Basketball can teach us about capitalism - and not in the big money churned by the NBA and the NCAA. Capitalism is a lot like a single-loss tournament, such as the NCAA tournament that will start in a couple of weeks (or like Indiana high schools used to have).
Rev Micah Beckwith, like me, is a candidate in the May 5 GOP primary for Indiana’s 5th Congressional District. Unlike me, he is a bigot who appears to advocate theocracy - government “by those who are believed to be or represent that they are acting under the immediate direction of God or some other divinity.” Black’s Law Dictionary, 10th ed., 2014, p. 1706.
As I have noted a couple of times, extremists like Rev Beckwith - who says morality only is based in scripture and that atheists, agnostics, Hindus and Muslims cannot be moral - were not amongst the late (GOP) Senator Barry Goldwater’s favorite people.
Rev Beckwith also has odd views in regard to economics. “I will always support the Free
Market. I will always support the Free Market. No economic system has done more to raise the standard of living for people around the globe than capitalism. I believe that competition, free markets, and deregulation are the best ways to create jobs and generate wealth for all. When the government cut’s spending and lowers the tax burden on hard-working families and entrepreneurs, we can establish a framework that empowers family farms and small businesses to succeed.”
Adam Smith “is perceived, through his best-known book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, as the founder of economics as a science.” Ross, The Life of Adam Smith, 1995. Smith’s two-volume work was published in 1776.
Smith wrote of competition that “‘the rivalship of competitors, who are all endeavoring to justle one another out of employment, obliges every man to execute his work with a certain degree of exactness.’” Ross, pp. 86-87.
Capitalism works like a tournament in that every business seeks to drive its competitors out of business. From Smith’s perspective, in the early days of the Industrial Revolution, unfettered competition seemed good.
In a basketball tournament, pairings of teams in brackets leads to rounds of play until one team has won the tournament. Then everyone looks forward to the next season that will be capped by another tournament.
In the decades after Smith’s work was published, the United States had laissez faire capitalism. The markets were truly “free.” The competition, however, ended after the first metaphorical tournaments.
John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil is the prime example to which people point when the word “monopoly” - and not the board game - is mentioned. Rockefeller drove others out of the oil business. The result? Higher prices.
After all, if the last corporation standing controls the entire market, there is no one to challenge that last competitor’s prices. And it is silly to think that anyone can just start up a new corporation to compete against such a monolith.
To compete requires capital - money - and, even with money, competition is not always possible. Rockefeller bought up all the oil fields - as well as the drilling rigs, barrels for shipping oil and wagons to transport the oil to the refineries that he also owned.
A Republican President, Theodore Roosevelt, saw the danger such monopolies posed to this country. TR broke up “trusts,” as the large corporations were called. He also sought to rein in large inherited wealth through inheritance taxes.
Teddy had seen how, after three or four generations, the heirs of such wealth often feel no need to compete. Their money begets favorable treatment by government. There are exceptions, but for every JFK there are half-a-dozen rich whiny kids who duck combat via a doctor’s excuse.
To be sure: I did not serve in the military, but neither do I advocate sending U.S. military personnel into harm’s way “to protect our national interests” or “to support American interests abroad” catch phrases in Rev Beckwith’s promises.
I shall address in a separate blog, more fully and soon, the positions on military advanced by Rev Beckwith and other GOP candidates in the May 5 primary. For now I want to address economic aspects of Rev Beckwith’s positions on the military.
His catch phrases have been used to rationalize the expenditure of American lives to guard profit margins of U.S. corporations, but: 1) The Framers had a dim view of corporations (see Boston Tea Party) and 2) A lot of corporate stock now is owned by non-U.S. people and entities.
Also, a January 11 comment by the current occupant of the Oval Office indicates our troops are used as mercenaries. He said, of Saudi Arabia: “I said, listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us. They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1B in the bank.”
I previously have written we are hated - very much - by people from other counties because WE KILL A LOT OF PEOPLE for reasons that have nothing to do with freedom and democracy. In Vietnam we propped up a dictatorship as corporations raked in cash.
Some areas of Vietnam were “off limits” to U.S. military personnel. For example, our people could not enter the forests of rubber trees owned by Michelin, the French tire manufacturer. Viet Cong and NVA forces - of course - then hid in those forests.
Our support to Saudi Arabia, a dictatorship, was partly the reason the 9/11 terrorists - all but two of whom were Saudi nationals - attacked us. In Saudi, a protestor may be beheaded. The royal family cannot be voted out of office.
When people are ruled by a dictator and cannot protest or vote, they’ll use politics by other means, except their rulers have all the weapons, gratis us. If they sought solace in their religion, in Gulf War I, at their rulers’ invitation, our military set foot on their holy land.
What happened on 9/11 was awful. Terrorism never is justified, but despotism tends to create terrorists. We need to cut our military budget by half. That will make us more secure.
Military as a wing of, and government subsidies to, businesses - what Rev Beckwith appears to advocate - are not aspects of a “free market” economy. Neither are such policies traditionally GOP. Senator Taft advocated isolationism. President Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex.
Rev Beckwith does not really believe in a “free market.” He favors “tax breaks and funding” in regard to agriculture. This statement is consistent with his overall view for “a framework that empowers family farms and small businesses to succeed.”
His premises about agriculture are defective. First, the “economy in Indiana” does not, as he says, depend “on our farmers and the agriculture industry.” According to the Indiana Department of Agriculture, only five percent of Indiana’s gross domestic product is derived from agriculture.
Second, small farmers are fewer in number each day as agribusinesses eat up everything in sight. The “tax breaks and funding” will go to large corporate entities - as have funds for relief from our disastrous tariffs war with China.
Finally, the free market system has been good to a degree. It is not, as Rev Beckwith says, the best ways “to create jobs and generate wealth for all.” We had a true “free market” system over a hundred years ago. Without regulations it polluted and killed people.
A GOP President - TR - tried to rein in those aspects of our system. Unfortunately, people like Rev Beckwith would return us to those times. Maybe he wants eight-year-olds working 60-hour shifts in factories like back there in those not-s-good-old days.
On February 1, Rev Beckwith tagged me on Twitter: “The Democrats called. They want their taking (sic) points back. You’re in the wrong primary! But I’m glad you decided to fake it in the GOP primary. I’m gonna have a lot fun dismantling the stupidity of your progressive ideology. Can’t wait to see you on the campaign trail!”
I replied: “Those aren't my talking points, but I look forward to the campaign, too. I'd rather a person like you, who obviously hates so many (e.g. LGBTQ folks) views me as stupid. That's a compliment to me!”
Rev Beckwith says he is really great at debate. He probably got a lot of experience in college debate at Huntington University. I welcome the opportunity to debate Rev Beckwith, although I might have to read up on how to debate.
I am Mark Small. I am a candidate in the GOP primary for Indiana 5th Congressional District. I have yet to hear back from Rev Beckwith about my acceptance of his implicit challenge to a debate. I approve of the content of this blog - hell, I wrote it.