Saturday, October 12, 2019

COLUMBUS AND WESTERN CIVILIZATION


October 12, 2019 is Columbus Day, 527 years after Christopher Columbus first discovered America.

Columbus discovered America from the perspective of Western civilization, whose members had not previously known of its existence. He did not discover it from the perspective of the natives—the “indigenous people”—who already lived in the Americas.

However, with a properly functioning educational system, the descendants of the natives of Columbus’s time, would today be members of Western civilization and thus join in regarding Columbus as having discovered America, for Western civilization would now be their civilization.

They would have studied and made their own the ideas and values that constitute Western civilization. Thus, they too would see the world and its history from the perspective of Western civilization.

They would have done so, just as we today see it from that perspective, not from the perspective of the savages who comprise the overwhelming majority of everyone’s ancestors.

(Just think: Man has been on earth for possibly a million years. Yet civilization as such is not more than about 5,000 years old. The 995,000 years before civilization were years of savagery.)

To the extent that the descendants of the savages of 1492 do not accept Western civilization as their own, it is the result of the educational system failing in its proper function of being the transmitter of civilization.

Instead, in the last decades, it has become the opposite, namely, “an agency working for the barbarization of youth,” as I explain in the  concluding section of this post.



WHAT IS WESTERN CIVILIZATION?


From the perspective of intellectual and cultural content, Western civilization represents an understanding and acceptance of the following:

the laws of logic; the concept of causality and, consequently, of a universe ruled by natural laws intelligible to man;

on these foundations, the whole known corpus of the laws of mathematics and science;

the individual's self-responsibility based on his free will to choose between good and evil;

the value of man above all other species on the basis of his unique possession of the power of reason;

the value and competence of the individual human being and his corollary possession of individual rights, among them the right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness;

the need for limited government and for the individual's freedom from the state;

on this entire preceding foundation, the validity of capitalism, with its unprecedented and continuing economic development in terms of division of labor, technological progress, capital accumulation, and rising living standards;

in addition, the importance of visual arts and literature depicting man as capable of facing the world with confidence in his power to succeed, and music featuring harmony and melody.

THE UNIVERSALIZABILITY OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION


Western civilization is not a product of geography. It is a body of knowledge and values.

Any individual, any society, is potentially capable of adopting it and thereby becoming “Westernized.” The rapidly progressing economies of the Far East are all “Western” insofar as they rest on a foundation of logic, mathematics, science, technology, and capitalism—exactly the same logic, mathematics, science, technology, and capitalism that are essential features of “Western” civilization.

THE OBJECTIVE SUPERIORITY OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION


The ability to acquire and disseminate knowledge provides an objective standard for judging civilizations.

Those peoples who possess a written language may be called civilized, inasmuch as writing is an indispensable means for the transmission of substantial knowledge, and thus for the accumulation of knowledge from generation to generation.

Those who possess not only a written language but also knowledge of the laws of logic and the principle of causality are in a position to accumulate and transmit incomparably more knowledge than people who possess merely the art of writing alone.

On this basis, Greco-Roman civilization is on a higher plane than any that had preceded it.

Finally, a civilization which possesses, in addition, still further fundamental applications of human reason, such as the far more extensive development and elaboration of the principles of mathematics and science, the existence of the freedoms of speech and press, and the development of a division of labor economy, is a higher civilization than even that of Greece and Rome.

The freedoms of speech and press are an essential guarantee of the individual's right to disseminate knowledge without being stopped by the fears or superstitions of any group backed by the coercive power of the state.

A division of labor economy makes possible a corresponding multiplication of the amount of knowledge which is applied to production and the meeting of the needs of human life, for such knowledge is essentially in proportion to the number of separate occupations being practiced, each with its own specialized body of knowledge.

Equally important, a division of labor economy means that geniuses can devote their talents full time to such fields as science, education, invention, and business, with a corresponding progressive increase in knowledge and improvement in human life.

WESTERN CIVILIZATION AND EDUCATION


Wherever the intellectual substance of Western civilization is known, its imparting to the minds of students is virtually coextensive with the process of education.

For the intellectual substance of Western civilization is nothing other than the highest level of knowledge attained anywhere on earth, in virtually every aspect of every field, and if the purpose of education is to impart knowledge, then its purpose is to impart Western civilization.

THE RACISM OF CONTEMPORARY EDUCATION


In earlier centuries, men of European descent observed the marked cultural inferiority of the native populations of Africa, Asia, and the Western hemisphere, and assumed that the explanation lay in a racial inferiority of these peoples.

In passing this judgment, they forgot the cultural state of their own ancestors, which was as much below their own as that of any of these peoples. Even more important, they failed to see how in accepting racism, they contradicted the essential “Western” doctrine of individual free will and individual responsibility for choices made. For in condemning people as inferior on the basis of their race, they were holding individuals morally responsible for circumstances over which they had absolutely no control.

At the same time, they credited themselves with accomplishments which were hardly their creations, but those of a comparative handful of other individuals, most of whom happened to be of the same race and who, ironically enough, often had had to struggle against the indifference or even outright hostility of the great majority of the members of their race in order to create civilization.

Today, the critics of what has come to be called “Eurocentrism” rightly refuse to accept any form of condemnation for their racial membership. They claim to hold that race is irrelevant to morality and that therefore people of every race are as good as people of every other race.

But then they assume that if people of all races are equally good, all civilizations and cultures must be equally good. They derive civilization and culture from race, just as the European racists did. And this is why they too must be called racists.

They differ from the European racists only in that while the latter started with the judgment of an inferior civilization or culture and proceeded backwards to the conclusion of an inferior race, the former begin with the judgment of an equally good race and proceed forwards to the conclusion of an equally good civilization or culture. The error of both sets of racists is the same: the belief that civilization and culture are racially determined. 

THE DEVALUATION OF KNOWLEDGE


The racism of today’s, leftist racists, which has permeated the educational system for the last several decades, implies a radical devaluation of civilization, knowledge, and education.

These new racists do not want students to study non-Western civilizations and the conditions of primitive peoples from the perspective of seeing how they lag behind Western civilization and what they might do to catch up. Study from that perspective would be denounced as seeing the world through a “Western lens.” It would be considered offensive to people of non-West- European origin.

No, what they want is to conduct the study of the various civilizations and even the state of outright savagery itself in a way that makes all appear as equal. It is assumed, for example, that black students can feel the equal of white students only if their sub-Saharan ancestors are presented as, in a fundamental sense, culturally equivalent to modern West Europeans or Americans.

Now such a program means the explicit obliteration of distinctions between levels of civilization, and between civilization and savagery. It presents ignorance as the equivalent of knowledge, and superstition as the equivalent of science.

Everything—logic, philosophy, science, law, technology—is to be ignored, and a culture limited to the level of making dugout canoes is to be presented as the equivalent of one capable of launching spaceships. And all this is for the alleged sake of not offending anyone who supposedly must feel inferior if such a monumental fraud is not committed.

This fraud is at the core of “fake education” and such offshoots of it as “fake journalism.” As a result of it, the day is coming when a college degree will be seen as a mark of stupidity—of someone fool enough to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars only to be immersed for four years in an intellectual cesspool. And then to be good for nothing but to contaminate the rest of society and help destroy Western civilization.

Colleges and universities in the United States have demonstrated such utter philosophical corruption in connection with this subject, that if there were a group of students who could be found willing to assert with pride their descent from the Vandals or Huns and to demand courses on the cultural contribution of their ancestors, the schools would provide such courses. All that the students would have to do to get their way is to act the part of their ancestors and threaten to burn down the campus.

But what best sums up everything involved is this: from now on, in the state of California, a student is to go through twelve years of public school, and the explicit goal of his education is that at the end of it, if he envisions Columbus being greeted by spear-carrying savages, and he happens not to be white, he should identify with the savages—and if he does happen to be white, and therefore is allowed to identify with Columbus, he should not have any idea of why it is any better to identify with Columbus than with the savages.

This is no longer an educational system. Its character has been completely transformed and it now clearly reveals itself to be what for many decades it has been in the process of becoming: namely, an agency working for the barbarization of youth.

This is at the base of the profound ignorance of many college and graduate students and their readiness to use physical force as an argument against intellectual opponents. In such behavior, they clearly reveal themselves already to be barbarians.

Let us celebrate today, Columbus Day, in the knowledge that we stand for Western Civilization and invite everyone to become part of it by gaining the education, above all in philosophy, history, and economics, of which they have thus far been deprived.
***
This post is based on tweet-threads published on Twitter between 10/10/19 and 10/12/19 and drawn from my essay “Contemporary Education’s Racist Road to Barbarism.” The essay is available at https://amzn.to/33qbNNj for 99¢.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Off the Beaten Path


The source of men’s greatest, most intense pleasure is women. For a man, even the mere sight of an attractive woman is something that contributes to his sense that life is worth living.

The Bible says that to get Eve, Adam had to give up one of his ribs. If it were true, what this story would signify is that Adam had made the most profitable trade in the history of the universe.

Even though the story of Adam and Eve is a myth, men nevertheless do enjoy the immeasurable gain to their existence that is constituted by the existence of women. The existence of women is the greatest gain men can have. (Of course, they would not even be alive without them.)

In view of the value of women and the esteem in which they deserve to be held, it’s sad to learn that there are actually men so small and ungrateful that they seek fame and glory by stealing athletic prizes from women.

They pretend to be women, enter all-female athletic competitions, and then win them by virtue of their greater strength and stamina as men. This is FRAUD! Hopefully, the public will wake up to it before they try to get away with it at a grand-slam women’s tennis tournament.


Embellished News at the New York Times


Years ago, in New York, Chicago, and many other major cities, city governments created local monopolies for taxicabs. They required possession of a medallion to operate one. The value of a medallion reached $1 million-plus in NY and $400K in Chicago.

Then, in the last few years, came Uber, Lyft, and others. Not at all surprisingly, the value of medallions plunged. In NYC today, they’re going for about $200K; in Chicago, for about $30K. The plunge equivalently reduced the net worth of the medallion owners.

Many of those who had borrowed money to buy their medallions ended up not only with no equity in them but substantial debts equal to the unpaid portion of their loan balance. End of story. End of a rational story, that is.

The Times’ story (which can be found at https://nyti.ms/30OnkEh), is subtitled “New Yorkers Preyed on Chicago Cabbies.” Instead of presenting the simple, logical explanation that is called for, it treats Chicago as if it were a unique case, explained by evil deeds of New Yorkers.
This is the kind of story that makes one wonder if The Times has editors any more, and what kind of reporters it has. Or perhaps the problem is that writers at The Times are paid by the word, and so pad their pieces with reams of stupid, irrelevant junk.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

A Major Fact About Profits Almost Totally Ignored


Profits are sales minus costs. The costs reflect expenditures of money made in the past, sometimes, as in the case of depreciation on buildings, decades in the past. In contrast, the sales reflect money spent in the present, or at least in the current year.

To the extent that the quantity of money and thus volume of spending in the economic system increase over time, sales increase correspondingly, which means that profits increase correspondingly, because the costs are determined by expenditures already made.

The percentage rate of increase in the quantity of money and volume of spending can be understood as adding an approximately equivalent percentage to the rate of profit. Thus if money and spending increase at 2% per year, the rate of profit, instead of being, say, 5%, will be 7%.

To understand this point, imagine that without any increase in money and spending, a merchant would buy his goods on a given day for $100, and sell them a year later for $105. But if over that year there is a 2% increase in money and spending, he will sell his goods for 2% more.

His profit, instead of being $105 minus $100, will be $105 x 1.02 minus $100, i.e., it will be $107.1 minus $100—approximately 7% instead of just 5%.

No doubt surprisingly to many, insofar as profits are subject to taxation, the more rapidly the quantity of money and volume of spending increase, and the higher the rate of profit becomes, the worse things are from the perspective of real wealth and income.

This is because the increase in money and spending raise prices. The taxation of profits, however, prevents the funds accruing to sellers from keeping pace with the rise in prices. Their funds grow only to the extent of what remains after the payment of taxes.

For example, imagine that money and spending increase by 10% per year and that prices rise by 10% per year. The rate of profit will be equivalently higher.

But if half of those profits are taxed away, business firms are left with sales proceeds only 5% higher and yet must pay prices 10 percent higher.

This is a major way in which inflation—the government’s expansion of the money supply—destroys an economic system. It creates the appearance of business prosperity along with the fact of general impoverishment, which results in blaming poverty on business and profits.

The solution is a money the government cannot create, namely, gold. The gold standard must be an essential part of the program of all advocates of capitalism.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

The Effect of Taxing Stock Market Gains on the Demand for Means of Production

Concerning my August 20, 2019 post "The Wealth of the Wealthy," a Twitter follower has written: "Much of capitalists’ wealth is in shares of stock purchased in the secondary market. Is such wealth invested in the means of production?" (http://bit.ly/2OnF9HS) Answer Wealth is material goods made by man, including material goods whose wealth character is created by man, such as land, mineral deposits, and domesticated animals. Stocks, bonds, and other financial assets are not wealth but claims to wealth. Nor are they means of production.
However, taxing the capitalists’ financial assets is tantamount to taxing their wealth in means of production in that having to sell these assets to pay taxes takes away funds that otherwise would have been used to purchase means of production. Thus, the effect of the tax payments is reduced spending for means of production.
This is obviously true if the buyers of the stocks or bonds the capitalists are forced to sell were themselves planning either to buy new issues of stock or to lend their funds to business firms. That money goes to the government instead.
It is also true if the buyers were planning simply to buy
other already existing financial assets but whose sellers were planning either to buy new issues of stock or to lend their funds to business firms. The money provided to pay taxes does not reach these sellers.
It is also true no matter how many additional rounds of purchases and sales of existing financial assets we introduce. At some point taxes paid by the sale of financial assets result in correspondingly less spending for means of production.
Thus, the policy of increasing government spending based on taxes on the rich means increased government spending at the expense of reduced spending for the means of production. It’s a policy of “eating the seed corn.”
For elaboration on the consequences of increasing government consumption expenditure at the expense of capitalists’ productive expenditure, see my Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics, pp. 622-642.






Wednesday, August 28, 2019

AN OPEN LETTER TO JAMIE DIMON AND THE MEMBERS OF THE BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE CONCERNING THEIR REPORTED DECISION TO ABANDON THE PRIMACY OF SHAREHOLDERS’ INTERESTS


Dear Mr. Dimon et al.:

You, Gentlemen, are being portrayed in the press as virtual thieves, acting on the presumption that the property of the corporations you lead is your personal property and that you are at liberty to decide the purposes for which that property is used.

See for example, Bloomberg News of Aug. 19, 2019, which reported (at https://bloom.bg/2zmJF0E):

“Jamie Dimon and other leaders at some of the world’s largest companies said they plan to abandon the long-held view that shareholders’ interests should come first amid growing public discontent over income inequality and the burgeoning cost of health care and higher education.

“The purpose of a corporation is to serve all of its constituents, including employees, customers, investors and society at large, the Business Roundtable said Monday in a statement. Dimon, the chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co., heads the group.” (See https://bloom.bg/2zmJF0E.)

As I stated elsewhere (http://bit.ly/2KTW2aJ), “It’s difficult to believe that so many CEOs know so little about economics that they don’t know that in a free market producing for the profit of their shareholders in and of itself implies producing for the benefit of everyone.”

What needs to be stressed here, however, is not the apparent ignorance of the Business Roundtable as it relates to economics but to MORALITY.

As a shareholder myself, both directly and through a variable annuity, I totally condemn the behavior reported on the part of you and your colleagues. I, and my fellow shareholders, are the owners of the property that we have turned over to you to manage for our benefit.

You are employed by us to serve our financial self-interests, not your personal pleasures, irrespective of the nature of those pleasures, whether loose women or such things as the furtherance of your concept of “social justice.” 

For the sake of preserving your reputation as honest businessmen, rather than financial usurpers and outright thieves, I urge you all immediately to reaffirm your commitment to  the fact that your job is to improve OUR financial well-being and nothing else.

And to pledge that not a dime of corporate funds will be spent in the pursuit of any personal value you may have that is not at the same time a clear means subservient to the enhancement of our financial well-being.

We very much desire that you directly share our financial self-interests by becoming shareowners yourselves, and we strive to make that possible by such things as providing you with generous stock options. In other words, we want you to be rich and welcome your becoming rich.

What we do not welcome and will not tolerate is your seizing our property to serve purposes other than the one you are employed to achieve, namely, our greater financial well-being.

Yours truly,

George Reisman, Ph.D.

Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics.
Author: Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics and other titles (https://amzn.to/2NLvVVZ).
Website: www.capitalism.net.
Blog: http://georgereismansblog.blogspot.com.
On Twitter @GGReisman


Sunday, August 25, 2019

SHAREHOLDERS NOT “STAKEHOLDERS”


In a world in which there are men and women who do not know to which sex they belong, it should not be surprising that there are corporate CEOs who do not know for whom they work.

Just last week (08/19/19), the CEOs of 181 major corporations agreed that they no longer work simply for their stockholders but also for their “stakeholders,” i.e., for everyone affected by their companies. (See  http://bit.ly/2ZaaSD6.)

It’s difficult to believe that so many CEOs know so little about economics that they don’t know that in a free market producing for the profit of their stockholders in and of itself implies producing for the benefit of everyone.

To have customers, you have to produce for their benefit. In fact, you have to give them more benefit for every dollar they spend on your products than they can find anywhere else for those dollars. If you don’t, then they spend them somewhere else.

To have workers, you have to give them more benefit than they can find working anywhere else. If you don’t, they leave you.

Prosperous businesses employing large numbers of workers at competitive wages is the foundation of prosperous towns and cities.

Economic competition in quest of profits operates to the benefit of everyone. It’s actually the mechanism for organizing the process of voluntary social cooperation that is at the heart of the economic system.

(For a full explanation of the benefit of competition, allowing for the fact that people can lose their jobs because of it, see chap. 9 of my book Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics.)

What is so significant about the statement of the CEOs is that it shows to what extent America’s intellectual heritage of the right to the pursuit of happiness (which includes the pursuit of profit) has rotted away and been replaced by a mentality ripe for socialism.

We must keep in mind that as the arbitrary power of the state has grown, businessmen have been put in a position more and more resembling that of hostages held by terrorists.

They are at the point where they attempt to anticipate the wishes of their masters and seek to gratify their masters without being ordered. This also helps to explain their agreement to the document concerning “stakeholders.”

I think it also helps to explain the preference of several major auto companies for the more stringent mileage regulations of California over those proposed by the Trump Administration.

They expect that California’s regulations will ultimately prevail and are afraid to be remembered as “obstructionists” when that time comes.

Finally, we are living in a reign of fear not only with respect to the government itself but also with respect to any private group that can create enough of a social commotion as to threaten possible government action against one, irrespective of the matter.

In this category falls the destruction of careers based on mere accusations, often anonymous and sometimes dating from the last century. The victims of such accusations are regarded as “hot potatoes,” that cannot be touched without danger of getting burned oneself.

It will take a very long time to change this environment. To start changing it, it’s necessary to read and study the works of Mises, Rand, and Reisman. People need to understand how and why socialism is evil and capitalism is good. That essential is what these works demonstrate.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

THE WEALTH OF THE WEALTHY: A RESONSE TO BERNIE SANDERS' RETWEET AT http://bit.ly/31VsjnQ


The Walton family (the owners of Walmart) is currently worth about $190 billion. The Koch Brothers and Mars families (candy bars) are both worth over $100 billion. Such facts are intolerable to socialists, communists, “progressives,” and, sad to say, today’s Democrats.

Bernie [Senator Bernie Sanders] wants a tax of 77% on estates over $1 billion. He relishes the prospect of the Waltons having to pay $147 billion in estate taxes.

Bernie and his followers simply don’t know that the wealth of capitalists is not in their refrigerators, pantries, and wardrobe closets, and not even in their automobiles or homes. IT’S IN THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION.

The means of production are the foundation of the supply of goods that everyone buys and of the demand for the labor that wage earners sell. The greater this wealth, the more abundant and lower priced is the supply of goods and the higher is the demand for labor and thus wages.

For example, the Walmart family’s fortune is invested in 11,000+ stores, each one of which is full of vast amounts of merchandise and requires a large building and plot of land. $191 billion are easily accounted for by an average investment of less than $17.4 million per store.

In addition, these stores employ a total of 2.1 million workers, more than two-thirds of them in the US. If their average wage, including benefits, was just $400 per week, this would imply a weekly payroll of $840 million and an annual payroll of $42 billion.

Walmart’s main contribution to wages, however, is not through its payrolls, but through its low prices. Its low prices increase the buying power of wages throughout the economic system.

It thus raises the real wages of the tens of millions of workers who are its customers or who are the customers of other retailers who charge lower prices because of the competition that Walmart gives them.

Bernie and his gang want to take away the equivalent of more than three-fourths of these stores and correspondingly reduce Walmart’s contribution to the supply of goods and demand for labor. Thus, they want to largely undo the lower prices and higher real wages that Walmart is responsible for.

To whatever extent the wages that Walmart pays its workers may be low, those wages will be lower still if Bernie and his gang can seize three-fourths of them to spend on their cockamamie schemes. Walmart (every business) makes wages higher than they would have been without its payrolls.

Bernie’s spokesman refers to Walmart’s workers’ wages being so low that the government has to subsidize their housing, food, and healthcare. (See http://bit.ly/31VsjnQ.) In reality, of course, the government doesn’t have to do any of these things.

The fact that it does so and largely pays for it with funds that otherwise would have been spent on means of production and wage payments, thereby keeping prices up and wages down, is exactly the sort of thing that keeps workers poor.

Workers are kept poor because ignorant politicians like Bernie are constantly preventing them from being better off. They enact laws, such as minimum wage and pro-union legislation, that prevent employers from employing workers they otherwise would have employed.

In particular, these laws prevent less capable workers from successfully competing with more capable workers. For example, a half-as-productive worker can outcompete an average worker if his wage is less than half, but not if it’s compelled to be more than half, let alone equal.

Compelling employers to provide benefits or improvements in working conditions that don’t pay for themselves reduces workers’ take-home pay. Instead of being paid a wage equal to the employer’s cost of employing them, they’re paid a wage that is less by these extra costs.

Bernie and his gang believe that because the Walton family is rich, Walmart can afford to do whatever Bernie et al. would like it to do, such as raise wages to $15 per hour.

Actually, apart from a relatively small cash reserve, Walmart has already spent all of its money and doesn’t have the means of substantially increasing its expenditures until additional sales revenues come in. It’s spent its money in building and stocking its stores.

Walmart could borrow. The Walton family could sell some of its shares and make a gift of the proceeds to Walmart. The effect of that would be to deprive other firms of the use of the funds involved, i.e., to reduce their demand for means of production and labor.

Bernie wants us to fear billionaires. Actually, the billionaires work for us—for the great mass of average people. They want to acquire money from us. Unlike the government, they cannot simply come and seize our money.

We have to want to give it to them, because we value what we receive more than the money. They have to make their product such that we will value it more than the money they ask. One of the best examples is a delicious Snickers or Milky Way bar for a mere dollar.

Any force in connection with such a voluntary transaction would be force to prevent it, not to compel it. Bernie and his gang know only the gun and the club. They want to destroy the free market and replace it with the brute force of socialism.

For an introduction to what’s wrong with socialism and right with capitalism, read my essay whose title appears directly below. It’s available for 99¢ at https://amzn.to/2N44uTu.




For an in-depth, comprehensive explanation of the workings of capitalism and critique of Marxism/Socialism, read my Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics.

It’s available at http://amzn.to/2PM19ut in both Kindle and hardcover formats and at www.capitalism.net in both hardcover and as a free non-printable, non-copyable pdf replica capable of download.



ADDENDUM: Bernie’s spokesman kept stressing how rapidly the Walton’s et al. gained financially. The most important part of these gains was the result of the saving and reinvestment of profits made on the basis of lower costs and better products, and doing this on a growing base.

But a substantial part was also the result of a flood of new and additional money and credit manufactured by the Federal Reserve System and pouring into the stock market and driving up stock prices.

This process is a government racket. It causes both financial gains and higher prices. The financial gains are taxed. The after-tax gains are then insufficient to buy as much at the higher prices as the original capital could buy at the original prices.

This principle applies within the operations of business firms and is a major reason for the economic stagnation of the last two generations. Alongside large paper profits has been a reduced ability to buy capital goods and labor at prices that rise more than do after-tax funds.