Tag Archives | Economy

The Free Market: Means or End?

Picture: Elembis (PD)

Jason Bernard Claxton writes at Counterpunch:

Free market advocates sometimes champion the free market as a means to an end, sometimes as an end in itself.  Sometimes the free market is better at achieving certain goals than any alternative, sometimes there is no alternative.  Sometimes the free market is the best way of achieving prosperity, security, and a good life for a people, sometimes the free market is “the only moral system.”  If it were clear at any given moment which justification were being offered, a lot of confusion might be avoided.  But free market advocates often take both positions within the same argument – a strategy that is rhetorically effective, but logically dubious.

When an owner’s right to dispose of property exactly as that owner desires is considered morally ultimate, then the free market becomes an end in itself.  And if individual property rights are so sacred that no state of affairs that market intervention could possibly bring about would justify the rights violations that market intervention implies, then it simply wouldn’t matter whether more market regulated economies are more productive than free market economies.

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Two Million Dollars a Month in Bitcoin Drug Sales

Photo: Satoshi (PD)

Via Ars Technica:

A recent Carnegie Mellon study sheds light on the Bitcoin-fueled economy of the internet’s underground drug bazaar Silk Road.

Silk Road is an online marketplace that uses Tor and Bitcoin to preserve the anonymity of all involved. The site itself is set up as a Tor hidden service, which makes it practically impossible to locate the site’s servers. And the use of Bitcoins prevents the authorities from identifying market participants by following the money.

Most of the items listed for sale are illegal drugs. To place an order, the buyer transmits the appropriate number of Bitcoins to the site operators, who hold the funds in escrow while the goods are shipped. Once the buyer confirms the product has arrived, the escrowed funds are released to the seller.

Christin began crawling Silk Road in November 2011. From February to July of this year, he attempted to crawl the site on a daily basis, yielding a wealth of data about activity on the site.

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‘We Are Drowning’ On A Road To Nowhere

240px-Frederick_Douglass_portraitFrom Military Resistance: “At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. Oh had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke.” —Frederick Douglass, 1852

Oil prices are rocketing. Iranian warships are moving into the Mediterranean to shadow the US warships already there. Propaganda news is growing with rumors of Al Qaeda links with Iran, and, then, less speculative news about real links between the terror groups and the armed opposition in Syria.

As Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi puts it, the smell of war is in the air and on the air,

“You can just feel it: many of the same newspapers and TV stations we saw leading the charge in the Bush years have gone back to the attic and are dusting off their war pom-poms.”

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A World In Denial

Donald Rumsfeld

Donald Rumsfeld

Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes in the New York Times:

Could there be a single phrase that explains the woes of our time, this dismal age of political miscalculations and deceptions, of reckless and disastrous wars, of financial boom and bust and downright criminality? Maybe there is, and we owe it to Fintan O’Toole. That trenchant Irish commentator is a biographer and theater critic, and a critic also of his country’s crimes and follies, as in his gripping if horrifying book, Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger.

He reminds us of the famous if gnomic saying by Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the United States secretary of defense, that “There are known knowns… there are known unknowns … there are also unknown unknowns.” But the Irish problem, says Mr. O’Toole, was none of the above. It was “unknown knowns.”

What he means is something different from denial, or evasion, irrational exuberance or excess optimism.

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Worker-Owners of America, Unite!

Gar Alperovitz chimes in on the re-evolutionary convergence of capitalism and socialism into a hybrid paradigm in a recent article in the NY Times:

The Occupy Wall Street protests have come and mostly gone, and whether they continue to have an impact or not, they have brought an astounding fact to the public’s attention: a mere 1 percent of Americans own just under half of the country’s financial assets and other investments. America, it would seem, is less equitable than ever, thanks to our no-holds-barred capitalist system.

But at another level, something different has been quietly brewing in recent decades: more and more Americans are involved in co-ops, worker-owned companies and other alternatives to the traditional capitalist model. We may, in fact, be moving toward a hybrid system, something different from both traditional capitalism and socialism, without anyone even noticing.

Some 130 million Americans, for example, now participate in the ownership of co-op businesses and credit unions.

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The Bank Bailout Was Actually $8 Trillion

largeAh, free-market capitalism — the economic system that works best, provided that one infuses $8 trillion to stave off total collapse. The Atlantic Wire writes:

Remember the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program with which the federal government came to the rescue of faltering banks in 2008? Well, according to a Bloomberg report, that was just a fraction of the financial help the Federal Reserve Bank wound up doling out to troubled lenders. The real total was reportedly closer to $8 trillion, after you add up benefits outside TARP, including emergency loans given at below-market rates:

The amount of money the central bank parceled out was surprising even to Gary H. Stern, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 1985 to 2009, who says he “wasn’t aware of the magnitude.” It dwarfed the Treasury Department’s better-known $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Add up guarantees and lending limits, and the Fed had committed $7.77 trillion as of March 2009 to rescuing the financial system, more than half the value of everything produced in the U.S.

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A Ron Paul Economy

Ron PaulWhat would a Ron Paul economy look like? Suzy Khimm connects the dots for the Washington Post:

Ever wonder what Ron Paul’s America would look like? Then read the budget outline that Paul released as part of his 2012 presidential bid. It promises to cut $1 trillion during his first year in office, balance the budget by 2015, withdraw us from all foreign wars and eliminate five Cabinet-level agencies in the process. Economists across the political spectrum say the impact of such drastic government spending cuts would be majorly disruptive and harmful to the economy in the short term.

“At the scale he’s talking about, it’s unlikely you could have an immediate reduction in government without hurtling the economy into recession,” says Kevin Hassett, economic policy director for the American Enterprise Institute and chief economic adviser to John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign. Hassett maintains that Paul’s plan for a limited government “would be really positive” in the long run.

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We’re Facing Worst Financial Crisis Ever – Bank Of England

When uber-establishment figures like Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England (UK central bank) warn of an impending financial apocalypse, you know things are out of control. The Telegraph has the bad news:

The world is facing the worst financial crisis since at least the 1930s “if not ever”, the Governor of the Bank of England said last night.

Sir Mervyn King was speaking after the decision by the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee to put £75billion of newly created money into the economy in a desperate effort to stave off a new credit crisis and a UK recession…

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