Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Debater Hell

My Political Science professor handed back a paper of mine yesterday, tarring one of my arguments as "a debater's point." This, apparently, is a point I make just so I can say I've covered that base, without actually thinking the argument is important (she also responded with a (direct quote) "oh please" to another one of my claims. I love this professor). In any event, this utterly unwarranted slur against debaters notwithstanding, it seems that the political sphere is being inundated with arguments that would make any debater blanche. Seriously, what are these people thinking?

David Adnesik received a mailing from soon-to-be-ex Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. It tells a harrowing tale of the horrible economic slump of 1993, caused by Bill Clinton's tax increase. Yes, I remember the 90s well. Those were dark days. Anybody who claims otherwise is suffering from irrational exuberance.

John Cole has a round-up of particularly absurd responses to Foley-gate.

Speaking of Foley, Feministe explains the issue of consent, slowly, to those having troubl with it.

A CBS segment blames massacres on the teaching of evolution and legal abortion.

Dean Barnett: Torturing innocents is a "moral compromise" we need to make in war.

I actually like the Obsidian Wings bloggers, so I won't go too harsh here, but this post on the relative power of governments and corporations by Andrew is pretty weak. It is, of course, less weak than arguments of "hooray torturing innocents" vein, so I'll spend more time on it. First, he argues that "the core principle of the Democratic Party seems to be that government is a good thing." Jon Chait has noted the falsity of this claim. Democrats are entirely agnostic to government. We don't think (like libertarians) that it is a "necessary evil", but we don't worship it as a demigod either. We like government when it works, and feel that it can work more often that people give it credit for. If it can't work, or something else can work better, that's cool too. But the real fallacy is in Andrew's cavalier dismissal of the statement that corporations have grown more powerful than government. He says they don't have the power to coerce you into buying their products, which is only true if one believes coercion to only consist of "gun-to-the-head." But even in the most narrow sense, there are definite cases where corporations have outstripped the power of government. My favorite example is Ecuador, where the government wanted to stop Texaco from engaging in rampant environmental exploitation in the eastern jungles. It couldn't, though, because Texaco's annual revenue was 4x that of the entire country's GDP. Put simply, it was entirely under the company's heel. Examples of corporations hiring out paramilitary groups in Southeast Asia abound, making even the "gun-to-the-head" example a reality. Finally, the geographical fluidity of many companies makes even basic law enforcement difficult. The New York Times reports on a case of toxic waste dumping in the Ivory Coast, which "came from a Greek-owned tanker flying a Panamanian flag and leased by the London branch of a Swiss trading corporation whose fiscal headquarters are in the Netherlands." Where on earth do we start? Andrew is far too sanguine about the growing pernicious influence of MNCs.


Anonymous said...

That's simply untrue that Ecuador was "under the heel" of Texaco. It is true that they are embroiled in multiple lawsuits -- which is how things are supposed to work themselves out under the rule of law. I have no idea how the fact that Texaco has greater revenue than Ecuador's GDP in any way enables it to operate without the country's express consent. (Revenue/GDP is a faulty comparison, by the way, try "gross profit" instead. For 2005, Chevron's gross profit=$45B, Ecuador's exchange-rate GDP=31B. Still higher, but not 4x)

Anonymous said...

BusinessWeek article on Ecuador's kicking Occidental out of the country: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_43/b4006078.htm