My interview with Ralph Nader

I interviewed him.  You will find the full version here, the edited version here.  Not surprisingly, I prefer the full version.  Here is one excerpt:

TC: If I look back at your career, I see you’ve been fighting various kinds of wars or struggles against a lot of different injustices. If you look back on all those decades, during which time you’ve been right about many things, what do you think is the main thing you’ve been wrong about?

RN: Oh, a lot of things. Nobody goes through these kinds of controversies without making bad predictions. I underestimated the power of corporations to crumble the countervailing force we call government. We always knew corporations like to have their adherents to become elected officials; that has been going on for a long time. But I never foresaw the insinuation of corporatism as a policy in one agency after another in government. Franklin Delano Roosevelt foresaw some of this when he sent a message to Congress when he started the temporary national economic commission to investigate consecrated corporate power. That was in 1938. In his message he said that whenever the government is controlled by private economic power, that’s facism. Now, there isn’t a department or agency in Washington where anyone has more power—over it and in it, through their appointees, and on Congress, through lobbyists and political action committees. Nobody comes close. There’s no organized force that comes close to the daily power to twist government in the favor of Wall Street and corporatism, and to disable government from adequately defending the health, safety and economic well-being of the American people.

TC: Let’s say we look at the U.S. corporate income tax. The rate on paper is 35 percent, which is quite high. When you look at how much they actually pay after various forms of maneuvering or evasion, maybe they pay 17–18 percent, which is more or less in the middle of the pack of OECD nations. So if corporations have so much political power in the United States, why is our corporate income tax still so high?

…Sweden, a country you cited favorably, taxes capital income much more lightly than the United States does—not just on paper but in terms of what’s actually paid.

I also ask him about the Flynn effect, whether America needs a new kind of sports participation, and how much American churches have resisted corruption through corporatization, among a variety of other topics.  I tried to avoid the predictable questions.

By the way, you can buy Nader’s new book, Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.  I very much enjoyed my preparation for this interview, which involved reading or rereading a bunch of his books and also a few biographies of him.


Sorry Tyler, you are bull-shiting saying that you had been "reading or rereading a bunch of his books and also a few biographies of him "
Just bull shit

The internet is an amazing place.

What an odd comment. What's your basis, Todd?

Someone who just showed up and doesn't realize that Tyler goes through books like Pacman goes through dots?

Except for the occasional two year pre-order delay, that is - and

Hat tip to loyal and/or disloyal reader Eddie S., by the way.

This obsession is not healthy.

Nope, but then no hobby is.

However, working for GMU's PR dept. and getting a pay check remains something I consider probably the most shameful thing I have ever done. Particularly when coupled with the fact that I don't live in the society that resulted from the effort that has been expended over the last several decades to create modern America. A place where an academic from the university where I graduated can write, apparently sincerely, that the Nazis were a mere bump in the road to the better future that eugenics promises.

Besides, it was fun to show the sham concerning the PR story that MRU was merely the result of a couple of professors, youtube, and a $4 dollar app leading the way to a brighter future in education. It wasn't as if the fact that the story was deceitful, or even how clumsily it was presented as reality, was surprising. But unlike back in the 80s and early 90s, I didn't have to worry about getting fired for letting people outside of a select circle know what was going on. And it is quite refreshing to not be paid to be complicit in spreading a story I knew to be false.

But then, let us be honest - what is more unhealthy - hero worship based on false premises, or a deep cynicism based on more than a decade's experience of how various parts of GMU work?

After all, I was paid to earn my cynicism.

So Germany's wonderful medical coverage does not include psychiatric?

There is a world of difference between cynicism and obsession.

Swimming is a healthy habit. Maybe you could do that.

laces out! laces out! laces out!

P(eponymous law) = 1

My that was quick.

Claims to have gone. No one actually tests reading comprehension, he admits he stops early or reads only part, and I often see him getting books wrong when I've read them myself.

Dagnabbit, unclose italics tag...

I would assume his basis is that it's odd for an economist to be investing time reading the out-of-print trade books of a publicity-hound lawyer who's notable for his economic illiteracy.


You clearly do not know Tyler.

I never read. I didn't really believe it. Then I started reading. I would go through something like The Intelligent Investor in a week. Now I'm back to not reading and I don't believe it again.

I'd leave a comment about that, but no one would read it.

Participation in sports is very underrated especially around these parts (I mean on this blog). Even for non-civic minded reasons. Participation in sports is a good way to meet people and help build connections, it gives you a way to connect and start conversations with people and get to know them better. This is how you get a real career and not end up as a nobody programmer.

As a player or spectator? As an spectator you can have a drink and talk while the game lasts.

As a player - talk is cheap

So, beating up on programmers to justify the shallow sports chit-chat you have with your fellow frat-boy managers and sales weasels?

We don't need sit around watching grown men play outdoor games for a living. We have video games! ;-)


Ah yes, the vaunted playing fields of Eton, and all that rot, what? Good show old man! The stories I could tell! Take old Sniffy Bingham. I came across that old sod recently on an excursion to KL.

Impersonating an officier of Her Majesty's Navy I see!

Now, what does it say about the interviewer if he excerpts two questions and one answer?

+1 What it says is that the interviewer didn't like the answer to the tax question.

Or, maybe its just a teaser to have you read the full text.

It says that the questions are more interesting than the answers. Nader still talks like he is running for election.

The questions state the opinion of the interviewer, and when the text of the answer is not posted with the question, the interviewer/poster is either relying on the laziness, or the prejudice, of the audience, or trying to hide the answer.

Your pick.

I read the answer, it was not interesting; because in the usual way of politicians it did not address the questions.

Tyler's question was boils down to: "Even after accounting for tax avoidance, US corporate tax rates not unusually low. Does that mean US corporations are not unusually dominant". And Nader's answer is "There is tax avoidance in the US".


No, that was not Nader's answer, which is copied below.

Nor was it Tylers statement, which is: "So if corporations have so much political power in the United States, why is our corporate income tax still so high?"

Here is what Nader said:

RN: "Because they can avoid it. They can game it, so it looks good. They can protest that we have the highest corporate tax rates in the Western world. But everyone knows that they game the system to levels that are staggeringly disgraceful. For example, the Citizens for Tax Justice regularly reports on corporations that make huge amounts of U.S.-based profits—like General Electric and Verizon—but pay no federal income tax. One worker in either of those companies pays more in dollars to the U.S. Treasury than these companies have done, year after year. Furthermore, these giant banks are paying less than ten percent now. There are so many write-offs, deferrals, and deductions that they don’t have to worry much about the taxes on their U.S. profits. The large corporations are now moving toward tax exemption. General Electric gets money back from the treasury after it pays nothing. They have divisions within their corporate structure devoted to finding loopholes, and their people get bonuses for diminishing their tax responsibilities.
And that doesn’t even account for the offshore tax shelters. The New York Times reported that a bunch of companies report making $147 billion in islands like the Bahamas. But we know they’re just transferring the money from countries with little taxation to these tax havens."

Adrian, perhaps you couldn't defend Tylers comment, and perhaps you couldn't accept Naders answer, but that doesn't give you freedom to mischaracterize both.

Based on what you've posted here, Adrian's summary of Nader's answer is accurate.

"Citizens for Tax Justice regularly reports on corporations that make huge amounts of U.S.-based profits—like General Electric and Verizon—but pay no federal income tax."
"General Electric gets money back from the treasury after it pays nothing"

Without the law having been broken, RN and CFTJ couldn't possibly know whether these statements are true, and GE says they aren't; unless RN and CFTJ have documentation, I assume they aren't.

Oh, J1, please. We don't know that Verizon and GE paid no taxes. Cmon.

Moreover, as you said, "without the law having been broken" paying no taxes does not support Tylers claim that : "So if corporations have so much political power in the United States, why is our corporate income tax still so high? -"

But, that is the point, isn't J1, no law has to be broken, does it, to get to an effective tax rate of 0, which of course means that the uniformed, who look only at rates but not effective rates, and the gullible, and the con artists can say: We have the highest corporate taxes.

As for the summary, people can read for themselves what Nader said and what Adrian said.

I stand on what I said and offer you the citations in the post and the attachment to support it.

You're misunderstanding my point on the "law was broken" issue. By law, tax records cannot be released. Unless those records were released (in violation of the law), Nader and CFTJ couldn't possibly know whether GE or Verizon paid any taxes or not. If they had been and the "paid no taxes" claim was true, I have difficulty believing we wouldn't have seen specific documentation. I think those statements are at best hyperbole.

I'd also be curious if taxation is being accurately compared. Do corporations in Sweden pay social security taxes? Are US corporations able to get out of paying them? Are there other expenses US corporations pay that aren't considered taxes here, but are in other countries? Are taxes collected in a way that enables a government to call them something else? There are any number of comparisons between the US and other countries that require adjustment before you can claim to be measuring the same things.

"We believe that the GE effective tax rate is best analyzed in relation to GE earnings before income taxes excluding the GECC net earnings from continuing operations, as GE tax expense does not include taxes on GECC earnings. GE pre-tax earnings from continuing operations, excluding GECC earnings from continuing operations, were $8.8 billion, $9.5 billion and $12.6 billion for 2013, 2012 and 2011, respectively. The decrease in earnings from 2011 to 2012 reflects the non-repeat of the pre-tax gain on sale of NBCU and higher loss amortization related to our principal pension plans. On this basis, GE’s effective tax rate was 18.9% in 2013, 21.3% in 2012 and 38.3% in 2011."

J1, Here are some sources, including a Bloomberg study, for the claim:

Some corporations include employer contributions to social security as taxes paid, even though the incidence likely falls on the employee.

The IRS runs a series on corporate effective tax rates over time. I will look for it. It has been used by Industrial Org economists to do analysis, and would be useful to show the decline of effective corp rates over time, excluding the movement to LLCs and like entities.

Banks pay a lot more than 10%; it's the sector with the highest rates. Nader.....whatever.

Very wei wu wei of you Tyler.

Even more impressive wei wu wei when you consider TC was reading from a script!

Wu wei (Chinese: 無爲; a variant and derivatives: traditional Chinese: 無為; simplified Chinese: 无为; pinyin: wú wéi; Japanese: 無為; Korean: 무위; Vietnamese: Vô vi; English, lit. non-doing) is an important concept in Taoism that literally means non-action or non-doing. In the Tao te Ching, Laozi explains that beings (or phenomena) that are wholly in harmony with the Tao behave in a completely natural, uncontrived way. The goal of spiritual practice for the human being is, according to Laozi, the attainment of this purely natural way of behaving, as when the planets revolve around the sun. The planets effortlessly do this revolving without any sort of control, force, or attempt to revolve themselves, instead engaging in effortless and spontaneous movement.

He reminds me of Sachs. Not necessarily in a bad way.

Too bad the question about the corporate income tax was not why not abolish it and tax the owners.

His answer to the actual question is very good. As it stands we essentially do the opposite, with the average worker at Verizon paying more money than the entire corporation. The tax rate of the owners is realized in capital gains. Again, lower than the workers.

Verizon also receives subsidies from the government, and provides (for the world) substandard service at a higher price. They also have a lifelong industry lobbyist installed as their chief regulator, primarily through the legalized bribery of government officials. Ain't corporate welfare a wonderful thing?

So you recognize the double taxation, then ignore it.

Double taxation is just for suckers like myself. Verizon doesn't pay a dime. Unless I'm missing your point?

But then the game would be up. It's why no politician is ever allowed by his respective party to even hint at this rather obvious alternative to the status quo.

C & Z both give reasonable answers, but it's not just that.

The corporate income tax, with its loopholes and special conditions, gives Congress one thing the capital gains and dividend income taxes don't: control. The corporate income tax is a backdoor way to write regulation; to suggest to companies that particular behaviors are desirable and particular behaviors are not. This insidious distortion is an important part of the problem.

I'd go further and argue that the primary driver of political corruption now is the tax code. Both parties use it to shake down donors for cash. Both parties use it to enrich themselves through inside deals. What would put you or me in jail is common place in DC. Company X trades insider information to Congressman Y, who then trades on itt o make money in the market. Company X then gets special consideration in the tax code.

>Too bad the question about the corporate income tax was not why not abolish it and tax the owners.

Not all the owners are subject to US tax jurisdiction.

You really think US corps are only paying in the mid-high teens effective rate?

Those numbers (from CBO) were not honest... and from an off year from the recession. Normal rates are in he mid to upper twenties, according to more neutral and normal sources... so I've read.

If you look at the data from the national accounts corporate taxes as a share of corporate profits have been on a long term downward slope since WWII and are now about 20%.

Your claims about taxes are just plain completely wrong and massively contrary to the data.

My claims are correct and your are wrong:

"So what’s so smart about individuals when collectively they can’t have the decent society that is well within our grasp?" mmmmmm, cause people don't want that decent society?

Perhaps I must reread the interview but Mr. Nader says that if everybody had a social conscience things will be nice. In other words, if everybody thinks like him, the future will be good. Interesting, but perhaps it is more fruitful to create a system where people can think different things and still have good results. That system would be more resilient and more governable.

When he rants against the children (and their parents) that are good at puzzles, standardized tests and video games as if they were doing something wrong......I don't know how to call it, but I'm sure it's not the ingredient of a tolerant society.

Contrary to popular myth, it's actually the left that tends to be anti-intellectual and anti-technology, not the right. The major leftist ideologies of the of the last century -communism and socialism - are predicated on society regressing to a more egalitarian, primitive and agrarian state, where everyone equal but worse off. The labor movements of the 20th century oppose technology that may displace jobs. Anarcho primitivism, anarcho-socialism, and deep ecology are also strongly anti-technology. The only right-wing ideology that could be deemed anti-technology is paleoconservatism, which as made a resurgence in much the same way the anti-technology left made a resurgence following the Clinton years, especially after 2008.

'The major leftist ideologies of the of the last century'

I guess either the social democrats aren't leftist enough for you, or the reality that Germany's SPD was founded in the 19th century and have been in power (alone or in coalition with the Christian Democrats and the Christian Socialists) in Germany in the 21st century means that they get a pass due to that qualifying 'last century.' Well, exccept for the years they also were in power in the 20th century, that is.

Interesting. Hey, which party wants to teach that evolution is a lie in middle school science classes again?

That would most likely be the Liberal Democrats. You know, the same guys who dismiss Nick Wade and throw tantrums about "gender bias."

Your comments grow dumber each day.

I do hope you are British, because otherwise your ignorance of current American politics would be frightening.

I'm pretty sure that he is making a reference to the typically liberal belief in 'blank state' vice evolutionary biology gender roles. In other words, the liberal preference for conflict theory over evolutionary biology. But that couldn't be; liberals only care about science and data, I know because they tell me.

"I know because they tell me."


Science is not equal to technology.

Religion fundamentalists that believe the world was created 6K years ago can design planes or pilot them. Supporters of evolution theory with an open mind can be absolutely useless for technology development. That's the world where we live, "engineers turn out to be by far the most religious group of all academics" page 51

So...your argument is just because your political party of choice happens to want to replace a 150 year old bedrock theory that is emblematic of the scientific method with a Bronze Age myth doesn't necessarily mean they are against technological progress? Ok.

Also William Shockley might be interested in your definition of what science is and is not equal to. He was a mere physicist but managed to invent the transistor.

But a lot of conservatives want to teach that it's a theory. Stupid, stupid conservatives, what an anti-science bunch.

You're correct. It's just that my side would like to teach it as a theory like gravity, and your side would like to teach it as a 'theory' like Bigfoot.


I think my "side" would say it is neither.

I'd think hard scientists would not consider Darwinian evolutionary theory to be like Newton's laws or Einstein's cool ideas, either. Both the latter are highly testable, no? But we can't yet send clocks up in planes to determine if evolution works only within a species or it can move one species into being another. Not that the former is not true just because it's harder to test (getting easier), like I understand string theory is hard to test, just by its nature. The truth is the truth even if we can't currently access it, but we can't know the extent to which it is true, yet, and we should teach our children that this is so.

And don't disrespect the Bigfoot, or we'll have issues.

Marie, I like and respect you, but this is daft.

Most of the evidence for natural selection is historical rather than experimental, but it is still evidence. People have to go to great lengths (e.g. questioning the decay rates of well known isotopes) to undermine it, and that is never enough because of all the parallel streams of evidence.

As a physicist, I know that Newtonian gravity isn't exactly right and am fairly sure that general rel. is a bit off too. Not just because they slightly inaccurate, but because the real truth involves concepts that those theories don't even know about. I am not biologist, but I am still willing to bet that no such upset awaits natural selection.

@Marie: but regarding Bigfoot, I am 100% on your side!

@Adrian Ratnapala,

I'm totally good with you calling me daft. It's always clear to me that you listen before telling someone he's wrong, so if the shoe fits I'm happy to wear it! But. . . .

"I am still willing to bet that no such upset awaits natural selection."

Why? If the truth is bigger than Newton and Einstein, why can't it be bigger than Darwin? Do you think middle schools should teach Darwinian evolution as entirely settled and not really a theory (meaning subject to potential future significant alteration or refutation) at all? I'm totally fine with leaving creation out of it. I'm just distressed that kids are taught that skepticism will earn them derision and retribution in science class. Although I guess that's pretty much the historical norm, so a lesson in itself. But if mine is the "side" that is associated with people critically approaching the world, that's no shame to me.

Evolution means a change in the frequency of alleles over time. It is easily demonstrated and irrefutable. Speciation you seem to question but it logically follows from evolution. It also seems demonstrable, not sure if it has been or not. Of course the fossil evidence is overwhelming.


Biology is different from physics, yes, but the mind-boggling number of facts from all kinds of different fields that fall into place with a Darwinian explanation is overwhelming.

I think E.O. Wilson used the term 'consilience' to describe this.

Physics is hard- I've never read Newton's original stuff, let alone Einsten's, but Darwin is approachable. His books are within my ken anyway. What he did with the facts available to him is remarkable. He knew when to be firm, and when to be tentative. An amazing and convincing book.

@Brian Donohue,

I'll explore that line, I haven't seen it before and it's very useful, much better than what I've seen before. Thanks.

I'm still not sure why this should be an indication, though, that Darwinian evolutionary theory is less subject to scrutiny than other scientific theory. The fact that I can more easily access Darwin than Newton seems to argue the opposing point of view -- after all, wouldn't it have been clear to me that a hammer falls faster than a feather, at one point in history?

And I appreciate the idea that there are different kinds of proofs for scientific ideas. But in the end, the "best" proof is verifiable replication, right? Again, if something is by its nature not well suited to that, it can still be true, and therefore the other kinds of evidence can be legitimately used. But they aren't better than the first, are they? They are our second try, right? Isn't it part of the point of modern science that things like consilience are really open to the horoscope effect?

So Darwinian evolution may indeed turn out to be entirely accurate (unlike any other foundational theory science has ever come up with, I'm thinking). But I still don't see why it should be taught to be more likely to be entirely accurate than Newton's theories on gravity, which wound up not being. My objection to the way it is taught in school is that if someone in a high school course questions Einstein, he's good, but if he questions Darwin (on any grounds at all) he is shouted down with scorn. It looks very much like zealotry to me. Darwinian evolution seems to get special treatment. I'm good with just treating it like the rest of science.

I also will always knee jerk this way because I am not pleased with the conservative urge to run away from this as fast as possible. Even atheist conservatives should be happy to be on the "side" that says the government shouldn't tell people what to think. But progressives throw out Bigfoot and spaghetti monsters and they run away. Look at the C comment that started this, C just throws out "school" and "evolution" because that's even better than "racism" for shutting down discourse. Of course, if you take it on instead of running away you risk jumping into the rabbit hole, like I've done.


My understanding, poor, is that creation science doesn't dispute "evolution" as a general term meaning, basically, change. But I'm not an advocate or believer in creation science, myself, although I have an affection for it.

@Marie, couple thoughts:

1. I don't think Darwin has ever been 'privileged' in any way compared to Newton or Einstein.

2. All scientific truths are tentative and approximate. Refinements of Newton or Darwin are not refutations.

3. Evolution is reconcilable with Christianity, or Roman Catholics are doing something wrong. 'Literalist' interpretations of the Bible are hard to square with reality in lots of ways, IMO.

4. My point on approach-ability is this: I took college Physics, but, at some point early on, I have to trust that the 'system works', the system being falsifiability. Einstein is beyond me. Darwin is within reach of the educated layperson. My own view of biological truth relies a lot less on trusting the system than my view of physical truth.

5. In a world of limited resources (econ blog!), we must choose our battles. I choose not to engage Intelligent Design theorists, who seem to be inching toward a Catholic view anyway.

@Brian Donohue,

Thanks for the clarification on the approachability point, now I understand.

I think part of my issue is my on the ground experience, also. Doubt is what drives the furtherance of understanding, so teaching our kids that are interested in science that there are areas that are literally indisputable is bad, and that's what I've seen. I actually would directly link the popular aggressive certainty about anthropomorphic climate change to the training of a couple generations of kids that some delivered (usually by government) knowledge is inviolate (appreciating that your point is specifically that it is not delivered knowledge for many). I don't find creation science or intelligent design as whole meals particularly convincing, myself, but I think the religious are the only ones who are ballsy enough, or motivated enough, to take the stoning for pulling at some of the bigger threads in biology and geology. But maybe there are huge segments of biological and geological research that are prodding at the conventional wisdom, and I'm not aware of that as a layperson?

@Adrian R.

Belated note, afraid my comment came off wrong, I was sincere in appreciating that you argue against what people are really saying, no straw men.

Since you want to play this retarded game, please lay out for all of us the world right-wing fascists envisioned for society since that is obviously still the American right-wing agenda. Yes, I'll wait for that concept to trickle through your brain.

Please change your font color to white. Thank you.

Little surprise the anti-technology left, including RN, denies the Flynn Efect and that Americans are getting smarter. His answer devolves into an incoherent rant about China and missiles. That's what happens when you raise the question of IQ to the left - they get all tied up.

Where did he deny it? He pointed out that if your score improves on an IQ test, but you have never read a history book, have never been to a town hall, and don't go outside society probably isn't going to magically improve.

His 'incoherent rant' is that we spend massive amounts funding defense contractors at a time when there is no existential threat to the United States. This results in us throwing $2 billion dollars a week away in places like Iraq instead of investing in things like universal college education.

I guess you hear what you want to hear, huh?

Piling $100 notes up in the middle of downtown Baghdad and setting fire to them would still be a better way to spend money than allowing everyone to do a free Masters degree in puppetry.

Or Sociology for that matter.

Well, no it actually wouldn't and nobody is arguing that. Quite an alternative reality you live in.

Well yes it would, actually. A lot of university degrees have bad outcomes for the students as well as for society as a whole. There is no sensible reason to think we are better off by encouraging as many people to go to university as we do now, much less more of them.

And yes, no one is arguing that. I did not say anyone was arguing that. Although when you say "thrown away" you come close to implying it. But of course I know you don't mean the claims you make.

However burning big piles of money would be a better out come than a lot of military spending. The F-35 for instance makes the bonfire approach look sane. If nothing else, contributing to the poor air quality in down town Baghdad won't saddle the Air force with a useless piece of junk at the expense of pretty much every other plane they have.

What back pedaling? You mean you made a silly claim without reading what I said and now you're trying to weasel out of it?


Education is valuable only if what is being taught us valuable. While you may highly value performance art, sociology, or gender studies, the cruel market does not. In other words whether 2 billion or 10 billion dollars per day spent in Iraq garners more value than those same dollars spent on education is an empirical question. Your claim is not apparently not based on such a study, so one must conclude that your argument assumes your normative conclusions. Furthermore, one might suspect, based on your implied political position and more strongly on Ralph Nader ' explicit position, that some of the perceived value of education is more years for an individual to learn based on the correct narrative. (see: political leaning of educational professionals, charter schools, for-profit schools, and the differential between degrees granted by major and market capitalization weighting. ) But, that couldn't be, and we should also accept your normative conclusions as given, right?

Have you ever actually looked up the percentage of people that major in performance art and gender studies?

I'm lean toward "the left." I acknowledge that IQ exists. I acknowledge that some people are born with artistic and athletic talents, as well.

What are you, "ummm," proposing that we do with any of this information?

Stop pretending that the correlation between parents' incomes and their children's is due to the economy being rigged rather than to heritable traits.

Both aren't possible?

I don't deny that bright people pass down bright genes. You deny that powerful people pass their power and influence down to their heirs?

Who's the reality denier?

George W. Bush: superior intellect deserving of his riches and resume, or inheritor of daddy's legacy?

You decide.

Because a group of non-meritorious wealthy and/or high-income exists, we ought to enact policies targeted at the necessarily larger group of all wealthy/high-income people? If you believe this logic merits a position from which which you might condescending to Brandon we may have uncovered the problem: a lack of understanding of merit.

I don't know what your blathering has fuck-all to do with this particular thread. I specifically asked what policies *you* and your peers at the foaming-at-the-mouth side of the spectrum propose we do with the fact that IQ exists.

But in answer to your non sequitur: yes, rich people ought to be taxed at higher rates regardless of how their gains were obtained.

Here's something maybe folks on the left can do with this information: stop jumping from 'disparate impact' to 'racism' without slowing down.

Brian- I'll grant you that. No problem. Some things that the left/democratic party tend to back are really unfortunate. This is another reason why the path the Republican party has taken ideologically over the past few decades is so unfortunate. I have to live with all the inadequacies of the Democratic party until the Republican party suffer demographic death and we can eventually have two options in politics again. As it stands currently, the party of racism and making the government function as poorly as possible is not a viable option.

I'm about 95% certain that in my years of reading and commenting on this blog - as loathsome as some of the rightwing wackos have been - I've never thrown the 'racist' accusation at someone.*

Again, this thread has devolved into "some leftie hurt my feelings once" kinds of weird sob stories.

* That said, more than a handful of "people" posting on this blog are in fact heartless sociopaths who I wouldn't pull out of a fire.

* That said, more than a handful of “people” posting on this blog are in fact heartless sociopaths who I wouldn’t pull out of a fire.

There ain't nothing here but pixels, stupid.

mpowell, I hate the idea of wackos on either side flinging poo on each other and justifying each other's existence. That's not where the grown-up discussion is happening.

I stand aloof from the two-party system, so I think I'm less motivated by tribal impulses than most.

Whatever I think of the Republican Party (they have never truly overcome the post-war minority party mentality, they governed horribly when last given all the keys), I think 'the party of racism' is an unfair and unhelpful characterization. I recall some charts recently that showed (a) a steady and significant decline in just about any measure of racism you want to consider over the past 50 years, and (b) white Republicans being somewhat more prone to being racist than white Democrats, but not by nearly as much as I would have guessed.

I think actual racism is much less of an issue than it has been at maybe any time in this country's history, but 'racism chatter' seems to be trading at all-time highs.

Ditto sexism.

"Brian Donohue June 26, 2014 at 8:43 am
mpowell, I hate the idea of wackos on either side flinging poo on each other and justifying each other’s existence. That’s not where the grown-up discussion is happening.

I stand aloof from the two-party system, so I think I’m less motivated by tribal impulses than most.

Whatever I think of the Republican Party (they have never truly overcome the post-war minority party mentality, they governed horribly when last given all the keys), I think ‘the party of racism’ is an unfair and unhelpful characterization. I recall some charts recently that showed (a) a steady and significant decline in just about any measure of racism you want to consider over the past 50 years, and (b) white Republicans being somewhat more prone to being racist than white Democrats, but not by nearly as much as I would have guessed.

I think actual racism is much less of an issue than it has been at maybe any time in this country’s history, but ‘racism chatter’ seems to be trading at all-time highs.

Ditto sexism."


Some grand plans in there.

It's an interesting thought - if you want the constituents to have power over the government - and we do, framers, Lincoln, etc, all want a government of/by - the naturally the most powerful will capture the government to amplify their own power. Which makes it not a 'countervailing force.' The only way to limit the amplification is to limit the amount of power available through the government.

You have hit the mail on the head. The only solutions I am aware of to substantially limit the power of industries to influence government are imposing strict restrictions via a vis speech, taxes, and/or private ownership with all the necessary law enforcement, or, limiting the power of government to regulate markets to the benefit of one party over another. The choices are essentially to eliminate the incentive for industries to lobby, or introduce more incentive to lobby while also increasing regulation and law enforcement of such lobbying.

Given the choice between more restrictions on freedoms and heretofore Constitutional rights and decreased ability of government to achieve social policy through market regulation, I'd always choose the latter. Those who prefer the former implicitly value their social policy goals higher than your rights.

But don't worry these would-be Tyrants assure us, the government would never abuse the additional authority they wish to grant it. At which point it occurs to me: If that is so, why is it that the problem of government selling laws for cash exists in the first place.

Ralph Nader does not approve of this example of the free market being allowed to benefit us all.

So, there was something objectionable about this (now condensed) explanation? -
'Normally, the original spam comment and the following comments are deleted.

...because without the original comment, such jokes at a spambot’s expense lose any amusement value they might possess.'

Don't worry, your attacks on spam comments are amusing with or without the antecedent. Personally I like the air of mystery that comes from not knowing what precipitated the comment.

"As you probably know. Friedrich Hayek opposed Medicare and Medicaid because they were not universal programs."
This is an important part of Hayek to remember. He was way more open to "social market" policies than his modern torch bearers let on, including deliberate state activity to foster competition.

Nobody's perfect.

C'mon Andrew', social insurance is a public good. Giving out goodies, though, is not insurance.

Hayek was also much less of a statist than you let on.

I think you can see that in two different ways.

You could see it as favoring government action, for an end he approved of. That sort of thing makes me nuts (see Patriot Act).

Or you could see it as practical understanding that government will always act, and what we want to do is limit it but where we can't limit it, we want it to encourage rather than discourage the free market (since neutrality is impossible).

I do think, from my limited reading, that Hayek would not oppose a safety net program to address food needs, but it seems unlikely he'd approve of a system that was hard to reel back because it provided so much money to Kraft and Pepsi.

Do you honestly think he would approve of them if he saw what they would become decades later? The freshly introduced legislation he somewhat approved of are far cries from today's leviathans.

It's pretty weaselly to say "my biggest mistake was underestimating how evil my opponents were."

The difference between a Jeff Sachs and someone me else I won't name is when a Jeff Sachs says it he isn't being insincere.

Yeah, "my biggest mistake was not realizing that the thing I spent my life warning about was even worse than I thought" is not much of an admission.

Exactly. My biggest mistake was not realizing just how right I was.

"My biggest weakness is that sometimes I work too hard."

If I ever get asked that question at a job interview, I'm going to say my biggest weakness is stealing.

If they don't find it funny, I wouldn't enjoy working there.

Please, please post if and when you ever get to say that.

TC saw the humor in that reply. TC also realized that his readers would get it. He is making fun of Nader by including it, because Nader thought he could get away with it. TC is just complimenting his readership in how sophisticated we are. BTW, my biggest fault is I am too humble.

"he said that whenever the government is controlled by private economic power, that’s facism."

That's pretty much backwards. Actually, the powerful don't need governments and are better off without them. Governments as such are the creations of the less-powerful segments of society. Naturally the powerful or their agents then co-opt the government for their own purposes. How could it be otherwise?

"That’s pretty much backwards."

Thank you, that one really threw me off!

So Ralph Nader is asked what his biggest mistake was. And he thinks it was being too moderate? Ooookaaay. Step away from the bong Ralph.

Yeah, this lack of candor was kind of a bummer. It is remarkable how people are so bad at recognizing and admitting when they were wrong about something.

Admitting your mistakes is a fast way to erase your political power. Demagogues survive on creating and maintaining illusions, not dispelling them.

Ralph Nader is kind of an extreme example of not being able to admit when you were wrong though.

So, his wise sage of the dangers of corporatism is the guy who tried to pack the Supreme Court because they wouldn't let him have the NIRA? Oh my......

Ignorance is bliss.

I was also sad that he referenced FDR that way. He doesn't have to believe FDR was way too close to being a mirror of the other strong, centralizing, state power promoting, personality cult leaders of his time; but he should know that some people think of it that way. He really shouldn't talk about American fascism and FDR in the same paragraph.

This hits close to home:

"In terms of slander and libel, they present complicated free speech issues. I’m against
anonymous comments. I think this breeds a cowardly culture, and that people should
stand by what they say. On the other hand, there are instances where, when people are up
against bullying influences, the internet doesn’t foster resistance or criticism unless you
do allow those anonymous comments. So I do lean as strongly as possible toward not
having anonymous comments on newspaper websites. I just asked a friend of mine who
is a newspaper editor why his paper allows anonymous comments online but would never
publish an anonymous letter to the editor in the print paper. These online commenters are
basically slamming and slandering public servants."

God forbid we are allowed to slam "public servants".

The janitor at the courthouse might be considered a "public servant", even with the possibility of a golden retirement, but the district court judge is by no definition a servant of anyone. The deformation of language isn't just the names of Japanese automobiles.

That "cowardly culture" argument is eerily reminiscent of arguments against the secret ballot.

So Ralph Nader is in favor of the complete collapse of the newspaper industry, not just the partial collapse.

This is a good example of what our problem really is: we can't even agree on what the facts of a situation are, much less the implications of those facts (such as a program to address some issue).

Ralph Nader is aggressively ignorant. "It's not what he doesn't know, it's what he THINKS he knows but that isn't true that's the problem."

I think Tyler does an excellent job with his questioning to knock Nader off his talking points, and he can't. No one can. There is no way to falsify Nader's beliefs. His is a committed ideologue.

You ask Nader what he's been wrong about, and he tells you his bogeys were much more bogyeyish than he initially imagined, i.e. he's been wrong about nothing. Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to take this pose, but he was amusingly brazen about it and a man of real erudition, not an attorney with a talent for publicity and fundraising.

Nader has been at this a long time. He would not have agreed to the interview unless he was sure it was going to be a bunch of softballs. You have to give him credit for getting very rich by making other rich people feel bad. He's not unique in this regard. Our current president is a master at it. Nader, pulled it of despite being a repulsive individual. That's white a trick.

"[TC: US] corporations actually pay about 17–18 percent, which is more or less in the middle of the pack of OECD nations. So if corporations have so much political power in the United States, why is our corporate income tax still so high?

RN: Because they can avoid it. "


Nader is attempting to highlight the kabuki theater that accompanies such debates - Google, to use a prominent example, avoids taxes with vigor, using the EU/Ireland to shield itself from American tax liability -

Then, when faced with complying with EU/Irish law, Google attempts to argue it is an American corporation, and thus not subject to the EU's authority.

Of course, one has to be actually interested in how American corporations use a variety of tax avoidance strategies to even begin to understand the process.

That avoidance (and then some) is incorporated into TC's numbers.

Remember the average corporate tax is an average of large, powerful corporations paying only a few or zero percent in taxes and small and/or weak firms paying much higher rates.

So the data is in line with the argument that big corporation use their power but small business does not have the power to get low taxes.

Concentrated power, whether public or private, is dangerous. A good lesson to learn.

Typo in "consecrated corporate power" -- first word should be "concentrated"?

Well, the editing leaves a fair bit to be desired - 'facism'? - but 'consecrated' actually does a fair job concerning the worshipful attitude a certain group of Americans have towards corporations. Though a cynic would note that a significant number of that select group tends to regularly cash checks drawn on corporate accounts.

Fun interview to read. I felt like Nader has pretty strong media training and that TC should do more interviews.

I am also curious about one minor point. At the end of the full version, you (TC) thank Nader for participating, but there is no record of a response. Did he just up and leave or did he acknowledge your gratitude in some other way?

I'll make a guess.

Here is a shot in the dark from beyond the 3 point arc. I'll lay even odds that Nader has face blindness.

"Yes, I've been wrong. Take for instance my enemies. They're much worse than I thought." TC, if your questions are yielding the oldest rhetorical tricks in the the book then your questions are indeed obvious, or softballs, or both.

"I tried to avoid the predictable questions."

As I predicted you'd do.

I wasn't surprised by how weak Nader's understanding is of so many things. he is such a blowhard. But I was surprised by Tyler's ignorance on Swedish incomes. Swedish GDP per capita is about 9% higher than the US. What the heck is Tyler talking about, some sort of PPP numbers? So what then, we believe strongly in the value of the information told to us by prices except when it tells us something we don't want know, in which case we tout the same World Bank adjusted data the Romanianbs use to claim they're more productive than market prices portray. Oh yay.

Indeed, World Bank GDP per capita, PPP average 2009-2013 has Sweden $42,866 and US $51,749.

The Economist Big Mac Index says Swedish Big Macs are $7.80 (Kroner 48.00), raw index: overvalued by 68.6%, actual exchange rate: 6.16, implied exchange rate: 10.38 (compared with US Big Macs at $4.62.)

I will also point out that the Swedish unemployment rate is now about 8%.

Things are more expensive where people are wealthier, duh.

If you really believe PPP is a better way to compare the values of national outputs than market prices, fine.

What I see here are people who almost all of the time would agree that market prices are the appropriate way to measure value, but in one particular instance, when comparing US incomes and output to those of countries with high market-valued incomes, inexplicably make a special exception and suggest that World Bank PPP estimates are better than market data. On the other hand when comparing US incomes to those of poorer countries these same people would never dream of going by PPP. So much for intellectual integrity.

Things are more expensive where the government taxes consumption rather than income.

In short, if you don't think the Swedish krona is worth 15 cents, don't pay it. But as long as the consensus does think so, I'm valuing it at that.

I should add it's also possible Tyler has been fooled by reported personal income and consumption stats. The main reason the differ is that the US reports most of its public healthcare under personal income (under current transfers) and personal consumption, whereas Sweden reports its public healthcare under government consumption.

I am amused by your confidence that PPP adjusted estimate of income are clearly the wrong way to do it. If you want to talk about income it makes sense to ask what that income can buy you. The exchange rate tells you a lot about the market for internationally traded goods. But 65-70% of a modern economy is services. Most of you which you have to obtain locally. It doesn't really matter how many dollars you can exchange your krona for. What matters is how much your income you have to pay for a haircut (or housing). That's how you determine how wealthy a population is.

The only question I have is whether a nation-state is the right level of granularity.

Government consumption is still part of GDP right?

The comment about Hayek connects to my view about why I think Hayek was overly fearful of the welfare state becoming real socialism. I don't think he imagined, as Nader said he didn't, how corporations and business interests could find large government so much to their liking, by helping develop a governmental system that corporations and business interests can so easily manipulate to their benefit. From both an economic and moral point of view, Hayek supported a general health approach. The system we developed, a tangled web of incentives and disincentives that satisfy various private business interests, was simply less likely to occur in his view, I suppose.

I'm really struck by the contrast of Nader saying: "The rise of Sweden’s quality of economic development was associated with the growth of the cooperative movement and the social democratic parties, and the establishment of a framework where to a degree greater than most other countries, the commerce in Sweden had to adjust to the social insurance systems that were set up. So the supremacy of commercialism over worker, consumer, and other smaller power centers was not tolerated."

Versus Johan Norberg's article "How Laissez-Faire Made Sweden Rich", which states: "In 1950, when Sweden was known worldwide as the great success story, taxes in Sweden were lower and the public sector smaller than in the rest of Europe and the United States. It was not until then that Swedish politicians started levying taxes and disbursing handouts on a large scale, that is, redistributing the wealth that businesses and workers had already created. Sweden’s biggest social and economic successes took place when Sweden had a laissez-faire economy, and widely distributed wealth preceded the welfare state."

"whenever the government is controlled by private economic power, that’s facism"
No, that's not fascism.

I have to respond to Nader's statement "A lot of what Google and these Silicon Valley companies have done is based on continual, government subsidized basic research and also applied research. So I don’t want to see the internet corporatized."

As an early person in the Internet industry, I can agree that the early development of Internet protocols was government-funded basic research, and the early NSFNET was government-funded applied research that helped to show future Internet entrepreneurs just what could happen when large numbers of people (mainly college students) were attached with a single Internet.

However I will also mention that the success of the corporate private Internet carriers is what made the Internet what it is today (i.e. accessible by anyone, a massive commercial marketplace, etc. and remember that there was a prohibition on commercial use of the NSFNET backbone) And a large part of that success was NOT WORRYING ABOUT REGULATION. It was a mixture of "we're flying under the radar" and the inability of government to really comprehend what was happening. Early Internet carriers came up with informal, market-based rules for how traffic was exchanged (read up on the Commercial Internet eXchange, or CIX, for example).

If the FCC begins to regulate how Internet traffic is exchanged between carriers, it is not a "return to the old days", it is a "brave new world".

Although I will point out that most "Net Neutrality" concerns are at their base actually a concern about the local (over) regulation of last-mile copper and fiber telecommunications builds & operations, not really an "Internet" problem at all.

Roosevelt warned against the corporate state? What was the IRA, then?

Personally, I'd rather see Nader turn the tables and interview TC on his appreciation of "crony capitalism, corporatism and special privileges for corporations."

According to the World Bank, the effective rate of the US corporate income tax is higher than almost all large economies other than New Zealand, Thailand and Japan (who has just lowered their tax rate).

There is a second corporate tax statistic used where the US corporate taxes rank 124 out of 183, but that number includes the employers' share of payroll taxes in the definition of corporate taxes. This statistic is extremely misleading because employers generally pass along their share of payroll taxes in the form of lower wages, so workers actually bear the burden of the whole payroll tax.

The crackdown on offshore tax havens should be focused on income from intangible assets, such as software and patents. The income from these assets are most subject to manipulation.

Its even a little more complicated than the Price Waterhouse/World Bank report. See a recent study by the Congressional Budget Office January 2014 on international corporate tax and marginal effective tax rates:

OK, I just read what Tyler considers "reading a book." Now his statement makes sense.

What are Nader's views about the power and influence of labour unions vis a vis government, especially public sector unions?

Where is the full interview?

Swedes today have a minimum of five weeks’ paid vacation; they have, through their taxes, paid daycare and paid sick leave;

How do very small service companies (less than 10 employees) deal with that?

Comments for this post are closed