Let's talk about the capitalist idea of 'freedom': free trade

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alexandra

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hi all

So-called "free trade" is one of the holy grails of capitalism, is it not? And the USA takes the lead in creating and defending free markets? How, then, does one explain this?

Chavez angry with US over jet row

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has accused the United States of blocking a purchase of training jets from Brazil.
Mr Chavez said Washington stopped the deal with the Brazilian aviation company, Embraer, because the planes contained protected US technology.

The president also repeated accusations that Washington was blocking the supply of spare parts for Venezuela's aging F-16 fighter fleet.

He threatened to buy new ones from Russia or China.

More: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4600808.stm
Just one example of 'capitalist freedom':rolleyes:

This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course - if we delve deeper into 'free markets' (which perhaps we may care to do in this thread) . Some introductory reading can be found in the links at the bottom of this webpage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_trade
 

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  • #2
russ_watters
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The US, like every country, is first and foremost out for its own self-interest.

So what?
 
  • #3
EL
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russ_watters said:
The US, like every country, is first and foremost out for its own self-interest.
So what?
Sure. (We have all noticed US politics is mainly based on self-interest...:wink: )
Although I think it's a quite sick attitude. I've never understood this patriotic stuff.
 
  • #4
russ_watters
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EL said:
Sure. (We have all noticed US politics is mainly based on self-interest...:wink: )
Although I think it's a quite sick attitude. I've never understood this patriotic stuff.
:confused: :confused: What do you mean? Are you saying that most other countries are not primarily out for their own self-interest?
 
  • #5
alexandra
russ_watters said:
The US, like every country, is first and foremost out for its own self-interest.
So what?
You ask 'So what?' My response to this question is that this would be ok, were it not for the hypocrisy, the ideological obscurantism involved in claiming that one is promoting 'freedom' when one is, in fact, not.
 
  • #6
EL
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russ_watters said:
:confused: :confused: What do you mean? Are you saying that most other countries are not primarily out for their own self-interest?
I said "sure", which means I agree with that most countries primarly acts for their own best, and I especially find that it holds well for USA.
However, I don't like (and cannot really understand) that patriotic attitude, and hope it will change in the future.
 
  • #7
Gokul43201
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EL said:
However, I don't like (and cannot really understand) that patriotic attitude, and hope it will change in the future.
Where does patriotism even come into the discussion here ? :confused:

The guiding principle is self-preservation.
 
  • #8
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Conservatism is more accurate. It does share some elements with nationalism.
 
  • #9
EL
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Gokul43201 said:
The guiding principle is self-preservation.
Yes. Self-preservation of individuals.
However, I have a hard time to see why I should care more about a random Swede than say a random American or Arab.
Ok, it's of course sometimes that carying more about my countrymen could give me personal advantages, but I don't find it's like that in general.

Take a hypotetical situation where you have to chose between killing either a compatriot or a foreigner, and you don't know any of them at all. Who would you choose?
Myself i would have to toss a coin since I cannot see why I should save the Swede just because he happened to be born on "the rigth side" of an imaginary line...
But my impression is that most people don't think like that.
 
  • #10
rachmaninoff
The OP situation is absurd. Does a country not have the right to refuse to sell its military technology to a rival country?
 
  • #11
EL
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rachmaninoff said:
The OP situation is absurd. Does a country not have the right to refuse to sell its military technology to a rival country?
Agree, it was a quite strange example. However I guess she wants to discuss the subject in a more general manner.
 
  • #12
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It's not so free when technologically advanced and militarily powerful countries dominate weaker countries using force when necessarily.
 
  • #13
russ_watters
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alexandra said:
You ask 'So what?' My response to this question is that this would be ok, were it not for the hypocrisy, the ideological obscurantism involved in claiming that one is promoting 'freedom' when one is, in fact, not.
What hypocrisy? It says right there in the first paragraph of the US Constitution that the US government exists for the benefit of the citizens of the US.

There is no hypocrisy: you are arguing a strawman for the purpose of baseless USA-bashing.

In addition, one person saying that the US sometimes acts out of egalitarianism does not mean they are saying the US always acts out of egalitarianism. Conversely, showing that the US sometimes acts out of selfishness or self-preservation does not prove that the US always acts out of selfishness. You're using the same logical fallacy that Burnsys used in the thread about the US spreading freedom.
 
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  • #14
russ_watters
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EL said:
Yes. Self-preservation of individuals.
However, I have a hard time to see why I should care more about a random Swede than say a random American or Arab.
Ok, it's of course sometimes that carying more about my countrymen could give me personal advantages, but I don't find it's like that in general.
You answered your own question - but whether it makes you uncomfortable or not, it's a reality. A person's first duty is to him/herself. If you are not prosperous, you can't help Sweden become prosperous. If Sweden is not prosperous, it can't help the Arab world become prosperous.

People see it as greed or selfishness, but it is a useful, practical reality and there isn't anything wrong with it.
Take a hypotetical situation where you have to chose between killing either a compatriot or a foreigner, and you don't know any of them at all. Who would you choose?
Myself i would have to toss a coin since I cannot see why I should save the Swede just because he happened to be born on "the rigth side" of an imaginary line...
But my impression is that most people don't think like that.
Why be so negative with the scenario? (I don't think that scenario fits the conversation): consider a homeless person who lives on the corner of your street vs one who lives in Iraq. Which one do you toss your daily change to? As with the above, the fact that you have a personal connection with the poor person on your street corner (you have to look at him every day, while you'll never meet this faceless Iraqi) does not make it wrong to give him the money instead of some Iraqi that you will never meet - even if you are only tossing him some change out of a sense of personal shame.
 
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  • #15
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The U.S. isn't ideologically 100% Capitalist. We're more capitalist than any major country in the world, but we're not solely devouted to one ideology at the expense of everything else.

For what it's worth, I really don't think Republicans are Capitalist at all...
 
  • #16
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Capitalism is a system that'd collapse if truely free.

Though, I don't understand why they'd block that particular deal.

What I mean is like outsourcing.
 
  • #17
EL
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russ_watters said:
whether it makes you uncomfortable or not, it's a reality.
Sure. But reality can be changed.

A person's first duty is to him/herself.
Agree.

If you are not prosperous, you can't help Sweden become prosperous. If Sweden is not prosperous, it can't help the Arab world become prosperous.
And say if I don't like the typical Swedish values very much. Why should I want Sweden to become prosperous?
What I can't stand is this "unconditional love" of ones home country. Often it is not a self-preserving attitude, but mostly something just others benefit from, without you getting anything back. Or even making things worse for you. (Note that I'm not saying you or anyone else here is of this type, but there are plenty of them out there...)

consider a homeless person who lives on the corner of your street vs one who lives in Iraq. Which one do you toss your daily change to?
Well I hardly see any homeless people in this country. If they are, they are so of their own free will.
Anyway I have given much, much more money to organizations working in Africa and Asia than I have given to poor people here.
 
  • #18
russ_watters
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EL said:
Sure. But reality can be changed.
The basis of your feelings is hard-wired into your DNA. It cannot be changed.

edit: Nor should you want it to be changed. Your feelings - whether the physical like hunger or the strictly emotional like love - are what keep you alive, healthy, and happy.
And say if I don't like the typical Swedish values very much. Why should I want Sweden to become prosperous?
You wouldn't - but why would you live in a place that didn't fit you?

That's an essential component of patriotism - I live in the USA because I like the USA. If I didn't like the USA and thought my ideals were fundamentally incompatible with the US's, I'd move somewhere else. So in the practical sense, patriotism is simply a biproduct of liking where you live because you live where you like it.
What I can't stand is this "unconditional love" of ones home country.
I've never seen "unconditional love" in any commonly used definition of patriotism. People often bring it up as a strawman attack on the concept patriotism, but true patriotism requries that you be able to see and attempt to correct the problems in your country. That's why, in the US, voting is considered a patriotic act and people often say "if you don't vote, you can't complain".
Often it is not a self-preserving attitude, but mostly something just others benefit from, without you getting anything back. Or even making things worse for you. (Note that I'm not saying you or anyone else here is of this type, but there are plenty of them out there...)
99% of such people live in monasteries and their 100% altruistic way of life is fatally flawed and impotent. Bill Gates and Bono are just the sort of rich, greedy capitalists that alexandra hates most and the fact of the matter is that those guys will accomplish more in one year than all the monks on the planet combined. Why? Because they satiated their own ambition first and acquired the resources necessary to make real changes in the world.
Well I hardly see any homeless people in this country. If they are, they are so of their own free will.
Anyway I have given much, much more money to organizations working in Africa and Asia than I have given to poor people here.
I won't pretend to know how it works in Sweden, but in the US, a significant fraction of our taxes go toward helping the less fortunate. So while it is true that I gave more extra money to the tsunami relief than I ever gave to a homeless person, that's only because I already give so much in the form of taxes.
 
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  • #19
EL
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russ_watters said:
The basis of your feelings is hard-wired into your DNA. It cannot be changed.
Ever heard of environment? Do you think you were born with a gene for capitalismloving?:wink:

You wouldn't - but why would you live in a place that didn't fit you?
Ehh? Practical reasons?
Why would anyone want to live in e.g. North Korea? Why don't they just leave?
(Btw, I could leave Sweden anytime, and maybe I will in the future, but I like this place.)

That's why, in the US, voting is considered a patriotic act
Then USA can't be a very patriotic country...:tongue2:

So while it is true that I gave more extra money to the tsunami relief than I ever gave to a homeless person, that's only because I already give so much in the form of taxes.
Well the difference is that one cannot choose directly where the taxes go.
 
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  • #20
alexandra
rachmaninoff said:
The OP situation is absurd. Does a country not have the right to refuse to sell its military technology to a rival country?
No, the OP situation is not absurd: according to the BBC article, Embraer is a Brazilian private company, not a US company. But I don't know - perhaps Embraer is a US company based in Brazil? One can't tell from the website: http://www.embraer.com/english/content/empresa/profile.asp [Broken]

The US government is telling a private enterprise based in a completely different country who they can and cannot sell their product to. This is my point. Even if the US government forbade a US-based company from selling products to a purchaser (as they do, in fact, do) this illustrates the myth of the existence of 'free markets'.
 
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  • #21
alexandra
EL said:
Agree, it was a quite strange example. However I guess she wants to discuss the subject in a more general manner.
Correct, EL, though I don't think it was a strange example - perhaps it was more 'dramatic' than strange :smile: I'm focusing a lot of my research on what's happening in Latin America at the moment, so that's why I used that particular article. What I want to discuss is the notion of 'free markets' in general - particular examples are brought up to focus the discussion in reality rather than just leaving it at the level of theory.
 
  • #22
alexandra said:
No, the OP situation is not absurd: according to the BBC article, Embraer is a Brazilian private company, not a US company. But I don't know - perhaps Embraer is a US company based in Brazil? One can't tell from the website: http://www.embraer.com/english/content/empresa/profile.asp [Broken]
The US government is telling a private enterprise based in a completely different country who they can and cannot sell their product to. This is my point. Even if the US government forbade a US-based company from selling products to a purchaser (as they do, in fact, do) this illustrates the myth of the existence of 'free markets'.
When was the last time any one described the US as having a truely free market? I can't think of a time when it has been. I believe that economists that push for more purely free market economics here have been doing so since the US became an independant nation. It's never actually happened as far as I know.
 
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  • #23
alexandra
russ_watters said:
What hypocrisy? It says right there in the first paragraph of the US Constitution that the US government exists for the benefit of the citizens of the US.
There is no hypocrisy: you are arguing a strawman for the purpose of baseless USA-bashing.
IMO, Russ (and this can be seen in the subtext of all my posts), the first statement you make above is a commonly-held fallacy. It may be the case that the US Constitution asserts that the US government exists for the benefit of the citizens of the US - my understanding, however, is that it exists to secure and further the interests of a particular class of very powerful and very rich citizens in the United States, not all citizens.

Your second statement is incorrect. It is not my intention to do 'baseless USA-bashing', and anyone reading my posts throughout all my time in this forum will see this. You have to understand the subtleties of my arguments: never once have I 'bashed' ordinary US citizens - in fact, I really sympathise with the predicament that many US citizens find themselves in, living under an administration who is doing things the people find totally repugnant. I critique the actions of the powerful when these actions deserve it. We can't just ignore what's happening, can we? So please don't accuse me of 'baseless USA-bashing'; it's not what I do. You will notice that I critique other governments as well - but perhaps it is because the US government is so strong and so active around the world that most of our discussions focus around it? My basic problem is not with this government or that - it is with so-called 'democracies' and the ruthless economic system they represent.

russ_watters said:
In addition, one person saying that the US sometimes acts out of egalitarianism does not mean they are saying the US always acts out of egalitarianism. Conversely, showing that the US sometimes acts out of selfishness or self-preservation does not prove that the US always acts out of selfishness. You're using the same logical fallacy that Burnsys used in the thread about the US spreading freedom.
Again, I would prefer us to focus on the underlying issue: how 'free' is the so-called 'free market'? As stated above, the most counter-examples that exist to counter the argument that capitalism is about free markets come from the US government's actions as this is the administration that is supposedly on a mission to liberalise the whole world and 'free' its markets.
 
  • #24
alexandra
TheStatutoryApe said:
When was the last time any one described the US as having a truely free market? I can't think of a time when it has been. I believe that economists that push for more purely free market economics here have been doing so since the US became an independant nation. It's never actually happened as far as I know.
But the entire justification for overthrowing foreign governments (eg. Iraq, just to take one example) is to bring 'freedom' and 'democracy' to the world: the US government purports to take these actions in order to further these principles, for the good of humanity. If the US government is not actually promoting 'free market' policies, or freedom in any way, then the whole justification is a lie! Does everyone know this and think it's ok? It was my understanding that these issues need to be discussed because people obviously don't seem to know what's happening. It's a very sad state of affairs if people actually do know what's happening and just don't care about the lies.

In effect, I'm trying to examine the ideology of 'capitalism' and 'free markets'. People keep going on about how 'socialism/communism' could never work, and that the only proven system that can work is capitalism. I'm trying to examine this statement. What is capitalism? Is it good? Is it really the best we can do, our only option? Is it, in fact, a viable option at all in the long term? These are the underlying questions.
 
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  • #25
alexandra said:
But the entire justification for overthrowing foreign governments (eg. Iraq, just to take one example) is to bring 'freedom' and 'democracy' to the world: the US government purports to take these actions in order to further these principles, for the good of humanity. If the US government is not actually promoting 'free market' policies, or freedom in any way, then the whole justification is a lie! Does everyone know this and think it's ok? It was my understanding that these issues need to be discussed because people obviously don't seem to know what's happening. It's a very sad state of affairs if people actually do know what's happening and just don't care about the lies.
In effect, I'm trying to examine the ideology of 'capitalism' and 'free markets'. People keep going about how 'socialism/communism' could never work, and that the only proven system that can work is capitalism. I'm trying to examine this statement. What is capitalism? Is it good? Is it really the best we can do, our only option? Is it, in fact, a viable option at all in the long term? These are the underlying questions.
Whoa there... you're jumping back and forth here. You've equated "free markets" and "freedom" in general and went on to say that since the US doesn't actually promote pure free market economics then it must not really care about freedom and so what it says about it's intentions about promoting freedom are lies and then you're back on to free markets and.... Do you see the crazy sort of mish mash you have going on here?
Perhaps you can rephrase this and make your logic a bit clearer? Also perhaps we can talk about Capitalism instead of taking off on tangents about the US and it's supposed lies?
 

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