/sexism/unsafe food-organic, etc etc. These wars add to their very securely protected privilege (Harvard/Yale/Ivys that use “affirmative action” to cultivate pet minorities who they keep oppressed via the #DrugWar, while discriminating against Asians).

It’s a wonder that those nasty, threatening Amish/Mennonites/Hutterite Anabaptists haven’t been crushed yet.

I wish these people would buy a clue to the bigger picture, rather than to foment suspicion about people who don’t worship the endlessly incompetent state and the looters whom it really helps to help themselves.

The “American Taliban” is real, but it is the liberals themselves who are it, who are intolerant, and insist on using the state to run everyone’s lives. They intend well and pray daily that the Govt will act to save them and disadvantaged/oppressed people throughout the country, and pray/clamor even harder these days when things don’t work out. They don’t see the inefficacy of their prayers (or indeed, counterproductivity of Govt action in alienating people, weakening communities and DISEMPOWERING people’s ability to act collectively), because for them, it’s good INTENTIONS that matter, not results. If the results are bad, there’s a handy religious elder/court intellectual to advocate more spending, more stimulus, more subsidies, more regulations and more requirements that minorities/oppressed will have MORE help from Govt, so they don’t have to trouble to DO SOMETHING THEMSELVES. The State will make us SAFE!

Fortunately, there are promising signs of apostasy in the Left in NH, CO and WA, in #OWS, and in the “terrorist” protesters against big, govt-made and -coddled corporations and banks.

PS: There is evidence that much of the we-will-use-Government-to regulate-your-choices Right is also in the #AmericanTaliban:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204098919062010&set=a.1315049245077.47498.1496084805&type=1

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Fun exploration of limited liability corporations, and of anarchist community, with “principled libertarian” Stephan Kinsella

February 20th, 2014 No comments

I haven’t been in communication with anti-IP stalwart and occasional sparring partner Stephan Kinsella for some time (I lost my appetite for his hostility), but I saw him recently on Facebook, where he had reposted a review he had done of the movie “Avatar”; as I had liked his review, I stopped by to say hello. [Note: my various #Avatar-related posts, from my blogging/commenting days at the Mises Institute, are here: http://tokyotom.freecapitalists.org/?s=avatar.]

What follows are his Facebook post and our ongoing dialog to date (some other persons also appear; cross-links after the name); stay tuned!

1. Kinsella (Feb 12 at 10:54 pm)

I confess, I am not the a very good movie reviewer. When I occasionally do one, they start looking dated within months. Anyway, I remember this one from 2009. I got tons of grief for it from fellow libertarians, e.g., if I recall, Michael Barnett.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/avatar-is-great-and-libertarian/

2. TokyoTom (Feb 13 at 2:52 pm)

I didn’t give you any grief about it, Stephan – in fact I praised you for it – but then I’m a good statist, like you:
http://tokyotom.freecapitalists.org/2009/12/22/envirofacist-avatar-comments-quot-avatar-quot-resources-property-rights-corporations-government-enabled-theft/

3. Andy Katherman (Feb 13 at 11:51 pm)

Great movie review Stephan. I wrote something very similar back in 2010 on my blog (http://www.libertyforlaymen.com/…/natural-law-take-on…). Mind you, I was in my anarcho-libertarian “infancy” and more of a minarchist/Constitutionalist back then.

It’s funny James Cameron is probably more of a pinko-commie-ish-enviornmentalist than a libertarian, but I had the same reaction in that he actually presented a brilliant case for the necessity of property rights and lockean homesteading than pretty much any other movie that comes to mind… all the while doing it with great visual effects and a pretty decent plot!

4. TokyoTom (Feb 14 at 8:32 am)

Andy, Cameron wasn’t presenting a brilliant case for the necessity of property rights and lockean homesteading, but an allegory for the reality of corporate resource development around much of the world where native title is ignored, and a fantasy of natives fighting back. Of course it’s a more tangled reality, with governments frequently involved, wanting royalties, and arrogating rights to balance interests. BP and the Gulf of Mexico and the Kochs, Albertan oil sands and Keystone, for example.

5. Kinsella (Feb 14 at 8:43 am)

why add the word “corporate” Tom? What does that add to anything. There is nothing inherent in corporations that makes them more likely to violate rights. It’s just a form of business organization.

6. Andy Katherman (Feb 14 at 3:30 pm)

Disagree “TokyoTom”. I concede Cameron is probably an eco-nut of the “watermelon” variety (green on the outside, commie red on the inside) and has disdain for commerce, free markets, and “Capitalism” (properly understood)… and may not even care about property rights. But, the movie really is a terrific demonstration why property rights are a vital normative concept to reduce conflict over scarce resources. And, it also provided a case why aggression is Bad and why self-defense of homesteaded land/property/resources (Home Tree) is good and JUST. Yes, it is an allegory and it gets a bit weird at times (mystical-ish) but so what. It’s a frickin’ movie not a revisionist documentary. I still hold it is a great work of fiction and a mostly libertarian one at that.

7. Kinsella (February 15 at 12:32am)
Tom has long been a gadfly type. He supports all manner of unlibertarian proposals, but wants to fly the libertarian radical flag, and of course people like him start to feel uncomfortable so they start attacking anyone wiht principles. They basically become useless nihilists.

8. TokyoTom (February 17 at 12:01pm)

Stephan, that last comment is a very impressive demonstration of confused, unprincipled, unconstructive blatheration. It’s the kind of reflexive, self-satisfied hostility I expect to see of statists, but am a bit embarrassed to see from self-ascribed ‘anarchists’/libertarians. Nice show.

9. Kinsella (February 17 at 12:03pm)

apparently the existence of principled libertarians drives the pragmatists and minarchists and middle-of-the-roaders nuts.

10. TokyoTom (February 17 at 12:04pm)

Andy, thanks for the comment. Dunno why you feel the need to bash Cameron as a “watermelon” “eco-nut”, when he has made it clear in other contexts that he is standing up for the rights of native peoples.

The struggle he addressed in Avatar is still very much underway; see this from recent news? “To get the gold, they will have to kill every one of us”

11. TokyoTom (February 17 at 12:08pm)

Stephan suggests that “There is nothing inherent in corporations that makes them more likely to violate rights. It’s just a form of business organization.”

I imagine Stephan can likewise not see the moral hazard trainwrecks that have also been set in motion by governments insuring deposits, protecting the shareholders of listed companies, owning and developing resources, or in regulating on the basis of pollutions or public health and safety, either.

12. Kinsella (February 17 at 12:12pm)

Governments violate rights when they insure deposits. You see, Tom, that is what libertarians are against–aggression, rights violations. People who privately organize their business arrangements in a certain way do not inherently or necessarily do this. See, so it’s irrelevant whether there is a “moral hazard” or not. Libertarians are not opposed to “moral hazards.” We are opposed to aggression.

13. Kinsella (February 17 at 12:16pm)

And the state does not “protect shareholders.” I have explained this in depth already. http://www.stephankinsella.com/…/kol100-the-role-of…/

and http://www.stephankinsella.com/…/kol115-mises-canada…/

14. TokyoTom (February 17 at 12:26pm)

Stephan suggests that I am a “gadfly” “unlibertarian” who “attack[s] anyone wiht principles” and who is a “useless nihilist” whom he has “principled libertarians” (AKA, himself) has “drive[n] nuts.”

I think that, unfortunately, what we have here is Stephan demonstrating the roots of property lie not in principles, but in the reflexive, bristling defense of what people (individuals and groups) regard as valuable enough to defend.

Calm down, Stephan.

15. TokyoTom (February 17 at 12:52pm)

Stephan is the kind of Bootlegger-Baptist critic who himself is a vociferous Baptist who is uncomfortable looking at how Govt sets up the Bootleggers who are gaming the system.

In free, voluntary markets, there is no Get-Out-of-Personal-Liability-for-Harms-Caused-to-Others-Free Card.

Limited liability for shareholders is a state-granted favor that is demonstrably at the bottom of the dynamic of people forever running to a gamed “democratic” government to make Govt make its creations behave more nicely (with the regulations then serving to protect the big, to limit competition, and to fuel corruption and further govt capture). As soon as governments began creating corporate monopolies and/or limited liability cos, then then judges followed suit by rejecting strict defense of property in favor of a pollution-/corporation-favoring “balance” of equities that Block noted.

16. Kinsella (February 17 at 2:28pm)

I explained in detail in the talks and blog post linked, why this is wrong. There is no reason to assume passive shareholders ought to be liable for torts committed by others. In a private law society, there is no reason to think shareholders would be liable in the first place.

17. TokyoTom

Stephan consistently attacks arguments I don’t make. It must be because he is more principled than I am:
http://tokyotom.freecapitalists.org/?s=limited+liability+kinsella

18. Kinsella (February 17 at 2:51pm)

Tom, you just stated your view that state limited liability for shareholders is some kind privilege. that implies it is giving someone a limitation on liability that they otherwise would have in a free market. It’s not a privilege unless it changes the situation.

19. TokyoTom (February 17 at 2:56pm)

Stephan: “In a private law society, there is no reason to think shareholders would be liable in the first place.”

In a private law society, one finds ALWAYS individuals and associations of individuals who may negotiate liability caps with voluntary counterparties, but remain potentially personally liable up to the remainder of their personal assets for harms that their activities (and those of their agents) caused to others.

While the persons who actually directly caused harms would of course be liable, their principals would try to limit their own potential exposure by either closely managing their agents or making sure that others were independent contractors.

Stephan defends a state-created order where it is now extremely difficult, if not impossible, for us (and tort victims) to determine WHO in fact acted and is responsible for vast harms, such as those produced by BP, WVa’s “Freedom Industries”, TVA, TEPCO and the like. Instead, Stephan grotesquely calls polluting companies “victims”.

20. Dan Cotter (February 17 at 3:17pm)

Does anybody else find it strange when people write their comments as if they are speaking to an audience rather than just directly speaking to the person they’re conversating with?

21. TokyoTom (February 17 at 3:44pm)

Dan, I’ve been talking with Stephan Kinsella for several years – putting me a ten-foot-pole distance has too often been one of his penchants, because his principles mean I stink. We’ve had a bit of a hiatus, so when I visited here, you can see that I addressed him directly; he shifted to the third person here: https://www.facebook.com/nskin…/posts/10151972701413181….

22. Kinsella (February 17 at 9:22pm)

haha, are you really criticizing me for using third person…? come on dude.

23. Kinsella (February 17 at 9:25pm)

“remain potentially personally liable up to the remainder of their personal assets for harms that their activities (and those of their agents) caused to others.”

This is almost right. You are liable for harms (some types anyway) caused by your *actions*. (“activities” is intentionally vague)

But shareholders do not act to cause the harm caused by employees of the company they have stock in.

“While the persons who actually directly caused harms would of course be liable, their principals would try to limit their own potential exposure by either closely managing their agents or making sure that others were independent contractors.”

Calling shareholders “principals” is question-begging. They are passive. I have explained this. So have other that I linked to–e.g. rothbard and pilon and hessen.

“Stephan defends a state-created order where it is now extremely difficult, if not impossible, for us (and tort victims) to determine WHO in fact acted and is responsible for vast harms, such as those produced by BP, WVa’s “Freedom Industries”, TVA, TEPCO and the like. Instead, Stephan grotesquely calls polluting companies “victims”.”

How is this supposed to be an argument that shareholders are causally responsible for torts of employees? Everyone seems to simply assume this respondeat superior type vicarious liability.

24. TokyoTom (Feb 19 at 4:52pm)

“‘activities’ is intentionally vague”

This is intentionally hair-splitting obfuscation; one “acts” – we call what people do both “activities” and “actions”.

– “shareholders do not act to cause the harm caused by employees of the company they have stock in.”

It is not my premise that they always/necessarily do — though of course, sometimes shareholders may be actively involved in torts tied to the business activities conducted by the corporation they own shares of. When judges “pierce the corporate veil”, they essentially treat shareholders as principals/partners/sole proprietors.

– “Calling shareholders “principals” is question-begging. They are passive. I have explained this.”

Suggesting I was calling shareholders principals is either stupidity or a deliberate misreading; I was clearly referring to private law orders/contractual arrangements outside of corporations, not state-made corporations: https://www.facebook.com/nskin…/posts/10151972701413181… (PS–I really don’t like this attack style, but perhaps tit-for-tat is the best approach with anarchists who prefer to set examples of disrespect.)

But yes, of course now, within the state-made corporate form — and especially within listed companies, shareholders MAY be (but are NOT necessarily) “passive”. But this is itself quite problematic, though not my chief point.

– “How is this supposed to be an argument that shareholders are causally responsible for torts of employees? Everyone seems to simply assume this respondeat superior type vicarious liability.”

You attack arguments that I do not make. This is your style is your wont, Stephan — I find it wanting. I have NEVER argued that “shareholders are/should be causally responsible for torts of employees” or just “assumed respondeat superior type vicarious liability”.

Partners and sole proprietors were/are not deemed automatically responsible for torts committed by their employees, yet the risk and expense of potential lawsuits has always served to have them pay attention to risks that their employees and agents might harm others. An artificial state-made liability cap freed shareholders from downside risks, and incentivized blind eyes to practices that were costly to others.

It is clear that respondeat superior doctrine was expanded judicially and by law as firms left the realm of private businesses and became favored creatures of the state.

I am glad you are paying some attention to questions of individual responsibility, though of course you have NOT done so consistently, when you persisted in calling “BP” a “victim” and ignoring the corporate problem of discerning who it is who acts:

“It is one of the salient features of corporations that they confuse themselves and everyone else as to WHO, precisely, is responsible for their actions and the harms they cause others, and it is time for Austrians to examine such features closely. – See more at: More about “the biggest victim”, BP, and how we can help it end its “victimization”

Poor statists! If we close our eyes tightly enough, we can see clearly that Corporations are innocent VICTIMS, of governments that foist on them meaningless grants like limited liability & IP, and of malevolent, grasping citizens

Thanks for playing, and for your decent Avatar post.

25. Kinsella (Feb 20 at 2:24 am)

“It is not my premise that they always/necessarily do — though of course, sometimes shareholders may be actively involved in torts tied to the business activities conducted by the corporation they own shares of. When judges “pierce the corporate veil”, they essentially treat shareholders as principals/partners/sole proprietors.”

I am at a loss to identify the coherent libertarian principle you are trying to invoke. Who cares about the modern positive state law of ‘piercing the corporate veil,’ for example–what possible relevance has this for justice?

“Suggesting I was calling shareholders principals is either stupidity or a deliberate misreading;”

oh, i assure you, I am merely stupid, not dishonest.

–Wait.

“I was clearly referring to private law orders/contractual arrangements outside of corporations, not state-made corporations: ”

Wasn’t clear to me, kemosabe, but then I don’t have your IQ or whatever.

“Partners and sole proprietors were/are not deemed automatically responsible for torts committed by their employees, yet the risk and expense of potential lawsuits has always served to have them pay attention to risks that their employees and agents might harm others. An artificial state-made liability cap freed shareholders from downside risks, and incentivized blind eyes to practices that were costly to others. ”

What does this frenetic screed of incoherent babble have to do with libertarian principles? Answer: not much.

“It is clear that respondeat superior doctrine was expanded judicially and by law as firms left the realm of private businesses and became favored creatures of the state. ”

So… you are in favor of respondeat superior. well Rothbard, Pilon, Hessen and I are not. Congratulations on your glomming onto the state schema.

26. TokyoTom (Feb 20 at 5:35 pm)

You disappoint by never failing to disappoint, Stephan.

1. “I am at a loss to identify the coherent libertarian principle you are trying to invoke. Who cares about the modern positive state law of ‘piercing the corporate veil,’ for example–what possible relevance has this for justice?”

You are at a loss to understand the libertarian principle that a man — even a shareholder — might be called to account for his own acts? I agreed that shareholders should not be liable qua shareholders, and simply indicated that they might be liable based on their own actions. Corporate “veil piercing” is justified if based on a fact-finding that a shareholder directed a tortious act.

2. “Wasn’t clear to me, kemosabe, but then I don’t have your IQ or whatever.”

Real gentlemen don’t find admissions of error so difficult, and sneering, gratuitous contempt and off-handed offensiveness so easy. Whatever.

3. Me: “Partners and sole proprietors were/are not deemed automatically responsible for torts committed by their employees, yet the risk and expense of potential lawsuits has always served to have them pay attention to risks that their employees and agents might harm others. An artificial state-made liability cap freed shareholders from downside risks, and incentivized blind eyes to practices that were costly to others. ”

You: “What does this frenetic screed of incoherent babble have to do with libertarian principles? Answer: not much.”

Kindly demonstrate that this is both babble, and babble not related to libertarian principles. Austrians are keenly attuned to moral hazard, and I was describing what I perceive as dynamics, not a principled position on liability rules (though LvMI has published pieces calling for a prohibition on corporations in the banking sector). But if I recall correctly, you too have indicated that you oppose the state structuring of/stamp of approval on corporations.

Your own frothing has nothing to do with libertarian principles, and in fact demeans them.

4. Me: “It is clear that respondeat superior doctrine was expanded judicially and by law as firms left the realm of private businesses and became favored creatures of the state. ”

You: “So… you are in favor of respondeat superior. well Rothbard, Pilon, Hessen and I are not. Congratulations on your glomming onto the state schema.”

Congrats on another false and unjustifiable conclusion. Par for your course. Austrians Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, Block, Cordato etc. all describe what they discern of the dynamics of human action within institutional structures; please congratulate them too for glomming onto the state schema.

Ad hom is a shameful game, Stephan. It discredits your good work that you that you thrill to it so much.

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My Profile

August 28th, 2013 No comments

Below is my old profile, from when this blog was hosted at The Ludwig von Mises Institute.  Now, I consider myself more of an anarcho-pragmatist.

I was raised Red in a Blue state where people didn’t question each other’s patriotism, knew that the Dems were more hawkish than the Republicans, and that outside the navel of the city there was a marvelous world that both beckoned and often rained on you. Those scars still linger.

I confess to being an idealistic paleocon/libertarian who loves the country of the majestic purple mountains and fruited plains that stretches between two shining seas. The best way to protect that country is to remember that we will be happier if we rely on ourselves and each other rather than on government. Unfortunately, this requires eternal suspicion about the use of government, insistence on transparency and accountability, and vigilance to safeguard all checks and balances, in the hopes of minimizing both governmental power and the opportunity of insiders to misuse it and to broker benefits to powerful special interests.

Caveat: I suppose I am rather beyond the pale (though a nice pale ale would do fine, thank you) because I don’t believe that the best initial reaction to environmental issues is to curse “enviros” as being “misanthropes” who hate mankind and are itching for most of us to die. Rather, I share their concern for the health of our home and note that there are real and critical issues relating to the lack of clear and enforceable property rights to any number of important resources – including the atmosphere and oceans. While I prefer where possible to strengthen property rights and tort law protections against pollution, rather than trying to have federal regulation for everything, I also realize that for certain cases our shared tool of government may serve productive or even essential purposes.

PS: I live and work in Tokyo as a lawyer. PPS: Those of you who have not yet joined The Austrian Network cannot see my email posted to the left, so please note that I can be reached at my Gmail account under the username “TokyoTomSr”.

http://archive.freecapitalists.org/members/TokyoTom/default.aspx

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Note to Larry Lessig on his "Anti-Corruption Pledge": Limited liability corporations are the taproot of both growing government and anonymous rent-seeking.

March 4th, 2012 2 comments

I refer to the very recently-launched “Anti-Corruption Pledgehere, which is the latest project by prolific Larry Lessig, now a Harvard Law prof and head of a corporate reform center there (and whom I have introduced and discussed in a number of preceding posts).

Larry further describes the purpose and motivation of the Pledge at his blog. (I note that I’m strongly in favor of pledges, as I noted in this blog post discussing the Kochs.)

I left the following comment on the discussion page of the wiki that Lessig created for The Anti-Corruption Pledge:

Larry, you aren’t really attacking the chief problem, which the role that STATE-Created limited liability corporations play in centralization and aggrandizement of power in Washington, which then further attracts rent-seeking by increasingly anonymous (who owns and runs these corporations, anyway?) organizations that wish to use a bloated government to receive favorable inside deals and to raise barriers to entry in their respective markets.

Corporations drive the growth of government because their LIMITED LIABILITY aspect means government protects shareholders from liability in the event of tort damage to workers/others/society. Citizens tired of holding the bag then must continually push legislatures and courts for “reform” that perversely helps to entrench the largest firms against newcomers.

Corporations are not simply the “Health of the State”, but they’re created in STATES, which accordingly MUST be a main venue to seek to rein them in. States can stop creating limited liability companies, can deregulate for non-limited liability firms (where owners retain a large tail of risk), etc.

http://tokyotom.freecapitalists.org/?s=limited+liability

Anonymity is not per se bad – the Federalist Papers and Anti-Federalist Papers were written anonymously – it’s the anonymity afford to those whom have already received important government privileges (viz., limited liability) that renders them and their agents unaccountable that is the problem.

Thus I don’t see that public funding or limiting and requiring transparency of your broadly worded “political expenditures” (contributions? campaign ads?) really address the root problem.

Fortunately, there are 50 states in which to start campaigning for responsibility owned businesses whose owners are NOT protected by governments from the communities in which they operate.

Large, entrenched public companies are already seeing across-the-board declines in profitability and market capitalization (ask Robert Monks); they can be brought down by Schumpeter’s process of “Creative Destruction”.

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The cart, or the horse? A ‘bleeding-heart’ libertarian (who missed Block) blames the Left for Crony Capitalism

December 15th, 2011 No comments

I recently ran across a blog post Jason Brennan entitled: Dear Left: Corporatism Is Your Fault, at the “Bleeding Heart Libertarians” blog. The blog hosts the writings of various “Left Libertarians”, such as Roderick Long and Gary Chartier, who “believe that addressing the needs of the economically vulnerable by remedying injustice, engaging in benevolence, fostering mutual aid, and encouraging the flourishing of free markets is both practically and morally important.”

The post is worth a read; no doubt quite a few of you will like it. I didn’t, and left my comments at the bottom:

Brennan is Assistant Professor of Business and Philosophy at Georgetown University. He is the author of The Ethics of Voting (Princeton University Press, 2011), and co-author of A Brief History of Liberty (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).  He earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Arizona.

I excerpt liberally from the original post (emphasis added):

1.  Dear Left: Corporatism Is Your Fault

… Dear members of the moderate left,

America is suffering from rampant, run-away corporatism and crony capitalism. We are increasingly a plutocracy in which government serves the interests of elite financiers and CEOs at the expense of everyone else.

You know this and you complain loudly about it. But the problem is your fault. You caused this state of affairs. Stop it.

Unlike we libertarianish people, you people actually hold and have been holding significant political power in the US over the past 50 years. [ What have you done with this power? You’ve greased the corporatist machine every chance you’ve gotten. You’ve made things worse, not better. Our current problems are your fault. You need to stop. …

You complain, rightly, that regulatory agencies are controlled by the very corporations they are supposed to constrain. Well, yeah, we told you that would happen. When you create power—and you people love to create power—the unscrupulous seek to capture that power for their personal benefit. Time and time again, they succeed. We told you that would happen, and we gave you an accurate account of how it would happen.

You complain, perhaps rightly, that corporations are just too big. Well, yeah, we told you that would happen. When you create complicated tax codes, complicated regulatory regimes, and complicated licensing rules, these regulations naturally select for larger and larger corporations. We told you that would happen. Of course, these increasingly large corporations then capture these rules, codes, and regulations to disadvantage their competitors and exploit the rest of us. We told you that would happen.

It’s not rocket science. It’s public choice economics. You recognized, rightly, that public choice economics was a threat to your ideology. So, you didn’t listen, because you didn’t want to be wrong. Public choice predicted that the government programs you created with the goal of fixing problems would often instead exacerbate those problems. Well, the evidence is in. You were wrong and public choice theory was right. If you have any decency, it is time to admit you were wrong and change. Stop making things worse.

You spent the past fifty years empowering corporations and the most unscrupulous of the rich. You created rampant moral hazard in the financial sector. You created the system that socializes risks but privatizes profit. You created the system that creates a revolving door between Obama’s staff and Goldman Sachs.

You balk: Isn’t the problem the regressive pro-market post-Reagan politics? Please, people. Let’s be serious a moment. Reagan used a bunch of pro-market, pro-liberty, anti-big government rhetoric, but the man was no libertarian, and he did little to make the country more libertarian. Reagan spent and spent, and thus ran up the debt. He doubled the number of imports with trade restrictions. He pursued militaristic foreign policy. He increased rather than decreased the size, scope, and power of government. Reagan ramped up the war on Americans civil liberties drugs. He wasn’t even a big deregulator—that was Carter. Look past rhetoric to reality. Reagan was in practice just a more militaristic version of one of you.

Unlike we libertarianish people, you members of the moderate left will continue to hold and exercise power. So, learn some public choice, and use what you learn in practice.

2.  My comments:

Jason, your position is understandable, but unfortunately your history of corporatism is myopic and thus deeply flawed and your unwillingness to attack both the Right and the crony capitalists themselves is regrettable.

The regulatory state is a result of citizens demanding that their governments “Do Something!” about corporate abuses that arose proximately from the bestowal of favors on wealthy capitalists by states, through the creation of limited liability corporations. The limited liability served to shift risks of loss for damages to public victims and away from owners, thus creating institutionalized moral hazard, agent-principal problems and growing risk externalization.

“The Left” wrongly believes that more government is the answer to the problems created by corporatism, but you can hardly blame the Left for the creation of our corporate Frankenstein monsters in the first place.

More thoughts here:

Sincerely,

TT

3.   As for Walter Block, see this short post regarding his views on the rise of environmentalism.

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David Brooks echoes Hayek’s warnings on ‘Market Morals’ in an observant piece on our crumbling order

December 2nd, 2011 No comments

David Brooks has an excellent op-ed piece in the December 1 New York Times that speaks to the very worrisome and ongoing destruction of crucial social capital – what Hayek called “market morals“, and what Brooks calls the “spirit of enterprise”.

I excerpt liberally from the op-ed (emphasis added):

Why are nations like Germany and the U.S. rich? It’s not primarily because they possess natural resources — many nations have those. It’s primarily because of habits, values and social capital.

It’s because many people in these countries, as Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute has noted, believe in a simple moral formula: effort should lead to reward as often as possible.

People who work hard and play by the rules should have a fair shot at prosperity. Money should go to people on the basis of merit and enterprise. Self-control should be rewarded while laziness and self-indulgence should not. Community institutions should nurture responsibility and fairness.

This ethos is not an immutable genetic property, which can blithely be taken for granted. It’s a precious social construct, which can be undermined and degraded.

Right now, this ethos is being undermined from all directions. People see lobbyists diverting money on the basis of connections; they see traders making millions off of short-term manipulations; they see governments stealing money from future generations to reward current voters.

The result is a crisis of legitimacy. The game is rigged. Social trust shrivels. Effort is no longer worth it. The prosperity machine winds down.

Yet the assault on these values continues, especially in Europe.

Over the past few decades, several European nations, like Germany and the Netherlands, have played by the rules and practiced good governance. They have lived within their means, undertaken painful reforms, enhanced their competitiveness and reinforced good values. Now they are being brutally browbeaten for not wanting to bail out nations like Greece, Italy and Spain, which did not do these things, which instead borrowed huge amounts of money that they are choosing not to repay.

The estimated costs of these bailouts vary enormously and may end up being greater than the cost of German reparations after World War I. Germans are being browbeaten for not wanting to bail out Greece, where even today many people are still not willing to pay their taxes. They are being browbeaten for not wanting to bail out Italy, where future growth prospects are uncertain.

They are being asked to bail out nations with vast public sectors and horrible demographics. They are being asked to paper over fundamental economic problems with a mountain of currency.

It’s true that Germans benefited enormously from the euro zone and the southern European bubble, and that German and French banks are far from blameless. It’s true that the consequences for the world would be calamitous if the euro zone cracked up. It’s true that, in a crisis, you do things you wouldn’t otherwise do; you do things that violate your everyday values.

But our sympathy should be with the German people. They are not behaving selfishly by insisting on structural reforms in exchange for bailouts. They are not imprisoned by some rigid ideology. They are not besotted with some semi-senile Weimar superstition about rampant inflation. They are defending the values, habits and social contract upon which the entire prosperity of the West is based.

The scariest thing is that many of the people browbeating the Germans seem to have very little commitment to the effort-reward formula that undergirds capitalism. On the one hand, there are the technicians who are oblivious to values. For them anything that can’t be counted and modeled is a primitive irrelevancy. On the other hand, there are people who see the European crisis through the prism of some cosmic class war. What matters is not how people conduct themselves, but whether they are a have or a have-not. The burden of proof is against the haves. The benefit of the doubt is with the have-nots. Any resistance to redistribution is greeted with outrage.

The real lesson from financial crises is that, at the pit of the crisis, you do what you have to do. You bail out the banks. You bail out the weak European governments. But, at the same time, you lock in policies that reinforce the fundamental link between effort and reward. And, as soon as the crisis passes, you move to repair the legitimacy of the system.

That didn’t happen after the American financial crisis of 2008. The people who caused the crisis were never held responsible. There never was an exit strategy to unwind the gigantic debt buildup. The structural problems plaguing the economy remain unaddressed. As a result, the United States suffers from a horrible crisis of trust that is slowing growth, restricting government action and sending our politics off in strange directions.

Europe’s challenge is not only to avert a financial meltdown but to do it in a way that doesn’t poison the seedbed of prosperity. Which values will be rewarded and reinforced? Will it be effort, productivity and self-discipline? Or will it be bad governance, now and forever?

Brooks’ insights are incomplete; he fails to note how government-establish deposit insurance underwrote and capital standards (most government bonds enjoy a 0% risk-weighting under BIS standards) encouraged the irresponsibility of German and other EU banks in lending to Greek and other national governments in the first place.

Right now, the Japanese government only funds 40-45% of its budget from taxes, and so is quietly looting its citizens’ banking, pension and insurance assets for the shortfall. US citizens are more fortunate, because our dollar hegemony has meant that our government has largely been looting foreign bond purchasers and their customers instead.

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Dr. George Reisman and the Curious Case of the Missing Crony Capitalists, or, Moral Blindness Helps Me to See Clearly

October 28th, 2011 No comments

I refer to Dr. Reisman‘s October 21 post at Mises Daily, “In Praise of the Capitalist 1 Percent “. (The good Dr. and I go back a few years, as some of my readers may recall.)

In face of growing economic dislocation and discontent, Dr. Reisman serves up his usual, disappointing fare of portraying powerful (and provident) ‘capitalists’ as the victim of goverment and of the yammering mob. We all just KNOW it’s those with much less wealth who are corrupting government, socializing losses via the banking system and trying to raise barriers of entry that divide markets and limit competition, right?

Sure, the rabble may not well understand how capitalism is SUPPOSED to work, but they’re damned right that it isn’t , in large measure as a result of deliberate gaming and cynical socialization of risk by our so-called ‘capitalists’.

Rather serving up useful insights – or even appropriate outrage – Dr. Reisman is serving up smoke screens to protect those who bear the greatest blame for destroying laissez faire capitalism and Hayek’s essential “market morals”:

Hayek on the grim threat posed by the erosion of “market morals”; Who, exactly, is leading us down the primrose Road to Serfdom?

Those whom Reisman is actually defending are not pure capitalists, acting under laissez faire competition, but largely rapacious and irresponsible CEOs of large, listed companies, who, freed from any control of their erstwhile shareholder ‘owners,’ use government to crush competition, etc.

In effect, Dr. Reisman is defending the very people MOST RESPONSIBLE for DESTROYING laissez faire capitalism. For shame, George!

I left the following comment (edited lightly):

In his capable defense of our non-existent system of laissez faire capitalism, the good Dr. Reisman is curiously blind to the ways in which the ‘capitalists’ he defends are themselves BOTH the primary drivers and beneficiaries of the destruction of capitalism that he rightly lauds.

In Reisman Land, it’s always the powerful and corrupt ‘capitalists’ who are the victims of the relatively powerless hoi polloi.

Even Dr. Reisman’s throwaway references to ill-gotten gains shift focus and responsibility from powerful men ACTING to use government to the black box of government, which acts mysteriously and punishes as much as rewards firms: “government is permitted to depart from a policy of strict laissez-faire and thereby arbitrarily reward or punish firms”.

None is so blind as he who will NOT see. Dr. Reisman appears to be lacking a theory of Human Action, or rather, a theory in which men with money, in order to mitigate the rigors of laissez faire competition or to get easy money from selling goods and services to government, sometimes ACTIVELY coordinate their action with men more directly controlling the levers of government.

Instead, Dr. Reisman only sees the small man – laborers, officer workers, professionals and consumers – avariciously acting to use government to tie down and confiscate the wealth of the rich, noble, and heroic yet powerless capitalist.

Does the good Dr. not see that his capitalists, far from free and responsible men, act through GOVERNMENT-CREATED and licensed “limited liability” entities that are selected precisely because they shield the owners from personal responsibility for the harms their firms cause to others and the public and large? And that the intimate government role, the resulting harms and the lack of personal accountability are the very reasons why the victims then band together to petition government to “do something!”, rather than simply chasing the owners and their servants with pitchforks?

I agree with Dr. Reisman that ongoing events are a morality play writ large. But unfortunately Dr. Reisman (like many people now fed up with rampant crony capitalism who now blame ‘capitalism’ and the 1%) describes it to us in black and white.

Perhaps his mother took his Kodachrome away, but can’t we at least expect some shades of gray?

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