Monday, June 29, 2009

Profit as Life-blood

Another succinct bit of wisdom from Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot (1727–1781); this one on profit:
It is this advance and this continual return of capitals which constitute what one must call the circulation of money — that useful and fruitful circulation which gives life to all the labors of society, which maintains movement and life in the body politic, and which is with great reason compared to the circulation of blood in the animal body. For if, by any disorder whatsoever in the sequence of expenditures on the part of the different classes of society, the [entrepreneurs] cease to get back their advances with the profit they have a right to expect from them, it is evident that they will be obliged to reduce their undertakings; that the amount of labor, the amount of consumption of the fruits of the earth, the amount of production, and the amount of revenue will be reduced in like measure; that poverty will take the place of wealth; and that the common workmen, ceasing to find employment, will fall into the extremest destitution. (Reflections on the Formation and Distribution of Wealth)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Exploitation Defined

I've often encountered when in discussion of "sweatshops" the charge that those who own them are exploiting those they employ. But I think it all depends on one's definition of exploitation. The common definition is similar to: the act of employing to the greatest possible advantage. If that is all there is to exploitation, it is hardly objectionable.

We all exploit and are exploited everyday. For example, my employer has given me the greatest tools and training necessary to do my job. It is in my employer's best interest to do so as it gives him the greatest possible advantage in serving his customers. On the other hand, I have sought the greatest tools and training so as to give myself the greatest possible advantage over other employees or potential employees. So in short, we have exploited each other to our own advantage.

So why all the fuss over the supposed "exploitation" of sweatshop employees? It comes back to the definition of exploitation. If someone opens a widget factory in a third-world country, and then seeks employees who will voluntarily work for him for a mutually beneficial wage, then has the employer exploited his employees? No more than they have exploited him. What if someone opens a widget factory in a third-world country, and then seeks employees at gun point and uses force to keep them working? Then we have true exploitation, because the employees have lost their freedom.

And therein lies the confusion. If both parties to a transaction benefit, be it trade or employment, there is no evil exploitation. That's your variable. Let's look at sweatshops. Do those who work there benefit from doing so? Unless they have been forced to, then yes, they do. Even if it's for $5/day and shoddy conditions? Unless they have been forced to, then yes, they do. They wouldn't voluntarily work somewhere for so cheap a wage or under such conditions if it wasn't to their benefit. So should we be concerned and try to get sweatshop owners to close up? Absolutely not, as it would make those employees, who are currently benefiting, worse off.

I wouldn't work for $5/day and under shoddy conditions. That's because I have better options. Those who choose to voluntarily work for $5/day and under shoddy conditions currently do not have better options, or else they wouldn't. I believe a great evil is committed by those who fight to take away these options from those who need them. Every developed nation on Earth went through cheap labor and shoddy conditions. It's the only way that a third-world nation can progress.

I try to clarify these things when in discussion of "sweatshops". It's important to me that I'm on the good side and promote those things that better mankind. The term exploitation is thrown around by the ignorant to enrage the passions. It works, unfortunately. But so does logic and reason.

Global Warming Consensus

I can't for the life of me understand why anyone still seriously believes that there's any sort of scientific "consensus" on man-made global warming. There absolutely isn't. And as for scientific "consensus" here's something on that by the late Michael Crichton:
I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.

But what I really wanted to get at is the Global Warming Petition that has been signed by over 31,000 American scientists. If there's any sort of "consensus" on global warming, it goes the other way. Here's what was signed:
We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.

There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.

Now how's that for "the science is settled"? Obviously, it isn't. And yet our wonderful representatives in Washington are passing a Cap & Trade bill that will make all of us worse off. Shame on them, and shame on those who support them.