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America the Third-World Nation in Just 4 Easy Steps

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Woody Posted: Tue, Nov 20 2012 12:46 PM

I'm not a good debater and I have a hard time refuting articles which make assertions which are either wrong conclusions from correct data or complete logical fallacies.  In other words, I'm ignorant.  This article, from 10 Nov has just been submitted to me to show how removal of trade barriers, among other things, destroyed the US economy.  The biggest problem is that it quotes a lot of different numbers, presents only those facts which support the socialist / interventionist argument and draws conclusions without providing a great deal of background into other factors which may be equally or more important than the ones being discussed. 

I just don't have the historical background or economics knowledge to argue the point without being called "the most ignorant know-it-all that he's ever met".  If it were a philosophical discussion, I could hold my own but when it's this sort of stuff, I fall on my face.

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Anenome replied on Tue, Nov 20 2012 1:19 PM

Here ya go :)

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=mises.org+protectionism

Only way to get better is to start putting in the work of reading and practice answering.

Autarchy: rule of the self by the self; the act of self ruling.
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What Anenome said, plus a trivial observation about step 3: isn't the guy contradicting himself? In one sentence he laments the evil foreigners investing in the US economy, in the second he decries hte money going in the other direction, being invested in "the developing world". Are both of these bad things? Is movement of money bad per se?

The Voluntaryist Reader - read, comment, post your own.
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Blargg replied on Tue, Nov 20 2012 1:58 PM

From the linked page:

Foxconn workers live in over-crowded dorms that are located on the factory grounds. They work 12-hour shifts, and are routinely exposed to dangerous working conditions. Recently, 137 Foxconn workers fell ill after they were forced to use toxic chemicals to clean iPads. And in the last five years, 17 Foxconn workers have committed suicide on the job. Nets have since been installed around the factory to catch workers jumping out of windows.


Here's the most honest rewrite:
Foxconn employees live in dorms that are smaller than I'm comfortable with. These are located on the same plot of land as the factory is. They work 12 hours at a time, and routinely encounter situations involving some amount of danger. Recently, 137 employees became ill after doing a particular task involving a harsh chemical. In the last five years, an average of 3 employees a year have committed suicide on the job, which is lower than in the general Chinese population for that time or in all 50 states of the USA. The company has installed nets to help prevent this in the future.
 

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Woody replied on Tue, Nov 20 2012 2:42 PM

Anemone,

Actually, I am - I'm reading Man, Economy & State right now.  I am also trying to take notes of what I'm learning.  The break-down comes in the answering practice - I find that I tend to lose what I learn if I don't use it a lot. 

I have a lot of opportunities to talk philosophy - not so much when dealing with these sorts of arguments.  You need knowledge of history and sound economics but you also need a memory that you can grab things out of when you need them.  My brain no is indexed too good! :-P  It takes me a while to sit and think and pull out what I need.  Not exactly conducive to verbal sparring, if you know what I mean.

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Woody replied on Tue, Nov 20 2012 2:48 PM

Andris,

Great Point!  I didn't see that!  Thanks!

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Woody replied on Wed, Nov 21 2012 9:48 AM

Blarg,

I was actually able to defend that line because it's a mostly philosophical attack on Libertarianism.  To finish the quote:


So why the heck would Foxconn look beyond their Libertarian paradise of no labor laws to come to the United States and
employ a bunch of Americans?

 

This was obviously an attempt to connect the term libertarian with totalitarian ideals.  Being an easily identifiable logical fallacy, I handily demolished it.

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Loppu replied on Wed, Nov 21 2012 9:59 AM

"I have a hard time refuting articles which make assertions which are either wrong conclusions from correct data or complete logical fallacies."

I have hard time understanding how do you know something is wrong, if you cannot reason it out yourself. I don't want to sound like an asshole or anything, but every now and then there are people in this forum who say "I know X is wrong, but I don't know why it's wrong; please explain me why X is wrong" or something similar. Every time I wonder how do these people now that the X is wrong. How can you know something, if you don't know it? That is the question.

Or maybe I misread your original post. I'm not sure...

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idol replied on Wed, Nov 21 2012 11:02 AM

Loppu,

I think what these posters mean is that they heard the Austrian side of the argument and they consider it more logical. However, it is sometimes difficult to use that knowledge to refute a statist's argument, or to know exactly where the statist goes wrong. 

For example, just glancing at this link, it argues that protectionism "built and sustained an enormous middle class of Americans working in factories collecting high wages." So now the question becomes, is there something missing from this analysis, or is it just completely wrong and Americans were not collecting high wages? You may know protectionism is wrong but it is not enough to refute this analysis. Well, I would start by arguing that household income has continued to increase in real terms for many years, showing that Americans are now working in much higher wage jobs than before: clearly free trade agreements have not deterred that growth, despite the continually added weight on American business. I would also say that tariffs makes those "high wages" much weaker because those workers have to pay much more for all imports; in other words, their purchasing power in real terms has fallen. Here I used a combination of data and economic logic to refute this point, but without the data this argument would appear weaker. 

 

On a side note - isn't it funny how progressives change their argument to fit their agenda? Those "high wages" this person is referring to I assume includes the early 1900s, a period of time when they believed everyone worked for slave hours and slave wages. Also, I thought progressives hated business and believe they should be forced to compete with a mountain of taxes, regulations, and mandates. Now they want to protect them with tariffs? This writer is seriously confused.

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Woody replied on Wed, Nov 21 2012 1:18 PM

Loppu,

I understand what you're saying.  I will attempt to explain.

As you probably know, Austrian economics teaches us not what is good or bad but how certain means will deliver certain ends - it is for individuals to decide the benefit or harm of the ends achieved.  Human action - it is a logical philosophy, universally experienced, easily understood and therefore easily discussed.

One of the things this philosophy demonstrates is how government causes market booms and busts through its intrusions in the marketplace and distortion of pricing signals on which market calculations are so dependent.  Mr. Hartmann and Mr. Sacks attempt to make the opposite case - that governmental intervention makes the markets more prosperous.  Because the assertion is opposed to the philosopical logic of Austrian economics, I know that the argument must be flawed in some way which is not obvious to me.

Now, while the two diametrically opposed opinions are obvious, how do you make the case for the Austrian side?  Appeals to logic have been removed by the "presentation of historical fact" and "indisputable empirical evidence".  These gentlemen are saying that the economy has been failing since the 1980s because we are no longer following Hamilton's plan, given in his "Report on Manufacturers" which, as far as I can tell, propose tarriffs on imports and subsidies to business - in other words: corporate welfare subsidized by higher prices in goods and services to the American people. 

So, why can't I just tell my friend that the authors' conclusions are incorrect, that their perceptions of cause and effect disjointed?  I can't do that because the authors of this article have more credibility than I do, their citation of "historical fact" unconquerable by mere logic and, if we are to be truthful with ourselves, logic must give way in the face of evidence and new logic must be invented which better describes the reality we perceive. 

The authors have strengthened their position through appeals to history which they claim support their statements.  Philosophy and logic are insufficient.  In order to support the Austrian position, I must now provide counter-evidence and counter-conclusions from credible sources.  I must show the fallacy of each argument, any one of which may be taken as evidence of the truth of the whole.

This is where I and the others you mention fall short.  I don't have the knowledge of historical cause-and-effect to support my points.  I am gaining that knowledge but I am far from being able to provide a comprehensive argument.

Did that better clarify my situation?

 

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Woody replied on Wed, Nov 21 2012 2:00 PM

Loppu,

A friend of mine, after reading my latest post, had this corollary to add:

Your troubles remind me of My Cousin Vinny.  Have you seen that?  Gambini is an inexperienced NY lawyer defending his cousin on false murder charges in Alabama.  The video I found was taken down because of copyright, but here is the transcript.  You are Gambini, the article’s author is the DA:

Vincent Gambini: Look, maybe I could have handled the preliminary a little better, okay? I admit it. But what's most important is winning the case. I could do it. I really could. Let me tell you how, okay? The D.A.'s got to build a case. Building a case is like building a house. Each piece of evidence is just another building block. He wants to make a brick bunker of a building. He wants to use serious, solid-looking bricks, like, like these, right?

[puts his hand on the wall]

Billy: Right.

Vincent Gambini: Let me show you something.

[he holds up a playing card, with the face toward Billy]

Vincent Gambini: He's going to show you the bricks. He'll show you they got straight sides. He'll show you how they got the right shape. He'll show them to you in a very special way, so that they appear to have everything a brick should have. But there's one thing he's not gonna show you.

[turns the card, so that its edge is toward Billy]

Vincent Gambini: When you look at the bricks from the right angle, they're as thin as this playing card. His whole case is an illusion, a magic trick. It has to be an illusion, 'cause you're innocent.

[turns the card, with the face toward Billy - it is a different card than the original]

Vincent Gambini: Nobody - I mean nobody - pulls the wool over the eyes of a Gambini. Especially this one.

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I think more often than not it's that they present a few selected facts and use this to corroborate whatever hypothesis they're peddling. You can point out holes in "empirical" reasoning using economic theory, especially if that economic theory proceeds from some already granted assumptions. Arguments for protectionism in particular tend to focus solely on the beneficiaries of it. Yes, it helps to have a solid command of the facts of the situation, precisely because the way statistics are used is often manipulative.

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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Woody replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 9:46 AM

John,

That's exactly right.  The problem with pointing out the "holes", however, is that the question is raised "then why did such-and-such happen?".  That's why a body needs to be familiar with all this history - and that is why I have such a hard time. 

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