Tag: lobbying

Ilhan Omar Exposes Congress’ Dual Loyalty

Michael Sweeney | United States

On Thursday, Democratic freshman Congressman Max Rose of New York apologized for remarks made a few weeks ago by Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota. Her controversial comments were widely interpreted in the media as antisemitic. As a result, members of Democratic party leadership began the process this week of seeking a primary challenger against Omar, only months into her first term.

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Should Doctors Stay In Their Lane? Physician Says Yes

By Dr. Kyle Varner | United States

The National Rifle Association ruffled a lot of feathers recently when it published a tweet that said doctors should “stay in their lane” on the subject of gun control.

As a practicing physician, you might be surprised to hear that I side with the NRA.

There’s something fundamentally different between diagnosing and treating a disease in a patient and recommending a new law because you treat people injured by guns.

While I can sympathize with how sad it is to see one shooting attack after another in the news, the fact remains that gun violence is currently at a historic low in the United States. The FBI reports that gun violence was actually at its all-time highest in the mid-1980s. The rate has gone from 6.2 shooting deaths per 100,000 people in the 80s down to 3.4 per 100,000 in 2016. That means shooting deaths actually went down almost 50% in the last 30 years!

But whether or not gun deaths are going up or down, the key issue is in presenting partisan political proposals as medical recommendations.

When you push for a medical recommendation to become law, you are essentially trying to make the entire nation your involuntary patient. When doctors put on their white coats in political discourse and recommend authoritarian policies, they’re acting outside the scope of their expertise–and trying to force their opinions on millions of unwilling subjects.

The idea of informed consent is paramount to medical practice. As doctors, we should never force our therapy on our patients. Not only is this immoral, but the results can be deadly.

For decades, medical professionals have advised low fat, high carb diets, which studies increasingly show is completely misguided. Had this been just advice from doctors to their patients, that would be one thing. Instead, with the government’s support, this advice was established as indisputable fact and taught to an entire generation. The result has been to kick off a diabetes epidemic that’s set to make my generation the first in American history to have shorter life expectancies than their parents.

This is also the same profession that refused the idea that stomach ulcers could be caused by H. Pylori for twenty years. This stubbornness prevented people from getting the appropriate treatment for easily curable stomach ulcers, leading hundreds of thousands of people to suffer or die unnecessarily.

Today, because of irresponsible medical prescription practices, the US is currently facing an opioid epidemic that claimed the lives of an estimated 72,000 people last year. This is roughly the same amount estimated to have been killed by guns in that same time period.

Clearly, “staying in our lane” and focusing on the problems being perpetrated by our own industry could have a much more significant impact on the country than getting involved with gun politics at a time when guns have never posed less of a safety threat.

While many of my colleagues think of laws as helpful rules that let people get along, the truth is that laws are enforced by governments with the use or threat of violence. This isn’t hyperbole–if people fail to comply, they will be arrested and locked in a cage.

Medicine and public policy have no legitimate relationship to each other. Medicine concerns itself with diagnosing and healing individuals. Public policy concerns itself with the use of state violence against peaceful people.

As healers, we should always reject the use of violence. Even if we think a law might make the world a safer place, it remains immoral to condone the use of violence to stop violence.


This article was originally published on KevinMD.com

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The Socialist Myth that is Late Stage Capitalism

By Sean Calvert | Canada

Late stage capitalism, or late capitalism, is an idea that has re-emerged in recent years to explain the purported failures of contemporary capitalism. According to this notion, absurdities and failures in the economy are symptomatic of capitalism’s death throes. These perceived failures, however, are not inherent to the system, as many Marxist economists believe, but are rather due to intervention by the state. As for the absurdities, none provide evidence that capitalism is failing.

While Marx himself never used the term late stage capitalism, he did describe what the final stages of capitalism would look like. In volume three of Das Kapital, Marx described how in capitalism’s last stage, market competition would decline as capital centralized in fewer hands. Marxist economists, such as Michał Kalecki, believed that capitalism was inherently monopolistic and that its fate was to move towards a system that would eventually devour itself.

The term “Late Capitalism” can be traced back to Marxist economist Werner Sombart’s work Der moderne Kapitalismus, published in the early 1900s. In this work, Sombart explains that Capitalism developed in three stages: early (pre-industrial revolution), high (the industrial revolution), and late stage capitalism (World War I and beyond).

The term was popularized seventy years later by another Marxist economist, Ernest Mandel. For Mandel, Late Capitalism is characterized by the rise of multinational corporations, consumerism, and globalization. He argued that the last expansionary wave began with the birth of fascism in Europe and the advent of the US and UK command economies during the Second World War. This expansion lasted until 1972 when it reached its limit. Economic stagnation and class struggle followed.

When Mandel was writing, he was witnessing the very end of the post-WWII boom. He believed that the working class would soon rise in a mass, revolutionary movement.  Obviously, this did not happen. The slump did not create anything resembling the conditions that sparked the revolutions in Tsarist Russia.

Contemporary understandings of Late Capitalism have broadened out from the original definition to include all the deficiencies and absurdities of the current economy. These include the destruction of the middle class, the growing gap between the rich and poor, and popular focus on useless goods, such as wifi-enabled kettles.

The “late” in “late capitalism” implies that capitalism is at the end of its age.  Just as Late Antiquity marked the end of the Classical era and the transition to the Middle Ages, so too does late stage capitalism herald both an end and a beginning. Marx believed that the final stages of capitalism would be marked by the rise of the proletariat and the diminishment of the middle class as wealth was concentrated into fewer hands. These three factors, according to Marx, would result in the emergence of a proletarian revolution. Yet history proved otherwise. Crises, such as the Great Depression, came and went, yet there was no revolution.     

Marx predicted that the advent of monopolies would signal the collapse of capitalism. While it is true that large corporations came to control the economic landscape, their dominion is not natural. Economist Horace Gray found that aspiring monopolies would petition governments to designate them as public utilities to protect them from competition. AT&T enjoyed monopoly status until its government supplied patents expired in 1893. By 1907, AT&T’s competitors controlled 51% of the market.

Income inequality is touted as one of the elements of late stage capitalism. Inequality is not necessarily a bad thing – it exemplifies the choice of the individual in a capitalist society. One person may choose to be a schoolteacher and another become a doctor. The income gap between the two is no doubt large, but the two individuals made different choices, leading to different outcomes.

On the other hand, the wealth gap between the rich and poor in the U.S. is growing at an alarming rate. A Bloomberg article found that between 2010 and 2015 the average annual income between the top 20% and the bottom 20% increased by more than $29,000 to $189,000. New York Times columnist David Brooks reports that wealth inequality is greater in the United States than it is in Iran or Russia. Surely this must be a sign that capitalism is in its final stages.

While this is true, the major reason for the channeling of wealth to the super rich is due to collusion among the state, large corporations, and special interest groups. It is called cronyism, and it is inherently against the precepts of free-market capitalism. Corporations lobby the government to create policies, which range from subsidies to protective regulations, which in turn create barriers for new competitors, effectively killing most competition and funneling wealth up the rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. It is not capitalism per se that has funneled the wealth to the top, but the state and its regressive regulations.

It must not be forgotten that capitalism allows more upward social mobility than alternative economic systems. “Oh, but the middle class is shrinking! Marx predicted this!” No doubt this is true in the United States. A Pew Research study showed that between 1991 and 2010 middle-income households fell to 59% from 62%.

Yet acording to the U.S. Census Bureau, since 1967, the number of households which have an income of more than $100,000 has increased from 8.1% to 27.7%. In addition, the number of low-income households, defined as those that make less than $35,000, has decreased from 38.7% to 30.2% since 1967. From these statistics, we can conclude that most households are moving up rather than down the income ladder, contrary to what Marx predicted.

Some who believe that we are in late stage capitalism point towards absurdities and irregularities within our socio-economic system. A $1200 margarita is touted as evidence of decadence. Yet a $1200 margarita undeniably targets the exceedingly rich, and should be regarded as a non-issue because consumers have the choice to pursue lower priced margaritas.

Critics of capitalism fail to recognize is that most of capitalism’s perceived shortcomings are, in fact, not intrinsic the economic system. Rather, they are consequences of the anti-capitalist policies of the state that constrict the free market, and in doing so, give rise to the perception that capitalism is on its deathbed.

Mandel waited from 1973 until his death in 1995 for the proletariat to revolt. Yet his wait was in vain.  If capitalism is as unsustainable and as exploitative as many Marxists make it out to be, we would have already seen a revolution akin to the overthrow of Tsarist Russia. For now, and the foreseeable future, free-market capitalism remains the best economic system we have.


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