Robber Baron Capitalism in Four Lessons – Part I: The Subjective Theory of Value

At Pragmatically Distributed we don’t mind ambitious multi-objective programming: We know how to hit our objectives. Today’s objectives – Demonstrate what role the state should play in economic value signalling, and justify the state designing the business environment differently for different sectors of the economy rather than treating all sectors equal.

We will also wean you Libertarians off of primitive Anarcho-Libertarianism and mold you into Capitalists worthy of Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln. Or, at least, we will mold those of you talented enough to adopt Hamilton’s Robber Baron Capitalism. Which is probably only a small number of you people, but that is of no consequence. It suits Hamiltonian interests given we are targeting an elite audience rather than a mass one; we can and will do very well by preferring quality to quantity.

To meet our goals we take Ludwig von Mises’ subjective theory of value, and use it to reject both Austrian economics and Progressive economics in favor of Alexander Hamilton’s Capitalism.

As a refresher, here is how Hamiltonians define the three major economic systems; Capitalism, Libertarianism, and Liberalism:

  • Capitalism – Government actors set the common business environment without favoring particular private actors; individual private actors are then free to take any business action within the boundaries of the established environment.
  • Libertarianism – Private actors set the common business environment without favoring particular private actors; individual private actors are then free to take any business action within the boundaries of the established environment.
  • Liberalism – Government actors set the common business environment without favoring particular actors; government actors then decide on all individual economic actions within the boundaries of the established environment.

We now introduce Alexander Hamilton’s Laws of Economics. Each of these laws are true for all types of economic systems.

Hamilton’s First Law of EconomicsNational Economic Performance is the Result of Process Efficiency

National economic performance is the aggregate of how efficiently processes satisfy customer demand with goods and services.

For any nation the more efficient the aggregate operations of individual producers are, the more optimal is the aggregate allocation of national economic resources.

 

Hamilton’s Second Law of EconomicsHow Efficient Processes are is a Function of a Triangle of Value Signals from the Customer, Producer, and Business Environment

Production processes are efficient if they allocate a minimal amount of resources (relative to alternative processes) to produce the most valuable (in the opinion of the customer) goods or services.

A Triangle of Value Signals influences how efficiently processes allocate resources in production. The three value signals operations are based on are:

  • What the customer views as valuable.
  • How valuable satisfying demand is to the producer.
  • How clearly information about value relevant to a given business environment is signaled to all economic actors in that environment.

The conditions of any given business environment depend on many factors, some of which are under a nation’s control, some of which are not: external military threats, degree and type of business competition, geography, natural resources, and so forth.

As far as environmental influences are under the control of government, those influences depend on the government acting as a neutral arbiter in the creation and enforcement of common rules for all individual actors. What role and influence the government should have in shaping the business environment is a special focus of this article.

When a producer tries to satisfy customer demand, the producer aligns their processes to use resources. If a process is efficient, fewer resources per unit produced will be allocated to that process, leaving those resources free to be used by other processes.

To create efficient processes, producers must be able to accurately (to the degree measurable) interpret value signals from the consumer and the economic environment. If the producer cannot accurately read what is valuable to the consumer and in the relevant economic environment, the producer cannot determine what activities are actually valuable to the producer. Without knowing what is valuable to the customer, producer, and environment, processes cannot be efficiently aligned to resources.

Governments should keep in mind there is a Darwinian advantage to be gained if producers with inefficient processes are driven out of business – if inefficient producers are driven out of business proportionally more resources become available as inputs for the processes of more competitive producers. The more resources become available to a growing share of efficient producers, the more efficient (hence, more powerful) a nation’s economy in its entirety becomes.

Hamilton’s Third Law of EconomicsConsumer Demand Leads to a Natural Self-Sorting of Producers into Sectors

Types of customer demand leads to the creation of different sectors because different types of consumer demand frequently require producers to design different types of processes in order satisfy different demands: The medical industry exists to satisfy medical needs; the financial sector exists to satisfy financial needs, the housing sector exists to satisfy housing needs. Each of these sectors have developed substantially different types of medical, financial, and housing processes to satisfy the demand in their respective sectors.

Because satisfying different types of desires requires different types of business processes, different sectors ultimately allocate different types of resources in their business operations that are often not needed in other sectors: Medical processes are allocated medical resources, financial processes are allocated financial resources, housing processes are allocated housing resources.

Obviously, there is overlap across sectors in terms of what processes they run, what customer needs they serve, and what resources they allocate. The medical, financial and housing sectors all use marketing processes to advertise their products to customers; they all use energy resources…

But there is sufficient difference in processes, customer needs, and resources that the businesses within each of these sectors naturally self-sort themselves into competitive niches based on these three factors.

Thus, when executives in the housing sector scan their environment for risks and opportunities they usually do not consider businesses operating in the medical industry to be their competition because the housing industry is not in competition for resources with the medical industry to satisfy the medical needs of customers with medical processes.

In practice, even if without realizing it, both governmental actors and private actors analyze and act on how the economy sorts itself into sectors this natural self-sorting into sectors.

 

Hamilton’s Fourth Law of EconomicsWhat is Interpreted as Economically Valuable Can be Altered Radically by Changes to Economic Incentive Structures

Incentive structures can greatly influence economic activity because the consumer, producer, and economic environment exchange signals in a continuous feedback loop of value signals:

Consumer Producer

Producer Environment

Environment Consumer
If, because of incentives, one of these three interprets value in a different way, what the other two view as valuable will likely change because value information is signaled back and forth between all three.

A change in perceived value can completely alter whether and how effectively a producer engages in an economic activity. Therefore, incentive structures hold a direct and powerful causal relationship over how prosperous an economy is.

In an ideal network of economic signals:

Each individual consumer determines what is valuable for themselves and signals what it is they demand.

In deciding whether to satisfy customer demand is valuable to the producer, producers interpret these customer signals and scan their business environment for information about value.

If the quality of signal feedback falls low enough economic activity risks halting entirely.

 

Hamilton’s Fifth Law of EconomicsValue is not Objectively Quantifiable

In science objective measurement is possible when there is agreement among different scientists about what qualifies as a unit of measure for a kind of scientific phenomena : Luminosity, chemical reactivity, radioactive decay are objectively measurable because scientists agree on what qualifies as a unit of each measure for each type of phenomena.

However, as von Mises pointed out, economic value is not objectively quantifiable for many different reasons.

Not least of these is because individual economic actors usually value the same opportunity differently due to different individual preferences.

Suppose you were offered two choices: You will win $100 million if a coin is flipped twice and comes up heads twice. Or, you may skip the coin toss and be handed $1 million immediately.

Which choice is most valuable for you?

That depends on what your preferences are. If you are worth $200,000 you will most likely take the guaranteed $1 million.

But if you are worth $200 million you are much more likely to gamble on the coin toss.

The same opportunity is valued differently because different actors often have very different tolerance levels for risk.

Therefore neither of the choices can be assigned an objective value.

There number of reasons why economic value is inherently subjective are essentially limitless because of uncertainty and subjectivity:

  • Preferences for economic actors often change.
  • Many, if not all, economic actors are at least partially irrational. In game theory and related economic fields what is meant by “irrational” is not that an actor is “illogical”, but that the actor does not follow their own preferences no matter if their preferences are illogical: If a person prefers to buy a car that is yellow but has no windows vs a car that is blue and has windows, and if the person buys the yellow car, that person is considered rational in game theory because they acted according to their preferences, and despite their preference arguably not being logical. They would be “irrational” only if they bought the blue car despite preferring the yellow one.
  • Economic decisions are always made under conditions of randomness, risks, and incomplete information about the present and future. If a manufacturer unexpectedly loses a supplier due to an earthquake and can only buy equivalent supplies at a higher price from other suppliers, what the manufacturer originally wanted to produce may no longer be valuable to the manufacturer. Supplies that were initially valuable in the present may not be in the future and there is no way for the manufacturer to know in advance. It can only take measures to mitigate risk, but risk can never be eliminated or anticipated for every possible scenario.
  • After an economic action is complete it is impossible to know for sure whether alternative actions were superior in value because whatever alternatives there were can never be rerun under exactly the same circumstances as the choice already made. Would Apple have been better off producing a TV screen instead of Apple Watch? It is impossible to say for certain.

Because of value subjectivity the final cost of any good or service is, in reality, a compromise between the perceived values of everyone involved in the sale or purchase of the good or service.

When a bakery puts a price on a loaf of bread, did everyone involved in creating and buying bread agree that its final price reflected the cost of its inputs and its value to the consumer?

That depends on answers to questions such as whether it can be objectively proven a bakery paid too much, too little, or the right amount of money for flour? Everyone involved in creating flour would have a different answer. To a consumer it may seem the baker paid too much if the consumer feels the finished bread costs too much. The workers at the flour mill may feel the flour cost too little if they feel underpaid.

None of these questions may be answered with an objective, numeric, value because each actor involved in the activity will have a different personal preference, none of which can be proven to be superior.

Given how every economic action, from the simplest to the most complex, is shrouded by subjectivity and uncertainty greed turns out to be good after all.

Greed is good because greed is defensive in a world of so much doubt because greed prods actors to accumulate resources that may appear excessive in boom years but become business saving reserves during downturns.

Comparison of Economic Systems as Relates to the Above Laws

Now we take what has been discussed to shed new light on the three major economic systems, Capitalism, Libertarianism, and Socialism.

The subjective theory of value raises this question: If we acknowledge value (in the broad sense that von Mises defined it) is subjective, why should we conclude certain types of economic systems allocate capital more efficiently than others if value is inherently subjective?

The answer is that, although value is not completely quantifiable, processes that generate similar types of goods and services are comparable enough across types of economic systems that we can be confident (if not entirely sure) that some processes are more efficient because of the type of economic system practiced.

Pragmatically Distributed argues Capitalism is superior because it leads to relatively more optimal processes vs the other two systems.

First, we consider the old debate between Capitalism and Socialism.

Capitalism has been said by its advocates to be superior because private producers are best positioned to understand the needs of the buyer.

But in the context of this article, with its focus on value signalling, it could equally be said that Socialism fails because it ignores the value signals coming from the consumer side of the Triangle of Value Signals.

For processes to be efficient, value input must be received from the consumer, producer and the environment.

In Communist systems the government dictated what should be produced based on what the government felt was valuable, and with only minor concern given to what the citizen desired. In a sense the government’s preferences replaced the consumer’s preferences. But as it turned out, the government could not effectively substitute the consumer’s preferences because the latter’s preferences were too nuanced for a distant central government to imitate.

The result of ignoring consumer preferences – as well as environmental mistakes such incentivizing Communist governments to act as monopolies thanks to there being no competitors in production – was that Communist nations were unable to allocate resources to emerging opportunities, and were burdened with highly inefficient processes that used too many resources to produce goods that were efficiently produced at a higher level quality in the West.

This broken system of signalling is why the GDR had to make due with Trabants while West Germany was home to BMW and Porsche.

Notice that, out of all the items made by the Soviet Union, Soviet production was most efficient at producing weapons because the customer that demanded the weapons, the Soviet government, had a better understanding of what it preferred and could signal those preferences to the Soviet arms industry. When it came to building arms, Soviet value signalling was not as broken as in other activities.

Classic Socialism assumed that state actors could replace the role of the consumer in determining what is valuable for the consumer because value was assumed to be objectively discoverable given enough “scientific” information. Their assumptions were, in a certain sense, Newtonian.

But as we demonstrated in Law V, value is inherently uncertain, Heisenbergian. In an uncertain world Capitalism is superior to Socialism because Capitalism enjoys superior processes thanks to its acceptance of the legitimacy of value signals from the producer, consumer and environment.

Standard economic textbooks downplay the subjective nature of value (though this is now broadly accepted across economic disciplines) because subjectivity fundamentally contradicts Progressive economic propaganda.

If economic value is inherently subjective then the Progressive social engineer has no more special insight into what is economically valuable (and therefore has no right to demand more power over the economy) than anyone else: What the Progressive thinks is economically valuable can never be more than a reflection of their subjective preferences and opinions, not a scientific reality as they would have it.

To the credit of all game theory literature beginning with von Neumann and John Forbes Nash, game theorists have always accepted the subjective value of economic decision making, in addition to non-economic decisions. Instead of trying to quantify economic value, game theory tries to predict behavior given certain incentive structures.

This is why in game theory’s payoff grids the value of a given action to a single actor is given in rank order of preference – i.e., for player A a payoff of 3 vs a payoff of 2 is not necessarily 50% more valuable than a payoff of 2. A rank of 3 merely tells the statistician that a rational actor will, other factors equal, always choose an action that yields 3 instead of 2. Rank order is also why in game theory payoff grids for individual actors are not directly cross-comparable across other actors.

The great failure of Liberal economic systems is that Liberals assume government can make decisions on economic value because economic information is Newtonian.

The greatest strength of Austrian economics is von Mises’ subjective theory of value because the Austrians treat economics as a system of subjective preferences and incentive structures, as does game theory.

But Austrian economics has its limits. In the end Austrian Libertarianism, like Socialism, is inferior to Hamiltonian Capitalism

As it turns out, Mises’ theory of subjective value instead proves Hamiltonian Capitalism is superior to Anarcho-Libertarianism.

The subjective value of economics undermines two core concepts of Austrian economics that conflict with Alexander Hamilton’s version of Capitalism. First, that there is no role for the state in the free market; second, that the government should not treat different sectors of the economy with different policies.

To put the Austrian critique in this article’s terms, the problem with the modern Progressive state is that it has given in to the temptation to warp the value signalling environment of the market in favor of social engineering because Progressives prefer social engineering.

This point is absolutely correct.

Where Austrian economics fails is in its belief that the temptation to distort value signals disappears if the state is abolished. In reality, absent a central state to set common environmental rules and conditions, private actors would have the same temptation to distort economic signals in favor of their own preferences and profit motives than they would in an environment where a Capitalistic state exists.

In a pure Libertarian system the power – and temptations that come with that power – to establish common rules is atomized across many different private actors instead of being concentrated in the hands of a centralized state.

The state is accused by Austrians of being obsolete and unnecessary because it does not have profit motives like private actors. This is fair if the government orders, or excessively pressures, private actors to take particular actions. Their criticism is not fair of government’s traditional role as neutral arbiter for all actors – if private actors had the role of neutral arbiter delegated to them, as Austrians wish, the duty of private actors to be neutral arbiter would directly conflict with their own profit motives. Because private actors have a profit motive to alter common rules to direct value to themselves, private actors cannot take on the role of governments unto themselves.

In a truly Anarch0-Libertarian system, the environment of value signalling would break down and decision making would halt. In this system no one would be able to trust that signals coming from their environment were realistic, or instead being manipulated to serve the profit motive of individual actors.
The Capitalistic State’s Interest in Sector Models

A poor environment of market signalling is disastrous, a good environment is excellent.

For the Capitalistic state, what model should it use to judge whether its environment of economic signals is healthy?

One of the most informative viewpoints a government has at its disposal is to model national economic performance in terms of whether sector environments are efficient.

The basic relationship between actors and the state in the Hamiltonian model of Capitalism holds true when specified to a model of value signals – Capitalism is best in value signalling networks because individual actors are free to act on what they think optimal value is for them so long as common rules are obeyed.

Breaking down an economy into sectors with different needs is wise because different types of pricing information are relevant and needed in some sectors environments, but not others. The environmental effect of drug testing regulations are most relevant to price signals in the pharmaceutical sector, to the financial sector drug testing is not relevant to their price signalling environment.

The state should monitor the environment of different sectors because if one is failing it could mean there is a problem with that sector’s environment that warrants government action. Of course sectors could fail not because there is anything wrong with the environment but because of natural economic forces such as one sector becoming technologically obsolete. But it is appropriate for the government to at least consider whether sector performance is a natural result of the business environment or if corrective measures are needed.

Thinking of economic environments by sector is appropriate because if government nurtures a broad range of sectors (its national “portfolio” of sectors) the national economy can better handle downturns in a particular sector because other sectors serve as “backups” to make up for underperformance elsewhere.

Refining the Hamiltonian definition of Capitalism, the state should be concerned with the environment of price signalling, and consider sectors that have specific price signalling needs. And the advice given by Libertarians that the state should treat different sectors differently deserves to be abandoned as obsolete.

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21 thoughts on “Robber Baron Capitalism in Four Lessons – Part I: The Subjective Theory of Value”

  1. Excellently written and very clearly explained.

    I have a few questions. I have nothing against the arguments over socialism and I think you are also correct over the failure of libertarianism as well, so I will ask a few questions about the internal coherence of the model.

    I want you to refine the following, apparent, tension in your model.

    Basic assumption:

    “Capitalism – Government actors set the common business environment without favoring particular private actors; individual private actors are then free to take any business action within the boundaries of the established environment.”

    Observation:

    “Notice that, out of all the items made by the Soviet Union, Soviet production was most efficient at producing weapons because the customer that demanded the weapons, the Soviet government, had a better understanding of what it preferred and could signal those preferences to the Soviet arms industry. When it came to building arms, Soviet value signalling was not as broken as in other activities.”

    Prescription:

    “But it is appropriate for the government to at least consider whether sector performance is a natural result of the business environment or if corrective measures are needed.

    Thinking of economic environments by sector is appropriate because if government nurtures a broad range of sectors (its national “portfolio” of sectors) the national economy can better handle downturns in a particular sector because other sectors serve as “backups” to make up for underperformance elsewhere.”

    So, the state can intervene and take “corrective measures”. Also, the state should have a “broad” “portfolio” that can serve as “backups.”

    Why?

    To answer that question you have to answer what the purpose of the state is.

    Now, the observation about the “arms industry” is very interesting. Given that USG is the global power, and given that its military operates right across the world which not only needs supplies but also new and better tech – now and for forever.

    Then, the question is: where does all this “tech” come from?

    Ian Fletcher’s Against Free Trade provides some examples that it was the state (the military-industrial complex or DARPA in particular) that helped spur technological innovation with aircraft and computers.

    His point is that government support for certain sectors (funding, protection and development) can provide benefits to consumers down the road in the same way that pure scientific research can sometimes have practical implications.

    In addition, Fletcher notes that many in the military are unhappy because many in the arms industry are sourcing their parts from China because it is cheaper!

    I then went and read some Edward Luttwak and I was introduced to the term “geo-economics”. It made me change and also refine many of my assumptions about economics.

    So, we agree that the state have a big role to play and not just in regulating – as your basic assumption about capitalism suggests.

    So, the problem then, for you, is to provide clear rules of when, where and how the state should intervene.

    An example to show what I mean.

    Let’s suppose that we have a factory-company that makes aircrafts, engines and steel widgets. Now, the company is not doing so well because of foreign competition etc. If the state keeps it afloat (somehow) it is not efficient.

    But.

    Let’s suppose that a war breaks out and you need to ramp up production of aircraft, engines and steel widgets.

    If the state has that company (which is treading water) then with this new demand all it has to do is increase production in short. However, if it has to innovate, expand and refine it has a “base” from which to do so and a pool of “human capital” from which to do so.

    But if the state has allowed the company to sell of its assets and or outsource (perhaps to the country the state is now at war with) then you have to start from scratch as it where. Plus, if your human capital is either loafing at home with the PlayStation or working in companies devoted to outsourcing you have to re-train more people.

    When you look at Free Trade economics in this way and when you factor in “geo-politics” you get: “geo-economics.”

    I’m sure Hamilton would have agreed with this general line of reasoning.

    So maybe you can say a few words about it.

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  2. Also, given the importance of signals and “feedback” for the economy, then question then is why should the state be any different?

    One of my first thoughts when I read MM was that he applied this “economic rationality” to the state itself.

    If you had the power to re-structure USG what would you change? And how it would it deal with the problem of signals?

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  3. So, the state can intervene and take “corrective measures”.

    Capitalistic measures would be changing the environmental rules if there is reason to believe there is a problem with the environmental conditions.

    Suppose certain businesses were using questionable financial reporting practices to attract investment their business wouldn’t ordinarily attract. The government could correct this with new accounting regulations and oversight to minimize it happening again in the future.

    Also, the state should have a “broad” “portfolio” that can serve as “backups.”

    Why?

    I will answer that in Part II.

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  4. Then, the question is: where does all this “tech” come from?

    Ian Fletcher’s Against Free Trade provides some examples that it was the state (the military-industrial complex or DARPA in particular) that helped spur technological innovation with aircraft and computers.

    His point is that government support for certain sectors (funding, protection and development) can provide benefits to consumers down the road in the same way that pure scientific research can sometimes have practical implications.

    Technology, like all other goods and services provided by an economy, originates from demand from the customer. If the customer turns out to be the government, and there are few or no preferences from private actors that need to be considered as there are with military arms, then there is nothing broken in the exchange of value signals between consumer (the military), the producer (arms manufacturers) and the business environment (government has regulatory power and authority over the over the military).

    Value signalling would break down only if there are also private demands that must be met by the producer but the government’s preferences substitute itself for private preferences – Big Green is an example of Progressive government distorting market signals (and therefore warping energy production with inefficiencies) by substituting its own energy preferences for the preferences of private consumers of energy.

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  5. But if the state has allowed the company to sell of its assets and or outsource (perhaps to the country the state is now at war with) then you have to start from scratch as it where. Plus, if your human capital is either loafing at home with the PlayStation or working in companies devoted to outsourcing you have to re-train more people.

    When you look at Free Trade economics in this way and when you factor in “geo-politics” you get: “geo-economics.”

    I’m sure Hamilton would have agreed with this general line of reasoning.

    Hamilton was a protectionist and one of the reasons he favored protection was so that the early United States could develop its own military resources.

    Obviously American weapons production should not be outsourced to any powers that might feasibly become hostile at some point. If they are outsourced anywhere it should only be to long-standing allies that are very unlikely to become opponents.

    Fletcher considers our outsourcing of arms production a failure of free markets.

    But isn’t this really a failure of Progressivism?

    As the only consumer of military technology a government would normally have a powerful security preference for its arms suppliers to keep advanced weapon technology tightly controlled on its own national soil, or, maybe, very close allies.

    But the incentive structures the Progressive’s have imposed through all sorts of bureaucratic measures on private actors has also distorted the military’s natural preferences for keeping weapons built at home.

    Under a Capitalistic incentive structure, where diversity incentives do not exist, the military would insist to its arms manufacturers that they not produce in any remotely hostile nation.

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  6. If you had the power to re-structure USG what would you change? And how it would it deal with the problem of signals?

    The government’s problem with value signals is that the Progressives are constantly distorting normal value feedback between consumers, producers, and the environment to attract value to their own social engineering projects.

    The way to restore Capitalism the way Hamilton intended is to eliminate the Progressive movement.

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  7. His point is that government support for certain sectors (funding, protection and development) can provide benefits to consumers down the road in the same way that pure scientific research can sometimes have practical implications.

    Not if government spending overrides private consumer preferences. Military spending is unique because there is no private demand for stealth fighters, so what the military thinks about stealth technology are the only consumer preferences industrial suppliers have to consider in their design specifications.

    If there are private needs that have to be satisfied, and if Progressive desires crowd out what the private consumer is signalling the producer to do, the producer becomes inefficient because the producer can’t interpret what private actors want.

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  8. My arguments for what conditions warrant state intervention in the economy could also be used by Progressives to justify their own agenda on grounds that what they want is environmental.

    But since I reject the argument of pure Libertarians that there is no need for any kind of government in a free market, but also reject Progressivism, I am obligated to argue when a government intervention is justifiable on Capitalistic terms and when it is not.

    I do, however, feel that with enough examples the difference between a Capitalistic intervention (change the shared business environment, leave the private actor to decide how to act in the environment) and a Progressive intervention (change both the business environment and interfere with the preferences of private actors) will become clear.

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  9. “Obviously American weapons production should not be outsourced to any powers that might feasibly become hostile at some point. If they are outsourced anywhere it should only be to long-standing allies that are very unlikely to become opponents.

    Fletcher considers our outsourcing of arms production a failure of free markets.

    But isn’t this really a failure of Progressivism?

    As the only consumer of military technology a government would normally have a powerful security preference for its arms suppliers to keep advanced weapon technology tightly controlled on its own national soil, or, maybe, very close allies.

    But the incentive structures the Progressive’s have imposed through all sorts of bureaucratic measures on private actors has also distorted the military’s natural preferences for keeping weapons built at home.

    Under a Capitalistic incentive structure, where diversity incentives do not exist, the military would insist to its arms manufacturers that they not produce in any remotely hostile nation.”

    It is interesting when you say that it is a failure of “Progressivism”.

    This is true in one sense since the changes happened under their control. However, can “diversity” really explain it? My first thought was that it was downstream of the whole Red V Blue conflict. However, I think the question does need to be put to you that it was the inner logic of capitalism itself that is also to blame. After all a CEO must maximise profits and if they can do that by sourcing from China, then they have have a duty to their shareholders to do so.

    Your reply will be that the state should have regulated this sector – which I agree with. However, I think the existence of the M-I-S and the reality of “geo-economics” changes the situation in ways that are difficult to easily resolve. (See more below.)

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  10. “If the customer turns out to be the government, and there are few or no preferences from private actors that need to be considered as there are with military arms, then there is nothing broken in the exchange of value signals between consumer (the military), the producer (arms manufacturers) and the business environment (government has regulatory power and authority over the over the military).”

    No preferences are directly affected or signals directly broken. However, I think the indirect consequences and the consequences over time need to be considered – from both a capitalistic and a Citizen’s viewpoint.

    This is somewhat vague to formulate, so bare with me.

    War made the state and the state made war. War, however, leads to the centralising of the state. The centralising state becomes very, very powerful. Needless to say, it can use this power for either good or bad. It is an open question, let’s say, what the balance sheet is. However, there is no question that there are very ominous trends today regarding privacy, weapons and other forms of technology that could easily be weaponized.

    It is not so much that arms industries have perverse incentives, but that the government does – and war is one way in which the state can make itself more and more powerful. It should also be said, that war has benefited progressivism more than conservatism. So, indirectly, the economic, political and moral preferences of citizens are frustrated.

    To take one example, internet privacy eroded due to the government wanting data on terrorists. A different example might be trade restrictions with countries that the USA has decided to threaten because it CAN. A different example might be from being killed in a terrorist attack, or even a war (with China say) because of arms race caused by runaway military-industrial-political activities.

    I’m not fully convinced by some of these example, or that capitalism per se is to blame. It would be good to see your answers, however. I think Ron Paul or Patrick Buchanan could phrase it better.

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  11. “I do, however, feel that with enough examples the difference between a Capitalistic intervention (change the shared business environment, leave the private actor to decide how to act in the environment) and a Progressive intervention (change both the business environment and interfere with the preferences of private actors) will become clear.”

    My questions are aimed at probing how clear a distinction can be made.

    I think the term is “political economy”. In short, the needs of the state itself may require intervention. This intervention is not progressive, though may be consistent with progressive ends, but it could likely interfere with capitalism in the sense of “common rules” for all economic actors.

    For example, the likely charge would be “crony-capitalist” or forcing companies to keep their workers or raise wages or whatever.

    What I think you need to be clear about is the purpose of the state. (I think I already know what your answer will be, and I know you have said you will address it in a later part).

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  12. However, can “diversity” really explain it? My first thought was that it was downstream of the whole Red V Blue conflict. However, I think the question does need to be put to you that it was the inner logic of capitalism itself that is also to blame. After all a CEO must maximise profits and if they can do that by sourcing from China, then they have have a duty to their shareholders to do so.

    Assume there is no Liberal pressure to embrace diversity.

    Under that case, the CEO of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, or whoever, has no profits if he angers his fabulously wealthy customer – the American military – by outsourcing production capacity to a hostile, or potentially hostile, nation such as China because their contracts with the military would list which countries they may and may not produce weapons in.

    And there would be such a requirement because a military uninterested in diversity wouldn’t hesitate to exclude China as an acceptable area to build infrastructure on.

    If the customer, the military, has a preference for its suppliers to not to build capacity on hostile soil, the customer will get the producer to do it. Not only because the military can take its business elsewhere but because the government to which the military answers to can legally penalize the manufacturer if they violate the military’s demands in a defense contract.

    The American arms industry already gets a list of nations it is ok and not ok to export versions of American weapon systems, and where certain manufacturing capacities are located, even by state because defense spending is a gravy train for politicians in both parties.

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  13. It is not so much that arms industries have perverse incentives, but that the government does – and war is one way in which the state can make itself more and more powerful.

    Historically war is not a perverse incentive for governments. War is a natural condition of politics.

    Progressive foreign policy has created perverse incentives for how we fight wars, but again this blame falls on Progressive policies, not a normal function of the state such as war.

    War is traditionally centralizing, but there is no case of powerful empires wasting their resources on humanitarian interventions, wasting resources on “climate treaties”, and such.

    To take one example, internet privacy eroded due to the government wanting data on terrorists.

    There would be less incentive for mass surveillance if Progressives hadn’t imported Muslims into the West.

    Even most of the precious few domestic white male terrorists such as Timothy McVeigh would not have gone into terrorism in the first place if they didn’t feel ethnically disposed.

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  14. It would be good to see your answers, however. I think Ron Paul or Patrick Buchanan could phrase it better.

    I’m familiar enough with their opposition to American foreign policy.

    My first objection to their position is where did they get the impression warfare was bad for great powers, at least if they vanquished their competitors like the United States has?

    Even during the Republic stage, the Romans were conquering neighbors and enemies left and right. War and Empire kept the Romans rolling for a thousand years.

    To paraphrase Keynes, the Empire can wage war longer than Paul and Buchanan can remain solvent betting on its collapse any time in the next few centuries.

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  15. What I think you need to be clear about is the purpose of the state. (I think I already know what your answer will be, and I know you have said you will address it in a later part).

    I would say the American state should pursue the national well-being first, its embrace of Capitalism is only to the degree it advances the prosperity and power of the nation.

    Broadly speaking, the role of American government towards the economy and the nation should be roughly similar to how it was during the American Golden Age from 1865 to 1932 when we had both Capitalism and Nationalism.

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  16. Good replies. However, I’m not fully convinced that diversity is the cause of the problem via contracts to China. It sounds more like greed to me and a dogmatic commitment to free trade.

    I think you might like the following:

    https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2017/05/new-class-war/

    These folks seems similar to you in some ways. However, it would be interesting to hear your take on their take on managerialism.

    I don’t know enough, but the vibe I’m getting is that the idea of the entrepreneur is either over or in steep decline. If so, who will be the robber-barons of the future?

    Yet, I think there is tremendous amounts of money to be made for potential entrepreneurs to cover even basic things like housing, security, education, transport and luxuries in an all in one package. The key is that it is private and vertically integrated – private luxury super-condos, towns, cities etc. But again, to do such a thing requires the defeat of the progressives.

    Have you ever played a game called Fallout 3? (If not, then I won’t go on, but if you have I wonder If you can guess at what I’m going to talk about next.)

    I have been talking with some people about your Comte thesis. Some like it, and some don’t. I did not come across any good objections to it as far as I can tell. (oh by the way see the AA journal, it has a quote by Marx that you will love.)

    I do have one question that you can clarify or re-state.

    In terms of strategy and tactics, why does it matter that it is Comte and not Marx? What difference does it make?

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  17. It sounds more like greed to me and a dogmatic commitment to free trade.

    Free trade, as its practiced by Liberals, I would classify as Progressive Supranationalism along with diversity dogma.

    Let’s put aside free trade for the moment and walk through the incentives created by greed.

    1) All actions of all producers originate from some kind of demand.

    2) American weapons manufacturers exist primarily to serve the American military’s demand for weapons.

    3) Arms manufacturers, like all producers in an at least somewhat free market, are obligated to satisfy the customer’s interests if they want a customer’s business.

    4) If the American military objects to installing arms production infrastructure in China, American manufacturers cannot base their factories in China.

    5) If the military, the customer, objects, the greed incentive actually works to base weapons production in America – despite Chinese production being potentially cheaper – because the producer cannot get the military’s business if they don’t meet this requirement. The cheaper cost of producing in China is offset by the loss of business from the only customer of arms, the military.

    6) The greed incentive you worry about only favors outsourcing to China IF the military views it as acceptable for the manufacturer to outsource operations to China.

    Question: Absent Supranationalist dogma WHY would the military accept outsourcing to China? If they view outsourcing as a contract deal killer, the manufacturer’s Capitalist incentives would prevent them from considering outsourcing.

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  18. These folks seems similar to you in some ways. However, it would be interesting to hear your take on their take on managerialism.

    Yes, I’m behind reviewing them and their founder.

    I will review some of their work and see how much they’ve been stealing from me.

    I don’t know enough, but the vibe I’m getting is that the idea of the entrepreneur is either over or in steep decline.

    Don’t be so sure. Capitalism may be repressed but the hold on power of the Progressives is slipping.

    If they fail, Capitalism takes over by default.

    Have you ever played a game called Fallout 3?

    No.

    I have been talking with some people about your Comte thesis. Some like it, and some don’t.

    Are they Right, Left, or mixed?

    In terms of strategy and tactics, why does it matter that it is Comte and not Marx? What difference does it make?

    Comteism is designed and acts in very different ways from Marxism.

    Its functionality gives clues on how to cause it to malfunction.

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