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  The opinions expressed in these selections from the discussion boards are those of program viewers and Web site users and do not reflect the views of the producers of Commanding Heights.

On capitalism and socialism:

  Username: advancedatheist
Date / Time: 04/04/02 7:46 PM
Subject: 21st Century reality check

Message: ... If Hayek's ideas have triumphed, for example, why do we see socialism for the rich, and markets for the poor? Why do developed countries with socialized health care have such good longevity and morbidity statistics, at only a fraction of the per capita price that we sickly Americans have to spend on health care? Why is the quality of the free-market food in the U.S. so poor? (America is experiencing an obesity crisis in part because our food is becoming increasingly deficient in nutrients per calorie.) Why are wages stagnant, while costs of living are free to increase? ... Markets can solve certain problems, but given human nature, they can easily be manipulated to benefit certain strategically placed people for self-advantageous and shortsighted goals. Socialist and liberal critics of "marketism" aren't making up grievances in a quest for power, but instead are acting pragmatically out of a sense of social responsibility.

On Reaganomics:

  Username: willyboot
Date / Time: 04/19/02 9:44 AM
Subject: $4trillion debt due to Reagan

Message: ... The result of Reaganomics was the abject disaster of Bush's four years. When Clinton came in and started balancing the budget, the Republicans absolutely, unequivocally renounced his decision and said they "wouldn't be held responsible" for the results. So don't try to tell us that Reagan's policies succeeded. They only succeeded for the defense contractors and inside investors of his inner circle, such as the Carlyle Group.

And as for liberty... Is violating the Constitution by unapproved covert actions in Central America your idea of liberty? Is creating a shadow government headed by Bill Casey the kind of "democracy" you free marketers support? All the "heroes" of liberty in Commanding Heights turn out to be rank hypocrites motivated by greed.

On the U.S. government's role in the economy:

  Username: m0zart
Date / Time: 04/16/02 2:19 PM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: Reaganomics is sick, evil, and cynical

Message: (ORIGINAL POSTING): What are the "poor" workers so enraged about? Not enough welfare? Not enough unemployment benefits? If they're not, they should be. The U.S. is unenviably stingy about unemployment benefits and welfare.

Gladly so. The money has to come from those who actually do work. It can't help things when money is being taken from those who make it and given to those who don't. It's the people who earn that are enviably stingy, and rightly so.

The Federal Reserve Board integrates a number of economic indices into its policymaking decision process. One of these is the unemployment rate: If it were to fall below a certain level, known as NAIRU (the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment), the labor market tightens. This drives up wages and sparks a round of inflation. If the unemployment rate falls "too low," the Fed tightens money supply in order to drive the unemployment rate up.... In other words, it is Greenspan's job to make sure that enough Americans don't get a job.

This is one of the basic flaws of any government-controlled economy, ours being among them. The choice of the state is always to sacrifice one class for the good of the whole. Either it sacrifices the whole of the earning class by taking their income for those who do no earn, or it sacrifices the jobs of the bottom 5 percent so that the economic growth trend will be free-flowing. The error on both sides is basically the same.

On debt and lending in developing countries:

  Username: JoseCuervo
Date / Time: 04/18/02 3:25 PM
Subject: Malaysia, stop making excuses

Message: In the past I have borrowed more money than I should have and I have had difficulty in repaying the loans. However, with the help of a consumer credit counseling service, I will have my loans paid off later this year. It has been a difficult process repaying my debts. Throughout this process it never once occurred to me to blame the lenders for my problems.

I do not understand [Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, prime minister] of Malaysia's logic or thought process in blaming the lenders for his country's financial problems. He said that banks and financial institutions "forced" his country to borrow money. I don't understand. What power did the banks have over the country that forced them to borrow?

[Editor's note: In Episode Three, Mahathir criticizes the IMF for its prescription of massive loans for Asian countries suffering in the wake of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. See Storyline Episode Three for Mahathir's position.]

On Hernando de Soto and property rights:

  Username: opel
Date / Time: 04/18/02 2:17 AM
Subject: Hernando de Soto's Solution?

Message: I was intrigued by the segment on Hernando de Soto's solution to the problem of poverty in developing nations. Two-thirds or so into Episode Three of the series, a powerful point is made about how the introduction of the capitalist system into developing countries has not benefited them much in the course of globalization. Mr. Hernando de Soto is then shown suggesting that one of the causes of that failure to develop positively (economically speaking) is the lack of well-established property laws in those countries. As an example, a Tanzanian coffee farmer is filmed stating that he has no written title to the land that he rightfully farms.

The conclusion to this logical line of thinking is not drawn by the makers of Commanding Heights. But the implication is clear: If only the developing countries were to learn how legal property titles work, then their economic plight might ease.

I say we must be careful, though: If the introduction of such a legal system into a place that doesn't have it already is done unfairly, with multinational corporations from overseas and/or corrupt local individuals ending up owning large portions of the assessed land, then said introduction will surely not ease the plight of the poor masses. It might, in fact, simply institutionalize and legitimize the process by which the wealthy few accumulate the largest share of the wealth.


Username: polsci student
Date / Time: 01/05/03 9:58 PM
Subject: RE: Hernando de Soto's Solution?

Message: As far as I can see, there is one major problem with implementing property rights. As an Australian citizen, I am aware of the ongoing court battles that we have with the native title claims of Aboriginal groups. The disputes are socially and financially disruptive, and the outcomes never fully satisfy either party.

I don't see how creating property rights in developing countries in the 21st century could be done without sparking civil and international conflict, or ruining the families and small communities that live on what they wholeheartedly feel is their own land. "Real" landowners would come out of the woodwork to dispute claims; money and energy, which could be spent on building infrastructure, would be wasted on court disputes; and those most familiar with money and Western ways would win in the end.

While I understand that globalization works best when everyone uses the same system, it seems that the West is once again presuming that we have the ultimate answer: private property rights. ...

On importing and exporting Western values:

  Username: debunker
Date / Time: 04/17/02 10:35 PM
Subject: Measuring the success of globalization in the Third World by Western standards

... Globalism does not simply involve the exportation of wealth potential, but the exportation of values as well, such as a taste for money and material things. ... Whether we like to admit it or not, one of the keys to the success of the U.S. economy is that we consume, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, things that we do not need for day-to-day living. Conspicuous consumption is one of the driving forces in the engine of American capitalism. What we saw happen in the developing Asian countries in a short period of time is that millions of people whose lives had been based on agriculture and subsistence living were suddenly consumed by materialism and the desire to better themselves materially. Young men in particular, seduced by the values of the West, moved to cities in search of employment. Overnight they changed the way in which they measured their well-being; no longer was it how much food they had to eat, whether the crop was good that year, or the vitality of their cultural traditions, but rather how much money they had, what material comforts they enjoyed, and how high up they were in the capitalist food chain.

[Something that should become more an active part of the debate is] what cost are we paying on a cultural level as the values of Western capitalism are exported along with its goods, markets, and capital flows? When measuring the success of globalism in the developing world, should we simply employ the material values of the West, or should we pay any attention to the values held by certain cultures prior to the onset of globalization? Why are not historians and anthropologists more an active part of the debate over globalization? ... Although more honesty and candor about this aspect of globalization will not likely slow its effects in countries where industrialization has already spread, it may assist communities which have not yet been affected (if there are any) to think carefully about giving approval for a new factory in their region, and to evaluate in a different way the promises of "wealth" and "progress" that are offered to them by Western bankers or corporations.

On the overthrow of Allende in Chile:

  Username: zamski
Date / Time: 04/10/02 9:43 PM
Subject: Program left out Key Facts about Chile

Message: First of all, the U.S.'s sabotage of the Allende government is completely ignored. How can anyone make a fair judgment about the success or failure of socialism in Chile when the CIA was subverting the economy? Even before Allende was elected, they tried to rig the election but failed. According to the CIA itself, $11 million were spent between 1962-70 in trying to prevent Allende from being elected and another $8 million between '70-73 in destabilizing the Chilean economy. Truck drivers were paid to strike. Truck drivers had a tremendous impact on the distribution of goods in Chile and therefore on the economy.

The program also fails to mention that U.S. copper interests were robbing the country blind, leaving almost none of the wealth generated by copper in Chile before Allende was elected. This prompted, rightly in my opinion, the expropriation of some mines. After the election, many U.S. companies pulled investments, and the hostile Nixon administration ended credit provided to previous Chilean governments by the Agency for International Development. Worse still is the fact that copper prices dropped. Nevertheless, in Allende's first year in office, 1971, worker pay rose over 50 percent and inflation actually went down from 34.9 to 22.1 percent.

After Allende, the junta killed thousands (not hundreds) of people. The exact total is not known, but I have heard estimates of 10,000 people. In 1972, while Allende was president, the richest 5 percent of the population received 25 percent of the national income. In 1975, under Pinochet, the top 5 percent received 50 percent of the national income.

Finally, the program tries to separate capitalism from the brutality of the dictatorship, but, as anyone who has studied a bit of Latin American history knows, brutality and capitalism go hand in hand. For more examples of this see Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, or any other nation that the U.S. has had a hand in subverting.

On global trade and global governance:

  Username: Libertarian
Date / Time: 04/17/02 3:50 AM
Subject: RE: RE: One Planet, One Market and One Government

Message: ... Global government = global tyranny! The last thing we need is a world government -- God forbid!! One of the previous threads said it correctly. It is indeed odd that most on the Left today -- at least the anti-globalist Left who protests at IMF meetings, and their sympathizers -- champion localism in economics and culture, but want a global government to regulate commerce. It is wrong, in fact outrageous, to imply that Americans should be free to trade with one another, and yet not free to trade (without tariffs) with people in other countries. Unless, of course, you are a xenophobe like Pat Buchanan or Ralph Nader. If there is one institution which must remain decentralized, it is government. ... Why does the Left worry so much about "big" corporations, and yet seems to celebrate large, centralized government power? ...

I do not quite agree with the slogan "Think globally, act locally." I prefer to say "Govern locally, trade globally."
Global economy: yes!
Global government: NEVER NEVER NEVER!!

On stagflation, or, A little Keynes goes a long way:

  Username: ronnie
Date / Time: 04/11/02 9:26 AM
Subject: RE: Capitalism is just fascism with a buck instead of a bullet.

Message: So how did stagflation come about? Keynesian economics are a drug. You can't take them all the time. They should be used wisely, like in times of recession, and that is about it.

With regard to capitalism being evil, socialism has got a great track record, too. Instead of using a buck, they just use a bullet.

An anti-Keynes stand:

  Username: m0zart
Date / Time: 04/12/02 12:18 PM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: Capitalism is just fascism with a buck instead of a bullet.

Message: (ORIGINAL POSTING): "Stagflation" was the result of poor management and not any inherent flaw in the system.

Actually, poor management IS the Keynesian system. It's an attempt to pretend wealth is there that isn't, and distribute it according to a need principle. Keynes's ideas were directly responsible for the printing of more paper money than there was existing wealth (as created by the Capitalists) to represent. As a result, the overall value of the dollar went down, and down... and DOWN.

Our Government, through Keynes's "wisdom," began printing paper money by fiat in order to spend it on social programs. This served the temporary goals of the politicians in power at the time (to get reelected), but in time it couldn't have possibly lasted, as the dollar was losing all its value. It became a cascading principle -- you print money to spend, money becomes less valuable, so you have to print even more money the next time, and money becomes even less valuable by margin than before... and on and on it goes.

There was an ILLUSION of a wealthy time in America, but it was only that -- an illusion. Our Government was sowing seeds that we wouldn't see the result of for years, but when that result came -- OH HOW IT CAME!

Inflation is the natural vengeance against those who think they can create wealth just by saying so. It fully avenged the men of ability -- the men of the mind. And if ever any of these bone-headed attempts are made in the future, it will avenge them AGAIN.

Starvation and death is the result of Socialist ideas, including Keynes's "kinder, gentler capitalism." I am sure you'd do Keynes proud by pursuing it. To quote Keynes himself, "Oh well, we're all dead in the long run."

On Margaret Thatcher, or, A critique of the left -- and of its preferred form of debate

  Username: liberty
Date / Time: 04/13/02 11:56 AM
Subject: RE: Elvis Costello on Thatcher

Message: Elvis Costello, the economic expert? I love it when celebrities pontificate about things they don't understand.

I had so hoped to find some reasoned debate at this Web site. But leftists can't fight with facts because they don't understand them. So instead they dredge up rock songs to express their reflexively emotional outrage at having their articles of faith challenged. I mean, we all know Margaret Thatcher was EVIL, don't we?! Remember what Elvis Costello said?

As anyone knows who has looked at the facts with an open mind (including the Labor government in Britain, since they're still following her economic policies), Margaret Thatcher did more to lift poor children out of poverty than all the socialists who preceded her put together. In fact, the socialists who preceded her are the reason children in Britain were IN poverty to begin with. How blind does one have to be to not understand that Britain is better off economically than they were before Thatcher? Anyone old enough to remember the unemployment situation in '70s Britain can see the difference. It was painful for a few years, but it has improved dramatically by every measure.

Everyone regrets that the change from socialism to freedom can't be made painlessly, but is that a reason to not change at all? How long was the world supposed to practice socialism once it became obvious to everyone who was paying attention that it had failed?

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