Matt’s Myth of Ownership and a Strawmen


Little Mattie Yglesias:


On The Distribution Of Income

As there’s some considerable conservative interest in my views on so-called “income redistribution” (and conversely always a lively chorus of leftwingers upset about “neoliberalism”) so I thought perhaps a little random Saturday political theory.


Obviously there’s lots of other stuff people disagree about—health care and education, importantly—but this is the banal core. Unfettered markets are fine except for activities that might involve the transportation or production of goods, the production or transmission of electricity or scientific knowledge, or access to the financial system. So actually when you think about it, that’s basically everything. The basic economic foundations of industrial capitalism as we’ve known them for the past 150 years or so have an activist state at their core. Building political institutions capable of doing these things properly is really difficult, and one of the main things that separates more prosperous places from less prosperous ones is that the more prosperous places have done a better job of building said institutions. There’s also the minor matter of creating effective and non-corrupt law enforcement and judicial agencies that can protect people’s property rights and enforce contracts.

The point is, it takes an awful lot of politics to get an advanced capitalist economy up and running and generating wealth. A lot of active political decisions need to be made to grow that pie. So why would you want to do all that? Presumably because pie is delicious. But if you build a bunch of political institutions with the intention of creating large quantities of pie, it’s obviously important that people actually get their hands on some pie. In other words, you go through the trouble of creating advanced industrial capitalism because that’s a good way to create a lot of goods and services. But the creation of goods and services would be pointless unless it served the larger cause of human welfare. Collecting taxes and giving stuff to people is every bit as much a part of advancing that cause as creating the set of institutions that allows for the wealth-creation in the first place.

The specifics of how best to do this all are (to say the least) contentious and not amenable to resolution by blog-length noodling. But the intuition that there’s some coherent account of what the “market distribution” would be absent public policy is mistaken. You have policy choices all the way down.

A couple problems here. In one sense Mattie is correct – without the existence of some kind of government legal concepts like property rights and ownership cannot exist. But people have been asserting dominance and control over real and personal property since long before the existence of government. As a matter of fact, real estate existed before humans came along, and other animals fought over it. Some animals (like squirrels) build nests and store food in them. If other squirrels try to invade the nest or steal the stored food they will fight to defend “their property”.

Mattie uses a cute little strawman argument regarding the need for government. With the exception of a few radical libertarians and anarchists there is no one arguing that we don’t need government. The issue is what is the proper size, shape and scope of government.

Modern industrial capitalism requires certain prerequisites to function. It needs a political/legal system that is conducive to free trade. It also needs a stable monetary system, as well as a banking system.

But government did not create capitalism. When capitalism first started the political/legal system was geared towards feudalism. It was because of the success of capitalism at creating prosperity that the political/legal system changed to its current form. Capitalism and democracy are symbiotes – they exist together in a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Too little government is bad for capitalism. But so is too much. Reasonable people can disagree about how much government is just right. On the other hand government does not exist solely to support capitalism. It has other necessary functions like promoting the general welfare and providing for the common defense.

This raises another issue – how to pay for the necessary functions of government; specifically who should pay and how much. Once again, this is an issue upon which reasonable people can disagree.

Mattie’s basic premise is that since capitalism cannot function without government then government is justified in extracting a larger share of the profits. You could call this the “Teeter-Totter Fallacy”. You need two people to make a teeter-totter work. Neither one can function without the other. They are both indispensable.

But if one of them is too heavy the teeter-totter still won’t work.

About Myiq2xu - BA, JD, FJB

I was born and raised in a different country - America. I don't know what this place is.
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80 Responses to Matt’s Myth of Ownership and a Strawmen

  1. myiq2xu says:

  2. The sad thing is so many people read nitwits like Matty (and others like him) and never bother to read or learn on their own. Sigh. The dumbing down of America continues.

    On another note-
    Happy Easter! Leg of Lamb later!

  3. DeniseVB says:

    Happy Easter !

    • Comments on that article are insane. It’s like half the 900,000 went to the article to bash the government. Wonder if this European development will trickle over here. The rhetoric they are using is good, talking about how welfare traps people.

  4. DeniseVB says:

    Meanwhile over in Googleland …..guess we can expect cute bunnies and festive eggs sometime today?

  5. yttik says:

    I think capitalism thrives in spite of government, and can even thrive without it. This idea that capitalism is completely dependent on Gov, and that Gov created capitalism, is just wrong. Capitalism persists in spite of Gov, like in North Korea where they have an underground economy. Gun runners, the mafia, the US during prohibition, are all examples of capitalism persisting outside of Gov. The government can do many things to support capitalism, provide an infrastructure, roads, bridges, courts, but these are services they provide to support something that already exists in human nature.

  6. Lulu says:

    I think the concept of property is directly associated with instinct and reproduction. Home ownership is driven to some degree by women “nesting” for reproductive and child rearing purposes. A lot (most?) of first time home buyers are expecting or planning on having children or just had one. They want stability for their nest. Property for men is often associated with making a living (real and personal property) and providing food to attract females to reproduce. Those who seem to be the most critical of the concept of property ownership (and it’s evolutionary roots) are the very people who seem anti-child or anti-reproduction or in many cases they are just hypocrites who see some kind of political, social, or economic advantage to spouting this nonsense. The most successful reproducers have a secure and stable nest environment with sufficient resources. Some non-reproductive or hypocritical competitors would naturally want to overturn that to gain the resources for themselves. Evolutionary biology is fascinating.

  7. DandyTiger says:

    Matt states the “exceptions” to things capitalism can do that he says by definition need state solutions. His entire argument is based on the assumption that you can’t have private solutions to those. Of course you can. So everything he argues from there is vapid.

    I’m not saying you don’t want some percentage of state involvement in solving those “exceptions”, but he needs to argue why state solutions are better than private solutions to those. He doesn’t. He doesn’t even fathom that there can be private solutions. He doesn’t even fathom that you can in fact have a stateless system. You probably don’t want one, but if you’re making economic and political arguments, you have to understand the full range of possibilities and argue why your theory seems best.

  8. foxyladi14 says:

    Happy Easter Crawdadders! He is Risen! :mrgreen:

    • DeniseVB says:

      Have seen Sarah Brightman in concert, it’s truly a spiritual experience to hear her songs live. Good choice for Easter Sunday 😀

  9. swanspirit says:

    Matt Yglesias fits my definition of an educated idiot . They are so lost in the maze of abstract ideas , theories and implausible constructs , that they have lost almost all connection with the actual world and how things function at a basic level . Yes even animals have property , the concepts of property and capitalism do not require government .This is so basic , even children understand it , . Toddlers understand at an early age the concept and meaning of the word , MINE .

  10. swanspirit says:

    I am not a Christian , but I think that all of the holidays of every religion have something positive to offer , and this quote from a FB friend was particularly moving for me this morning .

    Resurrection: Today I think of the times we all have resurrected from life’s challenges. I am sure most of you can relate to moments of desperation, being in the grips of despair. It could have been cancer, abuse, divorce, betrayal, untimely and timely deaths, these moments can bring us to our knees and the darkness takes over. But, after time, there is a light in the distance and we rise to feel it’s warmth on our faces. We resurrect, and live, survive and experience love and joy again. This is the day I celebrate our power, our constant ability to get up and look for the sun. Have a beautiful day today )O( Jen

    Happy Easter everyone !

  11. votermom says:

    Hubby rented Man with the Irons Fists – it is possibly the worst wannabe kung-fu movie ever. Also, Russell Crowe looks terrible.

  12. myiq2xu says:
    • DandyTiger says:

      Welcome to Obamanation. Fucking asswipes. I hope they clean the clocks of the police and the town. If your town can’t keep their police in line, they should go bankrupt.

  13. myiq2xu says:

    I was sitting in the library doing a little light reading when I heard a siren approaching. Just as it got really close to my house it shut off. There was a momentary panic until I reminded myself that the cops don’t play the siren before a raid (they prefer to sneak up on you).

    Ambulance out front, visiting the crazy house across the street.

  14. myiq2xu says:

    At Obama’s Easter service:

    The president heard a sermon by the Rev. Dr. Luis Leon, who told the congregation it is acceptable to have doubts about their faith, but it is important not to dwell in the past.

    “When we dwell on the past, when we dwell on the ‘if-onlys’ of life, we forget that God addresses us in the now,” Leon said.

    The sermon turned slightly political when Leon said there are some members of the religious right who are trying to pull people back rather than letting them move forward.

    “The captains of the religious right are always calling us back, back back. For blacks to be back in the back of the bus, for women to be back in the kitchen, for gays to be in the closet and for immigrants to be on their side of the border,” Leon said.

  15. myiq2xu says:

    I have gotten so hooked on DVR that I prefer recording programs and watching them later so I can FF through the commercials.

  16. myiq2xu says:

    I hope Dandy Tiger is okay:

  17. myiq2xu says:

    Doug Ross:

    According to commenters at Chicago police blog Second City Cop, not only isn’t national media covering the story, even the local media isn’t telling the whole story:

    TOURISTS BEWARE: You are not getting the whole story. I was coming home from work at 7:30. The savages were randomly attacking people. Go to Woodfield if you want to shop. Chicago is not safe.

    You’d think such vicious racially motivated hate crimes would receive wide-spread national media attention, but they don’t. As a rule, reporters and prosecutors ignore the racist motivations of black-on-white mob attacks. In news articles like this one the thugs are invariably described only by their age — “kids” or “teenagers” — while any mention of their race is studiously omitted, as if it had nothing to do with the crimes.

    • DandyTiger says:

      Surprise, surprise. Non stop race baiting and inciting to riot and inciting violence 24/7 by the president, the new Dems, and much of the media actually has consequences.

    • Leaving for Yellowstone early May- and am probably going to go a couple of hundred miles out of my way (and Lord knows how much in gas money) to avoid going anywhere near Chicago. Rt 90 is the direct route from here to there- but I would not drive anywhere near that cesspit no matter what!

      • SHV says:

        I-90 around Chicago isn’t a problem but you could go I-80 and turn North at Rock Springs WY; spend a few days in Jackson/Tetons (say hi to my ex) and go to Yellowstone.

        • myiq2xu says:

          Isn’t Yellowstone supposed to explode into a super-volcano really soon?

        • SHV says:

          It’s running late for the obliteration of Most of North America. Geologists knew that Yellowstone was volcanic but could never find the volcano. Finally in the ’60s, with sat photos, it was a holy shit moment…..the whole fu**ing park is the volcano!!

  18. myiq2xu says:


    I never spent more than $100 for foot ware in my life, and usually much less. Typically less than $50.

    • yttik says:

      Doesn’t that drive you nuts??! I also hate the “budget meal” ideas, how to feed somebody dinner for less than 50 bucks. Or “remodeling on a budget” and one room costs more than my entire house. These people are so out of touch with the real world!

  19. myiq2xu says:
  20. myiq2xu says:

    Holy WTF?

    Police chased a former lawmaker on a freeway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles and arrested him at gunpoint following a struggle, hours after he became the first person ever expelled from the Nevada Legislature.

    Steven Brooks was jailed in California’s San Bernardino County after being subdued with punches and a Taser. Police alleged he attacked a police dog with a wrench.

    “It’s hard to know where he was going, what he thought he was doing and why he would be involved in a high-speed chase,” Brooks’ attorney, Mitchell Posin, told The Associated Press on Friday. “I think he feels the world is against him. But I’m just piecing together bits of information.”

    Brooks’ arrest Thursday near the California city of Victorville was his third since January, and came just hours after colleagues in the Legislature deemed the Democrat from North Las Vegas too dangerous and unpredictable to serve his elected term. Lawmakers wept Thursday as they cited concerns about their own safety and evidence collected about an increasingly bizarre series of public incidents.

  21. myiq2xu says:
    • DandyTiger says:

      They were going after boycotted grapes.

    • 49erDweet (D) says:

      Most Walmarts have bollards (heavy posts) installed just outside their front doors spaced close enough together that the only cars that could get between them would be Prius’s and we all know Prius owners are too peace loving and law abiding to pull off stunts like that. This looks like it went into the rear door near the garden section. I’ve heard nothing else but I wonder if this was an employee-significant other thing, rather than a customer?

  22. myiq2xu says:

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