Daily Archives: November 25, 2017

Russiagate Explained – Caitlin Johnstone -Medium

Medium has the Caitlin Johnstone article Russiagate Explained.

The term Gish gallop refers to a fallacious debate tactic in which one barrages one’s opposition with a deluge of individually weak arguments which take far too long to debunk individually in a way that sustains the audience’s interest. This is all Russiagate amounts to. When Russiagaters tell you that there’s “too much smoke for there not to be fire” and there’s so much incriminating news coming out that there’s definitely a there there, they are unwittingly telling you “I’ve been won over by a Gish gallop fallacy.

This is the first time I have heard a name given to this debate technique. I have observed this technique used many times in other situations, too. It also irks me to see so many people fall for this.

Domestic Fair Trade

The Dictionary of American History has the article Fair-Trade Laws. There is a section that discusses Domestic Fair Trade.

In the United States, fair-trade laws were first enacted in California in 1931 to protect small retailers and druggists.

Growing up in the 50s and 60s as the son of a small drugstore owner in Massachusetts, I may have had more awareness of fair trade laws than most of my peers. In my previous post The Antitrust Paradox, I had the excerpt that said the following:

The paradox of antitrust enforcement was that legal intervention artificially raised prices by protecting inefficient competitors from competition.

I immediately thought about the fair trade laws which might rightly be the target of the above complaint. I was quite aware of the history as described in the Domestic Fair Trade article.

In the 1950s, fair trade was hotly contested among various corporations and in the court system, particularly at the state level. By 1956, eight state supreme courts had ruled against fair-trade statutes, making the laws meaningless in some areas. Manufacturers were no longer able to dictate the retail price at which their goods could be sold, which was at the heart of fair-trade laws. Supporters of fair trade redoubled their efforts at the state and national level in the 1950s and 1960s, but by mid-1975, fair trade had been eliminated in 25 states.

At the time this overturn of the fair trade laws was happening, I could see the problems that these laws caused. Ironically, the fair trade laws passed out of existence in 25 states three years before Bork’s book was published. In thinking over the relation of Bork’s criticism of the anti-trust laws as raising prices and the connection to the fair trade laws, I came to realize that the situation was more complex than these rulings would encompass. When the courts looked at consumer prices alone, or fair trade alone, or anti-trust alone, they failed to take into account the interaction of these factors. A decision that fixed a problem in one sphere could cause untold damage in one or more of these and other related spheres. Is this any way to interpret laws? No wonder we have such a mess. We have lawyers and judges making decisions about domains in which they are way outside their areas of expertise.

The Antitrust Paradox

WikiPedia has the article The Antitrust Paradox.

The Antitrust Paradox is a 1978 book by Robert Bork that criticized the state of United States antitrust law in the 1970s.

This book is important because “The Antitrust Paradox has shaped antitrust law …” Not having read the book, but only after reading another article and this WikiPedia article, I take the gist of the book as the following:

Bork argued that the original intent of antitrust laws as well as economic efficiency make consumer welfare and the protection of competition, rather than competitors, the only goals of antitrust law.[3] Thus, while it was appropriate to prohibit cartels that fix prices and divide markets and mergers that create monopolies, practices that are allegedly exclusionary, such as vertical agreements and price discrimination, did not harm consumers and so should not be prohibited. The paradox of antitrust enforcement was that legal intervention artificially raised prices by protecting inefficient competitors from competition.

I see a very major flaw in this analysis. “Consumer welfare” is a very short-sighted view of what is good for the economy and society. There is another very important group that can be identified, but is not mentioned in anything I have read about the book. That group consists of the workers.

With Bork’s focus on consumers, business has focused on another class that they could victimize. Instead of raising prices to which Bork shifted the courts to focus on, business realized that it could focus on cutting costs. With monopolies and cartels, you gain control over suppliers of goods to sell. You can force the suppliers to cut quality standards, outsource labor, cut wages, and accelerate the use of automation.

It is rather perverse economics and sociology to fail to see that consumers and workers tend to be the same people. So while you keep prices low to protect people in their role as consumers, the courts seem to have no care about keeping wages up to protect the same people in their roles as consumers.

We have people in judicial positions making decisions on what is good for society while they seem to have no clue as to how society works. Society is also an ecosystem, meaning that it is complex with many parts interacting with each other. If you mess with one part, there are all sorts of unintended (or unrecognized) reactions in the other parts. If you do not take a holistic view of the system, you can fix one part while doing great damage to another part. This is exactly what Robert Bork and the judicial system has done. Congress has taken no action to stop the damage.

My previous posts The Democrats Confront Monopoly and Big CEOs’ Thanksgiving Tax Feast also relate to this topic.