Weekly Link Digest
Sheldon Richman, at the Foundation for Economic Education, discloses the real agenda of so-called "free trade" agreements:
In recent talks, bilateral and multilateral, it's become more and more evident that the American negotiators' real purpose is to impose U.S. patent and copyright laws on the developing world as the price of access to U.S. markets.
Via All-Spin Zone, a federal regulatory proposal to allow drug testing on prison inmates:
An influential federal panel of medical advisers has recommended the government loosen regulations that severely limit the testing of pharmaceuticals on prison inmates, a practice that was all but stopped three decades ago after revelations of abuse....
Until the early 1970s, about 90 percent of all pharmaceutical products were tested on prison inmates, federal officials say....
Alvin Bronstein, a Washington lawyer who helped found the National Prison Project, an American Civil Liberties Union program, said he did not believe altering the regulations risked a return to the days of Holmesburg.
“With the help of external review boards that would include a prisoner advocate,” Bronstein said, “I do believe that the potential benefits of biomedical research outweigh the potential risks.”...
The discussion comes as the biomedical industry is facing a shortage of testing subjects. In the last two years, several pain medications, including Vioxx and Bextra, have been pulled off the market because early testing did not include large enough numbers of patients to catch dangerous problems.
This is not a complicated issue, folks. This is the "best available alternative" paradigm, but on steroids. The state is limiting the "available alternatives" in the most blatant and direct way possible, and then colluding with drug companies to present "voluntary" testing as an alternative. And don't forget, probably half of these inmates are imprisoned for consensual market transactions that shouldn't even be crimes in the first place. This stinks to high heaven.
Economist's View links to "Things Fall Apart: Fixing America’s Crumbling Infrastructure," by Nicholas Kulish:
The report noted different problems in every sector, but a few kept popping up almost across the board: A growing population, and growing demand that is overtaxing aging, inadequate systems....
There’s also increased international trade and movement of goods within the country. That means more and more commercial trucks prowling the interstates at all hours. Whether you’re talking about seaports, airports, railroads, canals, or highways, our transport systems need to expand to keep up with our economic activity.
But we haven’t been keeping up....
Another example of the kind of mainstream liberal goo-goo who thinks the Interstate Highway System was some great example of "progressive" government intervention--despite the fact that it was built for "defense" purposes under the direction of a former GM president, the same guy responsible for that "What's good for America is good for GM" quote. Apparently it never occurred to Kulish that subsidized transport systems can never "expand to keep up with economic activity," precisely because the divorce of consumption from the cost principle generates demand faster than they can accommodate it.
Jesse Walker writes on the increased size of the welfare state a decade after "welfare reform," and notes (with the great quote below from Piven and Cloward's Regulating the Poor) that there's little direct relationship between the amount of spending and tangible benefits to the poor:
...social welfare activity has not greatly aided the poor, precisely because the poor ordinarily have very little influence on government. Indeed, 'social welfare' programs designed for other groups frequently ride roughshod over the poor, as when New Deal agricultural subsidies resulted in the displacement of great numbers of tenant farmers and sharecroppers, or when urban renewal schemes deprived blacks of their urban neighborhoods.
Indeed, as I often like to say, a vulgar libertarian is someone who thinks the food stamp program came about through the massive political influence of unemployed single mothers, rather than the agribusiness lobby.
This gem from Chris Dillow at Stumbling and Mumbling:
[Do we really want young people] to know that our capitalist prosperity is founded upon a brutal process of "primitive accumulation" that entailed the theft of monastic and common land; the repression of those market forces that would have helped working people; the criminalization of the unemployed; and the exploitation of the weak?
What sort of political views would this lead to?
Probably a citizenry more skeptical of goo-goo claims that "government is just all of us," for one thing.
Via Alex Kjerulf, evidence that atronomical CEO pay is based on a kind of religious faith:
...Rakesh may have found an instance of Lovaglia’s Law: "The more important the outcome of a decision, the more people will resist using evidence to make it."...
Rakesh described how directors of huge companies had enormous faith in the power of CEOs that went beyond anything that could be justified by any research, how they spent vast amounts of money and time searching for new corporate saviors, and paid out huge sums to executive search firms and to the CEOs they ultimately hired. Following Lovaglia’s Law, perhaps because these decisions were so important, Rakesh found that when he asked corporate directors if CEOs are worth all that money, they reacted with anger and surprise, as if he had raised a taboo subject. He found that they had “virtually religious” convictions on the subject, which led them to dismiss any evidence showing that CEO quality is not a primary and powerful cause of company performance.
Atrios posts an enlightening graph of housing prices in real dollars over the past century. In all the booms and busts before the 1990s, prices gravitated back to the same value. In the past decade, the price of real estate has exploded beyond anything we've ever seen. A hard rain's agonna fall.
At In the Libertarian Labyrinth, Shawn Wilbur announces he has completed a pdf version of Bolton Hall's Things as They Are, and also links to a good new anarchist history site (Dead Anarchists.Org) focusing on Voltairine de Cleyre, among others. Finally, in these two posts, he links to a lot of new Alfred Westrup material online.
I previously linked, in an earlier weekly digest, to a Bob Murphy article critical of an agribusiness critic, and Carlton Hobbs' comments in response. Hobbs developed his critique of Murphy's article into an article of his own. He also has some insightful comments on the possibility that an outside hostile government could manipulate the markets of a free market anarchy in order to undermine its independence.