Tag Archives: Bailout

When Economists Twist Biology

A site called KansasCity.com posts a column called Midwest Voices, and a professor emeritus of economics from the University of Notre Dame –Larry Marsh–has written an absurd piece insisting that if one accepts evolution then it follows that one must accept free-market economics, and therefore reject socialism; forget that the former is a science and the latter is a social policy.

Marsh begins with:

Is life fundamentally bottom-up and randomly designed or top-down and intentionally designed? Are you a socialist-creationist or a free-market evolutionist? If you reject this dichotomy and instead view yourself as a socialist-evolutionist, how can you justify arguing for the power of self-organization and unintentional, benevolent design in biology and against it in economics?

The gist of his column is that he thinks living under the umbrella of a free-market economy naturally benefits all individuals, which he sees as analogous to individual ants benefiting from being part of a colony –which is actually organized from bottom up rather from the top down (i.e. government). As Marsh says, “The queen ant is not a commander ant. The colony just consists of individual ants instinctively following their nature”.

I suppose he’s saying it’s our nature to be capitalistic. And by following our nature we all profit. Oh, but what a magnificently lame philosophy it is. Invoking Adam Smith and Charles Darwin, as Marsh does, and setting them up against socialist Karl Marx and creationist William Paley may sound good on paper, while sitting in the comfy chair inside a professor’s air-conditioned office, but reality isn’t so pretty.

Hasn’t Marsh heard the estimate that 99.9% of all species that have ever lived have gone extinct? Or that historically the average rates of extinction and speciation have been about equal? (Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck by David Raup) Or that most offspring in the wild don’t make it to adulthood? The female Clownfish (anemone fish), for example, lays up to 1000 eggs in a clutch, but predation, genetic misfortune, and physical mishaps will likely destroy all but a tiny fraction. Mother Nature may recycle, but she’s a wasteful and inefficient bitch.

Should our economy be run in this fashion? Do we want General Motors using this model? Say for every one car it produces 100 will be junked. Or for every profitable loan Bank Of America makes, 100 will be bad debt. How long would the economy last?

That ‘radical’ Richard Dawkins has often said evolution is not a template for society; he likes to quote Tennyson –“nature, red in tooth and claw”. But through Marsh’s naive non-biologist eyes, evolution is not just an explanation for the origin and diversification of new species, it’s an instructive manual on how to live one’s life.

Marsh sounds like he accepts evolution, and as an academic he may well think he’s performing a double-whammy service by conflating it with capitalism, but he’s only cherry picking the parts of evolution that fit in with his economic views.

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Obama, A Conservative’s Nightmare

In 2000 I feared a George Bush presidency, but I never seriously thought Bush was the devil’s disciple or that he would bring on the apocalypse. I just thought Bush would bring terrible policies. And he did. He dirtied America with his rotten conservative values, reckless decision making, and heavy handed foreign policy. But his slimy fingerprints on our beautiful country can be wiped away, and Bush can be relegated to the mistakes pile.

Eight years later and conservative pundits are screaming that America as we know it is going to be destroyed by an Obama presidency. For example, Michael Medved, movie critic, radio hack, and cheerleader for intelligent design, is crying that changes brought about by a President Obama would be “permanent and devastating”.

But conservatives need to face the fact that Barack Obama has promised profound systemic changes that will be irreversible—absolutely permanent alterations of our economy and government where there is no chance at all that Republican office-holders of the future could in any way repair the damage.

Medved uses the prospect of higher taxes to spread a little fear amongst conservatives. But he makes a serious mistake in his thinking.

Yes, it’s true that some changes by liberal presidents can be erased by future conservatives – for instance, George W. Bush cut the top marginal tax rate to 35%, after it had risen to 39.6% under Clinton (it’s sure to go back up to the Clinton rate – or higher – under Obama).

Conservatives often cite tax rates the same way twelve-year-old boys recite baseball stats. The problem is that a tax rate, a percentage, does not equal the actual amount of tax collected. Corporations, and the ultra rich, have perfected the art of moving profits and assets offshore. They also know how to reap the benefits of corporate welfare. So, wealthy conservatives exaggerate their tax burden. What do they want, to have a lower tax rate than the middle class?

Medved goes on to list what Obama will bring to America: “Homosexual marriage”, “subsidized health insurance”, “The National Endowment for the Arts”, liberal immigration, etc. Medved ends with:

The conservative movement, and the survival of a viable small-government faction in American politics, depends upon a McCain victory in November. A triumph for Barack Obama, combined with Democratic gains in both House and Senate, could easily usher in a dark new era with decades of corrupt, welfare-state, bureaucratic leftist rule.

This nightmare of Medved’s is purely of his own twisted imagination. A liberal agenda might indeed be enacted, but will it force America into “a dark new era”? The answer is no. I don’t even think Medved believes this. Conservative pundits use fear mongering as a tool to whip the masses into an angry froth. And what’s more effective than screaming “liberal”, “socialist”, “terrorist”, and “anti-American”. Medved isn’t a commentator, he’s a professional propagandist. If Obama does damage America, it will endure. American is not as fragile as the wacko conservatives would like you to think. If Obama scrares you, it’s because you’re too impressionable.

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Sarah Palin, Not A News Hound

Is it me or does Sarah Palin sound here like she could be George Bush’s equally dumb sister? I don’t know how to interpret her answer to Katie Couric’s question. Does Palin not read newspapers or news magazines, or does she not remember any of the titles of her favorite periodicals? Either way, it doesn’t look good on  camera. Her style is more appropriate for an unctuous saleswoman than a Washington politician. I can picture her now trying to sell me an insurance policy or a time-share in Miami Beach.

If I didn’t already know her belief in creationism, then I would have guessed. It follows that Curious George, the monkey, must be a Democrat, or at least a libertarian, because ultra-conservative, Christian Republicans don’t seem to give a rat’s ass about the wide world outside their bubbles of ignorance.

P.S. Check out how defensive McCain gets when Palin’s qualifications are questioned.

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