Counter Point

Equally well done this reader provides a counter point to the previous post.  What it interesting is the idea that they both have in common…that government is out of control
Whoever wrote this is full of shit. First of all, while it is true that the “financial sector” (and can you believe the arrogance of that term, by the way? As if the livelihoods of certain individuals is simple a cog – a “sector” – in some larger, more organized entity) …it’s true that it did engage in unprecedentedly risky behavior, they only did so because they had no other choice (ie: every other, less risky form of making money on Wall Street is so heavily regulated and/or taxed that it isn’t worth doing per se). The only way you could think otherwise is if you regard profit as optional; which means you regard the people who research and execute the actions of the “financial sector” as superflouous; which means you believe in the labor theory of value; which makes you a Marxist economically and an altruist morally (ie: you believe that the purpose of participation in the economy is to serve the needs of other, more needy people rather than your own happiness). It doesn’t matter even if this writer doesn’t think that he’s these things; the nature of his opinions make him so. Oh, and lets say nothing of fact that, in reality, big business like Wall Street firms pay most of the taxes that their bailouts consisted of anyways – so, technically, they weren’t bailouts, but refunds.


But I understand. I realize that the OWS movement – and the populist opposition to business bailouts in general – isn’t about these particular bailouts, but the issue of bailouts per se. The opposition to these particular bailouts is just the excuse to have a referendum on this kind of behavior, and thus determine the course of America’s political future. Let’s look at what the OWS people would have that future look like.


Unlike the typical member of the “Tea Party”, the typical OWS protestor isn’t opposed to bailouts *on principle*, but simply bailouts to rich people at the expense of poor people. If it were the other way around – if the government had taken money from rich people and given it to some poor person to “bail him out” from a life spent buying menthol cigarettes and shiny 18″ wheels when he should have been paying for groceries – they would be all for it. In fact, that’s what they’re advocating. They aren’t saying that “bailouts”, period – no matter who the “bailer” and who the “bailee” is – are wrong; they’re saying that all of the money the government refun – er, gave – to rich people could have been spent on poor people. In other words: unlike the Tea Partiers – who were appealing to the principle of LIBERTY – the OWSers are appealing to the principle of COLLECTIVISM.


They aren’t saying “Don’t tread on me” as a general expression of notion that man – individual man – is not be tread on. They’re saying it, but with the addendum “… tread on him, instead” slipped in implicitly at the end.


Financial markets don’t need to be regulated (even more than they already are; the repeal of Glass-Steagle notwithstanding). They need to be freed from taxes, regulations, and all the other altruism-motivated government dictates of their business practices (ie: NINJA loans), so that they can make money performing less risky behavior. Of course, in today’s environment, it is true that certain people are attracted to Wall Street that, in any other era, would be common criminals who couldn’t dream of working there. Mice rush in where lions fear to tread. But that isn’t the essence of the problems on Wall Street today. The essence comes from the behavior of the men who WOULD be there even in a completely free economy. The hard-nosed, practical, narrow-minded men who take their fiduciary duty (ie: THEIR FUCKING JOBS) seriously, and who simply react to the rules of the game as they’re set by their overlords in Washington. These men are not inherently evil (as the OWS Marxist-altruists want you to believe), but nor are they inherently good. They’re simply workers like everyone else, and if you want them to perform work that benefits not just themselves, but everyone else – kind of like small business does, the darling of the faux-capitalist left these days* – then set them free to fucking do it.


*Have you looked at a small business these days? Computers, phones, automobiles, plane tickets, office supplies, packages being delivered, etc, etc, etc. Small businesses “are the back bone of America”? Bullshit. Big business is the back bone of small business – and thus the back bone of America.
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Counter Point

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6 Responses

  1. There is no commonality between the two posts at all. This post is about shrinking the power of government. The other guy’s post was all about more government. He didn’t want to reign in government – which caused the problems we’re currently facing. Instead, he laid all of the blame for them on private individuals and business, and said that the only solution is to not only keep the regulations we currently have, but to ad more so that the novel financial instruments which were created in order to make money in leiu of those current regulations can be regulated (“outlawed”) as well.

    Of course, where does that road end? In short: totalitarianism. Fascism, flat out – no matter how much people like him want to believe that somewhere, somehow, deep down they’re capitalists.

  2. First off, I’d like to thank Mike for “promoting” my original post; it’s a credit to his openmindedness that he would do so, considering his own libertarian principles were probably unsettled by my call for more government regulation of financial markets.

    As for Dantes–I’m afraid I find him woefully uninformed. Some facts would help his outlook. I’ll take his points one by one.

    1.) First he condemns my use of the term “financial sector”–a commonplace term used by lots of people, including people working IN the financial sector. I truly can only shrug at his anger at that; finance capital is a field just like any other–no different than automotives, farming, porn, etc. If you have a better word to use for that “industry” (we have to put industry in quotes because, of course, they don’t actually make anything), then I’m all ears. I am happy to use whatever word Dantes is comfortable with.

    2.) Dantes claims that wall street firms, banks, had “no choice” but to engage in what he admits is “unprecedentedly risky behavior”, because the poor wall street firms were so thoroughly regulated that they had no other way to make money.

    Poor birds. Just barely making ends meet on Wall Street. Desperately trying to find some way, ANY way, to make a buck in spite of crippling regulation.

    Forget for the moment that wall street compensation has outstripped that of lawyers, doctors, computer engineers, and pretty much everyone else by VAST amounts over the past 20 years. Lets just look at these burdensome regulations, shall we?

    Glass-Steagall was repealed in 1999. This meant that commercial banks–that is, the banks that take our checking and savings deposits–could now put our money at risk and engage in all sorts of risky investments that had been off limits to them since 1933. Then, in 2004, after intense lobbying from investment firms and banks (again, vast sums of lobbying dollars spent), the SEC relaxed restrictions on how high firms and banks could push their leverage ratios. Prior to 2004, a 12 to 1 ratio of debt to equity was the limit; after the SEC relaxed that restriction, it took only FOUR years for several of the largest investment banks to push their leverage to 30 to 1. Which meant that only a 3 or 4 percent drop in the value of their assets would render those banks virtually insolvent. Unprecedentedly risky indeed! The individuals making these decisions got RICH. The rest of the country got screwed. These are FACTS.

    And then there is the whole realm of derivatives, with virtually NO regulation to speak of. Credit derivatives are those pesky insurance plans that firms and banks can sell even if they have NO ability to pay for the default that they are supposedly insuring against. Credit derivatives are still big business–they make huge SHORT TERM profits for the firms (and individuals!) selling them. In 2011, tons of credit insurance had been sold to owners of Greek debt. Incredibly risky. The individual people making these decisions are getting richer and richer. And should a default happen–WHEN the default inevitably happens–everyone will go down. Well, except for those decision-makers themselves–they already got compensated by their bank or firm; they already received millions of dollars in bonuses for raising profits for this or that quarter. Why should they care if the U.S. goes into depression? They already have their multi million dollar homes, cars, and enough money to retire 40 times over.

    And then there is the entire shadow banking system–money market funds, and so forth. Again, with sparse and sometimes no regulation at all. Routinely engaged in creative bookkeeping–hiding their debts from investors in the form of junk bonds, or else just selling their debts (to an arranged buyer) the day before the quarter ends, so they can report a glowing balance sheet, and then buying those same debts back the day after. What you or I would call “Fraud”; what they just call business as usual. All without those pesky regulators looking over their shoulders.

    So tell me, Dantes. What are these horrible burdensome regulations that you speak of? Please describe them. Tell us why Wall Street has “no choice” but to engage in “unprecedentedly risky” business. Tell us why they had to do this when they were making VASTLY more money than just about any other field of business in the entire country. Tell us why you think LESS regulation would solve anything, when it is precisely in the most unregulated financial markets that the most egregious abuses took place?

    Because so far, you haven’t offered anything remotely like an argument; you’ve simply said they “had no choice.” Well, back up your position. Tell us WHY they had no choice. I mean, you speak as though they were all suffering and barely making ends meet. The facts show that it is precisely the OPPOSITE that was the case. They have been making more money than EVER before. More money than doctors and lawyers. And with each advance in deregulation, they made even MORE money. And they engaged in even MORE risky behavior. With even MORE narrow focus on short term profits. Why did they “have no choice” but to do this? Tell us all about these burdensome regulations that left them “no choice.” We’re all sitting on the edge of our seats.

    3.) Dantes referes repeatedly to the travesty of investment banks and firms being taxed. I can only shrug. Does Dantes long for a world where you and I pay taxes, but corporations don’t? Is this supposed to be an example of how horribly burdensome the government is to financial markets–that they actually impose a tax on wall street firms? I pay taxes; so does my business. But wall street firms, with the most highly compensated individuals in the country–they should pay NO taxes? I’m speechless. You have some explaining to do, Lucy.

    Also, corporate taxes in the U.S. are some of the lowest in the world–a mere 1.3 percent of GDP in 2009, for example. Only Iceland is lower. Please Dantes, tell us–what are these horribly burdensome taxes of which you speak?

    At any rate, taxes are irrelevant to this discussion–Wall Street firms are not taxed more than other businesses. So your point is…well…pointless.

    4.) Wall Street firms paid taxes, therefore the bailout was really a refund. I have paid taxes too. Can I get a refund? I honestly have NO idea what your point is on that one. Please explain, because as it now stands, you have failed to articulate anything that even resembles an actual argument.

    5.) Dantes says that the “only way” I could possibly think that there has NOT been excessive regulation of the financial sector is if I’m a marxist. This is pure balderdash. It doesn’t even have the form of an actual argument.

    I, by contrast, offer an argument which refers to FACTS. I point to those areas where Wall Street investors were LEAST regulated in the past 20 or so years, and show that it was precisely in those areas that they engaged in the most egregious abuses. They engaged in SHORT TERM investment strategies that made them super rich, and completely fucked up the rest of the economy (in part because of the reasons I’ve already listed). Yes, I want those financial markets regulated, because if they’re not then the same thing will happen again and again. There is NO logical connection between that modest position and marxism as such. That Dantes has to resort to such a stretch is pretty much proof that he has no ground on which to stand.

    6.) Dantes’s confident description of OWS–that what OWS is really all about is getting a handout from the government so they can buy cigarettes and rims–is a silly caricature. About as silly as the description of the tea party which says that they are all just dumb, racist hicks who are nothing more than the dupes of the rich, and who vote against their economic interests because they care more about stopping homosexuals from getting married than they do about being able to see the doctor when they’re sick.

    In my view, OWS is really about one thing: stopping the risky behavior (motivated solely by greed) that caused the 2008 crisis. End of story. Nothing to do with wanting a bailout or a handout.

    Though I for one am very sympathetic to the principled stance AGAINST bailouts as such. And at the very least, if we ARE going to bail someone out, then we had damn well better be able to control how the bailout money is used. I paid about $30,000 in taxes for the 2008 tax year. I shudder to think how much of that money was used to pay for bonuses, vacations, etc., for Wall Street and bank executives.

    7.) Dantes accuses OWS of “collectivism”. That is not necessarily incorrect. Here is how I would put it. As a business owner, I NEED the American economy to be strong. In order for the American economy to be strong, we need middle and working class Americans to have spending power. If they don’t have spending power, then there won’t be enough people to buy my products. If they don’t have spending power, then I go out of business, as will thousands of other productive businesses. That’s how a depression starts.

    So yes, I am “collectivist” in the sense that I want the economy to be strong. I want the middle class strong; I want working people to be able to have money to spend after they pay for rent and food and health care. And when people on Wall Street and in investment banks push leverage ratios way past sane levels, and when they engage in risky behavior and thus put all of OUR money at risk, and threaten the welfare of the entire U.S. economy–yeah, I get mad, and I want to stop them. For the sake of the ECONOMY. If that makes me collectivist, then good. But then by that logic, EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO KEEP THE ECONOMY STRONG IS COLLECTIVIST.

    One of the fundamental purposes of banks USED to be that they would help GROW the American economy (by making loans to businesses, etc.). This was part of the basic bargain: they get licensure to conduct banking business in the U.S., and in return they would help economic growth. But banks have begun to participate less and less in that purpose, and have focused more and more on speculation, profit making, etc.

    If wanting banks to do their part to grow the economy makes me collectivist or marxist in Dantes’s eyes, then that’s only because he is too uninformed to know what “collectivist” or “marxist” means.

    The point I made in my original post, which Dantes failed to address, is that people on Wall Street DO NOT CARE about the American economy. They don’t have to. They can make just as much money in some Sri Lanka tea farm if a good investment opportunity opens up there as they can by investing in an American company. Why should they give a shit about the American middle class?

    And that’s the whole point: they DON’T give a shit about the American middle class. Because they don’t have to any more. It’s a Global economy, run by digital and split-second transactions. Why should they care if mom & pop stores are shutting down all over the nation? Why should they care if big factories are closing? Why should they care if jobs are being moved to Mexico and India?

    OWS does care about those things. Does that make them collectivist? Maybe. It also makes them very fucking patriotic. OWS cares about the AMERICAN economy. They want the AMERICAN economy to be strong. Wall Street no longer cares. That is a plain fact. Talk to any investor today; ask him/her whether an American depression would mean investors would stop being able to make millions of dollars. They’ll all tell you the same thing: “No way; if that happened we’d just focus on investment opportunities in other countries.” (Or else find a way to profit off of recovery efforts.)

    8.) Dantes tries very hard to paint the individuals working in Wall Street firms as though they are just like all the other hard working members of the labor force. Only, the evil government is hindering them from doing their honest work. They are simply trying to fulfill their fiduciary duty to their investors. Honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, right?

    Wrong. First, their day’s pay is vastly higher than it has ever been, and higher than any other industry. By vast amounts. Second, their short term investment strategies–the SAME ones that makes THEM rich–fuck the rest of the economy up. Third, the people that engage in unregulated activities for short term benefits are actually FAILING to live up to their fiduciary duty to their investors. They betray their investors when they bankrupt the U.S. economy.

    No, Dantes, I do not think they are “evil.” I think they are acting in accord with their PERSONAL economic interests.

    Dantes, imagine you’re an investor or an analyst working in a wall street firm or an investment bank. You devise some new credit derivative that is sure to make massive short term profits. It’s risky, though. There’s a good chance that what you’re insuring against will take place, causing huge losses–not only to your firm, but to the entire American banking system. BUT that is not likely to happen any time soon. Your new derivative will gain huge profits for your firm in the short term. And you personally stand to earn MILLIONS in salary and bonuses for those short term profits.

    Tell me one reason, using libertarian everyone-should-freely-act-in-his-own-economic-interests principles, why you should NOT issue this derivative?

    Why should you care if a depression happens because of it? You’ll be a millionaire many times over. Without having invented any product, without having added anything to the productive aspect of the economy. Should you care about the American economy?

    Answer (using libertarian principles): you *shouldn’t* care. Which is why people on wall street need to be regulated. Because if they’re not, then there is virtually NO reason for them not to engage in, as you say, “unprecedentedly risky” behavior….

    After all, they’re not assuming any of the risk. The rest of us are.

    So no, I don’t think Wall Street is evil. I think they are acting in their own economic interests, which no longer have anything to do with the interests of the rest of the American economy. Accordingly I want some regulation to make sure that they won’t be able to cripple the American economy when they act in their own personal interests. That’s neither marxist nor collectivist. It’s just good sense.

    Please learn some more facts before you write back. You failed to include ANY in your first response.

  3. 1) I object to the use of the term “sector” because it implies that a given industry (ie: a given set of people) are not politically-autonomous, but merely a part of a larger, autonomous whole known as “the economy” which makes it’s own decisions and has it’s own rights (including the right to manage or dispose of any “sector” it deems undesirable).

    2) Claiming that those who work in finance don’t create anything is like claiming that teachers and coaches don’t create anything either because, technically, it is the student who implements their advice. True, but would the student ever have done those things – let alone as efficiently – without the teacher or coach? Again, all this claim is is the Marxist Labor Theory of Value. Financial institutions help people deal with the fact that no one is omnicient, even about his own financial situation, by integrating it into a larger context in order to minimize losses and maximize gains.

    3) This guy claims that my claim that Wall Street firms had no choice but to make risky investments is invalid because, techincally, they could have just not done business. Again, this assumes that the right to do business comes not from the right of politically-autonomous individuals to seek their own happiness, but from the “social value” such happiness confers upon the larger organism of which they are a part (ie: “the economy” or “society”). This assumption is confirmed when this guy goes on to rant that all those on Wall Street lost was the “extra” income they recieve above the income levels of people working in other industries. Income which, according to this guy’s unadmitted altruist and egalitarian ethics, is unfair, and thus taking away their ability to choose to make this extra money in such a way is politically acceptable, even in a supposedly free country.

    4) Speaking of political freedom, why is my claim that Wall Street had no choice but to make risky investments deemed invalid when, in his rant about Glass-Steagle, he uses the same sort of claim when he says that it’s repeal gave banks the power to invest their customer’s checking and savings deposits in places not of their choosing? Really? Not of their choosing? How so? People CHOOSE the bank they work with (and even to work with a bank at all), so how was anyone forced to invest in these things? Furthermore, to equate the government-imposed false choice presented to Wall Street – to either do Z or go out of business, when the only thing preventing X and Y from being profitable options are the taxes and regulations attached to them – with the non-government-imposed false-dilemma banks present to consumers – to either do X with us, or with someone else, or start your own bank and do X yourself, or do Y or Z with your money instead – is completely disingenuous. The only way someone could seriously equate the two is either if he’s dishonest, or if his altruist and egalitarian morality so completely intoxicates him that he’s unable (and unwilling) to think seriously about just what political freedom actually means.

    5) As I said in my original “counter point”, while it is true that many actions which were taken in the financial industry resulted in the individuals who took them to become wealthy while their clients – and those every day people who participate in the economy – lost money, this doesn’t indict the nature of unregulated capitalism per se, and doesn’t make regulating those (relatively few) parts of the economy (let alone the financial industry) which remain unregulated morally or politically justified. Again, had every thing from haircutting to aluminum manufacturing – everything on “Main Street” – not already been so heavily regulated and taxed in the first place, there would have been no economic incentive to play around with complex, and I agree, generally economically valueless things like credit default swaps and the like. Sure, there always would be a small portion of people who would try it anyway, but they would be few and far between because there would be no one to raise capital from, and the practices would be looked down upon generally. Those who engaged in them would be the exception, not the norm – and such people wouldn’t come flocking to Wall Street smelling blood. Why? Because there wouldn’t be any blood to be had. In other words: the MAINSTREAM of Wall Street – and the mainstream of MAIN STREET (which, sing their altruistic praises all you want, is just as greedy as Wall Street, and rightfully so) – wouldn’t be so fucking strapped for the cash necessary to maintain their standard of living that these things would seem practical. This guy claims that less regulation, not more, is what caused all of this. Even if there was less regulation in the financial industry (which, on the whole, isn’t true anyway), nothing happens in a vaccum. The financial industry doesn’t exist in some separate, autonomous bubble – unaffected by what is happening in every other industry and in the country generally. If he wants to argue that over the last few decades, taken as a whole, the amount of political autonomy for the individual (particularly in regards to how he can behave economically) has increased not decreased, he can go right ahead, but if he does so that fact alone should exclude him from any serious discussion on this issue.

    6) He writes a lot about the proper nature of banks, the nature of a strong economy, et cetra. He asks why Wall Street should care about the destruction of the American middle class. Fair enough, why should they care? The American middle class wants it both ways. They want a robust, growing economy – a la nineteenth century America – as well as a massive social welfare system. What they have recieved, however, is massive debt, international discredidation, and – most recently – a real and tangible slow down (if not decrease) in the economy and thus standard of living. This is all they could have ever recieved from the pursuit of such contradictory goals. However, according to this guy, those on Wall Street are immune from this because they can just invest in “tea farms in Sri Lanka.” That begs the question: who is going to buy that tea? THE ONLY REASON WHY SUCH FARMS EXIST IS BECAUSE AMERICAN’S BUY WHAT THEY GROW. If I were to speak in this guy’s language – if I regarded the material welfare of rich people as simply the means to the ends of middle class people – then I would argue that the only reason why Wall Street resorted to the outlandish financial practices they did was because they CARED SO MUCH. As I said, America wanted it both ways. They wanted more and more spending on social services, but they didn’t want to pay for it in terms of a lowered standard of living (to say nothing of their desire to keep it while also being less productive, a la labor unions). They wanted to drink their tea and have it, too. Wall Street was simply doing it’s part to try to keep that delusion alive for them. But, alas, I don’t speak this guy’s language. I don’t regard the lives of others as my property to do with as I wish. I don’t view those on Wall Street as the servants of those on Main Street. Instead, I regard them as (political) equals, trading value for value. If this – all of the rewards but with none of the draw backs – is the demand which the middle class presents to it’s partners on Wall Street – if they expect Wall Street to give them all of the credit if their schemes work and to shoulder all of the blame if they do not – I can hardly blame Wall Street for not caring about Main Street. The fact that some opportunistic pragmatists, calling themselves capitalists (I guess all of the get-rick-quick jobs in Washington were taken) made billions (on paper) is incidental. If literally millions of mainstream, otherwise-decent, conscientious people – on Main Street and Wall Street – seriously believe in contradictions like “regulated capitalism” or “compassionate conservativism”, in the years to come those vultures aren’t going to have anything of genuine value to spend their hypothetical fortunes on anyway.

    7) Finally, this guy says that he doesn’t think those risk-takers on Wall Street are evil; but simply acting in their personal self-interest. This is the most revealing – and disgusting – statement he makes. It clearly shows his equivocation of predation with self-interest; as if the only way to be truly self-interested is to prey upon others, and thus the purpose of government is to perform some kind of cosmic balancing act between the natural, but inherently destructive, tendencies of human nature and the unnatural, but productive and morally noble, desire to serve others by engaging in “legitimate” (as determined by the government, of course) business activities. It’s Adam Smith’s mealy-mouthed “capitalism” all over again. I’ll repeat myself: the purpose of economic activity is self-interest. It is self-interest which built America, and if America has any hope of reclaiming it’s character it is self-interest which it will have to rediscover. This guy’s concept of “self-interest”, however, is so worn down my altruism that all he can do is regard it as a short-term concern. In other words, every thing I just said about how in the long-term it’s impractical to make billions on paper if you have to destroy real productivity of those around you to do so, because all it means is that you will have nothing to spend it on, can not and will not register with him. To him, it’s Main Street or Wall Street, but never both – and if the consequences of years of thinking like that ironically make it appear to be true, it is – of course – Wall Street that must be at fault, and who must pay with their freedom; while Main Street, city hall, and Washington bask in moral glory for taking it.

    The reason why the the most heinous acts of history – from credit default swaps to murderous dictatorships – occur isn’t because some small, outlandish, “unregulated” minority infects the culture. The reason is because the culture is already infected, and these things are the inevitable consequences. The fundamental principles a country’s mainstream people accept will always and forever determine the course of a nation. It was altruism and egalitarianism which created the environment in which unprecedentedly risky financial behavior looked practical to millions of people who chose to keep their money on Wall Street, it is altruism and egalitarianism which cause people like this guy to advocate more of the same in response to it’s negative (inevitable) consequences, and it will be altruism and egalitarianism which will allow the fascism which will inevitably follow to fester until the last vestiges of America’s culture are swallowed into the black hole of European-style living. This guy’s attitude is a glowing example of that.

  4. Dantes fails to respond to any of my points head on. Instead, he dodges, he ignores, and most of all he creates straw target substitutes for my points and then attacks the straw targets. What’s most amusing is watching him stumble again and again over those very straw targets.

    First and foremost, please notice that Dantes gave NO examples of the burdensome regulation that supposedly has been crippling the financial markets, forcing them to engage in what HE ADMITS is behavior so bad that it is actually “unprecedented” (his word). Knowing he has no actual facts to work with, he begins changing his argument: now, it’s the fact that there are government regulations in OTHER industries, i.e., in our society in general, that is the culprit. So basically, as long as there are government regulations anywhere, he always has something to blame. Oh, people on Wall Street developed credit default swaps that made them incredibly rich on the short term gains, even though serious and potentially catastrophic long term losses were in the offing? Don’t blame them–BLAME THE GOVERNMENT. The government MADE them do it. Made them become multi millionaires. They had no choice.

    I hope everyone can see just how absurd Dantes argument is: He is saying that the most profitable business in the country, with the most highly compensated people, was FORCED to do horribly risky things because of over-regulation.

    It’s simply not true, and he has given NO reasons to think it is (other than empty abstract slogans about political autonomy). Don’t drink that Kool-aid.

    Okay, fine–Dantes is a libertarian. He has an idealistic vision of a perfect society, where everyone is completely free to pursue economic self-interest with virtually no interference from the government, and because markets are efficient and people are rational, this will benefit society as a whole.

    This is the kind of silly utopian idea that college freshmen enjoy; it’s a lovely abstraction, with virtually NO empirical evidence to back it up. Notice that Dantes hates talking about facts. He much prefers abstract finger-pointing, bemoaning the general way that government interferes in and thus destroys unfettered capitalism, etc. Doesn’t like to muddy his hands with the messy facts.

    In your libertarian society, when a big private company is dumping waste in the ocean and ruining your local fishing business, and there aren’t any regulations to help you–what do you do? Sue? Please, good luck proving anything; their lawyers will crush you. This example can be varied and multiplied a million times in countless contexts. Businesses do bad things all the time in the name of saving money–it’s not just because the government is killing their profits with burdensome regulation. They do it simply to raise profits. It’s as simple as that. THAT’S WHAT SOMEONE ACTING IN ECONOMIC SELF-INTEREST DOES. They have every reason to save on costs and raise their profit margin. So if they can get away with it–if the only people that they are harming by some cost saving measure are some poor locals–why shouldn’t they do it? The locals won’t be able to do anything about it.

    But of course, and as with Dantes most recent post, what idealistic libertarians always do when pressed on FACTS, or even on hypothetical facts, is change the subject–“Oh, well, the only reason they would be dumping waste in the ocean is because the government was making their business unprofitable with heavy regulation. In a libertarian society that would never happen.” Please. You are blinded by your own abstractions.

    In your libertarian society, when a bio-research firm is working on new viral cures for cancer, and accidentally comes upon a new super deadly virus, but doesn’t want to destroy its already shaky profits and so skimps on safety precautions–what then? Virus gets out, you and your whole family are dead. Well, good thing there weren’t those pesky regulators there, making sure the labs took the proper safety measures! Good thing we all have our autonomy! Oh wait, we’re all dead…

    So much for Dantes’s utopian vision, and his fear and loathing of real facts. Lets examine his straw targeting.

    1) You object to the term “sector” because it infringes on the autonomy of the people working in financial markets. My goodness you sound like a bleeding heart liberal–the poor babies, we can’t imply that they’re not autonomous! What a horror! What will happen to their self esteem?!

    That you get so riled up from an innocuous term shows a lot about how you think (i.e., poorly). At any rate, it is clear that I was using a term of convenience, which you quickly tried to make seem like it was part of an attempt to arrogantly dismiss the autonomy of the individuals working on Wall Street. Straw target. I didn’t do any such thing. And you know it. If anything, my whole argument has been that the INDIVIDUALS on Wall Street are making perfectly rational, autonomous, and self-interested decisions which enrich THEM and harm the rest of the American economy. I am not dismissing their autonomy–indeed, precisely the opposite. So nice try, Dantes–no one is buying it.

    2) The claim that Wall Street investors don’t create anything is admittedly a rhetorical one; I’ll just say this: We NEED teachers to create knowledge in youth; we NEED people to build cars and computers; we NEED food and water and culture to sustain and enrich us. We all need all those things. What we don’t need are credit default swaps. We don’t need those at all. They harm the American economy. They give nothing to that economy but temporary windfalls for a tiny group of people, and long term misery for everyone else.

    3.) You make the following HILARIOUS mischaracterization of my argument: “This guy claims that my claim that Wall Street firms had no choice but to make risky investments is invalid because, techincally, they could have just not done business.”

    Nope, never said any such thing. Not even close. I said that there was no reason they had to become so obsessed with strictly short term investment strategies that were very likely to hurt the American economy more generally in the long term. They could have engaged in healthier, more rational, more long term investment strategies. Strategies that didn’t invovle them making millions in compensation at the cost of fucking up the economy for everyone else.

    So you failed to address MY point. Lets see how well you did against the straw target you made up. You wrote: “this guy goes on to rant that all those on Wall Street lost was the “extra” income they recieve above the income levels of people working in other industries. Income which, according to this guy’s unadmitted altruist and egalitarian ethics, is unfair, and thus taking away their ability to choose to make this extra money in such a way is politically acceptable, even in a supposedly free country.”

    Grammatically incorrect, incoherent, saying virtually nothing. Maybe you have an argument in there somewhere? If so, I certainly don’t see it. Looks like you can’t even win a debate with a straw man.

    4.) Dantes is absolutely right that no one HAS to put their money in a bank. After all, they can put it in paper bags, in mattresses, in coffee cans. Good argument, Dantes.

    But more seriously, I actually agree with you on this point: people CAN put their money in local credit unions and so forth. I hope people will start doing this more and more.

    What I DON’T agree with is this truly laughable statement, one which encapsulates the majority of Dantes’s argument: “to equate the government-imposed false choice presented to Wall Street – to either do Z or go out of business, when the only thing preventing X and Y from being profitable options are the taxes and regulations attached to them…”

    Okay, I know you hate facts, but lets try to get our hands dirty, shall we? Do you REALLY think wall street firms and banks were in danger of going out of business in the 1980’s? In 1999 when Glass Steagall was repealed? in 2004 when SEC restrictions were relaxed? Prove it–show us the facts. Give us an EXAMPLE of the burdensome regulations that made it IMPOSSIBLE for them to make money without resorting to credit default swaps. Oh you can’t? Because you actually don’t know what you’re talking about?

    And please stop saying the word “taxes” as though being taxed meant the poor bastards on wall street can’t make any money. I PAY TAXES–a lot of taxes. And I make a good profit. The guys on Wall Street are making WAAAAAY more money than I do, and have been for the past 25 years. Why are “taxes” somehow forcing them to engage in bad behavior? You have failed to give a SINGLE FACTUAL example of how taxes force investors to devise credit default swaps, or how regulations “force” them into pushing their leverage ratios to 30 to 1.

    No more slogans. Give us facts.

    5.) This is my favorite part–it’s where Dantes says, “well, okay, yes people on Wall Street did bad things, and, yeah, okay, I don’t actually have any factual examples of how burdensome government regulation drove them to it…but…but…it’s because OTHER industries are so heavily regulated that wall street investors had no choice but to invent credit default swaps! There’s no other way to make money!!”

    It’s the classic libertarian cop out: Any time you point to a problem arising from the unchecked self-interest and greed of the powerful, they turn around and blame the government. “Oh, people on Wall Street wouldn’t bother with credit default swaps if we had unfettered capitalism!” Right. I’m sure. They wouldn’t be interested in a way to make millions of dollars in short term gains, millions of dollars in short term bonuses. Nope, they’d hate that.

    6.) THis is where Dantes blames the rest of American society for what took place on Wall Street in the years leading to the financial crisis of 2008. Yes, folks, Dantes blames YOU for credit default swaps. YOU wanted your lifestyles, YOU wanted your happy little American lives, thus you FORCED the people on Wall Street to devote more and more money to short term investment strategies. You FORCED them to become multi-millionaires; you FORCED them to raise leverage ratios to unprecedented levels. It’s all your fault. And the best BEST part: Wall Street did all this because they “cared so much” about Americans.

    Dantes–no one is going to buy that piece of unbelievable bullshit. You don’t even buy it. That you resort to such an astonishing piece of rhetoric is just more proof that you really have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Dantes also thinks that the only way investors can make money is if Americans buy the products that they invest in. That is so obviously and empirically false I can only shrug. If the U.S. goes into a depression, does that mean that money just stops moving everywhere in the world? Of course not. You don’t need Americans to buy up all the tea from Sri Lanka–it still works if some tea is bought here, some in China, some in India, etc. That’s a FACT of the global economy.

    Dantes then goes on to say that I view the people on Wall Street as beholden to the middle class, that they should “serve” the middle class. Nope, never said any such thing. Another silly straw target.

    What I DO say is that, if I am working with some sort of deadly hazardous material, I need to take safety precautions so that I don’t harm others in my community. And because people don’t always take such precautions, we frequently need regulation to make sure they do. Wall Street has been working with economically hazardous material that has had great potential to harm EVERYONE in the U.S. Not just the middle class, not just the working class, EVERYONE–or at least, everyone who doesn’t already have enough money to retire in luxury. Thus they need to take safety precautions to make sure that doesn’t happen. And because people don’t always take the proper safety precautions, we need regulation to make sure they do.

    You see, Dantes, political autonomy doesn’t mean: I can do anything I want. It means: I can do anything I want, but not if it harms other people. Then I must answer for what I’ve done.

    But, unless the people engaging in risky short term investment strategies are actually BREAKING LAWS (and they are not), how do we stop them? How can we make them answer for the harms they cause on the economy? They can retire in luxury today. What is supposed to deter them from such strategies?

    This is where Dantes makes his second-most hilarious point: He essentially says, “People on wall street have an interest in NOT bankrupting the U.S. economy; after all, if that happens, what would they spend their money on??”

    This is foolishness to the highest degree. Do some research, read up on the Great Depression. Did fabulously wealthy people all of a sudden have nothing to buy? Did they all of a sudden sit around bored to tears, with nothing to spend their vast sums of money on?

    NO. Life got REALLY bad for people looking for work. And people who had fabulous sums of money were just fine. Read up on it. Today, given teh GLOBAL economy, the fabulously wealthy would be even MORE fine. An American depression doesn’t mean everything just stops. It means a lot of things change, to be sure–a lot of economies will be hurt–but money would continue to move, things will get made and bought, etc. Especially if you’re rich.

    And at any rate, even if things got so bad that EVERYTHING collapsed; i.e., that even having huge sums of money wouldn’t mean anything…why on earth do you think the people making millions of dollars on credit default swaps and other risky short term investment strategies have the foresight to worry about that? Do you really think the person on wall street who is making MILLIONS in bonuses is worrying that there might be some catastrophic global collapse of ALL economic activity? He ain’t.

    7) Is the most baffling part of his response. He says it is “disgusting” for me to say that people on Wall Street acted in their own self-interest when they engaged in short term investment strategies that harmed the rest of the economy. And then, just a few lines down, HE says that the purpose of economic activity is self-interest. So when I speak of Wall Street acting in self-interest, I’m “disgusting.” When HE says it, it’s a noble principle of American economics. I’m at a loss.

    Pick one, Dantes. When Wall Street engaged in short term investment strategies that enriched THEM and harmed the entire U.S. economy, were they acting in self-interest or not? I think they were. It was perfectly rational. They weren’t breaking any laws. Their lobbying efforts saw to that. They got filthy rich. So what’s the problem? Why is that a “disgusting” thing to say?

    Where we differ is that I don’t see any reason for Wall Street to STOP doing such things on its own accord. They have every reason to continue engaging in short term investment strategies. They are continuing to get RICH doing it. Why should they stop? And don’t give me some idealistic, utopian libertarian rationale–i.e., because it’s in their interest for the American economy not to collapse, etc. I want a REAL explanation–why should THESE people on Wall Street…the ones that are getting rich…why will THEY actually stop engaging in such risky behavior?

    They won’t. Simple as that. There is no reason for them to stop. They can continue making exorbitant sums of money doing it. Why should they stop?

    Dantes then concludes with an indictment of our culture more generally. More Herman Cain. Yes, it was our CULTURE that has been infected…don’t blame Wall Street, blame EVERYTHING BUT WAll Street. Blame yourself, blame your lifestyle, blame your tv and movies and books, blame every aspect of life BUT the people working on wall street. Well, Dantes, take that message to the streets–so how far it gets ya.

    A final word on “egalitarianism” and “altruism.” First of all, I have never said a word about either of these concepts–but, if wanting to take measures to keep the American economy strong = altruism, then fine, I’m altruistic. Why anyone would NOT want to take such measures is beyond me.

    It’s also a strange state of affairs when someone genuinely uses the term “altruistic” as a pejorative. I think Dantes is in need of some serious moral reflection.

    But at any rate, I can only chuckle at this characterization of me. I mean, Dantes is so sure that I’m altruistic–haven’t I said that I need a strong middle class for the sake of MY business? I want to make money, I want to work and sell my products and live a happy life. THAT is why I want Wall Street regulated. Not because I want a handout; not because I think Wall Street should “serve” Main Street; not because I think the rich need to share their wealth with the poor. No. I want Wall Street regulated because what they do affects the ENTIRE U.S. economy and can completely destroy my customers’ ability to buy my products.

    I want the American economy strong so that I will have a strong customer base. Is that self-interested and non-altruistic enough for you?

    So even your perverse charges of altruism are just another example of straw targeting.

    So you failed to answer any of my points. You failed to discuss any FACTS. You only built up straw targets, and attacked those–and a lot of those straw targets completely kicked your ass.

    Thanks for playing. You lose. Buh bye.

  5. Three things:

    1) To regard individuals as guilty until proven innocent (by government regulators) is incompatible with a belief in individual liberty. To tell me that what I want to do (with consenting buyers) MIGHT harm “the economy” (whoever that is, exactly), and thus is forbidden, is fascism, plain and simple.

    2) ALL of the facts are on my side. The entire history of the American economy shows that the less government involves itself in it, the less short-term, manipulative behavior there is. The more it’s involved, the more there is. Why didn’t Rockefeller, Carnegie, et al simply sell credit-default swaps in New York instead of wasting their time in Cleveland and Pittsburgh?

    3) Credit-default swaps came into existence in direct response to government forcing banks to lend money to borrowers they would never have voluntarily lent to. The only justification for blaming those on Wall Street beyond that is, of course, that they weren’t willing to sacrifice their “extra” wealth for the sake of those (voters) on Main Street by letting their bottom lines take the hit.

    That’s it. Your mind is so hopelessly warped, your conceptual development is so profoundly arrested, that it’s worthless to say anything else. You will never be able to read between the lines of your “facts”, your own era, and even your own continent to see the timeless principles underlying them. In fact, I’m only writing this to speak to anyone else who may be reading.

  6. Truly remarkable. Even more straw targeting, even more failure to adduce ANY facts, even more failure to address any of the arguments I made, even more recitals of empty slogans.

    Keep serving your masters, slave boy. Keep trumpeting those slogans. That’s what you have been brainwashed to do. Good slave.

    1.) Your talk of regulations as regarding individuals as guilty until proven innocent is foolish and completely off the mark. Honestly, it’s probably the dumbest thing you’ve said yet.

    When a regulation requires a nuclear power plant to take certain safety precautions, so that millions of people do not DIE if those regulations are not complied with–how is this treating people as “guilty”? It’s not. Only someone with absolutely no ability to reason would think that way. Oh yeah, you think that way.

    When a regulation requires people working with hazardous materials to take precautions, so that millions of people do not DIE if those precautions are not complied with–how is this treating people as “guilty?” It’s not.

    It’s no different when people are working with obviously hazardous economic instruments or investment strategies. They have the obvious potential to harm the ENTIRE American economy. 2008 proved that. So we regulate them, just like we regulate nuclear power plants. It’s not rocket science. Then again, I guess for you it’s all just too complicated. Poor slave.

    2.) You know what, perhaps you’re right that the facts are on your side–but no one would know because YOU HAVEN’T ADDUCED ANY FACTS. You haven’t pointed out any burdensome regulations; you haven’t cited any laws; you haven’t listed a firm or bank that was going to go under because of over-regulation; you haven’t given ANY reason why the people on Wall Street who focus on SHORT TERM investment strategies in order to make huge compensation for themselves have any reason to STOP doing so–even though doing so will likely destroy the American economy. You haven’t adduced a SINGLE fact to support any of your claims. You’ve simply recited empty libertarian slogans: Regulation = bad; Completely unfettered financial markets = good.

    I, on the other hand, have pointed to real instances of deregulation; real instances of short term, self-interested activity on wall street that had enormous and deleterious effects on the economy; I have even shown how, using YOUR libertarian principles, there is truly no reason to assume the financial sector will STOP engaging in such destructive short term investment strategy.

    You offer slogans; I offer facts. You lose, plain and simple.

    3.) This is probably the most laughable instance of your ignorance yet. You say that “credit-default swaps came into existence in direct response to government forcing banks to lend money to borrowers they would never have voluntarily lent to.” Of course you don’t cite any FACTS to support this claim–you just make this general claim with nothing to back it up.

    Now I assume you are referring to the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977. (See what I did there, Dantes? I actually CITED the fact, the statute, in question; I actually KNOW the facts, unlike you who just parrots whatever anti-regulation rhetoric he heard last night on Rush Limbaugh.)

    First off, this law only applied to banks insured by the government (the FDIC). So using YOUR libertarian principles, NO ONE had to obey it at all. They could have opted out. They could have formed a nonbank investment firm, or a nonbank lending institution (a shadow bank). No one HAD to lend to anyone. Autonomy, right? (Note: I don’t even think this is a good argument–but it shows the absurdity of libertarianism in its worst, most idealistic form.)

    Second, the CRA did not require ANY banks to make loans to anyone “high risk” who was likely to default. In fact, the whole law was designed to “encourage” banks to make loans in those areas where it opened branches–it did not REQUIRE banks to loan a dime to anyone who was likely to default. And when the banks complained to Congress about the criteria for complying with the law, Congress promptly CHANGED the law to better suit the banks.

    Third, irrespective of the CRA, the FACT is that there was a LOT of money to be made in the subprime mortgage business, and the financial sector JUMPED ALL OVER IT. First off, there were firms and non-bank lending institutions who came into being for the sole purpose of dealing in subprime mortgages–they deliberately went into the business of subprime mortgages. Did the government FORCE them to form those companies? Of course not! They did it to make money! All sorts of people got paid every time a mortgage was signed (mortgage brokers, title insurance companies, etc.); the originator of the loan could securitize the debt or else just sell it off to another bank, etc. Tons of money to be made. They weren’t forced; they swarmed all over it.

    And then, when the subprime market hit a crisis in the late 90’s, what happened? The big banks swooped in and BOUGHT UP all these non-bank lending institutions. And what did they do? Did they pull back on subprime lending? NO! They MASSIVELY increased subprime lending, by the BILLIONS. Because the government forced them to? HELL NO. Because they wanted to make as much SHORT TERM money in that market as they could. And they made huge amounts of money (thanks in part to exploitative lending practices, getting people to sign ARMs or high interest mortgages, etc.). Huge amounts. The mortages were securitized; credit default swaps were sold, and so forth. Billions upon billions of dollars. Did they care about the possibile problems that might take place in the future? No. Why should they? They were all getting filthy rich. Did they give a shit about the people they were exploiting, or the future they were selling out? Of course not. Why should they? They were getting rich. They weren’t FORCED to do anything. They LOVED the subprime mortgage business, and acquired massive wealth from it.

    These are FACTS. Not slogans. It’s all in the historical record, and you can read the report from the Congressional Inquiry into the 2008 financial crisis for some basic insight into that historical record.

    But I gather that reading about the actual facts of the subprime mortgage crisis, or about the 2008 financial crisis more generally, is way above your pay scale.

    But hey, you keep reciting those libertarian slogans. Keep serving your masters, who are laughing at you all the way to the bank.

    And don’t bother writing back unless you actually will ADDRESS at least ONE of the specific arguments I’ve made. So far you have dodged every single one. Probably because, on some level, you KNOW you’re wrong.

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