November 01, 2011

Shermer's latest libertarian pseudoskeptic fail - anti-OWS

Hey, Skeptic's Guide to the Universe contributors and others!

I again rightfully tee off on a Skepticblog blogger for writing libertarian politics under the guise of alleged skepticism. This time, it's Michael Shermer, writing a long, extended sneer about Occupy Wall Street. He concludes with five points, summarized below:
  1. Why has no one from Wall Street gone to jail for the financial meltdown? Bill Maher has asked this question several times on his HBO show Real Time. I have asked many experts myself, including economists, lawyers, and Wall Street traders. Answer: no one went to jail because they didn’t break any laws....
  2. What, exactly, did these Wall Street people do that was so wrong? Well, for one, the protestors seem to think that they are too greedy. T..
  3. The Wall Streeters accepted bailout money that they shouldn’t have gotten. Yeah, well, whose fault is that? What did you think they would do? Turn the money down? Heck no! ...
  4. Wall Street CEOs and their resident COOs, CFOs, traders, and the like, make too damn much money, hundreds of times more than the gap used to be between the highest paid and lowest paid members of corporations. Emotionally I am once again sympathetic to the Occupy Xers: the amount of money some of these guys makes is obscene, and the income gap between them and us is Grand Canyonesque in yawning abyss. But what’s the number? How much is too much income? $1 million? $10 million? $100 million $1 billion? $10 billion? Is it really the job of some government agency to set a ceiling on how much anyone is allowed to make? Would any of my readers care to pick a number and defend it? And what if it is a number well under Bill Gates’ income? ...
  5. The government should regulate Wall Street more. I agree that all competitions must be regulated by a well-defined set of rules. ... But from where I sit as an average Joe the Skeptic position of modest income who tries his hand at stock market trading in figures infinitesimally smaller than the Big Boys, it all looks like insider trading to me—from the Wall Street CEOs to the Beltway politicians appointed to look after them, who seemingly trade jobs and hold their positions no matter who is in power, Democrats or Republicans. Obama has drunk the Wall Street Kool Aid no less than Bush did. They all do. The entire system is corrupt, in that sense. Once you allow the players to dictate who enforces the rules of the game, the game is over. It would be like Barry Bonds being appointed Director of the Steroid Drug Testing Agency overseeing baseball to insure a fair contest, while he is still playing the game! 
My response, point by point:
Re Shermer, and posting in response to Mark so I can get at the top of the comments heap.

1. This is a flat lie. Nobody's gone to jail because governments have so far brought only civil cases. That in no way means that crimes weren't committed. Fallacy of unexcluded middle, colloquially speaking, and other logical fails here. How selective were you of whom you asked these questions, Shermer?
2. The crimes they committed? Fraud. I don't care what Moody's said on ratings, these folks knew the "products" weren't that good; that's why Sachs sold its own clients short and bet against those same subprime alphabet soup products. And, speaking of ... that itself is break of fiduciary duty, which I believe can be criminally as well as civilly tried.
3. There is no such thing as "real capitalism" except in the nonexistent nighttime wet dreams of libertarians. Reality is that greed will lead every time to economic systems being rigged. Reality No. 2 is that Adam Smith based his "invisible hand" on the "wind up the universe like clockwork" deity of Enlightenment Deism. Multiple world wars, the Holocaust and atomic bombs have shown in one way that such a deity doesn't exist; the quantum theory behind those atomic bombs have shown that in another, even more complete way.
4. We "pick numbers" all the time with progressive tax brackets. I'd be more than happy to add additional tax brackets with rates of 50 percent or so to our current tax structure, Shermer. Geez, what a nutbar statement this is. I'll wait for Shermer to officially defend a flat tax next.
5. You assume all non capital L Libertarians are part of a two-party system, I guess. Well, I and many other Greens and Socialists also know Obama drank the Kool-Aid. Fortunately, the Greens' first announced presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, looks very good. (Google her.)

My answer on bailouts was the one true progressives proposed all along, Shermer -- the Swedish answer of nationalizing the banks. If there had been no bailout at all, sadly, you and I wouldn't be arguing your stupidity level right now. The correct answer was bailouts with many more conditions.

To put it another way and show further just how fallacious Shermer's "reasoning" is: In 1888, five prostitutes were killed in grisly fashion in London slums. But, because nobody was ever arrested, no crimes were committed, right?

It's clear that Shermer's violated the No. 1 principle of skepticism, approaching a new subject with an open mind. Instead, he went to Zucotti Park to see what he wanted and expected to see.

Now, regular readers of this blog know that I'm far from a blank-check fan of Occupy Wall Street myself, and that I'm nowhere near a fan of two of its backers/boosters, Adbusters and Anonymous. But, I do believe the anger is legitimate and motivated by real causes of criminal malfeasance.

Beyond that, Shermer's underlying guiding principle, Adam Smith's "invisible hand," is simply wrong.

On the "invisible hand," there's good evidence that Adam Smith was influenced by the "wind up the universe and let it run like clockwork" deity of Enlightenment Deism.

The existence of such a deity has been directly refuted by quantum theory, above all the uncertainty principle. It's been indirectly refuted by things like two world wars, the Holocaust, and atomic bombs linked to that very same uncertainty principle.

It's "amazing" how people like Shermer never want to discuss this. (Other than trying to deny that Enlightenment Deism is what influenced Smith, and I find those arguments unconvincing.)


The Invisible Backhand said...

Notice how Michael's blog has loads of comments and yours has none? How are those Google AdSense ads going? Bringing in some good income? Hahaha

Gadfly said...

A. Actually, I'm probably going to take them down, the ads.
B: I've never claimed to be "in it for the money."
C: I have more of an ethical compass than you and Shermer combined; what's your excuse?

Sheldon said...

Great post Gadfly, no time to say more.