Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Rich & Powerful Not Powerful Enough?

by Kyle Michaelis
When you get as many die-hard Nebraska Republicans in a room as were at their State Central Committee meeting in Gering yesterday, someone is bound to say something outrageously stupid. Still, you generally hope it's not one of your candidates for the United States Senate, not to mention that he won't be quoted in the state's largest newspaper.

No such luck for Pete Ricketts.

The Omaha World-Herald reports on the party faithfuls' early assessment of the Republican field:
The three-way race for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate appears to be wide open as Republicans try to determine which of the candidates has electability.

Several party activists said Saturday they were taking a wait-and-see stance as they try to determine who would best challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson in 2006.

"I want one of the three to make great strides in the next couple of months that lead me to believe they can beat Ben Nelson," said Doris Cordes of Papillion.

Two of the GOP Senate candidates - Omaha attorney David Kramer and Omaha businessman Pete Ricketts - attended this weekend's Republican State Central Committee meeting in Gering. Former Attorney General Don Stenberg was campaigning elsewhere in the state....

If the 100 Republicans at Saturday's meeting are any indication, any of the three hopefuls has a chance to shoot to the top of the pack as voters weigh each of the candidate's pluses and minuses.

In the end, they said, electability would rule....

For many, the meeting was the first chance to meet Ricketts, who announced his candidacy last month. He is the son of Joe Ricketts, founder of Ameritrade.

In his talks to GOP voters, Pete Ricketts stressed his business background and his commitment to traditional conservative positions, including his support of President Bush's tax cuts and his opposition to abortion.

"Business people, I believe, are seriously underrepresented in Washington," said Ricketts, who worked for Ameritrade for 12 years.

Okay, so it's not a huge verbal blunder but what a sickening display of the Republican Party's BIG MONEY mentality. In what kind of twisted view of the world is business really underrepresented in Washington, be it the all-access pass they have to the Bush Administration or the legion of corporate lobbyists, unelected by anyone, who have seized control of the United States Congress (going so far as to operate out of Republican Congressmen's offices).

All this and Ricketts is claiming business people are underrepresented? Such statement has some merit talking about the small businesses that are the backbone of this nation's communities but certainly doesn't apply to the "Fortunate Son" of an investment empire. Ricketts and the rest of America's wealthiest one-tenth of the top 1% have infinitely more than their fair share of representation.

To just how much more power does Ricketts think he is entitled to scoop up with his silver spoon? I can't imagine, but it certainly doesn't seem to be in the interest of Nebraska voters to encourage such political gluttony.

On a positive note for Ricketts, the article did at least reiterate what many are saying about Stenberg, considered to be his chief competition - mainly, that Republicans are fully aware he's already run twice, losing both times, and seem hesitant to give him a third opportunity.

Since the folks at this meeting are unlikely to be as offended as I am by Ricketts' assertion (and probably, in fact, cheered at the idea) that today's ruling business elite aren't elite enough, he's probably in very good standing indeed.

After all, "the business of America is business" has worked so well for us in the past.


Blogger Roger Snowden said...


I must as a question: are you a socialist?

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


That's a funny question, so simple that I can't possibly take offense.

In answer, no....I am no more or less a Socialist than I am a Capitalist Fundamentalist. I do believe in community and that we are stronger as a nation when we pool our resourcs and talents, but there is no one supreme way to go about this.

I believe, above all else, in balance, prioritizing free markets for their productive strength but not putting any system before the people it serves by turning a blind eye to its failings. My interests are human...not ideological. My passion is for doing things right by the people, not for proving a point.

Ultimately, labels do not scare me. Call me what you will, though I think of myself as a proud American and a decent man.

Blogger Roger Snowden said...

Thanks. Odd you would think my question funny. I was not meant to be, at all. And certainly not offensive. Just a basic starting point before I comment on your original post.

But I'll scotch that idea forthwith. Your current comment is far more interesting.

You say you want to "prioritize" free markets, above all else..." I suspect the only way to do that is to make that market something other than free. Free markets are their own prioritization mechanism, and the freer they are the more efficient they are.

For an example, observe eBay. Sellers and buyers come together and pretty much make up their own minds. Nobody forces you to buy that used camera or whatever. Or, if you have something to sell, you are free to do so, demanding or accepting whatever price you think you can get. How can anyone seriously suggest price-gouging exists on eBay? Nobody does, because everyone is free to participate or not, according to their individual desire.

A different example-- Air America. A commercial broadcast network on the verge of utter failure. Cannot attract an audience advertisers care about, despite free publicity and rave reviews from the New York Times and the LA Times. Totally dependent on fatcat donors.

We'll leave the current public charity ripoff scandal aside, for illustration purposes.

But, if either George Soros or Peter Lewis (What? Leftist fatcats?? Is such a thing possible?) does not open a wallet soon, Air America is toast. They were going to wipe out Right wing radio, remember? But they forgot in a non-subsidized, non-NPR world, they have to actually attract an audience. Oops! I guess the the audience was also free-- to not tune in.

I think free markets are the ultimate democracy. Do you really disagree?

You say we are stronger "...when we pool our resourcs and talents". I agree, and further maintain free markets do precisely that.

Exactly how do we accomplish this pooling of resources and talents without allowing people, individually, to freely participate or not in the workplace? That would be a free labour market, right?

Would you force them to join unions, as Ralph Nader insists? That is hardly freedom, but maybe you are not advocating mandatory union membership.

And if someone decides to quit his bricklaying job and start his own construction company, would you deny him that right?

Now, you might argue our current system is not free enough. Perhaps too dominated by very large businesses, and too much regulation that makes it tougher for the little guy to enter the business marketplace. I would agree with you, but you have not actually suggested such a thing.

What then, do you advocate?

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


I regret that I don't have the time to make a complete response to your last comment. I'll just say that the free market may be ideal, but we do not live in an ideal world.

To expand on your e-bay example, note the numerous government-like controls on that site's transactions. If these were not there, we would have people selling their kidneys, sex, and any number of goods disallowed by the Terms of Use.

Moreover, E-bay - even for its strengths - is a poor choice to represent the free market because there is no labor component, the area in which the market's failings have been most egregious. In this respect, particularly, I support the government's role in upholding labor standards and it through its own inherent power or by securing the place of labor unions.

Free markets are about commerce and I reject the notion they are the "ultimate democracy." Freedom is not a commodity and the fundamental rights of human beings should always take precedence over the SYSTEM that serves them.

To assume perfection of so-called free markets (which, in fact, have never existed) seems like the very height of man's prideful folly. To not acknowledge free markets' limitations and - yes - use government to address these gaps while maintaining the OVERALL INTEGRITY of the system is foolish, absolutist, and borderline tyrannical.

As I have said, I advocate balance.

Blogger Roger Snowden said...

Sure, you can't conduct trade in illegal items on eBay. That pretty much goes without saying. But the market mechanism is there, and it works.

You say "Freedom is not a commodity and the fundamental rights of human beings should always take precedence over the SYSTEM that serves them."

So, we agree. Human rights and freedom are more important that the system that serves them. One fundamental right of humans is to participate, or not, in markets. By preserving that freedom, the system indeed serves people.

And you rightly point out that most markets are not truly free. I maintain they should be more free, not less so.

It's when you take away that freedom that the system ceases to serve people and people begin to serve the system.

Personally, I prefer freedom.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

Let's not fail to recognize the incredible amount of cheating that would exist (and, in fact) does exist on E-bay, requiring a HEAVY HAND strictly enforcing standards. Greeds power of perversion, particularly in large scale, can not be under-recognized, demanding a strong countervailing force to, again, maintain the integrity of any "free" market.

As you say, ONE "right" of human beings is to participate in markets, but when that right conflicts with other rights, it is the role of government (via democracy) to balance and prioritize.

Also, on this matter of prioritization of rights, I don't see "the inalienable right to buy and sell" anywhere in the Constitution. In fact, the Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce and it is implied that states have the right to do the same within their own borders. Many other rights do and should receive greater protection.

The market is not the greater good. To hold it as sacred is to make us slaves to it. Again, it should be maintained as freely as possible but absent regulation it wouldn't remain free for long. "Perfect systems" in an imperfect world are nothing of the sort. Greed exists. By it, power tends towards consolidation, creating inequities that pervert the system to its core and make mockery of our democratic ideals.

Blogger Roger Snowden said...

What you seem to suggest, that one might become a slave to a free market is logically absurd. You can always decline to participate, or seek another market or source, if you are truly free.

You say to hold the market sacred is to make us slaves to it. Slaves to freedom? How does that work? Freedom is slavery? I see that sort of motto on anarchist web sites, but you don't strike me as one of those loons. You must have meant something else.

You say, "I don't see 'the inalienable right to buy and sell' anywhere in the Constitution."

No, you don't. Nor do you see an inalienable right to kill unborn children, but somehow our courts morphed into that view. No, what we do have is the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". Freedom is the essence of our Constitution.

You also say, "it should be maintained as freely as possible but absent regulation it wouldn't remain free for long".

I agree completely. We have the Uniform Commercial Code to do just that, among all states. Contract law indeed needs to be enforced. China, for all its recent economic success, is not truly a free market, since laws are not uniformly enforced and the government can, and will interfere on a whim. They need more freedom, not less.

Regulation of commerce, when contracts are enforced, is a good thing and helps ensure a level playing field. But price regulation is not helpful, except to an elite few. Presumably, favouring a few over the population as a whole is what you oppose, correct?

It's not so much that the market is the greater good-- freedom is, of course. But the two go hand-in-hand and are not mutually exclusive.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


If you support the government's essential regulatory function, then that's really enough for me. Of course, my conception of these regulations may be a little more extensive than yours, particularly in the area of labor (wherein the danger of "slavery" to the market truly lies), but I think - absent our mutual rhetoric - we agree on the essentials.

Where we may not agree, I suspect, would be my contention that government can and should have the power to offer public needs when the market does not provide for want of profitability. There are services so basic to quality human life that government "interference" is justified - be it in the form of subsidization, vouchers, or funding of public entities.

Public power as we have in Nebraska, for instance, does not offend my sensibilities. It is an essential enough service requiring such infrastructure that efficiency may actually be lessened in a competitive environment so I err on the side of the people (by way of freedom of assembly and freedom to contract) being able to form their own state or municipal utility if they so desire. If you don't have a problem with that, I'd say we have no problem at all.

I agree entirely that freedom and the free market are not mutually exclusive. The sum of my whole argument is simply that they are also not one and the same.

Thanks for the conversation. Afraid I must now turn my attentions to posting some new articles but a little meeting of the minds is always appreciated.


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