Ethics Observations On The Amazon-NYC Blow-Up

Amazon shocked the Big Apple yesterday by announcing that it was cancelling plans for a corporate “campus,” aka.headquarters, in Queens. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio had promoted the deal, which would have given Amazon $3 billion in tax breaks in exchange for bringing Big Tech to the city and creating an estimated 25,000 jobs, among other benefits.  Anti-corporate and neighborhood activists, however, including elected officials like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, led opposition to the arrangement, based substantially on the objection to “corporate welfare” to one of the richest companies on Earth. Now Democrats are pointing fingers at each other, and everyone’s mad at Amazon.

At its core, this fiasco is an ethics conflict, with the absolutist ideals of rigid ideology opposing the ethics of the real world.

Amazon: The company is both popular and flush. It can literally take its business anywhere, and many communities will pay for the privilege. The company did nothing unethical in seeking the most advantageous deal it could get. Large employers help a community’s economy. Because they have many choices, it makes sense for them to shop around. It is not unethical to ask for a tax break to choose a city like New York, and it is not even unethical to demand such a break. It is certainly not unethical to accept one, and similarly, not unethical to reject such a deal because, as an Amazon spokesperson said yesterday, Looking at the opposition and the timeline we decided we don’t want to work in this environment in the long term.” Amazon “became increasingly concerned that the backlash in New York showed no sign of abating and was tarnishing its image beyond the city,” J. David Goodman wrote in the New York Times.

It’s their money, their business, their decision. Amazon is not a public charity, nor is it obligated to behave like one.

New York: Nor is there  anything unethical about cities and states offering tax breaks and deals to bring business, tax revenue and jobs into their communities. It had been estimated that Amazon would ultimately create almost 30 billion in additional revenue, a nice pay-off for just 3 billion dollars of investment by New York.

The Opposition: The opposition was based on pure anti-corporate ideology posed in the most infantile and realism-free manner, just desserts, perhaps, for a state that has pandered to socialists and a city with a mayor who is one.  The anti-Amazon message was as simple as, and simple-minded as, this: It is immoral to give money to rich people and rich corporations. The money should be given to poor people instead. Financial writer Andrew Sorkin tweeted,

“There is a financial literacy epidemic in America. Quick lesson: NYC wasn’t handing cash to Amazon. It was an incentive program based on job creation, producing tax revenue. There isn’t a $3 billion pile of money that can now be spent on subways or education.”

Correct, correct, correct, and correct.

The Left’s conduct in opposing the deal was irresponsible and based on absolutist ethical theory over utilitarianism. But governing is always utilitarian, as is business. This is why ideologies like socialism destroy both.

Tyranny of the minority. An overwhelming majority of New Yorkers wanted Amazon, but a vocal minority was able to drive them away. This is why terrorism works; it is why extremists get their way; it is why democracy doesn’t work better than it does. The only course for the majority is to punish the minority that uses threats and slogans to defeat democracy. That means punishing their leaders, like Ocasio-Cortez and outrageous demagogue Elizabeth Warren, who said, “One of the wealthiest companies on the planet – just walked away from billions in taxpayer bribes, all because some elected officials in New York aren’t sucking up to them enough. How long will we allow giant corporations to hold our democracy hostage?”

I’d like to know how long substantial numbers of the public will continue to be conned by Warren who, unlike Ocasio-Cortez, knows she is spouting dishonest nonsense designed for idiots. What does her statement even mean? Is Amazon good to walk away from taxpayer “bribes,” or bad? Are the officials right to refuse to suck up “enough,” or wrong? This is a Harvard Law professor who is falsely, and she knows it’s a lie, calling it a bribe when a city offers financial benefits in exchange for benefits to its citizens, and the offers are transparent and legal.

God she’s terrible!

Corporate spine. Yes, I suppose this is another example of a corporation choosing to avoid conflict rather than to stand for principle and prevent creating a damaging precedent. But the criticism of Amazon for simply leaving one battlefield for a more peaceful environment shows the growing irrational anti-corporate bias in the country. The company “sought billions of dollars in tax incentives it didn’t need,” wrote one Times analyst, suggesting that Amazon should have happily opened shop in New York for nothing more than a laurel and hardy handshake. It is not Amazon’s ethical or civic responsibility to invigorate a community’s economy while seeking nothing in return. In fact, the opposite is true. Being pro business doesn’t and mustn’t require accepting corporate wrongdoing, but communities that allow a hostile business atmosphere and anti-capitalist demagogues to drive companies away deserve what they get. Why should Amazon stay and fight, when more welcoming territory beckons?

_____________________

Sources: New York Times 1, 2

 

52 thoughts on “Ethics Observations On The Amazon-NYC Blow-Up

  1. This is an amazing case study. For Amazon, it solicited its business from a number of big cities (Dallas, Houston, Seattle [I think]), and struck a deal with New York City based on the location and the city’s incentive package. We can argue about the virtue of tax incentives to corporate entities all day long but Amazon took the best deal on the table. The outrage was immediate. Ocasio-Cortez challenged it as “corporate welfare”. Even Tucker Carlson objected to it on the same grounds, to his discredit.

    Then, Amazon walked away. Cue the celebration from the Opposition! Ocasio-Cortez declared the “little guy”, or in her case, the “little girl” won. She openly stated that Amazon’s decision to leave the Big Apple showed that individuals can effect and affect great change against the wealthy, especially Bezos, one of the wealthiest men on the planet. Her celebration lasted for about 6 mintues. De Blasio and Gov. Cuomo issued blistering statements lamenting the Opposition’s naivete. Not to be dissuaded, Ocasio-Cortez then told reporters that New York City can now use that $3,000,000,000 to fund schools, teachers’ salaries, roads, subway repairs, thereby conclusively establishing that she has absolutely no idea what the Amazon tax incentive package even meant.

    The tax package included a $3 billion tax abatement, structured over 10 years, off of the estimated $27 billion it would pay over that time period. So, by my simple math, Amazon would still end up paying $24 billion in taxes over 10 years, saving a $300 million in taxes each year. That’s a lot of money, I know. Yet, an elected official actually believes that New York City was sitting on $3 billion in cash, simply waiting to spend on big corporations and not on deserving failing schools. Idiot.

    Ocasio-Cortez also criticized the deal because Amazon’s plan to build its headquarters in Queens would result in increases in property values, thereby sowing seeds of regentrification, which is the new buzz word used by the intelligencia to decry displacing poor people from the run down hovels the live in.

    So, the net result is that Amazon bailed and New York City suffered as a result of misguided policies from elected officials and citizens who had no idea how the deal worked. Poor people will still live in squalor, New York City schools will still fail, the streets and subway system will still crumble. Congratulations, Opposition. A job well done.

    jvb

  2. suggesting that Amazon should have happily opened shop in New York for nothing more than a laurel and hardy handshake

    No, they’re suggesting Amazon should have happily opened up shop in New York for nothing more than curses and sneers, as the local woke castigate them for bringing about “gentrification and wage inflation” – i.e. for making people wealthier.

    • Yeah, me too. There are a number of options if they want to stay on the East coast, but if not, S_O_O_O_O many more. Somebody will get the benefit, just not Queens.

      • The current plan is that they won’t be pursuing a replacement for the Queens campus, and will continue to build in Virginia and Tennessee, and locate other new jobs in their existing locations throughout the country.

        So, in a way, New York not only f’ed up their deal, but they also managed to screw all of the other “HQ2” contender cities who actually wanted an Amazon facility. Great job, everybody!

        • Remember, this wasn’t a business decision. Amazon doesn’t need 3 ‘headquarters’ with a bunch of non-production people. These were political lobbying offices. Why else open 2 extra ‘headquarters’ in the two most politically influential cities in America? These weren’t warehouses and delivery centers. There will be no alternate city, Amazon never needed the office in the first place for business.

  3. The comments on that article are depressing. Nearly all of them praise the deal falling through, saying that the people’s money shouldn’t be handed to wealthy corporations.People just don’t understand how any of this works, it’s sad.

    Even someone like Robert Reich, who’s supposedly an economics guru, presented the proposed reversal of the Obama Care 3.8% capital gains tax increase as money being taken away from the rank and file and being given to the wealthy. With our ‘experts’ and politicians this financially illiterate, how can the electorate be any better? Shame on Warren And Ocasio-Cortez, Warren for brazenly lying, and Ocasio-Cortez for again being behind the eight ball.

    • Crella, I’d have to say that most politicians are only adept at running for office. Expecting ANY kind of actual knowledge from them is like trying to bail a boat with a sieve.

        • If Reich is a leftist con-man and is lying, what is he lying about? (It is a genuine question, I am interested in knowing).

          I had no idea who Reich was, so I looked up some quotes (from his last book).

          He sounds almost precisely like most of those who write on this Blog!

          “Our core identity—the most precious legacy we have been given by the generations who came before us—is the ideals we share, the good we hold in common. If we are losing our national identity, it is not because we are becoming browner or speak in more languages than we once did. It is because we are losing our sense of the common good.”

          “Patriotism based on the common good does not pander to divisiveness. True patriots don’t fuel racist or religious or ethnic divisions. They aren’t homophobic or sexist or racist. To the contrary, true patriots confirm the good that we have in common. They seek to strengthen and celebrate the “We” in “We the people.”

          “Education is a public good that builds the capacity of a nation to wisely govern itself, and promotes equal opportunity.”

          “Democracy depends on citizens who are able to recognize the truth, analyze and weigh alternatives, and civilly debate their future, just as it depends on citizens who have an equal voice and equal stake in it. Without an educated populace, a common good cannot even be discerned. This is fundamental.”

          “Both Madison and Thomas Jefferson were influenced by the eighteenth-century French Enlightenment philosopher Montesquieu, who defined a “republic” as a self-regulating political society whose mainspring was civic virtue.”

          “On the eve of the 2016 presidential election, only 18 percent of Americans said they trusted national news media, according to the Pew Research Center. In a Gallup poll at about the same time, nearly two-thirds of Americans believed the mainstream press was filled with “fake news.” Contrast this with American opinion almost five decades before. In 1972, in the wake of investigative reporting that revealed truths about Vietnam and Nixon’s Watergate scandal, 72 percent of Americans expressed trust and confidence in the press.”

            • A con man reels his victims in by appearing to be what his victims wish him to be. He’s a rabidly pro labor red diaper baby who want to install a managed economy. With him managing it. He’s a commie. And a Clintonista. I can’t believe these quotes are attributed to him, frankly.

              • I am not sure how to say this, because I am aware that if I say such a thing I will be immediately associated with some *Commie* camp, but there is a growing awareness that for ‘average Americans’ the screws are tightened: according to some reports (I have no way to know if they are true or not) people are working more, but earning less in ‘real’ terms.

                I think that there must be a fair and *balanced* (I hate that word!) way to look at the general situation and to make fair statements about things.

                Again, I do not have any background in economics so I can only ask questions. I find it interesting that de Blasio has a rather coherent statement about the Amazon blow-up in the Opinion section of the Times.

                Do you dismiss, in absolute terms, all the disquiet that people feel? What about for example with the Yellow Vest Protests in Europe? It is a similar social dynamic, isn’t it? The ‘countryside’ manifesting discontent with the policies engineered by elites.

                Is there any way to have these sentiments or perceptions without being a Commie?

      • This is in response to Jack’s comment on Reich being a leftist con man (I don’t know how far this may be down the queue).

        His videos stink to high heaven….a few aggressive talking points with illustrations. I cannot immediately find a link to the one I was referring to but basically it was about the possible overturn of Obama Care. He draws a group of people at the bottom left of the white board, their faces are barely above the border of the board. Above them he writes ‘$198,000’ and then an arrow up to the middle right to a square that represents the wealthy..they money will go to them. It’s quite well done, meant to make you angry. It’s an emotional hit piece.

        At no point in the video are the people the money is coming from identified, but you imagine it’s the average Joe
        At no point does he say where he got the sum of $198,000.
        At no point does he say where that money will come from, or specifically why it goes to ‘the wealthy’

        It’s so context-free I had to look up what he was talking about and, lo and behold, it’s the repealing of the capital gains increase. Taking less taxes from someone is not taking money from anyone else, and to how many people would a 2% rollback in capital gains mean another $198.000 in their pocket?

        I thought he that he was just another extreme case of Trump Derangement, but if this is all purposeful on his part, he’s a skillful liar and propagandist. You can’t watch any of his videos without getting angry, and for a lot of people it doesn’t go any further than that. I see his vids all the time on FB, but I see few people actually debating the content.

    • Remember, this is a state that increased their tax rate even though they KNEW it would reduce tax revenue and threaten needed services. When revenues fell even more than predicted, they wanted to raise taxes again and reduce revenue EVEN MORE. Coumo had to beg them not to raise taxes because they need the revenue. The top 1% of taxpayers pay 50% of New York’s taxes.

  4. Jack is absolutely correct that it is never unethical to seek out the best deal for yourself or your client. I am actually ecstatic that Amazon pulled out of Queens. The Cuomos and DiBlasios need to be shown for the frauds they are and AOC is demonstrating her abject ignorance of how the economy works.

    However,

    Having worked in economic development in smaller markets I have always felt that large incentives distort management decision making. Adding to the bottom line is what managers are hired to do but the expectation is that those profits will be a result of value added activities of the firm. When firms lose sight of why they are in business and start profit seeking through its financing activities it eventually loses its original competitive advantage.

    For EcDev. professionals the Amazons are the white elephant they all seek to snare. Its all about jobs, jobs, jobs. One Amazon is worth 50 five hundred employee firms and requires far less work to recruit. Local politicians, when offered an opportunity to compete for the prize they often become so giddy with excitement they fail to think strategically as to what will be required to maintain the firm indefinitely. Many social costs are not factored into the equation such as school construction costs, water and sewer infrastructure needs. When they are considered, much of the costs will be provided at the state level so state politicians will favor highly populated areas over less densely populated communities. To use a baseball analogy large market teams can pay big bucks and corner the market on the best players which results in roughly the same teams being in contention every year.

    With all that said, I find Warren, AOC, et al that share the idea that tax abatements are corporate welfare fail to consider that in fact tax payments by corporations to pay for social programs are actually welfare to government that has no money to pay for what it wants.

    Corporations and governments have a symbiotic relationship. Without organizations that conduct economic transactions there can be no income to tax nor any need for government. Conversly, governments offer a stable place to conduct such transactions. Without this stable environment the enterprise cannot flourish to create a taxable base. So this begs the question should any business be taxed on anything households (whose residents can vote) are not taxed. And, if the business cannot vote should the taxes it pays be considered an governmental expropriation of property subject to 5th amendment protections. – just kidding.

    So, all those who think tax cuts are in some way a give away to the rich I would like an explanation why you think you put the money in that is being given away, why you feel more entitled to a bigger give away (having less or needing it more is not a valid rationale).

    • I have no knowledge of economy and such. But I have a question: How is it that a state or a municipality can wheel-and-deal with a private (or public) company and offer to reduce taxes or offer ‘incentives’ of any sort?

      Doesn’t it seem slightly suspect? I mean, could a private person negotiate her or his tax debt in exchange for doing business somewhere?

      Again, I know nothing about how these things work, but it seems rather fishy — and opens into corrupt possibilities — that ‘deals’ can be offered. Shouldn’t the whole business be illegal?

      • Well, to use one isolated method, they can do tax-increment financing (TIF). Let’s say Amazon wanted to set up a distribution center and needed 20 acres of undeveloped land to build on.

        That undeveloped land may generate $10,000 in taxes per year. However, the property taxes on a fully developed distribution center could be $100,000 per year.

        So, Amazon says, “I will develop the 20 acres, but I want taxes frozen at the current rate for the 2 years we are building the distribution center and we want tax increases at an increment of no more than $10,000 per year after that, so that it will take 9 years or more to catch up to the fully developed tax rate.

        These numbers are all made up, of course. But, it is not an example of the company paying less in taxes; it is simply the government agreeing to raise taxes at a lesser rate in order to encourage development. In the long run, the government benefits from the increased land value and the taxes that come with it (but at a delayed pace). The company gets beneficial tax treat in the sense that the government does not disincentivize development by hitting the developer with a huge increase in the property taxes all at once.

        I may not have all the details right on TIFs but that is the general idea.

        -Jut

        • TIF’s are used for smaller firms and projects that cannot get full private financing. Using Jut’s initial values the increase in the assessable base of $90, 000 is now taxed at a higher rate and the proceeds of increase are used to retire the debt associated project.

        • This does not always work out so well for the city either.

          In the 1990s, Hillsboro negotiated for one of those trendy outlet malls. The plan abated taxes for 15 years and was sold as a fix-the-roads deal to the public. The mall grew, thrived, and fell within a decade. Now it stands mostly empty.

          The developer did this on purpose. They pumped a ‘hot’ property, got flashy tenants, and sold the whole shebang to a less savvy investor, who found that the flashy tenants were not paying rent at a market rate. When rent went up, they left.

          The roads in Hillsboro still suck.

      • Actually, a private citizen can do the same thing. I did just last year.

        My property taxes jumped, as they have for the last 5 years (welcome to a thriving economy, Texas). I protested and opened a dialogue with the tax assessor office. I pointed to the total increases over time, and my willingness to assert my rights and patiently follow the established process gain a substantial adjustment. This was a win-win: no court costs for either side, and they did not want the publicity of the egregious tax hikes.

        My taxes still went up. Just no where near what the first assessment said.

  5. on a side note about the 3B in incentives, apparently amazon had a calculated -1% tax rate this year?

    Progs are upset about something legit: a company this profitable shouldn’t be paying zero dollars in taxes and getting B in more incentives, but as usual they’re being retarded in how they bring it up.

    Didn’t we overhaul tax laws last year? Why is this considered ok, or even good?

  6. I am looking into my retro crystal ball. I see young Alexandria and little Elizabeth after class. One is popular but not very bright; the other is a mistress of manipulation. Both are too busy fooling others to bother doing their homework.

  7. Time to look again at ‘trust busting’. Bell was broken up when it got too large and powerful. I think it would be easier to break up Amazon. Whether it would be a good thing to do or not, I don’t know. But it should be on the table. Corporate titans sometimes need reminding of who has the ultimate power. A very difficult area.

    • Anti-trust law, for various and debatable reasons, is all but a dead letter in the US. That could change, but I don’t see it. The ATT break-up was long, long ago. Since then, we have seen such mergers as the only two satellite radio companies, because individually both were going broke. The airlines industry is now made up of a few mega-airlines and some regional carriers. Disney owns ABC, ESPN and is about to buy 2oth Century Fox.

      • If this is so, does it seem possible to you that these entities could become, or are becoming, more powerful and relevant (determining) than government itself?

        Is it possible in your view of things to conceive of a society so dominated by business that government is overshadowed?

        How might the people of a nation, if they chose to, assert sovereign power over an enormously powerful constellation of corporations? Would you agree that the people, through their representatives, give the right to exist to a private corporation? That is, through granting a charter? (I am having a deja-vu that I asked this question of you before!)

        Excuse me for venturing into territories of speculation (and paranoia) that you might only recognize as ‘leftist’ (they seem to dominate in this area and the right has little to say about it).

        • Yes Alizia, of course. Many big corporations are now effectively global, able to manipulate their transactions (transfer pricing) and business locations both to minimise their taxes, (which is arguably legitimate) but also reward and manipulate their politician cronies wherever they are (which isn’t).

          One man, one vote governance has always been fragile. ‘One dollar one vote’ is frequently much more the case.

          Those who fear government as a potential threat to their freedom (most here?), should in my view be more concerned about the threats from big global corporations.

          The appropriate ‘answers’ aren’t clear. The wonderful free trade globalisation idea needs to be tempered somehow. And big global businesses that can smash through nation state boundaries, need to be regulated. And the varying welfare and due process protections of citizenship need to be manageable.

          • So, any day now, GM is going to form it’s own army and take over the country. Think about this. Most corporations make a product, provide a service or furnish information. Their ultimate goal is to produce a profit, shareable with their stockholders. Controlling a country is, essentially, a governments job, and it is a losing proposition. It COSTS money, and most assuredly does not produce a profit. Good luck finding stockholders who would be happy with a negative cask-flow.

            • Some Alex Carey quotes:

              The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.

              It remains, as ever, an axiom of conventional wisdom that the use of propaganda as a means of social and ideological control is distinctive of totalitarian regimes. Yet the most minimal exercise of common sense would suggest a different view: that propaganda is likely to play at least as important a part in democratic societies (where the existing distribution of power and privilege is vulnerable to quite limited changes in popular opinion) as in authoritarian societies (where it is not). It is arguable that the success of business propaganda in persuading us, for so long, that we are free from propaganda is one of the most significant propaganda achievements of the twentieth century.

              These are just two examples, paragraphs that contain interesting ideas that can be considered and thought about if one wants to.

              Some days, this is how I see things:

              It seems to me that if we really & truly take the ideals that — as they say — are *enshrined* in the Constitution seriously, that the problems in the first paragraph must be seen as real. It is true, as far as I have been able to discern, that most of the anti-corporate discourse comes from the Progressive-Left. And those on the Right, at least in America, seem always to take the stand of defending businesses and corporations against criticism. I find this quite bizarre I must confess. Therefore, I have begun to see that both the Progressive Left and the (Republican?) Right are in significant senses flawed positions. The Progressive-Left is too contaminated by Marxism and Socialistic ideals, and the Republican Right is, in different ways, also sort of in thrall to ideas which have a totalitarian connection. My unreflectingly supporting the business sector, the military sector, and the globlizing-economic sector, they cannot really serve the popular notion of ‘democracy’. What I have just said seems to me unassailable. It is simply a fact.

              Therefore, to look for some sort of sane alternative is to forge ideas that are neither of the Left nor of the Right, at least given the shape that these opposed poles have today.

              If someone wants to gain a better sense of what is going on in our world today, that person has to consider — and study — the popular movements that are raising their voices. One has to grasp that there are such movements and that they have issues with aspects of Postwar liberalism as a management-system in our societies. One has to understand how these *systems* came to be developed and how they have been (for want of a better word) installed. But if you don’t want to do this, well don’t! In my view though it is a mistake not to.

              I have begun to conclude — as a result of participation on this Blog quite frankly — that there is in truth no way to effectively oppose or to combat *power* as it molds the world according to its designs. The systems are too large, the force that impels them too powerful. Power at that level can only serve power. The notion of democracy could still have some life but only in immediate circumstances. Like in your local city council or on your street. The larger systems, and the determining structures of these systems, are so far outside of democratic control that one can only stand by and observe what they do.

              It does seem to be true though — speaking of America more strictly — that a control-regime begins to show itself. This is (in my view) the *understructure of power*. It is neither of the Left nor of the Right but is, in its essence, the *business-system*. It senses threat, in fact, from any *popular* pole. It cannot allow such a pole to gain substantial power (that is, to exert itself democratically), and its entire design is to assert itself more and more. Underneath it is *sheer and absolute power* and, in truth, sheer and absolute violence. Since it cannot allow opposition to its assertion of itself, it necessarily must oppose opposition to it, and the ultimate territory of that assertion is violence. But the primary are of this *violence* is *violence against truth*. Or violence against discourse. Or violence against *intellect*. Therefore, it is necessary to *dumb down America* (as the popular phrase goes). And, through that act, which is an expression of a kind of totalitarian expression of power, other violences occur.

              Propaganda is, therefore, a form of *violence*. And this is deeply rooted in a *system of control* that has been developed, principally, int he United States. It began just before the First WW and became a primary tool for the molding of culture in the Postwar (ll) period. We now live int he aftermath of that *world*.

              This will make it seem as though I don’t view or honor the *positive* in this construction of the Postwar *liberal* system. That would be completely false. My view is *dystopic* insofar as the systems that have been installed are showing their *truer face* as they begin to reveal that it is their power which will determine what systems we live under. What values we will have, and what values we will not have.

              But it is not *democracy* that has built these systems, and the *power* that is now beginning to show its face of control (specifically again in America) is not a ‘face of democracy’ and thus does not really serve Constitutional values, nor any values at all really. I do not see *people* acting in their world to either create it or control it. I see larger systems which *open a space*, as it were, for people to exist. But it is a managed existence.

              Personally, I have concluded, that these negative aspects which we see manifesting themselves have come about because the Republic had been corrupted. By the business and the military class (or sector). When one speaks of ‘corporate domination’ on has to include that this corporate class has definite — obvious — connections to the *intelligence establishment*. These are extensions of the military offices of the Postwar.

              These are simply facts. Nothing outrageous, nothing unbelievable. My own view is that a *truly Republican Conservative*, and a Constitutionalist, should be deeply concerned about these eventualities. And that the critical position should be taken up more by those on the Conservative side.

              • Interesting Alizia that you fear being branded a ‘commie’ Of course on this blog being ‘commie’ is synonymous with being mentally deficient, ignorant of history and probably corrupt; with a fondness for Stalin, forced labour camps and the Gulag. Of course most of our fights are based on semantics; the words mean different things to each of us because of our different experiences. Other labels such as socialist, social democrat and even ‘liberal’, still seem to provoke quite negative responses. I can’t honestly recommend that you just explain how you are concerned (if you are) for the ‘poor and disadvantaged’ as that still may get aggressively misunderstood.

                Yes, if I understand you at all, you are in my view right to be concerned. My generation (and yours?) has been through a period of rising prosperity, which ‘we’ widely thought was the result of free markets, deregulation, the ‘neo liberal manifesto’ and the so called ‘Washington Consensus’. (Interesting though, that much of our gains came in times of big governments and high taxes. ) We lauded the Reagan / Thatcher ideas of small governments, dismantling of labour unions, liberty and low taxes. But the triumphalism of the early 1990s (Fukuyama – The End of History etc.), has now largely evaporated. There is little in the way of consensus as to the way ahead. Liberal democratic norms and systems are under widespread challenge. Anyone who tells you they know what’s going on, can’t have been paying much attention.

                • Of course on this blog being ‘commie’ is synonymous with being mentally deficient, ignorant of history and probably corrupt; with a fondness for Stalin, forced labour camps and the Gulag.

                  My larger interest, though I am not sure if I have been able to make it clear, is to be able to see things as they are and to be able to describe them directly. My basic idea is that, and certainly in relation to the *important things*, and the contentious things, that it’s there that the need to lie and misrepresent arises. And in relation to those *important things* the various factions weigh-in and use their power and resources to try to win the day and see their version of the story triumph.

                  I think that it would be fair to describe numerous contributors to this Blog as coming from a particular school of American thought as it pertains to the contrast between ‘social concerns’ and the concerns of business. How to make a fair statement about them and where they stand could be helpful.

                  My view is that in essence the Republican stance has numerous corrupt features, and that the Democrat stance when taken together as some sort of counter-point, reveals a totality that is similarly corrupt. Therefore, together, these two poles exist together in a dysfunctional symbiosis, and this *dysfunction* mystifies and confuses people. But to get to the bottom of it all, in my view, one has to be willing to confront the issue of ‘power and what power does’. Or ‘power and the machinations of power’. I wonder if *power* could ever become a topic of study and if so how one could approach it. It is a fact that when Machiavelli began to be read (for example around Shakespeare’s time) that such a direct description of *how power functions* (or must function) was very scandalous.

                  In the exact sense that Hamlet is torn and shaken down to his psychological foundation when he realizes the depth of corruption, and his own corruption, and is immobilized by it, the Seventeenth century and those that followed gave way to a certain ruthlessness in political conception. I have to confess that one of the most poignant essays on the inner dynamic of American power is Noam Chomsky’s On Power & Ideology: The Managua Lectures. And I remember one contributor here who said that reading Chomsky was unnecessary ‘to know that s*%t stinks’. It seemed so odd to me: to deliberately avoid reading the one who is considered the *arch-enemy*. It would put one in the position of having no means — except some emotionalized outburst — to be able to refute him! But, there we have a key of sorts: difficult and challenging ideas that are fought with emotional tools. I think this is one of the essences of propaganda and thus of PR, isn’t it?

                  Yet, Chomsky is a communist. I think that is what Anarcho-Sydicalist meant [Definition: Anarcho-syndicalism (also referred to as revolutionary syndicalism) is a theory of anarchism that views revolutionary industrial unionism or syndicalism as a method for workers in capitalist society to gain control of an economy and with that control influence in broader society.] I find this amusing since I have been reading Wilde’s The Soul of Man Under Socialism and Wilde — a giant child in my opinion — came under the influence of Peter Kropotkin and, I wager, would have been one of the ‘progressives’ of our day.

                  Still, On Power & Ideology is a very very revealing picture of the inner machinations of American power. It is too bad in many ways that Chomsky cannot generalize his study of power and can only focus on American power. It would make his case more powerful. But then, it would become a more general study of *power, and what power does*.

                  Therefore, in my own view, an unbiased study of How Power Functions, enables one to strip things down to their most basic. It is frightening to do this. Why? Because of the complicating issue of ‘complicity’. The more invested one is, the more complicit in the structure of lies necessary to maintain it. I think this is true in any system, in any government.

                  One has to confront the Thrasymachus Argument (The Republic):

                  Thus, Socrates, injustice on a sufficiently large scale is a stronger, freer, and a more masterful thing than justice, and, as I said in the beginning, it is the advantage of the stronger that is the just, while the unjust is what profits man’s self and is for his advantage.

                  Listen—I say that justice is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger

                  In my own case, my *confrontation* occurred in relation to my former defense of Israel. I think I always knew that the core of the argument in favor of the destruction of Palestinian culture and its cities was ‘unjust’ and indefensible. And that therefore another sort of argument was necessary: essentially “injustice on a sufficiently large scale is a stronger, freer, and a more masterful thing than justice”. The nature of Power is that it asserts itself. It reaches out and seizes things. Then, it does what it needs to do in order to construct a defense and a rationalization.

                  The purpose of the defense is two-fold: it is what one must say (essentially) to children, since children immediately notice lies and manipulative distortions (generally speaking). The second part is to fool oneself, and this opens into the topic of *complicity*. But I think the ones at the ‘top’, as it were, don’t bother with the lies. Because surely they must have seen, ages ago, that politics (as Orwell said) is “inseparable from coercion and fraud”. To serve Power then is not to be mystified by the coercion and fraud necessary in the games of politics and geo-political machinations.

                  Oddly, my issue is that I do not know what precisely to serve. Maybe the *appropriate patriotism* is to 1) identify power in its most tangible manifestation, and 2) to resolve to serve it simply because “injustice on a sufficiently large scale is a stronger, freer, and a more masterful thing than justice”. For example, it should follow logically that I would *support* Israel, and it should not matter if indeed they did uproot existing communities and all the rest. I should ‘serve power’, and my own interest, and just go along with the program. And if I do it in relation to Israel, where my own greater interest is supposed to lie, then I can do it and should do it in relation to all the very much larger structures of power that *define our world*.

                  There is little in the way of consensus as to the way ahead. Liberal democratic norms and systems are under widespread challenge. Anyone who tells you they know what’s going on, can’t have been paying much attention.

                  But here is the complicating factor. It is true that the Postwar ‘liberal forms’ and the system-of-management (elite designs, the designs of Power, which are rarely the same designs of people and communities) are facing serious challenges. It would seem that *people* are upset about *what is being done to them*. Look almost anywhere: Romania, Italy, France, Germany, Poland, and certain Britain with Brexit. There are myriads of examples: social engineering; the engineering of moral & ethical attitudes in relation to sexuality; the general (and noticed) corruption of former social values; and the machinations of culture-molding institutions which, when people try to locate a *culprit*, appear as *enemies* in many senses. Just as the MSM is now being identified as ‘enemy of the people’.

                  Of course in the midst of all this stands the Constitution of the United States and a very considerable and quite idealistic set of principles and values which . . . power has to jump over to get its way. It has to work — very hard — to get around these ideas and ideals. It has to subvert the Constitution at the most fundamental level in order to create what is, in truth, the para-governmental entities that really do control and determine things.

                  Therefore, this paragraph is brought out again:

                  The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.

                  It is, really, a question of *seeing things as they are*. It is very hard to know what to do in relation to this gnosis.

            • My apologies. I messed up again!

              This (I hope) is the video that discusses the essence of the question. That is, the rights of natural persons and their communities, and their vision of themselves, to control and dominate over the rights of corporate persons.

              The other talks are not irrelevant, but this one is particularly interesting. If we do agree that the present political and social struggles in the US have their center in a *marginalized interior* (the ‘fly-over country’), and if we understand these people, and their communities, as resisting the control and domination by elite factions, or global factions, then we can begin to frame better the rise of national populism and its revolt against powerful structures.

            • I give up. I post the correct video and it defaults to this one! Again my apologies.

              The name of the YouTube video is: “TalkingStickTV – Thomas Linzey – Challenging Corporations”.

              It is worthwhile to listen to.

  8. Jack wrote: “It is not Amazon’s ethical or civic responsibility to invigorate a community’s economy while seeking nothing in return. In fact, the opposite is true. Being pro business doesn’t and mustn’t require accepting corporate wrongdoing, but communities that allow a hostile business atmosphere and anti-capitalist demagogues to drive companies away deserve what they get. Why should Amazon stay and fight, when more welcoming territory beckons?”

    Somehow, the way this is phrased, it just doesn’t seem right. A larger element is missing. Who has “ethical or civic responsibility” to act responsibly and civically in their neighborhood, municipality, county, state or nation? What does that mean? What value-systems determines that? How is it overseen?

    To be simply factual and honest, the questions about the influence of business interests in a democracy — the ways that corporate structures use corporate law to gain inordinate power — should be a fair question for an active, vibrant democracy. If a full and far-reaching conversation were allowed as to ‘corporate wrongdoing’ and even ‘corporate influence’ — if it were allowed into the open in a democratic environment — what might people actually choose? The conversation is, largely considered, pushed aside.

    The way things are arranged — and I do not think this is a radically or extremist assertion at all — is that people simply have no real choice about much of anything. True, they seem to be given choices, but they are not choices about questions they themselves have formed. I would not say that this has not allowed greater material prosperity, it has. But if the question is really about ‘values’ and such, well, a larger conversation should be allowed. And it is not.

    I think it fair to say that there is a great deal of distrust of ‘corporate America’ and the laws and regulations that have allowed *corporate persons* to gain the power to determine culture, value, definitions, even to revise history. One must also at least consider that rising popular movements are questioning the ‘outcomes’ of uncontrolled corporate control and influence.

    Consider, for one example — this is a more Christian-moral stance, this description (from “The Marketing of Evil”, David Kupelian:

    Americans have come to tolerate, embrace, and even champion many things that would have horrified their parents’ generation – from easy divorce and unrestricted abortion on demand to extreme body piercing and teaching homosexuality to grade schoolers. Does that mean today’s Americans are inherently more morally confused and depraved than previous generations? Of course not, says veteran journalist David Kupelian. But they have fallen victim to some of the most stunningly brilliant and compelling marketing campaigns in modern history.

    The Marketing of Evil reveals how much of what Americans once almost universally abhorred has been packaged, perfumed, gift wrapped, and sold to them as though it had great value. Highly skilled marketers, playing on our deeply felt national values of fairness, generosity, and tolerance, have persuaded us to embrace as enlightened and noble that which all previous generations since America’s founding regarded as grossly self-destructive – in a word, evil.

    In this groundbreaking and meticulously researched book, Kupelian peels back the veil of marketing-induced deception to reveal exactly when, where, how, and especially why Americans bought in to the lies that now threaten the future of the country. For example, few of us realize that the widely revered father of the “sexual revolution” has been irrefutably exposed as a full-fledged sexual psychopath who encouraged pedophilia. Or that giant corporations voraciously competing for America’s $150 billion teen market routinely infiltrate young people’s social groups to find out how better to lead children into ever more debauched forms of “authentic self-expression”.

    Likewise, most of us mistakenly believe the “abortion rights” and “gay rights” movements were spontaneous, grassroots uprisings of neglected or persecuted minorities wanting to breathe free. Few people realize America was actually sold on abortion thanks to an audacious public relations campaign that relied on fantastic lies and fabrications. Or that the “gay rights” movement – which transformed America’s former view of homosexuals as self-destructive human beings into their current status as victims and cultural heroes – faithfully followed an in-depth, phased plan laid out by professional Harvard-trained marketers.

    Kupelian, obviously, is coming at it more from a Christian-moral angle, but there are completely secular organizations like POCLAD that examine — intelligently and fairly — how it came about the corporations got the unrestricted power that they have within a democratic system.

    That NY messed up its opportunity to have Amazon there is a sub-issue to a much larger issue that touches on how people are relating to their situation in this world.

    There is a great deal of resistance arising in America and in Europe, both from the Left and from the Right, that touch on how people in communities should relate to ‘elite power’. Any conversation — in America — gets horribly and immediately distorted. But the conversation is not a bad one or a ‘wrong’ one.

    • Aliza, the answer to your first paragraph is explained by Adam Smith inThe nature and causes of The Wealth of Nations. Individuals that seek to maximize their own self interest by default maximize the value accruing to society as a whole. This is merely a mathematical tautolgy. Now this does not mean that everyone will put resources into the pot for the common good it merely means that as rationally self interested people will be guided by an invisible hand to come to socially maximal positions by maximizing their own RATIONAL self interest.

  9. And of course, Bezos owns and directs Amazon AND the Washington Post. He’s supposed to be one of the good guys. He bought the Post to keep it from evaporating and to use it to unseat Trump and restore the Dems to eternal control of the Presidency. He was supposed to move Amazon to NYC as a public service. Delicious irony abounds. I wonder whether he’ll buy the NYT when it needs to be rescued from the internet.

  10. AOC, Warren, Reich are liars, economic ignoramuses or both. These are the people who wish to rule us and our livelihoods in the name of what they decide is the common good, not the marketplace of ideas and positive economics. Most normative economists, like Reich, Krugman and their fellow travelers, live in a world of wishes and dreams few, if any, of which could ever come true.

    Every time I read some pronouncement from these people, I am convinced they sat through their educations fingers in ears yelling la-la-la to avoid facts and realities.

        • I think it’s much worse because they are shaping (distorting) young minds. They are being given access to the brooders for young people. Awful. They are indoctrinating rather than teaching. A horrible violation of one of the most sacred trusts, that between teacher and student. Criminal, really.

          • I’d agree, to a point. AOC is so obviously and unashamedly uninformed (ignorant), and yet she is in a position to shape public policy. Some of the folks in Queens are rejoicing over the loss of jobs. However, I suspect that she may be a victim of those same bent instructors.

  11. Dragin. You say : “ Controlling a country is, essentially, a governments job, and it is a losing proposition. It COSTS money, and most assuredly does not produce a profit.”

    Mr Putin and his mates seem to be making a buck out of it (?)

    No, of course I’m not suggesting you’ll need to fight off a GM army. But not so long ago from my background, falling out with the mill owner meant you and your family might well starve, or have to emigrate.

  12. Good luck with that Alizia. I continue to ponder on why people view the world and events so differently.  I increasingly conclude that they must have (in Bayesian terms) vastly different ‘priors’.  We each have different experiences, different stories, and adopt different heroes and villians.  In my lexicon everybody is biased and nobody is stupid. We are just biased differently, with different ‘priors’. So your “seeing things as they are’” might produce something that makes sense for you, but you shouldn’t expect it to ‘make sense’ for anyone else – other perhaps your identical twin should you have one.

    One, for me, increasingly frequent and discomforting glimpse is there can be quite different foundational thinkings as to what might constitute ‘good’ or ‘bad’ behaviour. Without any agreement as to who has ultimate authority (holy writ, Plato, Immanuel Kant, Jack Marshall, Dilbert etc.) this makes any search for universal ethics inevitably frustrating.

    I glimpse for instance that many on this blog seem quite strongly to equate ‘good’ with personal freedom, self reliance and a feisty suspicion of authority. ‘Bad’ equates correspondingly with any infringement of personal liberty, or challenge to a core framework of human rights, eg. owning property, free speech, freedom of religion, the right to elect government, the rule of law and due process etc.

    I don’t quibble with any of this but my background and culture bring me to a somewhat different perspective as to what constitutes ‘good’ or ‘bad’ behaviour. Perhaps dramatically oversimplifying, ‘bad’ for me equates primarily to being ‘selfish’ and ‘good’ equates to being ‘selfless’, and self sacrificing. We have obligations to each other. Any judgment as to whether we are living ‘ethically’ relates primarily to the extent to which we are meeting these obligations. Different communities (families, tribes, nations, humanity as a whole) will express these obligations differently at different times ( eg taking a fare share of parental duties, paying ones taxes, looking out for the neighbours or serving in the military.)

    Of course my collectivist leanings inevitably bring me far more towards socialism than libertarianism, but that doesn’t necessarily determine my vote. I don’t in any way claim ‘rightness’, just ‘difference’.

    An interesting (for me) thought model is the queue of workers at the gates of the typical 19th century industrial mill (dominating the town) hoping to be picked for work.  They are all desperate.  The overseer lowers the pay rate and rejects those he dislikes.  One of the workers attempts to form a collective response – the start of a union maybe.  “You take all of us, or none of us. And we won’t work for less than X”.

    With my bias of course the proto union leader is a hero. Solidarity, stand together or hang separately, mateship, is all part of our Australian culture. (Pity that in practice it all gets so much more complicated.)

    To some of my US friends (with their different priors) the same story seems to sound quite different.  The ‘hero’ for them is more likely to be the worker (we’d call him a scab) who destroys any chance of solidarity and asserts his individual right ahead of any collective responsibility.

    Not ‘wrong’, just ‘different’. Andrew

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.